10 Things about Sac StateSpring 2008

News Makers

From the President
Across Campus
Cool Course: Natural Disasters
Sac State Authors
New Tactics for International Students
Research Notes
Executive Plan
News Makers
Sports Update
Legacy Circle: Colette & Jerry Coleman
Alumni Profile; Julie Miller
Alumni Profile: JC Tran
Class Notes

From the President

While we celebrate the accomplishments of our alumni year-round at Sacramento State, we set aside the month of April as Alumni Month. It's a time to recognize our 180,000 alumni and the contributions they make to their communities to become a better place to live.

They're teaching in our schools, protecting our safety, building our bridges, and in the case of our cover story, reporting the news. Sac State's communication studies is among our largest majors. Our communication grads can be found throughout the region, the state and the country, and they play a vital role in our democratic society.

At this year's Distinguished Service Awards, we will be recognizing another group of alumni, three former student-athletes whose actions on the playing field and in their communities left a lasting mark. They will join us in opening The Eli and Edythe Broad Fieldhouse, which will help us attract and educate the next generation of student-athletes.

Today's students are tomorrow's workforce, particularly in the Sacramento Region where one in twenty-six residents is a Sac State alum. Employers rely on Sac State graduates as essential components in building the workforce the region needs to keep its schools, hospitals and businesses going strong. Unfortunately, our ability to boost those efforts will be jeopardized by funding cuts to the California State University system.

Budget shortfalls will diminish our ability to serve students and curtail our educational offerings. And, particularly devastating to a campus that serves as many first-generation college students as Sac State does, they have the potential to significantly restrict our efforts to make a University education possible for students from underserved populations.

You can play a part in ensuring that Sac State remains affordable and accessible. Contact your legislators and urge them to continue to support higher education.

If you are an alum, Happy Alumni Month. As you look back on your time at Sac State and how it influenced the person you are today, I encourage you to help us ensure that today's students have the same opportunities that you did. 

Back to top.

Across Campus

Re-creating nature

Remember those “Amazing Sea Monkeys?” You add a little water and suddenly they spring to life and the fish bowl is teeming with them.

Sac State has its own artificial fish bowl—a man-made vernal pool. It’s a new fixture in the arboretum and is the brain child of biology professor Jamie Kneitel. He and graduate student Carrie Lessin are using the vernal pool to study the ecosystem growing in it, and yes, it includes species related to sea monkeys.

A vernal pool is a shallow temporary pond that forms when water collects on impermeable soil. In nature, vernal pools can vary in size from a puddle to an entire wetland. Kneitel’s vernal pool is somewhere in between. It consists of 30 wading pool-like buckets filled with soil and water.

Temporary ponds are found throughout the world, but Kneitel says the ones in California’s central valley are unique. “They contain many endangered species found nowhere else including a variety of fairy shrimp, salamanders and frogs.”

Since natural pools contain endangered species, Kneitel had to build his own in order to conduct manipulative studies. Still, he wasn’t sure the soil he received had any life in it. That is, until the rains came.

“We were excited to see that vernal pool organisms had emerged from the soil,” says Kneitel.

Natural vernal pools eventually dry out and are then occupied by grasses and other herbaceous plants, also threatened or endangered. Many of the plant and animal inhabitants survive by going dormant with seeds or cysts in the soil until rain again fills the pool.

But the ecosystems in vernal pools are fragile and their presence increasingly reduced. Kneitel hopes to find out what impact development and farming are having on them. “We’re trying to mimic the large inputs of nitrogen and phosphorous water runoff that may occur from agricultural and urban settings. Most vernal pool organisms require nitrogen and phosphorous, but in high amounts they can be quite deadly.”

Nitrogen and phosphorous cause naturally growing algae to “just skyrocket,” Kneitel said. When the algae dies, bacteria starts decomposing it and the bacteria “sucks all the oxygen out of the water and everything dies.”

Science buildings on track

Sac State’s plans for a Space and Science Center, as well as its long-awaited Science II building, are one step closer to fruition.

Governor Schwarzenegger’s 2008-09 budget identified $4.8 million in California State University capital outlay funds to support design and planning for the facility. The new multi-story, 135,000 square-foot Science II building will include classrooms, labs, and the departments of Biological Sciences, Mathematics and Statistics, and Chemistry. A separate wing for the Space and Science Center is expected to feature a planetarium, an observatory and an instructional solar lab.

The campus already has received nearly $2 million in public and private funds for the Space and Science Center, including $1.5 million in federal funds secured by both U.S. Rep. Doris Matsui of Sacramento and by her late husband, Congressman Robert T. Matsui.

“This is an exciting opportunity for our campus and for the community,” said President Alexander Gonzalez. “Our students deserve the best classroom and laboratory experiences, and with our current facilities that has been an increasingly difficult challenge."

“Science II will allow students to work in state-of-the-art science labs using the latest equipment. It’s an important step toward our Destination 2010 goal to provide excellent academic programs.”

“This is great news for Sacramento,” said Congresswoman Doris Matsui. “The new planetarium, and Space and Science center will help spark the interest of the next generation of students in the science, technology and math fields. An investment in these fields will help our country stay competitive in the global economy.”

Though recently they have been thought of as separate facilities, pairing Science II and the Space Science Center allowed a “best of both worlds” solution. In November, the Board of Trustees for the California State University system voted to approve the use of the Public Higher Education Act funds for the combined facility. The action moved Science II up significantly on the CSU’s priority list for state-funded capital outlay program, which allows the campus to begin drawing up preliminary plans and creating working drawings.

Carbon consciousness

It’s not easy being green, but Sac State is doing its part when it comes to thinking globally and acting locally.

The University is basing its sustainability efforts on the three Rs (and no, not reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic). “Reduce, reuse and recycle is our motto,” says Mike Christensen, assistant vice president for Risk Management Services. “Sustainability has to be a community effort to be successful. In a perfectly balanced system, we wouldn’t waste anything.”

The University is succeeding there. In 2006, the campus was able to divert more than 62 percent of its non-hazardous solid waste, which includes office paper, recyclables such as beverage containers, and leaves and grass clippings. “The State of California’s goal for institutions like ours is diverting 50 percent of waste from landfills,” says Kathleen Reynolds, manager of Integrated Waste Management. So Sac State is ahead of the game.

Meanwhile, newly constructed campus buildings are in line with sustainability. The new campus additions are using natural gas for heating, and emergency generators for these buildings are powered by natural gas, reducing air pollutants associated with diesel-powered generators.

The new buildings—including the planned Recreation and Wellness Center—are striving to meet LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification standards, which ensure construction and building maintenance benchmarks are set for high-performance “green” buildings.

“You’ll get a return on the money that’s spent to meet LEED standards,” Christensen says of the cost savings energy efficiency provides.

And the University’s Facilities Services’ electric vehicles are getting a boost from the sun. The vehicles are recharged using a system which coverts solar energy to electricity through the use of solar panels. “This technology is also used to power lights in parking lot 10,” says energy conservation coordinator Nat Martin, who was instrumental in implementing the solar energy system.

To reduce the amount of water run-off from the campus, and improve the water quality of the American River, Christensen says the grounds crews have reduced their use of fertilizers. Moreover, “The groundskeepers are also paying high degrees of attention to watering times and are repairing broken sprinklers immediately,” he says. “Our drinking water comes from our local rivers.  What people put on the ground, such as cigarette butts, contributes to the pollutants that must be removed from our water prior to its use for domestic purposes,” says Christensen.

According to Christensen, “New parking structures have been equipped with clarifiers that remove debris from water run-off prior to releasing it to storm drains leading to the river.” 

A newly formed Sustainability Committee is also working to implement practices campus-wide, including adding them to course curricula in the form of good business practices and engineering concepts.  

Pen pals plus

Sacramento State students with the “write” stuff showed a group of elementary school students that college is within their reach—right their own backyard.

“Many of the children weren’t aware there was a university in Sacramento until they became involved in the Writing Partners Program,” says English professor Cathy Gabor, who brought the Writing Partners idea, which matches university students with elementary school counterparts, to the campus.

“After the program, the children begin to see themselves as college-bound, when they didn’t before,” says Gabor.

More than 80 University freshman from the Educational Opportunity Program, which serves first-generation and low-income college students, participated in the program last fall. Over the course of the semester, the students exchanged four letters each with 120 fifth- and sixth-graders at David Reese and Florin Elementary schools.

Letter topics aren’t restricted, but the children commonly ask what college life is like and whether or not there is recess. “When they hear the answer, they often express how sorry they are for their college writing partners,” Gabor says.

The letter-writing relationship between the children and the University students ended with a tour of the campus conducted by the University students, followed by a face-to-face meeting between the writing partners, team-building exercises and lunch.

Sheila Macias, director of the Community Engagement Center, whose office coordinates the project, notes additional benefits to the University students in the program besides improved writing skills. “Freshmen, who are usually trying to find their place in the University, feel empowered by the leadership opportunities provided in mentoring these children.”

Melinda Draeger, whose sixth grade class participated in the program, says, “My students would cheer when they found out letters from the Sac State students had arrived. And replying to the letters was an assignment I never had to force them to do. Their writing skills really improved. I would participate in this program again in a heartbeat.”

Cardboard cutouts=Functional furniture

When Professor Andrew Anker asked his design students to create full-size, functional chairs out of corrugated cardboard, his students may have thought he’d gone mad. But they ended up surprising him with the variety of styles and construction techniques they developed.

