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Honors Program has come into its own


Honors Program director Roberto Pomo
When the first graduates from Sacramento State’s fledgling Honors Program received their diplomas in 2010, there were plenty of proud people at the ceremony. But none more so than a trio of leaders without whose guidance this moment might never have happened.

George Craft, professor emeritus of history, tried to create such a program three decades ago, but his efforts were swept aside by the cross currents of campus constituencies.

But Craft persevered and in 2006 persuaded Roberto Pomo, who was preparing for a sabbatical after a particularly tough year directing the Theatre and Dance department and overseeing the nascent school of arts, to apply for director of the embryonic Honors Program.

Rather than take the time off to work on several long-deferred projects, Pomo, after being selected as director, committed himself to creating and nurturing a special program that would challenge students to excel. That meant crafting a demanding curriculum, recruiting a cadre of dynamic classroom instructors to teach the intensive courses and raising the funds for student scholarships.

A vital supporter, President Alexander Gonzalez believed the program dovetailed with his Destination 2010 campaign to transform Sacramento State into a more welcoming, dynamic, and community supported campus. “Honors is a linchpin of what kind of a campus we want to be,” he says. “Dr. Pomo and the Honors Program have been very successful in attracting outstanding students to the University. The program brings immeasurable value to our academic program and to the students who participate.”

Director Pomo readily agrees. Despite the many demands of sustaining and strengthening the Honors Program, he says that it has been the “best professional experience of [his] life.” He hastens to add that were it not for the president’s abiding commitment to the program, “we wouldn’t be here.”

As the youngest of 18 honors programs in the California State University system, Sacramento State’s has the smallest endowment. But the peripatetic, perpetually optimistic Pomo is determined to put it on a secure financial footing.

Achieving that goal will be especially difficult given California’s chronic budget crises that have strained higher education to the breaking point. But the generosity of those who support academic excellence has been a godsend.

The philanthropic Stremple, Ose, Ermet, Rao, Sokolov and Guardino families have helped provide the program with a firm foundation.

Pomo plans to step down as director after the fall semester and return to the classroom in 2012 after he completes a spring sabbatical. “I have every confidence that my eventual successor will maintain the program’s momentum,” he says.

Meantime, Pomo is gratified for the support he has received from the administration and the faculty he has selected to challenge the Honors students. He’s no less appreciative of the program’s advisory board, which is looking for creative ways to help put Honors on stable financial footing. The board understands how tenuous state funding is and will be for the near term and is thereby committed to finding the resources needed to secure the program’s future.

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– Alan Miller