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Presidential Communications - Summer 2023
President Luke Wood’s messages to students, faculty, and staff
Sac State to launch Presidential Taskforce on Campus Safety
This is a transcript of the video below.
August 16, 2023 - Greetings, Hornet Family. I am President Luke Wood, and I want to express to the campus community my thoughts and actions regarding a concern that has been highlighted in the media coverage, campus forums, and by our student leaders over the past year and more: campus safety.
Unfortunately, campus safety has been a concern at most major colleges and universities across the nation, and Sacramento State is no exception. The safety and well-being of Sac State’s students, faculty, and staff has been near and dear to my heart for many years. As a student leader in the early 2000s, I was part of several teams that ran for student government in response to a heightened focus on campus safety. And even then, campus safety had been an issue for many years. The University has taken a number of efforts in recent years to address this, such as hiring a social worker to partner with campus police, installing more lights and cameras on campus, and increasing the number of student public safety workers. These efforts are notable, and yet still, we can do more.
In advance of the fall semester, I want to assure our incoming students, their families and their supporters, as well as our current students, faculty, staff, and alumni, that campus safety will always be my top priority. Simply put, you cannot learn, grow, develop, or thrive in an environment where you do not have physical, emotional, and cognitive safety.
As a result, I am announcing the creation of a Presidential Taskforce on Campus Safety. This taskforce will include representatives from our faculty, staff, students, administration, public safety, and other experts to make recommendations on how we can better improve safety and well-being at Sac State. Tomorrow (Aug. 17), I will deliver a charge to our shared governance bodies to begin the process of identifying representatives to serve on this taskforce. Its charge will be to conduct a comprehensive study of the perceptions and experiences of the Sacramento State community on safety. The taskforce will engage in conversations, host community town halls, and collect data that will inform its recommendations to be made before the end of the semester.
I also want to acknowledge that a taskforce in and of itself is not action. It is a commitment to learning and for future action. Thus, in advance of forming the taskforce, the campus will move forward with three critical steps that my leadership team and I believe are absolutely critical to addressing pressing security and well-being concerns.
First, we will double the number of full-time Community Service Specialist Officers, who will provide enhanced security, public safety and community support on campus. This will increase our public safety officer pool from 10 to 20 and will allow for greater presence in key locations on campus.
Second, we will install up to 30 digital monitors on campus to enhance communication around safety concerns, redirection, and prevention. This will enhance real-time communication around timely notifications, special alert bulletins, proactive information on safety and wellness, and during emergency crisis situations. And on a daily basis for normal campus activity, these monitors will also be used to elevate the contributions of our educators, as they relate to safety and well-being, and to promote healthy community and culture.
Third, I am authorizing Student Health and Counseling to move forward in hiring seven more full-time counselors to support the well-being of our students. These therapists will provide culturally sensitive individual and group counseling and health services to ensure increased access to mental health support for our students. With the hiring of these counseling faculty, we will have a far more acceptable ratio of therapists to students.
I am looking forward to the fall semester, and I hope these actions and the forthcoming Presidential Taskforce on Campus Safety demonstrate that we can and will continue to cultivate a safe and healthy Sacramento State.
Dr. James "Jim" Dragna has passed away
August 15, 2023 - It is with a heavy heart that we share that Dr. James “Jim” Dragna, executive director of University Initiatives and Student Success, passed away this morning after a long struggle.
Jim joined the Hornet Family in 2016 as our first “graduation czar” to lead campus efforts to improve student success. Thanks to his strategic vision, creativity, collaborative spirit, and steadfast dedication to student success, Sacramento State quickly became a model for improving graduation rates, not just throughout the CSU, but nationwide. As a trusted member of the President’s Cabinet, he collaborated on numerous student success projects that focused on ensuring a well-rounded approach to student needs and timely graduation, including Sac State’s Finish in Four and Through in Two campaigns. Under his leadership, Sac State’s four-year graduation rate rose by 212%, saving our students and their families an estimated $440 million. He was instrumental in transforming Sac State to a truly student-centered culture.
Jim came to Sacramento State from the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand, where he served as the director for Student Success. He held a bachelor’s degree in Theology from Notre Dame, and a master’s and doctorate in Counseling Education from the University of Colorado at Boulder. After clinical training as a psychologist at the University of Colorado at Denver, he spent time in private practice as a psychotherapist before moving into higher education as the director of the Center for Student Counseling and Personal Growth at North Dakota State University.
Jim was equity-minded, compassionate, and kind, and he cared deeply for our students and for his colleagues. He believed in our students and was committed to removing barriers to their success. He had a deep and lasting impact on countless lives.
