Featured Spotlights

Student Spotlight

Marisa Jimison

Aspiring teacher among the top students honored by CSU Trustees

By Mary Kenny

Marisa Jimison is only the second SF State undergrad to receive a Trustees’ Award

San Francisco State University senior Marisa Jimison has been named the Trustee Emerita Claudia Hampton Scholar by the California State University (CSU) Board of Trustees. Awarded this year for the first time, the $9,000 scholarship recognizes a student who is pursuing a career in teaching and comes from a traditionally underserved population or educationally disadvantaged community.

The honor is conferred as part of the CSU Trustees’ Award, given annually to one student from each of the system’s 23 campuses. A first-generation college student, Jimison is pursuing a rigorous double major in Spanish and English with a concentration in education, with a minor in comparative literature — all while maintaining an excellent GPA.

“One of the main reasons I wanted to become a teacher was because growing up, I came from a really unstable home,” Jimison said. “We were low income and there were a lot of issues in my home around disability.” Those issues included the stress of mental illness in the family and a disability her mother suffered as the result of a car accident. “I remember my mom telling me all the time, ‘Go to school and give it your all,’” Jimison said. “So even though there was not a lot of stability at home, it was guaranteed at school. That helped me so much.”

In addition to her coursework, Jimison has volunteered tirelessly as a literacy and writing tutor for middle school and high school students. “It’s important to be there for all youth, but especially for kids who are going through difficult transitions. It can make a huge difference in their lives,” she said.

“Education is so important. As a teacher, you want students to be sufficiently proficient so they can get ahead in life and in their careers. But the big thing is making them feel worthy, autonomous, and independent. That can happen in school and outside school.”This semester, Jimison was also selected to participate in the Willie L. Brown Jr. Fellowship Program, which provides SF State students who have faced barriers pursuing a college education the opportunity to gain professional experience in the public sector while developing a lifelong commitment to public service. As a fellow, she works 16 hours each week with the Our Children, Our Families Council, an advisory body co-led by San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and San Francisco Unified School District Interim Superintendent Myong Leigh that aims to align city, school district and community efforts to improve outcomes for children, youth and families.

Jimison said many of her professors at SF State, including Jim Gilligan, assistant professor of English, have been inspirational. And Gilligan credits Jimison with a number of qualities, including humility and industriousness. “She is humble enough to acknowledge the limits of her knowledge and skill, and — once she has identified those limits — she is industrious enough to exceed them by seeking out new knowledge and learning new skills,” said Gilligan. “She is one of the hardest working students I’ve taught at SF State, and she has an impressive career ahead of her as an educator.”

After she graduates in May, Jimison plans to pursue a teaching credential or master’s degree, or both, and teach at the high school or community college level. “The most exciting thing about teaching is working with a student on a task or project that is overwhelming or daunting to them, and then watching as they practice, gain understanding and then eventually no longer need your help,” she said. “When they discover their own independence you can see how satisfied and accomplished they feel. That’s so important.”

Faculty Publication Spotlight

Jennifer Trainor

Jennifer Trainor is the author of several articles on race, whiteness, and literacy. Her book, Rethinking Racism: Emotion, Persuasion, and Literacy Education in an All-White Suburban High School won the MLA’s Mina Shaughnessy Prize for scholarship in composition. She is currently working on an article that connects her previous work on emotion with students’ engagement with academic literacies and with the challenge of transfer in writing classrooms. She teaches undergraduate writing courses and graduate courses on literacy, critical pedagogy, and composition pedagogy as part of the English Department's MA Composition program.

Rethinking Racism

Rethinking Racism: Emotion, Persuasion, and Literacy Education in an All-White High School 

In Rethinking Racism: Emotion, Persuasion, and Literacy Education in an All-White High School, SF State English Professor Jennifer Trainor proposes a new understanding of the roots of racism, one that is based on attention to the role of emotion and the dynamics of persuasion. This one-year ethnographic study argues against previous assumptions about racism, demonstrating instead how rhetoric and emotion, as well as the processes and culture of schools, are involved in the formation of racist beliefs.

Telling the story of a year spent in an all-white high school, Professor Trainor suggests that contrary to prevailing opinion, racism often does not stem from ignorance, a lack of exposure to other cultures, or the desire to protect white privilege. Rather, the causes of racism are frequently found in the realms of emotion and language, as opposed to rational calculations of privilege or political ideologies. Trainor maintains that racist assertions often originate not from prejudiced attitudes or beliefs but from metaphorical connections between racist ideas and nonracist values. These values are reinforced, even promoted by schooling via "emotioned rules" in place in classrooms: in tacit, unexamined lessons, rituals, and practices that exert a powerful—though largely unacknowledged—persuasive force on student feelings and beliefs about race.

Through in-depth analysis of established anti-racist pedagogies, student behavior, and racial discourses, Professor Trainor illustrates the manner in which racist ideas are subtly upheld through social and literacy education in the classroom—and are thus embedded in the infrastructures of schools themselves. It is the emotional and rhetorical framework of the classroom that lends racism its compelling power in the minds of students, even as teachers endeavor to address the issue of cultural discrimination. This effort is continually hindered by an incomplete understanding of the function of emotions in relation to antiracist persuasion and cannot be remedied until the root of the problem is addressed.

Rethinking Racism calls for a fresh approach to understanding racism and its causes, offering crucial insight into the formative role of schooling in the perpetuation of discriminatory beliefs. In addition, this highly readable narrative draws from white students' own stories about the meanings of race in their learning and their lives. It thus provides new ways of thinking about how researchers and teachers rep- resent whiteness. Blending narrative with more traditional forms of ethnographic analysis, Rethinking Racism uncovers the ways in which constructions of racism originate in literacy research and in our classrooms—and how these constructions themselves can limit the rhetorical positions students enact.