President Robert S. Nelsen, in his Spring Address to the campus community on Thursday, Jan. 19, shared a progress report on the four imperatives he introduced in the fall – and voiced his worries about a potential $7 million cut to the University’s budget.

Several hundred students, faculty, staff, and friends of Sacramento State – along with the President’s wife, Jody Nelsen – gathered in the University Union Ballroom for Spring Addresses by Nelsen and Associated Students Inc. President Patrick Dorsey.

The theme of Nelsen’s talk was “The Year of Us”; 2017 marks Sacramento State’s 70th anniversary.

“I am deadly serious when I say that we must make this ‘the year of us,’ the year of Sac State,” he said. “We must do right by and for our students. We must help them graduate as quickly as possible with the best education possible. We must create an inclusive environment where everyone belongs.

Nelsen and DorseyASI President Patrick Dorsey joins President Robert S. Nelsen after their Spring Addresses. (Sacramento State/Jessica Vernone) More photos

“We must move our comprehensive campaign forward and raise funds for the science building, scholarships, and operations. And we must work with our community to make the community strong and Sac State strong at the same time. … We cannot stop transforming lives.”

In keeping with a tradition Nelsen instituted last year, he invited the ASI president to speak to the campus community before his Spring Address. Dorsey, a graduate student in Public Policy and Administration and the 65th ASI president, talked about the challenges facing some of our students. “We want our students to graduate in four years, not for one in four to be hungry and one in 10 be homeless,” Dorsey said.

He announced that Sacramento State will provide “emergency housing for students in crisis, where they can stay, eat, and continue working toward their dream of finishing their education.”

President Nelsen, in his address, elaborated on the imperatives he introduced during his 2016 Fall Address, citing the great work that was done in just one semester.

Reduced time to degree

Sac State added more than 370 courses in the fall, with an additional 12,000 seats for students. And for this spring, the University added 169 more sections than last year, for a grand total of 5,205.

The KEYS to Degree Toolkit and Smart Planner are up and running as parts of the “Finish in Four” and “Through in Two” campaigns. More than 6,000 students have completed their degree plans in the Smart Planner.

And more than 65 percent of freshmen took at least 15 credits last fall, compared with barely 11 percent a few years ago.

Philanthropic giving

Sac State has $71 million in hand to build the new Science Complex but must raise another $20 million to finish it. Nearly $420,000 of the remaining $20 million has been committed. In all, 5,631 donors have made more than 14,000 distinct gifts toward the building.

On Giving Tuesday, Sac State raised $136,349 from 300 donors with an additional $10,000 in matching gifts from the Sac State Foundation. Much of the money will go toward scholarships.

The new President’s Circle is a fund dedicated to stocking the ASI Food Pantry, providing emergency grants to students in need, and helping students who study abroad. Last fall, the food bank received $25,000 from the President’s Circle (along with $5,000 in produce from Sunsweet Growers, a vehicle on a two-year loan from Downtown Ford, and $5,000 from Wells Fargo Bank).

The President’s Circle gave $25,000 to the student emergency fund, and two donors endowed it with another $25,000. And $10,000 from the President’s Circle will offset travel expenses for students studying abroad this year. A donor pledged another $20,000 to support study abroad over the next five years.

Diversity, inclusion, and equity

The Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion hosted a series of dialogues led by campus leaders. The Centers for Diversity and Inclusion held a forum after the presidential election to allow students to engage in constructive dialogue, and the Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, in partnership with the University Staff Assembly, hosted a post-election forum for staff and faculty.

A Transgender Equity Task Force is being formed to address issues such as name changes, bathroom signage and usage, and safety.

Community involvement and collaboration

Nelsen announced the creation of the Sacramento State Workforce Advisory Council to further Sac State’s collaboration with industry, entrepreneurs, government, the arts, and the Sacramento community.

“This Workforce Advisory Council will help stimulate the economy, create jobs for our students, foster innovation and research, improve the health of our community, and make Sacramento State an even more vital force in the region and the state of California,” he said. “… Beyond growing jobs and promoting new technology, the council will help raise funds from industry as a part of our philanthropic imperative.”

In an effort to reduce the region’s teacher shortage, the Commission on Teacher Credentialing awarded Sacramento State a $248,806 grant to create an accelerated path to a bachelor of arts degree in Liberal Studies or Child Development, plus two credentials for elementary and general science teaching. Students will be able to get both their bachelor’s degree and teaching credential in four years.

And the newly established Community Engagement Task Force will, in part, determine operating principles to guide community engagement efforts and find ways to coordinate efforts of the campus community.

Biggest worries: ‘Finances and our budget’

“There are so many great things happening at Sac State as part of these four imperatives,” Nelsen said. However, he added, his biggest worries are “finances and our budget.” The California State University asked the governor and Legislature for a $343.7 million increase to the total budget, but Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget plan allocates just $157.2 million – an increase of approximately 2 percent.

“In the worst-case scenario, we project that we will have a $7,126,200 deficit, which would require each division to cut its budget by 4.9 percent,” Nelsen said. “With these cuts, we will have no money for facilities and infrastructure repair, no money to extend the Graduation Initiative, and no money for enrollment growth.”

Nelsen went on to say that the Graduation Initiative is a priority for the CSU and Sacramento State, and that the major reason the CSU is considering a possible tuition increase is because the funds could supplement the Graduation Initiative by $75 million.

“It’s too early to know whether the (CSU Board of) Trustees will vote for a tuition increase, and too early to know whether the Legislature will provide more funds than the governor’s budget does,” he said. And he added that “a $7 million cut will be very hard to absorb.”

“I remain optimistic that the Legislature will be more forthcoming with funds, and we will continue to work closely with the legislators, encouraging them to do so.” – Dixie Reid

Click for full text of President Nelsen's Spring Address