Update from the President May 1, 2019

May 1, 2019

Dear Campus Community,

In just two and a half weeks, we will celebrate the newest class of Sonoma State graduates at commencement. Commencement season always fills me with hope and joy. I love hearing “Pomp and Circumstance” and seeing our graduates in their caps and gowns. Thanks to all who helped our students arrive at this significant milestone and who are working to make this commencement so special. As Sonoma State president, I’m thrilled to celebrate my third commencement season with you.

Supporting Our Seawolf Values

Consistent with our Seawolf values, I have asked Chief of Staff/AVP for Strategic Initiatives and Diversity Dr. Jerlena Griffin-Desta and University Library Dean and interim Dean of the School of Education Dr. Karen Schneider to serve as Co-Chairs of the newly constituted President’s Advisory Council on Diversity, Equity, Campus Climate, and Inclusion. They will be working diligently over the summer in anticipation of the council’s first meeting in October. I want to thank the members of the President’s Diversity Council for all their efforts over the past few years in helping our campus become a more equitable and inclusive place to live, work and study.

On Friday, April 26 we held our first ever joint Faculty and Staff Appreciation event. It was wonderful to see so many of you and to feel the camaraderie in the room. Congratulations to all of the nominees and the individuals and departments listed below who were recognized for their outstanding contributions to our students and campus:

  • Staff Excellence - Maricela Ibarra, Student Services
  • Team Impact – Career Center:  Rebecca (Becky) Young, Audra Verrier and Kelsey Bensky
  • Outstanding Service – Dr. Elaine Newman, Mathematics and Statistics Department
  • Strategic Core Values:
    • Adaptability and Responsiveness – Tramaine Austin-Dillion, Office of Residential Life
    • Connectivity and Community Engagement – Merith Weisman, Community Engagement and Strategic Initiatives
    • Diversity and Social Justice – Brent Boyer, Disability Services
    • Sustainability and Environmental Inquiry – Suzanne DeCoursey, Center for Environmental Inquiry
  • Excellence in Teaching - Dr. Jeffrey Baldwin, Department of Geography, Environment and Planning
  • Excellence in Research, Scholarship, and/or Creative Activity - Dr. Michelle Goman, Department of Geography, Environment and Planning

New achievements in our Seawolf community

I’m delighted to congratulate Sonoma State’s very own Model UN team, which won the coveted Outstanding Delegation award at the National Model UN in New York City last month. This top honor recognizes the extraordinary team effort that our 35 Seawolf students – the campus’ largest ever delegation – undertook as they represented Sonoma State in this prestigious competition. Please join me in congratulating our Model UN students and their faculty advisor, Dr. Cynthia Boaz, professor of political science.


I’m also proud to announce that PacWest coaches recently honored José Hilla, the head coach of our Seawolf men’s tennis team, as one of two PacWest Co-Coaches of the Year. Coach Hilla led Sonoma State to an 8-5 record this year, and our men’s tennis team is currently in position to reach the NCAA West Regional for the first time since the team joined the PacWest. Congratulations to Coach Hilla, and to all the student-athletes on our men’s tennis team.

This commencement season, we will recognize the many contributions to our campus and community by North Bay leader and philanthropist Henry C. Hansel.  Mr. Hansel will receive an honorary doctorate degree at the Arts and Humanities commencement ceremony on May 18. He was nominated by our campus and selected to receive this recognition by the CSU Board of Trustees. Mr. Hansel has served our university with remarkable generosity and guidance, and his leadership throughout the North Bay has inspired many fellow community members.

Additionally, we will honor both Natalie Cilurzo and Barry Ben-Zion with Sonoma State’s Distinguished Alumni Award. Ms. Cilurzo co-owns the Russian River Brewing Company and is a passionate North Bay philanthropist. Dr. Ben-Zion is widely recognized for his expertise in forensic economics and generously supports scholarships for our students. He is a respected Professor Emeritus on our campus, where he taught for 30 years.

Congratulations to Mr. Hansel, Ms. Cilurzo and Dr. Ben-Zion!

Announcements and Dates Ahead

  • May 1 - Today is National Decision Day for prospective students! I hope you will encourage any prospective freshmen or transfer students you may know to make the decision to join our Seawolf community.
  • May 18-19 - Our Sonoma State commencement ceremonies take place later this month. Congratulations to all of our graduates! For details about year-end student events, visit Seawolf Living’s website.

Seawolf Reflections

As I look back on the 2018-19 academic year, I remain inspired by the many significant accomplishments of all of you and by the outstanding community you have helped to create on our campus.

Your hard work – and your commitment to our campus values – remind me of the words of Eleanor Roosevelt. As she said in a commencement speech she gave more than 60 years ago:

“We must strive to move forward. We must strive in each generation to build a greater understanding of our fellow human beings. It will take the best that you have in you.”

Thank you for taking the best that you have in you in every effort you have pursued as Sonoma State Seawolves. You make me proud to serve as your president.

Judy K. Sakaki signature

Judy K. Sakaki