Though a total solar eclipse temporarily darkened the sky immediately after the ceremony, Sonoma State University's Convocation shined light on the accomplishments made in Judy K. Sakaki's first year as president and illuminated the bright future the University has ahead.
"As we enter a new academic year, I can say with confidence that we are a community with fewer silos, and a greater focus on our academic mission and our student success," Sakaki told the crowd of faculty, students, staff and community members at the August 21 morning ceremony in Weill Hall at the Green Music Center.
Successes of the past year include attaining federal designation as a Hispanic Serving Institution and increasing support for undocumented students, restructuring and enhancing the Student Affairs division, better aligning the Green Music Center with the University's academic mission, initiating a new Maker program for STEM students and opening a new Makerspace on in the University Library, and more.
Sakaki introduced four new cabinet members hired through collaborative search processes that included members from across campus: Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Lisa Vollendorf; Vice President for Advancement Vince Sales; Vice President for Administration and Finance Joyce Lopes; and Green Music Center Executive Director Jacob Yarrow.
Provost Vollendorf introduced the 22 new tenure-track faculty and four visiting faculty joining Sonoma State this semester. The number of new tenure-track hires marks a 22 percent increase over last year's total of 18.
She also announced that the University will use $2 million from the California State University's Graduation Initiative 2025, which seeks to double four-year graduation rates by 2025, for advisors and student support services. These efforts include hiring advisors with expertise in serving first-generation and historically underserved populations, as well as permanently funding the University's new Undocu-center and Transitions and Transfer Center.
"Our priorities are clear," said Vollendorf. "We must diversify our faculty and staff to serve our increasingly diverse student population with integrity. "
Chair of the Faculty Carmen Works described the change coming from her previous institution, San Francisco State University, to a smaller campus not located in the heart of a major metropolitan city. "I found a sense of community at Sonoma State," she said. Evoking recent protests and incidents of hate speech around the country, she implored the campus community to come together.
"I hope the whole campus will engage in a meaningful dialogue, and we can come to an agreement on the difference between free speech and hate speech," she said to great applause. "This work is important, and is only doable if we work together."
With a sealed envelope containing the names, the University's Excellence in Teaching Award winners were announced and invited to the stage. Physics Professor Jeremy Qualls and History Professor Samuel Cohen are this year's award winners. Cohen is a historian of ancient and medieval history, focusing on late and post-Roman Italy and the Mediterranean world. Qualls has expertise in STEM education and interdisciplinary sciences, among other areas, and will supervise the opening of the University's new Makerspace this fall.
2017 Class By the Numbers:
9,230 students enrolled as of Aug. 23
8,578 undergraduate students
652 graduate students
3,200 students living on campus
1,867 first time freshmen
771 new transfer students
36 percent Underrepresented Minority students (Black, Hispanic/Latino, Native American)
41 percent of incoming freshmen Underrepresented Minority students
67 percent of incoming transfer students from local counties (Sonoma, Marin, Lake, Mendocino, Napa, Solano)