As San Francisco State University prepares for this year’s Commencement on May 22, its six academic colleges have each selected two graduating students — one undergraduate and one graduate — for the honor of representing their fellow students during the ceremony by wearing their College’s academic hood.
Two hood recipients will also offer their greetings on behalf of the Class of 2015. Eduardo Gonzalez, undergraduate hood for the College of Liberal & Creative Arts, will speak on behalf of the undergraduate class.
Jonathan Brumfield, graduate hood for the College of Ethnic Studies, will speak on behalf of graduate students.
Those to be honored include:
Noureddine “Dino” Chtaini
Growing up in Washington, D.C., Noureddine “Dino” Chtaini dropped out of school at 15 and, he said, “made some very negative choices” that led him to a 10-year incarceration.
He obtained an associate’s degree while in prison and transferred to SF State after his release in 2012. He is receiving his B.A. in sociology.
Chtaini’s difficult past has inspired his academic and community work — in particular, his interest in the economic and racial inequalities that impact crime and the criminal justice system. “With all my efforts, I try to provide research that illuminates injustice in the system,” Chtaini said.
While at SF State, Chtaini has volunteered with Project Rebound, an innovative program that reaches out to people in prison and provides support for formerly incarcerated students. As a participant in the highly selective Willie L. Brown Jr. Fellowship Program, Chtaini produced a sociological study for the San Francisco Housing Authority that explored the effect of the transition of public housing to private developers.
Chtaini is also developing an open-source program that can be implemented by schools and community organizations to help youth avoid turning to violence. He is creating a similar program model to assist the formerly incarcerated as they navigate the challenges of transitioning back into society.
In the fall, Chtaini will enter a prestigious sociology Ph.D. program where he plans to continue his criminal justice research and efforts to effect change among youth.
Jonathan Brumfield (Ethnic Studies)
Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Jonathan Brumfield and his family moved to Oakland when he was 12, a difficult transition for him. A self-described “knucklehead kid who challenged educational systems,” Brumfield struggled in school but found a sense of belonging attending hip-hop events. “With hip hop, I knew I had a voice, I knew I had a platform,” he said. His involvement in hip hop and interest in aerosol art — commonly referred to as “graffiti” — also kept him out of violent situations, he said.
Brumfield, who will receive a master’s of arts in ethnic studies, now leads the arts program at Safe Passages, an Oakland nonprofit with the goal of inspiring young people and ending the cycle of poverty. He teaches the history of hip hop and aerosol art, using these topics as a tool to connect students to their heritage and personal identities. “Hip hop saved my life, and I am so grateful to be able to save other young people through hip hop,” he said. “All these young people were considered taggers, but I help them explore the context of what they do.”
Brumfield’s thesis also investigated aerosol art and its culture, making links to historic Africana aesthetics. As part of his research, Brumfield interviewed youth who create aerosol art in vulnerable Bay Area communities, exploring the significance of the art form and common misconceptions about it.
Brumfield has been invited to speak and teach aerosol art practice overseas, including a recent trip to Senegal where he taught art to youth for several weeks. One of his major life goals is to develop an educational exchange program between youth from Oakland and Africa based on hip hop and aerosol art.
Emilly Rodriguez (Ethnic Studies)
Raised in Marin by parents from Brazil and Colombia, Emilly Rodriguez struggled in high school, became pregnant and almost dropped out. “Education didn’t spark my interest,” she said. But when she entered City College of San Francisco and started taking ethnic studies classes, Rodriguez discovered her passion. She decided to transfer to SF State and major in Latina/Latino Studies.
At SF State, Rodriguez thrived academically while working part time, raising her son as a single mother and participating in community-based research projects. In summer 2013, she trained high school and community college students to conduct oral history interviews in the Mission District for an anti-gentrification project.
She also contributed research for a history of Latinos in San Francisco sponsored by the San Francisco Latino Historical Society and the San Francisco Planning Department. In addition, Rodriguez volunteers with the San Francisco Day Labor Program, a nonprofit organization that connects workers with employers.
In her final two years at SF State, Rodriguez was a teaching assistant in Latina/Latino Studies, which inspired her aspiration for the future: to teach ethnic studies at the university level.
“I think it’s an accomplishment to be a young single mother in a challenging set of circumstances and to be so motivated to excel in my education,” Rodriguez said. “It’s been tough, but there are plenty of other parents who do it too. Parents are extremely motivated by their children.