Congratulations to our Class of 2021 Graduates!

Author: Department of Philosophy
May 15, 2021

    “Socrates defines philosophy as healing the soul and that is an apt characterization of philosophy as we emerge out of our pandemic solitude”

    — Mohammad Azadpur, Professor and Department of Philosophy Chair

Distinguished Undergraduate Achievement Award

Justin Legaspi

Justin Legaspi

B.A., Philosophy

“That which we manifest is before us; we are the creators of our own destiny. Be it through intention or ignorance, or success and our failures have been brought on by none other than ourselves.” - Garth Stein, The Art of Racing In The Rain

There are some things in life that are under our control and there are those that are not. What I’ve learned during my time at San Francisco State University is to differentiate between the two. If something is not under our control, then there is no sense in worrying about it or dwelling on it. Instead, we must focus on what is under our control. Create our own destiny, set our own path, pursue our chosen endeavors with passion, focus and discipline.

I came to SF State as a psychology major but on a whim, switched to philosophy - a subject, I now realized, I knew very little about. Little did I know this would be one of the most impactful and positive decisions of my life.  Through philosophy,  I learned great lessons about myself, my place in the world and my understanding of life.

I want to take a moment to thank everyone who supported and fostered my growth during the past four years. First and foremost, I’d like to thank my mother, father and brother, who encouraged me to always do my best but to also take care of myself and enjoy life.  I’d like to thank Dr. Tiwald, the first faculty member I met and who excitedly supported my decision to study philosophy. I’d like to thank Professor Kyle Dupen, my first Philosophy professor, who jump started my interest in Phil 105.  I’d like to thank Professors Wendy Salkin and Jamie Lindsay for leading my favorite classes at SF State; they are both filled with knowledge and very engaging in their class discussion.  Last, but not least, I’d like to say thank you to all of my fellow philosophy students whose friendship, kindness and assistance contributed to my success. 

Distinction in Undergraduate Studies in the Department of Philosophy

Madison Ryan

Madison Ryan

B.A., Philosophy

The world and the people around us are the most fertile of soil upon which we can cultivate any mode of thinking with which we engage the world. The pursuit of truth in whatever shape we see it take is one of the most potent builders of character in existence. Thank you to this department for opening my eyes and my mind to that.

Distinguished Graduate Achievement Award

Caleb Krywenko

Caleb Krywenko

M.A., Philosophy

Studying at San Francisco State University in the Philosophy Department has been one of the most cherished experiences of my life. From my unique standpoint, the most fulfilling line of philosophical inquiry has always been at the intersection of ethics and epistemology. My thesis, Being Nonbinary: Epistemic Injustice and Epistemic Defeat explores the epistemic and ethical dimensions of identity and the formation of self-knowledge. 

While I worked towards completing my MA degree, I taught PHIL 110: Introduction to Critical Thinking and PHIL 150: Introduction to Moral and Political Issues as a Graduate Teaching Associate during the Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 academic semesters. I am honored to have had the opportunity to work with and grow alongside many insightful, passionate, and caring individuals — including San Francisco State’s amazing faculty, my colleagues in the Graduate Teaching Associate program, and my students as I earned my degrees. The community at San Francisco State University has given me such a wealth of experiences and connections and I am forever grateful for that. Thank you my faculty mentors, Dr. Shelley Wilcox, Dr. Isabelle Peschard, and Dr. Macy Salzberger, and Jen Waller for your support and guidance during my time as a student. It is also a great honor to be a recipient of the Distinguished Graduate Achievement Award for May 2021.

Edwin Wolf

Edwin Wolf

M.A., Philosophy

I am deeply grateful for my time in the philosophy master’s program at San Francisco State University. I had the pleasure to work with many great thinkers, both faculty and other students, who showed great insight and challenged me as a philosophical thinker. In the program I became interested in the notions of self and agency that emerge from early modern rationalism and its connection to holistic spirituality and mysticism. I explored theories of truth and deception and other challenges to empiricism. I especially enjoyed researching the rationale behind Lady Mary Shepherd’s charges of “sophistry” against Hume and presenting this at the TEMPO 2020 conference. My master’s thesis, titled “A Cheerful Union of Modes: Spinoza and Rational Friendship” answers criticisms of Spinoza’s doctrine of the necessity of mutual benefit between agents of the same nature by reinterpreting his claims with special attention to how Spinoza’s metaphysics informs his notion of friendship. Some of my most memorable experiences at SF State were from teaching undergraduate courses as a Graduate Teaching Associate. I taught Intro to Critical Thinking, Intro to Philosophy and Intro to Philosophy and Religion. It cannot be stressed enough how awesome my students are! We had so many great discussions exploring some of the most difficult “big questions” from the perspective of various religious traditions and philosophical figures found throughout the world. I am happy that I will continue teaching at SF State as a Lecturer in the Fall semester of 2021.

