Slept-On Programs at USF

Conversation Partner Program

The Academic English for Multilingual Students (AEM) program has provided an opportunity for cultural exchange through the Conversation Partner Program (CPP).

The program matches international students with a domestic student or staff member. The pair is encouraged to meet for at least one hour per week to practice English, as well as get to know each other, according to AEM Program Director Doreen Ewert, a professor in the rhetoric department.

“Having international students on campus doesn’t make anyone a global citizen,” Ewert said, “Or more sensitive or empathic to the world. But when you really interact with someone from another place, that’s when your empathy and understanding begin to grow. The CPP creates a safe way to begin to engage in those conversation with [students] you don’t know.”

While the AEM program prioritizes pairing students enrolled in the CPP, if there are enough participants, it will also assist in pairing students and staff who are not enrolled in the program.

Students involved said their partners helped them with language and cultural nuances.

Sophomore Anqi Zhou, from China, said she got a peek at Latino-American culture when her partner showed her the popular movie “Coco.” “Me and my partner talked about the film, and I learned some new culture from it. I had never heard of it before and it was totally new information for me,” Zhou said.

If students are interested in being involved in the Conversation Partner Program for the following semester, they can email


Living-Learning Communities — Esther Madríz Diversity Scholars

Esther Madríz Diversity scholars are a living-learning community housed in Toler Hall. COURTESY OF STEPHANIE SEARS

Esther Madríz Diversity Scholars, one of the University’s smallest living-learning communities, is open exclusively for sophomores. The program is directed by Stephanie Sears, a sociology professor.

“The learning continues outside the classroom,” Sears said. “In Esther Madríz, students learn about sociology of hip-hop and community organizing. That means they learn about hip-hop through a sociological lense, and that sociological lens extends beyond hip-hop.”

Sears said students walk away from the program with the ability to see the roots of gentrification. They take a trip to another city or country in January to apply knowledge about issues they’ve studied in the fall semester to communities — past trips have been to New York and Cuba. Students work with social justice organizations “to create change on the ground in San Francisco,” Sears said.

Esther Madríz Diversity Scholars was created as a collaborative effort between the sociology department, the Leo T. McCarthy Center for Public Service and the Common Good and Student Housing and Residential Education (SHaRE). The program was named to honor the legacy of the late Esther Madríz, a professor in the sociology department who was devoted to education and social justice. It replaced the previous Phelan Multicultural Community, which, according to Sears, had potential but no strong curriculum.

Each living-learning community is given a certain allotment of beds. The Esther Madríz Diversity Scholars community typically consists of 18 students, housed in Toler Hall.

For more information about Esther Madríz Diversity Scholars, students can contact Stephanie Sears at or (415) 422-5482.


Debate Team

The rhetoric department welcomes students of all majors to join Debate Team, with no experience necessary to participate.  

“I think [debate] is very fun, competitive and very exhilarating,” freshman Andy Chan said. “You feel the adrenaline rush through your blood when you debate on topics that you aren’t familiar with, and when you have little time to prepare, it makes it very interesting.”

Students can learn speaking styles and formats of debate. In addition, Chan said debate teams consider contemporary social and political issues relevant to their studies at school, making it an opportunity to apply subjects outside of the classroom.

“Many people have told me that they fear speaking in front of a class,” Chan said. “That’s the main reason I joined debate. It has really helped me in speech and to be more confident in myself.”

According to Chan, the debate team has about four members who participate in three to four intercollegiate tournaments each semester, competing against San Francisco State University, Diablo Valley College and universities in Southern California.

The Debate Team welcomes walk-ins to their meetings on Wednesdays from 6:30-9:30 p.m. in Kalmanovitz 365. Students interested in more information may contact Debate Team Coach Orion Steele (


USF Odyssey Community

The Odyssey Community is an online forum for students to be content creators. Creators can write articles about their opinions, interests, art, or just write general information that they want to put out there.

“The Odyssey is a[n] [online] platform available for anyone, to write about anything,” said sophomore Daniela Rivas, president of the Odyssey at USF. “It’s really an opportunity to use your voice, [to talk about] TV shows, or promoting social justice.”

“If you truly like to write, this is such a great opportunity for you. You could write explicitly and there’s no limit to your creativity,” Rivas said.

This semester, the community has six active writers. All members of the USF community are welcome to contribute, but they must apply to be creators who are then expected to contribute on a regular basis. According to Rivas, they are planning on applying to be recognized as a club. However, she has never seen it as a club but, rather, a space for members to write about whatever they want.

If students are looking for a unique sense of community, The Odyssey is always looking for creators and welcomes interested students to take a look at their web page:

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