As part of the Interior Design 25 class, Anker, along with Professors Carolyn Gibbs, Michelle Duff, David deLaPena and Sarah Ellis, asked students to first design one-eighth-scale models, then as teams of three create a full-size version of one of the designs.

It was a chance for the students to learn about the relationship between the dimensions of the human body and a chair’s design, and what makes a chair comfortable. They also learned how the choice of a material—cardboard in this case—affects design.

The students labored on the chairs after class hours in Mariposa Hall’s gallery. “They came up with shapes and textures that I would not have expected,” Anker says. Students stacked the cardboard. They cut it into strips and layered it. Some even soaked the cardboard so they could roll it and form rounded recliners.

The 24 chairs were then put on display in the gallery. “It was a crowd pleaser,” Anker says.

The project was difficult but interesting, sophomore Sergio Mondragon says. He never expected to work with cardboard because it’s not an element normally used in everyday living and working spaces. “Simply making a chair that would hold a person was kind of challenging,” he says.

His full-sized version almost looks like a large, cardboard throne. It took a lot of teamwork to produce it, and a lot of long nights. “On the last night we were here, we saw the sun rise,” Mondragon says.

The chairs will be kept in storage for a couple of years to be reviewed by the Council for Interior Design Accrediting, an academic council that ensures a design curriculum covers what a student needs to practice professional interior design.

Not only did the students enjoy the project, the instructors were equally pleased. “The faculty is very happy with the results on every level so I think we’re going to repeat the project next year,” Anker says.

Back to top.

Cool Course: Geology 7: Natural Disasters

DESCRIPTION: The online syllabus for Geology Professor Barbara Munn’s class grabs you immediately with a striking view of spewing lava from Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano. In the class, she uses traditional lectures and reading materials, plus breaking news about natural disasters. This provides students an understanding of various hazards and disasters occurring in the world, the processes involved, the role of science in mitigating disasters and how mushrooming human population growth intensifies the effects of disasters. Students study hurricanes, tsunamis, floods, earthquakes, tornadoes, volcanoes, landslides and meteorite impacts and study the probability and risks of each. They learn about the processes of plate tectonics, continental drift and climate change, and study the role of basic earth materials—water, rocks and air—in natural disasters.

CLASS WORK: During class lectures, students are asked to confer with neighbors about the topic and be called upon randomly to answer a question about it. Students view videos of natural disasters, and then are called upon to provide written answers about what they’ve seen.

STUDENTS SAY: “The most interesting thing I learned and that everyone will remember is to curl up and stand on the balls of your feet whenever you are caught in the middle of a thunderstorm, and never ever get by a tree,” said student Maria Ortiz.

ASSIGNMENTS: Students search for news items about various natural disasters, then write analyses of the items using information learned in class to determine what actually occurred, what scientific process were involved and the effects of geography and population.

Back to top.


Jump in applications—Applications for fall 2008 increased 6.7 percent over 2007. The number of admitted students also rose dramatically, with 10,030 admitted students by Jan. 31, as opposed to 4,441 at the same time last year. The increase in fall 2008 admission was primarily due to increased efforts from Admissions and Records to shorten the turnaround time from application submission to admission. The goal is to let students know within a few weeks of their application submission if they have been admitted, so they know what their options are.

Signs up welcome factor—The installation of 17 “You are here” signs marks the last phase in a University project to create a more welcoming campus. The new signs are the final step in the University’s “Way-Finding Program,” which was the result of nearly two years of research and design by Sac State design students. The first phase of the project included parking lot signs and pedestrian and vehicle directional signs. The second phase of the project saw the completion of building and department identification signs. The 17 new signs are part of approximately 100 new signs throughout the campus.

Judicial insight—Students are getting a rare glimpse into the inner workings of California’s court system. A new internship program matches students with Sacramento Superior Court judges. The students spend at least eight hours per week in court. The idea is not to teach law, but to give students a sense of how the judiciary system works. It is also expected to give them a leg up when applying to law school.

Actors compete—Students from the Theatre and Dance department—including two from each of the last five stage productions—were invited to complete in the regional Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival in February. Students from the production of North Star also did a scene at the festival’s opening ceremonies. The students competed for a chance to perform at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. in April.

Back to top.

Sac State Authors

Beer, Babes and Balls: Sports Talk Radio and Masculinity

David Nylund, Professor of Social Work

(State University of New York Press, 2007, $19.95)

The “good old boy” network may have a new home—in sports talk radio, according to David Nylund. In his book, Nylund, who is also clinical director of the Sacramento Gay and Lesbian Center Counseling Program, examines the growing phenomenon of sports talk radio and how it encourages its predominately male audience to bring out their inner “macho man.”

“In sports talk radio there are a lot of homophobic, exclusionary practices, and most of them are related to the narrow way we construct the ideas of masculinity and male bonding,” Nylund says. “There’s no ‘sissy’ stuff allowed.”

“I grew up in a working class Detroit neighborhood,” he says. “I was told early on—by my grandma—that I needed to know about sports in order to survive the streets. She gave me a sports section, and I began memorizing all the statistics. She was right. If I got in trouble all I had to do was spout out something about sports.”

Nylund, who says he wakes up every morning to sports talk radio, interviewed dozens of on-air talent, production staff members, listeners and women who work at sports bars for his book.

“There’s a lot of male posturing associated with the sports talk world,” he says. “Women can occasionally enter if they can speak knowledgeably on the subject or are willing to expose their bodies or act in a hypersexual way.”

But, he said, there are positive aspects of sports talk as well. “Sports provide a safe channel for men to express feelings. It is very intimate for two men to sit around and talk about the 1968 Detroit Tigers.” 

The Arrow and the Olive Branch: Practical Idealism in the U.S. Foreign Policy

Jack Godwin, Chief International Officer and Director of the Office of Global Education

(Praeger Security International, 2007, $49.95)

“On the Presidential Coat of Arms, the American eagle holds in his right talon the olive branch, while in his left he holds a bundle of arrows,” President John F. Kennedy said in 1961. “We intend to give equal attention to both.”

“That symbolizes my book,” says Jack Godwin, Sacramento State’s chief international officer. “The olive branch symbolizes American ideals such as freedom of speech, democracy and human rights. The arrows remind us we live in a bad neighborhood and sometimes have to resort to force.”

Godwin describes his book as “a cross between The Federalist Papers, which explains how the Constitution should work, and The Prince, Niccolo Machiavelli’s 16th century treatise on statecraft.”

Godwin’s research highlights many of the international challenges the U.S. faces today. The book begins with the Sept. 11 attacks then goes back in time to George Washington’s farewell address in 1796, when he warned his compatriots of the dangers of foreign entanglements. “The story goes forward from there,” Godwin says, “as later presidents upheld, redefined or ignored the foreign policy precedents set by their predecessors.”

As Leon Panetta writes in the foreword, “We should be mindful of the full range of foreign policy options available to us, skeptical of false historical analogies and vigilant in defense of America’s credibility, values and interests.” 

The Gravedigger

Peter Grandbois, Professor of English

(Chronicle Books, 2006, $13.95)

Inspiration comes from many sources, and for Peter Grandbois, the inspiration to write a novel came from an old Spanish folk tune about a man who digs graves.

“The song is about a gravedigger in a small village who has to bury his daughter. The song stuck in my mind for years and I wanted to understand the story behind it,” Grandbois says.

He began turning the concept of the story into a novel as part of his master’s thesis.

“It struck me that a way to get into the story was to have my gravedigger hear stories from the ghosts of the people he had buried. His job was to pass those stories on to the villagers and try to get at the truths of their lives,” he says.

The twist in the story comes when his daughter dies. Through her ghost, the gravedigger finds out he didn’t know all he thought he knew about her, that he was not as perfect a father as he imagined and that he may have been partly to blame in her death. Towards the end of the book he dies, and his story is then told.

“It’s a story about how joy and grief exist side by side,” Grandbois says. “Even though there are some complex themes, it’s the type of story where you want to keep turning the pages.

“For most writers, their first attempt at writing a book ends up in a drawer,” Grandbois said. “I knew The Gravedigger wasn’t perfect or the great American novel, but I was proud of it, and it has become a critical and commercial success.”

Back to top.

New tactics in the market for international students

Enticing students from abroad to Sac State, or to America for that matter, isn’t as uncomplicated as it’s been in the past.   

“The field has been particularly dynamic, and fluid since Sept. 11 and in light of the growing global economy,” says Jack Godwin, director of global education. “There is incredible competition from other English-speaking countries, like the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada. In addition, countries such as China, France, Germany and Japan are making concerted efforts to increase the number of international students they enroll.”

To compete on that international higher-ed playing field, University officials continue to take steps to attract students from overseas.

For Godwin it’s about stressing the importance of having international students as an integral part of Sac State’s population. “They serve an important role in internationalizing the campus,” he says.

“Part of graduating into a global economy is attending a school with a global education. Look at the world. Our students—whether they travel abroad or not—they are going to be competing and interacting with students and workers all over the world.”

Efforts to stay in the game include a recent joint effort with the U.S. Department of Commerce and the State Department to showcase education opportunities to students in India via video conferencing. Twice last year, Sac State students provided interviews for television spots that aired in Indian media markets and on the Internet touting American higher education opportunities.

