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Sacramento State achievements under President Robert S. Nelsen's leadership


RISING GRAD RATES: One of Nelsen's main goals when he took over in 2015 was to improve graduation rates, and he succeeded. Sac State's four-year grad rate in 2016 was 8.8% – it's closing in on 30% now, and still rising.

MANAGING COVID-19: Nelsen shepherded Sac State through the unprecedented challenges stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, leading a successful transition from in-person classes to virtual learning, then back again. His health-and-safety-first approach ensured continued student success and a notably low campus infection rate.

FUNDRAISING: Contributions to the University rose sharply, clearly illustrated by the success of Sac State's first comprehensive campaign, On The Rise, which surpassed its goal by raising $239 million. The funds raised helped to build the Ernest E. Tschannen Science Complex and Planetarium and establish the Dale and Katy Carlsen Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, as well as boost the 
number of scholarships awarded.

DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION: In 2021, the University released its Antiracism and Inclusive Campus Plan, reflecting Nelsen's commitment to move the campus toward a culture that is fair and welcoming to all. The plan addresses hiring practices, employee retention, curriculum development, and bias reporting, among other areas.

GREEN CAMPUS: On Nelsen's watch, Sac State has made significant progress on its pledge to reduce greenhouse gases and achieve carbon neutrality. Through recycling and composting, solar lighting, transportation innovations, and sustainable building, the University has reduced greenhouse gas emissions to their lowest level in two decades.

COMMUNITY OUTREACH: By supporting initiatives such as the Anchor University grants program, Nelsen prioritized working with community groups and agencies to address key issues in the region, including poverty, pollution, and mental health. He positioned the University as an engaged and important part of the greater community.

ATHLETIC SUCCESS: Hornet Athletics enjoyed success in many sports before Nelsen arrived, but he made notable hires that boosted Sac State into greater relevance. The Hornet football team won three straight Big Sky Conference championships, and the women's basketball team earned a Big Sky title and an NCAA Tournament berth.

INNOVATION: Under Nelsen, Sac State became a founding member of the California Mobility Center, a public-private collaboration designed to bring electric vehicles and other green technology to the market more quickly. Within a few years, the CMC will move to 25 acres of University-owned property just south of campus, a center to be called The Hub: Sacramento State Research Park.

CARING CAMPUS: By promoting and attending events and initiatives such as the annual Out of the Darkness Walk for Suicide Prevention, Nelsen made mental health a priority on campus and fostered a culture of wellness. He also led efforts that increased access to counseling and other health services.

EXPANDING OUR REACH: In a partnership with Sierra College, Placer County, and developers, Nelsen successfully pushed for a new Sac State campus in Placer County. The project broke ground in October.

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About Cynthia Hubert

Cynthia Hubert came to Sacramento State in November 2018 after an award-winning career writing for the Sacramento Bee. Cynthia believes everyone has a good story. She lives in East Sacramento with her two cats, who enjoy bird-watching from their perch next to the living-room window.