President's Messages

Celebrating Juneteenth

Dear campus community,

As we prepare to enjoy the Juneteenth holiday this week, I encourage all to pause and think about what this day means and the promise it holds. Last week, I attended – along with hundreds of CSU colleagues and students – the CSU second biennial Juneteenth Symposium. Thousands more joined us virtually. We experienced two incredible days full of celebrations, guest speakers and performers. But the symposium was also full of the echo of unmet promises and calls to better realize the CSU’s role as an engine of equity. The theme of the conference, Let Freedom Ring: Breaking Chains and Elevating to New Heights, challenges us all to commit to actions that will get us to those new heights.

Two days of listening affirmed that we must remain actively committed to efforts to improve student success and close equity gaps. We must continue our work to ensure our faculty, staff, and administrators better reflect the demographics of our students. Representation matters. We must maintain our commitment to identity-based student spaces and student organizations. Inclusive spaces matter. We must double down on our efforts to ensure classrooms are welcoming places where students from diverse backgrounds can learn and thrive. Inclusive classrooms matter. And we have to continue our work to meet the 13 promises we made as part of the CSU’s commitments to Advancing Black Student Success and Elevating Black Excellence.

One point of pride last week was the leadership presence of SF State at the symposium. Dr. Fred Smith, associate vice president for Equity & Community Inclusion, was recognized for his work on the Chancellor’s Strategic Workgroup on Black Student Success. He also facilitated a breakout session using creative expression to explore Black Queer Identities and best practices for seeing and supporting Black Queer students. Dr. Jamillah Moore, vice president for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management, shared her research on the history and importance of Affirmative Action and future challenges in the wake of the 2023 Supreme Court ruling ending it. Jamillah, Fred, and many of our colleagues are leaders in equity and support for Black Excellence.

I saved the most important point of pride for last. With funds raised by the Advancement team in the Chancellor’s Office, the CSU created the Black Student Success Scholarship for students who have demonstrated an exceptional commitment and significant achievements in supporting Black student success. I am deeply proud to announce that SF State’s Olympia Joy Pereira, an Africana Studies major, was one of six students from across the entire CSU to be so honored for her work helping the Black Unity Center welcome transfer students to campus, serving as a College of Ethnic Studies peer mentor, and engaging in community service in San Francisco and Oakland. Congratulations, Olympia!

Attending the Juneteenth Symposium with colleagues and students was an incredibly powerful experience. It reinforced the significance of our collective efforts at SF State and reminded us of our commitment to continually improve for our students. As always, I remain grateful to work alongside such dedicated colleagues in service to our exceptional students. Thank you for all you do to make SF State special.

Wishing all a good Juneteenth holiday and summer.

Best,

Lynn Mahoney signature first name only

Lynn Mahoney, Ph.D.

President

President's Messages - 2024

May 29, 2024

Dear campus community,

Friday’s spectacular Commencement at Oracle Park brought our academic year to a close. As I said to our graduates and their loved ones, this has been an extraordinary year in higher education as students across the country rose up and demanded more from their universities and their society. The SF State community protested for the rights of labor, demanded a just world, and advocated for their communities. Over the course of the year, 23,700 students explored new areas, attended classes, and successfully completed internships, civic engagement projects, and many, many exams and papers. SF State proved that higher education is thriving amidst many challenges.

On Friday, we celebrated almost 7,000 students who successfully completed their degrees this year. Today, I celebrate the Class of 2024 with you. As has been my tradition, I share their successes and words with you.
 
We celebrated students like Sergio Lopez and Olivia Clarke. Sergio graduated magna cum laude with a B.S. in Physics and devoted hundreds of hours to connecting the community to SF State as the principal organizer of the successful Noche de Estrellas program.  Olivia Clarke graduated with a B.A. in Political Science. Olivia and fellow student Mayuu Kashimura were named the 2024 National Moot Court Champions in the Respondent’s Brief category, prevailing over 200 other teams.

