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Presidential Communications - Spring 2024

President Luke Wood’s messages to students, faculty, and staff

Moving Forward Memo #4: Sensory Sensitive Graduation Celebration

February 15, 2024 - At my fall listening sessions with students, I learned that traditional Commencement ceremonies can be overwhelming for students with sensory processing sensitivities. Rather than a celebratory occasion, these students experience the noise, crowds, and other stimuli at Commencement as overwhelming, uncomfortable, and extremely stressful. To provide a comfortable environment for students to be recognized for their academic achievements, I am pleased to share Moving Forward Memo #4, which directs the Disability Access Center (DAC) to host a sensory sensitive graduation event this spring.

The DAC will be reaching out to eligible students with a personal invitation to participate in our first Sensory Sensitive Graduation Celebration, taking place from 2-4 p.m., Wednesday, May 8, in The WELL Terrace Suite. This celebration will provide an intimate setting and sensory accommodations that will allow students to fully focus on their accomplishments. It will also be an opportunity to recognize select faculty members who have a demonstrated record of supporting DAC initiatives. Please contact the DAC at for more information about the Sensory Sensitive Graduation Celebration.

By hosting this sensory-friendly event, we hope to make graduation an enjoyable experience for all students, including those with sensory sensitivities. Students who participate in the Sensory Sensitive Graduation Celebration are still welcome to participate in their college Commencement ceremony at Golden 1 Center, and can request accommodations by contacting by May 10.

Establishing a Black-themed honors college at Sacramento State

February 9, 2024 - During the 2023 Fall Address, I shared a preview of our new strategic action item to implement the Chancellor’s Office Black Student Success Recommendations by establishing a Black-themed honors college at Sacramento State.

An honors college is an elite academic and co-curricular program for students that will provide unique privileges, specialized curriculum, residential living and designated facilities, scholarships, and distinguished recognition. The Sacramento State Black Honors College is specifically designed for students interested in Black history, life, and culture. Given Sacramento State’s extensive history serving Black and African American students, our campus is the perfect home for the nation’s first Black Honors College. In fact, Sacramento State is home to the largest population of Black and African American students in the entire 23-institution California State University system.

We are delighted to share more information about this exciting new initiative at 8:30 a.m. Friday, Feb. 9, in Library 11. At this gathering for the Sacramento State community, we will share details about the Black Honors College, opening in Fall 2024. Space is limited.

At this briefing, we will share the vision for the Black Honors College and share information about how it will respond to needs expressed by Black students, faculty, and staff. This also will be an opportunity to meet college leadership, including faculty, and learn about the specific benefits the college will offer to students.

We look forward to sharing more information about how the Black Honors College will serve and positively impact students interested in Black history, life, and culture.

Stingers Up!

2024-25 Research Enhanced Support Grant call for applications

February 7, 2024 - We are excited to invite faculty to participate in the Research Enhanced Support Grant program for AY 2024-25. This grant is an opportunity for faculty to secure essential seed funding, providing crucial support for launching preliminary and exploratory projects that will empower them to contribute new knowledge and innovative scholarship to their respective disciplines, as well as provide transformational educational experiences for students. This program is funded by the President’s Office and administered by Academic Affairs with support from the Offices of Research, Innovation, and Economic Development (ORIED). This competition will support campus scholarship activities during the 2024-25 academic year. Applications are due by 5 p.m. March 15.

During the listening sessions, we learned that faculty need more time to plan for release time. Moving Forward Memo #3 directed Academic Affairs and ORIED to open the grant applications for the upcoming fall or spring semesters to allow faculty and department chairs time to prepare for course coverage as necessary.

All faculty are eligible to apply, including full-time, part-time, temporary, probationary, librarians, and tenured faculty, as defined in the Unit 3 collective bargaining agreement. Individual and collaborative projects involving multiple Sacramento State faculty are eligible. You can find application guidelines and detailed information on the 2024-25 Research Enhanced Support Grant Call for Applications.

In light of the pending R2 classification, we are committed to advancing new and equity-minded faculty research and scholarship at our institution, which is proudly both a Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) and an Asian American Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institution (AANAPISI). This grant program not only supports individual research goals, but also contributes to our broader mission of fostering academic excellence and student success. We encourage all eligible faculty members to consider participating in this program. We look forward to engaging with the important research and scholarship that will emerge from this program and witnessing the impact it will have on our students' educational experiences.

