We Weren’t Born to Follow

Trish Fontana Headshot

Trish Fontana was a former staffer for Leo T. McCarthy.  She has also worked for two California Lt. Governors, two Governors, two First Ladies and two State Senators. She continues to work in the State Capitol, currently for Senator Richard D. Roth, a retired Major Air Force General who represents Riverside.

This past weekend, I did what I do every Saturday morning.  I strapped on my running shoes, put on my favorite cap and plugged into my Apple Shuffle.  But this particular morning, I just couldn’t shake off the horrible news of the week.  The shootings, natural disasters, flu deaths and daily barrage of sexual harassment stories weighed heavily on my heart.

 And then Jon Bon Jovi’s powerful words penetrated my mind:

 “We weren’t born to follow
Come on and get up off your knees
When life is a bitter pill to swallow
You gotta hold on to what you believe.”

I started thinking about how do we hold onto what we believe in the face of so much sadness.  Sometimes there are just no answers.

I am proud to say that I am a public servant who works in the State Capitol.  Yes, that same Capitol building which has been overshadowed by the dark clouds of sexual harassment cases, corruption, and bribery.  But against all of that, I am still a big believer in the honor of public service.

It was over 30 years ago that I was a wide-eyed 19 year who at the age of 4 couldn’t speak a word of English when she started school.  I was fortunate to walk into the Office of Lt. Governor Leo T. McCarthy to begin an internship that would change my life forever.

Leo T. McCarthy, the T. stands for Tarcissus, a third-century Roman saint who worked on behalf of imprisoned Christians.  “Tarcissus got stoned to death for his efforts, McCarthy would say, and it reminded me of my days as Speaker.”

Now working in the Capitol can be extremely challenging but it can also be very rewarding. Leo McCarthy was a compassionate public servant who led by example that we should treat everyone with dignity and respect.

 He was passionate about advocating for seniors, the mentally ill and the poor but always with compassion, kindness, and ethics.  Sometimes his meetings could get highly charged and contentious but Leo McCarthy always tried to steer toward the road of higher reason.

I learned a phrase that has become my own personal mantra which is that “you should never mistake kindness for weakness.”

After retirement, he established the Leo T. McCarthy Center for Public Service and the Common Good, which is dedicated to inspiring and preparing students at the University of San Francisco to pursue lives and careers of ethical public service.

During my Capitol career, I have worked with many interns and Fellows who have gone on to pursue careers in public service.  One intern stands out and I will never forget him.

I met Joseph Schultz in 1997 when I was the intern coordinator for Lt. Governor Gray Davis.  Joseph was self-confident and had a strong commitment to public service for which he would later work in the Washington DC Governor’s Office.

We lost contact but one day I was standing on the first floor of the State Capitol when the elevator doors opened.  Out walked Joseph in his full Green Beret Captain uniform. I had no idea that he had enlisted and he just yelled my name and gave me the biggest hug.

I learned later that Joseph was killed in Afghanistan while serving his country during Operation Enduring Freedom where he was known for his leadership ability and steadfast friendship.  He made the ultimate sacrifice for his country, the ultimate example of public service.

 Public service is the opportunity to make a difference.  It is putting the “we before me” in our daily lives.  Many interns have gone on to work with foster children, become teachers, coaches, attorneys, public officials, worked in public health and on environmental issues or joined the Peace Corps.

They are shining examples of what Leo McCarthy envisioned – people helping others for the common good.

And on that Saturday morning, Jon Bon Jovi continued singing and I followed right along:

“This road was paved by the hopeless and the hungry,
This road was paved by the winds of change
Walking beside the guilty and the innocent
How will you raise your hand when they call your name?”


Former staffers of Leo T. McCarthy from left to right: Ed Manning, Trish Fontana (author), Betsy Butler and Ted Toppin


Releasing our 2017 Annual Report

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Each year the Center strives to honor the legacy of Leo T. McCarthy through programs and scholarship that promote public service and the common good. This includes undergraduate community-engagement learning, faculty and university-wide development, graduate engagement, and community partnerships at both the local and global level. We are excited to share our 2017 annual report in advance of our 15th anniversary celebration on November 9th.

Some of this year’s highlighted achievements include:

  • 19 co-sponsored events
  • 11 advocates for community engagement placements
  • 3,000 service-learners
  • 541 faculty development hours
  • 10 global sustainable development projects
  • 8,400 graduate intern hours
  • 200% increase in public service and community engagement minors
  • 166 local community partners
  • 624 LTMC alumni

We thank all of you for your continued support and look forward to another great year!