The University was one of only 12 campuses nationwide chosen to participate in the U.S. Electronic Education Fair for India campaign. The initiative was a result of the January 2006 University Presidents’ Summit on International Education, organized by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to strengthen international education and to emphasize its importance to the national interest.

At Sac State, Godwin says, 65 percent of the University’s 600 international students are from Asia including India, Hong Kong, and Japan. Ninety percent of the campus’ foreign students are full-time bachelor’s or master’s students with the other 10 percent consisting of exchange students, short-term non-degree students and those seeking English proficiency.

But before international students can come here, they face a set of hurdles.        

“There has been a mountain of new federal regulations related to security since Sept. 11,” Godwin says. “All students must undergo much stricter visa scrutiny including, in some cases, background checks.”

Joseph Sheley, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, is confident the international enrollment will remain strong and increase at Sac State.

“The number of new foreign students coming to the United States grew this school year, after several years of weakness that followed the terrorist attacks in 2001,” he says. “Nearly every university suffered in the aftermath of Sept. 11. Most are beginning to rebuild their international student populations. Our numbers are turning upwards thanks to the efforts of our Office of Global Education and the College of Continuing Education.”

Sheley says that to compete, officials are marketing the University’s proximity to California’s capital more aggressively to international interests. “We take it for granted but the rest of the world sees California as an attractive place to be,” Sheley says. “Being where decisions are made—Sacramento—that affect one of the world’s largest economies—California—is an attractive idea to much of the world.”

The University also enrolls about 2,000 more international permanent residents, including many from Mexico, Southeast Asia and the Ukraine.  

Back to top.

Research Notes

The Rules of Attraction

Eight thousand years ago, our preferences in a mate and prospects for love were shaped by three facts of life: 1) you eat what you hunt and gather, 2) there is no birth control, bottle feeding, or day care, and 3) if you’re alone, you’ll die.

Life has changed a bit since then, but psychology professor Lisa Bohon says that human rules of attraction have stood the test of time.

“Our mate preferences and tendency to fall in love evolved from the needs of our prehistoric ancestors,” Bohon says. “The result is that survivors contribute these preferences and tendencies genetically to the next and succeeding generations.”

Bohon presented her findings at the Department of Psychology’s colloquium series “The Anatomy of Romantic Relationships” last spring.

In spite of our modern sensibilities, physical characteristics are still what catch a potential mate’s eye, and some desired features are attractive for both males and females, she says. “A healthy appearance is important because it boosts the chances of fertility and longevity,” Bohon says. Physical features that indicate health are straight, white teeth and healthy gums, healthy skin, and facial symmetry.

So what is attractive in men? Health and strength indicators such as height, a v-shaped torso and a lean, muscular physique are appealing. “Strength is a desirable characteristic because women seek protection for themselves and their offspring,” Bohon says.

Additionally, signs of sexual maturity in men are important as they are indicators the man can produce children. “Lustrous brows and a prominent jaw are indicators that the flood of testosterone has hit,” Bohon says.

Sexual maturity in women is also important, Bohon notes. “Children and post-menopausal women will not produce any offspring. The surge of estrogen that hits at puberty gives women an hourglass figure, shiny hair because of increased oil production, fuller lips, a thin jaw line and high cheekbones.”

“I find it especially interesting that these features are cross-culturally attractive to people,” Bohon says.

The evolution holds true for people who are homosexual. “There are few differences in mate preference based on sexual preference,” says Bohon. “Gay women and men like the same things as their straight counterparts. Generally, they want someone who is smart and won’t cheat on them. They want someone who is symmetrical rather than asymmetrical.”

It’s not all about the face and body, though. Personality characteristics make a difference, too, in the game of love. Kindness and understanding, intelligence and an exciting personality weigh in. “Mutual attraction is also important,” Bohon says, “because lust and commitment keep a couple together for at least four years and help to insure that any offspring have the best chance of survival . And kindness can be an indicator of being a committed and loving partner and a nurturing parent.”

There are exceptions to the rule. “At the individual level, anything is possible,” Bohon says. “These are general trends across cultures. And many people who don’t want children still follow these evolved mate preferences. They still want someone who is smart, healthy and kind.”

A new look at learning

Role-playing has long been a valued tool for counselors in the United State. Counselor Education Professor Louis Downs discovered it can also be successful with counseling students and faculty halfway across the world.

Downs spent six weeks at Malaysia’s Kolej New Era university as a Fulbright senior specialist last summer, working with the counseling faculty on their curriculum and teaching skills acquisition and maintenance.

Counselor education at the Kolej New Era relied heavily on theory but was lacking when it came practical application, Downs says. “The faculty get their doctorates in counseling, but it is totally research-based,” he says. “They learn no clinical skills themselves and learn nothing about teaching skills.”

Downs taught a workshop on supervision in a clinic, as well as strategies for teaching counseling students.

“I introduced a single reflective listening skill and then had the counseling students pair off and practice the skills with each other,” he says. “Faculty got to be my eyes and ears, since students were practicing in Mandarin rather than English.

“The faculty then practiced corrective feedback with individual students to improve their counseling technique.”

In addition, Downs suggested improvements in their curriculum. Kolej New Era had applied for university status and needed a curriculum that would reflect university standards.

One of the most remarkable curriculum changes, Downs says, was the inclusion of cultural sensitivity. “The faculty felt the importance of understanding the varied cultures in their area, which consisted of Malay, Chinese and Indian cultures, was lacking,” Downs says. “Rather than interview someone from another culture, students had arranged to actually stay in the home of a Hindu or Muslim or Animist or some other culture alien to their own for a weekend. 

The faculty also quit using American multicultural books, which are specific to the American cross-cultural experience. 

“There is also a distinct hierarchy by ethnicity in the country that is even enforced by law,” he says. “Faculty compiled articles from newspapers that are pertinent to this Malaysia cultural divide and developed a book that allows the students to understand the foundations of the cultural isolation and break through that paradigm.”

In spite of the relatively short time on the campus, Downs’ contributions have made a lasting impression. Not only were the curriculum and instruction improved, but tapes of Downs during his instruction and role-playing exercises are available in the Kolej New Era library for faculty use.

Fire up the green energy

Build a better mouse trap, and people will beat a path to your door. Build a better burner, and people will probably take very little notice.

But that doesn’t deter Sac State mechanical engineering professor Tim Marbach. He and his team of graduate students are trying to build a burner that can convert biomass into a highly efficient, clean-burning energy source.

Biomass is pretty much “anything that was alive and created through the process of photosynthesis,” according to Marbach. The energy stored in biomass can be released naturally such as through decay, by the actions of enzymes such as in the production of ethanol, or by combustion. For power plants, combustion is much more rapid and desirable, but energy efficiency is an issue.

“The problem is that when you gasify (burn) biomass, its heat content is a lot lower than that of fossil fuels,” Marbach says. “So it’s not as efficient as fossil fuels and the emissions are higher.”

To make up for that lack of efficiency, power plants that burn biomass add natural gas to traditional combustors to boost the heat content. “We want to design a burner that doesn’t use any natural gas at all,” Marbach says.

To improve the performance of biomass as a fuel source, Marbach’s team is experimenting with heat recirculation. A porous sleeve of ceramic or metal foam surrounds their burner to limit heat loss. The higher heat increases efficiency and lowers emissions.

But, even if the tests are successful, Marbach knows that cost will probably limit the application of the technology at least in the near future.

“There is a lot of up-front cost and technical issues in the development phase of building a power plant,” Marbach says. “People aren’t going to spend $500 million to build a plant they aren’t sure will work and hasn’t been proven. But, if we can make a small advancement and show that the technology is feasible, hopefully research will continue from there.”

Back to top.

Executive Plan

Master’s program gives executives added value

It’s only two years old, but Sac State’s growing Executive MBA program is already winning praise from its first round of new degree-holders.

The 15-month program has nearly 120 students for the spring semester, giving working business executives a chance to earn their master’s degrees by tailoring the course work around their schedules, on Friday afternoons and Saturdays.

“It has been extremely successful,” says Sanjay Varshney, dean of the College of Business Administration.

All the participants are working professionals with an average age of 36 and 14 to 16 years work experience, Varshney says.

It’s not unusual for an executive to wait a while before pursuing an MBA, Varshney says. The degree is about more than curriculum, he says. It’s also about personality development and teaching participants how to make strategic decisions and analyze various situations. “And you can’t do those things unless you have some experience and know what the workplace is about,” he says.

The program’s effectiveness is illustrated by its first round of graduates, such as Earl King, vice president and branch manager of Fidelity Investments’ Sacramento office. “It makes you much more marketable whether you’re looking inside or outside a firm,” he says, adding the program armed him with the knowledge and strategies he needed to tackle different projects within his company.

In addition to scheduling coursework at times more convenient for working professionals, the program also rotates among different sites in the greater Sacramento area, which allows students to study closer to home or work. It has been held at Intel in Folsom several times, at the PRIDE Industries campus in Roseville and at Sacramento Municipal Utilities District headquarters in Sacramento.

The course will cost a student $30,000, which includes tuition, textbooks and other course materials. Courses are taught by Sac State faculty and established, successful executives from the local business community. When King approached his supervisors about taking the course, they threw their support behind him and covered a large share of the cost, he says.

