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  • Carlsen Center's new leader thrives on innovation


    Cameron Law, a Sacramento native, served in leadership roles in various enterprises before being chosen as executive director for Sacramento State's Carlsen Center. (Sacramento State/Andrea Price)

    By Dixie Reid

    Cameron Law, new interim executive director of Sacramento State's Carlsen Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, has built a career that appears to have been ideal preparation for the key position.

    Most recently the executive director of Social Venture Partners (SVP) in Sacramento, Law, 27, was hired in time to oversee this year’s Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) activities, Nov. 18-22. Campus leaders hope GEW will become a centerpiece for the Carlsen Center and for the University’s culture of innovation.

    A former high school baseball star, Law is expected to bring that ethic of teamwork to Sacramento State.

    “Cameron will infuse energy and knowledge into the Carlsen Center and help move us in the right direction,” said University President Robert S. Nelsen. “He has his finger on the pulse of innovation in our region and brings with him strong connections to the public, private, and nonprofit sectors of the community.”

    Law officially steps into his new role Thursday, Oct. 17, five months after the departure of the center’s founding director. In the interim, the Carlsen Center’s activities were led by an administrator-in-charge and an entrepreneur-in-residence.

    Law recognizes the importance of the Carlsen Center, which was created with a $6 million endowment for the center’s namesakes, Dale and Katy Carlsen.

    “I believe the opportunity Dale and Katy Carlsen presented to our region at Sac State with the creation of the $6 million endowment and the Carlsen Center is the central piece for our community,” Law said. “It supports students at the University and gives them the mentorship they need when starting their business and offers the knowledge sharing that needs to occur in the Sacramento region's ecosystem.

    “The knowledge base we have at the University can be the fabric that connects our ecosystem. The Carlsen Center supports our region as an entrepreneurial hub, and we will create a collaboration among the region’s other innovation communities.”

    SVP was an important milestone on an educational and professional journey that led him to Sac State. Law called his time at SVP, where his responsibilities included strategic planning, fundraising, and building community partnerships, “an impactful experience.”

    The transition from SVP to the top spot at the Carlsen Center followed a journey that took him across a significant part of the globe.

    After graduating from Jesuit High School, where he played baseball for four years, in 2011, Law attended UC Davis on a partial baseball scholarship. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Managerial Economics with a minor in American History, graduating in 2015.

    “I played baseball all four years at Davis but never quite came back after taking a full year off.” Law said, referring to an injury suffered his senior year at Jesuit. “That was one of the more challenging times of my life. As someone whose identy was tied to being a successful baseball player, being met head on with injury and adversity forced me to thinking differently about my role and future. Upon looking into the future, I decided to study abroad, to reinvent myself outside of being an athlete.”

    Law moved to Australia to attend the University of Queensland. He earned a master’s degree in Business with a double major: Social Impact and Sustainability; and International Business. While at the university, he worked as a business operations fellow for the Brisbane City Council and began to find his new purpose and identity apart from athletics.

    He graduated from Queensland in 2017 and returned to Sacramento, taking a job with Impact Venture Capital. Among other duties, he helped run the agency’s 1 Million Cups program, which educates, engages, and inspires entrepreneurs.

    “That was the first time I worked face to face with entrepreneurs and learned about their great solutions to challenges in our community,” Law said. “And so from there, I knew I wanted to support entrepreneurs address the barriers that they are facing,  whether they are launching tech companies or social ventures.”

    His next stop was SVP, and then came the opportunity to lead the Carlsen Center, a 10,000-square-foot space in the University Library created in 2017 after the gift from the Carlsens.

    The couple’s objective was to create a hub for transforming the region’s economy and a place to inspire generations of students to become creative thinkers.

    “To succeed in our lofty goals,” said Dale Carlsen, who chairs the center’s advisory board, “the center requires a strong leader with the ability to collaborate with the entrepreneurial ecosystem and with students and faculty, and to understand the importance of social entrepreneurship. Cameron is the right person.”

    Law said getting to word out about the center will be a big part of his early efforts.

    “My first action will be storytelling,” Law said. “There have been times I’ve mentioned the Carlsen Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship and people didn't know what it is or the work coming from it. I want to elevate the mission and vision of the Carlsen Center, and how people in the community and on campus can plug in.”

    Other career highlights include:

    • Recent recognition as one of the Sacramento Business Journal’s “40 under 40” business leaders.
    • Serves as the local iHub Coordinator
    • Serves on the board of Square Root Academy whose co-founder, Nicholas Haystings ’16 (Mechanical Engineering), is a Sac State graduate.
    • Serves on Culture LabX and Neighborhood Wellness Foundation boards.
    • Serves on city of Sacramento's Inclusive Economic and Community Development Investment Committee.
    • Member of the Alchemy Kitchen Project Advisory Committee.
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