As Sacramento State president Robert Nelsen took the stage to deliver his annual fall address, he took a second to reassure the crowd.
“Some people asked me if I was going to make you cry today.” he said. ”This is not a cry speech. I hope when we get to the end, we have a commitment to make this university Sacramento’s university. And that’s what this speech is about.”
During his speech, Nelsen outlined the ups and downs the university has faced over the past year, and highlighted his plans to mold Sacramento State into an “anchor university” for Sacramento.
“I believe that if we pool our resources and if we work together as an anchor university we can apply our economic, intellectual and human capital to improving Sacramento, and then we can truly transform Sacramento,” he said.
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To achieve that goal, Nelsen pointed to institutions like the Carlsen Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, which functions as an incubator that can be used by students, staff, and local entrepreneurs in the early stages of developing their business.
“We are on the cusp of meeting our obligations as servants of the community,” said Nelsen. “But we cannot get over that cusp if we remain in our silos.”
And there are other developments that will pull students out of their metaphorical ‘silos’ — Nelsen’s vision of an anchor university coincides with the announcement of plans for new housing near the university for 4,000 Sacramento State students, suddenly free to walk to campus instead of commuting in by car.
“It’s time for Sac State to become a truly engaged university with community-engaged scholarship,” Nelsen said.
The university will get ample help from donors to accomplish that goal — according to Nelsen, the school will also be announcing its first-ever eight-figure gift to the university. And in the past year, the university raised over $23 million, surpassing the original goal of $15.5 million.
In addition to outlining his goals to make Sacramento State a hub of the city, Nelsen also touched on other areas the university had both excelled in and fallen short.
According to Nelsen, the university’s Finish in Four and Through in Two programs, which encourage students to take course loads that ensure they graduate on time, are working. This year, the university’s projected four-year graduation rate is 14 percent, the two-year graduation rate is 37.5 percent and the six-year graduation rate is 51 percent.
But there are still significant achievement gaps between white students and students of color, and male and female students, Nelsen said. African American students are 10.5 percent less likely to graduate than white students, and men are 10 percent less likely to graduate than women. In addition, the numbers of new minority faculty hires has decreased for the past two years.
The president also hailed Sacramento State’s safety call number — 82020 — as a key step toward a safety campus. The number, which students can call any time during working hours to report any unsafe or suspicious behavior, comes in the wake of safety hazards, including a chemical spill, on campus.
As Nelsen finished his speech, he appeared to choke up a little bit. Then, stepping away from the podium, he raised his pinky high and bellowed: “Stingers up!”