If you have any questions or require additional information, please contact ORIED at

Thank you for your dedication to advancing knowledge, scholarship, creativity, and student success at Sacramento State.


Luke Wood, President

Carlos Nevarez, Interim Provost

Moving Forward Memo #1: Campus dial-out number

February 6, 2024 - Last week the Division of Information Resources and Technology (IRT) shared a message about the new campus dial-out number. This change occurred because of information shared with me during a listening session, and I am pleased that IRT was able to quickly act to change the dial-out number to seven so that our University Police Department will receive fewer accidental 911 calls.

Like the change in dial-out number, several recommendations that came out of the listening sessions are operational in nature and, as such, are not listed as part of the strategic activities I shared with campus last month. Instead, we have created a list of operational actions that will be communicated to appropriate campus leaders via presidential memos, which we are calling “Having Listened, Moving Forward” memos. These operational action memos direct leaders to implement simple administrative changes that will help to eliminate redundancies, streamline processes, and reduce workload. We look forward to continuing to send these memos throughout the spring semester. Changes made as a result of these memos will be communicated to the appropriate areas on campus.

Moving Forward Memo #1 directed to IRT to change the dial-out number. Thank you to all the staff and administrators in IRT for this quick and efficient work and for providing clear communication to campus about the change.

Thank you to those who attended listening sessions to highlight the various operational actions we need to take to make our campus more effective and efficient. We look forward to making many improvements over the coming weeks and months.

Stingers Up!

Campus is open and fully operational

February 5, 2024 - As you know, wind and rain from this weekend’s storm resulted in downed trees and widespread power outages throughout the Sacramento region. Though some are still without power this morning, campus is open and fully operational. All buildings have power and roadways are unobstructed.

The provost sent a message to faculty earlier today asking that they extend flexibility to students, as some are without power or may have trouble getting to campus today. If you are unable to get to campus safely today, please contact your manager or professors.

Thank you to our groundskeepers and facilities staff who worked diligently through the weekend to keep campus safe and accessible. Please stay safe out there.

Volunteer opportunities for 2024 Commencement

January 31, 2024 - Sacramento State’s 2024 Commencement is scheduled for May 17-19 at Golden 1 Center. To ensure the best experience for our students and their guests, we will need roughly 400 volunteer shifts filled across the three days of ceremonies.

The Volunteer Registration Form is now open to employees and faculty. The deadline to volunteer is April 26, 2024, but I encourage you to sign up as soon as you are able as shifts are available on a first-come, first-served basis and can fill quickly.

We understand that some individuals might not feel comfortable being face-to-face with the public at the event. The volunteer registration form includes a comment box allowing you to indicate your level of comfort working in certain positions. People who are not comfortable working in close proximity with guests and graduates will be assigned other Commencement duties.

Commencement is our most public event and one of the most important days in our students’ lives. Thank you for giving your time to make the event truly special for them. We appreciate the commitment and sacrifices you make to ensure that our students and their families have the best graduation possible. We look forward to celebrating our students with you at Commencement.

Seeking individuals to be a part of strategic activity work groups

January 24, 2024 - Based on extensive feedback from the campus community, we have added 23 strategic activities to the 2023-2028 Strategic Plan. Many of those activities were detailed in my Spring Address, and much more will be shared as the activities’ executive sponsors begin work to move each of the activities forward.

Expertise of people working in the areas touched by each of the strategic activities will be critical to their successful implementation. To ensure that success, we want to identify the appropriate individuals to be a part of the work groups responsible for each activity. This is a unique opportunity to collaborate with colleagues from across campus and to drive meaningful progress.

Please complete this very brief survey by noon on Feb. 2, indicating the strategic activity working group you want to participate in, and sharing your relevant background, experience, and knowledge. This will help us ensure we have the right team in place to successfully execute each of the activities. You can review the full list of numbered strategic activities in the Strategic Activities document.

