Congratulations to our Class of 2020 Graduates!


“Because of your hard work and perseverance, your families’ and loved ones’ support and sacrifice, and your friends' and colleagues’ encouragement and love, you have made it to this moment.”

— Amy Kilgard, Professor and Department of Communication Studies Chair


Communication Studies Student Honorees

Derek Chung

Derek Cheung

Comm Major, ‘20

Derek Cheung is a detail-oriented and prepared student who makes significant effort in and out of the classroom. Derek is an active member in both our department and the Asian American Studies department, where he completed his Complementary Studies requirement, and his ability to effectively integrate ideas from the two has been apparent. He is graduating from SF State with a 3.96 GPA.

In his first year as a transfer student, Derek participated in SF State’s President's Leadership Fellows Program. Derek took COMM 695 in fall 2019 and he excelled in a PR internship at The Commonwealth Club in San Francisco. Throughout the semester, he consistently brought his thoughts and questions about career development to the class. Last fall, he also participated in the Career Preparation in Communication Studies Program and attended the Salesforce field-trip. He made lasting connections with our career center on-campus and with the contacts he met at Salesforce. In spring 2020, Derek generously offered to coordinate a field-trip to his current job site at the Port of Oakland. He completed the port’s competitive summer internship program last summer and was offered a part-time job after his internship because they were so impressed by him; that had never been done before! For the field-trip, Derek organized a wonderful panel for his fellow students with people who are currently working in communication related careers. His thoughtfulness and generosity really stand out. We are proud to recognize Derek Cheung as the Communication Studies Department’s Undergraduate Honors recipient this year.

Paul Francis Marino Edwards

Paul Francis Marino-Edwards

Comm Major, ‘20

Paul Marino-Edwards is a determined student who excels at every task that is given to him. Paul is intellectually engaged, deeply committed, theoretically sophisticated, highly motivated, and hard working. In his graduate seminars, Paul came to class ready and willing to learn, and with each session, proved that he had not only read the material, but understood it, and was able to apply that knowledge in his work. If ever the room was silent, Paul would raise his hand and offer a fresh perspective. If a classmate stumbled with an answer, Paul would jump in to help them out. Further, there were many times when a classmate would have a question, and Paul would volunteer to explain the concept and give examples to his peers, ensuring everyone in the room was on the same page. We are proud to see this kind of intellectual generosity at such an early career stage. We also want to note that Paul is graduating from our program with a 4.0 GPA.

Currently, Paul is working on a thesis project exploring the marginalization of female gamers in the online gaming community. Through his work, he advocates for structural change in the online gaming community to allow for a safer space for women as well as other vulnerable communities. Paul was also the only student from his cohort to get to present a competitively selected paper at Western States Communication Association Conference in Denver, Colorado 2020. Paul presented his paper, "Mapping Queer Game Studies: Where it Has Been and Where it Could Go" to a room full of senior scholars. During the question and answer session, he was able to respond to questions confidently, while also engaging with the other panelists and the audience. Paul was able to mobilize and inspire the rest of his cohort to travel to the conference and grow with him.

Paul is also an excellent Teaching Assistant; he is always there for the students to listen to them and help them. All in all, Paul Marino-Edwards has demonstrated that he has truly benefited and grown from the MA program in Communication Studies and we are proud that he is this year’s Graduate Honors recipient.

Communications M.A. Graduates

Brooks with hat on

James Robert Brooks

Jamie’s research area, environmental communication, encompasses cultural productions of the “environment” as systems of power that either erase or enable human/nature interdependency. Jamie will continue his partnership with the NGO OurHorizon and my group, Think Beyond the Pump, which successfully lobbied the City of Cambridge, January 2020 and which passed my legislation requiring a climate change warning label on all City gas pumps.

One of the memories of the graduate program in communication at SFSU was the support he felt from Dr. Alaoui, Dr. Koenig and Dr. Wingard taking comprehensive exams during a pandemic!