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Five Lessons from Community-Engaged Living and Learning


Lupita Garcia

B.A. Sociology Major ’18 and triple minor in Criminal Justice, Public Service and Community Engagement, and Chican@-Latin@ Studies

When I started my USF career, I would not have imagined myself accomplishing everything that I have. Participating in the Esther Madriz Diversity Scholars Living Learning Community and then the USF in DC program gave me many opportunities that have paid off in the end and have taught me valuable lessons that will continue to follow me as I continue to pursue my career. I am thankful to have found the professors, staff and now mentors through these programs. Through self reflection, thanks to EMDS who helped me strengthen this skill (shout out to my RA, ACE and EMDS roommates) I have listed the common lessons that I have learned through both these programs and how EMDS helped guide me to achieve in DC.

  1. Community Organizing is important wherever you go, whichever career path you take

Walking out of EMDS, I had a basic understanding of how to effectively organize communities as I knew the basics of campaigning. Through the full-time internship om USF in DC, I have been able to continue to strengthen my community organizing skills as my work requires me to work closely with communities and help empower the messages and their campaigns.

  1. “Crossing Borders and Discovering Home”

While this is a quote directly associated to EMDS, USF in DC continued to teach me the same lesson. EMDS pushed me to not only cross physical borders but also personal ones in the ways which challenged me to think about situations. I learned how to be comfortable with being uncomfortable; it is ultimately how a person learns. Living my entire life in the Bay Area, I only new how to picture home within the Bay. Landing in D.C .in August, I honestly wanted to go back home and be surrounded by the USF community I knew but I kept telling myself to discover home in D.C. Honestly, I did and it didn’t take too long . I found similarities between San Francisco and D.C. which helped with the initial discomfort of being in a new city on a new coast. Now I hope to return once I’m done with my undergraduate degress and potentially start my career here.

  1. Look at everything with an open mind

You may think you have a certain stance on an issue/topic but take the time and continue to hear other people’s opinion. You may never know what you may learn. Take the time to have intellectual conversations that push all parties involved to think critically about the issues you are discussing and see whether or not you gain something new. Don’t be afraid to change your perspective/opinion on something. The more knowledge you gain the better. Honestly it’s why the saying “with knowledge comes power” exist.

  1. Self reflect and take time for yourself

This is the one I struggle with the most to this day but have gotten better. Always find time for yourself and do the things that you want to do. I find that through this, I created goals that I never would have imagined creating for myself and this has lead me to the places I have gotten to today. When I have time for myself, I ask myself where in which areas I want to continue to grow and challenge myself, and tell myself failure in life is okay. We are human beings and this is how we learn. Self check-ins are a healthy and important part of self care.

Also, when you’re not feeling 100% percent well, take the day off, it helps you get better sooner. Just don’t take advantage of it.

  1. Follow your passions

You’re at your happiest when you are pursuing what you’re interested in. EMDS pushed me to follow my passions and continue to look for them and incorporate them wherever I go. In D.C., I made sure my passions would be integrated in my internship through the clients I work with at Revolution Messaging and I can truthfully say, I enjoy my job and what I do every day. Working with people who also pursue their passions through the work they do taught me that in order for me to be the best at my job, I need to love the work I do and not just achieve at the skills that come with the job, skills training will always be there but my passions will only be there if I seek them.

I could have not been where I am today if it were not for EMDS, the McCarthy Center and USF in DC guiding me to become the person I want to become. They have pushed and motivated me to become a version of myself that I did not know existed and am forever grateful for the opportunities I have been given.


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Apply for our USF in DC program for Spring and Fall 2017 at https://www.usfca.edu/mccarthy/programs/usf-washington-dc

Introducing our Fall 2016-17 USF in Washington, D.C. Fellows

USF in DC participants are undergraduate students selected for a semester-long program in Washington, DC that integrates a full-time internship with relevant coursework taught by USF faculty and University of California Washington Program (UC DC) faculty. Students choose from a range of elective courses and internship opportunities that meet their interests and skill sets and spend their semester engaging with peers from across the country in the heart of the capital, where they will live, learn, and explore all that DC has to offer. Meet our current cohort of USF in DC students and learn about their hopes and expectations for the coming semester.



Ali DeFazio ’18

Internship: Brookings Institution

Ali DeFazio is a junior at the University of San Francisco. While in D.C., she will be interning for the Brookings Institution, voted “Best Think Tank in the World” for the last nine years by the Global Go To Think Tanks Report. Ali says that getting to the front of the bagel line before the 8 AM crowd is the “Best Feeling in the World” voted by USF students. In addition to her internship in D.C., Ali plans to make it on the background of NPR’s “Live in Concert” and go to every Smithsonian.


