Journalism Department launches alumni association

Monday, February 1, 2021
LaToya Tooles

LaToya Tooles (‘09), the first president of the SFSU Journalism Alumni Association, hopes the group can work toward dismantling white supremacy in the journalism field.
Photo courtesy of LaToya Tooles.

By Ashley Hayes-Stone

While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to keep people apart, the Journalism Department is establishing a new San Francisco State Journalism Alumni Association with the hope of bringing students, faculty and alumni together.

SF State alumna LaToya Tooles, who graduated in 2009, is the first president of the new alumni group. After holding jobs with KQED, YR Media, Oakland Local and the Center for Investigative Reporting, she is now a freelance podcast producer.

“A lot of the professors at SF State have been integral to my growth and development, not just as a journalist but as an adult and a woman of color,” Tooles said. “So, I’m always down to help the department in any way that I can.”

As president, Tooles has set an ambitious agenda for the organization, which includes creating robust career services for graduates and dismantling white supremacy in the journalism industry.

“I see my role as president as being an enabler to those who are already decolonizing themselves in the department when they graduate, '' Tooles said. “I want the alumni association to be a soft landing for them.”

Rachele Kanigel, the chair of the Journalism Department chair and an alum herself, started the alumni association because she wanted former students of the program to connect with each other, along with faculty and current students. She noted that groups of alumni who went to school and worked on student publications together may still be in touch but there’s no umbrella structure tying different generations of SFSU journalism alumni together.

“What we are trying to do is strengthen the networks that exist and build on those connections,” Kanigel said. She noted that a small group of alumni started meeting monthly in the fall to build the new group and plan events.

Kanigel also wants the alumni association to create a mentoring program in which alumni in the professional world can guide current students and graduates who are just starting their careers or trying to move in new directions. The association is currently in the process of building a directory of alumni.

“We’d love to have a system where if you’re looking for a job at the Chronicle, for example, you can find an alum there to talk to or if you want to break into investigative reporting you can find an investigative reporter who might be willing to mentor you,” Kanigel said.

Nisha Chauhan-McGrath, associate director of the SFSU Alumni Association, is assisting Kanigel and Tooles to get the Journalism Alumni Association off the ground.

“As always, I’m blown away by our alumni and I don’t think I go a day in the office without being impressed in some way and that’s definitely the case with this journalism group,” Chauhan-McGrath said. “[Rachele] connected me with some truly amazing people who are really passionate about San Francisco State and creating a better future not only for students but for alums and for the field of journalism.”

For Tooles, the alumni association is vital to the school, as well as the alumni it will serve.

“The way that I see it’s in our best interest to continue to uphold the quality of education at SF State and also to uphold the presentation of its graduates once we leave,” Tooles said. “I see that as part of the role of the alumni association, but also I see that as the responsibility of every alum.”

Alumni who want to get involved with or find out more about the Journalism Alumni Association can contact Nisha Chauhan-McGrath at nchauhan@sfsu.edu. Those who want to connect with the new mentoring project can contact Rachele Kanigel at kanigel@sfsu.edu.

LaToya Tooles (‘09), the first president of the SFSU Journalism Alumni Association, hopes the group can work toward dismantling white supremacy in the journalism field.
Photo courtesy of LaToya Tooles.