2018 Brings Conversations

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This February, the McCarthy Center kicks off the inaugural season of a new speakers series, Conversations for the Common Good, co-presented with news media, POLITICO. The McCarthy Center Board and staff have been planning this series in conjunction with the 15th Anniversary of the Center celebrated this past November 9th at the Merchants Exchange Club where Mayor Art Agnos was honored with the first Leo T. McCarthy Award.

Conversations, envisioned as an annual signature series of speaking engagements, will bring local, regional and national figures to share their visions of the challenges of serving the public good. This year, the series invites leading candidates for California’s upcoming gubernatorial election in fall, 2018.

Entitled, The Race for the 2nd Most Important Office in the Country — Who Will be the Next Governor of California?, the series invites five top candidates (with others to be possibly added) including four Democrats and one Republican.

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 Join us in meeting California’s gubernatorial candidates on the Hilltop campus in McLaren Conference Center. Free limited seating is available. Register to attend here.


How Cobb Elementary Transformed Me


Valeria Imendia, International Studies’18

I still remember receiving an email about a literacy internship opportunity during the fall semester of my junior year and thinking it would be a great chance for me to expand my experiences in education. As a student in the Dual Degree Program for Teacher Preparation, I decided to apply to be a literacy intern through Engage San Francisco but little did I know I would be embarking on an experience of a lifetime. I am now a senior, about to graduate this coming May, and I continue to learn so much about myself and my passion for teaching with every chance I get to walk the halls of Dr. William L. Cobb Elementary School.

From my very first day of the internship, I was met with nothing but kindness and support. My first impression of the school was more than I could have hoped for, and it continues to be a place of unique learning experiences for me. For one, every day at Cobb is different—whether it is because I have to work with new students and create activities for them on my own or because unexpected situations arise where I have to provide care for students. I first went in thinking of myself as a tutor for my students, but it was not long after I started my work there that I realized this job required a lot more than just academics. Every single student I have had the privilege to work with at this school has sparked so much passion for teaching within me, and I continue to think about them in everything I do as I pursue my teaching credential.

Alongside my students, my mentor at the school and my internship supervisor always go above and beyond to ensure that as interns we are being supported and guided in the best way possible. It has been thanks to their warmth and guidance that I have been able to feel like I have agency in my position as an intern. From day one, I have felt like I am a part of the school community and that is because I have been given the tools and the trust to bring my perspective into the work I do with my students. Hence, this program has been crucial in my journey as a future educator because it has shown me first-hand that there is a lot of work to be done in the classroom. It has likewise shown me in practice what my responsibility as a woman of color going into this profession looks like in order to ensure I am doing my best to advocate for our youth. My students have therefore opened up new possibilities within me and they have taken me by the hand and walked me through their life experiences and their passions, which is something that will be forever engraved in my heart. I am honored and humbled to walk the halls of Cobb and get hugs from students I have not even worked with yet and to get high-fives from the older kids who normally like to tell me they are “too cool” for doing reading activities with Miss Valeria. My students give me so much joy with all their unique ways of showing me love and affection, and I have come to understand that with this care also comes responsibility. I strive to honor these demonstrations of trust by making sure to always keep my students and their rich knowledge and individuality at the forefront of my teaching practices.


My time at Cobb has helped transform me in only the best way. I have been challenged by difficult situations; I have been put to the test as I have had to come up with solutions without much time to prepare, and I have most importantly been shown the most genuine and pure love from my students. Being at Cobb and experiencing the day-to-day routines and witnessing what my students go through both as students and as individuals with their own interests and stories has allowed me to step back and think about the privileges I hold in that space and also as I think about my own future classroom. My students have taught me to be humble and to understand that this work is in the service of every single person in my classroom, particularly of those whose voices have historically been left out. My students—all of whom are not older than eleven—have taught me far more than I could hope to learn from a textbook. I am grateful to have wonderful teachers who push my thinking and hold me to high standards, yet it is my students at Cobb who push me even further and keep me accountable in everything I do.

