|Standout students: hood recipients 2005|
May 20, 2005
One outstanding student from each academic college and from Liberal Studies/Special Majors and Graduate Studies will be honored at SFSU's 104th Commencement Saturday, May 28. They will receive the symbolic investiture of the hood on behalf of their fellow students. In addition, Natasha Scholtz, hood recipient for the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences, will be this year's student speaker.
SF State News is pleased to introduce these students to the campus community and friends of SFSU.
Graduate Studies: Nichelle Drake Garcia
Like many of her classmates, Nichelle Drake Garcia obtained her degree while juggling family responsibilities and a full-time job. Since enrolling in the graduate program in museum studies in 1999, she has also married and given birth to a daughter, Solisa.
Born in Redwood City and raised in the Yucca Valley, Garcia received her bachelor's in humanities from California State University, Chico. There, while minoring in American Indian studies she developed a close connection to the Native American community and began to research her own family's possible American Indian ancestry. Garcia, who is also of Mexican, Filipino, Portuguese and English heritage, said the quest fueled her decision to get a graduate degree in museum studies and pursue a career in American Indian culture.
The San Mateo resident's graduate thesis on the development of tribal museums in the United States will be the subject of a magazine story from the publisher of the magazine for the National Museum of the American Indian. During her research Garcia became familiar with many tribal museums, cultural centers and libraries.
"These organizations didn't have a method of communication with which they could share ideas and information," Garcia said. As a result, Garcia's professional goal is to one day found and manage an association of tribal museums that will allow networking among American Indian cultural centers, libraries and museums.
Garcia's immediate goal, however, is to focus on being a mom. "I'm really enjoying it," she said. "The past two years have been a little crazy."
College of Behavioral and Social Sciences: Natasha Scholtz
On May 28, Natasha Scholtz will become the first person in her family to graduate from college.
"It's awesome. I feel really, really proud," she said. And rightfully so. Not only did she complete her degree work while working full-time, she will graduate at the head of her class as the first hood recipient in the economics department in 18 years.
"It's not so much about mastering time management," she explained. "If you're going to do something, you have to do it well."
Scholtz's first full-time job at a high-tech company disappeared in the dot-com bust, so she worked odd jobs to make ends meet -- waited tables, babysat, dogsat, and eventually found a job as a bank teller. Her first year at SFSU she was working 60 hours a week. But in spite of her busy schedule, Scholtz not only excelled in her coursework, she also found time to tutor her peers in economics.
Philip King, chair of economics, said Scholtz's efforts have been appreciated by her fellow students, many of whom urged him to nominate her for the prestigious award.
A long-time volunteer in her community, she has worked on a watershed creek project which involved testing and observing creek and wildlife behavior and has taught ocean conservation to young people. Scholtz also enjoys coaching a local girls' softball team.
Now a project manager at Instill, an e-company in the food-service industry, she plans to return to SFSU to pursue a master's degree. Eventually Scholtz would like to teach economics to high school students. "I'm one of those weird people who gets lots of satisfaction from taking up two pages to do a calculus problem," she said.
And Scholtz is already contemplating a new challenge for herself: a marathon.
-- Adrianne Bee
College of Business: Felicity Fyfe
Born in Taunton, a small town in rural England, Felicity ("Fizzy") Fyfe worked in advertising, marketing and fund-raising before moving to the United States with her husband 11 years ago.
While raising two sons, she decided to pursue a college education and discovered -- much to her surprise -- that she loved playing around with numbers and decided to major in accounting.
"It just fit," she said. "Accounting was lovely because it was orderly. It's beautiful to me."
A member of Beta Alpha Psi, the national honors organization for accounting students, Felicity has served terms as chapter Web master and president. She has also volunteered for the IRS Voluntary Income Tax Assistance Program, which helps elderly and low-income clients file their tax returns.