Sydney Abel ’17

Internship: Department of Homeland Security – Immigration and Customs Enforcement

Sydney Abel is a senior this year at USF, majoring in Politics, minoring in Legal studies. When she isn’t playing rugby for USF’s champion woman’s team, you can find her slack lining at Golden Gate Park or walking along one of San Francisco’s many beaches. An avid traveler, Sydney transferred to USF from San Diego but not before she studied abroad for a year in Maastricht, Netherlands. Someday she would love to be voted into a public office, or just travel the world. Never one to miss a traveling opportunity, once she heard about USF in D.C., she knew that this program was just right for her. Eager to change the world for the better, she wants to learn everything there is to know about Washington and the political process.


Guadalupe (Lupita) Garcia ’18

Internship: Revolution Messaging

Lupita Garcia is a Sociology Major and triple minor in Criminal Justice, Public Service and Community Engagement, and Chican@-Latin@ Studies. While in D.C. she will be interning with Revolution Messaging as a Digital Strategy/Client-Service intern where she will be working on advertising projects for campaigns using mobile messaging and social media. Through her participation in USF in D.C., she hopes to gain the skills that will prepare her to gain a career in public policy advocacy and continue to cross borders and discover home.


Gabbi McDaniel ’17

Internship: UN Population Fund

As a senior International Studies major, Gabbi McDaniel will be applying her USF education in the field as an intern for the UN Population Fund. USF in D.C. will allow her to pursue her ideal internship, take classes on politics and advocacy, and develop a network within our Nation’s capital. She is looking forward to experiencing everything Washington D.C. has to offer especially during a Presidential election.


Diana Conteras Chavez ’17

Internship: Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund

This fall Diana will be interning with the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund. She is excited to learn more about immigration policy and advocacy in D.C. Since it is her first time in D.C., Diana is thrilled to see the monuments and museums, and try out all the new brunch spots!


 Tara Kahn Sac ’17

Internship:  Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi

Tara Khan is currently pursuing a degree in International Studies with a minor in Middle Eastern Studies and focus in Global Politics & Societies. Following graduation, she hopes to relocate to Washington D.C. and work for the U.S. government while also studying for the Foreign Services test. She is spending her semester in D.C. working on Capitol Hill, interning for Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. Working in the House of Representatives has been an extremely rewarding and eye-opening experience, none of which would have been possible without the Newmark Scholarship. Being a Newmark Scholar has convinced her that she made the right choice in her decision to pursue a career in politics.



Assala Mami ’18

Internship: Center of American Progress

Assala is a Politics major with a double minor in Legal Studies and French Studies. She has an interest in foreign affairs and public policy and is excited to get to know the political scene in D.C. While in the  nation’s capitol, Assala plans to visit all the monuments and museums, of course and take trips to neighboring states.


Meet our 2016-17 Advocates for Community Engagement (ACEs)

Advocates for Community Engagement are socially responsible, civically engaged student leaders who facilitate meaningful service-learning experiences for USF students, faculty, and their host organizations. Primarily, ACEs act as liaisons to ensure the needs and expectations of all stakeholders are accounted for and prioritized. Each ACE makes a one-year commitment to work onsite at Bay Area nonprofit organizations. Meet our current cohort of ACEs  and learn about their hopes and expectations for the coming academic year.



 Nell Bayliss

Major: Critical Diversity Studies

Minor: Public Service and Community Engagement

Year: Junior

Living Learning Community: Martin-Baró Scholars 

Nell Bayliss was born and raised in Washington D.C. and that fact ignites her passion for studying Critical Diversity Studies. She is was a part of both the Martin-Baró Scholars and Esther-Madríz Diversity Scholars living learning communities. She is excited to bring her experience from  both living learning communities into her ACE position this year.



Alejandro Cuevas

Major: Latin American Studies

Minor: Dual Degree in Teaching Program

Year: Senior

Living Learning Community: Erasmus  

Alejandro’s experiences both on campus and off campus have prepared him for his role as an Advocate for Community Engagement in multiple ways. His involvement as a student in Erasmus this last year has impacted his view on service learning and issues globally. Experiences doing community organizing have helped him develop skills that will support his involvement as an advocate for community engagement. He is excited to grow as a student and supporting students through their service learning experience.



Amanda Geraldo

Major: Communication Studies

Minor: Theater

Year: Senior

Community Partner Site: Upward Bound

After studying abroad in London last semester, Amanda is very excited to be back as an ACE. In addition to this role, she is actively involved on campus with Dance Generators, Magis Emerging Leadership Program, Lambda Pi Eta, and the Arrupe Immersion program. She has always had a passion for working with youth and is excited to continue exploring this passion through her ACE partnership this year.



