Tag Archives: Laura Plantholt

Foghorn Editor-in-Chief Says Goodbye

Three and a half years ago, I stepped into the Foghorn office with the vague idea that joining the school newspaper might be a good hobby. I got my first assignment from an editor and dutifully fulfilled it. I went back and got another. What can I say? I became hooked on seeing my name in print. Today I write my last ever article as editor in chief, as the Foghorn crew and I finish the last issue of my college career. It is an insignificant moment for most, but for me it is the end of an era. More than anything I’ve done at USF, working at the Foghorn is what I will remember and cherish most.

What didn’t I love about working at the Foghorn? The people are wonderful: smart, sarcastic, creative and sometimes  downright bizarre. I love the late, sleepless nights spent in the office, tweaking words and photos for hours until everything seems just so. I love the controversies, the arguments and the occasional stories that get us in trouble. Best of all, I love the rare but wonderful moments when a student or faculty member stops me and tells me something they liked about the paper.

While we had our share of typos and gaffes, I walk away extremely proud of the work the Foghorn has produced during my time here. We have covered a great many triumphs and tragedies, attempting to share as many stories of student achievements, athletic victories and artistic endeavors as possible. I only hope the members of the university community feel we’ve done them justice.

Working at the Foghorn has afforded me many great opportunities to meet impressive men and women from around the world – artists, authors, journalists, politicians – I even made a trip to Washington D.C. to interview House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. As much as I have appreciated these encounters, many of the USF students I have met through my work at the Foghorn have impressed me equally.

At USF we have students who start businesses, raise funds for the needy, fight for human rights, write books, create art, compete in athletics, travel the globe, grow their own food, and do a million and one other amazing things on a daily basis. Interviewing and writing about these people has inspired me and opened my eyes to a world of possibilities.

As I prepare to leave the Foghorn and USF, I owe many thanks to many people. First to the tireless workers who brew the coffee in the cafeteria, mow the lawns, clean the toilets, and put the books back on the shelves. I don’t think any of us ever thank you enough. Second, to the incredible faculty who have guided me and expanded my mind – I may have rolled my eyes when you assigned another essay or reading assignment, but in the end I am truly grateful. Third, to the wonderful students I have studied with and learned from. As I mentioned earlier, I have been continuously surprised and impressed by all that you can achieve. Finally to my professor and Foghorn advisor Teresa Moore. You have challenged me tremendously in and out of the classroom over the past four years, and I have consistently strived to live up to your high expectations. For as long as I live, I will most likely hear your voice in the back of my head every time I try to put words on paper. (And, if you are reading this column and thinking it sounds like a “bad Valedictorian speech,” I’m sorry!)

As the Foghorn moves on without me, I know it will be in good hands. As long as there is a team of intelligent, dedicated people to carry on its century-long legacy, the Foghorn will be an important presence at USF. I simply feel honored to have been a part of it all.

Freedom and fairness for life!

Female Scientists Encourage Next Generation

Students Bethany Goodrich and Noelle Brodeur welcomed Dr. Margaret Tempero, Millianne Lehmann, and Marjorie Balazs at the Women in Science panel. A large crowd turned out to see the prominent Bay Area scientists reflect on their careers and advise female scientists of the future. Photo Courtesy of Brandon Brown

USF took time to celebrate women who entered the male-dominated fields of math and science last Thursday, offering inspiration for the next generation of female scientists.

It was a room full of women, with a few men sprinkled in the crowded McLaren Hall as well. Sitting on the panel in the front of the room were five female scientists: two undergraduate science students and three professional scientists and mathematicians. A packed crowd of university and high school students listened intently to learn more about the role of women in science.

“Historically, women have been underrepresented in all science fields,” said junior Bethany Goodrich as she introduced the event. “Men and women are equal, but they offer very different perspectives.”

The scene at the panel, From Classroom to Career: Success Stories of Women in Science and Technology, held last Thursday, looked nothing like the picture painted by national statistics. As Goodrich noted, even though women earn the majority of bachelors degrees overall, they fall behind men in both the number of science degrees earned and the number of careers held in the sciences. Most would consider this figure problematic.

The USF College of Arts and Sciences is employing a number of methods to increase female enrollment in the sciences, including hiring more female professors and hosting events like the one last Thursday.

