Spring 2023 Issue 1

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ISSUE NO. 1 SPRING 2023 Bay Area Gearheads San Francisco’s Chocolatiers Rebounding from the Rain Local Theaters Hang on by Thread

EDITOR’S NOTE

Where to begin? For starters, thanks for picking up this magazine. This magazine was created entirely by student-journalists on the third floor of the Humanities building here at SF State. Just by reading this magazine, you’re supporting the ambitious reporters we have here in the newsroom. Trust me when I write: it means the world to us.

You might notice some changes to our magazine if you checked last semester’s print issues. This semester, we’ll be producing additional print issues in a larger format.

The last issue being a special graduation issue that’ll be distributed during the commencement ceremony in May. It’ll feature work from both Xpress and Golden Gate Xpress — our partners on the third floor. Keep an eye out for the Xpress team as we plan to table after the release of each issue. We want to make sure this magazine gets in the hands of the community it was meant for – students, staff, faculty and friends. Not everyone’s a greaser and I’m positive we aren’t all fans of chocolate, but I can promise there’s content of interest for everyone.

Scan our Spotify code on page four and listen to our team’s favorite songs as you read. This issue, we curated a playlist based off songs that make us feel like it’ll be our year. It will be, and it’ll be yours too.

STAFF

Editor-In-Chief

Managing Editor

Photo Editor

Multimedia Editor

Diversity Editor

Copy Editor

Design Editor

Design Assistant

Engagement Editor

Online Editor

Staff Writers

Photographers

Eian Gil

Zackery Stehr

Aaron Levy-Wollins

Oliver Michelsen

Ciara O’Kelley

Caroline Van Zandt

Daniel Hernandez

Sydney Williams

Myron Caringal

Sarah Bowen

Angelina Casolla

Nathan Hitchcock

David Blakeley

William Reuter

Kamal Taj

Tatyana Ekmekjian

Leilani Xicotencatl

Tam Vu

David Jones

Christopher Meyers

Gina Castro

Miguel Francesco Carrion

Gerardo Nunez, Junior, puts materials into the 3D printer in the Hensill Hall at SF State.Other 3D printing machines are found aside from the other aligned in a row.

ON THE FRONT COVER

Angelica Mendez sits in a 1960 Chevy Impala in San Francisco in traditional Aztec attire. Mendez was one of the dancers who performed “La Bendición,” a blessing to the cars to have a safe cruising season. La Bendicion was the first event of the lowrider season, organized by the San Francisco Lowrider Council.

PHOTOGRAPH BY GINA CASTRO

ON THE BACK COVER

The engine of a 1963 Chevy Impala pictured in San Francisco. According to Rubin Vasquez, co-president of the New Temptation car club, the Impala is the most common vehicle in the lowrider car culture.

PHOTOGRAPH BY GINA CASTRO

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Spotify Playlist

A collection of the magazine staff’s favorite songs for this issue.

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Getaway

The legacy of a Bay Area native.

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For the Love of Chocolate

For some, chocolate is an artistic medium.

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Bay Area Gearheads

Car culture is as unique as the cities in the bay.

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San Francisco’s Ecosytem Rebounds Maintenance of San Francisco ecosystems continues to be a struggle.

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SF STATE STUDENT-JOURNALISTS PITCHED, INTERVIEWED, WROTE, PHOTOGRAPHED, EDITED, DESIGNED AND DISTRIBUTED THE CONTENTS WITHIN THIS MAGAZINE.

Actor, Writer, Emmy SF State graduate Hanah Lee Cook achieves Emmy award with her writing skills.

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Silverscreen Send-Off

A look into what is causing the closure of Bay Area film theaters.

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Laying the Foundation Engineering students look forward to new university resources.

PHOTOGRAPH BY DAVID JONES
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How to scan code: 1: Open Spotify 2: Tap search button 3: Press search bar 4: Tap camera icon on far right PHOTOGRAPH BY LEILANI XICOTENCATL
The legacy of a Bay Area native.
Story by Caroline Van Zandt
Getaway
Photography Tam Vu The outside of the Pelican Inn is adorned by naked tree branches and other foliage under the sunny sky in Muir Beach.

ot 20 miles north of San Francisco lies a community that doesn’t know the bustle of city life. Unlike San Francisco, Muir Beach, an unincorporated town of 360 people, provides access to trails for hiking, biking and all sorts of outdoor activities which can be nearly impossible for SF State students to find in the city. Many residents in the Bay and surrounding areas travel up U.S. Highway 1 to take advantage of the area’s nature reserves. Erin O’Neal, a Sacramento native, still takes time when she’s in the area to visit one local venue that promises good food and good stories to any weary hiker.

“It’s just beautiful here,” O’Neal said as she enjoyed a beer. “And it’s so nice to get away from everything sometimes, like, where can you find places like this?”

Ed and Susan Cunningham owned five inns. Two, here in California, one in Wyoming and two more in Scotland. However, the Pelican Inn was one of the first.

Walking into the Pelican Inn, a tiny restaurant and hotel with a 16th-century British theme feels like stepping into a history book. The pub, lit only by small candles on the tables and sunshine through the windows (when there is any), invites all who enter. Small enough to be warmed by the candles and the kitchen, the room smells faintly like the ale the guests are drinking. The smell seeps into the wooden floors and pillars. The doors creak. They always have.

“The inn is a little funky,” said Andrea Papadopulous, the event manager of the Pelican Inn. “It’s off the beaten track.”

Ed Cunningham’s passing, nearly a year ago, has meant that Susan has had to continue in the role of CEO for their hotel and restaurant chain, A Collection of Romantic Places, on her own.

Though Ed’s passing left a void in the hearts and lives of those to whom he mattered most, his legacy continues to spread to all who experience his vision.

Susan Cunningham, a slight woman with short blonde hair and pale blue eyes, feels at home in the Pelican Inn. Living only “two minutes away” from the hotel, she visits this location far more than any of the others. During the afternoon that she was available to meet with an Xpress reporter, she had already been at the inn to check on staff and attend meetings. Susan, much like a parent who visits their adult children, frequently takes an afternoon to spend at the hotels when she can.

“We do not [have children],” Susan said, laughing. “We have hotels, I tell people.”

Though she lives in close proximity to the Pelican Inn and the Mountain Home Inn, she cannot pick her favorite location.

“You know, it’s like kids. No one can ever say which is their favorite. Our favorite was whichever hotel we were at at the time. We loved all our hotels, and they’re all so special.”

The Pelican Inn only has seven suites for overnight guests, yet far more patrons fill the cozy pub and dining area every lunch hour, many spilling out onto the lawn out front to gaze at the mountains that border it. The pub is mostly packed with Marin natives and travelers from San Francisco, but the atmosphere is something everyone can enjoy. Even those who work there agree that the views are the best part of the job.

