How will Sacramento State anchor itself in the city? By expanding downtown

Hear the key highlights of Sac State president’s fall address

Sacramento State University President Robert S. Nelsen shared his vision for the college in a fall address Thursday, August 23, 2018.
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Sacramento State University President Robert S. Nelsen shared his vision for the college in a fall address Thursday, August 23, 2018.

The start of the 2018 fall semester on college campuses nationwide comes as university leaders are grappling with how higher education institutions can better engage and have a positive impact in their communities.

Sacramento State has community engagement in its DNA. Yet, we can and must do more to focus and harness our intellectual and research prowess to bring positive social change in the region.

That effort gets a boost Tuesday with the historic launch of Sacramento State Downtown, a new facility at 304 S St., which, fittingly, is within the city’s federally designated “Promise Zone.”

All eight of Sacramento State’s academic colleges have come together downtown to solve problems -- racial healing through the arts, mental health solutions for the homeless, fostering citizenship and boosting voter turnout. Specific academic offerings in the works include a bachelor’s program in hospitality and tourism management, plus programs in geographic information systems, urban visualization and big-data analytics.


Classes for our nationally ranked master’s program in public policy and administration already are being held downtown. In addition, mid-career professionals and working-age adults will be able to take classes in programs offered through the College of Continuing Education.

Sacramento State Downtown will be truly multidisciplinary, with faculty and researchers dedicated to improving Sacramento and to our mission of transforming students for leadership, service and success.

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Robert S. Nelsen Jessica Vernone Sacramento State

Our presence downtown validates Sacramento State as California’s capital university and ensures our place as Sacramento’s “anchor university.” An anchor university is the opposite of the ivory tower. It aims to connect its students, faculty and staff with the community and, in turn, help build and heal that community, achieving lasting solutions and improvements through inclusive civic engagement.

It overcomes the fragmentation of departments, divisions and disciplines, and it marshals all the university’s knowledge and expertise to solve real-world problems. Sacramento State is committed to solving those problems through the arts, business incubators, tutoring, counseling, community health services, and economic development.

Thus, we have renamed and retooled the Office of Research Affairs into the Office of Research, Innovation and Economic Development. We also have established the Carlsen Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, which will drive innovation and job creation, transforming neighborhoods and communities.

Last week during my fall address to the campus, I called for the creation of a university-wide Anchor University Task Force. This group will survey existing service and engagement efforts and perform a community needs assessment and an economic impact survey. We will then establish a permanent committee that will develop and oversee plans for long-term and short-term investments in our community.

At Sacramento State, we are committed to being a fully engaged partner with the city and private and nonprofit sectors in advancing economic and community development in downtown Sacramento and the city’s diverse neighborhoods. As an anchor university, we are dedicated to meeting our moral obligation as servants of the community and to transform Sacramento by transforming our students.

Robert S. Nelsen is president of California State University, Sacramento. He can be contacted at


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