That’s not unusual, Varshney says, noting that 65 to 70 percent of the students get financial support from their employers. And the applicants have to be recommended by their employers. “We rely very heavily on what the employer has to say about them,” Varshney says.

The employers are great salespeople for the program as well. Donna Harmon, vice president and director of operations for Polycomp Administrative Services in Roseville, was encouraged to apply for admission by company Vice President and Human Resources Director Evelyn Fallon.

Fallon was on the College of Business Advisory Council when the program was developed. “As soon as it became available, I felt it was the right program for Donna,” Fallon says.

As Harmon went through the course, Fallon says she saw an immediate application of knowledge as Harmon learned more about in-depth business issues. “It was very obvious in her questions and analysis of issues,” Fallon says.

Harmon agrees. “I feel like I’m much more capable of adding value, asking the right questions and coming up with new ideas,” she says.

As a global commodity manager for Hewlett Packard, Otuko John-Teye enrolled in the program to learn new skills and improve her decision-making process. “Learning these new skills set the stage for me to gain an increased level of credibility in my job, become more marketable and better manage my career overall,” she says.

John-Teye was particularly pleased to learn there are always several options to solving a particular problem. A team of program participants might come up with 15 different decisions for any one scenario, she says. When you have those kinds of alternatives, John-Teye says, your problem doesn’t seem insurmountable.

Teamwork was one of the program’s highlights mentioned by all three of these participants. Because everyone wanted to be there, all group members fully participated in the team projects, Harmon says.

“You have a new group of people to talk with about issues and questions and to bounce ideas off of,” King adds.

The three acknowledged that taking the course in addition to working a full-time job does take its toll on your personal life. How did they handle the juggling act?

John-Teye was asked the same question by her father and she told him not to ask her because then she would have to think about it and she didn’t want to do that. “You don’t think about it, you just do it,” she says.

“It was challenging,” adds King, “but it was fun and challenging.” And Harmon says she preferred getting her M.B.A. in a concentrated manner over 15 months rather than spreading it out over two or three years.

For those just starting or thinking about taking the program, King advises making use of all the resources it has to offer. “Just jump in with both feet and take advantage of the teachers, instructors and your classmates,” he says. “There are some great instructors in the program. It’s like having your own consulting firm there.”

This is a one-of-a-kind opportunity, John-Teye says, adding that new students will appreciate the contacts they make in their teams and larger class work. “Don’t lose those contacts because all those will come in handy,” she says.

Knowledge, skills, contacts–the program provides participants with the tools to succeed. But there is also a valuable intangible the students come away with: greater self-assurance in the work place.

“Overall, I gained a lot of confidence,” Harmon says.

“The bottom line for me—it develops your confidence,” echoes John-Teye.

Back to top.

News Makers

Across the media spectrum, Sac State alums are telling the region's story
William Lee

Publisher, The Sacramento Observer

A voice for the African American community. It was the goal of the Sacramento Observer when it was founded and it still is, says founder and publisher William H. Lee.

Though he had no training in the newspaper business, Lee and partners used the business acumen he gained from classes at Sac State and UC Berkeley to establish the Observer in 1962. The award-winning paper has been a training and proving ground for countless journalists and photographers ever since.

But the path to community institution was far from a straight one.

Post-graduation, Lee worked for Aerojet and later in real estate. Off the job, he was becoming increasingly involved in community work when he realized, “There was very little being done to keep the African American community informed,” Lee says. “The local dailies were not talking about African Americans. It was tough to find evidence in the paper that we did, in fact, live, die or gave birth to our children—that African Americas were having fruitful lives in the region.”

One result was the formation of the Men’s Civic League, an organization of African American businessmen, doctors, attorneys, engineers and other professionals. Six members of the group interested in providing a communication vehicle for the community approached the publisher of Sacramento Outlook, an occasional church publication, with the idea of creating a community paper for African Americans. It didn’t go well.

“We bought the Outlook but we didn’t have any newspaper experience,” Lee says. What’s more, when they sent the newly formatted Outlook to the church mailing list, readers reacted strongly, Lee says. “They said, ‘What are you doing with our paper?’ Out of a sense of respect for them we decided we not continue to publish.”

But Lee felt the community still needed a voice. In 1962, Lee, along with radioman Geno Gladden and businessman John Cole, launched The Sacramento Observer, “The paper with the eye for the news.” This time they added professional support in the form of a manager and an editor, but, Lee says, “We were losing our shirts.” In spite of the challenges, Lee assumed control of the paper in 1965.

“My Sac State training said I should be able to turn this around,” the determined Lee felt at the time.

Five years later the Observer, through Lee’s leadership and dedication, was named the number one black newspaper in America, a remarkable achievement considering that at the time there were about 300 black newspapers in the country.

The success attracted some top writers to the paper, many of whom have gone on to work in the State Capitol. “We produced several outstanding writers,” Lee says. “We knew we were making an impact when area dailies began hiring our African American writers.”

To continue to build those ranks, The Observer Education Foundation has created its own public policy journalism school. The Observer also hosts the annual Black Expo, which draws more than 50,000 people.

Today the Observer is considered an essential stop on the campaign trail for most major candidates. The paper’s hallways are filled with photos of political leaders and other celebrities—ranging from governors to musicians to athletes—who have come through Sacramento over the years.

Cristina Mendonsa

Anchor, News 10

For any student, or parent for that matter, who thinks college should be completed in four years, Cristina Mendonsa (’94??, Journalism) has some news for you.

“It took me a long time to get through,” Mendonsa say

“I didn’t do the four-year plan, I did the eight-year plan.”

Mendonsa is one of Sacramento’s most successful television broadcast journalists. What you see on the air on News10 at 5, 6 and 11 p.m., and at News10.net, is what you get. And what does it take to be successful in the television news business?

“A sense of humor helps,” Mendonsa says. “You can’t be a linear thinker in a newsroom. There’s too much going on. It’s never boring.”

The newsroom this Super Tuesday evening is noisy. Police scanners are incessantly beeping and there are always telephones screaming for attention.

But Mendonsa remains calm in the midst of chaotic breaking news and on-air studio madness.

Mendonsa spent eight years attending classes at the Sac State while working full time in any media job she could get. It was the only way to break into the competitive television news business, Mendonsa says.

“It was exciting. I was working in the business as a radio reporter while I was going to Sac State,” Mendonsa says. “I had (the late mayor) Joe Serna as one of my professors, so I would take notes at his lectures in the day time and in the afternoon I’d interview him on some city government issue, so it was kind of funny.”

Why take the long, difficult road to her government-journalism degree?

“No money,” she says with a laugh. “I was poor and had to work my way through college. I had a love of journalism in high school, but my exposure to professors at Sac State—who had a real-life role to play in the political world—really sparked my passion for politics,” Mendonsa says. “It’s great to be in the city of Sacramento where you have that laboratory we call the Capitol. It’s a great place to study while learning journalism skills.”

Mendonsa has won numerous professional awards, including two Emmys: one in the “serious news feature” reporting category for her work on identity theft, and another in the “breaking news” category.

Before joining News10 in 1995, Mendonsa anchored the number one-rated morning news program for KUSA-TV in Denver. It was also where Mendonsa found her breakthrough job and her future husband. She also began a life without textbooks and grades.

“I actually finished my course work in Denver,” Mendonsa says. “I graduated in absentia from Sac State.”

In 1994, Mendonsa happily made the transition from student to proud alum. Mendonsa praises University staff and faculty for helping her achieve her educational goal.

“They really helped make it work for me,” Mendonsa says. “I would drive home and see my counselor, discuss the course work I was doing in Denver and they would have the department heads approve the classes.”

Kitty O’Neal

Radio host, NewsTalk 1530 KFBK

Broadcaster Kitty O’Neal (’79, Communication Studies) is known for covering the flashy side of news—the Red Carpet at the Academy Awards, “American Idol” and even a Presidential inauguration. But it is the serious news on crime, flooding and power outages that O’Neal holds most dear.

“That’s when I feel like people are really depending on us,” O’Neal says. “That’s when I really want to get it right.”

O’Neal’s vocal command of news copy has made her a mainstay at NewsTalk 1530 KFBK for 24 years, 16 as afternoon news anchor. Not a small feat in an industry that often replaces broadcasters faster than today’s headlines.

Her longevity, she attributes, is due to her genuine persona.      “I try to be the same person on the air that I am off the air,” she says, although admitting to picking up the pace a bit. “What you hear is what you get in real life. I just talk. I don’t do a radio voice.”

O’Neal started her KFBK career as a temporary employee in 1984. “My very, very first big mistake was 20 years ago when I said ‘Nicauwagwan Webels,’” O’Neal laughs. Since then, the increasing speed of news and a broader interest in international stories has provided her with ample tongue twisters.

But her listeners would scarcely know it. Without a missing a clever intonation in a 60-second spot, O’Neal can report on the recent San Francisco Zoo’s tiger attack, the Governor’s proposed budget cuts in education and the latest tawdry Hollywood scandal, all sandwiched between lead-ins to weather and traffic.

O’Neal was hired permanently by the station in 1985, broadcasting live morning news features and producing “The Rush Limbaugh Show.” She then worked seven years as the news director for FM station KGBY Y-92, still working part time on KFBK’s morning show and as an entertainment reporter for then-KOVR Channel 13. At KFBK, she also added entertainment reports and movie reviews to her cachet.

