three 2011 graduates smile


Keynote Speaker

Dr. Marc Lamont Hill

Dr. Marc Lamont Hill

Dr. Hill has lectured widely and provides regular commentary for media outlets like NPR, Washington Post, Essence Magazine, and the New York Times. He is the host of the nationally syndicated television show "Our World With Black Enterprise," which airs Sunday mornings on TV One and broadcast markets around the country. He also provides regular commentary for CNN, and MSNBC. An award-winning writer, Dr. Hill is a columnist and editor-at-large for the Philadelphia Daily News.

Since 2009, Dr. Hill has been on the faculty of Columbia University as Associate Professor of Education at Teachers College. He also holds an affiliated faculty appointment in African American Studies at the Institute for Research in African American Studies at Columbia University.

Since his days as a youth in Philadelphia, Dr. Hill has been a social justice activist and organizer. He is a founding board member of My5th, a non-profit organization devoted to educating youth about their legal rights and responsibilities. He is also a board member and organizer of the Philadelphia Student Union. Dr. Hill also works closely with the ACLU Drug Reform Project, focusing on drug informant policy. In addition to his political work, Dr. Hill continues to work directly with African American and Latino youth. In 2001, he started a literacy project that uses hip-hop culture to increase school engagement and reading skills among high school students. He also continues to organize and teach adult literacy courses for high school dropouts in Philadelphia and Camden.

Student Speakers

Amber Coyne

Amber Coyne
B.S. Biology

A self-proclaimed 'biology geek,' Amber Coyne came to SSU with a high school with over a 4.0 GPA and sustained it throughout her years at SSU earning a Presidential Scholar ranking. She has worked on graduate level biology research and appreciates the value of science projects that teach as much by the failures as the successes.

She is passionate about many things including working with children, molecular cell biology, Thai food, community service, women's rights and gender socialization, and of course her beloved Shih Tzu, Sookie. She says her favorite music is the croaking of frogs in loving memory of her mother, an avid frog collector.

As a member of Alpha Delta Pi, she says she learned what it truly means to be a leader as well as a woman of character, loyalty, and ambition.

She was also an assistant teacher at The Children's School where she learned the true value of patience and compassion as well as a greater understanding of the exciting development of toddlers. Additionally she was a cast member of The Vagina Monologues this year, and a volunteer with Alternative Spring Break where she went to Portland, Oregon to help break the vicious cycle of hunger and homelessness.

"The fabulous support system I have built here has been instrumental in my success," she says. "I have hands down the most incredible and inspiring group of best friends." Because Sonoma State is such a small school she says was able to make a strong connection to her professors. "I have found the professors here truly care about your success, and if you ask they are more than willing to help."

After graduation, Amber plans to get her Master's in Public Health as well as a medical degree so she can become a pediatrician. She attributes her Mom with being her greatest inspiration, and is excited about all the academic endeavors in her future.

Guiding her is a famous quote from poet E.E. Cummings: "I'd rather learn from one bird how to sing than teach ten thousand stars how not to dance."

Alison Sutton

Alison Sutton
B.A. Communications

Alison Sutton’s father always told her, “If you find a job you love, you won’t have to work a day in your life.” She plans to follow his advice and take her passion for public relations to either reputation or crisis management. 

Born and raised in California's Simi Valley, Alison graduated from Royal High School and knew instantly it was time for a change of scenery. She immediately fell in love with Northern California when she visited Sonoma State for the first time.

Alison has not wasted a single moment of her time at SSU. She has been a Freshman Interest Group (FIG) peer mentor for the Arts, advising peer for the Advising, Career, and EOP (ACE) office, writer and advertising manager for the Sonoma State STAR, and a member of Lamda Pi Eta, the communications honor society. She was also an active member of the Gamma Phi Beta sorority where she was an alumni relations chairwoman.

Being apart of a FIG her freshmen year really shaped her into the person and leader that she is today, she says. Becoming a FIG peer advisor teaching the Art's FIG for the past two years gave her the chance to help freshmen students grow and learn to appreciate what Sonoma has to offer. Being a part of Greek life also had a large impact on her. Going to school where Greek life seems to dominate, allowed her to "be a part of something that is so much bigger than myself."

Alison also spent one spring break involved with Join Us Making Progress (JUMP) trip in Portland, Oregon to build houses for Habitat for Humanity.

Her memories of her time at Sonoma State include her family and friends always coming to support and embarrass her in all the activities she participated in these past four years, hiking at Crane Creek park, exploring Rohnert Park, and attempting to have a regular gym routine with her roommates.

"Without the friends that I have made here, I would not be where I am," she says. "My roommates these past four years have been nothing but supportive and amazing. The overall community of Sonoma State has always welcomed me and that is something that I have appreciated. "