Education

CSUS eyes downtown location for new School of Public Affairs

Sacramento State President Robert Nelsen stands next to graduate student Damariye Smith, 24, who takes a selfie before Nelsen is formally introduced during a news conference at Sacramento State last month.
Sacramento State President Robert Nelsen stands next to graduate student Damariye Smith, 24, who takes a selfie before Nelsen is formally introduced during a news conference at Sacramento State last month. rpench@sacbee.com

Sacramento State wants to establish a School of Public Affairs downtown near the Capitol to house research centers and a master’s degree program already popular among government professionals, said campus President Robert Nelsen during a wide-ranging speech Friday at the Sacramento Press Club.

“We brought in someone from Arizona State a week ago, because they moved a campus downtown,” said Nelsen, who began his presidency July 1. “(We are) getting help on the move and making sure we have a presence there.”

The School of Public Affairs would likely include the university’s master of public policy and administration program and four of its research-based centers – the Center for California Studies, the Institute for Social Research, the Center for Collaborative Policy and the Education Insights Center, said Steve Boilard, executive director of the Center for California Studies.

Boilard is part of a recently formed working group tasked with establishing the new facility. “It’s pretty fair to say that we are looking to be pretty close to the Capitol,” he said Friday.

The downtown location would be convenient for the research centers, which provides contract work for government agencies and nonprofits and offers policy conferences, Boilard said. It would also help the master’s degree program, which enrolls many students already working in downtown government offices, he said.

Boilard said university officials are hoping to at least partially open the school by fall 2016.

The decision comes after a June announcement that the University of the Pacific would expand its graduate programs in the capital at its McGeorge School of Law campus in Oak Park. The private university plans to offer a master of business administration, doctor of education, master of public policy, master of physician assistant studies and a master of public administration.

Boilard said that the California State University, Sacramento, plan to expand downtown has little to do with competition.

“Sacramento State has done a pretty good job of creating a niche,” he said. “It’s a pretty unique program. It doesn’t have direct competition. It’s less about competing and more about helping to provide better services to our potential students.”

He said the move to add a School of Public Affairs downtown gained momentum after the recent arrivals of Nelsen and Orn Bodvarsson, who became the university’s dean of the College of Social Sciences and Interdisciplinary Studies last year.

The new site could help the overcrowded main campus, where 3,600 qualified students were turned away this year, Nelsen said. He said expansion will continue on the campus as well. Plans continue for a new science building, classroom building and events center.

Diana Lambert: 916-321-1090, @dianalambert

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