These days, she voices her daily on-air celebrity column, dubbed “Kitty’s Litter.” O’Neal has also taken on a new direction, conducting more on-air interviews with callers and guests along with her co-host, former Sacramento Bee columnist and Sac State alum R.E. Graswich.

O’Neal is a yearly fixture in Sacramento Magazine’s “Best Of” issue, which regularly names her Best Afternoon Radio Personality. Countless awards line her office walls, among them the Sac State Distinguished Service Award she received in 2002.

O’Neal has met just about every Hollywood celebrity while covering the Oscars each year. Among the nicest she says were actors Linda Hamilton, Will Smith and Patrick Swayze. “I felt like I could have asked Patrick Swayze over for coffee,” she says. “He talked to me like I was his neighbor.”

Overall, the broadcaster says she is grateful for being entrusted to deliver the news. “To have access to a microphone and speak to thousands of people daily is an immense privilege and one I never take lightly or for granted,” she says.

Dann Shively

Live Copter 3 Reporter, KCRA 3 News

Hurry up and wait. Dann Shively (70, Speech) did a lot of that in the Marine Corps, and since breaking news doesn’t happen every minute of the day, that motto sometimes rings true for him as a helicopter reporter for KCRA 3.

“The life of a helicopter reporter is not as glamorous as it might seem. Some days are very slow,” he says. “Sometimes there’s a lot of waiting around in the hangar.”

Shively has had a fixed-wing pilot’s license since 1971 and a helicopter license since 1976, but his true passion is broadcasting. “My first job was at a radio station in Vallejo when I was 12,” he says. “I swept the floors, took out the trash, mowed the lawn and did all the odd jobs just so I could be around radio.”

Shively was a Sac State student in the late 60s. “Back in those days there was no communication studies major. You had speech with five areas of concentration: teaching, therapy, public address, theater and broadcasting.”

He was a few credits short of graduating when he was drafted into the Marine Corps at the height of the Vietnam War. “I was enlisted for two years, but it was a good experience,” he says.

It probably helped that he was assigned to the public affairs office in Okinawa, Japan and that on weekends, he was allowed to deejay on the American Forces Radio and Television Service network at Kadena Air Base, Japan—a 20-minute motorcycle ride away.

During his overseas tour, he continued working on his degree through correspondence and graduated from Sac State in 1970. “I really liked being at Sac State. Of course, the student radio station was nothing like it is today. It was a little 10-watt station that could only transmit about a mile from campus. But, we got to do everything from production to performance and it really prepared me for the real world.”

Courtney Dempsey and Tina Macuha

Feature reporter and Traffic reporter, “Good Day Sacramento”

It’s 5 a.m. You’ve just stumbled out of bed, turned on the television, and here are all these perky people doing crazy stunts, live interviews with off-beat subjects, throwing things at one another, and generally having a terrific time.

Is it as much fun to work at CW Channel 31’s “Good Day Sacramento” as it is to watch?

“We have so many laughs,” says Tina Macuha (’85, Communication Studies/ Geography). Courtney Dempsey (’97, Communication Studies) says management allows them to have real on-air relationships with one-another, which gets the viewers involved with the “Good Day” family. “And that’s why they feel like they’ve known us for so long.”

The on-air camaraderie extends behind the scenes as well. “That is a show in itself,” Macuha says. “We have so much fun during the commercial breaks.”

Macuha is a Sacramento native who dabbled with a handful of majors at Sac State before trying communications. “And it fit,” she says. “Everything fit. Everything fell into line.” Even then, she was preparing for the “Good Day” style of television. One of her professors was startled to walk into class one day to find the students all dancing while Macuha stood on the counter, lip-synching Madonna’s “Like a Virgin.”

Dempsey is from Vallejo and came to Sac State because she wanted to attend school away from home, but her parents didn’t want her too far away. She considered being a writer at one point, but then took a couple of communication classes. “I just fell in love with it,” she says.

If there’s any drawback, it’s getting up at 3 a.m. But Macuha says there seems to be a computer chip inside you that puts your mouth on autopilot. “And the chip says, ‘Be perky, be upbeat, talk. Turn it on.’”

The two have stayed in Sacramento because it’s home, where they want to raise their families. And Dempsey also credits having a great cast of co-workers. “This is an amazing group of people to work with. If I didn’t like them so much, I probably would have tried to work somewhere else.”

Sam Amick

Sports Reporter, The Sacramento Bee

Little did sportswriter Sam Amick (’00, Journalism) know that when he took on the Sacramento Kings beat in 2005 that he would become such an authority on coaching strategy—the strategy behind picking them that is.

“My relatively short tenure on the beat has made me an unofficial expert on covering coaches searches,” says The Sacramento Bee reporter. Soon after Amick came on board, Kings team management declined to re-sign Rick Adelman, hired Eric Musselman, fired Musselman after only one year, then brought in current coach Reggie Theus.

Amick found himself traveling back and forth to owners Joe and Gavin Maloof’s Palms Casino in Las Vegas “pulling every trick in the book” to try to find out the names of the Kings’ coaching candidates.

“There have definitely been times when Vegas felt like my home away from home,” he says. “I remember taking one flight from Sacto to Vegas where I wound up sitting next to the candidate I was heading out to cover.”

Amick got his reporting feet wet lakeside, as a student covering Sac State’s women’s rowing team for The State Hornet.

“Looking back on it, I got a kick out of something I didn’t know would be so much fun,” says Amick, recalling how the coach had to walk him through the day’s competition. “That was a real positive first experience—to try to take something not a lot of people know about and make it interesting.”

After graduating he wrote as an intern for The Stockton Record. He later joined the Bee’s regional section Neighbors before being hired onto the sports page.     

He now reports courtside covering the Kings at home and away. Fans can spot him close to the action, filing his game story by 11 p.m. “I try to stay on top of it all before a game starts,” he says. “To see who’s mad they aren’t getting the ball enough…”

Although he picks up a lot of frequent flyer miles, such as on a recent five-day trek following the team to Los Angeles, Salt Lake City and Seattle, Amick is grateful to still be in Sacramento. “I feel lucky to get this kind of a job in the town where I started,” he says.

Jahn Kloss

Cartoonist, Sacramento News and Review

When the Sacramento News and Review started up in 1989, one of those vying for a job was a former State Hornet staff member, Jahn Kloss (’81, Government/Journalism). Almost 20 years later, Kloss is still producing political drawings for the weekly, and teaching sociology and art for the Los Rios Community College District campuses.

A native of Erie, Pa., Kloss’ infatuation with California politics began immediately after he got off the Greyhound in Sacramento. Drawn by the view of the Capitol dome, Kloss walked up the street and found himself in a United Farm Workers rally, literally rubbing elbows with UFW President Caesar Chavez.

At Sac State, Kloss worked for the student newspaper, writing and drawing. “I began to notice my drawing was able to get to the point a little more quickly than my writing could.” After graduating he landed a spot in the University’s Capitol Fellows program and then completed a master’s degree in social philosophy at the University of Sussex in Brighton, England.

Kloss has always been a political and social activist and has drawn pieces for a number of organizations from environmental to educational causes.

His artistic achievements extend beyond political cartooning. He’s also a sculptor, and his paintings can be found at various spots around Sacramento.

He could have moved on to a larger stage, and did for a time, drawing a nationally syndicated Sunday comic strip called Wee Do Puzzles. But he likes Sacramento and sees it as a small version of Washington, D.C., with its political vibe, government offices and lobbying groups. “I like hanging around people who think politically and who are activists.”

And he’s quick to credit his professors—in art, journalism and social theory—for setting him on this path. “I feel like I have those people sort of watching over me. I never feel quite alone when I’m at my drawing table.”

Kristina Werner

Meterologist, Fox 40 News

There’s an old saying, “Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.” Kristina Werner (’97 Communication Studies), can’t do anything about the weather, but she can talk about it, probably better than most.

As a Fox 40 News meteorologist, Werner is responsible for forecasting the Sacramento Region’s sometimes unpredictable weather. “Weather reporting has a stigma, so you want to be as accurate as possible,” she says.

Werner is usually pretty close in her reporting and she’s not afraid to admit when her forecast is wrong. She has an on-air report card she shares with viewers to track how accurate her forecast was.

“I wouldn’t do that if I wasn’t confident,” she says laughing.

Werner attended American River College after high school and began classes at Sac State in 1995. Like many students, she wasn’t sure of her career path when she began, but found her way when one of her instructors noticed her writing skills.

“(Communication Studies) Professor Chevelle Newsome inspired me to continue to write,” Werner says. “I wasn’t sure if it would be print, broadcasting or speech, but it would involve writing.”

After graduation, Werner began looking for a job as a general news reporter. She says she “fell into the weather” when Channel 31 advertised for a weather intern.

“The station management was looking for someone with a little computer experience to help with weather, and I fell in love with it.”

She spent a few years at a station in Chico but returned to Sacramento in 2000 and moved to Fox 40 taking on general reporting assignments and the weekend weather. She became the station’s full-time meteorologist in 2006.

For Werner, reporting the weather is “one of the coolest jobs there is” mostly because she get to tell people what she has been working on all day.

“I feel like I’m having a conversation with the viewers,” she says.

Back to top.

Sports update

The fall sports season at Sac State saw another Big Sky championship for the Hornet volleyball team, which advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament . Women’s Soccer won a Big Sky Championship as well and made their first ever trip to the NCAA Finals.

