Spring CommencementLiving the college dream at Spring Commencement 2016. (Sacramento State/Jessica Vernone)

Sacramento State’s minority students are defining their dreams, walking away with stellar degrees, and earning national exposure for it. According to recent data released by Diverse: Issues in Higher Education, Sac State ranks among the top 100 minority degree producers in the nation for 2015 – and that just scratches the surface.

In 16 of the 93 degree categories studied, Sacramento State ranked in the top 10. Asian American students had the greatest impact on results, receiving high rankings in the following disciplines:

  • No. 2: Homeland security, law enforcement, and criminal justice
  • No. 2: Public administration and social work
  • No. 5: Communication sciences and disorders
  • No. 8: Recreation, parks, and tourism administration
  • No.9: Education
  • No. 9: Environmental studies

Sacramento State’s Asian American students topped the Diverse charts with the help of the Full Circle Project (FCP), one of the larger programs available to first-year students on campus. FCP brings in more than 100 Asian American and Pacific Islander students per year, with 90 percent of them identifying as low-income. The program offers service opportunities both on and off campus, as well as a mentorship program. Precursors and models for the Full Circle Project are the highly successful Cooper-Woodson College Enhancement Program (CWC) and the College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP).

“More than just sitting there and doing the books, they are actually very engaged with the University and with the community, which is really what Full Circle is all about,” says Timothy Fong, FCP principal investigator and director. “Full Circle Project was developed under the theory that the more engaged the student is with the University, with the community, the better the retention and graduation rates.”

As for the most popular degrees among Asian American students, “This shows to me that we are breaking the stereotype that Asians are only in the hard sciences and STEM majors,” Fong says.

The trending degrees among Asian American students also represent the most popular interests among minority students as a whole – including social work, law enforcement, and communication sciences and disorders. Most of the students choose these disciplines as a reflection of their shared interest in community service, according to Viridiana Diaz, assistant vice president of Strategic Diversity Initiatives.

“Our minority students are community-oriented,” Diaz says. “Working within the community, serving the community, and having an impact in their own communities is very important to them. They look for purpose in the career that they pursue and the opportunity to give back to their families and communities in a meaningful way.”

More degrees also means more reasons to celebrate. In 2016, the CWC was proud to host the 30th annual African American Graduation, one of the many ways the University reinforces higher retention rates for minority students. The ceremony, which has grown from 60 students to more than 450, has paved the way for other ethnic graduations on campus.

“It shows that we are working hard,” CWC Director Boatamo Mosupyoe says. “It is not easy to do these things, and it really gives me hope and encouragement to continue in these efforts so we will reach greater heights. It makes me proud that I am affiliated with an institution that is doing its best to help.”

Counts from the Fall 2015 semester showed the Sac State student body – 30,284 total – as 30 percent white, 28 percent Latino/a, 20 percent Asian, 6 percent African American, 3 percent foreign, 1 percent Pacific Islander, and 12 percent other. The University takes pride in being the seventh-most-diverse campus west of the Mississippi.

Sac State has numerous resources available to minority students to ensure success leading up to graduation. They include:

  • The College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP) offers assistance to students from migrant and seasonal farmworker families through first-year support and transitional services from high school to college. Visit csus.edu/camp or call (916) 278-7241.
  • The Cooper-Woodson College Enhancement Program (CWC) works collaboratively with the University’s Pan African Studies Program, upholding traditions represented in African American culture. Students enrolled in the Cooper-Woodson College Enhancement Program are eligible for a certificate in Pan African Studies through the Ethnic Studies Department. Visit csus.edu/cooper or call (916) 278-5363.
  • The DEGREES Project (Dedicated to Educating, Graduating, and Retaining Educational Equity Students) promotes the retention and graduation of all underrepresented students. The program is composed of four tracks: early warning interventions/continuing student support, curricular enrichment, mentoring/tutoring services, and engagement. Visit csus.edu/degreesproject or call (916) 278-7355.
  • The Dreamer Resource Center aims to make college dreams come true for undocumented students and students with mixed-status family members. The center helps students overcome unique challenges to achieve academic, personal, and professional excellence. Visit csus.edu/sernacenter or call (916) 278-6918.
  • The Full Circle Project, or Welcome to Where Opportunity Comes Full Circle, aims to assist Asian American and Pacific Islander students throughout their college careers, and to provide ample opportunities to engage in service both on and off campus to enhance their university experience. Visit csus.edu/fcp or call (916) 278-5172.
  • The Martin Luther King Jr. Center provides an oasis of support and cultural legacy experiences to foster student success. The center promotes campus community through services such as student advocacy, leadership development, peer support, Sankofa talks, and coordinated educational equity services. Visit csus.edu/saseep/sacstatemlkscholars or call (916) 278-2655.
  • The Multi-Cultural Center (MCC) supports the needs of diverse communities by providing educational programs and a welcoming space for students to learn about themselves and others. The MCC is committed to spreading social awareness and cultural understanding, and taking action on community concerns. Visit csus.edu/mcc or call (916) 278-6101.
  • The Serna Center encourages policy and political knowledge, activism and engagement, student access and excellence, and community service among Chicano/as and Latino/as, and underrepresented and underserved populations in the Sacramento metropolitan region. Visit csus.edu/sernacenter or call (916) 278-4512.
  • Student Academic Success & Educational Equity Programs (SASEEP) are committed to fostering diversity and equity while promoting a campus learning environment that encourages and supports all students in pursuing their education goals by increasing retention and graduation rates. Visit csus.edu/saseep or call (916) 278-6183.

Sacramento State also is working toward the establishment of a new Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. Alumnus Robin Carter accepted in April the role of interim executive director and began her work July 1 with the Diversity Task Force.

For more information on the Diverse: Issues in Higher Education rankings, visit diverseeducation.com/top100.
– Jayla Lee