This effort began 45 years ago, when the university hired its first female professor in mathematics, Millianne Lehmann. Lehmann, who came to speak on the Women in Science panel, recalled, “When I joined the faculty in 1965, I was entering a world of men. I had no social peers.”

Lehmann served as the only female mathematics professor until 2004, when she retired. She said of her gender, “It turned out to be no problem at all. At no time did I feel hindered by my gender.” Lehmann ended up serving as the first female chair of USF’s mathematics department, paving the way for women to enter the math and science fields.

But not all women on the panel viewed their gender as a non-issue in their careers. When Marjorie Balazs attended college in the 1950’s, she had a male chemistry professor tell her, “You’d might as well stop now,” implying that, as a woman, she would never make it far in science.

Defying his projection, Balazs went on to have an a prosperous career, founding Balazs Analytical and becoming the first female CEO in the semiconductor industry.

The words of discouragement Balazs heard from her professor did not ultimately hold her back. “As a person who faced a lot of adversity and had people tell me I couldn’t do it, I really challenge you to believe in yourselves,” she told the audience.

The panel was sponsored by the Women in Science club, an undergraduate organization that encourages young women to pursue careers in the traditionally male-dominated fields.

Noelle Brodeur, junior biology major and Women in Science club president, has worked with her group to encourage other young women to go into science-related careers. Inviting Bay Area high school girls to watch the speakers on the panel and become inspired was part of that mission.

Brodeur explained the personal importance of having strong female role models in science, especially at her university.  “Seeing so many successful female science faculty at USF definitely makes my future dreams seem more tangible,” she said. “And it helps make the difficulties of being a biology major seem as if they will pay off in the long run.”

In recent years, USF has improved its faculty gender ratios significantly, with female faculty now making up 25-percent of the total in the math, science and computer science majors according to an article in the Fall 2009 issue of USF Magazine. Increasing the number of women professors, in theory, will encourage more female students to enroll in the majors.

For Lehmann, this could not be more true. It was a female high school teacher who ultimately inspired her to study mathematics and go on to teach. All these years later, she remembered fondly, “It is the memory of her that helped me to succeed in my career at USF.”

Dr. Margaret Tempero, a USF alumna, also spoke at the panel. Tempero said she kind of stumbled into a career in sciences when she began working at a hospital and wanted to get her medical degree so she could understand what was going on. She emphasized being open to opportunities to find the right career. “You may not understand your mission in life now,” she told the crowd, “But you have one.” Tempero is now the Deputy Director of the Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center at UCSF.

Brodeur was pleased with the outcome of the panel. She said, “One of the main points I took away from the event was how lively and happy those women seemed. When I see women like that, it makes me so excited to find a career I am passionate about.”

Profile: Darrell Red Wing Grew up on Pine Ridge Reservation

Junior computer science major Darrell Red Wing embraces life at USF, but remembers fondly his life on Pine Ridge Indian reservation. Photo by Cass Krughoff/Foghorn

Millions of people each year make the patriotic pilgrimage to see Mount Rushmore, a monument made in celebration of U.S. history. But few are aware that within 100 miles of this attraction there exists a reminder of the darker side of that history, a side that most Americans would rather forget.

Pine Ridge Indian Reservation is home to members of the Lakota Sioux Native American tribe. Over a century ago, European settlers slaughtered the Sioux’s ancestors in gruesome battles. The settlers made treaties and broke them, leaving reservations of land for these native people. Over a century later, the reservation system still stands. One product of this system is USF Junior, Darrell Red Wing who calls Pine Ridge Indian Reservation home.

Growing up on the reservation, Red Wing experienced what most would consider a hard life. Surrounded by poverty, with 49% of the population below poverty level according to the 2000 U.S. Census, Red Wing said the reservation felt like a third world country. “It’s one of the ugliest kept secrets in America,” he said. “I knew people without phones or electricity. I knew a family that slept on the floor. And they didn’t even have a floor, it was just dirt.”

The Lakota Sioux seem to never have fully recovered from their unjust past. Pine Ridge is the poorest of the Indian reservations, located in the second poorest county in the United States. Its unemployment rate hovers around 80%. It is plagued by the problems of poverty, such as gangs, drugs and violence. “We’re a broken tribe,” Red Wing said as an explanation for these troubles. “We’ve lost touch with our culture.”

