Josh Cohen’s regimented daily schedule begins sometime between 8 and 9 a.m. in the training room, where he’ll spend the next three to five hours. Then he gets a couple hours of downtime before heading to Sacramento State for his evening classes, which this semester start at 4 p.m.
Other evenings? You’ll find him on the soccer pitch, parked in front of the goal and trying to keep the Sacramento Republic FC’s opponent from scoring.
“Playing for Sacramento, in particular, is amazing just because of the fan base we have and the culture of the team in Sacramento,” said Cohen, the starting goalkeeper for the Republic. “At every game, we have 10,000, 11,000 people out there.”
Cohen also is a master’s in mechanical engineering student in his third semester at Sacramento State, balancing school with life as a professional athlete. The Sunnyvale native completed his undergraduate degree at UC San Diego.
Playing soccer professionally has been a dream of Cohen’s since he was a small child, but when that dream came true and he was deciding where to play, his higher education goals definitely were a factor.
“Choosing to play in Sacramento, (Sacramento State) did factor into that decision. I looked up the engineering program and looked up the schedule and the type of classes that were offered,” he said. “I liked how they divided up the coursework into different subcategories, and I could focus on one or two categories that were interesting to me.”
For Cohen, that meant focusing on automation and mechanical design. He enjoys building devices and machines, and says he enjoys working on side projects, such as the 3-D printer he made last year and continues to improve.
Though he hopes to continue playing soccer professionally for as long as possible, he hopes to work as an engineer when his playing days are over. And while his undergraduate education was focused on theory and seemingly on preparing people for academic careers, he says he appreciates Sacramento State’s focus on real-world education, something he knows will make him a more valuable employee whenever he does enter the workforce.
“My interest has always been more in the nitty-gritty, industry, getting-my-hands-dirty side of things,” Cohen said. “And I feel like here, I get a lot of experience.”
In Sacramento State’s inspiring 2018 holiday video, she is reaching for the stars as an aspiring NASA scientist whose dreams are made possible by her attending Sacramento State. In real life, the talented actress who stars in the video is headed for a more immediate goal: graduating in 2019 and kicking off her professional acting career.
The acting bug bit Monique Crawford, a theater major and musical theater minor, at an early age, but it wasn’t until she enrolled at Sac State in 2015 that her dream started to become a reality. Crawford’s first theater history class led to her first role, followed by others that have become part of a burgeoning resume. She has performed in on-campus productions of “Stories to be Told” (ensemble), “Annie” (Mrs. Pugh) and “Peter and the Starcatcher” (Molly).
She also has performed off-campus with The Fourth Wall and community theater organizations – all while balancing her schoolwork and commuting up to 90-minutes each way to and from Fairfield, her hometown.
We spoke with Crawford about her love of acting, her experience at Sacramento State, participating in the holiday video, and her post-graduation plans.
Transcript has been edited for length and clarity.
Was acting always something you were interested in?
It actually was. I always wanted to act as a child. But in the child mentality, I thought you had to move to either New York or L.A., and I’m like, “Well my parents are never going to do that,” so I just kind of forgot about it. And then once I hit 18, I was in college and I was like, “Oh, I’m free now. I can do whatever I want.” It took a couple years. I was psychology major, and then I changed it after I had my first theater history class with Dr. (Roberto) Pomo. In the class you get into groups and then you perform certain scenes of whatever play you’re assigned. Afterwards (Pomo) came up to me and said, “I want you to audition for the play in the spring,” so I said OK, and I got my first role in his play, “Stories to be Told.” That got the ball rolling. He played a major part in that. I’m very grateful.
Why did you decide to come to Sac State?
I actually didn’t want to come to college at all after high school, but I got to come tuition-free to any university in California because my dad is retired military. My parents were really pushing. “It’s going to be really good for you,” they said. My mom graduated from Sac State, so I said, “All right, the only college I’m going to apply to, the only one I want is Sac State.” So that’s what I did. I got it, and I wasn’t going to take anything else.
Was being in the holiday video your first time acting on camera or film versus on stage?
No, I’ve had a little bit of experience with industrial filming, filming videos for schools. I also have done a lot of background work. A lot (of that) was in (the second season of the television series) “13 Reasons Why.” So if you watch it, you’ll see a whole lot of me. (There have been) other things, independent films, being a background extra, that sort of thing. But as far as major roles, yes, this was the first one that will be more widespread.
Did you get a lot of screen time in “13 Reasons Why”?
I did. During the second half of the second season you can see me all over the place.
When you first saw the completed Sac State video, what was your reaction?
I watched it again. I watched it once, and I didn’t know what to think, and then I watched it again, and I thought, wow, (videographer Rob Neep) really put it all together and everything blended just like he said it was going to. His work was very, very well done.
Did you get to meet the young girl who stars alongside you?
No, I didn’t. I didn’t get to meet any of the kids, but they were so adorable.
How has what you’ve learned in the theater program helped you with the acting you do on campus and elsewhere?
The class that helped with that the most would be Acting 3, taught by Professor Michelle Felten. We focused a lot on different methods of acting, and very minute details such as being in your environment, feeling your environment. For example, me feeling this chair (that I’m sitting in now). I feel the soft cushion underneath, and I can feel the sharp edges of the wood, this kind of warm chair; so allowing those kinds of things to ground you and to focus in on your scene partner. And so when it comes to film, a lot of it is really close up, and so that’s when you see a whole lot more of the minute details. It’s from doing all that hard work that a lot of people may not really see behind the scenes, but that’s what we did in that class.
