Generation Now

Summer 2007

Class of 2007

Presidents Message
Across Campus
Fostering Success
Smart Growth
Coach's Calling
Allison Williams: Presidents Award Winner
So your kid's going to be a Hornet
Research Notes
Presidnet's Circle: Jack and Chris Higdon
Alumni Profile: Carlos Alazraqui
Alumni Profile: Norma Samra
Class Notes

Presidents Message

Each year, I have the opportunity to interview our top graduates – the Dean’s Award recipients. There is one from each of Sacramento State’s academic colleges, and these conversations have become, for me, one of the highlights of the spring semester.

The students tell me about their challenges and their experiences here at Sacramento State. Many have overcome difficult obstacles on their path to success. They frequently mention professors who inspired them, mentored them and helped keep them on the path toward graduation. This year’s group included an artist who works with rarely used natural pigments, an engineering major who uses her technical skills to help improve society, and a single mother who majored in chemistry and also minored in physics.

After the interviews, I have the difficult task of choosing one student to receive the President’s Medal.

These one-on-one interviews are important to me because they offer a powerful affirmation of the value of public higher education. A college education is vitally important for individuals, as well as for California’s overall prosperity and quality of life.

That is why we should all be concerned when the Public Policy Institute of California warns that we will be facing a serious shortage of skilled workers if we do not start educating more college graduates. Even though we have many successful graduates each year, California as a whole is not getting enough young people through college and it still is not investing nearly enough in higher education.

I wish that many more Californians, as well as their elected leaders, could hear from our graduates, students who have all been successful and are filled with so much hope and promise.

As alumni and friends of Sacramento State, you understand the value of higher education and you can make a real difference. You can be an advocate by asking your legislators to make a stronger commitment to education. You can personally support Sacramento State with your time or resources, and you can encourage young people to seek a college degree (preferably, I would say, at Sacramento State).

There are many more stories waiting to be told by future graduates, and we all have a part to play in making sure that they do, indeed, get told.


Alexander Gonzalez

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Across Campus

Rec Center gets green light

The campus is one step closer to breaking ground on an innovative Recreation and Wellness Center that will combine exercise offerings with a state-of-the-art student health center.

In May, the CSU Board of Trustees gave final approval to the schematic drawings for the $71 million project, paving the way for work to begin in March.

The Recreation and Wellness Center is part of the Spanos Sports Complex at the south end of campus, a multi-phase project for which the University has secured more than $25 million in private support. The center is funded primarily through a student fee approved by students in a 2005 referendum.

The first phase of the Complex, the Broad Athletic Facility, should be completed in the spring, allowing demolition of the field house currently on the site where the Recreation and Wellness Center will be built.

At 150,000 square feet, Sac State’s facility will be the largest recreation-wellness center in the CSU system. It could also be the first campus building to be certified by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System, which recognizes “green” features such as sustainable site development and indoor environmental quality. As designed, the facility is expected to meet criteria for a LEED silver certification.

The center—which is expected to be open in August 2010—will provide a range of recreation options for students including workout facilities with both cardio and weight equipment, a climbing wall, an elevated indoor track, multiple-use athletic courts for intramural sports, and fitness classrooms. There will also be locker rooms, a child care center, meeting rooms, a café, and space for equipment rental and recreational sports offices.

It also will also feature a full-service student wellness center integrated with the recreation center with examination rooms, and facilities for x-ray, nutrition counseling, sports medicine, physical therapy and optometry. Outside, a large quad will connect the center with the University Union and Tahoe Hall.

Cool Course: Sports Broadcasting

Sports Broadcasting: “Play by Play,” College of Continuing Education: Television and radio sportscaster Mark Dempsky leads aspiring sportscasters through a six-week course that combines lectures on the nuts and bolts of calling a game with in-class practice and visits from guest speakers from the local sports broadcasting world. It culminates with an opportunity to call a game from a press box.

Class work: In a sort of United Nations simultaneous translation to the extreme, a tape of a sporting event plays in the front of the room while each student provides his or her own commentary—all at the same time. During the cacophony, Demsky walks the room, listening and offering critiques. But he also encourages each student to use their own style. “I stress for them to be individual, to develop who they are into a play-by-play broadcaster,” he says.

Students say: “This kind of analysis from someone with experience in the industry is invaluable,” says Stu Varner, who is taking Demsky’s course for the second time.

Assignments: Between classes, students are encouraged to “call” as many games as possible. Students leave the tapes with Desmsky to review at the next class.

Touched by Virginia Tech

Just as it did at campuses all over the country, the news of the shootings at Virginia Tech University shook the Sac State community.

In the days following, the campus expressed its sorrow to Virginia Tech students, faculty and staff and families with messages and cards of condolence. A crowd of more than 200 gathered for a moment of silence and a candlelight vigil in the Library Quad.

The Virginia Tech incident also raised the issue of the University’s own emergency procedures. President Alexander Gonzalez and University Police Chief Ken Barnett sent a message to the campus outlining the emergency preparedness efforts the University has put in place, including systems to notify students, faculty and staff in the event of an incident. University Police also offered a list of strategies for campus residents to use to prepare themselves for a crisis.

Steps were taken address the mental health of the campus as well. Free one-on-one counseling was available for both students, and faculty and staff. And the Counseling and Psychological Services Center provided guides to identifying distressed students as well as tips for students in managing stress caused by the event.

Dyslexia links student and professor

As a sixth-grader in Korea, Ki-Tack Lim couldn’t read in his native language, let alone English. Today, he’s a Sac State mechanical engineering major, hoping to start his own school for students with learning disabilities back home.

The catalyst for this turnaround: Sac State special education professor EunMi Cho. The specialist in learning disabilities met Lim’s parents during a trip to Korea to teach special education workshops.

Since then she’s become not only Lim’s guardian, but a surrogate parent, helping to diagnose Ki-Tack with dyslexia and bringing him to the United States. “I feel like his mom now,” Cho says.

When Lim was diagnosed there was no school in Korea that could help him. “In Korean culture, there is a strong focus on education,” Lim says. “But they would never think you could have a learning disability. If you were having trouble, they would say that you should start studying harder.”
Professor Cho researched options for Lim in the states and found a school that specializes in programs for boys with dyslexia. Lim enrolled with a very limited grasp of English, but by the time he graduated he was invited to give the commencement address.

And, perhaps because of the language issues—learning English as a second language even before he mastered reading Korean—Lim also discovered he is very adept at physics and math. When it came time for him to choose a university, Lim enrolled in Sac State’s engineering program, partly because of Cho.
“This is not a school for students with dyslexia,” Cho says. "But our campus provides excellent services to students with learning disabilities.”
Lim’s support network includes note-takers during lectures, additional time to complete exams and access to a private tutor.

Lim’s parents have been so happy with his progress, they bought land in Korea with hopes to open a school for students with learning disabilities. After finishing his engineering program, Ki-Tack’s dream is to enter the teacher credential program in special education so he can teach at the school.

“I hope the students there can get help the way I did,” he says.

Not your "MTV" spring break

Sometimes, spring break is more about building up than winding down.

During this year’s break, one group of students built an irrigation system in Central America while others were pounding nails for Habitat for Humanity in Sacramento.