Thank you again for your valuable feedback during the listening sessions, which directly informed the strategic activities around which we are mobilizing. I look forward to the next exciting phase of the Strategic Plan’s implementation.

Stingers Up!

Take advantage of your fee waiver benefit

January 24, 2024 - During the Spring Address, I previewed a new strategic activity in our campus Strategic Plan designed to provide internal leadership development for staff seeking opportunities for career advancement within Sacramento State. The “Promote Sac State Staff” initiative will be in place by Fall 2024, and we will share more details in the coming months.

With that initiative in mind, and as the spring semester begins, we encourage eligible employees to consider taking advantage of their fee waiver benefit. It allows staff to enroll in job-related courses that improve performance or develop skills necessary to further succeed in current roles or to advance into new positions. We also ask managers to provide maximum flexibility for eligible employees who wish to utilize this benefit.

We hope this information will help staff plan for the fall semester. However, for staff who want to enroll this semester, information about how to utilize the fee waiver to enroll in job-related courses can be found on the HR Benefits website. Eligible employees do not need to apply to the University to use this benefit for job-related courses.

The goal of the “Promote Sac State Staff” initiative is to provide employees opportunities for professional growth and learning, and increase readiness for advancement. Taking advantage of the high-caliber classes offered here at Our Sacramento State will be one important way we advance that goal.

Stingers Up!

Michelle Willard to be chief of External Relations

January 23, 2024 - During my Spring Address, I talked about the need for our campus to find ways to consolidate divisions and areas to reduce workload and redundancies. I am pleased to share that we have re-envisioned the Division of Public Affairs and Advocacy, which previously housed Government Relations and Anchor University, to better align campus community engagement efforts and better support government relations initiatives. Effective immediately, Anchor is a part of Academic Affairs and will merge with the Community Engagement Center. Government Relations will join the Office of the President and will be led by a chief of External Relations reporting to the chief of staff.

I am extremely pleased to share that Michelle Willard will join the Hornet Family in February as chief of External Relations. Michelle will lead our critical efforts to cultivate public and private support for Sacramento State through work with community and government agencies at the local, state, and federal level. She will also use her extensive experience to develop strategic partnerships with private industry leaders to advance the University’s mission.

Michelle joins Sacramento State after six years with the Greater Sacramento Economic Council (GSEC), most recently serving as their chief public affairs officer. In that role, she advised more than 45 CEOs, university presidents, congressional leaders, mayors, and county supervisors on economic development initiatives throughout the six-county Sacramento region. Michelle’s vision and leadership for GSEC advanced the interests of those partners and the community through strategic advocacy, building and maintaining collaborative relationships with federal, state, and local government leaders, and bolstering strategic communication initiatives related to economic development. Michelle has already made a lasting impact on the community through her work at GSEC, leading efforts for the largest semiconductor investment in California. Under Michelle’s leadership, GSEC has been ranked as the No. 3 economic development organization in the world by the International Economic Development Council (IEDC) for the last two years.

Michelle also led GSEC’s marketing and communications teams, creating innovative digital media marketing and communications campaigns, including the #NextOutWest campaign. The campaign won a 2020 gold award from IEDC. Through the development and execution of multiple communications strategies, Michelle garnered global, national, and local media attention. During her first year at GSEC in 2016, she won an award from the California Association of Economic Development for a national digital media campaign with world-renowned performance painter David Garibaldi.

For more than a decade, Michelle worked in all aspects of economic development, public affairs, public relations, marketing, and strategic advocacy, working with media outlets including Bloomberg, Forbes, Los Angeles Times, CNBC, Business Insider, and The Wall Street Journal. Additionally, she was a top-rated news anchor and reporter for KTXS News in Abilene, Texas, and at WLTX-TV in Columbia, South Carolina. Before returning to California, she led public relations and marketing for the global nonprofit Ronald McDonald House Charities of Hawaii.

In 2020, Michelle received the Outstanding Young Alumni Award from her alma mater, Lyndon State College (now Vermont State University), where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Broadcast News with a minor in Marketing. Michelle’s husband is an Air Force pilot who serves as lieutenant colonel and commander at Beale Air Force Base, flying U-2, B-1 and T-38 aircraft. They are the proud parents of two boys.