Red Wing saw many of his childhood friends give in to the dominant lifestyle of dealing and using drugs and joining gangs for protection. Though he got in the occasional scuffle, for the most part Red Wing steered clear. “I just grew up with a good sense not to do all that,” he said. He attributes his success to the strong role modeling of his mother and grandfather, who didn’t do drugs and made sure he didn’t either.

Staying clean paid off for Red Wing. After two years in Oglala Lakota College, a school located on the reservation, Red Wing was able to transfer to USF with full scholarships from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

People who identify as Native American make up the smallest minority at USF, at about 1% of the student body. This is in line with the national average. According to the American Indian College Fund, the number of Native Americans earning bachelor’s degrees is growing, however they are still underrepresented.

Red Wing chose to come to USF because he wanted to experience city life, but also get the natural beauty of the beach and Golden Gate Park. He also enjoys USF’s campus. The most memorable part of his first campus visit was the high tech computer science lab, which he now spends a lot of time in as a computer science major.

But attending USF has broadened his horizons beyond the world of computers. “Since coming here, I’ve gotten to take a lot of other classes like philosophy and sociology,” he said. One of his favorite classes he is taking is Contact Improv, a modern dance class in which partners work together to improvise a dance. “I like not knowing what you’re going to do next,” he said.

As in dance, Red Wing does not know what life holds for him next. He may go to graduate school if he can secure funding and considers staying within the computer realm, or he may do something else.

For now, he is content just to be here. Red Wing said he feels a great sense of community at USF. “The people here are somewhat close, like the tribe,” he said, “And everyone’s really nice. Here, you don’t always have to watch your back.”

Red Wing said at the reservation, you had to always be on alert. So much as look at someone the wrong way and they might want to pick a fight. Despite all this, Red Wing still misses the reservation and thinks of it fondly. “I miss the family and the closeness, and the culture. Even though there’s gangs and fighting, the people you connect with are like your brothers and sisters,” he said.

“Even though it is how it is, I still love it with all my heart.”

USF’s Own Ani Serebrakian Competes in 2010 Olympics

Dons tuning in to the Olympics Feb. 24 or 26 might think they see a familiar face speeding down the slopes – and they aren’t imagining it. One may have seen her strolling across Harney Plaza just a month ago. Now she is in Vancouver, British Columbia, rubbing elbows with top athletes and preparing to compete in the largest athletic competition in the world. This week, sophomore Ani Serebrakian will be skiing in two Olympic events, representing the Republic of Armenia.

Serebrakian, an exercise and sports science major at USF, grew up in Marin County, just across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco. Her parents are from Armenia, and she holds dual citizenship in Armenia and the United States.

Throughout her childhood, Serebrakian skied with her family regularly at northern California snow parks such as Northstar at Tahoe and Squaw Valley. She came to USF as a freshman, already with a slew of skiing competitions under her belt, and continued to train on weekends.

Now all of her hard work has paid off. Serebrakian is skiing in two Alpine skiing events, women’s slalom and women’s giant slalom, in the world’s top competition.

Slalom skiing is a technical sport that focuses on speed and accuracy. The athlete’s goal is to ski through a series of poles, or gates, as quickly as possible. Giant slalom is like slalom but the gates are fewer and more spread apart.

Though she is competing in events toward the end of the Olympic Games, Serebrakian has been in Vancouver since Feb. 5. She has been documenting the experience via postcards to “The Novato Advance,” the local Novato newspaper, in which she has talked about marching in the Opening Ceremony, meeting her Armenian teammates, practicing for the competition and living life at the Olympic Village.

Interestingly, Serebrakian is not the only Don in recent history to compete in the Olympics. Just a year and a half ago, sophomore Haley Nemra competed in the 2008 Beijing Olympics for the Marshall Islands. Like Serebrakian, Nemra grew up in the United States, but competed for the country in which her father was born and raised. Nemra ran the women’s 800 meter dash for the small island country.

Armenia is a relatively new country to the Olympics. Stepping into the arena in 1994, shortly after declaring its independence from the Soviet Union, Armenia has yet to win a gold medal.

This year, the country sent four athletes to compete in the Olympic games. Serebrakian said she was grateful to be one of them. She told the San Francisco Chronicle, “I’m kind of still in awe that I’m here… My whole goal was to make it to the Olympics. Qualifying for it, I feel I’ve achieved so much already.”