Noel Hernandez, the general manager of the Inn, has worked there for the last several years. He still hasn’t gotten bored of the job.

“I love the environment,” Hernandez said. “I love the

culture of the Pelican Inn. I just love the place.”

The culture Hernandez describes didn’t need time to mature or develop, it was intentional. Every detail of the business from the private lounge area separate from the pub and restaurant called the “snug,” to the authentic British menu was conceived before the construction of the building ever began.

Charles Felix, the founder of the Pelican Inn, details the complete origin story including his early childhood and family lineage in his book, “Pelican Inn History and Legends.”

“Like many another dream, its pieces didn’t begin to fit into a picture until 1968 when I first happened upon Muir Beach.” Felix writes. “There it was! The perfect landscape set in West Marin’s rolling chaparral-covered hills, reminiscent of the heather and gorse-swathed hills of both Scotland and England. It was undeniably worthy of a British country inn.”

Unsurprisingly, Felix valued tradition above most other things. So, when the time came to pass along his business, keeping the tone of the inn made the top of his list. No one understood that better than Felix’s business partner Ed Cunningham.

“Back in the old days, there weren’t a lot of small, unique hotels out there,” said Susan Cunningham. “They were all like Motel 6’s, Holiday Inns. And my husband lived in England for a while, where there were a lot of old, historical, one-of-a-kind hotels. So he came here and said ‘this is what America needs.’”

Susan speaks passionately about her late husband. She leans her head on her hand and combs through her memories with a faint smile.

“He was a self-made person. He was brave, courageous. He was a war hero. He was pretty fearless. He liked fast cars and steep skiing and taking risks. You have to take risks as an entrepreneur. He could handle a lot, he loved challenges. He just plowed through it. He could handle setbacks, you know. He enjoyed life.”

Those who knew Ed emphasize his talent for nar-

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Brenden (L) and Melissa Gingrich (R) enjoy craft beers and cider from the bar as they sit on a bench on the front lawn of Pelican Inn in Muir Beach.
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The inn is a little funky. It’s off the beaten track.

rative as well. His seemingly endless tales of war and adventure gave him plenty of practice in storytelling.

“He loved to chat,” Papadopulous said. “He was really wonderful at keeping the heart and soul of [the Pelican Inn.]”

Ed’s background in finance and Susan’s in marketing made their business endeavor easier than it might have been otherwise, though challenges still surfaced. As neither of them had a background in the hotel or restaurant industries, their spontaneous choice made for a steep learning curve. Susan recalls their decision to purchase the Pelican Inn from Felix.

“So, first of all, we found this place when it was just being built, and he fell in love with it because it was just like the places he loved in England. So we became good friends with the owners…And we became partners with the owner. Not too long after he built it he wanted to sell it, so we bought it.”

Ed, however, became familiar with this kind of risk-taking long before he met Felix. Ed was first introduced to adventure by his father, who was a pilot in the Air Force, according to Susan. Encouraged to love planes and flying, Ed, too, enlisted in the Air Force, graduating in the class of 1967 and doing two tours in Vietnam. He operated C-130s to fly back all of the dead and wounded soldiers. Ed flew through rain, storms and typhoons. During each trip, Ed found himself walking down the rows of bodies, checking for any names he recognized.

As pilots were in short supply during his second

tour, Ed volunteered to fly helicopters, earning him the Distinguished Flying Cross for his heroism. Though Ed managed to find some humor in his retelling of the experience.

“That was pretty hairy stuff,” Susan recalled, laughing. “He would go rescue downed pilots. He’d say, ‘They got shot down flying a supersonic jet, and I’m going putt, putt, putt in this little helicopter.’”

It was during his time in the military that Ed fell in love with British culture, taking part in everything he could.

“He did it before then, but he became a racecar driver on the British Formula Ford racing circuit,” Susan mentioned matter-of-factly. “Yeah, he liked that.”

A Collection of Romantic Places has won awards for every single location. Each has its own unique atmosphere tailored to its location. While the Pelican Inn leans into the geography of Marin, reminiscent of the English countryside, the Alpenhof Lodge in the mountains of Wyoming reflects the home of its Swiss-German founders. The Culloden House and Taychreggan, in Scotland, originally stood as Scottish manors in the 1700’s. History pours from every brick in these buildings, and Ed couldn’t get enough.

Ed filled his life to the brim with excursions and stories fit for a character in a novel. He skied slopes, climbed mountains, hiked trails and on top everything created a business of romantic getaways where he could experience all of it. The hotels and restaurants, it seems, became the perfect way to tell even more fascinating stories. The websites for each location come with a biography of the building’s history.

Keeping the hotel’s historical integrity intact proved to be the most important aspect of the hotel business for Ed, and he worked tirelessly to maintain it with

the help of his wife and the rest of his team. Though his passing in 2022 meant he would no longer be able to see to his business for himself, Susan is still fiercely intent on keeping her and her husband’s vision alive and well. She encourages all to come visit a chapter of the story that Ed wanted to tell with his inns, to spend the night or just to try incredible English food and drinks. As she speaks, children laugh and stomp their feet on the solid wood floors beneath them, dogs bark faintly on the patio outside, bicycling tourists unbuckle their helmets and bang them onto the tables. The inn is noisy with the sounds of patrons enjoying the space. The Pelican Inn, not an hour away from our lives in San Francisco, tells the story of a life thousands of miles away and hundreds of years in the past, but also the story of a man who helped bring it to us.

“It really took [Ed] over,” Susan said. “It really was his passion.”

Ed and Susan Cunningham pose in front of Culloden House Hotel in Inverness, Scotland in 1996. (Courtesy of Susan Cunningham)
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Ed Cunningham pilots a C-130 plane in the midst of the Vietnam War in 1971. (Courtesy of Susan Cunningham)

Chocolate maker Shannon Collet oversees the roasting of the cacao beans at a low temperature for long periods of time at Dandelion Chocolate on 16th St.

For the Love of Chocolate

In the wake of the holidays, students and staff alike shake off their confectionery hangovers. Belts are retightened, diet promises are renewed and vows are made to hold off on the sweets altogether – until the next candy-filled holiday, of course. Special occasions and chocolate have been almost synonymous for centuries.

It started in 1861 when the sale of chocolate on Valentine’s Day became a tradition. A man named Richard Cadbury (whose last name might sound familiar) thought to package the bitesized treats in heart-shaped boxes, and from there, chocolate’s place in the holiday was solidified, and Cadbury became one of the very first chocolatiers. While a profession based on sweets might seem silly, the San Francisco chocolate-making community disagrees. Have the cacao professionals in our city proven that candy is as much a culinary art as any other food? Does chocolate have an effect on us that goes deeper than growing our love handles?

Mindy Fong, a chocolatier at Jade Chocolates in Chinatown, wasn’t initially into chocolate. “I just chose it because I wanted a hobby and because I wanted something that goes across all cultures,” Fong said.

