Ryan Coogler’s next film will examine Atlanta standardized test scandal

Award-winning filmmaker and Sacramento State alumnus Ryan Coogler ’07 (Business) has lined up his next project, and he’ll be working with a familiar face. Wrong Answer, the true story of an Atlanta high school standardized test cheating scandal, will feature frequent Coogler collaborator Michael B. Jordan in a starring role and a screenplay written by acclaimed author Ta-Nehesi Coates, Deadline reported this week.

The film will be based off of a 2014 The New Yorker article by Rachel Aviv that detailed what has been called the largest academic cheating scandal in American history. Jordan will play Damany Lewis, one of several teachers who joined efforts to revise the standardized test scores of their underrepresented students upward in order to save the school from closure.

Wrong Answer will be the fourth collaboration between Coogler and Jordan. They previously worked together on Fruitvale Station, which examined the fatal shooting of Oakland resident Oscar Grant III by a Bay Area Rapid Transit police officer, and Creed, a Rocky franchise sequel focusing on the son of Apollo Creed. Jordan also will appear in Coogler’s upcoming superhero film Black Panther.

Coogler was a star on the football field before an injury led him to think about his life beyond athletics. That’s when he found his passion for film making, a passion that was nurtured by his Sac State professors.

“They put me on the path and gave me the tools to be successful,” Coogler said in 2015 of his early mentors. “Business was helpful; they do call it the ‘film business.’ ”

You can learn more about Coogler’s time at Sacramento State and early career in our Made at Sac State profile.

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These women mean business

Four Sacramento State alumnae made the Sacramento Business Journal's 2016 list of "Women Who Mean Business."
(Sacramento State/Sam Macapagal)

Congratulations to the four dynamic Sac State alumnae named to the Sacramento Business Journal‘s 2016 class of “Women Who Mean Business.”

Christine Ault, Carol Burger, Judy Kjelstrom, and Keri Thomas have excelled as leaders in careers that span the region’s professional spectrum.

Each year, the Sacramento Business Journal celebrates the capital region’s top female movers and shakers with its “Women Who Mean Business” awards.

This year, Sacramento State was well-represented by alumnae who are shaping the future of Sacramento in everything from health care and culture to science and economics:

  • As an independent communications consultant, Christine Ault has worked with organizations throughout the region to unite economic interests, hone in on the city’s strengths, and take steps forward to create jobs and bolster the local economy.
  • When it comes to the well-being of the city, Keri Thomas has had some of the biggest impacts as the director for governmental and community relations for Sutter Health Valley Area. A champion of the region’s most underserved populations, she is personally responsible for programs and initiatives that bring health care to people in the region who need it the most.
  • In that same vein, Carol Burger has been helping patients get back on their feet since 1978, when she founded her own outpatient therapy business, Burger Rehabilitation, which provides physical, occupational, and speech therapy for people around the region.
  • Finally, as director of the biotechnology program at UC Davis since 2004, Judy Kjelstrom presides over a program that shapes students who make real-world impacts on everything from agriculture to pharmaceuticals.

The “Women Who Mean Business” awards luncheon will be held June 17 at the Hyatt Regency Sacramento and will honor 17 awardees who join a group of 112 elite women who have been honored by the Business Journal over the past 12 years.

Congratulations to our four outstanding alumnae for their remarkable careers and these well-deserved honors – they are Made at Sac State.

The (Silk) Road to success

Payam Fardanesh on "Made at Sac State — The Video Magazine" Season One
Payam Fardanesh (center) chats with “Made at Sac State – The Video Magazine” host Gloria Moraga and Professor Seung Bach, interim associate dean for undergraduate programs, about Silk Road Soda.

When Payam Fardanesh founded Silk Road Soda, his line of Mediterranean-inspired drinks, in 2012, he was selling one bottle at a time out of the trunk of his car. Four years later, he’s bringing the tastes of his childhood to the entire country.

In the past year alone, Fardanesh has inked deals with some of the biggest names in retail, catapulting his brand into the national spotlight. Still, the Sac State alumnus remains grounded in his family roots and the memories of his grandmother, brewing and sipping the same suds he sells today.

“I was re-creating my childhood when I made the product,” Fardanesh says. “It’s a pretty simple drink, but everyone in Iran has it.”

The entrepreneur spent his formative childhood years in Iran. The Silk Road Soda line is his version of his grandmother’s own recipe for the sweet-and-sour Mediterranean drink sekanjabin. It is traditional and simple, made primarily with mint, sugar and vinegar, and it is a staple in countries like Iran, Greece, and India.

Fardanesh was the first to bring it stateside on a commercial scale. Sacramento, he says, was the perfect place to test the market, thanks to the city’s diversity.

“There are so many different cultures that are really tied to Sacramento,” he says. “We really have a melting pot here. … It really was a launching pad for us.”

Silk Road Soda may have its roots in the Middle East, but the company got its start at Sac State: Fardanesh met his original business partner in the Master of Business Administration for Executives (EMBA) program. He earned his degree in 2011, launched the brand in 2012, and hasn’t looked back since.

In 2016, Fardanesh signed his first national contract with Cost Plus, and Silk Road Soda today is shipped by 10 different distributors to nearly every state in the country. The company’s growing success snowballed into a blockbuster pact with CostCo, where they will begin rolling out his product by the case starting in the Pacific Northwest later this year. That deal alone, he says, could end up accounting for over one-fifth of the company’s business.

This year, Fardanesh expects to sell more than 30,000 cases — an amount that no longer fits in the trunk of his car. That’s a problem he’s happy to have.

“For the younger entrepreneurs that think they can’t get it done here in town, I would say they’re wrong,” he says. “If you have a great idea and a good pitch and good promise, there are the faculties in our community to grow a small business.”

Click here to see Payam’s interview with Gloria Moraga in the College of Business Administration episode of the first season of Made at Sac State — The Video Magazine.