No Shame in Slumming it this Summer

The summer after my sophomore year, despite high hopes of résumé-boosting internships, or at least a well-paying restaurant job, I ended up working in the dreaded fast food industry. One moment I was a stellar student at a four year university, the next I was literally asking, “Do you want fries with that?” This was obviously not the glamorous summer that I had spent spring semester dreaming of. However, amidst that greasy fast food haven, I ended up learning about more than flipping burgers.

I didn’t set out to work at a fast food establishment, but as luck would have it, a couple of internships I applied for fell through, and the coffee shop I worked at throughout high school was fully staffed.

I began my job hunt as soon as school let out. In my arrogance, I drove right past the fast food joints, which line every other corner of my suburban hometown. However, on my pursuit one day, I stopped into one particular location for a cold beverage. The clerk handed me an application when I mentioned to him that I was job-hunting. I turned it in the next day and was hired on the spot. Swallowing my pride, I donned a primary-colored tee-shirt and a visor, and began my career in the fast food industry.

I spent that summer taking orders, salting french fries, mopping floors and making countless milkshakes. Every two weeks, I collected a dismally low paycheck, and the cycle continued.
At times, my ethics were challenged at this job. I was well aware of the fact that overproduction of beef and corn is detrimental to the Earth’s environment, as are the copious amounts of paper, plastic and styrofoam we used to package each item. I also knew the nutritionally void food products we sold were detrimental to people’s health. I had a crisis of conscience every time I asked an obese customer, “Would you like to add bacon on your double cheeseburger?”

But of course there were the entertaining moments as well. My co-workers were the beacons of light, adding fun to a mind-numbingly dull job. I learned from them that working in the drive-through is much more fun if you make up a fake name or speak in a fictitious accent, and writing alternate lyrics to the pop songs that played on repeat can pass the time nicely.

On our ten minute breaks, I learned about their hardships, which dwarfed mine in comparison. Supporting children on a minimum wage income, overcoming addiction or living with an abusive boyfriend were some of the situations my co-workers faced, and they were around my age. It made me think how different my life might have been if I were born into slightly different circumstances, or made a few different choices…

As I came back to USF that fall, I felt ashamed to admit how I spent my summer vacation to my classmates. I listened to others talk of their trips abroad, backpacking through Europe or helping orphans in Latin America. When asked what I did all summer, I wanted to mumble unintelligibly and quickly change the subject. As much as I ultimately enjoyed my work that summer, I didn’t think my worldly and sophisticated peers at USF would understand all that I had experienced. In retrospect, however, I learned almost as much as they did that summer, and perhaps should have shared some of my insights.

It may be a bit early to start discussing summer vacation. However, I tell you this tale in order to let you know that if your ideal summer plans do fall through, and you don’t get to explore exotic lands or intern at Fortune 500 companies, you just might find adventure in the greasy kitchen at a fast food establishment near you.

USF Neighbor Opposes Removal of Cypress Trees

This Monterrey Cypress tree, on the corner of Golden Gate and Masonic, is one of three that stands to be cut down, pending a city hearing to be held in February.  Photo by Chelsea Sterling/Foghorn
This Monterrey Cypress tree, on the corner of Golden Gate and Masonic, is one of three that stands to be cut down, pending a city hearing to be held in February. Photo by Chelsea Sterling/Foghorn

Tall trees are rare in big cities like San Francisco. Three such tall trees, native species Monterey Cypresses, have stood on USF property by the corner of Golden Gate and Masonic for over 70 years, and have grown to be 80-90 feet tall. Now, USF is fighting to remove these trees. However, one concerned neighbor is organizing against this process. He believes that these trees’ lives can be saved, and is protesting at an upcoming city hearing.

Glenn Loomis, director of community relations and chair of the USF Green Team, says the trees are getting taller, are top-heavy, and are possibly diseased. These conditions increase their risk for falling over in heavy winds, which would make them a potential danger to any people or property in their path.

Loomis is pushing for the trees’ removal because he is afraid of the danger that would come from them falling. Because the trees are positioned on a slope and the winds blow in from the Pacific Ocean to the west, it is likely that trees would fall right into Masonic Avenue. Loomis said, “That’s four to five lanes of traffic depending on the time of day. It’s very heavily traveled. We’re concerned that someone will be injured, or worse.”

Normally, Loomis said, USF does not ask permission from the city when trees on university property are removed. However, when trees lie within 10  feet of city property, they must seek city approval and notify neighbors. One such neighbor took issue with these trees being removed, in his opinion without reasonable cause.