Fong had a daughter and knew she wanted to be a stayat-home mom but have a hobby at the same time. Her plans changed when chocolate turned out to be a full-time business.

A self-taught chocolatier, Fong has been in business since 2008. Although she doesn’t consider herself a “super fan of

chocolate,” she does consider herself more of an artist than a chocolatier. Originally into architecture, Fong feels that she translated one art form into another. That being said, she doesn’t just make chocolates, she “promotes and retains culture through chocolate.”

Chocolate can mean much more than just a sweet treat that’s gone after it’s on its way to your stomach.

“I use chocolate as a way for people to understand Asian and Pacific Island culture,” Fong said. As a fifth-generation Chinese American, Fong enjoys combining historical elements with chocolate. “It’s a way to keep the business interesting but mainly to tell stories through chocolate.”

Chocolate has been around for centuries. In fact, chocolate can be traced back to Mesoamerica nearly 3,000 years ago. Cocoa was used by the Olmec, one of the earliest civilizations in Latin America. They drank a chocolate drink that was used during ceremonies and other religious practices. However, the beverage would have had a bitter taste rather than the sweet, candy-like flavor we’re used to. It’d take several evolutions across several centuries until what’s normally considered chocolate today would be produced.

By the mid-1800s the first chocolatiers started creating bars molded from a paste of sugar, chocolate liquor and cocoa butter. Since then chocolate making has become tradecraft and some chocolatiers have become award-winning chefs that create art with chocolate.

For some, the bliss from chocolate lasts as long as it takes to eat. For San Francisco chocolatiers, it’s more; it’s how it makes others feel and the joy they get from producing it.
Kamal Taj
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Photography
Tatyana Ekmekjian

Chocolate made at Jade Chocolates called “Golden Spike,” which has to do with the Transcontinental Railroad, combines Irish and Chinese themes. Irish, representing the workers building from the East, and Chinese, representing those that built from the West, ultimately meeting in Utah.

Fong admits there’s one chocolate she enjoys making for herself the most – Orient Espresso. The chocolate combines cardamom and espresso and pays homage to the Orient Express.

Chef Timothy Shaw is an instructor at SF State and is, in his words, “the designated food guy of the department.” Shaw graduated from Williams College with a degree in Classics and Archaeology and is a great example of the food industry and those that find themselves in it. His focus revolves around food policy and sustainability, but he’s also worked as a private chef for a catering company in New York.

“Studying chocolate is a very specific discipline and one could study only chocolate and make a great career out of being a chocolatier,” Shaw said. “But I’m not an expert.” Shaw finds himself more fascinated by the historical and sustainability aspect of chocolate. For instance, the companies Nestle and Mars both started out solely as chocolate makers and, “now make everything from pet food to herbal teas and baby formula to pasta,” he added.

Chocolate attracts people from all walks of life, as diverse as a box of milk and dark assortments. Some are captivated by the ingredient itself while others are intrigued by its effect on others and the beauty that can be created from the rich cocoa product.

Eric Chwin of Dandelion Chocolates 16th Street Factory has been a chocolate maker for almost nine years.

“I’m not much of a chocolatier,” Chwin said. He explains the difference between a chocolate maker and a chocolatier. “Chocolate makers make chocolate and chocolatiers make chocolates.”

This may sound obvious and redundant at the same time. However, Chwin elaborates that he makes the

chocolate and chocolatiers make things with that chocolate. Chwin graduated from UC Davis with a Food Science degree.

“Food and how it’s made has always been interesting to me,” Chwin said. After he graduated, he applied to a couple of food-related jobs, mostly places where you can eat the finished product. After thinking he bombed his interview with Dandelion he ended up getting hired.

Dandelion is his first job out of college and since working there as long as he has, he’s learned to love the product and the process.

“I don’t think I would have worked here so long if I didn’t love chocolate,” Chwin said. “I like how it tastes and I like how it makes others feel.”

Store-bought chocolate exploded with nearly 58 million pounds of the product being sold on the 14th alone. While the quality of these chocolates may be good enough for the

average consumer, for those in the profession, the difference between store-bought and craft chocolate is noticeable.

Chwin admits to being a bit biased, “A lot of store-bought chocolate tastes off to me now… the last non-craft chocolate bar I bought was Tony’s Chocolonely,” he said. What Chwin really loves is the Camino Verde, an Ecuadorian chocolate that they make at Dandelion. The shop has seen an uptick in customers with the recent holiday season and chocolate is still in high demand.

Some may write off such a deep love for chocolate as being nothing more than a hobby, or a way for big-name chocolate to make a quick couple of billion. For many, however, the craft provides a unique medium to deliver important information on history, culture or in some cases, your feelings.

The cacao nibs and natural sugars grind together in a cylindrical drum during a 24-hour process called “melanging” in order to get the chocolate to a smooth and silky consistency at Dandelion Chocolate on 16th St.

Retail Associate Andrew Gentile (L) and General Manager Minerva Van Straatum (R) greet a customer in the cafe at Dandelion Chocolate on 16th St.
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Presidio forester Chris Stark Weather (left) helps to offload a wheelbarrow full of invasive plant life into the back of a truck in the Presidio. PHOTOGRAPH BY OLIVER MICHELSON

San Francisco’s Ecosystems Rebound from the Rain

After one of the most intense California storms in a century, the cleanup and maintenance of San Francisco ecosystems continues to be a struggle.

Story by Oliver Michelson Photography by Leilani Xicotencatl and Oliver Michelson

Eucalyptus trees surrounding SF State’s outdoor track swayed back and forth in the rain and wind for days before they finally came crashing down. As one tree “failed,” it was uprooted by intense gusts, knocking into five others. This became a pattern for forested areas across San Francisco whose maintenance staff were tasked both with the cleanup of damages and preparation for future storms.

For three weeks through December and January San Francisco and most of California’s major cities were battered by storms brought on by this year’s atmospheric river. The term atmospheric river refers to a stream of condensed water vapor in the atmosphere that often releases in the form of rain or snow on the west coast, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. While storms brought on by these atmospheric rivers are not new to California, this year’s were abnormally intense.

Mudslides plowed through the underbrush and blocked roads, small streams became raging rivers and city streets flooded across the state, killing more than a dozen according to a statement from the governor and city records, and causing upwards of a billion dollars in property damage. The downpour finally let up in the middle of January but its effects, both negative and positive, were felt in California ecosystems.

In the immediate aftermath, many reservoirs reached levels higher than their historical averages, and roughly 8% of the state was moved out of the severe drought categorization, according to numbers from the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS). However, cleanup across the state continued.

A month after the storm, park services across San Francisco were still dealing with damages. San Francisco’s Recreation and Parks department counted 140 trees that fell in the time span of the three-week storm. Sigmond Stern Grove, they noted, was hit the hardest “by far.”