We celebrated students like Michelle Monterrosa and James Kreiss. Michelle is a Latina/o Studies major who is a leader in the movement to end police and gun violence. James graduated magna cum laude with a double major in Labor Studies and English and played a key role in labor union campaigns of the Starbucks Workers United.

And we celebrated the twelve hood recipients selected by their colleges. These students succeeded academically and made significant contributions to their disciplines, to their communities, and to SF State. Hood recipients Eddison Jintalan Contreras and Genesis Sorrick were chosen to represent their peers and share their journey and words of advice with the Class of 2024. I conclude with their words.

Eddison earned his B.A. in Social Work and spoke of his journey to overcome discrimination and confront the U.S.’s discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. As he begins his graduate studies, Eddison shared that he “…will no longer be defined by others...rather by...constant pursuit of knowledge, curiosity, and open-mindedness.” 

Genesis earned her M.A. in Philosophy and shared a similar message, stressing a “commitment to knowledge”:

"Of course, commitment to our education extends far beyond the campus and classroom. It is a commitment to critical thinking, to questioning the status quo, and to seeking truth and justice in a world filled with uncertainty, injustice, and oppression. It is empathy and understanding the perspectives of others."

As we conclude the academic year, let’s stand together with the Class of 2024 in celebration of our shared commitments to education, to students, and to one another.

Wishing all a good summer!

Best,

Lynn Mahoney signature

Lynn Mahoney, Ph.D.

President

May 13, 2024

Over its history, there have been many instances in which student activism at SF State has resulted in positive institutional change. We are at such a moment. I share the commitment of our students and our community in supporting human rights–the ability for all to live a life of dignity and well-being, free from violence and discrimination.

Just as earlier groups of student activists caused us to reflect on how our investments aligned with climate action and, more recently, with social and racial justice, Students for Gaza has pushed us to reflect on and commit to working with the SF State Foundation to review and draft a revision to our existing environmental, social, and governance (ESG) investment policy statement. With support from the chairs of the Foundation and its Investment Committee, we will support the addition of a human rights-based investment strategy, including divesting from direct investments in weapons manufacturers and limiting other such indirect investments to no more than de minimis in nature.

I commit to immediately forming a work group to create a disclosure website that makes the investment strategies of the Foundation and UCorp more transparent and to draft revisions to the investment policy. The work group would include representatives from the student encampment leaders, their faculty advisor(s), the president, the vice president of University Advancement, a representative from the Foundation’s Investment Committee, a representative from the UCorp Board, and representatives from Cambridge Associates, the Foundation’s investment advisor. If we can identify immediate opportunities to improve disclosure that align with disclosure practices already implemented by the CSU, we will do so immediately. All policy changes and compliance with them will be subject to regular review.

I commit, as I always do, to protecting academic freedom, freedom of expression, and peaceful student activism. I affirm these values again today. To that end, I will submit to the CSU Office of the Chancellor a public letter outlining my concerns about any and all legislative actions that may inhibit these freedoms, including SB-1287. I will make very clear in words, as I have with my actions, my ardent belief that these freedoms form the foundation of higher education and must be protected.

I commit to an ambitious timeline that includes the following.

  • Form the work group by 5/31/24.
  • Call emergency meetings of the Investment Committee as needed to have a draft policy by 8/31/24.
  • Submit Investment Committee approved revisions to the full SF State Foundation Board for discussion at its September Board Meeting and for approval by December 2024.
  • Launch Disclosure Website, including making immediate changes to align with current CSU practice and subsequent changes needed to comply with revised Investment Policy.

This is an ambitious timeline that can be achieved by working together.

I acknowledge again the work that Students for Gaza has done to push SF State to reflect on its commitments to ESG and commit to changes in investment strategies and disclosure. The proposal outlined above is not just rhetoric or an empty promise but will lead to real change in our investment strategies. I remain appreciative of the peaceful protests that have allowed all of our students to complete their semesters without interruption, and of this work to better align our investment strategies with our values.