Curtis Speck, the concerned neighbor, is not just an impartial passerby. Speck has been invested in USF’s foliage for over ten years. He began a garden on a plot of USF’s land, located behind the ROTC building, in 1995. Speck has a spiritual reverence for nature and plants, and gardens at USF about four mornings a week. Speck said when he heard USF planned to remove the trees, he wanted to make sure it was really necessary.

Speck said, “If we can save these trees for just a few more years, it will be worth it.”

After investigating the trees, Speck did not believe the trees needed to be removed yet. Though he is not formally educated in arboriculture, he theorizes a series of cables to hold the trees up could prevent them from falling in heavy winds. Furthermore, he believes the majority of wind is blocked by the Hayes Healy residence hall up the hill. He said, “My thinking is, are there alternatives? Are there other possibilities that we can at least consider?”

But USF has employed a professional arborist to consult on these trees, and his diagnosis is that the trees are no longer stable. Loomis said, “These are folks who are in the business not of cutting down tress, but of saving trees.” A city arborist confirmed the findings of the USF-hired arborist.

According to Loomis, the trees have consistently been maintained throughout the years, and believes their lives have already been prolonged due to proper care. However, it is simply too risky to keep them. “It’s not a matter of if the trees fall down. It’s a matter of when. And when they do, there is no question of where they will fall.”

When USF proposed the trees’ removal, the Department of Urban Forestry approved USF’s decision. Speck appealed that decision to an administrative hearing officer, but the city stood by their original decision. Then Speck took his appeal to the Board of Appeals, a higher level appeal process. This appeal gave Speck one last chance to fight for the trees he wishes to save.

Speck will argue against Loomis and other USF representatives at an upcoming hearing. The hearing will be held Feb. 3 at City Hall. If Speck hopes to see the trees stay put, he will need the votes of four out of five council members.

Loomis said, “Our position is that we want to save these trees as well, but we also want to have a neighborhood that’s safe for the students and also for the public.”

Semi-Annual Expressions Open Mic Night Showcases Poetry, Aspiring Musicians

Anja Francesca reads from her poem at the Black Student Union’s Expressions event on Tuesday, which incorporates spoken word, music, and poetry.  Photo by Akima Brackeen/Foghorn
Anja Francesca reads from her poem at the Black Student Union’s Expressions event on Tuesday, which incorporates spoken word, music, and poetry. Photo by Akima Brackeen/Foghorn

An ordinary conference room in Fromm Hall took on the vibe of a hip, jazzy cafe as friends, new and old, came together for Expressions open mic night.

USF students arrived en masse, along with friends and family. Even a group of San Francisco State students bussed in from across town. Guests mingled, piling up plates with fresh berries, ice cream and eclairs as they talked excitedly.

The room was packed with guests, nearly completely filling three rows of seats and many large tables in the back. The crowd hushed as sophomore Abesha Shiferaw welcomed everyone and announced the first act. Experssions had begun.

Expressions is a semi-annual open mic night put on by the Black Student Union. Abeshaw explained it as, “A chance for everybody to come and express themselves.” The expression took various forms, from soft poetry, to dramatic spoken word, to melodic singing, to skillful guitar.

One by one, the performers took the stage and displayed a spectrum of human emotions. Each brave participant bared a bit of his or her soul to the audience. Topics ranged from the lighthearted (love, relationships) to the more serious (domestic violence, death) to the thought-provoking (race, gender).

Each act performed, each a delightful surprise from the one before it. Junior Saidah Jones popped loudly onto the scene with her shocking and raw poem about gang violence, drug abuse, AIDS, and overcoming obstacles. “I know where I’m going, I’m going straight to the top,” she read from her ultimately inspiring piece.

Sophomore Evelyn Obamos showcased her vocal and guitar skills, performing two original songs. The first was a sweet and breezy love song; the second, a reggae tune about the relationship between love and sex. “This is my first attempt at a reggae song,” she explained. “I hope you like it.” The crowd bobbed their heads with approval.

Jasmine Williams, an SF State student, performed a heart-wrenching spoken word about domestic violence. The poem was written from the perspective of a child convincing her mother to leave her father. “He loves you, he loves you not,” was a central theme of the poem, comparing the insecurity and uncertainty of a domestic violence victim to the wistful wondering of a little girl. At the end, she said to the father, “I want my words to blacken your eyes.”