Towering pine and eucalyptus trees surround wide open fields, making the park an optimal home for the yearly Stern Grove music festival. After the storm, the park was left in disarray.

Hundred-foot-tall trees knocked down by heavy winds crushed a park dumpster and blocked paths usually filled with local joggers and dog walkers, closing off approximately half of the park.

“The biggest problem comes after the rain,” SF State Grounds Manager Robert Murphy explained. “After the rain when the ground is totally soaked… if you’ve got a tree that’s in trouble or has a problem, that’s when [the wind] starts to pull it out of the ground and fall over.”

According to the National Weather Service, wind speeds reached over 100 miles per hour at points during the storm. Gusts that strong proved more than enough to uproot trees surrounded by waterlogged soil.

At SF State 14 trees were knocked over by the wind, six of which were in the eucalyptus grove surrounding the secluded SF State stadium. One tree fell on a construction trailer by the new science building being built on 19th Avenue, though the damage was minimal and no one was injured.

In San Francisco’s Presidio forest, unsuspecting gophers were flushed out of their burrows as cypress trees that stood for over a century came crashing down due to the intense winds. Some had minimal impact, blocking hiking paths or roadways while others required an immediate response, striking park powerlines and causing outages.

“You can never predict what a series of storms will do,” said Lew Stringer, Associate Director of Natural Resources at the Presidio Trust. He explained that one of the trust’s continued goals is to recreate the Presidio forest into one that can “withstand intense weather events” like this most recent storm.

During the height of the storm, more than seven inches of rain fell on the Presidio in one day, culminating in a total of 22-to-23 inches total. Most of the plants not ripped from the ground by the wind fared well with the large influx of water.

Stringer attributed this to many of the plants in the park being “systematically adapted” to long waiting periods followed by intense bouts of rain.

Intense storms are next to impossible to fully prepare for. The Presidio Trust maintains a “tree assessment program” that tracks the condition of different trees in the park. However, many of the trees that ended up falling hadn’t been deemed as high risk.

Presidio arborist and forester Steven Duffy is part of the team that is tasked with reacting to events like these.

“Everything turns green,” he noted, standing in front of a grove of eight-year-old cypresses. “The plants love it, but they

Presidio forester Chris Stark Weather demonstrates the proper procedure for planting a young tree for another group of volunteers.
We’ve got a lot of issues with hydrophobic soil… so when the rains come down, it doesn’t penetrate, it doesn’t percolate down into the deep soil, it kind of just runs off.
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PHOTOGRAPH BY OLIVER MICHELSON

can’t handle it all at once. We’ve got a lot of issues with hydrophobic soil… so when the rains come down, it doesn’t penetrate, it doesn’t percolate down into the deep soil, it kind of just runs off.”

Duffy is also one of the main organizers of the trust’s historical reforestation effort, which brings in foresters and volunteers weekly to help plant trees and new native understory plants. The understory refers to the layer of plant life that grows between the treetops and the forest floor.

More native plants, Duffy explained, make the understory layer more biodiverse and absorb excess moisture from the soil. However, many of the reforestation efforts slated for December were delayed by the emergency-storm response.

Another issue for the Presidio trees came not from the strength of the winds, but the direction they came from. Duffy described the winds as a “pineapple express from the south,” explaining that the trees weren’t used to handling gusts from that direction in tandem with the abnormal intensity of this year’s storm.

With no way to prevent the inevitable next “big one,” San Francisco workers can only prepare the natural landscape so much.

“You could cut all the trees down,” Duffy joked. “[That]’s the only way to prevent it. But that’s not what we’re in the business to do. So, yeah, you just kind of have to roll with it and adjust.”

Murphy expressed similar sentiments. Most trees on campus, he noted, were already under stress due to water cutbacks and California’s seemingly never-ending drought, and will likely continue to be at risk of being blown over.

On Tuesday, Feb. 21, one large tree by SF State’s fine arts building was blown over by winds less than half as strong as those experienced during the height of January’s storm. Murphy attributed its falling to a mixture of cut roots from the path built next to it, pine pitch canker disease and borer insect infestations.

The uprooted mass required a crane, a crew of chainsaw-wielding contractors and a day-long pathway blockage to be removed but was mostly gone by the end of the next day.

2023 has already been a unique year for weather, and it shows no signs of slowing down. Cold temperatures ushered in hail across San Francisco and allowed for snow to stick across Oakland, the Berkeley Hills and Mt. Tamalpais in the final week of February.

Efforts to maintain San Francisco’s plant-and-wildlife continue in spite of these continually surprising weather events. Every week the weather permits volunteers led by foresters like Duffy and his crew to fill different areas of the Presidio, digging on their hands and knees and filling wheelbarrows with invasive vegetation.

Though the storm physically rocked the trust, it also saturated the soil beneath layers of fertilizer with water making it optimal for the planting of new natives, which the crew took full advantage of. Many of the trees planted won’t reach full size for five to six decades, and only time will tell how their understory layers will fare.

Duffy didn’t seem too worried about seeing the fruits of his and the rest of the team’s labor, though. Instead, he offered that the cypresses planted today were for future generations to enjoy.

Speedy Crane Company crew member uses a claw-like crane to lift a portion of the fallen tree into the back of a truck. PHOTOGRAPH BY LEILANI XICOTENCATL
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Bay Area Gearheads

Aline of lowered cars scraped into the Taco Bell parking lot near U.S. Highway 1 in Pacifica, California from the SF State campus. The two-lane parking lot, which sits parallel to Pacifica State Beach, was quickly occupied by 15 people – nine cars and two motorcycles. AJ Co, the current Gator Greasers president, calls out “Who said they need a 13?” referring to his case of wrench sockets as he made his way through the crowd of club members. One of the newest members of the club, Dylan Faulder, responded quickly, scooping up the tools and taking them to the popped trunk of his 2013 Scion FR-S. Other members had gathered around and helped Faulder as he changed out the stock OEM taillights that came with the car.

The Gator Greasers, SFSU’s automotive enthusiasts club, had gathered for their first “Park N Chill” event of the 2023 spring school semester. Despite the threat of California planning to ban the sale of motorized vehicles by 2035 looming overhead, the event was lively and full of enthusiasts ready to show off their rides.

The Gator Greasers were established in 2020 by Gabe Allen, a former SFSU student, with the intent of creating a club centered around cars and bringing car enthusiasts together. However, early into the club’s inception, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the campus to close down and it became difficult for club members to meet in person. With students off campus, and many leaving San Francisco altogether, it was nearly impossible to spread the news that a new automotive club had been formed and membership was small. As of last year, the club has been able to attract a larger group of like-minded students. The Discord channel is now up to 120 members who are mostly current students, alumni and other enthusiasts in the area. To join, all one has to do is connect on Instagram and Discord and attend events.

The goal for the club, according to Co, is to

build a community to appreciate and learn about all things automotive. To grow membership, Co has been handing out fliers to people whom he recognizes as enthusiasts.