I continue to be grateful for every single day that I get to be a part of this literacy program because it means I am being challenged to question the ways I engage with this work in education. Regardless of the official expectations of my position or of any titles, this work goes beyond what can be seen as purely academic at a surface level. This opportunity has allowed me to immerse myself in hands-on experiences in teaching and given me a new sense of purpose. I have wanted to go into the teaching profession because I believe our youth has invaluable lessons to teach us and because they deserve to know that their voices matter. I know that this work is difficult, but we owe it to our students to show up for them and allow them to be visible in every way that makes them who they are in order to disrupt practices that have silenced much of our youth—particularly our youth of color— for far too long. This internship has therefore allowed me to work on the skills that make this ideal a reality and I am humbled to be able to experience this with the wonderful mentors I have gained and the students that make this journey worthwhile. This journey is a constant learning experience and I am grateful I got that email and decided to apply all those months ago because now I have a new community that has given me the best gifts: a renewed sense of purpose and a greater love for teaching.


Questions for Gavin Newsom

Gavin Newsom

Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom will be the second speaker to participate in Conversations for the Common Good, a new speakers series that invites inclusive voices to the challenge of serving the public good. Join us in meeting San Francisco’s former mayor, Gavin Newsom and POLITICO’s Carla Marinucci in conversation on Monday, February 5th, 5:00 PM on campus at USF’s McLaren Conference Center.


Gavin Newsom has had extensive involvement in government at all levels. He served as a member of San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors, representing District 2 for seven years. Immediately after his second term as supervisor, Newsom was elected the 42nd mayor of San Francisco, preceding Willie Brown. While he worked on many issues, including development and health care, his mayoral career was very focused on homelessness and LGBTQ+ rights. During his mayoralty, Newsom led an initiative that provided permanent shelter and support to thousands of homeless individuals throughout the city and also brought national attention to the issue of same-sex marriages.

After his time as San Francisco Mayor, Newsom won his race for Lieutenant Governor of California in 2011. His work as Lieutenant Governor has been focused on technology, education, cannabis legalization, and repealing the death penalty in California. More specifically, he fought for the advancement of technology in government to serve the public good, the decriminalization of nonviolent drug offenses, and access to free, quality community college education throughout the state.

Below are Newsom’s stated top priorities as he runs for Governor of California:

Economic Growth – Newsom’s plan is to create jobs in all fields from tech to agriculture, reduce poverty, and invest in California’s infrastructure.

Education – The Lt. Governor believes that part of sustaining a booming economy requires providing more access to affordable education at all levels, especially early childhood education and college. He is also working to keep tuition fees down for the UC and CSU systems.

Energy and the Environment – Newsom has crafted the first strategic plan for the State Lands Commision in over eighteen years. His plan is targeted at protecting the environment and prioritizing transparency within practices and operations.

Technology in Government – For years Newsom has viewed technology as a tool to empower citizens and ultimately create a government that is more open, transparent, and accessible to everyone.

Questions To Ask:

The implementation of municipal broadband throughout the state would not only create countless jobs but also protect the use of the open internet.  What do you see as being the biggest roadblock for municipal broadband and how would you address it?

Considering how bloated the tech industry is today, do you think it’s important to promote higher education degrees in fields such as environmental science, renewable/sustainable energy, education, etc.?

Considering the popularity and cost of the UC and CSU schools, many of the programs have become incredibly impacted, requiring students to attend college for longer periods of time and pay more for their education. How do you plan to address the issue of impacted state schools and low acceptance rates?

 This post was written by Jackie Prager, M.A. Urban and Public Affairs ’19. Jackie will be introducing Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom on Monday, February 5th.

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Questions for Antonio Villaraigosa

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Former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa will be the inaugural speaker to participate in Conversations for the Common Good, a new speakers series that invites inclusive voices to the challenge of serving the public good. Join us in meeting Mayor Villaraigosa and POLITICO’s David Siders in conversation on Thursday, February 1, 5:00 PM on campus at USF’s McLaren Conference Center.