Our deepest condolences go out to Jim’s wife of 37 years, Janine, and to his children and grandchildren. In lieu of flowers, Jim’s family has asked for donations to Stanford Sierra Youth & Families, where Jim served as a board member for many years.
We are grateful that Jim was a part of the Hornet Family, and he will be greatly missed.
Luke Wood, President
Robert S. Nelsen, President Emeritus
Jenni Murphy will be first VP for Enrollment, Aniesha Mitchell to be VPS
August 3, 2023 - In an effort to address one of the most urgent challenges facing Sacramento State, I am pleased to share that Dr. Jenni Murphy has agreed to serve as the interim vice president for Engagement and Enrollment. This inaugural position is needed, given the critical importance of enrollment to our core aim of providing access to postsecondary education to students in the Sacramento region and California.
I am proud that Sac State has been one of the very few CSUs to exceed enrollment targets in recent years. However, in the 2022-23 academic year, we exceeded our target by just 1%, or about 300 students. Currently, we are 1% below target for the 2023-24 academic year. Enrollment challenges are not unique to Sacramento State. Over the last two years, overall enrollment across the CSU has dropped by about 27,000 students, with some campuses experiencing steep declines that have resulted in severe impacts, including budget deficits and program cuts. Enrollment declines are projected to continue until the end of the decade, as our state’s K-12 population is expected to drop by about 500,000 students. To prevent drops in enrollment that would have devastating effects on our students, we have designed the new position to prioritize outreach and enrollment, allowing us to continue to serve our students by offering the classes and resources necessary for them to thrive.
I am grateful that Dr. Murphy will step in to lead this new area. She has extensive leadership experience in marketing, outreach, project management, and development of efforts related to degree attainment for special populations. Regional efforts include ProjectAttain!, Degrees When Due, Building Rural Community Learning Systems, and the Sacramento K16 Collaborative, which secured $18.1 million in funding to improve the use of data, dual enrollment, and transfers to and through education and workforce, and increase equity and services for priority populations. She has served on and managed numerous boards, secured funding, and created productive regional and statewide partnerships with leaders and organizations.
As Dr. Murphy transitions to this new role, I am very pleased to share that Aniesha Mitchell, J.D., has agreed to serve as interim vice president for Student Affairs. Mitchell joins Sacramento State from San Diego State University, where she most recently served as senior associate vice president (AVP) for Student Affairs and Campus Diversity, chief of Divisional Operations, and deputy chief diversity officer. Both interim roles will commence immediately, with searches for permanent positions planned for the Spring 2024 semester, following our shared governance policies and values.
In her role as senior AVP 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 dollar budget. Mitchell has been 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. Obviously, all of these areas are priorities of concern for Sacramento State. Mitchell’s 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.
Aniesha and Jenni will work together within and across the current University structures to ensure alignment of goals and services that best support our students, our University, and our community.
Please join me in welcoming Aniesha Mitchell to Sacramento State and to the Hornet Family. Stingers Up!
Dr. Mark R. Wheeler has been appointed chief of staff
July 18, 2023 - I am pleased to announce that Dr. Mark R. Wheeler has accepted the position of interim chief of staff, effective Aug. 1. Mark joins the President's Office having served the San Diego State University community for the past 28 years as a professor of philosophy, a faculty leader, and a champion of shared governance.
Mark most recently served as the SDSU Imperial Valley Campus interim dean. Prior to this, he served as associate dean of Academic Affairs and interim chief administrative and academic officer. In that role, he helped secure $80 million for a new STEM-focused campus in Brawley and funding for new faculty lines focused on public health research and curriculum at the Imperial Valley campuses. He also worked with faculty, students, staff, and community members to establish the first STEM major at SDSU Imperial Valley, a new MS program in Homeland Security, and the first four-year bachelor’s degree in the Science of Nursing Program in the Imperial Valley.
Mark is a tenured full professor of philosophy with active research interests in logic, metaphysics and ethics. Mark served as chair of the Department of Philosophy several times, and was the director of the SDSU Institute of Ethics and Public Affairs. He has taught thousands of undergraduates and hundreds of graduate students at SDSU, and is the recipient of numerous teaching awards.
Always engaged as a faculty representative and leader, Mark has been involved at all levels of shared governance at SDSU. He served as the SDSU University Senate chair, where he championed significant policy advances in diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice. While Senate chair, he worked to increase the number of undergraduate student representatives and to welcome graduate student representatives to the SDSU University Senate for the first time.