“It’s subtle things on a car,” said Co. “Either the exhaust or the type of wheels or even the tires. It is small accessories that can tell that somebody enjoys their car.”

Jim Wu was one of the students that Co had identified as a car enthusiast. His white 1995 Acura Integra caught the eye of Co as he was walking near campus. The car, modified with a new suspension to lower the car and small side-view mirrors, was a project for Wu. The car, which Wu had only owned for a year, spent much of its time in a garage where Wu replaced the suspension and performed engine maintenance to get it up to his standard. Wu now drives his car over mountain roads and on tracks designed for racing.

The mission behind Gator Greasers expands outside the club and their personal cars. Teaching others about their cars is something Co looks to incorporate into the club. So much of driving a car, according to Co, is the tactile feeling of the car gripping the road and how it is running over time. Co advocates for car owners to learn how to perform basic maintenance on their car, and not always trust what the dealer or mechanic is suggesting. The club hopes to lead educational workshops in the near future to help teach the average car owner how to properly take care of their car.

“I think it’s important to know what kind of maintenance a car needs,” Co said. “People might get stuck with a car that they know nothing about, and that could be dangerous for a country that buys a lot of cars.”

Car culture in California is thriving, and it is mostly due to the warm, sunny weather and diversity in the area.

At Lake Merced, less than 10 miles away from

Car culture is as unique as the cities themselves. From chromed-out lowriders to tricked-out Acuras, there’s space for all.
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Ibrahim Hussein, Gator Greasers member, sits in his 1968 Chevy Nova at a viewpoint in Pacifica. “I like the classic part of the car - keeping it feeling and looking old. It makes me feel good,” Hussein said.
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the Gator Greasers, the San Francisco Lowrider Council was gearing up for a meet of their own. “La Bendición” (the blessing) took place on Feb. 11. Clubs from all over San Francisco and Daly City cruised to the Sunset Plaza parking lot for the event. Candy-painted classic cars sat low to the ground or on three wheels, and trucks, with their beds suspended in air, filled the open lot.

Rubin Vazquez, co-president of New Temptations Daly City car club, was sitting near his 1967 Thunderbird along with other members, including his son. The OG, as some passersby called him, has been a car enthusiast for decades.

Vasquez stressed the importance of community in the lowrider scene, and it’s clear that his presence had something to do with the camaraderie between all of the clubs.

“It’s a family,” Vasquez said. “It’s a brotherhood. It’s a positive culture.”

Vaquez’s son had his Blue ’81 Buick Regal parked right next to his father’s.

“It’s in our blood,” said Louie Vazquez, who explained how he takes his daughter out on cruises because she too loves cars. The New Temptations currently has 12 members. All members frequently

visit each other, and the club also contributes to car costs and maintenance for its members through monthly club dues. The New Temptations captures the importance of this community to its members saying, “If it were easy, the whole world would do it. That’s why we are appreciated doing this. The cars are just toys, it’s the family that I’ve made since I started that counts,” said Vazquez.

Lowriders are often thought of as the quintessential car culture ride, and they are definitely the first to catch attention. For some clubs, there are requirements one must meet before they are members. Street Made Car Club founder, Rosendo Guardado, says his club looks for cars that have good paint jobs, music systems and wheels. The most important quality of joining a club is being a good fit with other members. Guardado emphasized the importance of community and family within the car scene, and it is the community that keeps him coming out to shows.

Betty Reyes, a member of the Padrinos car club cruises with her husband in a 1941 Chevy Deluxe, often referred to as a bomber. The club is now 20 years old, and like the cars, Reyes says, “The older the better.” The club is made up of childhood friends who

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Jim Wu, a member of Gator Greasers, poses for a portrait in front of his 1995 Honda Integra RS in Pacifica. Wu joined Gator Greasers after seeing a flyer posted on his car. “It’s just you and the car. It’s a very pure feeling,” he said.

all grew up together.

“It’s like one big family,” said Reyes. “Now our kids are joining the club, and they will be the next generation.”

The next generation is the key to car culture – it is how it persists and evolves.

“The kids can’t afford the older model cars today,” Vasquez said. “Classic cars are expensive, and the work to get them looking right is time and money. Now they’re flipping a whole new era of cars that are becoming more and more popular.”

NuTrend Nor Cal club all had opinions on the new generation, saying, “It’s important to have a family base, and have aunts and uncles and kids all join the club. It’s a tradition.” Mark Navarro, a founder of City Classics Bombers, said that cars are “a sense of pride and accomplishment. It’s an escape and a hobby, if something is wrong or I feel down, I drive around,” and there is usually always someone willing to join in for a cruise.

Despite all of the love for these eclectic machines, California is looking to ban the sale of gas powered cars by 2035. The executive order, put in motion by Gov. Gavin Newsom, is striving to cut down on greenhouse gasses emitted by the abundance of cars in the state. California has nearly 18 million

cars registered in the state, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation, which is over 10 million more than the next highest state, and close to 50% of the population.

California is leading the charge toward zeroemission vehicles, and the state has an estimated 550,000 EV’s registered, roughly 40% of EV’s nationwide.

For car enthusiasts, this is a moot point. The ban only prevents gas powered cars from being sold in the state, not driven.

Guardado jokingly referred to the term “electric car,” as a bad word, and many others at La Bendición held the same sentiment. For classic car enthusiasts, EV’s don’t fit the traditional mold of what a car is, but there is room for everybody at the shows.

“There are some who come out and only like a certain type of car, and will hate on cars they don’t like,” said Guardado. “We don’t do that here, we appreciate people who come out to have fun and admire all types of beautiful cars.”

Co believes that the change will eventually catch up to car culture, but as for electric cars being included in the club, “I recognize all cars will have a place in car culture.”

The front rim of a blue 2021 Honda Civic Type R pictured at a viewpoint in Pacifica. The owner of the car, Andrey Villones, is a member of SF State’s Gator Greasers Automotive club. The front of a 1960 Chevy Impala parked at “La Bendición” lowrider event which was organized by the San Francisco Lowrider Council. The Chevy Impala is one of the most common models in the lowrider car culture.
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The interior of a 1967 Ford Thunderbird pictured in San Francisco. Though car parts are scarce for older cars, the owner of the car Rubin Vasquez wouldn’t have it any other way. “They’re just toys. Our extra cash goes into the cars,” he said.

Actor, Writer, Emmy

Blinding spotlights beam down on her sweatridden face. Hanah Lee Cook squeezes the hands of her fellow writers excitedly as they announce Disney Jr.’s “Muppet Babies” as the winner for ‘Outstanding Writing for a Preschool Animated Program,’ at the first Children’s & Family Creative Arts Emmy Awards.

As they made their way onstage to accept their award in front of an audience of 1,500, Cook only had one thing on her mind.