Can Antonio Villaraigosa trump the competition?

The upcoming 2018 California gubernatorial race will be loaded with interesting democratic candidates. Amidst political heavy hitters such as Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom and State Treasurer John Chiang, Antonio Villaraigosa stands to run on a platform of educational equity. The former California State Assemblyman, who was also the Mayor of Los Angeles, is hoping to fortify a well distinguished political career by winning the vote to occupy California’s top office. Villaraigosa’s reputation is hallmarked by epic civic and municipal partnership building efforts. He is credited with turning around the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD)’s poor performing schools with the construction of an organization called the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools, which works with the LAUSD as a coalition. Additionally, Villaraigosa led efforts that have  resulted in successfully combating spiking Los Angeles crime rates by hiring more police officers.

Villaraigosa has stated publicly numerous times that if elected to office as California Governor,  he would defy President Trump if his administration were to order the deportation of undocumented persons, including DREAMers. Villaraigosa has also said that he is not in support of building a wall to keep out immigrants from our southern border. Given his policy stances on immigration, Villaraigosa will no doubt find himself bumping heads with one America’s most controversial president. On the campaign trail, Villaraigosa will find himself challenged with the daunting task of unifying the Mexican-American vote which has been sharply sliced by Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom. As the campaign season begins to ramp up, it will be very fascinating to see how Villaraigosa energizes his base.

Questions to Ask

  • In what ways do you feel your experiences as State Assemblyman have prepared you to govern California?
  • What measures can be implemented in the State Assembly and Senate to ensure transparency and fairness regarding the investigation into claims of sexual harassment in the state legislature?
  • Given the current socio-political impact of the #MeToo movement, is there a credible need for comprehensive re-training on sexual harassment as well as cultural and gender sensitivity issues within the state legislature?
  • What strategies can be used to protect California’s coastline against the ongoing threat of offshore drilling?
  • Can we legally protect California as a sanctuary state with minimal federal disruption?
  • What are your thoughts on allocating cannabis tax money towards the implementation of a state-wide cannabis equity program?
  • In what ways can California restore its educational system to its once highly regarded status?
  • Given the current lack of bipartisan participation in Washington D.C., how are you prepared to discourage that type of political climate in the state legislature?

 This post was written by Calyn Kelley, Urban and Public Affairs ’19. Calyn will be introducing Mayor Villaraigosa on Thursday, February 1 in the opening event.

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First Semester Tips


Monica Bejarano, M.A. Urban and Public Affairs, ’19

I did it. Turned in my last paper and finished my last presentation. My first graduate semester is over! Tired and rather chronically exhausted and all I want to do is lay on the floor and veg out to Netflix for an ungodly amount of hours. But, what do I do with all the information of the past four months? After the first semester, what do I take away to improve the subsequent semester in my academic journey? How does graduate school change me?

Well, just four months ago, I began my academic journey at the University of San Francisco Masters in Urban and Public Affairs Program. I walked in to my first class holding the book Imperial San Francisco by Gray Brechin, determined to unfold the array of questions I had after reading the introduction. I am not originally from San Francisco, but I knew by attending Urban and Public Affairs graduate program I would be fascinated by the roots of politics, activism, and urban change of the city. In this short amount of time I have come to realize that graduate school does not only teaches one new things, but it teaches one to question everything.

No longer is one learning about how history has changed the urban politics of the city, but one learns ways to question how it happened and how it was done and how it is affecting us today. I realized that I am not here to regurgitate information, but to be part of the conversation that creates it. This was a big step for me during my first semester.

I cannot emphasize enough how hyper-organized this program made me. After eight to nine hours of  classes each week, an internship at City Hall, and a part-time job I definitely understood the importance of time management. One learns valuable planning skills of when one can go out and have a drink and when one has to hunker down over a book for three hours for a paper due next week. Although graduate school has taught me to ask questions and be extremely organized with my time, I’ve also found it important to say “yes” to opportunities and take time to relax.