The Sac State chapter of “Engineers Without Borders” spent their holiday in Panama on a project to provide irrigation water to the village of Guabas Arribas in the Anton district of the Cocle Province, west of the Panama Canal. They are evaluating a pump design that utilizes solar power and additional trips to implement and assess the completed project will follow.

Nineteen students participating in the inaugural Alternative Break, an campus-led effort to increase community engagement. This year, students helped Habitat for Humanity construct affordable housing for qualifying families.

Students had the option of volunteering one, two or three days of their break. They worked at seven different sites cleaning up lots prior to families moving in, digging foundations and helping to organize ReStore, a clearinghouse for donated housing items.

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Spring enrollment

This past semester saw a record-breaking number of students enrolled at Sac State for a spring semester. A total of 27,314 students were enrolled, up nearly 600 from the prior spring. The University has been working to meet its enrollment targets after a number of years falling below growth projections. Increases were seen in almost all ethnic minority categories, including a 7.3 percent increase in African American students and a 7.6 percent increase in Native American students.

New on-campus apartments

Sac State is building new apartment-style on-campus housing for 600 students, boosting the overall number of students living on campus to more than 1,700. The 185,000 square-foot facility, to be built on the former site of Foley Hall, will offer a variety of five-bedroom, single occupancy and two-bedroom, double occupancy suites, each with its own bath, living and food prep areas. Students should be able to move in by fall 2009. 

Evening career services

Help for job-hunters is now available at night. The Evening Community Career Services Program is keeping the doors of the Career Center open on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. A one-time fee of $75 entitles clients to a semester of sessions on life transitions, goal-setting, skills assessment, resumé writing, and interviewing, with a master's-level career counseling student. Details: 278-6231.

Alumni support for faculty development

Efforts to improve professional development opportunities for faculty are getting a boost from the University’s Annual Fund program. The fund solicits contributions from alumni and other friends of the University though phonathon, direct mail and other campaigns. The majority of the proceeds from the fund are now being allocated for faculty development. The Annual Fund is expected to exceed its $300,000 goal for the 2006-07 fiscal year.

Library’s treasure troves

The University Library was the recipient of two huge collections of historic and cultural significance this spring. A gift from the Refugee Educators’ Network provided more than 6,000 items including books, journals, films, clothing and other memorabilia from the Armenian, Cambodian, Chinese, Hmong, Karen, Korean, Lahu, Lao, Mien, Russian, Thai, Ukrainian and Vietnamese cultures. And an agreement with the City of Sacramento brought more than 1,100 symphonic scores and musical works from the former Sacramento Symphony to campus, where they will be made available for research and as a resource for performing organizations throughout the Region.

‘Legal’ new word in downloads

Sac State students wanting to stock their MP3 players no longer have to fear wrath from the recording industry. The University now provides “Ruckus,” a free legal music subscription service that allows students to download an unlimited number of songs to Microsoft Windows computers and, for a fee, transfer music to a compatible portable player. After graduation, students can maintain their Ruckus membership as alumni.

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Fostering Sucess

Guardian Scholars provides helping hand for former foster youth

Disconnected. That’s how Kalil Kamara felt when he walked onto the Sac State campus. After bouncing around 10 different foster homes, Kamara started college completely on his own. “I didn’t have anybody to look over my shoulder,” Kamara says. “I had to guide myself.”

That isolated feeling didn’t last for long—he found support in the Educational Opportunity Program and McNair Scholars. And now there’s a new campus program designed specifically for former foster youth.

Guardian Scholars offers a safety net for students who’ve been left to fend for themselves in other aspects of their lives. It provides guidance in navigating the system as well as mentoring opportunities. “We want to be a ‘non-institution’ for them, to make the campus more welcoming and accessible,” says Joy Salvetti Wolfe, Guardian Scholars program director. “There’s no line they have to stand in. We’re a one-stop shop.”

“If I would have had Guardian Scholars as a freshmen, I probably would have felt more at home,” Kamara says. “It’s a secondary family if you need support. The people are very helpful, like a family would be.”

Sac State’s program differs from programs for foster youth at other Universities because it targets current students as well as incoming freshmen. And that’s in part because the program was developed with input from students who were already enrolled. Students like Janay Swain.
As a former foster youth who had been involved in reform efforts, Swain has an insider’s grasp of student needs. “So it’s not what we think would be good for former foster youth, but what is,” she says.

Among their areas of concern: healthcare, housing and financial aid.

Once a foster youth turn 18, he or she is no longer a part of the child welfare system. Or any system. “When I was emancipated, all of a sudden I was responsible for rent, for a car, for car insurance,” Swain says. “I didn’t have a family who could help me out. I didn’t have a place I could stay while I went to school.”

Many students were also not aware they had health services available. And even if they did, they still needed someone to walk them through the process. “We told them these were things that will be taken care of for you,” Salvetti Wolfe says. “All you have to do is go to school. That really appealed to them.”
In addition to providing guidance, the program offers a form of family support. Participants are each paired with mentors, who come from both on and off campus. Mentors and students meet regularly, sometimes weekly, and touch base via e-mail. “The mentor becomes a surrogate friend, brother, sister. They are someone the students can talk to about anything,” Salvetti Wolfe says.

That contact can be vitally important. A check-in phone call to make sure that students had somewhere to go over Winter Break revealed that a student had become homeless. “We were able to discover it because the mentor followed up,” Salvetti Wolfe says. “These are the type of students that if there is a gap, they’ll fall through it.” The student went on to graduate in May.

There are also campus mixers, sponsored by the Casey Foundation, every two months which give students a chance to catch up with each other and their mentors. And to identify and attract potential new students, a Foster Youth Campus Day was held in March for high school and community college students featuring campus tours and talks with current Guardian Scholars.

Salvetti Wolfe says they hope to one day offer scholarships to all Guardian Scholars. An October fashion show sponsored by the Foster Youth Education Fund raised $20,000 for scholarships and another is set for fall. The program also received $12,500 from the Walter S. Johnson Foundation and is seeking additional grant funding.

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Smart Growth

A College Town in the Capital City

A “new” neighborhood is sprouting around the Sac State campus. A University District that could make the University the center of a vibrant, go-to destination for students, campus employees, visitors and area businesses.

The plan

Is it possible to create a “college town” in the middle of a large metropolitan city?

A wide-ranging group of city officials, smart growth advocates, University reps, students, faculty, retailers, developers and public transportation fans thinks so. They are imagining a lively, transit-friendly neighborhood, where people come and go from housing, restaurants, shops and the campus via tram, bus, light rail, bikes and walking. And, even better, one where the heavy traffic congestion that occurs when the University is in session would be mitigated.

The history

Hopes for a “transit village” around the University—an area that is friendly to residents, pedestrians and cyclists, as well as automobile drivers—has been on the minds of city officials for years. But it got a jump start five years ago when the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency, SHRA, declared the area a redevelopment district, allowing the agency and the City to begin to upgrade a section of Sacramento that had seen better days to a neighborhood/University district that takes advantage of its proximity to the 65th Street light-rail station.

And its proximity to Sac State.