Mark also served as the SDSU University Senate parliamentarian, an elected member-at-large on the SDSU University Senate Executive Committee, and has served many times as an elected faculty representative for the SDSU College of Arts and Letters to the SDSU University Senate. During academic years 2012-13 through 2015-16, Mark was one of the SDSU elected representatives to the Academic Senate for the California State University (ASCSU). He served as the ASCSU parliamentarian, legislative specialist, and as a member of the Fiscal and Governmental Affairs Committee, General Education Advisory Council, Academic Council on International Programs, and Faculty Affairs Committee.
Mark has also been an active and dedicated member of the SDSU CFA chapter, serving in numerous leadership positions including chapter president and vice president. As chapter president, he worked to reinvigorate the campus Labor Council to increase solidarity among workers on campus.
In addition to his work as a teacher and mentor in philosophy at SDSU, Mark has always engaged with students outside of the classroom, working to ensure they are treated with care and respect and are offered the best chances to succeed. He has been a longstanding member and chair of the SDSU Student Grievance Committee, was a faculty-in-residence for five years, and has served as a faculty advisor to many student organizations.
Mark earned his BA in philosophy at Colgate University in 1989, working closely with Professors Anne Ashbaugh, Jerome Balmuth, Maudemarie Clark and Jonathan Jacobs. He earned his MA and Ph.D .in philosophy at the University of Rochester, writing his dissertation under Professor Deborah K. Modrak and working closely with Professors Lewis White Beck, Rolf Eberle and Henry Kyburg, Jr.
Please join me in welcoming Mark to the Hornet Family. Stingers Up!
Cozen O'Connor systemwide Title IX and DHR assessment is now available
July 17, 2023 – As you may know, as part of a systemwide effort across our 23 California State University campuses, the Cozen O’Connor Institutional Response Group has been working to assess how we respond to reports and incidents of discrimination and harassment.
By means of interviews, campus visits, survey results, and email feedback, the Cozen O’Connor Group has identified core observations for improvements at the system level and on individual campuses. The recommendations from this assessment will guide and help us to improve our Title IX and Discrimination, Harassment and Retaliation (DHR) training, awareness, prevention, intervention, compliance, and support systems.
The full written report of the systemwide Cozen O’Connor assessment, including a summary report and a separate report concerning Sacramento State, can now be found on the CSU’s Commitment to Change and Sacramento State websites. In addition to reading the reports, you can view the Cozen O’Connor Group’s initial overview of their assessment presented to the Board of Trustees in May (the Cozen section begins at 23:15).
With these important findings now in hand, a campus implementation team has been assembled, which includes a broad cross-section of campus stakeholders, with the goal of advancing Cozen’s recommendations. Key areas of focus and action for Sacramento State over the months to come will include:
- Strengthening and maximizing the utilization of the Office of Equal Opportunity’s internal tracking system and documentation of each step in the report response process.
- Clear articulation and more visible education about the different reporting pathways on our campus, including increased professional development for faculty and staff.
- Making the reporting process more apparent, transparent, and user-friendly, including creating user-friendly flow charts and “one-pagers” outlining and simplifying the various complex processes.
- Supporting our campus community, particularly students, in understanding the various policy processes related to Title IX report response (notification, intake, formal complaint, informal resolution, determination, investigation, hearing, and appeal processes).
- Ensuring integrity and accountability measures are embedded in every step of the process.
This work will be challenging, but I know that we are up to the challenge. Our full support and appreciation go to the implementation team members who will invest their time, energy, and expertise in this vital effort. Our ambitious goals will require substantial planning, additional resources and personnel, and will be accomplished in stages. We will continue to share our progress and specific plans as they are developed and evolve.
The release of this report is an opportunity to make lasting, impactful change to ensure that Sacramento State is a safe, inclusive, and welcoming place where all of us can thrive. Together, we will continue to nurture and strengthen a culture of care, safety, belonging, and respect.
Luke Wood, Ph.D.
Mia Settles-Tidwell, Ed.D.
Vice President for Inclusive Excellence
William “Skip” Bishop, J.D.
Director of the Office for Equal Opportunity new section
Invitation to Fall Address
July 17,2023 – Please join me for the annual Fall Address, taking place at 9 a.m. on Thursday, Aug. 24, in the University Union Ballroom, followed by a reception in the Cottonwood Suite. In addition to giving brief remarks, I will be interviewed by my wife, Sacramento State alumna Dr. Idara Wood, so that you can get to know me better. I invite the campus community to submit questions to help shape that interview by clicking here.
ASL to English interpretation and captioning will be provided. Requests for additional accommodations should be submitted no later than Aug. 14. To RSVP or to request additional accommodations, please click here.