SF State News {University Communications}

Image: Photos of SF State students and scenes from around campus

News Release

SF State: exceptional students profiled


SAN FRANCISCO, May 18, 2010 -- San Francisco State University will confer degrees to 8,092 students at its 109th commencement on Saturday, May 22. Below you will find stories about outstanding graduates, including this year's hood recipients, who are top graduates chosen to represent their fellow students from each of SF State's academic colleges, Liberal Studies program and Division of Graduate Studies. For assistance in contacting any of these students, call the SF State Office of University Communications at (415) 338-1665.


First graduates from stem cell master's program
The first students to complete SF State's stem cell training program will graduate this year. Funded by the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine, the master's program prepares highly-skilled -- and diverse -- scientists to lead the future of stem cell research and devise new medical applications.

  • Marisa Leal grew up in Salinas in a community where few of her peers went to college. She had no idea where a science degree could take her until she came to SF State. The first in her family to attend college, she earned a bachelor's in biology at SF State. As part of the master's program in stem cell science, Leal quickly learned how to grow stem cells in the lab and has investigated how to turn stem cells into skeletal muscle cells during a year-long internship at University of California, San Francisco. Leal is applying to clinical doctoral programs and wants to be a role model for other women of color entering research careers in science.


First graduates from doctorate in educational leadership
Ten students will graduate from the Ed.D. program in educational leadership -- SF State's first independent doctoral degree. Designed for working professionals, the program prepares administrators to tackle some of the most vexing problems in education, such as how to close the achievement gap between students of color and their white peers, and how to deliver effective instruction in times of budget cuts.

  • Vincent Matthews was recently named superintendent of the San Jose Unified School District and since 2007 he has served as state trustee (and state administrator) for the Oakland Unified School District, where he has been responsible for helping the district return to fiscal solvency. Having worked as an administrator and teacher in large urban public school districts, Matthews was attracted to the doctorate's focus on social justice. His thesis examined budgeting practices that allocate resources based on the socio-economic status of individual schools. He was born and raised in San Francisco and now lives in Hercules. At commencement, Matthews will receive the symbolic hood on behalf of his fellow Ed.D. students.
  • Michelle Donohue-Mendoza is an administrator at West Valley Community College in Saratoga and previously worked for the CSU for 12 years. Research methods classes have helped her rigorously evaluate the student services she is responsible for, while her dissertation examined how supervision and mentoring can help female middle managers break the glass ceiling at the executive level in higher education. A native of Salinas, Donohue-Mendoza lives in Campbell.


Outstanding students:

Angela Hart, Iraq war veteran with stories to tell
Returning home from Iraq, Angela Hart decided to pursue a degree in journalism because she noticed that the stories of women in the armed forces were underreported. One of the first "boots on the ground" when the war Iraq conflict began, Hart served as a National Guard Army Reserve supply specialist. She spent 495 days in the war zone, much of the time in convoys that moved supplies through hostile territory. During her studies, Hart has filed more than 100 stories on a variety of subjects at news outlets including the Oakland Tribune and San Mateo County Times. Hart sees the current turmoil in the media industry as an exciting opportunity to explore new forms of journalism.

Daigon Gaither, a monk and a sister
Daigon Gaither, graduating with a bachelor's in philosophy, is a Zen Buddhist monk as well as one of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, the renowned San Francisco gay advocacy and fundraising group. He plans to pursue a master's degree in Buddhism and certification as a chaplain so that he can continue the work he began as a volunteer serving the dying and their families during the San Francisco AIDS epidemic. He lives at the Zen Center in San Francisco.

Hood recipients:


Marilyn Thomas (Science and Engineering), student speaker
San Francisco native Marilyn D. Thomas was raised in the Hunters Point neighborhood before moving to the peninsula as a teenager. Homeless at 15, Marilyn was forced to quit high school at 17 to earn a living. A single mother at 20, she changed the direction of her life through hard work and perseverance. After earning a GED, she worked as a model in San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles, and as a massage therapist, work which prompted her to pursue an academic career that would enable her to work in the health care field. She is graduating with a bachelor's in biology. As this year's student Commencement speaker, she plans to share the life lessons she has learned, including the importance of self-accountability for both success and failure. Her life's motto may be summed up in her favorite quote from Milton Berle: "If opportunity doesn't knock, you build a door." Marilyn is a resident of San Carlos and is preparing to attend medical school.


Michael Buckle (Graduate Studies), San Mateo Police Sergeant changes young lives
A San Mateo Police sergeant, who has recruited youth off the streets to join the Police Activities League, Michael Buckle will use his master's degree in kinesiology to transform lives. For his thesis, Buckle designed and implemented a 28-week soccer program to diffuse the tensions between two rival street gangs. The results showed how participants gained self-control and direction, leadership and respect for others. Buckle plans to pursue a doctoral degree in counseling to segue his law enforcement career into counseling troubled youth. A native of Pacifica, he resides in San Carlos. 