“The University is very important to the project,” says City Councilmember Steve Cohn, “not just for students and university employees but for folks who want to live near the University.” Cohn sees the area as a district within the city but connected to the university—a mini-downtown centered around the campus but also SMUD and other employment centers with a mix of uses: housing, retail, offices or a hotel/conference center.

“It’s an amenity for both the university and the surrounding neighborhood,” says Vice Mayor Kevin McCarty, who is also in the master’s program in public policy and administration at Sac State. “Students bring an energy, a life, a vibrancy to an area. Go to any college you see lots of bookstores, coffee houses and restaurants.”

And campus officials see the district as key to efforts to turn Sac State into more of a residential campus. “It’s one of the big steps on the way to transforming the University into a destination campus,” says Phil Garcia, executive director of Governmental and Civic Affairs for the University. “It will open up the campus to the Sacramento community and broader regional community.”

The District is a neighborhood and then some, stretching from the University to the north, west to 65th Street and Elvas Avenue, east to Power Inn Road and all the way to 21st Avenue on the south. It encompasses dozens of city blocks, a freeway, a railroad track, a light-rail line and the largest Regional Transit bus terminal in the area. Its population ebbs and flows by more than 30,000 people during peak University months.

And the neighborhood feels it. “We are one of the larger generators of traffic,” Garcia says. “You can tell when school starts.” The increase in cars on both the Highway 50 and surface streets goes up markedly when the fall semester begins in August.

Despite that influx of traffic, both Cohn and McCarty say the University can feel cut off from the community. Cohn says that when he would talk to people about the University in terms of the 65th Street District, “They would see the levee but they wouldn’t see the campus. It was hard getting people to think about the connection.”

That changed when, with plenty of urging from Cohn, the Hornet Crossing tunnel was put in beneath the Union Pacific Railroad trestle, providing a direct route to the interior of the campus for people coming from the 65th Street bus and light-rail station. “Hornet Crossing opened people’s eyes to how close things really were,” Cohn says.

Some of the transit-friendly components of the District are already in place. Hornet Crossing was put through in time for the 2000 U.S. Track and Field Trials at Hornet Stadium. And for a number of years, a contract with Regional Transit has provided light-rail and bus service for free to enrolled students and at a greatly reduced rate to faculty and staff.

Other steps are in progress, such as new off-campus student housing a five-minute walk from campus and Ramona Village, which will provide housing for campus faculty and staff. Tying it all together will be the Sac State Tram, a bus-tram system that will link the area with light rail and the campus, making frequent loops throughout the District. Of the more than 2,500 faculty, staff and students who responded to a University Enterprises survey in 2004, 53 percent said they would ride light rail to or from campus if there was a convenient street car option.

But a lot still has to happen. The area’s tenants have included light industrial manufacturing. The kind of housing density imagined requires substantial increases in sewage lines, power upgrades and drainage as well as street improvements to make the area easier to negotiate.

The push

In 2003, the Sacramento City Council, which also serves as the governing authority for the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency, established the 65th Street redevelopment area as a funding mechanism, rezoning properties for new uses. Any increase in assessed value is reinvested back into the area, says Chris Pahule, assistant director for community development at SHRA.

Much of the reinvestment is expected to come in the form of infrastructure improvements. The new zoning called for mixed, higher-density residential, office and retail use in an area that had been low-density, but it lacks the backbone infrastructure for that type of development.
Celia Yniguez, SHRA’s redevelopment manager for community development, says, “Infrastructure will make it more pedestrian-friendly and bicycle-friendly. The other challenge is to make sure the water, sewer and drainage are adequate.”

As the area’s previous tenants—warehouses and a youth correctional facility— moved on, new developments such as the shopping and retail project F65 at the corner of 65th Street and Folsom Boulevard, The Verge apartment complex and Upper Eastside Lofts on 65th Street, and a planned urban-look pedestrian-friendly Target department store on 4th Avenue have resulted in new revenues. A bond in 2006 netted an additional $6 million.

Now decisions have to be made on how to spend those revenues. A community advisory group is creating a “road map” for distributing development funds. Having that infrastructure in place is seen as key to drawing businesses and developers to the project. “What we need to do as government is make it more attractive to develop economically and timewise,” Cohn says. “With the redevelopment district, money goes back into the district, rather than to the city or state, toward public infrastructure that allows more intense development to occur.”

Ideas that have been tossed around range from the relatively minor—curbs and gutters on Elvas Avenue—to the grand—“punching” 65th Street through to the campus, creating a new “signature” southern entrance at Hornet Crossing.

The present

Much of the guidance will come in the form of a major 65th Street Station Area study the City of Sacramento launched in May.

The goal is to bring together all the many adopted plans and previous studies to make the area “multi-modal,” says assistant city planner Tara Goddard. “It really has the opportunity to be an interesting destination area for Sacramento and also a place where people live and work,” Goddard says. “But how can we make it work for automobiles, for buses, for people who bike and walk? How do we make it so people are not stuck in their cars in traffic?”

Analysis of the previous studies and public input will take a year and an environmental study a year and a half, but both will go on simultaneously. The results will include a large circulation plan for the area. Funding comes from a grant from the Sacramento Area Council of Governments, SACOG.

Potential changes could include reconfiguring the bus transfer station to make it more pedestrian-friendly, and to better use the land, Goddard says. Or it could call for increasing the grid system with shorter traffic blocks, so a person walking and biking doesn’t have to go three miles to get somewhere that is a quarter of a mile away as the crow flies.

The study will also look at balancing ways to improve conditions for one mode of transit without negatively affecting another. For example, some have called for widening 65th Street to increase automobile flow, but how would that work for pedestrians and cyclists once the street is 20 yards across?

There is also a great deal of interest in what is known as the Station Block, the land around the light-rail and bus station which is owned by several different parties. “It’s a tremendous opportunity to bring really vibrant development,” Pahule says, and future development could go out in concentric circles from there.
This idea of putting housing and retail where people live and work is a tenet of the Sacramento Regional Blueprint for smart growth. And Sac State public policy professor and smart growth researcher Rob Wassmer says it makes sense that the University is playing a major role.

“I’ve always thought that a university should be on the forefront of these social movements,” Wassmer says. “California State University campuses have traditionally been commuter-oriented. That could all change with high gas prices, increased traffic congestion and climate change. The CSU campus of the future is much more likely to have resident students, and even faculty and staff, living on or near campus.

“There is a pioneering environment. Single people, students, people who don’t have children are the urban pioneers that have been known to transform neighborhoods throughout central cities in the United States. That’s exactly what happened with Midtown Sacramento. Such people have already created a cultural and economic resurgence there. The same thing is happening in and around the Folsom and 65th Street Redevelopment Area.”

The campus will play a large part in the housing portion of the smart growth puzzle that is being put together in the District, both as a landlord and as a source of residents.

A faculty and staff housing development, Ramona Village, is being developed on the east side of 65th Street on the site of a former California Youth Authority facility. Though a campus advisory committee is still conferring, plans call for a mix of single-family homes, townhouses and condos, says Matthew Altier, vice president for University Planning and executive director of University Enterprises. The master plan could also include child care, retail and green space.

