Significant issues – financial and regulatory among them – present challenges to Sacramento State, but President Robert S. Nelsen said during his annual Spring Address that the University won't be detered in carrying out what he calls its "sacred mission."
Nelsen said during his speech on Thursday, Jan. 18, in the University Union Ballroom that the state’s outdated Master Plan for Higher Education is responsible for a projected shortfall of 1.1 million bachelor's degree graduates needed to meet job demands in California by 2030. He also said Gov. Brown's proposed 2019 budget provides funding for California State University that won't cover inflation-caused cost increases.
Despite that, Sac State continues to excel at the mission of educating and graduating students – and preparing them for success.
“Our mission to serve students, to help students rise up economically, to serve under-represented minorities, to close the achievement gap, and to create California’s workforce, to educate society, will never change,” Nelsen said.
“We want the best for our students and our University, so we are willing to re-examine practices and adopt and adapt new practices.”
During his 40-minute talk before a full house of students, faculty, staff, friends of the University, and his wife, Jody Nelsen, the President celebrated Sac State’s achievements, offered a report card on his initiatives, and laid out his vision for the future.
This would be the President’s final formal Spring Address. Next spring, he plans to institute a town hall format to have conversations with students, faculty, and staff.
Nelsen was preceded at the podium by Mia Kagianas, president of Associated Students, Inc. (ASI). She declared Sac State “a caring campus” and called on people in the audience to join her in the movement to support all of the University's students, especially those facing homelessness and food insecurity.
“There are so many people in this community who are making the difference in people’s lives,” Kagianas said. “It’s time we bring all of these efforts into the light as one shared responsibility, to care for this campus and the people in it.
"I need your help. A movement like this instills values of looking out for our fellow Hornets and helping others.”
Nelsen noted that he declared Sac State a “hate-free campus” in August 2017, saying it was “maybe the most audacious initiative I have announced since my arrival. … Being hate-free is especially sacred work, though unbelievable difficult work.”
Among the initiatives Nelsen checked off as successes:
- Hiring a “graduation czar” and establishing the Finish in Four and Done in Two campaigns. Nelsen reported that 66 percent of first-year students are taking at least 15 semester credits, which will lead to them graduating in four years.
- Implementing Keys to Degrees and the “graduation ecosystem.”
- Promoting transparency and collaboration in budget decision making.
- Creating the Center for Inclusion, Equity, and Diversity.
- Promoting campus safety and hiring a laboratory safety officer.
Nelsen also ticked off other success achieved because Sac State has been nimble at adopting innovative practices. Among them:
- Four-year graduation rates increased 35.2 percent, while six-year rates are up 2.1 percent. The numbers for transfer students improved, as well: a 28.4 percent increase in four-year and 2.6 percent increase in six-year graduation rates.
- The College of Education received more than $3 million in grants, which will allow students to graduate with a teaching credential in four years and help address the shortage of underrepresented, bilingual, and special-education teachers.
- The University proposes adding eight new academic programs, the first in many years.
- The Center for Inclusion, Equity and Diversity received a $200,000 grant to improve faculty diversity.
- The Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders (CSAD) has a new home in Folsom Hall with state-of-the art therapy rooms, teaching and research labs, and a community clinic space.
- The College of Natural Science and Mathematics launched RISE (Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement) with a $1 million grant from the National Institutes of Health. The goal is to increase the number of underrepresented students completing doctorates in biomedical research.
- International Programs and Global Engagement added six exchange programs with universities in France, Taiwan, China, Japan, and Korea, increasing Sac State’s study abroad capacity by more than 33 percent.
- The Office of Research, Innovation, and Economic Development (formerly Research Affairs) processed $23.5 million in grant and contract submissions during the second half of 2017.
- And, University Library is being transformed, with the addition of a family study room and plans to house the new Carlsen Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and a maker space.
“For the coming year,” Nelsen said, “let’s come together. Let’s think creatively. Let’s continue transforming lives. Let’s be innovative. Let’s find creative solutions to the wicked problems that surround us in this aching society. Let’s lead the state. Let’s lead the nation. Let’s live up to our sacred mission.
"Let’s ensure that all Californians have an opportunity for a higher education and that no Californian only has the option of a low-paying job or joining the military. Through innovation and change, let’s ensure there is hope.” – Dixie Reid
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