Lynn Mahoney signature

Lynn Mahoney, Ph.D.

President

April 17, 2024

Dear campus community,

As a historian, I’m typically drawn to stories about change over time, how our world is different from what it once was and why. Recently, though, I was struck by a distinct moment of clarity about something that has not changed—the mission and value of SF State. I feel that perhaps this is something about which I speak too often, but it never loses its power to inspire me.
 
Last week, I had the privilege of traveling to Washington, D.C. with students to advocate for federal policy changes to increase Pell Grant awards and to create a path to citizenship for California’s undocumented students. We also used the opportunity to connect with alumni in D.C. and in New York. 
 
At one event in D.C., I was speaking to two alumni: one from the class of 2021, the other from the class of 1978; one at the beginning of a promising career and the other decades into a highly distinguished career. Graduating 43 years apart, their stories were so very similar. The first generation in their families to attend college, their experiences at SF State were transformative and pivotal in launching successful careers. They were different in so many ways, but in one key way they were not. They shared the distinguishing hallmarks of a SF State degree. 
 
A few days later I was in New York City with another group of alumni. Like the folks I met in D.C., these alumni had been profoundly altered by their studies at SF State—often recalling in great detail a faculty or staff member who had changed their lives. From work in finance to education to environmental conservation to broadcast journalism, these alumni were enjoying the tangible benefits of a transformative college degree and were deeply engaged in rewarding professions. They are the reason SF State is ranked number eight in upward mobility nationally. Their experiences at SF State – like those of U.S. Ambassador Caryn R. McClelland (M.A. ’90)cultural preservationist Patrick Makuakāne (B.S. ‘89) and science podcaster Alie Ward (B.A. ’99) affirm that what we do matters deeply and is of critical value to California and the U.S. We need to continuously celebrate this fact and remind others. By advocating for and celebrating SF State, we are advocating for our future students and alumni.
 
While I feel deeply that our mission hasn’t veered, the world in which we live and work continues to change, often at a frightening speed. While we celebrate what we do so uniquely well, we also need to be mindful of the changes which are happening now and those that are looming which will require a critical look at how we deliver our mission. Dramatic declines in population will require most universities to continue to evolve, prioritizing the key things which enable students and alumni to succeed. We are currently doing just that. 
 
Artificial Intelligence will likely have an even more dramatic impact on higher education, transforming everything from accounting to learning and research. It is imperative that we not shy from these changes but actively lean into their implications to determine what they will mean for us. Navigating and finding ways to derive benefit from the changes which are coming will ensure that future graduating classes can similarly bear testament to the value of an SF State degree.
 
As always, I conclude with gratitude to the students who bring joy to my job and to the colleagues who make working here an honor and a pleasure.

Best,

Lynn Mahoney signature

Lynn Mahoney, Ph.D.

President

March 21, 2024

Dear campus community,

Mindful of the challenges facing us, I have been struck by the number of initiatives and programs emerging to address them – all built on top of the decades of good work that makes SF State an exceptional place to study. From the national successes of our students and alumni to new initiatives to address affordability and retention, I am in awe of the work that all are doing to support our students and one another.

We’re focusing on helping our students manage the total cost of attendance. This month saw the launch of additional programs to address affordability and to attract and retain students. SF State has launched the Reduced Rate Housing Program, a program that will enable hundreds of students with financial need to live in one of our residence halls at a reduced rate—we are the first CSU to offer such a program! Thank you to the teams in Capital Planning, Housing, Dining, and Conference Services, and all others who made this happen. 

We’re working hard to develop private funds for scholarships, offered through the SF State Foundation or by external organizations. Recently, the San Francisco Foundation, a private philanthropic organization, announced a new scholarship program for Black SF State students who demonstrate financial need – The San Francisco Foundation Black Excellence Scholarship for SF State. This will help dozens of Black SF State students achieve their educational goals. Thank you to Vice President for University Advancement Jeff Jackanicz, Associate Vice President Anjali Billa, the entire Advancement team and the folks from the SF Foundation.