In a survey of faculty, staff and administrators nearly 70 percent expressed interest in the project, and 75 percent cited its closeness to campus as the reason.
In the more immediate future, this fall about 450 students will move into the brand new Upper Eastside Lofts complex at the corner of Folsom and 65th Streets. The area already has a bustling retail sector with several restaurants on the lower levels—including the requisite coffeehouse—and an office supply store.

Associate Vice President for Campus Life Ed Jones says the Lofts project reflects the new trend in student housing—a developer builds and manages the facility with resident assistants living on site. University Enterprises has a long-term lease on the entire complex.

“A lot of students want to live close to campus but don’t want to live in traditional student housing,” Jones says. “They like freedom but also like to have an affiliation with the University.” Jones adds that living close to campus enhances the college experience. “Spending more time on campus creates more bonds. If you come and go it’s harder to get a sense of community.”

Easy access to light rail—supplemented by the Sac State Tram—is expected to be the big draw, especially now that light rail has been expanded to Folsom on the east end and to the Amtrak station to the west. In addition to reducing traffic congestion, it expands the entertainment, travel and work possibilities and saves students and other residents money on automobile expenses.

“You don’t need a car to live in East Side,” Altier says. “You can take light rail to the Folsom outlets, to movies downtown, all the way to Old Sacramento. We estimate students could save $300 to $600 a month in car payments, gas, insurance.” Options even include the Bay Area courtesy of light rail’s connection with Amtrak Capital Corridor trains.

To assist University District residents and riders of light rail in getting back and forth from campus, a bus-tram combo, the Sac State Tram, will loop through the University with stops at the Upper Eastside Lofts, the 65th Street light-rail station and the University Village. It will resemble a sleek subway car on wheels, but it doesn’t need a special track so it can operate on public roads.

Plans for the University District have been driven by a partnership that includes the City of Sacramento, the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency (a joint city-county authority), Sac State, Regional Transit, SMUD, and area developers including Target Corporation and Ravel-Rassmussen, which developed the F65-Upper Eastside Lofts project. The Sacramento Area Council of Governments, which determines how transportation funds are spent, provided $904,000 and $800,000 grants for the Sac State Tram and $885,000 toward the 65th Street Station Area study. It has also submitted a proposal for $2.3 million in federal funds for the tram proejct.

The future

If you build it, will they come? So far, the housing and retail options are attracting their intended clientele. But whether the transit-friendly effort succeeds will depend in large part on what incentives the area offers to users, Wassmer says. That includes making sure the mass transit options are convenient and reliable.

For people used to relying on their automobiles, it can be inconvenient to take mass transit. “If they ride buses and light rail they need to get some other convenience in return,” he says. “Proximity to campus, restaurants and retail are exactly that.”

Wassmer believes the University should do whatever it can to help the project along, such as keeping the housing it offers affordable. “For truly ‘smart’ growth, it is necessary for this new neighborhood to have a mixed-income and diverse population that is less reliant on autos for transportation. This is precisely what users of the University are very likely to be.”

As a bonus, the restaurants, entertainment and shops these residents will attract will go a long way toward building that college town feeling.
“I think it will be something the University can be proud of, that the community can be proud of,” says McCarty. “As an alumnus and a councilmember representing the area, and someone who lives in the area, that’s what I’m looking for.”

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Coach's Calling

It’s the hallmark of a good coach: Get people to do what you know they are capable of, even if they don’t know they want to do it. Bob Mattos (’65, Physical Education) has turned the techniques he honed as the winningest coach in Sac State history into a new career raising funds for campus projects.

For the last six months, Mattos, who just about everyone addresses as “Coach,” has been calling on friends, former players and members of the community, convincing them that they want to contribute to the University—and specifically to the Broad Athletic Facility—as a part-time fundraising consultant in University Advancement.

His subtle and sometimes not so subtle arm-twisting has already paid off, helping the University’s Development Office on its way to raise $11 million in private support to complete the Broad project.
“I may make 30 or 40 phone calls in a day, and a lot of the people I call know I’m now involved with development,” Mattos says. “So they’ll answer the phone ‘All right, how much do you want?”’

Humor also plays a part. “When I know the person, especially an ex-player, I know how I can talk to them. And, yes, I’ve been known to threaten,” he says, describing one call where he told a former player that if he didn’t write a check he would make him run laps.

Mattos says he’s not looking for the “big-dollar” donor. He more interested in the “four- to six-figure” person. One of the techniques that has paid off was an idea the coach came up with himself. For $500, former players can have a locker in the football team dressing room labeled with the player’s name, uniform number and the years they played for Sac State. Forty of the lockers have already been named.

Donors can also put their names on a donor wall or a memorial bench. And it’s not just one option or another. Mattos hits them up for as many spots as he can. For example, San Jose Sabrecats coach Darren Arbet is on the hook for a locker, and the donor wall and the equipment room.

There are also opportunities to honor others. So many of the donors wanted to recognize Clyde Jones, who served as the Hornets’ equipment manager for 41 years, that the equipment facility will bear his name.

Another group of former players—a few of whom have made their names in the NFL—have combined to name a room in Mattos’ honor. Two-time Super Bowl winner John Gesek and Oakland Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Knapp, along with Steve Campora, decided to show their affection for their former taskmaster with the Robert J. “Coach” Mattos Head Coach’s Office. The idea came from Mattos’ longtime friend and college roommate Gary Quattrin, who also named a room in the facility for Ray Clemons, who coached both Mattos and Quattrin in the 60s.

Mattos’ ties with Sac State and the community run deep. He played on the football team as a student in 1962-63 and later came back to coach the team from 1978 to 1992. He was the first coach to serve on the University’s Faculty Senate. He also helped launch the Stinger Athletic Foundation booster club, received the Distinguished Service Award and the Order of the Hornet from the Alumni Association, and was inducted into Sacramento State Football Hall of Fame and the La Salle Club Hall of Fame, both times as coach, and his high school’s Hall of Fame as a quarterback. Between Sac State jobs he coached the Canadian Football League’s Sacramento Gold Miners and before retiring in 2002 was the athletic director for the Elk Grove Unified School District.

These roles have given him great connections—not only with former players who have gone on to successful careers but businesses that have supported the University over the years. He sees his new position as an opportunity to educate the community and the alumni on the need to help their University. “I’m not doing it for financial gain. I have no aspirations to move up politically,” he says. “I’m doing it to help my alma mater.”

The former coach is intimately aware of the drawbacks in the University’s current athletic facilities. “We need to bring the facilities into the 21st Century. Athletically, we’re never going to be Notre Dame. But there’s no reason we can’t be Boise State or Fresno State.”

And while he works primarily with the athletic side of the campus, he says the funds raised for athletics facilities go hand-in-hand for with support for the rest of the University. “Once donors become active they are likely to contribute elsewhere—to the Library, to the business college. Athletics is one way to get the interest of the community.”

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Allison Williams

Recipient of the 2006-07 President's Awards and Dean's Award for the College of Business Administration

Busy would be an understatement to describe Allison Williams’ college career. In addition to carrying a full credit load each semester and working full time, she was keenly active in community service and campus organizations, all while earning her degree with honors.

The hard work paid off when she was awarded the President’s Medal as the outstanding graduate for 2006-07 at the College of Business Administration commencement on May 26.

