Update from the President April 2, 2020

April 2, 2020

Dear Campus Community,

I’m writing to you at the beginning of a new month – one that is new to all of us in ways that may have seemed unimaginable at the start of March. You are likely reading this message as you study, work, live and shelter in place in your residence hall or home. 

These are challenging new experiences for all of us. But I take heart from the fact that we are all sharing in this new experience together, even as we are apart. We remain closely bound as members of the Sonoma State community no matter where we are: whether we are on campus or off of it; whether we are in the North Bay or elsewhere in our state, country or the world. 

As I’ve said many times – and as I will say later this year to our newest campus community members when they enroll at Sonoma State in the fall – Seawolves are Seawolves for life. Our Seawolf community is here for you, and our Seawolf community will emerge from the challenges of COVID-19 with even greater spirit, compassion, grit and goodwill. 

COVID-19 and our campus operations

I’m very proud of the many Sonoma State staff members who worked so quickly and tirelessly to orchestrate the shift of the majority of our academic and student support operations to remote platforms. This was an enormous, time-sensitive undertaking that has succeeded despite the many stressors of the pandemic and the constantly changing public health information. 

I’m also extremely proud of our faculty and our students for making the leap to remote instruction and for remaining committed to their coursework despite daunting logistics and personal/family considerations. My gratitude for our staff, faculty and students has only increased as we’ve navigated these considerable challenges. 

To stay informed of COVID-19’s impact on our campus operations, please continue to routinely check your email and visit our COVID-19 FAQ page

New ways of building community at Sonoma State

I miss my Walk n’ Talks on campus, taking selfies and hearing your suggestions about what we can do to make Sonoma State even better. We may not be congregating or crossing paths on campus as we would normally during our beautiful North Bay spring season, but we are still building community together. 

For example, Student Services is continuing to host – virtually! – SSU Trivia on Tuesday and Thursday nights, complete with virtual prizes. The Sonoma State STAR put out its first all-digital edition last week. And our Center for Environmental Inquiry plans to offer virtual events and workshops at Sonoma State’s preserves, including a spring writing walk

I’m inspired and energized by these new creative ways our campus community members are finding to engage with one another. Though many of us are staying connected via coursework, committee responsibilities and Zoom meetings, I hope you also will consider joining in some of these fun and unexpected virtual parts of campus life. 

Seawolf announcements 

I’m thrilled that we have two new deans who will be joining us soon. Dr. Laura Alamillo will become our new Dean of Education. Dr. Alamillo is currently the interim dean of education at Fresno State University. She is a professor of Literacy Studies and Childhood Education with expertise in bilingual education. 

Meanwhile, Dr. Troi Carleton will join Sonoma State as our new dean of Social Sciences. Dr. Carleton currently serves as both associate dean of the College of Liberal and Creative Arts and as a faculty member in linguistics at San Francisco State. We’re delighted that both will be joining us in early July. My sincere thanks to the dedicated search committee members and the two chairs, Dean Karen Schneider and Dean Hollis Robbins.

Counting Seawolves in the 2020 U.S. Census

The U.S. Census is now underway across the country. This is a critical national effort that takes place every 10 years – the goal is to count every person living in the United States one time and in one place. The census determines the allocation of hundreds of billions of federal dollars to hospitals, infrastructure projects and education each year and has significant impact on our resources and influence as individuals and as a university. It’s important that everyone is counted.

If you are a student who normally lives in our residential community, then Sonoma State is already working with the Census Bureau to count you even if you are not currently living on campus due to the COVID-19 closure. That means that if you are one of those students, you do not need to do anything other than to tell your parents or family members not to include you in their census response. Please keep an eye on your SSU email for further information.

If you are a student who normally lives off-campus in an apartment or house, then you or one of your roommates will need to complete the census response for everyone living at that address. If you are one of those students and can access your postal service mail, please check your mail regularly for your invitation to respond. If you are unable to access your mail, you can still respond online at 2020census.gov.

Looking Ahead

As we begin this new month, I hope you will remember that while much has changed, much also remains the same. We are still resilient and compassionate Seawolves. We are still students, faculty and staff members working hard to make dreams come true – both our own, and those of others in our Sonoma State community. We are still connected to one another, day by day, no matter how far we find ourselves from friends, mentors and colleagues on campus.

It may seem like a long time ago now, but just last month, during our tremendously successful Social Justice Week, activist Angela Davis gave SSU’s Neves-Evans Social Justice Lecture at the Green Music Center. As Ms. Davis noted on her visit to our campus, “History is made by ordinary people when they join together.”

I would say that Seawolves are extraordinary – not ordinary. But otherwise, in this moment, Ms. Davis’s words ring very true. We are still joined together despite COVID-19. And we will continue to make history together at Sonoma State – the best kind, the kind that transforms lives for the better, college degree by college degree, dream by dream. 

I leave you with this, from U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo in honor of National Poetry Month. These lines from her work “Eagle Poem” remind me so much of our caring campus community:

“We see you, see ourselves and know /

That we must take the utmost care /

And kindness in all things.”

With gratitude,

Judy K. Sakaki signature

Judy K. Sakaki