We’re broadening our work to meet students’ basic needs. Thank you to the team from Food+Shelter+Success who just launched a partnership with the United Way Bay Area to bring the SparkPointprogram to campus to provide financial coaching and skills development to SF State students. SF State is the first four-year university to host this program—another first for SFSU!

We’re doubling down on efforts to recruit and retain students. The University recently hosted seven statewide receptions to share with recently admitted students the myriad reasons they should enroll at SF State in the fall. Staff from Housing and Residential Life met with almost 1000 students from San Diego to Sacramento. This is a critical part of our recruitment strategy which will be followed by Explore SF on April 20– a unique opportunity for us to share with admitted students what makes SF State a special place to study. Sign up here if you would like to help. I look forward to seeing some of you there.

Our enrollment and budget challenges persist. I remind all that this is part of a national phenomenon which will ultimately see many universities become smaller and will sadly see some small institutions close. Eight CSUs are feeling the impact of changing demographics. As has been shared at the University Budget Committee (UBC), our enrollment is down roughly 21%. We need to align our expenses with our current enrollment and are actively engaged in a multi-year plan to reduce expenses. For details, I encourage you to attend the monthly UBC Zoom meetings or share comments during UBC office hours. All materials presented can be found on the UBC website

Becoming smaller is not without its pains. But as the initiatives above affirm, we can become both smaller and stronger. Yes, we will have fewer sections of classes, but that is because we have fewer students. While some expressed concern about reductions in the spring schedule, we concluded that enrollment period with more than 15,000 seats still available, 12,000 of those in undergraduate classes. There was clearly plenty of capacity. Thank you to the department chairs and faculty who are working diligently to ensure that the schedule of classes meets student demand and allows students to graduate in a timely fashion, even as we reduce the number of sections offered to reflect current enrollment.

There will be moments of confusion and differences in opinion as we continue to meet the changing landscape of higher education. There will be failed experiments at innovation and a need for patience. But the initiatives I described here demonstrate that when we start from a shared understanding of the issues and mount a collective response to them, we will be successful. While we will be smaller, we have an opportunity to be better by supporting our students in more targeted ways.

Whether your Spring Break plans include catching up on work or sleep or traveling to see friends and family, I wish you all a good week.

Best,

Lynn Mahoney signature

Lynn Mahoney, Ph.D.

President

February 7, 2024

Dear students,
 
As I welcome you back for the spring semester, I’d like to share some of the highlights from the past year and make you aware of the people and resources available to support your success at San Francisco State University. Looking forward to seeing you this semester!

Best,

Lynn Mahoney signature

Lynn Mahoney, Ph.D.

President

January 30, 2024

Dear colleagues,
 
As I write to you welcoming the beginning of the spring term, I am keenly aware that there continues to be pain and turmoil resulting from labor negotiations, global tragedies, and the challenges facing many universities, including SF State. Much of this rests elsewhere but deeply affects many of our community. And our local challenges as we work our way through the demographic realities of becoming a smaller university are at best unsettling and at worst deeply painful. Yes, 2023 was hard and 2024 is looking challenging. I assure you we will meet those challenges as they come, as we have for a good number of years now. But as we launch the spring semester, it’s crucial for our – and especially students’ – morale to look at how much we are nonetheless accomplishing—in the classroom, in services provided by staff, in faculty research, and in almost every space on our beautiful, dynamic campus.
 
Just as we left for break, I received word that a member of our faculty had received one of the most significant recognitions offered by the CSU. I am thrilled to announce that Dr. Allyson Tintiangco-Cubales, professor of Asian American Studies, was chosen as the 2024 recipient of the prestigious Wang Family Excellence Award for Outstanding Faculty Teaching. Only one faculty member from across all 23 CSU campuses is chosen annually for this award. Please join me in congratulating Dr. Tintiangco-Cubales for this well-deserved recognition.
 