The impact of the event wasn’t lost on Williams. “Graduation is a huge moment for me,” she says. “For me it seems like it’s been a long time coming—I’ve been going to school for nine years. Getting a bachelor’s degree will be a huge stepping stone for me.”

Williams has already begun her career as an assurance associate with big-four accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers and credits her involvement with campus activities as a student for helping her land the job. She met her then-future employer through a campus club.

“Sac State hasn’t only been the educational foundation for me but it’s also been the bridge to my career after college,” she says.
As a student Williams held leadership positions, including president, in the accounting honor society Beta Alpha Psi and was CEO for the undergraduate International Collegiate Business Strategy Competition team. The former art major also found her time on campus offered a variety of learning experiences, even the chance to show her artwork in the Student Purchase Awards gallery show.

“I feel like I’ve definitely grown a lot as a person through my time here,” she says. “There’s lots of opportunities for students at school outside of just their major.”

Off-campus, she has volunteered for the last two years with Sutter Memorial Hospital’s pediatrics program, working with children who are ill, undergoing treatment or recovering from surgery. She has also been involved with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, St. John’s Shelter for Women and Children, Habitat for Humanity, Junior Achievement and the American Cancer Society.

In December Williams plans to take the Certified Public Accountant exam and eventually wants to get her M.B.A. In the future—after retirement—she says she may want to be a teacher.

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So your kid's going to be a Hornet

The forms have been filled out, the tuition paid, the books bought. Now it’s time for that child you pushed so hard to get into Sac State, to actually go.
And as he or she leaves the home nest for the Hornet’s nest, they’ll find a whole surrogate family looking out for their needs.

Along with taking the right classes and putting in enough hours at the Library, incoming students face challenges that range from avoiding fast food diets and credit card debt to keeping up on emerging technology. At Sac State, as with other universities around the country, several programs and departments work together to help students stay safe, healthy, happy, financially secure, and in the end, meet their educational requirements.

Many new students worry they will add the seemingly inevitable “Freshmen 15” to their waistlines. Stephanie Ewing, registered dietician for the University’s dining services, says most students actually only gain between three and seven pounds their freshmen year, and that is due to poor portion control.
Ewing maintains a nutritional website with an “Ask the Dietician” feature and a bulletin board in the residence halls. She says the main obstacles to eating healthy on campus can be blamed on harried schedules, distance between classes, social eating, grazing during classes and poor snack choices.

“I tell students, ‘Look at your schedule,’” Ewing says. “Plan your eating times so you know when your meals are. Make room for healthy snacks. And most of all, control your portions.”

But the newest dietary challenge students face is the availability of trendy coffee, sports and alcoholic beverages. “Those are new sources of calories that they really have to watch out for,” she says.

Those drinks don’t only add up in calories but in dollars as well, says Elena Larson, assistant director for university collections and student loans, who oversees the University’s Your Money Matters program. Larson says new technologies have made it easier for students to overspend.

At the money management workshops her department offers, she advises students to refrain from using a credit card to buy everyday items like coffee or lunch, and avoid making frequent debit withdrawals. “We say to them, ‘Think of the last $20 you took out of the ATM. Do you remember how it was spent?’”
To be better aware of where their money goes the program encourages students to track spending and develop a spending plan. They offer presentations to classes and organizations on these steps as well as how to save, student loans, establishing credit and identity protection. Tips can be found at the Your Money Matters website.

It can be expected that last spring’s violence at Virginia Tech University will be on the minds of many parents and students when school starts. University staff and campus police have worked diligently to prepare for all types of emergencies, says Ken Barnett, director and chief of police.

“Students need to establish a personal safety plan, familiarize themselves with available resources and always be vigilant in their surroundings,” Barnett says. “The partnership between students and police is a critical component of maintaining a safe campus environment.”

Barnett’s main concern for incoming students is to make sure they know where to call in an emergency. The quickest way to reach campus police is by dialing 911 from a campus phone—not on a mobile phone. “If students dial 911 from their cell phone they are going to get the California Highway Patrol,” Barnett says. “And then the CHP will have to call us. To make responses quicker, students can program the police department’s number—(916) 278-6851—into their cell phones.” Officers also can be reached immediately at any of the campus’ blue light emergency phones.

Campus police respond primarily to car and property thefts and occasional student disputes. To avoid car and property thefts, Barnett reminds students to avoid leaving items in parked cars and to outfit vehicles with alarm stickers, car alarms or The Club. If a student is involved in an ongoing conflict, Barnett recommends seeking assistance from Psychological Counseling Services and the Student Health Center, in addition to the police.

Barnett also tells students to let someone know where they are going. And he advises parents to respect students’ newfound freedom. “You need to understand that they may not call everyday,” he says. Rather, he says, designate an agreed-upon time and day to touch base with each other.

Flyers featuring a variety of safety tips are available in the Public Safety Building. A list of safety recommendations, as well as crime statistics, can be found at the public safety website. And campus police also give presentations to residence hall students, campus clubs and organizations, and any other group that requests them, on ways to stay safe.

To help students stay healthy, there is the Suzanne A. Snively Student Health Center. “We’re not just here to take care of them when they are sick, but we are promoting a wellness approach,” says Laurie Bisset Grady, director of health education.

The center is available on a drop-in basis to treat acute illnesses and injuries. They also provide services including health education, wellness and health promotion, alcohol awareness and drug prevention programs, HIV testing, sexual health programs, and has laboratory, optometry, pharmacy and x-ray facilities.

Most frequently, students are treated for colds or flus. Severely sick or injured students are immediately referred to an off-campus facility. Most visits are covered by student health fees paid at enrollment, with the exception of medication, and some lab work.

Attending college can be stressful. If students are feeling overwhelmed they can take advantage of free short-term personal therapy at the University’s Psychological Counseling Services. This confidential service is provided for many types of personal issues such as anxiety, depression and relationship concerns.

“We consult with other departments, and we are happy to consult with parents,” says facility director Bert Epstein.
Students needing counseling can visit the drop-in clinics at both the Health Center and its satellite branch in the University Union. In addition counselors are available to discuss prevention issues with student groups.

New technology is influencing residence hall life. Gone are landlines and the popularity of e-mails alerts. In their wake are cell phones, text messaging and MySpace, says Cynthia Cockrill, the director of housing and residential life. But many other things have remained the same, Cockrill says, including students’ personal responsibility to respect those they live with and to monitor their own actions.

“From the moment the students move into the halls there are programs offered based on personal security and the security of others,” Cockrill says. The programs give tried and true advice: Be aware of your surroundings, know and practice the emergency procedures that are posted in rooms and hallways, and when taking night classes walk with a friend and/or use the campus escort service. Above all, Cockrill says, they remind students not to let people into their building that they do not know.

Resident advisors are assigned to every wing and professional residential life coordinators or managers live in each building. They are available to deal with the personality conflicts that can occur when strangers live together but they also look out for their safety. Resident hall staff also work closely with University Police and with community service officers assigned to the halls.

One popular way to transition into on-campus housing is to attend an orientation Frosh Night where students can stay overnight in the residence halls during the summer.

