Top 12 SSU News Stories of 2019

December 23, 2019

The campus community has celebrated many milestones during this past year, such as President Judy K. Sakaki signing the “President's Climate Leadership Commitment,” in April, the opening of the Marina Crossing workforce housing complex and the conferring of degrees to SSU’s largest class ever in May. Here are 12 of SSU’s most notable stories of 2019:

Wildfire watch: SSU's pivotal role in new North Bay fire alert system - Feb. 28

Over the past few years, the North Bay has become synonymous with devastating wildfires. In response, two high-definition, near-infrared cameras have been installed atop Sonoma State University’s 450-acre Fairfield Osborn Preserve located on the northwest flank of Sonoma Mountain. The cameras are part of a network of ridgetop cameras that have been set up around the North Bay that help give fire crews an exact location on sources of smoke and potential wildfires. The cameras can be accessed by logging onto, a website operated by the University of Nevada, Reno Seismological Laboratory in partnership with a number of universities and government agencies. The network will start with 17 cameras on eight towers atop ridges throughout the North Bay, with the ones atop Fairfield Osborn Preserve covering views from Petaluma to Santa Rosa and from Valley of the Moon to Mt. St. Helena.

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Two SSU students receive prestigious awards - March 8 & Sept. 26

Two Sonoma State students, Emily Hinton and Anthony Tercero, were recognized with special statewide honors this year. Hinton was honored by the California Legislature in March as a “Woman of the Year.” She was nominated by Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis as part of the annual Woman of the Year event on the floors of the state Senate and Assembly. Hinton served as president of Associated Students at Sonoma State and later was one of the CSU's two student trustees representing the nearly 500,000 students within the CSU system. Tercero, an eight-year military veteran who is working on his master’s degree in biology, received the Wells Fargo Veteran Scholarship at the CSU Board of Trustees meeting on Sept. 24, which is given to help veterans with their transition into civilian careers. After graduating in May 2020, he plans to pursue his Ph.D. at UC Davis with the long-term goal of becoming a tenure-track professor and working at a university.

Read Anthony’s story here:

Read Emily’s story here:

Sonoma State president signs landmark commitment to sustainability - April 5

President Judy K. Sakaki signed the landmark “President's Climate Leadership Commitment," setting the highest of standards for sustainable practices for universities across the nation. The commitment, a document first adopted by 12 universities in 2006, is a comprehensive roadmap for mitigating and adapting to a changing climate and one that sets high goals of sustainability for the university. Under the principles of the agreement, the university will be pledging to adopt a Climate Action Plan that calls for achieving carbon neutrality for electricity-powered campus operations by 2045 and integrating sustainability and resilience into curriculum and research.

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Sonoma State takes top honors at United Nations conference - April 18

Sonoma State University’s Model U.N. students are no strangers to taking home awards from the annual National Model United Nations Conference in New York City. But in 2019, they took home the top prize for the first time. On April 18, the 35-member team received the premier “Outstanding Delegation” award in a competition that features several hundred colleges and universities and thousands of students participating from dozens of countries all over the world.  

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Sonoma State celebrates largest graduating class at 2019 commencement - May 14

Sonoma State celebrated its largest class of graduates in 58 years in May, with nearly 6,000 students being conferred degrees. In all, the Class of 2019 came from 20 different states, from Hawaii to Florida and New York. The class included residents of six different countries including England, Spain, Japan, Taiwan and Singapore.

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Sonoma State celebrates opening of new housing complex for faculty and staff - June 13

In June, President Judy K. Sakaki and other university leaders cut the ribbon on the Marina Crossing Apartments, which is believed to be the largest workforce housing complex yet in Sonoma County. The 90-unit complex is intended to provide faculty and staff of SSU, especially those who are moving to the region for the first time, with a stable and economical place to live. Located roughly 10 miles south of campus and adjacent to the Petaluma Marina, the Marina Crossing Apartments acquisition is the first step in a multi-year SSU housing initiative, one that also has a goal of providing on-campus housing for half of all students by 2040.

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Sonoma State awarded $1.3 million to improve the performance of underrepresented minorities in STEM courses - June 21

Sonoma State was awarded funding to undergo a project to create more equitable and inclusive classrooms and combat evidence that shows underrepresented students, such as female students and students of color, leave science in greater numbers than other students. Sonoma State chemistry professors Carmen Works and Jennifer Lillig-Whiles will work alongside professors at UC Berkeley, College of Marin and Diablo Valley College through June 2022 to create online modules focusing on introductory-level STEM courses that will be accessible to college faculty across California.

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Graton tribe commits $2.85 million for improvements at SSU preserve - Oct. 14

In October, the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria agreed to make a $2.85 million gift to the university to expand environmental education and make other improvements at Fairfield Osborn Preserve. The funding will go toward the creation of an outdoor talking circle at the preserve’s education and research center and a remodeling of the center to allow greater use by students, faculty, staff, local K-12 students and community members. Historians say Sonoma State’s 450-acre Fairfield Osborn Preserve was once used as a seasonal hunting and gathering grounds by Pomo, Miwok and Wappo tribes.

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Cube satellite built by SSU students set to orbit earth and collect data on vegetation health - Nov. 8

A Sonoma State student-built satellite about twice the size of a Rubik’s Cube was sent into space on Dec. 5 by way of a Falcon 9 SpaceX rocket on its way to the International Space Station. Built in partnership with Santa Clara University and Morehead State University in Kentucky, the “EdgeCube” satellite will be boosted 500km into orbit in January where it will collect data on vegetation health in ecosystems around the globe. Information from the satellite will be sent back to Earth via ground station antennas atop the Student Center at Sonoma State where students from the team will be able to track and analyze the data. 

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Sonoma State University opens Military and Veteran Resource Center - Nov. 15

Sonoma State University celebrated the opening of its first space dedicated to supporting military-connected students on campus. Located on the first floor of the library, the Military and Veteran Resource Center is designed to help military-connected students to meet, access services and get further involved on campus. 

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Study finds California could triple southern sea otter population by recolonizing San Francisco Bay - Dec. 9

A study led by Assistant Professor of Biology at Sonoma State Brent Hughes found that California could more than triple its population of southern sea otters, from an estimated 3,000 to nearly 10,000, by repopulating the largest estuary on the coast - the San Francisco Bay. According to Hughes and fellow researchers, current southern sea otter recovery plans have not included estuaries as target habitats. The southern sea otter was widely believed to be extinct due to the expansive fur trade of the 18th and 19th centuries, and while the population has since grown to more than 3,000, their numbers are still far below their historic numbers and range.

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Sonoma State bans use of glyphosate products such as Roundup - Dec. 9

Sonoma State’s Landscape Services has begun testing several organic-based herbicides to keep the university’s landscape weed-free. This comes in response to the university banning all glyphosate-based chemicals on campus, including those used in weed-killing products such as Roundup. Sonoma State University now joins the cities of Santa Rosa, Windsor and Sonoma as well as the county of Sonoma in banning or restricting the use of synthetic pesticides on public land. 

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Media Contact

Paul Gullixson