Two outstanding students to wear College’s academic hood at 2017 Commencement

Author: Staff
May 12, 2017
Visakha Som

As part of a longstanding tradition, each of SF State's six academic colleges selects one undergraduate and one graduate student for the honor of representing their fellow students during the University’s Commencement ceremony by wearing their college's academic hood.


Spending her teenage years in Cambodia was a formative experience for Visakha Som. She was born and raised in California and had little idea of the years of civil war that had ravaged the Southeast Asian nation. She watched as United Nations peacekeepers and nonprofits worked to rebuild the country and became inspired to do similar work for people in need.

Som is graduating with a master’s degree in public administration. She was first admitted to the program in 2013, but held off for a few years, choosing instead to manage a Meals on Wheels program in Oakland and later, other programs for adults with disabilities and the elderly.

Returning to school allowed her to reflect on her experiences as a manager and to further explore what makes a good leader.

“I’ve learned that being a good collaborator makes me a good leader and that managing people is not the same thing as leading,” she said. “I realized I can help myself truly grow as a leader by allowing and helping people come into their own as well.”

She wants to continue working in public policy, and would like to help marginalized communities by improving health care systems.