Branching out into new areas of higher education can help one discover her interests, ignite new passions, and keep a career fresh and exciting. I learned that employers may also prefer a well-rounded resume. The more responsibility one takes on, the more one will be able to learn and gain experience. In the first semester, one will learn to juggle graduate school, homework, internships, and a personal life. It’s about finding a balance between all commitments to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Make time to relax. Graduate school should not be one’s entire life. You are an individual and should prioritize your own personal health and well being first. Make time in your schedule to relax, spend time with friends and family, pursue your hobbies, etc. I find it helpful to schedule breaks during the day, even if they are only five minutes long. Being happy and healthy will boost productivity.

Everyone’s experience is different, but the experiences I’ve had thus far in the Urban and Public Affairs graduate program has prepared me for the next chapter of my academic journey. I had my ups and downs this past semester, but nothing that will stop me from continuing my education.  My passion to formulate equitable policy solutions for the community of San Francisco has been invigorated and I know it will only grow stronger as I continue this program.

“Success” in the Western Addition

Michael Anderson

Michael Anderson, Campus-Community Liaison / Engage San Francisco 

At any given moment we suffer the curse of being banished to the present. The totality of human beings on the planet right now are given no option other than right now. At no points in one’s life is an individual least cognizant of this fact than in their childhood and their early twenties. One appears to be the most alive and yet they are alive without context. Influences behind decisions go unanalyzed. Tomorrows go unplanned and yesterdays are quickly forgotten.

It is within this vortex of the “hyper-now-ness” that I reflect on my short time with the Leo T. McCarthy Center. The time lapse between my first day and today feels almost negligible in length. Still the value I extract from this time is more than invaluable. I don’t want to be cliché here. I have never experienced this much personal and professional growth in such a short span of time in my entire life, so valuable that I fear the threat of passively experiencing. I constantly take time out to reflect and write down everything.

I sit on staff at the McCarthy center as a member of the Engage San Francisco Initiative. I am the second AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteer In Service To America) to assist at the McCarthy Center, and one more will follow once I leave. I spend most of my time working off-campus at the Success Center San Francisco. On the surface level my workplace helps people get back into the workforce and attain their G.E.D. Beyond the surface is a community-rooted family that not only strives to help the Fillmore community, but heal it simultaneously. The word “success” holds no empty, income-based, meaning. At the Center, there is a more holistic view of the word. This view includes life at work, home, school, and beyond. And the people carving out this road to “success” for the community are born of the same soil.


I am not of San Francisco soil. My stomping grounds are a continent away in the heart of New Jersey. So this leaves me with the task of deciphering my role within a community based organization while having no direct roots to the community.

I can say that the day-to-day stories that walk through the doors of the Success Center are not far from a wider national story that I know on an intimate level. It is from this personal intimacy with the heartbreak that accompanies financial hardships that I am able to draw my empathy.

Still, there are wounds specific to the Fillmore area that I am still acquiring a sensitivity for. Whether it’s two redevelopments, displacement, or public housing mismanagement, the after-effects show themselves through the stress our clients carry into the Success Center. The heavy heartedness is complemented by the overarching optimism and will to change their circumstances that also accompanies our clients as they cross our threshold.  

The McCarthy Center has proved itself to be an extended family member of the Success Center. As I become a more active participant with the Engage San Francisco (ESF) Initiative, I learn what it takes to cultivate a productive, community-centered, partnership. The level of engagement– sad to say– is stunning. Whether it’s the entire ESF staff attending the bi-monthly community led meetings at the Hayes Valley Community Center, or McCarthy Center staff showing up to lead just one faculty with the same vigor they bring to crowds on their multiple walks around the Fillmore district—the commitment to hearing the community and acting on what’s heard  is evident.

In both spaces I’m still growing and observing. The staffs at both centers have embraced me and challenged my thinking. I’m looking forward to the remainder of this year of service and to further collaborations with the community.