Michelle’s wealth of experience and proven track record in economic development, public/government affairs, public relations, and marketing will undoubtedly contribute to the growth and transformation of Sacramento State. We look forward to the positive impact she will make in our community, especially for our students. Please join me in welcoming Michelle to the Hornet Family.

Stingers Up!

The CFA strike has ended and classes resume today

January 23, 2024 - On Monday evening the California State University (CSU) and the California Faculty Association (CFA) reached a tentative contract agreement. As a result, the CFA ended its strike, effective immediately.

Prior to and during the strike, there were conflicting messages about the status of instruction. As a result, many students did not return to campus this week, did not adjust their work schedules, and may have made other plans for this week. We are grateful for the resolution that led the CFA to call off the strike, and we encourage faculty to provide maximum flexibility to students this week due to the quick turnaround to resuming classes. The add/drop deadline will remain extended through the third week of classes.

Thank you all for your patience and understanding during this difficult time, and for all that you continue to do to provide our students with the excellent education and support they need to thrive.

Spring 2024 Commencement schedule is now available

January 19, 2024 - It is with great excitement that I announce that 2024 Commencement is scheduled for May 17-19 at Golden 1 Center. I look forward to celebrating graduation with students and their supporters at this incredible venue.

Sacramento State’s Commencement website has been updated with the detailed schedule and other important information about the ceremonies. Graduating students should read the ”Graduate Information and FAQ” page for answers to common Commencement-related questions.

Students must register to participate in Commencement. In March, eligible students will receive an email to indicate that the link in their Student Center is active so they can register and claim guest tickets. Each eligible graduate will be allotted eight tickets to their specific ceremony. They will be able to access their tickets through their Student Center beginning March 4. A step-by-step guide to claiming tickets soon will be available on the Commencement website.

Only Fall 2023, Spring 2024, and Summer 2024 graduates are invited to participate in Spring 2024 Commencement. We are unable to accommodate requests for exceptions.

If the Sacramento Kings make it past the first round of NBA Conference playoffs, Commencement could be moved to Hornet Stadium. Our University Events team is working to ensure that if Commencement is moved to Hornet Stadium, it will remain a high-quality, unforgettable experience for our graduates and their guests. The schedule for this contingency plan can be found on the Commencement website. If we shift to the contingency schedule at Hornet Stadium, each graduate still will receive eight guest tickets and will cross the stage and be individually recognized. We will have an unforgettable celebration at either venue.

We will notify graduates via SacSend and through updates posted to the Commencement website about any changes in venue and schedule. I look forward to celebrating this significant occasion with the Hornet Family.

Stingers Up!

Join me at the Spring Address to learn more about strategic activities

January, 16, 2024 - Please join us for the Spring Address at 9 a.m. Thursday, Jan. 18, in the University Union Ballroom, where we will share details about the strategic actions that came out of the 100 Days of Listening. There will be an opportunity to network with colleagues at the pre-event reception beginning at 8:30 a.m., also in the Ballroom. The Spring Address is also available via livestream from our campus events web page. ASL-English interpretation and real-time captioning will be provided.

As you know, in April 2023, three months before I began my tenure as Sacramento State president, the University launched its 2023-2028 Strategic Plan, a powerful document with imperatives and goals that capture the ethos of where Sacramento State is and where it needs to be. During my 100 Days of Listening, one of the goals was to identify what our campus can do to implement the Strategic Plan, as it did not contain action items (i.e., strategic activities). Based on what we learned during the 92 sessions attended by over 1,500 members of the Sac State community and feedback received from a survey conducted by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU), we released a draft of 35 Strategic Activities to the campus community and asked for your feedback in December 2023.

After carefully considering that feedback, we are pleased to share the final document containing 23 strategic activities to guide the six imperatives in the Strategic Plan. During the Spring Address I will provide the background and details for many of these items.