Fall was also the end of an era, with the retirement of Head Volleyball Coach Debby Colberg after a remarkable 32-year career. And three new head coaches made their debuts: Marshall Sperbeck (football) and Scott Abbott (cross country), and David Sutherland (director of men’s and women’s golf).

The spring season brings promise for several programs:

Gymnastics—Having won seven conference titles in the last eight years, the Hornets are seeking a third-straight Western Athletic Conference crown. Led by an experienced class of five seniors and a talented freshmen group, the Hornets will once again be one of the top teams in the west region.

Track and Field—The Hornet men won their first team title in school history at the conference indoor meet last March and finished second during the outdoor season. A wealth of experience and a spectacular group of recruits have the women loaded for competition. Both teams will have the advantage of trying to win the Big Sky title at home when Sac State hosts the conference meet at Hornet Stadium in May.

Women’s Golf—Last season, Sac State tied the Big Sky Conference record for best team score at the championships, finishing the three-round event at 26-strokes under par. The team will host the NCAA regionals at Lincoln Hills Golf Course in May.

Men’s Golf—One year after winning the Western Independent Championship, the Hornet men moved into the America Sky Conference and produced a second-place finish during the fall season. With four tournaments under its belt, they are slated to play in five events during the spring season.

Women’s Tennis—No spring sport at Sac State has been as dominant as women’s tennis over the last six years. The Hornets have won the Big Sky title each season and advanced to the NCAA Championships each of those years. They enter the 2008 season having won 42 consecutive conference matches.

Men’s Tennis—After a three-year drought, the Hornet men won their sixth Big Sky title in the last 10 years with a win over Eastern Washington last May. With two first team all-Big Sky selections returning, Sac State will likely be the favorite to win the title once again.

Baseball—The team returns 16 players from a team that made the WAC Tournament for the second straight season since re-joining the conference. Head coach John Smith returns for his 30th season one of just two coaches—Debby Colberg is the other—in Sac State history to reach the 800-win plateau.

Softball—Sac State, which has posted at least 30 victories in four of the last five seasons, returns 13 players from last year’s team. As she begins her 16th season with the Hornets, head coach Kathy Strahan will field a lineup that is stacked with returning all-conference selections.

Rowing—Fresh off its second consecutive Western Intercollegiate Rowing Association team championship, rowing returns 29 student-athletes from last season’s title-winning squad. Sixth-year head coach Mike Connors, the 2006 WIRA Coach of the Year, will try to lead the team to its fifth conference crown in the last nine years.

Back to top.

 Legacy Circle: Colette & Jerry Coleman

Colette and Jerry Coleman

As the first person in her family to go to college, Colette Coleman felt a special bond with her speech pathology students who were also first-generation. After retiring from Sac State, the former professor and her husband, Jerry, established a scholarship to help make it easier for those students to achieve their dreams.

The Colemans have contributed to Sac State’s general scholarship fund over the years but after a windfall from the sale of a piece of art, they decided to set up an endowment for two scholarships for students in Speech Pathology and Audiology. The scholarships are named for their parents: Uelva and Verion LaVanture, and Clara and Robert Coleman.

“I was always impressed at graduation at how many students were the first in their family to graduate.” says Colette. “I was the first in my family to finish college so I have an affinity for those that are struggling because they may be having a hard time or the family may not understand why it is important for the student to go to school.”

Though she and her husband earned degrees elsewhere—Colette at University of Washington and both Colette and Jerry at the University of Denver—Colette says her closest ties are to Sac State “We’re impressed with the caliber of students. They are so dedicated and hard-working.”

The Colemans are also members of the Legacy Circle, having included the University in their estate plans.

Colette taught at Sac State for __ years, after being hired by Mary Jane Rees, for whom the Mary Jane Rees Language, Speech and Hearing Center is named. “I didn’t plan to stay but did because Mary Jane Rees was such a good leader,” she says.

“What I liked was that if there were disagreements within in the department, it wasn’t because of ego. It was never about ‘me.’ Everyone really had the best interests of the students and the program at heart.”

During her tenure, Colette served as department chair, worked in the clinic, did research and ran the Assistive Device Center. When she eventually retired, she had had sold her home, planning to move to Hawaii. Instead when a faculty member got sick, Coleman again stuck around to fill in for her colleague while living in a motel close to campus.

The dream of an island lifestyle eventually came true. For the last five years, the Colemans have been splitting their time between Ashland, Ore. and Honolulu, where Colette teaches part-time in the speech pathology department at the University of Hawai’i.

And she says she still draws life from being around her students. “When I get bored, they energize me.”

Back to top.

Alumni Profile: Julie Anne Miller, ‘06

Clef dweller

How do you get to Carnegie Hall? In addition to practice, it also helps to have a degree from Sac State. Just ask Julie Anne Miller (’06, Music), who credits the University’s nurturing instructors for guiding her to a career in music that recently resulted in a performance at the famed music venue.

Miller focused on both violin and voice at Sac State, and it’s her voice that has drawn all the attention lately. She performed in April at Carnegie through New York state’s Bard College Conservatory of Music as part of the Osvaldo Golijov/Dawn Upshaw Workshop for Singers and Composers.

The annual event isn’t your standard line-up of opera arias or other classical arrangements. Miller and another singer, Maghan Stewart, performed an avant-garde piece by Ryan Carter in which the composer created an alien world complete with its own language. Starting with a warm-up, the piece segued into a vocal “duel” between Miller and Stewart, and included solos for each of them. “It was quite an experience,” Miller says.

Miller was 16 when she began her education at Sac State as a high school student in the Accelerated College Entrance program. When she graduated from Horizon Instructional Systems two years later, she stayed at the University. She refers to the University as the root of her success, giving her the kind of personal attention larger schools and conservatories just don’t offer.

She has high praise for professors such as Robin Fisher and Ian Swensen. “Not only were they teachers, they were mentors as well,” Miller says. “I miss them.” Another inspiration is Sac State choral director Donald Kendrick. “He was so supportive and continues to be supportive of me,” she says.

Miller is making the round of auditions for music companies and will be studying German with an eye on auditioning for some companies in Germany.

She’s presently studying with Patricia Misslin, who has worked with such classical artists as soprano Renée Fleming. And Miller will always remember the encouragement she received from her Sac State instructors. “If they saw you were motivated, they were there for you,” Miller says. “I feel very blessed to have been at Sac State.”

Back to top.

Alumni Profile: JC Tran, ’02

Drawing on experience

Justin Cuong Tran (’02, Business Administration), otherwise known as “JC,” knows when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em when it comes to poker. And his educational—and social—experiences at Sac State played a role in his formative years on his way to becoming a poker champ.

2007 was a particularly good year for Tran. He was named the World Poker Tour’s and All In magazine’s Player of the Year and was rated No. 2 in the world in professional poker rankings.

Tran started playing poker seriously while in college, joining some Sac State buddies in local card rooms. “I was playing a lot of poker but I was able to balance that out with my class work,” says Tran, who was majoring in management information systems.

“I was learning about programming computer ‘languages’ and databases. I had to do a lot of analysis and figure things out on my own. I applied that way of thinking while playing poker,” Tran says, adding that he doesn’t have a “one-size- fits-all” approach to playing poker. “It’s trial and error. I have to make adjustments to my strategy depending on the players I’m up against.”

Tran’s original post-University plans didn’t include professional poker playing. “After graduation, many of my friends who also majored in business administration had problems finding jobs because of the stock market downturn of 2002,” he says.

Faced with the same difficulties, Tran started playing poker full time and made $74,000 his first year out of college. “I don’t think I could have found a job straight out of college making that much, so I kept on playing,” he says. And for the last five years, that’s what he’s done.The days he plays are long—10 to 12 hours on average—but Tran had some experience with drawn-out days before joining the professional poker circuit. “When I was going to college, I would play poker late into the night and get up early to go to class. So I’m used to long days.”

So what lies ahead? Tran is vague when it comes to setting a retirement date for poker-playing, although the extensive traveling—to locations that include Atlantic City, the Bahamas, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Canada— has caused some job burnout.

“I’m going to stick to major buy-ins, at least $10,000 or higher, and mainly on the West Coast,” says the Sacramento resident. “If, eventually, poker doesn’t work out, I can always get a job. I have a degree from Sac State in MIS, after all.”

Back to top.

Class Notes


Noreen (Herbert) Rademacher, ’49, MEMBER B.A., Education, signed the charter of the Alumni Association when it was founded in 1950. She was also one of the first yell-leaders of the new Sacramento State College when it was housed at Sacramento Junior College. Retired from a teaching career, Rademacher is chair of two committees in AAUW, vice president of her homeowners association and an instructor in the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary. Her hobbies include playing bridge and gardening. A major life event was cruising her own 38-foot trawler down the California coast to Central America and through the Panama Canal up to Florida. This little cruise lasted four and a half years. She resides in Carmichael.   


Max F. Miller, ’52, B.A., Social Science, ’67, M.A. Physical Education, retired this winter after nearly 50 years as an educator, coach and mentor. He had been one of the most successful football coaches in Northern California, guiding winning teams at three area high schools—Rio Americano, Hiram Johnson and Cordova—and did a one-year stint at Sacramento City College where he took them to a bowl game. Miller was also chosen to coach teams in the annual Pig Bowl (now Guns & Hoses). He has had two tours over the years at Cordova, leading storied players and championship teams. Miller and his wife, Sally raised three sons and have six grandchildren. The Millers live in Gold River.


