San Francisco State University does more than enrich minds. It enriches the Bay Area, California and the country, as well. By fueling economic activity, nurturing career development and encouraging a community-focused approach to commerce, the University repays every dollar put into it many times over.
In business terms: Investing in SF State pays big dividends.
Priming the Pump in Northern California
SF State isn't just the 12th largest employer in San Francisco, with more than 3,700 faculty and staff members. The economic activity sparked by the University creates more than 10,000 additional local jobs, while SF State alumni account for yet another 23,000. The millions of dollars SF State spends each year on salaries, services, goods and facilities create a ripple effect across the region, generating more than $1.3 billion in additional economic activity and another $83 million in state and local taxes.
That creates a lot of jobs -- which SF State helps fill with approximately 8,000 graduates a year. According to the online recruiting platform Jobvite, only two other universities have more graduates working in Silicon Valley. Of course, not just any employees will do for the pioneering tech companies and startups that give the region its economic clout. They need workers with the experience and expertise that lead to innovation. SF State helps its students build that know-how by creating opportunities for hands-on involvement with the very companies and agencies they will be applying to one day.
Through a collaboration with the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, for instance, SF State students are placed as interns in the laboratories of biotechnology companies and nonprofits. And the University has partnered directly with Genentech to create placements in the biotech heavyweight's trailblazing labs.
"They basically hire the students as interns, and we have faculty who have release time that's provided through this agreement so they can act as mentors," explained Alison Sanders, interim associate vice president for research and sponsored programs. "It gives the students a chance to be in a cutting-edge environment where they're really at the forefront of what's happening in the biotech industry."
Offering a Boost up the Ladder
Extending economic opportunity to everyone is what SF State is all about. Almost one-third of the University's freshmen are the first in their families to attend college, and nearly two-thirds of the student body receives some form of financial aid.
While a good education is a critical first step toward a successful career, making the right connections can have a huge impact, as well. One way SF State helps students make those connections is through the Willie L. Brown Jr. Fellowship Program. Named for the former San Francisco mayor and SF State alum, the program makes it possible for students with an interest in public service to serve as interns in city agencies. In addition to gaining valuable work experience, the students take part in weekly professional development seminars that emphasize job-search skills while creating opportunities to network with upper-level city managers. Program applicants must demonstrate that they have overcome a significant challenge to pursuing an education.
"This program is seeding the pipeline for people who come from under-represented communities and creating the next generation of leaders who represent a broader set of interests," said Professor and Chair of Urban Studies and Planning Raquel Pinderhughes. "The experience they get jump-starts their careers by about 10 years."
According to Pinderhughes, former Willie Brown Jr. fellows have gone on to work for local and state legislators, the Mayor's Office of Public Policy and Finance, the Office of Workforce Development and other agencies.
SF State also gives a boost to workers who've already begun their careers but are looking to make a change and get a leg up. Located in Westfield San Francisco Centre on Market Street, the University's Downtown Campus is home to both the College of Extended Learning (CEL) and an array of College of Business graduate programs. Each year, approximately 5,000 students take CEL continuing education courses, many of them earning certificates that allow them to begin new careers as paralegals, pharmacy technicians, event planners or clinical development professionals.
"We offer many programs on the Holloway campus and at other locations, but the downtown campus is critical to us," said Interim CEL Associate Vice President/Dean Angela Jones. "We have a lot of programs in the tech sector, and many of our students are already working downtown in a field that's tech-related. So we're easily accessible to them."
"We're just a few blocks from the Financial District, a few blocks from Union Square, a few blocks from Twitter, a few blocks from Salesforce," said Orlando Harris, executive director of business development and marketing in the College of Business. "We're at the epicenter of San Francisco business itself."
Remembering the Real Bottom Line
Denise Kleinrichert, an associate professor in the College of Business' Department of Management, has a message for her students that one doesn't always hear in a business school: "Business doesn't have to be just for profit."
As Kleinrichert sees it, being in the black is great, but that's not all commerce can or should be about.
"Business is for furthering the well-being of individuals across a number of areas," she said. "Not just economically but socially and environmentally."
Since 2006, the College of Business has been putting that ideal front and center through its annual Business Ethics Week (which Kleinrichert chairs). Each year, the college invites Bay Area business leaders to participate in events that explore such topics as sustainability, transparency, regulatory compliance, corporate codes of conduct and social responsibility. Hundreds of students participated in this year's Business Ethics Week activities, which featured guest speakers from Clorox, Clif Bar, Lyft and other companies.
The success of Business Ethics Week inspired the creation of SF State's Center for Ethical and Sustainable Business, which sponsors events year-round.
"The Bay Area is unique. It's a caring society. We have empathy and we think about how to do better by other people," said Kleinrichert, who was recently named the center's director. "That's how it is in the political community, the social community, the environmental community. And the business community, too."