SF State’s Metro Academies, a nationally recognized program that helps underrepresented students succeed, will open a new outpost in the College of Liberal and Creative Arts this fall. Administrators have tapped socially minded filmmaker and Cinema Lecturer Soumyaa Kapil Behrens to lead the academy. She will hold the title of social justice coordinator.
The Metro Academies Initiative redesigns the first two years of college, the critical period when many students tend to drop out. California ranks 49th out of the 50 states for the disparity in Bachelor’s Degree graduation rates between under-represented students—African Americans, Latinos and Native Americans—and their white peers, according to 2009 data from the National Information Center for Higher Education Policymaking and Analysis.
Students in each academy study in a cohort of up to 140 students that is like a “school within a school,” and receive tutoring, extra counseling and one-on-one support from faculty. A partnership between SF State and City College of San Francisco, the academies provide students with a structured sequence of classes that satisfy general education requirements, while also being infused with a particular academic theme.
“Metro provides students with an ‘educational home’ where they repeatedly learn and practice the foundation knowledge and skills needed to succeed in higher education,” says Mary Beth Love, the Metro Academies Initiative program director and Health Education Department chair. “Our students are determined to help change the world. The Metro program is giving them confidence that their dreams of a successful and meaningful career can come true.”
Behrens says the College of Liberal and Creative Arts’ Metro Academy will empower students to succeed in ways they never before imagined.
“This new Metro hopes to train a swarm of social justice minded students to take on the rigors and challenges they will inevitably meet in school and beyond,” Behrens says. “LCA Metro seeks to make our students aware that their personal obstacles and challenges can be transformed into advantages that better equip them to face major issues that plague peace, justice and equity in our society today.”
Students may apply online at the SF State Metro Academies website.
Soumyaa Kapil Behrens
Behrens is an award-winning director, producer and curator of film and contemporary visual art. Her work is socially driven, engaging issues of the environment and the political landscape that shape identity and power structures within marginalized communities. Behrens is also lecturer at the San Francisco Art Institute and curator of the Reclaimed Room for Environmental Arts. She is on the board of directors at Bona Fide Films, president of Bay Area Women in Film and Media and a member of SAG-AFTRA (Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists). She earned her Master of Fine Arts in Cinema from SF State.
Behrens recently produced Redemption Trail, a modern western feature film directed by Professor Britta Sjogren and starring Lily Rabe, LisaGay Hamilton, Hamish Linklater and Jake Weber. The film premiered at the 2013 Mill Valley Film Festival, where it won an audience award, and screened at the 2013 San Francisco Film Society’s Cinema by the Bay festival. Behrens is in post-production on a documentary that chronicles the forced demise of the Haight Recycling Center in San Francisco, emboldened by citywide gentrification and homelessness issues. Her short films include My Garbage, My Neighborhood and Climate Change, both of which have screened in festivals around the country including SF DocFest, San Francisco Green Film Festival, Rome International and Santa Fe Film Festival.