Jim Henley, ’69, B.A., History, has retired as Sacramento’s longtime city historian and manager of Sacramento Archives and Museum Collection Center. He also managed the historic city cemetery at 10th and Broadway. As a young man, he helped guide Old Sacramento from 1960s skid row to the well-known and authentic historic district it is today. Besides his role in the restoration and reconstruction of Old Sacramento, Henley helped establish the Sacramento History Center (now the Discovery Museum’s Gold Rush History Center) where artifacts from the city archives are displayed. Henley’s retirement comes after preserving and protecting Sacramento’s history for 40 years.

Rudolf Hommes, ’69, B.S., Industrial Management, ’70, M.B.A., has become an investment banker and columnist in Bogota, Colombia. Formerly he was a partner and managing director of Violy Byorum & Partners in New York City. Before leaving for Bogota, he resided in Washington, D.C. He would like to hear from fellow students, friends and colleagues at Sac State. He can be reached at Rudolf.hommes@capitaladvisorypartners.com

Joseph Michael Munizich, ’69, B.A., History, ’78, M.A., Special Education, has retired from San Juan Unified School District after teaching 31 years in special education and history in elementary through high school. He recently finished writing the history of his Yugoslavian grandmother who immigrated to Sacramento in 1906. Munizich wrote the History of the Governor’s Mansion that is on the corner of 16th and H streets and he is now in the process of writing about growing up in the ‘50s and ‘60s. Munizich writes, “I’ve returned to Sac State as an alumni supporter of Head Football Coach Marshall Sperbeck and I urge all alumni to get on the bandwagon and join Sperbeck’s quest for great football at Sac State.” Munizich and his wife, Timi, live in El Dorado Hills, Calif.

Pamela Pecarich, ’69, B.S., Business Administration (Accountancy), is the 2007 recipient of the Arthur J. Dixon Memorial Award, the highest award given by the accounting profession in the area of taxation. Pecarich received the award at the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants National Conference in Washington, D.C. She is a member of the California Society of CPAs and has devoted her professional career to the area of tax policy at both the federal and state level. Pecarich resides in Ventura, Calif. where she is a partner and director of tax policy for Coopers & Lybrand LLP. She currently serves as the president of the League of Women Voters in Ventura County.

Marilyn (McNeil) Schaff, ’69, B.A., Spanish and Philosophy, is retired after 42 years of service with the State of California. She served in positions of chief counsel and chief of driver safety for the Department of Motor Vehicles. Schaff lives in Fair Oaks.


Don Dillon, ’71, B.A., Physical Education, recently retired as head football coach at American River College. But he found a way to still be involved with football by making the rounds of tailgate parties this past fall, especially those at Sac State. His large, outfitted motor home was a gathering place for lots of alums. Dillon’s career consisted of 16 years as Hiram Johnson High’s head coach, three years as the running back coach at University of Hawaii and the last eight years as the head coach at ARC. In 2005, Dillon was named American Community College Football Association Coach of the Year coming off a 10-0 season. Dillon and his wife Marsha reside in Citrus Heights.

Catherine ‘Cay’ Drachnik, ’74, M.A., Art, had her acrylic painting “Margaretta and her Pet Iguana” accepted in the Triton Art Museum’s all-California open competition. The show will run until March 22 at the museum located at 1505 Warburton Ave. in Santa Clara. Drachnik is a prolific artist who lives in Sacramento with her husband, Joseph.

William R. Robinson, ’74, B.A., Social Science, retired from the City of Sacramento and is now living in Fort Bragg. Robinson didn’t enroll in college until he was in his 40s, and that was after being encouraged by the late Wilson Riles, who at the time was state superintendent of schools. It was that chance encounter on the Bing Maloney Golf Course that changed Robinson’s life. After graduating from Sacramento City College with honors in 15 months, he entered Sac State where he earned his B.A in two years and after another year received his master’s degree. All while working fulltime. Robinson and his wife, Rachel, love living on the north coast and would like to hear from his fellow classmates.

Michael Arredondo, ’75, B.A., Social Studies and Teaching Credential, is the new principal at San Lorenzo Valley High School, a 950-student campus in Santa Cruz County. A Sunnyvale native, Arredondo is in his 29th year in education. He started as a teacher in Pomona and after eventually moving into a vice principal job, he received his first principalship in 1994. Arredondo is an active figure on campus, not only as an administrator but as an actor. Last year he performed in three school productions. He’s an avid San Francisco Giants fan and has every type of their memorabilia on his office walls. Arredondo and his wife Susan, live in Ben Lomond, Calif.

Michael Robert Wiley, ’75, B.A., History – Social Science, has become the interim general manager of the Sacramento Regional Transit District. He was named when another Sac State alum, Beverly Short, left the position to run Atlanta’s transit authority. He is also chief executive officer and has served 30 years with the District. In his senior year at Sac State, Wiley was an intern working in transportation planning with what is now SACOG, the Sacramento Area Council of Governments. He was hired by the organization, stayed for a few years, and then was hired by Regional Transit. Wiley and his wife, Sheri, have two grown daughters and make the Natomas area their home.

Edward S. Chalpin, ’77, B.S., Mechanical Engineering, is the senior program manager and aerospace engineer at the Federal Aviation Administration headquartered in Washington D.C. Chalpin is in charge of aircraft regulations and design approval. In addition to being an avid hiker, traveler and photographer, his hobbies include art, music, drawing and sketching. Another passion is scrimshaw artistry. Chalpin makes his home in the nation’s capital.

John G. Couch, ’77, B.S., Criminal Justice, has been the Atascadero chief of police and retired Dec. 28 after 17 years with the department. He began his career with the Santa Clara Police Department and then joined the Atascadero force in 1990. In his first year he was promoted to sergeant, became a lieutenant in 1998 and then was named chief in 2004. After a 30-year career in law enforcement, Couch says that he has mixed emotions about his retirement, but plans to continue staying active in the community. He and his wife live in Templeton, Calif.

David M. Roth, ’79, M.A., Communication Studies, is currently a contributing editor to Artweek and a reviewer for Art Ltd. Images from his current “Moon Jelly” series of photographs were recently on view at the Center of Contemporary Art in Sacramento and in the Center for Fine Art Photography in Ft. Collins Colo. A co-founder of Capitol Public Radio, Roth launched his journalism career at the San Francisco Business Journal and later moved to New York where he worked as an editor for Venture magazine and wrote for many publications. A Sacramento resident since 1992, he served as senior editor of the Sacramento News & Review, director of public relations at Medic Alert and communications specialist for the California State Employees Association. He lives with his partner, painter and Sac State Professor Emeritus Joan Moment.


Jeffrey R. Akens, ‘83, B.S., Business Administration, has been named president of Western Career College. He will lead the eight-campus, Northern California private college system. Akens joined the college in 1993 as a career services coordinator. Most recently, he oversaw expansion of the college’s Central Valley campuses and was responsible for initiating many schoolwide projects. He lives in Citrus Height.

John Francis Cummins, ’83, M.S. and M.B.A., Business Administration, was married to Norma Florentino Esperida on Oct. 13, 2007. The wedding was held at St. Monica Church in Santa Monica, Calif. A reception followed at the Le Merigot Hotel. Cummins is a claims adjuster for the State Compensation Insurance Fund. His bride attended St. Mary’s College and the University of Philippines and is eligibility section chief in the office of admissions for the State Bar of California. After a honeymoon in Italy, they are at home in Santa Monica.

Ashur J. Yoseph, ’83, MEMBER B.S., Mechanical Engineering Technology, was recently profiled in the San Francisco Chronicle about his life in America after fleeing Iraq. Yoseph is a prominent San Francisco mechanical engineer manager, who helps oversee the city's revitalization of Mission Bay and Hunter's Point. Yoseph, his wife and family, live in Concord. 

Vicki Armstrong Grenz, ’84, MEMBER B.S., Special Major, ’84, Communication Studies, has been hired by HDR/The Hoyt Co. as a community relations project manager. She will manage citizen involvement in a number of private development projects. Grenz will also manage the design of a proposed streetcar that will run between downtown Sacramento and West Sacramento. Grenz’ husband, Jeff, is also an alum of Sac State, earning a B.S. in Marketing in ’81 and his MBA in ’86. They reside in Sacramento.

Rick Braziel, ’85, MEMBER B.S., and ’93, M.A., Communication Studies, was going to be an engineer until he went on a ride-along with his police officer father. Braziel joined the police department in 1979 and that started his 29-year career in law enforcement. In 2002 he was named deputy chief of the Sacramento Police Department and in December, Braziel became chief when Albert Najéra, another Sacramento State alum, retired. Aside from his duties, Braziel finds time to compete in marathons and triathlons. He is also co-author of a book on community policing. Braziel and his wife, Karen, have five children between them and live in Rancho Cordova.

James Goldstene, ’86, B.A., and ’89, M.A., Government, has been appointed the executive officer of the California Air Resources Board. After decades of state experience at numerous agencies, Goldstene is responsible for the agency’s day-to-day operation, including directing the staff to carry out board policy, assisting its members and overseeing preparation of technical material for board consideration. Goldstene also reviews legislative proposals and represents the board before other governmental agencies, public and private organizations and the Legislature. The board is recognized as a national leader in pollution control and has an annual budget of more than $750 million and more than 1,200 employees. Goldstene lives in Granite Bay.