“I was just consumed with ‘don’t trip, don’t fall, don’t trip, don’t fall,’” Cook recalled. “I was up there looking sweaty and like I’m going to faint because that’s what it felt like. Only one person could speak, so our editor did a lovely, lovely thank you speech while the rest of us were giggling and bouncing and me really trying not to pass out.”

Nearly two months later, the moment is still fresh in Cook’s mind.

Now, in the company of her two cats and wearing sweatpants and a normal outside shirt, Emmy award winner and SF State alumna Hanah Lee Cook sits in front of her self-described obnoxious Comic-Con art collection as she talks about her experience at the Emmy awards, her time at SF State and experience as an actor turned animation writer.

Cook graduated from SF State in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in theater arts. She participated in various projects such as Fringe Fest and Brown Bag Theatre, where students write, direct, manage and act in their plays. Cook excitedly recalls acting in her friend’s short film, “Butterflies and Breakfast Cereal: A Comedy of Time Travel and Frosted Flakes.” She played Number 4, a time-traveling agent sent back in time to save the future.

“A friend of ours had written it,” Cook said. “I’m not sure how they financed it, but it felt pretty high production.”

Cook dabbled in writing and directing herself. During her senior year in college, Cook produced her short film, “Apocalypse, Maybe,” about four friends discussing their zombie insurance plan.

But her time at SF State wasn’t all work. She made sure to take time out of her busy schedule to explore the campus.

“It’s really fun to sit and pose on the mosaic tiger by the library,” she said in a message to her fellow Gators.

Cook caught the acting bug in sixth grade after participating in Sulphur Springs Community Elementary School’s production of Annie Jr. She got to live out her dream on the small stage when she became a member of Delta Kappa Alpha (DKA), a co-ed professional cinematic fraternity that “thrives on developing industry leaders in film making.”

She spent her summers as a college student interning at various studios, including Warner Brothers Animations. There, she worked on shows like DC

Superhero Girls, Mike Tyson Mysteries and ScoobyDoo! and Kiss: Rock and Roll Mystery.

“I missed out on hanging out with my friends,” Cook said. “I would be working 16-hour days on set. But I would not have the career I have now if I hadn’t done that.”

Laura Wayth, an SF State theater arts teacher, had Cook as a student. Wayth remembers her as curious and extremely thorough, accompanied by a wry sense of humor.

“I think she’s a natural-born storyteller,” Wayth said. “And I also think she’s just always been a hard worker. And those two things combined, that’s what you need.”

SF State graduate Hanah Lee Cook achieves Emmy award with her writing skills. Story by Angelina Casolla
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Hanah Lee Cook portrays Prudence in the Spring 2015 stage version of “Across the Universe.” (Courtesy of Hanah Lee Cook)

Even though Wayth has taught thousands of students around the world – from Morocco to Miami – she continues to be taken aback by Cook’s talents.

“I never would have thought that I would have an Emmy winner in my class,” Wayth said.

Cook grew up half-Korean in Santa Clarita, a predominately white California suburb of Los Angeles. It wasn’t easy to manage the pressure of representing an entire community.

“If I brought rice and seaweed to school as a snack, which is the tamest Korean food you can imagine, people would gag openly in my face,” Cook said. Sometimes those people would even be my friends.”

Cook pulled from her experiences when she scripted the Lunar New Year episode of “Mickey Mouse Fun House,” titled “Goofy Doesn’t Like It.” When Goofy was reluctant to try new foods on a trip to South Korea, his friends were there to encourage him.

It’s important for Cook to see inclusivity on screen – not just through ethnic representation, but through gender diversity as well.

“I do try and balance gender roles when I’m writing these [scripts],” Cook explained. “We had an episode that involves a pet grooming salon. And I wrote it as Minnie and Donald that are the ones who are doing the salon because it’s important to me to show young boys that because something is pink, or something is coded as being feminine, doesn’t mean that you can’t do it or be ashamed if you want to do it.”

Winning an Emmy wasn’t the first time Cook was recognized for her outstanding writing abilities. In sixth grade she wrote and illustrated a 15-page, award-winning piece titled “The Election,” about a “normal” girl who runs against a mean girl for class president, landing Cook the young author award.

For Cook, sixth grade was the year of selfdiscovery. She started taking acting and singing lessons as well that year.

“I would say sixth grade is when I really decided I’m not going to try to be athletic because I know that doesn’t really work,” Cook said. “I know I’m not super strong with certain academic things, but I know I can be creative. And I’m not happy unless I’m doing something in the creative sphere.”

High school was theater, theater, theater. Cook split her time between acting and stage managing. She also co-founded a sketch comedy troupe called Side Effects May Include, in which each member portrayed a common side effect of a medicine. Cook herself was “temporary blindness” – superior to one of her castmates, “loose stool.”

“That was really my first endeavor into seeing things that I had written actually come to life,” Cook said. She enjoyed it so much that it inspired her to step into the world of acting through writing. “Because Tina Fey is now huge, and she started out as a writer, and I’m like, ‘I’m gonna do that!’”

Cook’s childhood home was full of cartoons and imagination. Her father, an animation artist, worked at Disney Animation Studio.

“We were his focus group at home,” Cook remembered. “He would show us what’s called an animatic, where they make a video version of the storyboard and put the audio over it.”

Though she never expected she’d end up in the same industry.

“When I was a kid, I thought you have to be able

to draw to be in animation,” Cook said. “And I didn’t get that gene. So, I never considered it as a career possibility at all.”

Now a successful Emmy winner in her own right, Cook can’t shake the feeling of imposter syndrome.

“Because I have a parent in the industry, I think this imposter syndrome is going to follow me for a very long time but seeing my name actually included was surreal and going to the Emmys was crazy,” Cook said.

Cook currently works as a staff writer at Disney Television Animation. In her free time, you can find her hanging out with her cats or grubbing down at Disneyland.

Writing for a kid’s show, Cook said, is something she “fell into.” She originally intended to be a sketch comedy writer.

Hannah Jost is a friend of Cook and also graduated from SF State. Like Cook, she also followed an unexpected career path, and now works as an apprentice writer at Titmouse Inc. Jost says flexibility is key in the industry — something that Cook has thrived at.

“I think the most universal thing that you could take from her trajectory is that she’s pivoted pretty well…you’d be surprised how well all the skills kind of translate,” Jost explains.

Cook credits the tools she got from SF State with helping her navigate the uncertain territory of the entertainment industry. She learned the importance of making connections wherever you go even if you don’t stay there.

“Everything is networking,” Cook said. “You’re building a relationship, not just an opportunity for a job. I always say, ‘keep in touch with people you meet when you aren’t looking for a job.’”

Hanah Lee Cook poses on top of the mosaic tiger in front of SF State’s J. Paul Leonard Library. (Courtesy of Hanah Lee Cook)
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I know I’m not super strong with certain academic things, but I know I can be creative. And I’m not happy unless I’m doing something in the creative sphere.
Sign of The Roxie Theater, one of the oldest continuously operated cinemas in San Francisco.