Perhaps the most poignant act of the evening was a poem by senior Courtney Ball. Though it began simply, speaking of Thanksgiving and the true meaning behind it, the audience soon learned that the reason Thanksgiving is important to Ball is because it is around that time that her mother passed away a few years ago. Ball dedicated the poem to her sister, who was in the audience. There was hardly a dry-eye in the room.

After each expression, Shiferaw nodded and said, “That was dope,” and encouraged additional rounds of applause for the performers. The participants ranged from seasoned performers to first-timers convinced by their friends to step up. Many admitted nervousness, but seemed happy to have expressed themselves by the time they were done. “Why were you nervous?” Shiferaw would ask. “If I had your voice, I’d be singing all the time.”

The BSU welcomed performers and spectators of all ethnic backgrounds. Shiferaw, who is a member of BSU and also a poet, explained, “There aren’t a lot of places people can feel free to express themselves. This is an open space to come perform. There’s no judgement.”

No judgement indeed. There was a small baby in the audience who would cry after each applause, apparently upset by the loud noise. Rather than become annoyed, one member of the audience shouted, “Express yourself!” And that they did.

Grass Roofs and Solar Panels Will Top New Science Center

A new banner shows the future site of the Center for Science and Innovation.  Melissa Stihl/Foghorn
A new banner shows the future site of the Center for Science and Innovation. Melissa Stihl/Foghorn

The Harney Science Center is home to the departments of biology, chemistry, computer science, exercise and sport science, environmental science, mathematics, physics and astronomy. Though these fields require innovation and ingenuity in their practice, the building which houses them at USF is far from cutting edge.

Constructed in 1966, Harney Science Center has not been significantly updated in over 40 years. The laboratories are outdated, according to students and faculty, which impedes students’ learning and research. There is also a serious shortage of student space; classmates currently can be found sitting on the floor in hallways to review notes between classes.

As an answer to these concerns, a new science center is in the works. NBBJ Architecture Firm has drafted extensive blueprints, and the USF Department of Advancement has been hard at work raising funds to construct what will be called the Center for Science and Innovation (CSI). Construction of the center may begin as soon as May of 2011.

The CSI will be an entirely new structure that will attach to the current Harney Science Center. It will include new, state-of-the-art laboratories that emphasize interaction between the different scientific disciplines. Study spaces, from small atria to little nooks with comfortable couches, will be built in throughout. The center will also reshape Harney Plaza, literally putting some of the plaza underground.

Though some of the grassy lawn in front of Harney will be covered up by the CSI, more grass will be planted on the roof of part of the first floor. Students will literally be able to lie on the green roof of a science lab. Native foliage will also be planted around the plaza.

Dean Jennifer Turpin of the College of Arts and Sciences, said the new center is necessary for student success. “Harney Science Center has become outdated, so the building limits our ability to teach science in innovative, effective ways,” she said. “[Students] will have state-of-the-art facilities and a first-rate experience when the new building comes online.”

Mike London, Assistant Vice President of Facilities Management, agreed that the current facilities are outdated and unusable. “Technology and science and teaching approaches have made significant advances and changes since those existing facilities were last addressed.  To bring the facilities into a modernized condition, this project plays a very important role.”

Labs are among the most crucial spaces in need of updating. Kendra Liljenquist, a senior exercise and sports science major, said when she got to USF, her impression of the science center was “dismal.” She said, “The labs really need to be seriously updated.”

Physics professor Brandon Brown is accustomed to hearing such student comments. “I hear it all the time,” he said. “I teach freshmen physics, and they tell me their high schools’ labs were better than ours.”

Aside from teaching, Brown is working to advance the progress of the center by raising awareness and, hopefully, funds. So far he said the University has raised about half of the estimated $50 million that the CSI will cost.

According to Brown, the donors have been a mixture of alumni, members of the board of trustees, and charitable foundations such as the Koret Foundation and the Fletcher Jones Foundation. Brown said the fundraising was going better than expected in a down economy, noting that over 1,500 alumni have already donated.

Brown is also concerned with making the center as useful to students as possible. He blogs about the CSI’s progress and seeks student feedback via the blog and other research methods. Part of this research has included visiting 13 different universities around the country. Often, he said, what faculty liked about the building was different than what students liked. “Administrators would show me a big, airy atrium that they were so proud of, but students would hate it,” Brown said. For that reason, he said, “We want lots of student input here.”