"Fizzy continually amazes me," Alex Yuen, professor of accounting, said. "She is so outgoing, energetic, dedicated, upbeat and public-spirited. It is a joy to work with her."
After completing a spring internship with top West Coast accounting firm Moss Adams, she was asked to join the firm this fall. Fyfe, a San Francisco resident, also sings in St. Francis Episcopal Church's choir and is active in church fund-raising.
College of Creative Arts: Cameron Fuller
Art has always been part of Cameron Fuller's life, and he first tried his hand at print-making while at Centralia High School in Washington. It would take years, however, for him to realize that art was more than a hobby; it was his passion and could become his career. After a variety of jobs and stints at several colleges and universities over the years, he rediscovered his zest and talent for print-making.
"I often would hurry to get things done, but print-making forces me to slow down a bit and get me in the right frame of mind," he said.
At SFSU, he has excelled in all endeavors, from researching and investigating concepts and refining technical problems to producing complex works of art that cross boundaries between print, sculpture and theory. His instructors have often used his research papers as models for other students.
Professor Barbara Foster said that Fuller is one of the most outstanding students that the Art Department has had over the past 10 years.
Fuller lives in Springfield, Ore. He will soon move to St. Louis to enter the master of fine arts program in printmaking at Washington University, where an annual $10,000 stipend and teaching assistantship await him.
-- Matt Itelson
College of Education: Simone Kytle
Simone Kytle discovered her life's calling while working with an autistic child. After accompanying him on several visits to a speech pathologist, she realized that she was fascinated by the process and switched her major from psychology to communicative disorders.
It was a good change.
"I love this program," she said. "It's really exceeded my expectations. My professors have been great."
In turn, her professors report that her classroom work has been exceptional. Not that it has always been easy. Kytle was diagnosed with and treated for melanoma three years ago -- but still managed to finish her classes and pull down good grades that semester.
During her SFSU career, Kytle coordinated speakers and recruited members for the SFSU chapter of the National Student Speech, Language and Hearing Association. She also worked with young children with communicative disorders at California Pacific Medical Center and tutored fellow undergraduate students who were struggling with their psychology courses.
Kytle, a San Francisco resident and Palo Alto native, has been accepted to SFSU's graduate program in communicative disorders. She is particularly interested in neuro-linguistic disorders and plans on becoming a speech-language pathologist.
College of Ethnic Studies: Shawnna Vel Demmons
"This one is for mom," said Black studies major Shawnna Vel Demmons, talking about the bachelor's degree she will receive at age 40. Her mother passed away at 65, just one week after -- associate's degree successfully in hand -- she started her own bachelor's degree studies at CSU Dominguez Hills.
Demmons recalls her mother was "very into" African-American culture and literature and was actively involved in political and cultural activities in Los Angeles, where Demmons was raised. However, it wasn't until Demmons, now an Oakland resident, relocated to the Bay Area and enrolled at SF State that she discovered one can actually major in Black studies at the college level.
"Finding the Black Studies Department has been the best, most enriching experience I've had," Demmons said, adding, "If you don't know your history, you don't know yourself."
Through her Black studies major, Demmons has learned about herself and her culture and "how much of it has been hidden, distorted and destroyed." In the process, she has discovered whole fields of history, literature, art and science and has gained not only knowledge, she said, but self-esteem and the courage to be herself.
Thirteen-hour work days have been common for Demmons as she pursued her degree, but she never compromised her excellent academic record. She knew, she said, that good grades would be a stepping stone to law school or graduate studies -- toward her ultimate goal, of helping the African-American community.
"Employment and education are the issues in the African-American community," she said. "The violence is residual."
College of Health and Human Services: Sarah Baldwin
Sarah Baldwin sees the value of recreation to society.
"Everyone has to have something that balances out their life," she said.
Throughout her time as a recreation and leisure studies major she held part-time jobs with a bank and as a nanny while maintaining a busy volunteer schedule, making recreation an integral part of people's lives.
