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Students with stand out stories to graduate from S.F. State



SFSU Office of Public Affairs
(415) 338-1665

Press Release published by the Office of Public Affairs


SAN FRANCISCO, May 19, 2003 - San Francisco State University's largest graduating class yet — 7,378 students — will receive diplomas at the University's Commencement on Saturday, May 24. But among the sea of new graduates, several special stories standout: A 77-year-old military veteran receives a master's in Chinese literature, his fourth college degree; a mother and son from San Bruno both graduate on the same day at SFSU; the daughter of immigrants from El Salvador becomes the first in her family to get a college degree and heads for law school; and an award-winning engineering graduate who wants to be a role model for women in science will be the University's student speaker before a crowd of 22,000 graduates, family and friends.

SFSU's Commencement takes place on Saturday, May 24 at 12:15 p.m. on campus. To contact any of the outstanding students featured below, please call the SFSU Office of Public Affairs at (415) 338-1665.


Oldest graduate now has four college degrees

Stockton resident Raymond King, 77, has been attending SFSU full time for 10 years. A language and literature lover, the Shanghai native has earned bachelor’s degrees in Chinese literature and Japanese. He also has taken Spanish and Italian courses at SFSU and holds an associate degree in real estate from City College of San Francisco. “I come here to study for the knowledge — not for anything else,” he said. “My reasons are different than some others. Four degrees at my old age? I’m very proud of myself.” King served as a cadet for the British Navy from 1946 to 1953 and fought in the Korean War. He then moved to Hong Kong, married and raised five children while working various jobs for the Hong Kong government until 1986 and later came to the United States.


San Bruno mother and son to graduate

Saturday will be a special day in the Daniels household of San Bruno. Fifty-one-year-old Annette Daniels receives her bachelor's degree in child and adolescent development at the same time her son, 24-year-old Brian, picks up his master's degree in cultural anthropology. The two follow in the footsteps of husband and father Bill, who earned a bachelor's degree from SFSU in the 1960s in psychology. Annette, a pre-school teacher for 25 years, held three part-time jobs as she attended classes at SFSU for three years to finally earn her degree. Brian and his mother would often proofread each other's papers and provide inspiration for each other. Now, Brian goes on to the University of Pennsylvania for a doctorate in cultural anthropology on a prestigious Mellon Fellowship and Annette contemplates pursing a master's degree in language literacy education. "I am truly proud of my mother for going back to school later in life," said son Brian.

Fast-track to teaching

Corinna Low of Millbrae a fourth-generation Chinese-American, will be among the first cohort of students graduating from SFSU’s accelerated teacher-education program. The Integrated Teacher-Education Program, designed to meet the state’s shortage of highly trained, quality elementary-education teachers, is a rigorous degree program that requires students to maintain a 3.0 GPA while earning both a bachelor’s degree and a teaching credential in 4 ½ years instead of the traditional six years. Low, whose degree program concentrated on teaching science, maintained a 3.96 GPA as a SFSU Presidential Scholar, the most distinguished academic award the University can bestow on an undergraduate. She hopes to soon begin her career as an elementary school teacher


Daughter of immigrants on to law school

Tiffany Gabrielle Morales, whose parents emigrated from El Salvador, becomes the first in her family to graduate from college. But that is only the beginning of her accomplishments. Selected as the top honors student to represent the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences, Morales, 22, earned straight A's in her classes for her sociology major and she has been on the dean's list seven of her eight semesters at SFSU and she volunteers for a variety of community causes. Morales, who lives in San Francisco, plans to combine her background in sociology and interest in social justice to the field of law. She has already been accepted for the incoming class at the Hastings College of Law


First generation Chinese-American is student speaker

Chosen as the student speaker at Commencement, engineering student Nelly Lau, a first-generation Chinese American and resident of San Francisco’s Richmond District, will graduate with an academic triple crown. Not only is she this year’s student commencement speaker and Hood Recipient for the College of Science Engineering, but the 22-year-old community-service junkie also leaves the University with a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship in electrical engineering, one of only 46 awarded in the nation. Lau will use the fellowship to enter the doctoral program in electrical engineering at Stanford University. She said her hope is to return to SFSU as a professor and as a role model for other young women interested in science, particularly the male-dominated field of engineering. At age 10, Lau volunteered at her local library, teaching children to read. Since then she has cleaned alleyways and planted trees in Chinatown, registered voters, fed the poor, cared for the elderly, collected books for needy children, and even has volunteered at Bay to Breakers race.


Two degrees for Filipina from Daly City

Valerie Rabino Villarta, a top honors student from Daly City selected to represent the College of Ethnic Studies, will graduate with a degree in Asian American Studies and Speech and Communication Studies. And she earned both in 3 1/2 years at SFSU. Villarta has taken as many as 19 credit units a semester earning a 3.77 grade point average, worked as a paraprofessional at Longfellow Elementary School in San Francisco, assisted the Safe Routes to School Program in Oakland and interned with the San Francisco Public Health Department. And Villarta, who is Filipino American, helped her sorority establish an academic scholarship that will assist Filipino American students at SFSU.