Possible next moves: Jamie will be probably collaborating for an article in Global Environmental Change; adjuncting at the University of Hawaii in speech communication, and pursuing an adult education program teaching environmental communication (secretly the most exciting!).

Lastly, Jamie dedicates his degree to his husband of 33 years Raymond Pajek. A short list of acclamations: listener of endless projects, dinner- maker, 10pm in SF picker-upper, believer.


Natalie Lynn Carey

Natalie’s research interests include organizational culture, nonprofit communication, stakeholder impact on nonprofits, work life balance rhetoric, gender and sexualities. While working towards her master’s degree at SFSU, Natalie worked in the public relations department at a video game studio in San Francisco. She dedicates her work and degree to her family, friends and colleagues who supported her throughout the process. In addition, Natalie would like to thank the SFSU faculty for all their support and guidance during her four years in the program. She is immensely grateful for her time at SFSU and glad she had the opportunity to continue her education in such a supportive environment.

Fagin with ocean behind him

Alexander Robert Fagin

Alex’s research interests include: Rhetoric, Pedagogy and Organizational Communication. While working towards a masters’ degree at SFSU, Alex taught Fundamentals of Oral Communication, was a teaching assistant for Organizational Communication and was an organizer for the Local UAW 4123. After graduation, Alex Will be attending Duquesne University’s PhD program for Rhetorical studies. He would like to extend his thanks to his family, friends, his cohort and all of his faculty and mentors at SFSU.

Gomez with sunglasses on his head

Andrew Joseph Gomez

Andrew entered the master’s program at San Francisco State University with a hope and a dream. The hope that he can continue the legacy of the Communication Studies Department and a dream that his Health Communication research would earn him a master’s degree. His dream came true! His success is attributed to his professors, colleagues, family, and friends. His achievement is dedicated to his parents and his siblings for giving him the security to focus on his research. Andrew thanks his extended family and friends for giving him their endless support. A special thanks to his mentors Drs. Leah Wingard and Christopher Koenig for believing in him. Lastly, Andrew is thankful for his cohort members for challenging and encouraging him. Every seminar was an experience and he will always have 2020 WSCA memories with his cohort. Andrew ends his statement by saying “You all are forever engrained in my life. Congratulations to the 2020 graduating class."

Liu standing on campus in front of SF State sign

Sasha Liu

Sasha feels honored to be part of the COMM department. As the only international graduate student in her cohort, she sometimes felt she had do more to accommodate the new and fast environment. Luckily, she has lovely cohorts who support each other a lot. They cooperated but also worked individually, which is such a warm place. Sasha focused on intercultural and international communication. Her career goal aims to enter an international company as a PR or marketing practitioner. She appreciates the faculty of the department. Dr. Wingard was the first professor who she worked with, and she always provided help and made her feel warm. She is grateful to her graduate committees for helping reach the last phase of the master’s path. Drs. Merrigan, Koenig, McCormick, and Desai. She is happy to have had the opportunity to work with them, and they always tried to make her ideas become practical and better. Sasha also thanks Dr. Alaoui who also helped Sasha a lot and assisted her throughout the program. Sasha thanks everyone as they were supporters in her academic journey. She would love to meet them again in the near future. She finally wishes that everyone gets through this tough period for a better future.


Christopher Sugarman

Christopher’s culminating experience was a Creative Project, The Embodied Digital Lives of Queer Gamers, in the form of a storybook about multiplayer gaming’s space of critical and community importance to queer gamers. This exploration of digital embodied living utilized case studies, a literature review, narrative prose and reflexive writing.

While Christopher felt moved by many aspects of the program, it was teaching COMM 150 that most resonated for him. The curriculum felt deeply important, and the student relationships he developed continue to be incredibly meaningful.

Christopher is the first member of his family to graduate from an MA program and he dedicates this work to his mother, brother and late father. Christopher would also like to extend a deep thank you to several faculty members: Dr. Leah Wingard, Dr. Gerianne Merrigan, Professor Allen Conkle and Dr. Christopher Koenig. The mentorship, trust and love they have offered will be forever treasured.

Related Events

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