At Environmental Traveling Companions she took people with disabilities on kayaking trips and assisted in other functions that emphasized personal growth. Baldwin is also a three-year veteran of the Golden Gate Women's Soccer League and has recently volunteered to coach.
At SFSU, Baldwin served as a member of the Board of Directors of the Recreation for Students Club, where she worked to increase awareness of the importance of recreation to health and quality of life.
Patrick Tierney, professor of recreation and leisure studies, said that Baldwin was a clear choice as a hood recipient. "Besides excellent grades she's a committed member of her community and has great enthusiasm for her profession."
Baldwin is already building a career as an event planner, having just completed a successful three-month internship at California Hosts, an event planning company in San Francisco. Immediately after graduation she will take a busman's holiday of sorts -- a tour of Europe before moving on with her career in the tourism industry.
College of Humanities: Matthew Parn
At age 20 Matthew Parn was already writing speeches for elected government officials in his native Australia. After nearly a decade as a writer and editor for members of parliament and government agencies, however, Parn wanted to expand his skills and pursue a writing career in the high-technology industry.
He moved to San Francisco and entered the Technical and Professional Writing Program at SFSU, where he will earn his bachelor of arts degree magna cum laude.
Parn plans to stay in the Bay Area and hopes to land a job writing multimedia Web content for a leading technology company. While writing about the latest technology is quite different than writing about politics, he sees similarities between the two.
"The principles are the same. You apply the research and do the work," he said.
Parn lives in the Castro neighborhood.
-- Matt Itelson
Liberal Studies Program/Special Majors: Lisa Duque
Lisa Duque, a liberal studies major, is an aspiring third-grade teacher who already knows a thing or two about classroom management.
For the past three years she has overseen a group of elementary school children surrounded by sharp objects and flames -- Duque leads an after-school class in cooking and baking in San Francisco's Portola District. As she helps students whip up foods from an international menu, she not only exposes them to new cultures, but also gives hands-on lessons in math and science.
Duque, a recipient of a National Hispanic Scholarship, is proud of her family's Central American roots in El Salvador, Nicaragua and Colombia. She's also proud to be a second-generation San Franciscan. Duque has her eye on teaching the third grade, she said, specifically because its coursework focuses on exploring the local community.
"Those moments, when their faces light up with understanding, that boost of confidence they get when they realize that they can do something they didn't think they could do -- that's what I love," she said.
And as she contemplates a teacher salary in one of the most expensive cities in the nation, she said that those moments are far more rewarding than any paycheck.
fall Duque hopes to teach fulltime or enroll in a master's program.
She would love eventually to study the teaching
of literature at Columbia University.
College of Science and Engineering: Lisa Yong Wu
The College of Science and Engineering's emphasis on lab research for undergraduates is meant to produce students like biochemistry major Lisa Yong Wu. Her research included work with enzymes that may be connected to prostate cancer and the development of new reagents for amino acids. She has already authored two biochemistry journal papers and has presented her research at a recent meeting of the National Chemical Society.
"Organic chemistry is very demanding and the classes are typically composed of very competitive chemistry, biochemistry and biology majors," said Cliff Berkman, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry. "But Lisa finished at the top of her class. I was and still am impressed with her abilities, perseverance and independence in the lab."
Wu entered high school in the United States shortly after arriving from Canton, China, in 1997. She grew up in a farming family and was the first in her family to complete a high school education.
Although Wu might say that her favorite pastime is reading about organic chemistry, she is far from focused solely on science. She has volunteered for the Red Cross, the Leukemia Society, the San Francisco Public Library, the Mandarin Elementary School, the Asian Art Museum and the Asian Women's Shelter.
Wu is returning to campus after graduation as a research assistant in Berkman's lab. She said her next step is to apply for doctoral programs in chemistry and hopes for a career in the lab as well as the classroom.
1600 Holloway Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94132 (415) 338-1111