We launched new academic initiatives in much-needed areas that will also help increase enrollment, including a degree completion program in Psychology, certificate and credential programs in Data Science and Machine Learning for Biotechnology Professionals and School Nurse Services, and a new School of the Environment.  We are in the midst of an ambitious effort to hire 15 faculty with focused expertise in Black and Latinx/e student success, and the applicants show great promise in helping us advance our student success mission. 
 
Faculty teaching and research continue to fuel change locally and globally. Based in large part on the research and teaching of Dr. Trevor Getz, professor of History, the New York City Board of Education launched Hidden Voices: Stories of the Global African Diaspora, an innovative curriculum giving voice to African and diasporic literature. And SF State continues to be a leader in teaching and research related to climate change. Climate HQ hosted its first CSU-wide meeting on climate change. Faculty from 15 CSU campuses discussed collaborations in teaching, research, and outreach. 
 
Right here on campus, I encourage all to find a time to visit the Hager Planetarium when its renovations are complete. Thanks to Dr. Adrienne Cool and Dr. John Brewer of the Department of Physics and Astronomy, the University received a $1.5M grant to renovate the planetarium.  After a visit to the planetarium, consider attending one of the many events hosted by the College of Liberal and Creative Arts which highlight the talents of our faculty, staff, and students. 
 
Our staff work tirelessly to support our students. To highlight but one example, staff members in the College of Health and Social Sciences redesigned several spaces to increase capacity. Sam Ward, Denzel Vaovasa, and Dominic Sciucchetti, working with support from across the college, increased capacity in instructional spaces, allowing greater access for students. Our staff also work hard to support one another. In its inaugural year, the Staff Council has created a strong role for itself in shared governance and community building. It is hosting events to bring folks together and providing opportunities for staff to step into leadership roles in its various subcommittees. Please be sure to keep an eye out for their events!
 
We have made reducing opportunity gaps one of our highest priorities. University-wide collaborations like the work being done to achieve the Seal of Excelencia or to Elevate Black Excellence have received grant funding from the CSU to build on the good work being done by many, including CEETL and the College of Ethnic Studies. I also encourage all to drop by one of the centers coordinated by the division of Equity & Community Inclusion—or follow them on social media to find out more about events happening all over campus.
 
And, as always, our students shine. The Auxiliary Organization Association, a statewide organization representing over 90 organizations, awarded Iese Esera, a graduate student in Public Administration and alumnus of the School of Music, its distinguished AOA Scholarship of Excellence for academic excellence and exemplary service. Congratulations, Iese!
 
Two student organizations collaborated with the library to create outreach and engagement displays on the first floor of the Main Library. The Iranian Diaspora Student Association created a Norooz/Nowruz display last spring, and the Student Kouncil of Intertribal Nations (SKINS) and Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) created an Indigenous Peoples display in October. I encourage all to visit the library to see these rotating exhibits.
 
And SF State continues to be lauded for its work. We were awarded a 4.5 out of 5-star rating by Money magazine in its Best Colleges in America 2023 list. Money based its rating on SF State’s quality of education, affordability, and outcomes compared to other universities.  U.S. News & World Report ranked SF State eighth in the nation for social mobility in its 2024 Best Colleges list—a critical testament to the value of an SF State degree and a step forward in our battle against the prestige bias which sadly informs too much of the discourse surrounding higher education.
 
I conclude as I started. Yes, it is a tough moment for higher ed and for us, but our common commitment to students and their success remains the shining feature of the SF State student experience. Highlighting that and sharing loudly and proudly the accomplishments of our faculty, staff, administrators and students will help us recruit and retain students and will go a long way to helping address our local enrollment challenge. We need to assure our students that we will continue to offer the classes they need to graduate and that their progress remains our priority.
 
As we start 2024 and begin our spring semester, I look forward to a year in which we work together to weather whatever comes our way and continue to provide the best experience we can for our students.
 
As always, please know that I deeply appreciate all you do to make SF State the unique and vibrant community it is.

Best,

Lynn Mahoney signature

Lynn Mahoney, Ph.D.

President

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