The Department of Philosophy continues with its congratulations...


Alena Chavez

Alena Chávez (she/her/hers)

M.A., Philosophy

My time spent at SF State, especially as a Philosophy student, was unforgettable. From my first day on campus, to my very last, I have witnessed incredible growth — not only within myself, but within my fellow colleagues, as well. I know I would not be here without the endless support from Courtney Cohen, Andrew Sattui Nolan, Alex Lopez, and Dr. Sowaal — the people who inspired me to continue on my mission to utilize Philosophy within my Social Justice work. This degree is not for me, but for all marginalized folks who came before me and will come after. Thank you to my family and chosen family for all your love and support! To the class of 2021!

Kirk LaBriola

Kirk LaBriola

M.A., Philosophy

This I/he/thing that thinks/feels/moves is grateful for the influences of this program, and is hoping to be on to more of the same — in this endless pursuit.

Andrew Nolan

Andrew Sattui Nolan

M.A., Philosophy

My thanks to:

My mentors Dr. Azadpur and the late Dr. Kowsar.

Dr. Dolan, for your brave, tireless allyship.

Friends Nicu Doliber, Caleb Krywenko, Courtney Cohen, Alex Lopez, & Alena Chavez, for crafting spaces where I could belong.

Dr. Peschard for showing me that even while neuroatypical, I could still learn.

Thanks, RuDee Sade, exemplary human, for awakening me from my dogmatic slumber. 

To Θεός, my family, for my entire life.

And Dr. Ásta, the women, LGBTQ+, & BIPOC philosophers who paved the way for someone like me even when doing so was unvalued. I am in your debt.


Shira Basa

Shira Felice Basa

B.A., Philosophy/ Minor, Political Science/ Magna Cum Laude

Shira (She/Her) will always hold a special place in her heart for the philosophy department at SF State. Between discourse and debate amongst her peers, the support and encouragement from the faculty, and recharging in the philosophy lounge, it has been a wonderful past few years. 

As the 2020 Panetta Congressional Intern, her research focused on The Green New Deal: Addressing Climate Change and Economic Inequality through Public Policy and Legislation. Her 696 Paper was entitled: Justice and Disabilities: Through the Lense of John Rawl's 'Original Position'. Both of these topics share the common theme of justice for underserved and vulnerable communities, something that she is very passionate about. When Shira was 18 she sued her landlord while self-representing and won - an experience that has motivated her to focus on philosophy of law, and her dreams of eventually becoming a civil rights lawyer.

Shira will be attending Philosophy of Law Undergraduate Summer School at Cornell University this June, with plans of applying to law school in the near future.

“One's life has value so long as one attributes value to the life of others.”

― Simone de Beauvoir

Shannon Dugan

Shannon Marie Dugan

B.A., Philosophy/ B.A., Political Science

I originally came here to pursue a B.A in Political Science, inspired by the rich history of our nation. But when I took my first political theory course, and read the Apology by Plato, a spark went off in my head. From there forward, all I wanted to do was study political philosophy and made it a goal, to finish my undergrad with not only a B.A in Political Science, but with a B.A in Philosophy as well. Thank you to the amazing professors that helped shape my love for philosophy.

Jeff Guardado

Jeff Guardado

B.A. Philosophy

My journey at SF State was life changing. It was my first time moving out and living on my own. Luckily, I was able to make great friends and even greater memories. I’d like to thank all of my professors and classmates for helping me through this journey and I wish the best to everyone. Let us be the change we wish for!

Ivan Manriquez Jr

Ivan Manriquez, Jr.

B.A., Philosophy

I would like to thank all my family and friends who supported me throughout college. A special shoutout to the Guardian Scholars Program, Professor Jeremy Reid, John E. B. Diancin, and the Stoics of Ancient Rome.

Brittany Schotsch

Brittany Schotsch

B.A., Philosophy

I would like to thank my mom for being my biggest support throughout my undergraduate career. With her love and direction, I have been able to accomplish more than I ever thought possible. As I make my journey to ASU to further my education, I feel such gratitude towards SF State, with special respect towards the philosophy department for the knowledge and ability to reason that I have been endowed with. I will take all I have learned with me towards the next chapter of my life.


Hector Ramirez-Serrano, Minor, Philosophy

Related Events

For details on SF State’s plans to celebrate the class of 2021, please visit the Commencement website.