Haruki Eda (Behavioral and Social Sciences), creating safe spaces for queer youth
When sociology major Haruki Eda arrived in San Francisco from Japan, he struggled to find a community he truly belonged to as a mixed Queer Zainichi Korean man whose first language isn't English. In Japan, Eda was part of a population of ethnic Koreans known as Zainichi Koreans. He has turned his multiple marginalized statuses into a commitment to work with oppressed communities. He founded an organization for Queer Asian and Pacific Islander students on campus, volunteered at a queer Asian and Pacific Islander youth program in the city and served as a Resident Assistant in University Housing. He is also involved with a Zainichi Korean community organization that raises awareness about racism in Japan. As a sociologist, Eda plans to continue pursuing his interest in issues of sexuality and globalization in a doctoral program.


Sergey Bubnou (Business), a future in finance
After arriving in the U.S. from Belarus, Sergey Bubnou worked a demanding job loading Chryslers onto train cars and taught himself English at night. But he wanted more, and came to SF State. Bubnou declared a major in finance, and became heavily involved in the student finance group FAME, planning a Bay Area student investment conference in fall 2009. While planning the conference and working, the Daly City native also passed the Level 1 Chartered Financial Advisor exam -- a feat completed by only 30 percent of people worldwide who take the test. He is a resident of Daly City.


Sarah Gould (Creative Arts), making a difference through movement
When Sarah Gould was 5 years old a misstep at a performance kept her from dancing for more than five years. But Gould returned to dance as a 12 year old, starting with ballet and jazz, and advancing to modern and creating her own choreography. As a dance major at SF State, she was a two-year member of the University Dance Theatre, serving as student director for one year. A prolific performer and choreographer, her pieces have been performed at festivals around the Bay Area. Gould is a native of Valley Center, near San Diego.


Vania Silva (Education), from table service to speech therapist
Vania Silva spent almost a decade working in San Francisco restaurants before deciding to train for a profession that would tap into her care-giving nature. The daughter of a nurse, Silva was drawn to the medical field but growing up with a Brazilian father also gave her an interest in accent and language. She pursued both interests in a degree in communicative disorders, which prepares her for a career as a speech-language pathologist. Silva has successfully balanced life as a single parent alongside her studies and gaining experience at a local hospital. A resident of San Francisco, Silva will begin a master's in communicative disorders at SF State in the fall.

Kyle Joseph Johnson (Ethnic Studies), first in family to earn a college degree
Kyle Joseph Johnson, who will receive a bachelor's degree in Africana studies, is the first in his family to earn a college degree. The Southern California native credits family and other adult mentors for instilling academic discipline in him at an early age. Originally an engineering major, Johnson changed his career plans and studied Africana studies after hearing an ethnic studies professor speak about serving the African-American community. The San Francisco and Fresno resident plans to earn a Ph.D. in clinical psychology so he can counsel children and families. 

Cheryl Fulton (Health and Human Services), discovering a new calling
A native Canadian, Fulton worked most of her life in the food service industry. Five years ago the Pacifica resident decided to make a career change and pursue a college diploma. While working at a senior home, leading recreational activities, she found that she could turn people's frustration to joy by leading a song or encouraging clients to reminisce. The experience inspired her to seek a bachelor's degree in recreation, parks and tourism, with a minor in holistic health. The single mother of two juggled motherhood, paid employment and volunteer work while earning her degree -- and the admiration of her daughters. Fulton plans to start a business that provides outdoor recreation trips for elders.

Peiying Ma, (Humanities), bridging cultural divides
A native of Shanghai, Peiying Ma earned an associate's degree in international business in China and worked for an Italian firm, where she fell in love with the language. After immigrating to the U.S. 10 years ago and mastering English, she pursued a bachelor's degree in Italian, her favorite language. It wasn't easy learning Italian through a second language, but she was determined and found that the best thing about being trilingual is being multicultural. Ma hopes to build a business or public service career that involves bridging the cultures of China, Italy and English-speaking countries. The San Francisco resident will soon be reunited with her 9 year old daughter who has been living with her mother in China. She is hoping that her mother will also obtain a visa in time to attend Commencement.

Kailani Moran (Liberal Studies), developing as a performer
Kailani Moran came to SF State after graduating from the nation's first youth-initiated charter school in Alameda. Moran has excelled in her liberal studies degree and has enjoyed studying a diverse range of subjects, including social sciences, literature and creative arts and a minor in holistic health. She has been studying the Hawaiian tradition of hula dancing for 10 years and found that classes in music and voice at SF State helped her grow as a performer. Moran graduated Magna Cum Laude in fall 2009 and is considering a career as a teacher. She is a resident of Alameda.


For more information about SF State's 2010 Commencement, visit:

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