The new center will not just be beneficial to students majoring in the sciences; Dean Turpin reminds that all students are required to take science classes, and will take advantage of the new facilities.

But also, the building will remake the look of the entire campus. She said, “Our goal is not to just remake the science building, but to remake the center of campus, with a beautiful ‘living room’ for all students.”

London estimates the construction of the CSI may begin in 2011, depending on when sufficient funds are raised and when city permits are issued. City inspectors will also evaluate the environmental impact of the building, which is projected to be low. “The building is attempting to reach the LEED gold standard,” he said. The plans to make the science center as low-impact as possible include solar power, a green roof, passive ventilation, and controls to minimize energy consumption. Rainwater will be gathered to irrigate the plants and even flush the toilets. The center itself will be a lesson in environmental science.

To Dean Turpin, the CSI is about more than just new labs, classrooms and study spaces. It’s a way of enacting USF’s very mission. “It’s going to make USF a higher impact institution as we educate leaders who will create a more humane and just world,” she said. “The sciences are critical to that effort, particularly in the realms of human health, digital technology, and the environment. The CSI will take USF to a whole new level of academic excellence and impact on society.”

Heritage Festival Brings Dancing, Drums, And Culture

“We are the proud brown sisters of Lambda Theta Nu!” shouted three Latina USF students in Harney Plaza last Thursday, stomping their feet and clapping their hands in a traditional “stepping” routine.

The sisters of Lambda Theta Nu joined the Latina sorority at USF in order to celebrate their shared experience as female Latin American college students. For them, stepping is a way of showing pride in their sorority and their culture.

In another number, the Lamba Theta Nu sisters each took out a pair of machetes, which they rhythmically clanked together. The long silver blades created a loud clanking each time they touched, as the sisters danced in well-coordinated steps, creating a visual and audio performance. The machete dance was meaningful to the Lamda Theta Nu sisters; more than just a flashy show. Senior Anita Buitrago explained, “We wanted to show that women could also step with machetes.” The machete dance is a traditional Mexican art, usually performed by men to display their masculinity, according to Buitrago. The Latina students use the masculine dance as a source of female empowerment.

The San Francisco Taiko Dojo group performed a portion of their drum set at the Harney Nooner Heritage Festival on Friday.  Photo by Melissa Stihl/Foghorn
The San Francisco Taiko Dojo group performed a portion of their drum set at the Harney Nooner Heritage Festival on Friday. Photo by Melissa Stihl/Foghorn

Lambda Theta Nu was one of four culturally focused USF student groups to participate in the first Heritage Harney Nooner, sponsored by Campus Activities Board (CAB). CAB decided to bring these groups out to the center of campus that day to show the many cultures that make up the university. The event was wrapped up with a bang, literally, with the Japanese drumming, dancing, and martial arts of the  off-campus organization, San Francisco Taiko Dojo.

USF is home to roughly 20 culturally-focused clubs and Greek organizations. U.S. News and World Report ranked the University of San Francisco as one of the 20 most ethnically diverse universities in the country in the category “National Universities-Doctoral. CAB Music Director Evelyn Obamos wanted to bring this diversity into the forefront for an afternoon. “We have such a diverse school,” she said. “I think we should show it.” The festival invited clubs to perform a cultural song or dance, or just show up to promote their organization.

In addition to Lamda Theta Nu’s dance, another highlight performance was from Hui O Hawaii Club, which performed several Hula dances to celebrate the diverse culture of the Hawaiian Islands. The dances varied from slow, swaying hula to the rapid hip-shaking Tahitian dances. This diversity represents the Hawaiian islands, where, senior Mahe Lum said, “everyone is a mix of everything.” Lum is a quarter Hawaiian, a quarter Chinese, and half Filipino. She co-founded the Hui O Hawaii Club her freshman year because she wanted to have a “halau,” or hula family, like she had in Hawaii, where she began dancing at age six.

Other performances included a traditional Salvadorian dance performed by the Latin American Student Organization, where the male and female dancers donned elaborate costumes and acted out a love story, followed by a short hip hop performance by Kasamahan, a club for Filipino students.