As you review the strategic activities, please note:

  1. Not everything will happen at once. Each strategic activity has a semester and year by which that item should be completed or well underway, all of which are between now and 2028. The implementation timelines of these efforts must align with institutional resources, personnel constraints, and differing levels of urgency.
  2. Executive sponsors for each of the strategic activities are listed in the right column of the document. These Cabinet members are responsible for engaging the appropriate campus stakeholders in the implementation of the strategic activities.
  3. A limited number of actions are already underway. Action items noted with an asterisk (*) are underway and/or were previously announced. For example, the move to reach a 1:1,500 therapist/counselor-to-student ratio was set forth as part of the action items that laid the foundation for the Presidential Taskforce on Campus Safety. We also have already appointed Dr. Sasha Sidorkin to head our Artificial Intelligence initiative.
  4. Preexisting campus initiatives are still underway. Existing efforts that have been underway for several years or more are not highlighted within the plan as they already have visibility on campus. For example, the Placer Center and the California Mobility Center are not highlighted within the plan but remain core and essential efforts for the future of Sacramento State and our region.
  5. Several action item recommendations are “operational actions” that are not listed in this plan but will still occur. For instance, we learned from members of our Deaf community that the coordination of campus ASL interpretation services should return to the Deaf Studies Department. This is occurring but is not specified within the plan. Operational actions will be communicated to departments and/or via presidential memos, depending upon the scope of those affected by the change.
  6. All feedback received in December about the draft version of the strategic activities from members of the campus community has been shared with the executive sponsors of each item.
  7. Lastly, based on feedback from the campus community, we have established three bold enrollment goals which represent our desire to provide access and success for populations that have been historically minoritized in education. These goals are listed at the top of the strategic activities document.

I want to thank all who attended a listening session and shared their experiences, opinions, and vision for Our Sacramento State, and those who took the time to provide thoughtful and constructive feedback on the draft strategic activities. I look forward to sharing more at the Spring Address later this week.

Stingers Up!

VP for Student Affairs

January 9, 2024 - I am pleased to share that, after a competitive national search, Aniesha Mitchell, J.D., has accepted the position of vice president for Student Affairs. Mitchell joined Sacramento State as interim VP for Student Affairs in August 2023. She previously served as senior associate vice president for Student Affairs and Campus Diversity at San Diego State University.

In her role at SDSU, Mitchell served as the lead executive officer in the Division of Student Affairs and Campus Diversity, providing leadership and support to 42 departments and over 480 talented employees, and managing a $46 million budget. Mitchell was critical to SDSU’s efforts to advance graduation outcomes for students who have been historically underrepresented and underserved in education.

Mitchell has over 20 years of progressive leadership experience in higher education in the areas of Title IX, campus safety, student conduct, compliance, retention, and restorative justice. Her extensive experience in higher education includes roles at the University of Cincinnati, University of Mississippi, University of Michigan, and Oakland University. Mitchell earned a bachelor of arts degree in Political Science from Oakland University and a Juris Doctor degree from Western Michigan University Cooley Law School.

Mitchell quickly became a trusted member of Cabinet when she joined the Hornet Family last summer. During her tenure as interim VP, she supported with the implementation of convocation, co-chaired the Presidential Taskforce on Campus Safety, and launched the Campus Action Response Team (CART), created to support the community during demonstrations and other constitutionally protected activities under the First Amendment.

I am grateful that Aniesha has agreed to make Sacramento her home, and I look forward to all that she will do for our students and the rest of the campus community as she continues her work as vice president for Student Affairs.

I would like to extend my sincere thanks to the search committee for its diligent work to find the right person for this position. Please join me in congratulating Aniesha Mitchell on her new position. Stingers Up!

An invitation to the President's Spring Address

January 5, 2024 - Please RSVP and plan to attend my Spring Address at 9 a.m. Thursday, Jan. 18, in the University Union Ballroom. All members of the campus community are also invited to greet and network with colleagues at a pre-event reception at 8:30 a.m., also taking place in the Ballroom.

Those who cannot attend in person can watch the livestream from our campus events web page. The Spring Address will also be recorded and available to those who are not able to watch live. ASL-English interpretation and real-time captioning will be provided. Additional accommodations can be requested on the RSVP form, no later than Jan. 10.

I look forward to sharing more information about what I learned from you during my 100 Days of Listening and details about the strategic activities we have identified for the Strategic Plan. Thank you to those of you who took the time to provide feedback on the draft of the strategic activities I sent out to campus in December.

I look forward to being together soon. Stingers Up!

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