“People walk out of Frosh Night with future best friends, buddies, study partners and roommates,” says Philip Ung, orientation coordinator.
The all-night event—which is also open to students who will not be living on campus— includes food, music, games, movies and other activities centered on a particular theme.

It’s a snapshot of the many social events, clubs and activities students can get involved in on campus. Throughout the year, the University offers events ranging from comedy nights to movie nights and concerts. There are more than 240 clubs on campus and during the first two weeks of each semester, clubs and organizations greet new students in the Library Quad to tell them how they can get more out of campus life.

It can be a challenge to figure out the requirements for completing a degree. According to Kathryn Palmieri, coordinator for freshman programs and advising, students may need to take anywhere from 120 to 140 units to graduate. To help them stay on track academically first-time students are required to fulfill the Freshmen Advising Program. Students attend mandatory orientation, meet with an advisor or peer mentor during their first and second semesters, and are encouraged to develop a long-term plan.

And above all, students should embrace their new environment.

“My number one piece of advice to freshmen and transferring students is to stay open-minded,” Palmieri says. “If you have your mind made up about what college should be, it might not meet your expectations.”

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Research Notes

High-powered prof

Get your motor runnin’. Head out on the . . . Salt Flats.

It was a dream 18 years in the making. Mechanical engineering professor Joseph Harralson and a team of five put their mettle to the metal and set the world record for a two-wheeled vehicle last September. The motorcycle the team built from the ground up clocked in at 350.884 miles per hour, the fastest in the world.

“I was at an automotive engineering seminar in 1988, listening to Dennis Manning, owner of a motorcycle exhaust company named BUB, talk about the motorcycle he helped build that broke the speed record in the 1970s,” Harralson says. “I realized I wanted to break that record.”

And Harrelson had a leg up on most motor enthusiasts. “As a mechanical engineering professor, working on this was part of my scholarly activity,” he says.
He showed Manning some hand-drawn illustrations of the motorcycle engine he wanted to build. But just as they were about to embark on the project, it was time for a reality check.

“This was a multi-million dollar project we were starting, and we were just two guys with big plans and no money,” says Harralson. “Fortunately we had many serendipitous moments.

“When we needed a caster for the pattern parts, Dennis knew someone who would do it for free. When we needed a machinist to refine the rough materials, Dennis happened to run into one. When he explained to the machinist what we were doing, he offered his services for free as well.”
When it was finished, Team BUB took the bike out for a run. And . . . reality check number two. The speed topped out at 300 miles per hour—not nearly quick enough to break any records. A complete redesign was required.

“The motorcycle was too heavy,” says Harralson. So they exchanged the frame’s steel tubes for stronger, lighter carbon fiber.
But there were still aerodynamic issues. “We were stumped on that one,” Harralson says. “Then one day, Dennis was watching salmon swim up a ladder at a fish hatchery. They were amazingly fast, and he was inspired to make the motorcycle the same shape as the fish.”
Sure enough, the new shape did the trick.

On race day, the motorcycle’s speed was measured twice over a one-mile stretch on the Bonneville Salt Flats, averaging 350.884 miles per hour. A new record was born.

And if you think Harralson’s resting on his laurels after his world-record goal was achieved, you’d be wrong. “Our goal now is to get the bike up to 400 miles per hour,” he says.

Danger Signs

It’s become a common belief among many criminologists that animal abuse can lead to the abuse of children and adults. But how is the legal system responding? Criminal justice professor Sue Cote plans to find out.

Cote, an expert on family violence and child abuse, is studying how seriously state and municipal jurisdictions are taking the link between animal cruelty and domestic abuse.

Her findings on current local, state and federal legislative responses to the animal abuse and domestic violence connection will be presented in August at the Society for the Study of Social Problems conference in New York.

Though she is still early in her research, Cote says she has found states are beginning to respond to the potential for unchecked animal abuse to escalate into domestic violence. “For example, Arkansas and Utah are upping the ante on charges of animal cruelty,” she says. Lawmakers in both states are attempting to make animal abuse a felony, not merely a misdemeanor.

Cote is also exploring where domestic violence legislation stands in terms of including animals in its definition of abuse. And she is looking at specific examples of how governments have responded to animal abuse cases that arise in the context of a domestic violence situation. “In other words, does domestic violence legislation also account for animal abuse?” Cote says.

In California, for example, Sen. Sheila Kuehl has introduced Senate Bill 353, which specifically addresses the domestic violence-animal abuse tie. If passed, it would authorize courts to include animals in domestic violence protective orders.

Cote says that more than 10 years of research confirms that there is a strong correlation between animal abuse and interpersonal violence. But, she says, criminologists need to do more to research animal cruelty.

“Animal cruelty is a crime,” says Cote, herself a pet owner. “And it is often not being prosecuted.”

Her goal is to provide solid analysis on which lawmakers can base policy recommendations on animal abuse.

Gotta' Dance

Growing up in New York City, theatre and dance professor Ed Brazo was within arm’s reach of the lure of Broadway. And that led to a multi-decade career that began when he landed four—yes, four—roles in a Broadway production of Gypsy starring opposite Angela Lansbury.

But after almost 30 years of musical performances, Brazo decided to leave the stage to a new generation of musical theatre actors—and that he wanted to be the one to help them get there. “I was getting older and I knew I couldn’t perform forever. So teaching seemed to be the next logical step,” he says.
And what Brazo learned on the stage is what he applies in the classroom.

“When I see students struggling with particularly complex choreography, I tell them to start with the feet and add the hands and other details later,” he says. “I think it helps the students to relax a little. Someone early in my career told me that and it was such a relief.

“I want to make my students feel the same way. I’m still tough on them, but I want them to see I have compassion as well.”

Those years of pounding the pavement in pursuit of roles also gives Brazo’s students an insider’s view of the process, and why versatility is vital. It’s the reason Brazo, in his role as musical theatre director, keeps dance interwoven through musical theatre and vice versa.

“If our students want to find success in the entertainment industry, they won’t get through basic auditions if they can’t sing and dance,” he says. “So I’m tough on them, especially when it comes to technique. They have to learn routines quickly and execute them perfectly to be picked for a show.

“I know this because I’ve been through it.”

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President's Circle: Movers and shakers: Jack and Chris Higdon

Father and son moving executives Jack (‘52, Accounting) and Chris Higdon (’85, Business Administration) are arguably in the referral business as much as they are the moving business.

Good word of mouth has helped expand their company—California Moving Systems—three-fold and earn influential customers like former Gov. Pete Wilson and astronaut Sally Ride.

“We’ve been able to maintain a pretty good reputation,” says Jack, company founder and chairman of the board. “A good portion of our business is now repeat or referral.”

The Higdons’ worldwide moving and storage business specializes in relocating corporate and professional offices.

In 1967, Jack had one flatbed, one forklift, two trucks and trailers, and three drivers. Now the company employs 75 workers and has roughly 65 pieces of heavy moving equipment. And it is growing in the area of business records, despite the increased hard drive capabilities in today’s computers. “Our customers have a multitude of records that are a lot cheaper to store in our warehouses,” says Chris.

Jack has been offering advice to Sac State since 1975 and served on the Alumni Association Board for 10 years. He joined President Alexander Gonzalez’ President’s Circle in 2004. Son Chris, CEO and president of the California Moving Systems board, joined the President’s Circle in 2006.