The Heritage Harney Nooner also provided an opportunity for other culturally-focused clubs to mingle in the plaza, and attract new members. Junior Shelly Saini, events coordinator for the Indian Student Organization (ISO), said cultural clubs can help students feel a sense of community at a large and diverse school. “I knew I wanted to join an Indian club when I got to USF,” said Saini, who joined ISO her freshman year and has been involved ever since. “I wanted to get to know other Indians and learn more about the culture.” ISO holds events for different Indian holidays and promotes social justice issues. Saini also pointed out that members do not need to be of Indian descent to join ISO. She said, “Half our members are not even Indian; they are just interested in the culture.”

San Francisco Taiko Dojo performed last to give a sample of their full show, which they travel throughout the Bay Area and the world to perform. Dressed in black martial arts uniforms with purple belts and headbands, the Japanese drummers showed their art to be an exhilarating combination of pounding percussion, loud chanting and dramatic movements, including jumping and dancing around the drums as they played.

The event was successful in the eyes of CAB member Obamos, who began planning for it last semester with the help of the Culturally Focused Club Council. Obamos said she was just glad to see everyone out there enjoying themselves.

Those who want to see more cultural performances by USF students can look forward to Culturescape, a signature event of the International Student Association, which will take place Nov. 20 in the Presentation Theatre.

USF Raises GPA in Sustainability Report Card

While USF has a thorough recycling and composting system in place, the university was deducted points for low student involvement.  Illustration by Elizabeth Brown/Foghorn
While USF has a thorough recycling and composting system in place, the university was deducted points for low student involvement. Illustration by Elizabeth Brown/Foghorn

With compost and recycling bins collecting waste responsibly throughout the campus, solar panels lining many a rooftop, and locally-grown organic produce being served up in the cafeteria, USF appears to be on the right track in its quest for environmental responsibility. The College Sustainability Report Card (an independent organization that ranks colleges’ and universities’ environmental policies) seemed to think so too. USF received a grade of a B+, up significantly from last year’s disappointing grade of a C.

According to Glenn Loomis, chair of the Green Team Committee and director of community relations at USF, the university worked very hard to bump up their grade. Loomis attributes the improved ranking to two main achievements. The first was the use of the photovoltaic  panels that collect solar energy on top of five different buildings on campus. Loomis said these panels now supply 18 percent of the electricity on campus. Another step that improved USF’s grade was University President Rev. Stephen Privett, S.J. signing two different sustainability agreements, including the international Talloires Declaration and the national Presidents’ Climate Commitment.

The College Sustainability Report Card ranked USF in nine different categories of sustainability. USF earned A’s in most of the categories, including Climate Change and Energy, Green Building and Food and Recycling. USF fell shortest in the category of Shareholder Engagement, earning a D. This category measures the involvement with which USF’s investors interact with corporations to push for more sustainable business practices. However, the majority of universities surveyed earned a D or F in this category.

The second lowest grade USF earned was a C in the category of Student Involvement. Junior environmental studies major Brittany Rowles is president of Back to da Roots, one of the only environmentally-focused clubs on campus. She said she believes that “definitely, USF deserves a C grade.” An active member of the environmental movement at USF, she said she sees a lot of people care about the environment, but they’re not actively doing anything about it. She said, “Our e-mail list contains about 200 e-mail addresses, but our meetings consist of about 15 people. A lot of people can write down their e-mail address and say they care, but they can’t drag themselves to a meeting.”

Still, compared to other universities, USF is doing very well. Among other Jesuit schools, USF tied in first place with Seattle University, which also received a B+. Among all universities, 22 schools tied for first place with an A-. Neighboring school  UC Berkeley scored a B, Santa Clara University scored a B, and Stanford University scored an A-.

USF strives to further improve their sustainability and perhaps their College Sustainability Report Card grade for next year. This year, USF is trying to retroactively apply for LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Certification for finished buildings Kalmanovitz Hall and the Gleeson Library. Plans are developing for the Center for Science and Innovation, which will be built to replace Harney Science Center, and will feature the latest in green technology.

For students, a new program is being tested within the on-campus apartment complex, Loyola Village. This year, each apartment unit is competing to utilize the least amount of electricity. Those who conserve the most will be awarded eco-friendly prizes like a yearlong ZipCar account or $1,000 in Flexi.

Overall, Loomis is impressed with the progress he has seen at USF. “Everybody is getting on this bandwagon, and a lot of changes have taken place,” he said. “But on the other hand, we have a long way to go.”