Budding Mexican-American broadcaster with veteran experience

A top student in SFSU's Department of Broadcasting and Electronic Communication Arts, Luis Godinez is graduating with a valuable commodity: broadcasting experience. Godinez, a 21-year-old Hayward resident who grew up in a small town outside of Guadalajara, Mexico and moved to the U.S. with his family 10 years ago, has already produced a segment for KTVU on a Redwood City organization that keeps Latino youths from gangs and he just put the finishing touches on a 30-minute documentary on Bay Area medical workers who regularly fly to Mexico and Central America to volunteer their services. While also interning at the television station Telemundo in San Jose, Godinez teaches broadcasting to students at James Flood School in Menlo Park.


A star on the rise

After graduating from high school in the late 1980s, Frenchette Sherman, who is African American, worked for a real-estate development firm and was a computerized accountant for a check-cashing company. But soon after she rediscovered her childhood love: acting. The theatre arts major, who lives in Richmond, has shined in roles in many campus theatre productions. The first member of her family to earn a college degree, Sherman has worked as many as three jobs to help support herself and her family while attending SFSU full time. Sherman, 32, hopes to land professional acting roles in film and theater. Sherman, selected as the top honors students from the College of Creative Arts, is currently working on a role in an independent martial arts, science-fiction film.


Birthday and diploma both on the same day

Marketing major Vendula Kobzinek from Czechoslovakia gets an unusual present for her 22nd birthday — her SFSU degree. It will be a day of double-celebrations for Vendula, chosen as the top honors student representing the College of Business. Vendula, who pursued a demanding schedule of studying and part-time work as an undergraduate, completed a total of 134 units in four years — 11 more than required — while earning a 4.0 GPA in her major. She has achieved membership in the business honor society, Beta Gamma Sigma, which is the highest recognition worldwide for business students. Vendula has a strong interest in environmental protection and community building and hopes to one day achieve a leadership position that allows her to advance those causes. Born in Czechoslovakia, Vendula immigrated to the United States at age 4. She resides with her parents in San Francisco’s Noe Valley.


42-year-old on to internship at the New York Times

Willie Allen Jr., SFSU graduating senior and an award-winning photojournalist, will join an elite corps of photographers as an intern at The New York Times this summer. He will be the third SFSU student photojournalist in as many years to do so. In addition to his prestigious Times assignment, Allen, who is African American, has won several photojournalism awards in recent months, including the Luci S. Williams Houston Memorial Student Award. That prize carries special meaning for Allen because Houston, a slain San Jose Mercury News photojournalist, shared Allen's goal of embracing diversity through photographs. Photojournalism has been a lifelong dream for the 42-year-old Allen, a San Diego native and San Francisco resident. But success behind the lens is only the latest of Allen's accomplishments. His first stint in college included a NCAA Division I-AA national football championship at Idaho State University, where he studied economics and played cornerback. Later he enjoyed a successful career as a star bartender and corporate trainer for an upscale chain of restaurants.


Graduate from Germany still helps back home

Five years ago Goenna Carstens, left her home and family in Drelsdorf, Germany, a rural village of about 1,000 people just north of Hamburg, and embarked on a new life in the United States. It was in Germany that Carstens realized she wanted a career working with children as she had tutored a young boy with dyslexia. After taking classes at City College, she enrolled at San Francisco State University in 2001 because of its outstanding communicative disorders program and graduates with a bachelor's degree in special education and as the top honors student representing the College of Education. Each summer Carstens, who lives in San Francisco's Sunset District, returns to Germany to work with a speech and language pathologist at a head trauma center. She’s involved in all aspects of the practice, including patient assessment. In fact, she’s been such a wonderful student that the clinic staff has encouraged her to finish her education so they could hire her.


Fulbright TV scholar will bring knowledge back to Indonesia

Chrisma Albandjar, 30, came to SFSU two years ago on a Fulbright scholarship from her native Indonesia to pursue a master's degree in radio and television. An experienced reporter, producer and anchor for Metro Television — Indonesia's equivalent of CNN — Albandjar is committed to return to her home country after graduation. Chosen as the top honors graduate student, Albandjar hopes to implement social change through the television set — via a job where she can make programming decisions and push for more shows with strong educational and social content. Albandjar, who worked her way up from a subtitler in Indonesian television 10 years ago, also holds a bachelor's degree in international relations and MBA in marketing. She lives in San Francisco.


Poet of experiential works finds voice

Selected the top honors student to represent the College of Humanities, Brandon Brown, 24, is a creative writing major who has enjoyed getting involved in the poetry scene on and off campus. He works part time in the Poetry Center, where he enjoys helping manage its nearly 50 years worth of archives of poetry readings. Off campus, he has mounted a monthly series of poetry readings in his living room. His own poetry, which Brown describes as "experimental," has been published in several literary journals including River King Poetry Supplement, Zaum, Firebush and Small Town Authors. Brown, who grew up in Kearney, Mo., will begin to pursue a master of fine arts degree in creative writing at SFSU this fall. The highly prestigious, competitive program accepts only 10 percent of applicants and requires them to submit 15 to 20 writing samples. Brown lives in San Francisco.


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Last modified May 21, 2003, by the Office of Public Affairs