Jack received Sac State’s Distinguished Service Award last year. A former Sac State baseball player, he is looking forward to the University improving its sports facilities. He says he joined President’s Circle because “I want Sac State to be a top notch school.”

Chris is on the Sac State Alumni Association Board of Directors and the College of Business Advisory Council. He first came to work for California Moving Systems as a household-move dispatcher, soon advancing into sales and later succeeding his father, along with his brother and company vice president, Dave, who studied business at Sac State.

The company has moved many nonprofit organizations for free, including the relocation of public television station KVIE’s studios in 1989. And it transported the historical landmark Stanford Mansion’s refurbished furniture during its recent restoration.

Other past customers are Ronald Reagan’s personal secretary Kathleen Osbourne, Reagan cabinet members Mike Deaver and Ed Meese, radio personality Rush Limbaugh, former Chicago White Sox manager Jerry Manual and countless San Francisco 49er and Sacramento King players.

When the Higdons assist people it’s often during the most stressful times in their lives. “They might be in the middle of a pregnancy or a divorce,” says Chris. “We have to be cognitive of that.”

And they are in a position to see it all.

“We keep waiting for the reality series to be offered,” he adds. “At least once a week there’s something unusual that happens.”

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Carlos Alazraqui: Voice virtuoso

Though you may not know it, you’ve probably imitated alum and chameleon actor-comedian Carlos Alazraqui (’86, Recreation and Leisure Studies.)
Since creating one of the most recognized voices in advertising—the Taco Bell Chihuahua—Alazraqui has portrayed countless on-screen and off-screen television, movie and advertising characters.

He currently stars as Dep. James Garcia on Comedy Central’s “Reno 911” and the show’s movie spin-off, Reno 911 Miami. Last year he worked alongside Robin Williams as Nestor, one of the “Adelie Amigos” penguins, in the animated Oscar-winner Happy Feet.

Alazraqui’s career began when Sac State Recreation Professor Ernie Olson encouraged him to follow the sound of his voice rather than the lure of the outdoors.
“He recognized I could imitate people and do voices and he said to me ‘You should try do to do comedy,’ and off I went,” Alazraqui says.
After winning two local comedy awards, Alazraqui pursued stand up in San Francisco. While honing his new craft, four little words: “Yo quiero Taco Bell” would carry him into television history and ignite his acting career.

Since then he has appeared in a variety of television shows from “Lizzie McGuire” and “Las Vegas” to “That ‘70s Show” and “Men Behaving Badly.” His voice over talents range from creating Nickelodeon’s Rocko of “Rocko’s Modern Life” and the Cartoon Network’s Lazlo in the “Camp Lazlo” series. He’s heard regularly on Nickelodeon’s “SpongeBob SquarePants,” PBS’ “Maya and Miguel,” and Disney Channel’s “Handy Manny.”

Alazraqui credits his acting versatility to growing up in a diverse Concord neighborhood with his Argentinean-born parents and many internationally influenced friends. “We were never limited by anything in terms of culture,” he says of watching British television and following international soccer.

Alazraqui based Dep. Garcia’s racially ambiguous and insecure persona on a Caucasian childhood friend with a Latino surname and television’s iconic bumbling deputy, Barney Fife. “Inside Garcia’s really a scared and lonely man but on the outside he has a tough exterior,” he says. “He’s a likable jerk. You kind of feel sorry for him in the end.”

Alazraqui hasn’t lost his interest in outdoor exhilaration. A fanatical skydiver, he’s made 690 jumps. He jokes that he’d like to one day “jump off a fjord in Norway.”

But that’s not all he dreams of. “The epitome for me,” he says, laughing, “would be to have a kissing scene with Diane Lane in a Joel and Ethan Coen film.”

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Norma Samra: Trail blazer

Norma Samra (’81, Communication Studies) didn’t intend to become a role model for East Indian women, but the trailblazing attorney has a pioneer spirit in her blood.

“I grew up in Elk Grove, and we were the only family from India that we or anyone else knew in the area,” says Samra.
And her family didn’t get there easily. Samra’s father immigrated at age 14 from Punjab, India to Honolulu, where he worked in the sugar cane fields to save money to sail to the United States.

“My father had heard what a wonderful place America was, and he was determined to go there and become a success,” says Samra. He sailed from Honolulu to Angel Island and was one of the first East Indians to come to America.

He began work as a migrant farmer in the Delta, became the world’s largest celery grower, and bought the farm the family still operates today.
“But in spite of his accomplishments, my father regretted not having a formal education,” says Samra. “So he and my mother instilled in all their four children the importance of getting a college degree and working in the professional world.”

Shy by nature, Samra came out of her shell during her studies at Sacramento State. “As a communication studies major, I had no choice,” she says. “I had to make a lot of presentations to my professors and classmates.”

Samra distinctly remembers a professor she greatly admired. “Barbara O’Connor was so influential in my life,” says Samra. “Her lectures were fascinating. I never looked at the clock during her classes. I wanted to present the same way she did.”

O’Connor encouraged Samra to pursue her dream of becoming a lawyer, even though it wasn’t culturally acceptable for a woman to aspire to a profession dominated by males, says Samra. She pursued her goal and in 1986 was one of the first East Indian female attorneys to be admitted to the California State Bar.

For 13 years, Samra was a partner in a large worker’s compensation defense organization. After marrying and having two children, she left the company and opened her own private practice firm, Ramirez & Samra. The personal injury and family law firm affords her the opportunity to work with women in the East Indian community. “The women are breaking traditional cultural taboos regarding domestic violence and utilizing the services of the judicial system,” says Samra.

Today, Samra and her husband are instilling the same educational values her parents encouraged her to have. “My children think of college as a necessary—not an elective—step in their education,” she says. “I like to think of it as a legacy my parents passed on to them.”

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Class Notes


Selwyn C. Gonsoulin, ’49, B.S., Business Administration, hasn’t let age get in the way of having the time of his life as musical director of the 30s-40s-50s Dance Band, a 17-piece big band that plays the music of its name. Gonsoulin, 82, fronts the band playing his trumpet and singing various vocal styles. The band rehearses every Wednesday night at the Sierra Oaks home of he shares with wife Kelli, and the neighbors look forward to the two-hour serenade. The band operates as a community-volunteer band and includes another Hornet, Sac State President Emeritus W. Lloyd Johns, and his trumpet. With more than 400 arrangements in their repertoire, the band is constantly booked for all kinds of dates. In its seventh year, the band averages more than 30 performances annually.


Margo Murray, ‘63, B.S., Business Administration, founded MMHA The Managers’ Mentors, Inc. in Oakland in 1974 and now has alliance partners in 12 countries. Her best-selling book, Beyond the Myths and Magic of Mentoring: How to Facilitate an Effective Mentoring Process, has been translated into Swedish, Japanese, and Korean. She is director emeritus of the Executive Board of the International Mentoring Association, and a director of the executive board of The Mentoring Center Oakland and The Bellevue Club in Oakland. Recently she has been working with the Sac State College of Business Administration Alumni Chapter on a mentoring process for students. At the Emotional Intelligence Learning Systems’ world conference in Texas in April, Murray was recognized with its first-ever award for personal excellence and was the keynote speaker where she described her work with using facilitated mentoring as a strategy for positive societal change. The conference drew participants from India, Bulgaria, Jamaica, the Philippines and throughout the United States. Murray lives in Oakland and is a Life Member of the Sacramento State Alumni Association.