Michael Blair, ’87, B.S., Criminal Justice, after surpassing 28 other applicants for the position, has been selected as the new chief of police of Roseville. He succeeds Joel Neves, another Sacramento State alum, who retired last fall. Before attending Sac State, Blair graduated from Oakmont High School where he played football and was on the track team. In his spare time, he enjoys hunting and fishing. Blair, his wife Deneen, and their teenage daughter and son, live in Roseville.

David Kwong, ’89, B.S., Business Administration (Real Estate and Land-use Affairs), is the planning manager for the city of Sacramento. His goal is “to make Sacramento the most livable city in the United States.” As manager, he acts as the planning director for projects that are going through the process to get entitled, such as annexations, residential housing and issues dealing with long-range planning. Kwong became interested in real estate and decided he wanted to work in the public sector but was determined not to be called a bureaucrat. Born in China and raised in Sacramento since he was three, he now lives in Elk Grove with his wife, Mamie, and three children.


Rosemary Clark, ’90, B.S., Civil Engineering, has been named principal engineer and architect at the Sacramento County Sanitation District-1. She has more than 15 years of engineering experience with the county and the Regional Sanitation District. Clark oversees the engineering section which handles new, relief and rehabilitation sewer projects for the district. She is also managing the construction of CSD-1’s new $57 million headquarters building on Bradshaw Road, expected to be completed in 2009.

William ‘Bill’ Mueller, ’90, B.A., Communication Studies and Government, has taken over as CEO of Valley Vision, a local nonprofit group that deals with regional and quality-of-life issues in the greater Sacramento region. Mueller joined the organization in 2005 after five years as Public Affairs Manager at Intel Corp. Valley Vision has a $1.3 million budget and partners with many business, agriculture and environmental groups, as well as organized labor, government, schools and other nonprofit groups. Mueller resides in Roseville.

Steven Shultz, ’90, MEMBER B.A., Government and Journalism, visited Cuba this past spring as part of a research delegation of transportation planners, urban planners and architects. Organized by Global Exchange to study transportation projects in the country, Shultz qualified for the delegation by being a public professional with 15 years of experience in planning and public relations for government transportation agencies. Some of those agencies included the Port of New York and New Jersey, the Port of San Diego and the San Diego International Airport. Shultz makes his home in San Diego where he is deputy director of public and community relations for the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority. He has created a photo and video blog documenting his travels to Cuba (http://cubacalling.blogspot.com).

Michael S. Trainor, ’90, B.A. and ’97, M.A., Organizational Psychology, circulation director at the Business Journal, has been promoted to advertising director. He will oversee an eight-person department at the weekly newspaper. Trainor is a fourth-generation newspaperman. His great-grandfather and grandfather worked for the San Francisco Chronicle, and his father for the Oakland Tribune. Prior to joining the Business Journal, he was a substitute teacher and then spent eight years with The Sacramento Bee. Trainor lives in Rocklin with his wife and two sons.

Kristie A. Bertolo, ’94, B.S., Finance, has joined Masters Team Mortgage as a mortgage consultant. Bertolo has 13 years of mortgage experience and was with National City Mortgage as a senior consultant before going to Masters. Bertolo lives in Rocklin.

Kari K. Wilson, ’94, M.A., Education, received a highly-competitive opportunity to pursue initial research for her programs of electronic lesson plans from the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. Wilson is the author of a series of lesson plans available for educators, teachers, and school librarians who are looking for ways to help students understand the complex American democratic process and reach national standards for social studies, language arts and visual arts. Her company, FunLessonPlans.com provides visual and hands-on downloadable electronic lessons for teaching today’s diverse student population. Her new product is Picture Books for Big Kids Looks at Core Democratic Values. Wilson has taught for more than 20 years and lives in Grand Rapids, Mich.

David D. Chapman, ’95, B.A., Music, is Modesto Junior College’s director of guitar studies. The Ecudadorian-born Chapman studied guitar and lute at Sac State. After studying flamenco guitar, he toured England, eventually locating in Cologne, Germany as a Fulbright Scholar. After earning a master’s degree in music, he is a candidate for the doctor of music arts program at the University of Texas. He recently performed a solo guitar concert in the Modesto Junior College Music Recital Hall as a benefit for the school’s Guitar Orchestra. Professor Chapman resides in Modesto.

Lynda Wirt Grindstaff, ’95, B.S., Computer Science, has been honored by the National Society of Women Engineers with the 2007 Emerging Leaders Award for demonstrated leadership in sales and marketing. The award recognizes female engineers who have demonstrated outstanding technical excellence as an individual resulting in significant accomplishments. She is currently responsible for leading the strategic planning efforts to define the future strategy, plans and roadmap for an Intel Corp. technology program. Grindstaff has been with Intel for 13 years and holds one patent. An active Society of Women Engineers life member, she lives with her husband and two children in Folsom.

Angelic S. Ruiz, ’95, B.A., Liberal Studies and ’96, Credential, has become the new principal at Schallenberger Elementary School in the San Jose School District. Ruiz’s parents were farm workers and each year after the Central Valley tomato harvest they would move the family to Davis. After eventually making a permanent home there, Ruiz relished her education and a third-grade teacher helped her discover the importance of life-long learning. She went on to be the first in her family to go to college and became a teacher. Later, she moved into administrative work, reviewing student assessments and developing programs. Although she was enjoying being in the forefront of education and new research, she missed the students. She made the transition back into the district as a principal and now lives in San Jose.

Stephen D. Greene, ’96, B.S., Criminal Justice/Forensic Science, has been working at the Multi-National Corps-Iraq Law Enforcement Forensics Laboratory. He worked at Camp Victory located near Baghdad where the lab and its staff supported all U.S. military units as well as Iraqi law enforcement. Greene worked for the U.S. Army and, as a civilian forensic latent print examiner, he processed evidence for the presence of latent prints to identify who had been holding a particular weapon. After living in Georgia, Greene has moved to Virginia and is making Charlottesville his home. His new job with a security company has him back in Iraq.

Brian Rueb, ’96, B.A., Art, has been chosen to have one of his photos featured on the Lassen Volcanic National Park’s 2008 annual pass. The pass is also honored at Whiskeytown National Recreation Area west of Redding. Rueb teaches art and photography at Mountain Lakes High School in the Shasta Lake School District. His photo of Kings Creek Falls was picked from 60 entries. Along with having his photo on 2,000 credit-card-sized passes, Rueb won a gift certificate from the Lassen Association. When he isn’t teaching, Rueb, who lives in Redding, often visits Lassen in search of more photos. “It’s like a little Yellowstone National Park, without the grizzly bears,” Rueb says.


Selene L. Denney, ’05, MEMBER B.A., Spanish, has a successful Spanish tutoring business working out of her home. She tutors all ages and even has one student who is six years old. Denney says she “creates her own hours and loves being the boss.” She lives in Gold River.  

Alanna Sloan, ’06, B.S., Communication Studies, has been hired as an account assistant at Runyon Saltzman & Einhorn Inc. Her office will be in the company’s headquarters at One Capitol Mall. Sloan resides in Carmichael.

Heather N. Avila, ’07, B.A., Education, is now a substitute teacher for the special education class at South Tahoe High School and has been approved to substitute full-time for those classes for the rest of the year. Avila holds a substitute permit and a degree in child development and is working toward her special-education credential through online classes. Since 2003, she has been an instructional aide at the high school from which she graduated, and thoroughly loves her new role in the classroom. Avila resides in South Lake Tahoe.

Ann Ullrich, ’06, B.A., Government, has reinvented herself. After serving four years on the Galt High school board, (she still volunteers at school events), she is now a real estate agent and a past chair of the Galt District Chamber of Commerce. After keeping the books at the family dairy and raising her family, Ullrich returned to college to get her degree. Politically active, she spent 2004 as supervisor of the Republican Party headquarters in Stockton and then obtained her real estate license through an online course. She’s a season ticket holder for the Oakland Raiders and even braved the frigid climate to attend the Raiders December game in Green Bay. Ullrich and her husband Kevin live in Galt where she works for Realty World – Parker & Del Grande.

Jennifer Cole, ’07, MEMBER B.A., Child Development, has been hired as a substitute teacher at the California School for the Deaf in Fremont. Cole also provides after-school tutoring for a deaf student and volunteers for Deaf-Hope, an organization in the Bay Area providing services to battered deaf women and their children. In addition to her career and voluntarism, Cole is planning her wedding this summer, with the reception at the Sac State Alumni Center. 

Andrea Leiva, ’07, B.A., Communication Studies (Public Relations), has been named account coordinator at Perry Communications Group Inc., a public relations firm in Sacramento. Leiva, a former communications assistant at the California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs, works with a range of clients that include the Colon Cancer Alliance and the Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, providing media support on various health, regulatory and legislative issues. Leiva lives in Folsom.

Kristina Nedeoglo, ’07, B.A., Interior Design, has joined Dreyfuss & Blackford Architects in Sacramento as an interior designer. She directs 3D modeling and animation for interior environments and manages the firm’s sample library. Nedeoglo resides in Antelope.

Back to top.