By Jonathan Morales
Jenni Murphy has dedicated much of her career to finding innovative ways to bring extended learning and professional development to more people in the Sacramento region. Now, that work is being recognized by the California State University.
Murphy, the dean of Sacramento State’s College of Continuing Education (CCE), has received this year’s Edward M. McAleer Jr. Excellence and Innovation Award in the administrator/staff category. The award is given to a CSU administrator or staff member who has demonstrated excellence in advancing new programs, partnerships and support services in professional and continuing education.
The honor comes as Murphy is leading the launch of ProjectAttain!, a regional partnership that will boost the Sacramento workforce by increasing the number of adults with college degrees and post-secondary credentials.
CSU gives the award annually in three categories – administrator/staff, faculty and student/faculty partnership – provided there are candidates who meet the criteria. In her congratulatory letter to Murphy, award subcommittee Chair and CSU Channel Islands President Erica D. Beck said the subcommittee was “pleased to recognize your consistent excellence, your distinguished history of meaningful innovations, and the positive difference you have made in the CSU.”
“While this award is bestowed on individuals, the achievements that I am being recognized for are the result of the dedicated CCE team and our many colleagues and partners across the university,” Murphy said. “My personal journey is reflected in this work, and it has been an honor to serve the university throughout my 18-year career at the College of Continuing Education.”
Murphy has led the charge in CCE to bring high-quality continuing education to the Sacramento community and beyond. In 2005, she prepared the groundwork for three leadership academies for state employees that, to date, have awarded nearly 1,500 certificates. As the college’s founding director of extension programs, in 2009 she developed pioneering professional development programs for state agencies, turning Sacramento State into California's leading training provider.
Most recently, Murphy has been the region’s most vocal advocate for closing the “educational attainment gap” by helping individuals who have some college but no degree cross the finish line to graduation. ProjectAttain! aims to increase the number of individuals in the region with a post-secondary degree or certificate to 60 percent by 2025.
The benefits of continuing education are clear. Individuals with postsecondary credentials are 25 percent more likely to be employed, 47 percent more likely to have health insurance, and 72 percent more likely to have a retirement plan, according to the Lumina Foundation. Those factors ripple throughout the region in the form of a healthier community, an increased tax base, more direct spending on goods and services, higher levels of charitable giving, and a stronger ability to recruit and attract employers.
CCE offers degree completion, professional certificate, training and other programs aimed at helping working adults advance in their careers by furthering their education.
“Continuing education enhances the mission of universities and is essential to meeting the unique needs of adult learners,” Murphy said. “It improves lives, communities and economic vitality.”
On campus, she has played a leading role in revamping Summer Session, which is run by CCE and is a key part of the University’s efforts to help more students graduate on time. In particular, she led the implementation of the Provost’s Graduation Initiative Grant, which awarded more than $1 million in financial aid in 2017 and 2018 to students taking summer classes.
“Dr. Murphy is a catalyst for innovating programming as well as a tireless advocate for non-traditional learners and the critical role of extended education in developing and sustaining the region’s workforce,” said Steve Perez, interim provost and vice president of Academic Affairs. “She is a tremendous teammate and partners across campus to support our students and region. Her passion for higher education is an asset to Sac State and our community, and I am thrilled to see her work recognized by the California State University.”