Silverscreen Send-Off

The smell of fresh popcorn wafts through the air as people wait in line to buy their tickets. The anticipation and excitement is almost palpable as groups from all walks of life gather to enjoy two hours of entertainment on the big screen. Movie-goers of all ages can relate to the magical feeling of seeing a highly anticipated film in the theater – but is that feeling disappearing?

Movie theaters all across the country are closing due to a lack of theatrical releases and a battle against streaming services. Not to mention being shut down for two years thanks to a global pandemic. Movie theaters in the Bay Area aren’t any better off, but there are some that are taking these challenges in stride and doing all they can to keep the silver screen on.

The Roxie Theater, located in the Mission, is one of the longest-continuously operated theaters in the country. Originally named the Poppy Theater, the Roxie has persevered and stayed standing since 1913 – it plans on staying that way by providing a sense of community and familiarity that most big movie complexes can’t.

“The idea is that when people come to the Roxie, we get to know their names, we get to chat with them about what films they like or if they didn’t like the film, why?” Executive Director Lex Sloan asked. “When you come to the Roxie it’s really more than just coming to the movies, it’s coming to a community hub where you can hopefully feel welcome and a sense of belonging.”

The Roxie is now a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and has launched the Forever Roxie campaign to help keep the theater running while keeping ticket prices affordable.

The Roxie also has a program titled Movies for All where they offer SNAP and EBT cardholders $5 movie tickets. In May, the theater will also be hosting and showing SF State’s film school finals on its big screen.

Sloan defines the Roxie as an arthouse theater, which is a movie theater that specializes in films that are artistic or experimental rather than merely entertaining. This is not the place to go watch a Marvel movie, but instead a place to step out of your comfort zone and expand your movie genres and knowledge. Other famous locations in the city such as Balboa Theatre, Landmark’s Opera Plaza and the Vogue Theatre are also arthouse theaters.

“We aren’t relying on mainstream Hollywood Studio films to bring people in and to be successful,” Sloan said. “We all saw, even prior to 2022, when movie theaters closed, you know, streaming has obviously changed the landscape of the movie business.

When it’s so much easier and oftentimes cheaper to just turn on a movie from your couch, that change in the industry has affected people coming out to the movie theaters. It used to be that a movie would

go to movie theaters for weeks or months before you could see it on DVD or VHS, and now there’s very often very little theatrical window. I think that’s unfortunately why we see so many of the larger chains really struggling to stay afloat.”

While the Roxie has managed to stay open and host weekly movie events, other arthouse theaters haven’t had as good of luck. The Castro Theater, a hub for LGBTQ content, did not host a single event for the month of February, according to a tweet by Legal Counsel Lee Hepner.

There has been animosity and pushback since Another Planet Entertainment took over the theater and patrons and supporters of the Roxie are blaming the company for the Castro’s seeming demise. There’s even a hashtag and Twitter profile titled #SaveTheCastro and @SaveTheCastro.

A responding tweet to Hepner’s about the lack of events read, “Just so sad… knew they’d ruin it the minute I heard they took over.” The Castro has not responded to inquiries on the matter.

Movies and films have been an integral part of humanity since the early 1900s. In the beginning, film was more popular in Europe, but by the 1930s the American film industry had added full color and sound to their movies, spawning the so-called “Golden Age of Hollywood.” During the ‘30s and ‘40s, people were attending movie theaters about twice a week.

Nowadays, that number sounds almost unbelievable thanks to the Coronavirus pandemic and the rise of streaming services across the globe. According to the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) about 500 screens closed due to the pandemic, many of which never operated again. The ones who did, however, found an entirely different battle to face.

The number of subscriptions to online streaming services reached $1.1 billion in 2020 while global boxoffice revenues lost about $18 billion due to theater closures. Movies can be purchased and streamed through online services sometimes just weeks after they’ve been released in theaters. Sometimes they’re even streaming while they’re still in theaters.

In an Instagram survey taken on Feb. 11, 40% of respondents said that they preferred to watch movies on streaming services at home rather than in theaters.

The pressure has been too much for some theaters

to handle. In August 2022, Cineworld filed for bankruptcy in the U.S. and blamed the lack of theatrical releases. Cineworld owns Regal Cinemas, the second-largest operator of theaters in the country. Century Theaters, another dominant force in the film world, has been closing locations throughout the Bay Area as well, including Corte Madera and Blackhawk. CGV is the latest on the list of Bay Area movie theaters to close due to the challenges theaters are facing as well as a rise in rent.

In order to stay afloat, AMC Theaters, America’s largest movie chain, will be changing its seat prices depending on their location. This means that the more desirable seats in the theater will be more expensive than the notoriously unwanted seats. This initiative will be rolled out to all of AMC’s theaters by the end of the year.

Despite these dismal stats and rising prices, there are some theaters that have been doing fairly well in these tumultuous times.

“I know we’re one of the best-performing Regals in our area right now…with best sales and consistent numbers and money,” said Stonestown Galleria Regal Theaters employee Izabella Garcia. “We’ve had to help out other theaters like Berkeley and I think Denmark. Sometimes managers will head over to those theaters to help out, either being extra hands or aiding management.”

While some theaters are fighting to survive, some have been completely transformed. The San Francisco Baseball Academy found its home in the historic Bridge Theater on Geary Street in 2016. What was once one of the most successful venues for independent and foreign films in the city is now home to batting cages and baseball camps for the kids of San Francisco.

“I wanted to start the San Francisco Baseball Academy ever since I was about 13 years old,” said Executive Director Michael Aicardi. “Whenever my family members would ask me where I would put it, I always came up with the movie theater idea. The blueprint of the theater, with the high ceilings and a lobby, just made sense to me ever since I was a young teen.”

The San Francisco Baseball Academy offers personal lessons, small group classes, corporate events, birthday parties and rentals of the facilities to the baseball players of San Francisco. Despite having renovated the inside of the theater to accommodate all the baseball facilities, the Academy is staying in touch with its roots by showing movies in the theater every last Friday of every month.

“We’re doing a lot of the ‘90s [baseball] movies,” Aicardi said. “Moving forward we’ll probably offer all types of movies that aren’t shown in movie theaters these days. It’s kind of a kids’ night out at the academy.”

As Bay Area movie theaters face widespread closures, many fight to adapt.
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Michael Aicardi (right), Executive Director of the SFBA, with a trainee in San Francisco.

Laying the Foundation

High hopes among engineering students as construction of a $150 million science and engineering building promises new opportunities.