John Pitta, ’70, B.S., Business Administration, is the owner of John Pitta Trucking in Monterey, Calif. Pitta attended Sac State on the G.I. Bill after serving two years in the U.S. Navy. He began his trucking career in management for a trucking company. But he realized he really wanted to drive and purchased a rig of his own in 1989. Pitta is active in California Dump Truck Owners Association, serving as two terms as state treasurer and is currently chapter chairman for Monterey Bay. He and wife Leath have a son and a daughter.

Greg Cook, ‘73, B.A., Communication Studies, has owned Friar Tuck's Restaurant and Bar in Nevada City, Calif. since 1973. The restaurant employs more than 40 people, seats nearly 200 and does almost $2.5 million a year in business, serving just dinner. Cook’s business has rebounded from a devastating fire that burned down the restaurant and most of a city block four years ago. He also operated a restaurant in Moscow, Idaho just after graduation and one in Grass Valley 20 years ago. He says, “I am grateful for my education at Sac State and I am proud to be in business for 34 years.”

George J. Valdez, ’72, B.A., Social Work, retired after 33 years as the chief deputy probation officer for Sutter County, where he was born and raised. Drafted into the Army in 1968, Valdez became a clerk in the headquarters company of an artillery unity stationed in the central highlands of Vietnam. It was the human interaction involved with the job that made him decide on a career in counseling or probation. He joined the Probation Department in Sutter County and spent the first five years working with underage offenders. After a long and fulfilling career, Valdez is now enjoying some free time and makes his home in Yuba City.

Patricia Cochran, ’75, B.S., Accountancy and Business Administration, chief financial officer of Vision Service Plan, the nation’s largest specialized health plan for vision care, has been elected to The Mechanics Bank’s board of directors. Cochran has been with VSP since 1978, and was part of the team that led the 52-year-old company’s expansion to all 50 states. VSP has grown as an eye-care benefits provider with 48 million patients covered by its plans and with a network of 24,000 doctors. VSP also has made Fortune Magazine’s list of “100 Best Companies to Work For” eight consecutive years and ranked in the top 25 seven of those years. This year, Cochran was named to the Business Hall of Fame by Junior Achievement. She also earned the Distinguished Service Award from the Sacramento State Alumni Association in 2001 and the College of Business Administration named her alumnus of the year in 2005.

Mark Krueger, ’78, B.S., ’85, M.B.A., has joined Lee & Associates as principal in the firm’s newest Nevada office. The firm is one of the largest national commercial real estate providers with regional expertise. With more than 27 years of experience in commercial real estate, Krueger will oversee land and investment transactions. In 1995, he relocated to Reno from Sacramento where he had been named the “Who’s Who in Sacramento Real Estate” by Sacramento Magazine. Now an expert in the Reno market, he has negotiated more than $300 million worth of land and investment property deals since 2004. As a result of his efforts, he has been recognized as the annual “Top Land Broker” in Northern Nevada for the past two years. Most recently, he served as senior vice president of Grubb & Ellis/NCG where he was the top producer for six of his nine years with the company.

James R. Marshall, ’79, B.S., Criminal Justice, has spent his entire career in the criminal justice arena. He served as a police cadet with the El Cerrito Police Department, and as an intern in the Sacramento District Attorney’s Office from 1974 to 1977, and then began his career as a police officer in Pleasanton. Before retiring, he earned numerous commendations for the dedication and quality of his work. One of his most recent commendations involved the arrest of the people responsible for a home invasion robbery. In retirement, he is living in Antioch


Stephen Pecor, ’80, B.S., Criminal Justice, is a 28-year veteran probation officer for Placer County. As chief probation officer, he oversees a staff of 150 and an $18 million budget. Prior to being named to the top post, Pecor served as a senior deputy probation officer, a supervisor-manager, probation manager and assistant chief probation officer. He sees a lot of Interstate 80 on his way to and from his home in Meadow Vista.

Cary Boyce, ‘83, B.A., Music, was recently awarded one of three “special distinction” awards from the ASCAP (American Society of Composers and Publishers) Foundation, presented for the 2006 Rudolf Nissim Prize for large musical works requiring a conductor. Boyce’s score, Dreams within a Dream, is a 40-minute work for soprano, chorus and orchestra in five movements. The work premiered in Bloomington, Ind. with the Bloomington Chamber Singers and Orchestra and was subsequently recorded on the Aguavá New Music Studio label. A public radio special followed soon after. Boyce says, “The real story is that a community chorus commissioned, premiered and recorded a major oratorio.” He makes his home in Bloomington and will tour the East Coast with Aguavá New Music Studio in March and April 2008.

Sam Savinovich, ‘86, B.S., Business Administration (Marketing), is the director for Setka, Inc. and has maintained an office in Sacramento for 12 years. Established 22 years ago, the company provides top IT professionals throughout California and across the country on a contract, contract-to-hire and direct hire basis. It moved its San Ramon headquarters to its Sacramento office. Besides serving the State of California, Setka is also an approved vendor for many counties, cities and local government entities throughout the State. Savinovich’s offices are located on Campus Commons Road in Sacramento.


Ed Jerome, ’93, B.S., Mechanical Engineering, works in the energy efficiency field as director of utility services for Cogent Energy, a small consulting firm located in the Bay Area. The firm provides engineering services to help utility customers use energy wisely, reducing their energy costs while benefiting the environment. Their efforts include numerous energy efficiency projects on the Sac State campus.

Phil Brace, ’96, M.S., Electrical Engineering, is the chief marketing officer for LSI Logic, a leading Silicon Valley technology company. He has headed LSI’s marketing and corporate planning since 2005, after a successful stint at Intel Corp. Brace is responsible for developing and implementing marketing programs for a wide range of products including large data storage arrays that are used by the world's largest companies. The company also makes the chips that go inside “edutainment” consoles for children.


Lauren Palmer, ’00, B.A., Government, has been named the director of programs and services at the Folsom Chamber of Commerce. She has several years of experience leading special events and programs, public relations, marketing and community relations initiatives for non-profit and for-profit organizations. In her former position as events manager for public policy at the Sacramento Metro Chamber, she planned, coordinated and managed public policy programs and events, such as the Capitol-to-Capitol Trip. Palmer recently became engaged to Ardie Zahedani, and they are looking forward to making their permanent home in the Folsom community.

Julie Anne Miller, ’06, B.A., Music, moved to New York to pursue a master’s degree in vocal performance at The Bard College Conservatory of Music. She is one of eight internationally chosen students in that school’s new graduate program in vocal arts, founded by Grammy Award-winning soprano Dawn Upshaw. Miller, a mezzo-soprano, made her New York City debut at Weill Hall at Carnegie Hall in April, premiering a new work by Ryan Carter for soprano, mezzo-soprano, and instrumental ensemble. The performance was part of the 2007 Osvaldo Golijov/Dawn Upshaw Workshop for Singers and Composers.

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