2005 Distinguished Alumni Awards
Three outstanding Sonoma State alumni have been selected to receive this year’s Distinguished Alumni Award.
From grassroots efforts of the international development community in the African Sahel to conducting diplomatic protocols for multilateral environmental agreements at the U.S. Embassy in South Africa, from negotiating with foreign nations for the exchange and application of advanced technology to monitoring the natural cycles of the Earth’s systems and the commercial applications of that environmental information, Richard Ohlemacher’s career has continued to build upon his early studies and influences at SSU. After graduation in 1992, Ohlemacher was selected to join the U.S. Peace Corps and was sent to Senegal, West Africa, where he initiated an environmental education program that later served as a model countrywide.
After receiving his master’s degree in international affairs from Columbia University, Ohlemacher was selected as a Presidential Management Fellow for the federal government.
During this time he worked on international and interagency science and technology policy, as well as specific applications for implementing international, Earth-monitoring and environmental agreements at the Department of Commerce in Washington, D.C., with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. His last two years at NOAA were spent with a small cadre of staff reporting directly to the NOAA administrator and under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere, retired Navy Vice Adm. Conrad C. Lautenbacher. His principal focus centered on the first-ever Earth Observation Summit, a high-level political initiative spearheaded by Lautenbacher and the secretary of commerce. Hosted by Secretary of State Colin Powell, Secretary of Commerce Donald Evans and Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham, over 30 nations and 20 international organizations participated at the highest levels. Ohlemacher and his team were recognized for their achievement with the Gold Medal for Leadership.
Ohlemacher has since left public service to join Northrop Grumman Corporation in Los Angeles as manager of environmental systems.
Wendy Smith began her work at Sonoma State University as a lecturer in the undergraduate and graduate nursing programs. In 1994 she became the director of the graduate Family Nurse Practitioner Program while completing her doctoral degree. She was appointed as a tenure track faculty member in 1995 and has been a leader in the nursing department’s FNP program for over 10 years. Since becoming the director, Smith has written and been awarded seven competitive grants. She has procured over $2.7 million in funding support for the distance delivery of the FNP program in rural areas in California. She has utilized the federal grant awards to launch an innovative distance delivery program to rural CSU campuses. Smith and her team expanded the program by offering the graduate FNP curriculum to rural campuses that do not have the faculty expertise and/or resources to provide advanced practice nursing programs in their communities.
Program grants have benefited Sonoma State University and sister campuses Humboldt, Chico and Stanislaus by funding advanced practice education at all sites, covered faculty salaries, equipment costs and operating expenses. In turn, these grants benefited local communities and service areas by enabling nurse practitioner students to work in medical offices, rural and community clinics, and homeless shelters providing a myriad of services to what are described as medically underserved populations. Since Smith has been the FNP program director, 345 students have graduated from the program, 60 students from the distance program at rural CSU campuses.
Smith holds a Doctor of Nursing Science degree from the University of California, San Francisco, and an adult education credential from UC Berkeley Extension.
Jan Sofie has served as the director of the innovative ArtQuest at Santa Rosa High School for seven years. This award-winning public school magnet program was created to serve secondary students for whom creativity is paramount. As the program director, Sofie oversees all applications and has helped expand the 11-year-old ArtQuest from 75 students to over 520 students. She has also been instrumental in increasing the program’s offerings from just two to seven arts disciplines.
She has fostered partnerships with a variety of cultural organizations, institutions of higher learning, prestigious art colleges, businesses and community groups. Sofie has written or co-written several successful grant proposals, including the Local Arts Education Partnership grant from the California Arts Council in partnership with the Sonoma County Arts Council and grants from the California Department of Education. In 1999, ArtQuest won the Jack London Award for educational excellence and was a precipitating reason for a California Assembly Resolution in 2003 proclaiming Santa Rosa High School and ArtQuest as exemplary educational programs. Sofie served in a leadership role for ArtQuest’s two large-scale collaborations with the Santa Rosa Symphony, “The War Requiem Project” and “Child of Our Time.” Additionally, Sofie has taught the Advanced Placement Studio Art portfolio class for nine years, with her students attaining an overall 97 percent passage rate.
Sofie is finishing her thesis in educational leadership with an emphasis on arts education, focusing on student voices within the ArtQuest program. As a student of SSU professor William Morehouse, she was introduced to the famed artist Christo’s work and subsequently worked on both his California projects, Running Fence and The Umbrellas.