I was fortunate, like others, to have a wonderful faculty mentor while in college. Spring of my senior year, Professor Corn took a group of us to a museum exhibition he had curated on how previous generations of Americans had imagined the future. “Yesterday’s Tomorrows” was full of images those of us familiar with “The Jetsons” or “Star Trek” recognized. Those imagined futures have come and gone. Some of what Americans envisioned in the past has come to pass — phones with screens that enable you to see the speaker, TV on demand — and some not. Houses sadly do not clean themselves, and long-distance travel is still not instantaneous.
As we wrestle with multiple pandemics (COVID-19, white supremacy and climate change), it would be easy to think that the present has largely failed to live up to those optimistic 20th-century imaginings. But at San Francisco State, we have tangible proof that our university has lived up to many of the past’s promises and continues to do so — addressing these pandemics and building a better future.
Our faculty, students and staff have been deeply involved in meeting the challenges presented by COVID-19. And we have for more than half a century led challenges against racism and white supremacy. We continue to lead the way in forging a relevant curriculum that shapes future leaders in just and equitable ways. Next fall, following our example and inspired in large part by our faculty’s teaching and scholarship, the California State University will implement a requirement that ensures that every CSU graduate completes a course in Ethnic Studies and Social Justice. Understanding racial justice is a critical first step in dismantling white supremacy.
And we work towards the future in ways that will undo decades of environmental degradation. Our students have led the way in campus sustainability and the use of public transportation. In the pages that follow, join our faculty as they imagine the future of transportation and our city. Learn how they are using technological innovations to ensure that our students make progress toward their degrees from their homes and how our staff and administrators are helping students realize their professional futures.
The future rarely looks as we imagined. I write this as we continue to shelter in place and thousands across the state have been displaced by wildfires. I hesitate to even guess what the present will look like when this gets published. But as I watch our communities embrace public health dictates, study and work remotely, stand up against institutionalized racism and work towards a healthier future, I remain optimistic. Our future, while not what we may have envisioned, will in fact be better.
With wishes for good health!
Lynn Mahoney, Ph.D.