Justin Knighten ’08 (Communication Studies-Public Relations)

There are many words to describe Justin Knighten's ’08 (Communication Studies-Public Relations) role in the Sacramento community: engaged, connected, but perhaps most of all, busy.

"My family instilled a sense of service and this idea to be involved and active on all fronts," Knighten says. "Whether it was school, community or family."

Among the organizations where Knighten plays an important part are the Harvey Milk Foundation and Best Buddies International. He was a key contributor in launching the Foundation and promotes its domestic and global initiatives as public affairs and media director. He raises awareness for Best Buddies, providing support for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, through Team Maria Shriver.

His professional and public service efforts have caught the attention of many local and national organizations. He's received a number of awards including the Sacramento Business Journal's "40 Under 40", the U.S. Coast Guard Public Affairs Coin and the Pride Award from the Sacramento LGBT Community Center.

Now he has one more to add to the collection: the Rising Star Award from the Sacramento State Alumni Association.

"It's humbling and a great trigger to appreciate, reflect and value the hard work I put in to be a good and functioning member of society," he says.

Knighten is vice president of Lucas Public Affairs, where he manages public affairs and communications campaigns for issues related to renewable energy, technology, health care, travel and tourism, and education.

His experience as a legislative assistant with the California Environmental Protection Agency and practice as a political news assistant in the nation's capital paved a path toward a career in public affairs.

"I thought about being a reporter," Knighten says. "But I fell in love with the political and policy process. I covered compelling stories that were informative for me."

He described his time at Sac State as a "transformative experience," noting he was the first in his family to attend a university. It was also a platform for building an infrastructure of skills—writing, asking tough questions, ability to dig and delve into topics—needed to push him forward professionally.

"The University was an important vehicle for my growth and progress as a person," says the lifetime Alumni Association member. "It was a critical entity for shaping my future."

Knighten says college also enhanced his community engagement. He was a member of Lambda Pi Eta: National Communication Studies Honor Society and Sigma Phi Epsilon. As an alumnus, he helped launch the "What's Possible" series while president of the Hornets Policy and Politics Alumni Chapter.

"My approach and overall world views revolve around the idea of service," he says. "Not just for the sake of doing it but really integrate it in all aspects of my life."