The loud hiss of an electric saw, the beeping of construction trucks reversing and the hammering of concrete are only a few of the many sounds SF State engineering professor Elahe Enssani has grown accustomed to hearing since returning to campus in the fall of 2022. Slated for completion in 2024, the new College of Science and Engineering (CoSE) building has been discussed since Enssani began teaching at SF State in 1998. However, she does not dread this daily cacophony of construction sounds because to her it symbolizes the start of something exciting: bright, new, spacious environmental engineering labs with optimal space for her students to collaborate and learn at a higher level.

Many students and faculty are looking forward to boosting their educational experiences through the state-of-the-art lab spaces the new CoSE building will offer. The new building will also provide more space for student organizations and networking opportunities.

“The lower division classes that I took did not have the best equipment, and we weren’t even able to use it because it was all broken, or we would just watch videos of how the lab equipment works,” said

Junior Julianna Enriquez. “It doesn’t really give you that hands-on experience you’re really wanting to get as a student.”

This new building will serve over 7,000 Science and Engineering students each year, according to Carmen Domingo, Dean of the College of Science and Engineering.

The total construction of the building cost $150 million, said Domingo, and will feature studio-style instruction, which will be a cornerstone of the STEM classes. Studio-style instruction combines lecture and lab work together, while they usually operate separately.

“It’s going to be an eye-opening experience,” said Engineering Assistant Professor Jenna Wong. In the civil engineering section, Wong is looking forward to new lab equipment that mimics seismic excitations and structural loads for buildings systems and components that civil engineers work on in the field.

According to Wong, the new CoSE building will provide labs that will expand students’ opportunities to explore and perform more demonstrations.

“Within the classroom or lab level, it’s extremely important to not only motivate students but also to excite them about what their field really is,” Wong said. “To give them a glimpse into what they’re actually designing for. It will have a huge impact.”

Lab equipment and programmatic support was an additional $25 million endeavor, with biotechnology corporation Genentech awarding SF State $5 million for these items.

Enssani, who was the university’s sole female engineering professor from 2003 to 2013, hopes the new CoSE building can help close the student gender divide by attracting more female students.

During Enssani’s time as an engineering undergraduate in Iran, she was used to being one of the only females in her classes.

“It was lonely, but you learn to find your way and to express yourself,” Enssani said. “But now that there are more female faculty in the Engineering department, we can get together and discuss ways in which we can bring in a higher number of female students.”

The engineering field is notorious for being male-dominated, and SF State is no exception. According to 2023 data by CollegeFactual, 79.4% of SF State’s engineering undergraduates are male and 20.6% are female.

“From the perspective of choosing the career path, I knew I’d be cutting into the male-dominated fields,” said senior Mariela Moreno. “But then I get here, and it’s my first day in the engineering classes. And it’s a room of like, 35 to 40 students, two of them being female, including myself.”

Moreno described the situation not as being very uncomfortable, but quite surprising.

“I knew this would happen… but wow, I didn’t think it’d be this. That the barrier would be this big,” Moreno said. “Then someone told me, you need to learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.”

Regardless of gender, all engineering students face the difficulty of navigating daunting course loads.

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Egan Chin troubleshoots the 3D printer machine and inserts the design layer of the croc jibbitz in Hensill Hall at SF State. The design is created on a software program for 3D printing.

“I cry a lot because it’s just… It is overwhelming,” said senior Mariela Moreno. “I had a three-unit class last semester. And every unit, you’re supposed to study outside the classroom about two or three times that. For three units, I’d study six to nine hours for one class. But for one class, I was studying like 1520 hours a week for a three-unit class. It’s a lot of study.”

For many students, their engineering efforts do not stop when their homework is completed. A major component of the upperclassman experience is meeting with SF State engineering alumni and Bay Area STEM companies to develop professional connections. This can be especially important for women and Hispanic students, both of which are underrepresented in the field.

“It’s a lot of networking, too,” Moreno said. “We’re in school studying, we’re in all these clubs… I’m probably in five different clubs. We’re networking with companies right now. We’re doing internships. It is overwhelming, but I think at the end of the day, just knowing you’re not going through it alone helps.”

When Moreno began to discover her voice, she started joining clubs and seeking out internships.

“Once I was in those internships, it was an uncomfortable feeling,” Moreno said. “And again, just because everything was so brand new, and even in the workplace, there’s still this huge gender gap. It’s now learning to be comfortable in the workplace as well as school with such a big gender gap too.”

Currently serving as the secretary and recruitment chair for the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), Moreno has developed similar relationships with fellow students and professors.

“The members of my organization were the ones who encouraged me to go find internships,” Moreno said. “They offered to do mock interviews with me. It was a really good group of students.”

Moreno also gained self-confidence in her engineering path through her involvement in student organizations. “I would ask [members of ASCE], could I really be an engineer? And they’re like, ‘yeah, you could do it, just one step at a time!’”

Moreno cited the location of SF State as her favorite part of her engineering experience.

“We’re in the perfect location for civil engineers,” Moreno said “Like, hello! It’s San Francisco. We’re constantly building here. There’s so much opportunity, and we have groups of students that build each other up to get these opportunities together. Also, the department chairs and department heads are so encouraging. They’re here for the students.”

The engineering field has also faced criticism for its alleged lack of diversity, especially with the Latinx community. There are fewer than 5% of Latinx engineers, according to SF State’s CoSE Dean Carmen Domingo, and it is crucial to her to increase that number.

The Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) is the nation’s largest association dedicated to generating Latinx leadership in the STEM field, according to the organization’s website.

Senior Alexis Hernandez has been the president of SHPE since 2021 and has been part of the organization since 2019.

“[SHPE] really took me out of my shell of not talking to any of my classmates,” Hernandez said. “I worked my way up, starting as a mentee and then mentor, and now president. It has made it ten times easier to meet people.”

Engineering upperclassman Gerardo Nuñez is also a member of SHPE.

“I’m involved with SHPE more than any other organization… As a Hispanic, I feel like we’re more underrepresented in engineering, but anyone is free to join the organization,” Nuñez said.

Many engineering students cite joining student organizations as a necessity for developing social and professional connections, but some credit organization involvement as a way to improve confidence.

“My sophomore year, I had imposter syndrome,” said junior Julianna Enriquez. “I had such a difficult time in my math classes, especially calculus. And I was just like, how am I going to do all these accelerated, and very highly intellectual, classes when I can’t even pass the basic math courses?”

Enriquez cited being open about her issue with fellow students in engineering organizations as helping her overcome her feelings of imposter syndrome.

“As I kept talking to younger and older students in the community from my student org, they’ve definitely been there to help each other out,” Enriquez said. “And it’s really nice.”

She also included faculty staff and professors in those she felt comfortable opening up to during this period of uncertainty. “The support system I have with some professors and faculty here is very admirable because they care so much about [students],” Enriquez said. “I don’t feel nervous or embarrassed to say something dumb, because I know in their hearts they just want what’s best for me.”

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Engineering students work together during a lab on their laptops and using machinery in Hensill Hall. The labs that were in session included work as a team with an additional student being a helping hand.
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