Update from the President May 8, 2020

May 8, 2020

Dear Campus Community,

I arrived at Sonoma State four years ago this summer, not long before the freshmen of the Class of 2020 first moved onto campus. My memories of those first days as a member of the Sonoma State community are filled with joy and exuberance. I remember the many smiles, hugs and high fives. I remember walking around our beautiful campus … the lush green lawns by the lakes, and my first glimpse of the butterflies in the Butterfly Garden. I remember my first sight of the climbing wall … and I remember the fear and excitement after accepting a challenge by students to climb it. (I am afraid of heights!)

In the four years that have passed, I’ve had the honor of seeing our students form their own first memories of our amazing campus and the beautiful spirit of our caring community. I’ve seen new friendships flourish, new ideas flower, and new plans for the future take root. I’ve seen the seeds of the Seawolf Commitment grow into a campus-wide dedication to excellence, responsibility, respect, and integrity. And I’ve seen, with great pride and joy, the freshmen, who were first moving onto campus when I arrived, grow into seniors ready to graduate this spring. 

It is truly bittersweet that we cannot celebrate these seniors and graduating students – all the hardworking members of the Class of 2020 – in person on campus this month as we would have in any other May. I want to acknowledge the sadness that a postponed commencement brings us all - not only to our graduates, but to all members of our campus community, including our alumni, many of whom dedicate much of the year to planning this milestone ceremony. Please keep in mind that we are still planning on holding an in-person commencement for our graduates when it is safe to do so. 

Since the shelter-in-place order took effect, we have had many remote classes, activities and meetings every day to keep our students moving toward completion of their degrees and to keep our campus operations running strong.

We may not be together on campus right now, but we are enthusiastically planning for the day when Seawolves can smile at each other in person, study, learn, and even haul themselves up the climbing wall on campus together again. Our commitment to the mission of Sonoma State – and to you, the members of our campus community – is stronger than it has ever been. 

Celebrating the Class of 2020

In recognition of the momentous role commencement plays in the lives of our students and their families, we want to gauge the interest of our graduates in returning to campus for such an event at a later date. Thus, we encourage all members of the Class of 2020 to look for an email that will be going out later today that will include a link to a survey, which is intended to get feedback on the participation and timing of a future in-person commencement. We are requesting that all survey responses be submitted by May 22. In the meantime, we also want to recognize and celebrate our graduates in a virtual way this month. The email will also include information about the plans we have for a virtual celebration on Saturday, May 16. The information will also be available on our commencement website

To all members of the Class of 2020, I’d like to say this: We are so proud of you, and we cannot wait to celebrate you!

Seawolf Recognition

I’m delighted to recognize Dr. Greg Sarris, our campus’ Graton Rancheria Endowed Chair in Creative Writing and Native American Studies, on his election to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. This is a tremendous and well-deserved national honor for Dr. Sarris and his many remarkable accomplishments in academia and the arts. Congratulations, Dr. Sarris! 

I would also like to congratulate Dr. Lynn Cominsky, chair of the Department of Physics & Astronomy, for being honored recently by the professional astronomers in North America for her extraordinary achievements in her career. The American Astronomical Society has named Cominsky as part of its inaugural class of Legacy Fellows. Congratulations Dr. Cominsky!

Sonoma State and the Alternate Care Site 

I’m appreciative of both the support and the concerns shared by members of our campus community since a portion of Sonoma State opened as an Alternate Care Site to address the regional health care needs related to the COVID-19 pandemic. I encourage you to see the message that I sent out on May 5 concerning the ACS.

I also want to share, with her permission, a personal note that I received from Associate Professor of Theatre Arts & Dance Christine Cali, who lives on campus and who offers an inspiring perspective on our university’s role in supporting our broader regional community with strength and compassion. Professor Cali’s note is included at the bottom of this campus message. 

Looking Ahead

Finally, I would like to thank each one of you – students, faculty, and staff members – for all that you have achieved since we kicked off fall semester last August. Together, we experienced, and are continuing to experience, unprecedented challenges that we never anticipated. We also celebrated new accomplishments and reached new goals – and again, we did so together. 

I know that everyone is anxious to know what day-to-day life will look like on campus when the next academic year begins in a few months. I am appointing an Academic Continuity Planning Group and an Operational Continuity Planning Group with broad, inclusive participation to help us address this question. These groups will analyze and develop scenarios under which we could be operating for fall 2020. Many others will be consulted.  

Regardless of how we learn, teach, or work together at Sonoma State in the fall, the transformative educational opportunities that our university offers will remain the same.  

To quote the words of California poet Josephine Miles, Sonoma State is and always will be – to me – “Where we can ponder, celebrate, and reshape / Not only what we are, where we are from, / But what in the risk and moment of our day / We may become.”

With gratitude,


Judy K. Sakaki


A note from ACE Faculty-in-Residence and Associate Professor of Theatre Arts & Dance Christine Cali

Professor Cali, like so many members of Noma Nation, inspires me to stay focused and resilient. While Professor Cali wrote this note to me directly, I read it as an ode to all campus community members who are working their hardest to ensure that Sonoma State continues to thrive despite the challenges of the pandemic. – J.S.

May 5, 2020

Dear President Sakaki,

Thank you for your message this morning regarding the Alternative Care Site at SSU. As you know, I am still living on campus as faculty-in-residence with my husband Matt and wanted to share a bit from this perspective. We see this moment as an opportunity for our SSU community to witness civic responsibility in action. This is a moment for reminding our community that the values of SSU - diversity & social justice, sustainability & environmental inquiry, connectivity & community engagement, and especially adaptability & responsiveness are at the core of the decision to work with Gov. Newsom on the ACS at SSU, and this effort is temporarily providing a much needed service for our most vulnerable people in Sonoma County. 

For the past six weeks, my husband Matt and I have been here, on campus, witnessing the very mindful process of preparing SSU as an ACS. We take daily walks around campus and experience the expansively blooming nature, receive waves and hellos from campus police, have chats with facility employees and our awesome Area Coordinator, albeit six feet away, and have found ourselves feeling very proud to be a part of the SSU community. In the midst of this very unknown and challenging time, we have experienced nothing but positive, kind, safe experiences living on campus. We are grateful. 

I can imagine that the thought of SSU facilities being utilized for the ACS may stir confusion and fear from a distance. It is another unknown to navigate. Yet, when I look out today from Cabernet Village, I see an SSU to be very proud of, and as you stated so well, a campus that is "showing the true heart and meaning of Noma Nation in a time of crisis." 

Thank you for all that you do to keep us rooted in our core values, even when that choice and work is beyond difficult. 

Please feel free to share this in any way you see fit. 

. . . Looking forward to being in embodied space together again soon. 


Christine (and Matt)

Christine Cali

Associate Professor, Theatre Arts & Dance

ACE Faculty-in-Residence

Sonoma State University