Message for the Class of 2020


“English graduates we're going to be counting on you...because when all of this is done, you will be the chronicler of our stories.”

— Gitanjali Shahani, Professor and Department of English Chair

Department of English Undergraduate Student Honorees

Undergraduate Honors Convocation Nominee and Professional Writing and Rhetoric Distinguished Student: Wing Chi Wong

Wing Chi Wong is has been a remarkably capable, resourceful, and enthusiastic student of professional writing and rhetoric over the past several semesters. In all of her professional writing and rhetoric courses, she has consistently been a leader, inspiring her classmates to participate and interacting with them with a kindness and collegiality that promotes the kind of collaboration all professors hope to see among their students. As a child of immigrant parents for whom English is a second language, Wing feels passionately about using writing to empower others to navigate the complex, often opaque discourse of civic life. After graduation, she hopes to work in a setting where she can make complicated ideas and information accessible, less intimidating, and more useful to people. 

Brenden Michael Nolan (Literature)

Brenden Michael Nolan graduates with an English Literature major and a Linguistics minor. Brenden believes in the power of literature and language to shape our world. As he asserts in the conclusion to one of his essays: “through literature . . . ideological revolution may begin to occur within people’s minds.” Professor Mary Soliday wrote of Brenden: “he is an unusually fine close reader, sensitive to nuance in language, and he enjoys wrestling with difficult texts. In class, he is a very thoughtful listener who is also responsive to others -- a sophisticated, ambitious, and critical reader, writer, thinker.” Brenden excelled in courses such as “Women in Literature,” “The Literature of Exile and Migration,” “Irish Literature,” and “Literature and Ecology.” Brenden will take his commitment to language and social justice to law school, as he is applying to UC Hastings for Fall 2020, eager to prepare for a career in law. 

Katrina Hsieh (English Education)

Besides her outstanding academic achievements, Katrina has been a pleasure to know inside and outside of the classroom, a student who loves to discuss teaching! Personable, and with a warm sense of humor, Katrina’s contributions to class are guaranteed to deepen the level of discussion for all. "Katrina’s passion for knowledge, her emergent pedagogical and scholarly skills, and her optimistic and collaborative disposition create a strong foundation for her future success. She is clearly a special and unique student—among the most curious, hard-working, and compassionate that I have encountered in my career as an educator." Katrina has already supported school students by tutoring with 826 Valencia and as an instructor at the Aim High summer experience for middle school students.In July, she will start the Stanford Teacher Education Program. We are  excited that she will continue to assert herself as a leader among her peers and future colleagues. The English Education faculty send her all our best wishes.

Lauren Baker (Linguistics)

Lauren Baker is passionate about language and linguistics. Her final project in ENG 680, co-authored with 3 other students, examines sentiment around COVID-19 using a custom computer program to analyze Twitter data. Lauren is also a member of the ECOLE lab and a Marcus Undergraduate Research Assistant working with Anastasia Smirnova on a project on language simplification. As part of the project she participated in the creation of a digital corpus and the design of behavioral experiment. After graduation, she is interested to apply her skills to better understand the role of language in society.

Graduate Student Awards for Distinguished Achievement 2020

Yuri Madenokoji (M.A. English Literature)

Yuri's excellent M.A. thesis examines what Mary Prince and Audre Lorde can teach us about the workings of systemic oppression. She is an exceptionally self-motivated, responsible, intelligent, and generous student who is committed to social justice, community building, and anti-oppressive pedagogy and research.

Yuri volunteers at Hospice East Bay, and is planning to pursue an MA in Secondary Education and a Teaching Credential at SFSU in Fall 2020.

Emily Nicol (M.A. English Literature)

Emily is completing a remarkable thesis on Raymond Chandler that fuses a nuanced sense of historicity with a deft use of scholarly, critical, and biographic research; her examination of the relationship of Chandler's vision to cinema and the city of Los Angeles breaks new scholarly ground.

Emily has served as an excellent TA in the M.A. in English Literatures Program; her future plans include further pursuit of scholarship and teaching.

Cheryl Eccles (M.A. English TESOL)

Cheryl held high standards for herself throughout her time in the M.A. TESOL program. Her expertise as a drama teacher provided a natural source of inspiration as an academic, a teacher, and colleague. When her students read Farenheit 451 to write an analytic paper, she used drama-based techniques to engage her students. This eventually led to her culminating experience project.

Cheryl was a welcome source of intellectual energy and professional drive in our program. Her organizational skills, attention to detail and ability to seek the ‘big picture’ are evident in her performance as a graduate student, LAC tutor, Project SHINE leader, coordinator of our "TESOL Talks" series, a TA in ENG 201/202, and then as an ALI teacher and mentor teacher.

Skyler Ilenstine (M.A. English Linguistics)

His culminating experience project concerns the metaphors commonly used to discuss autoimmune diseases and explore hw these metaphors influence treatment intentions and feelings of patient empowerment. In line with research on the metaphorical framing of cancer, findings show that that, by far, the two most common metaphors for autoimmune disease in both corpora are AUTOIMMUNE DISEASE IS WAR and AUTOIMMUNE DISEASE IS A JOURNEY.

Tiffany Custer (M.A. English Composition)

For her culminating experience, Tiffany examines educational opportunity gaps experienced by under-represented students, particularly black males. She argues for pedagogical interventions to improve self-efficacy and academic self-concept.

Tiffany has supported countless students’ academic success at both SFSU and Diablo Valley College, through her work as a tutor, supplemental instructional leader, and composition teacher.

Related events

For details on SF State’s plans to celebrate the class of 2020, please visit the Commencement website.