What do you plan to do after graduation?
My original plan was to go to L.A., and I’ve seen a few performances at Cap(ital) Stage, and they were just brilliant. I loved it, I fell in love with it 100 percent. So I may be moving down to L.A. or I may be auditioning for Cap Stage to keep going with my career in Sacramento.
What advice do you have for a new student who wants to be a theater major and an actor?
To manage your time well. College is all about time management, but so much so in theater. You really have to know yourself. You get to know yourself so much more just being in the department through classes and workshops and everything. You learn how much physical activity you can take, how much mental activity you can take, how much emotional activity you can take. Manage your health as well as your time because your body and your voice are the only two instruments that you have to use. You have to keep them in tune, keep them healthy. Eat. Always eat healthy. Get as much rest as you can and really make time to keep yourself well as well as passing classes.
What do you do in your spare time?
(Laughing) We have no spare time! Besides acting, I have been dancing hula for the majority of my life. I’m a professional Polynesian dancer. I always love swimming, I love being outdoors, seeing movies and crocheting, playing chess. I’m one of the people who likes puzzles, like Sudoku. I like mentally stimulating things as well as adventures like dirt biking, jet skiing, parasailing, all kinds of stuff to get your adrenaline pumping
It’s a story Mia Kagianas probably has told more times than she can count. During her first year as a Sacramento State student, unsure how to make friends, she sat at a table outside the campus Starbucks with a sign reading “Free conversations,” waiting for someone to join her.
Eventually, as she was packing up to leave, another student finally took her up on the offer. The conversation was awkward, she says, but it gave her enough confidence to walk to the University Union and sign up to host a radio show on KSSU, an action that set off a chain of events culminating in her election as Associated Students Inc. president for the 2017-18 school year.
“Being able to express myself through KSSU, even if there wasn’t anyone listening, was my chance to share what my experience had been and let out some of the struggles I was facing,” Kagianas says. “That’s when I first realized the power of sharing student stories, what we face each day.”
Sharing student stories will remain at the center of Kagianas’ life in the weeks and months ahead: She recently was elected president of the California State Student Association (CSSA) and will spend her final year at Sacramento State advocating on behalf of students across the CSU.
“It’s important that students’ voices are heard because (ours are) the lived experiences,” Kagianas says, adding that challenges students face such as housing insecurity and loan debt can have a ripple effect throughout the entire regional economy. “We can be the representation and symbols behind whether a system is working properly.”
As ASI president, she focused especially on fostering a “caring campus” at Sacramento State. The topic hits home for Kagianas, who came to the University from a small suburb outside Chicago knowing very few people and unable, because of work obligations, to devote any time to extracurricular activities. She felt isolated. Faculty and even Sacramento State President Robert S. Nelsen were there for her in her time of need, offering support and directing her to campus resources.
Over the previous year, she worked to make ASI and its programming more accessible to students, changing election bylaws so more students can participate, improving communication to students, and raising the visibility of ASI programs such as Peak Adventures, the Aquatic Center, and the weekly food pantry.
“We’ve redefined what it means to belong,” she says. “We have experiences on campus that are available to students, but maybe students are timid or they don’t feel like it’s for them. Sacramento State and the people on this campus try to tear down those ideas of ‘You can’t do this’ and make it, ‘You can do this, this place is for you.’ ”
Creating a more caring campus is a goal that has been shared with Nelsen, with whom Kagianas has developed a strong relationship and considers a mentor.
“I’ve learned a lot from (Nelsen) and how he leads, which has inspired my leadership,” she says. “But he also trusts me with decisions. Before he makes certain university decisions, he’ll ask me what my perspective is. I feel really empowered by that trust.”
Nelsen praised Kagianas’ commitment to her fellow Hornets and her work to promote a caring campus.
“It has been my absolute privilege to get to know Mia over the past few years, and to work so closely with her during her presidential term,” he says. “Mia’s heart for her fellow students and her tireless efforts to make Sac State a place of belonging are outstanding. I look forward to seeing her over the next year while she completes her degree, and then to watch her journey after she leaves Sac State.”
Though she came from out of state, Sacramento was not completely foreign to Kagianas. It’s where her father spent much of his childhood, and where she visited often as a kid to see family and to go skiing in Tahoe. Growing up in a family of small business owners, she knew she wanted to major in a business-related field, eventually settling on human resources management and entrepreneurship as concentrations, the latter of which she had been interested in since it was the result she got after taking a careers test in the sixth grade.
“I was really thankful Sacramento State offered a concentration in entrepreneurship because it’s becoming more and more relevant in our society and not that many colleges have it as an emphasis,” she says.
Sixth grade also was where she began her time in student government, becoming elected to her middle school student council. In high school, she broke the mold by serving as the student body president all four years. At Sacramento State, she previously served with ASI as director of undeclared students and director of business administration, as well as vice president of finance for the CSSA.
“This is a campus where I’ve found who I am, I’ve found what my passions are, and I found a family that will be very, very hard for me to leave,” she says. “I hope to always be very strongly connected to it no matter where I am or what I’m doing in my life.”