Alexa Gonzalez

Major: Politics // International Studies // Latin American Studies

Year: Senior

Community Partner Site: Viviendas Leon

Alexa grew up in Nogales, Sonora—a border town where you can travel from Mexico to the United States in less than 10 minutes. One of her most rewarding college experiences has been working with environmental groups to complete an independent research project focusing on analyzing social resistances emerging in response to the extractivist agribusiness model in the Industrial Belt in Rosario, Argentina. She is very excited to work with Vivendas Leon and support service learners in their projects.



Greta Karisny

Major: Sociology

Minor: Public Service and Community Engagement

Year: Senior

Community Partner Site: 826 Valencia-Tenderloin Center

Greta’s second year as an ACE  is spent working in partnership with 826 Valencia for the 2016/17 school year.She loves being a part of the ACE community and the space it creates for positive discussions towards social justice, community-building, and personal growth. Last year she partnered with Upward Bound USF and had an incredible experience working with the organization, service learning students, and the students that they serve. She had the opportunity to do her direct service with their after-school program at Mission High School and fell in love with the students and the school.Her time at Mission was one of the most positive experiences she’s had at the ACE program and throughout her college career. She is so excited to begin to build relationships with students at 826 this year and to be able to see their growth as the school year continues.



Kiana Rai Martinez

Major: Double major in Sociology and Critical Diversity Studies with a Minor in Public Service and Community Engagement

Year: Junior

Living Learning Community: Esther Madriz Diversity Scholars Living Learning Community

Kiana was a member of cohort ten of the Esther Madriz Diversity Scholars prompting her to pursue a role that gave her the chance to continue working with the program. She enjoys surrounding herself with people who challenge her to think critically and flourish — just two of the traits she sees in the Esther Madriz Scholars, year after year.


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Sonia Hurtado Ureño

Major: Sociology and Latin American Studies

Year: Senior

Community Partner Site: Mission Graduates

Sonia Hurtado Ureno was born in Fremont, California to Mexican immigrants. Her experiences as a low income, first generation Chicana has led her to participate in activist efforts during her time at USF. As an ACE, she looks forward to working with first generation college bound students and current students.



Chiweta Uzoka

Major: Politics

Minor: Legal Studies

Year: Junior

Community Partner Site: Bayview Hunter’s Point Community Legal

Chiweta Rozaline Uzoka is Secretary of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated – Tau Tau Chapter, President of Sister Connection, and a member of the Black Student Union here at USF. She was also a member of Esther Madriz Diversity Scholars living-learning community and is currently a peer mentor in this community as well. She is excited to be working with Bayview Legal and moving towards universal access to legal services and representation.



Miriam Uribe

Major: Politics, Latin American Studies, and International Studies

Year: Junior

Community Partner Site: Generation Citizen

During her time here at USF, Miriam has been a strong advocate for more resources for undocumented students in our community. It has been an experience that has allowed her to reflect on the power of story telling to create change. She is excited to work with Generation Citizen this year and redefine what “citizenship” means.



Vivienne Pismarov

Major: Psychology/Legal Studies

Year: Sophomore

Community Partner Site: Faithful Fools

Vivienne Pismarov is a first-year ACE who is excited to explore social justice issues with the McCarthy Center. She was part of the Martín-Baró Scholars Living-Learning Community here at USF last year where she first became interested in engaging issues of diversity and homelessness in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood. Additionally, Vivienne is interested in how legal policies in San Francisco can be modified or created to help better address homelessness, women’s rights issues, and environmental problems.



Nichole Vasquez

Major: Kinesiology

Year: Senior

Community Partner Site:Family House

On campus, Nichole has had different experiences that have prepared her for the ACE role. Her first service experience in college was as a democracy coach with Generation Citizen, where she facilitated a class of seventh graders leading them through a service project. Her experience with Generation Citizen sparked a passion for service that she is excited to continue this year with Family House!






What Narrative Will Emerge from the National Conventions?

Tenoch Flores

Tenoch Flores
Adjunct Professor, Political Communications
Master of Public Affairs and Practical Politics

During my time as Communications Director for the California Democratic Party, I was responsible for developing and implementing the message and narrative for a total of five annual state party conventions, as well as for the California delegation to the Democratic National Convention (DNC) in 2012. This month, both of the nation’s main political parties are preparing to hold their quadrennial national conventions in Cleveland (RNC) and Philadelphia (DNC). Here’s what I can tell you about working to set and advance a narrative during the largest political event of the season: it’s not easy.

Even in the age of social media, custom news feeds and unprecedented personal access, the national party conventions represent the single greatest opportunity both political parties have to project a narrative about their party and their candidates to the electorate. Almost every political observer will be watching and a sizable portion of voters will take in at least the headlines and the main themes that emerge. Continue reading