Summer 2022 Message No. 1

Karen Moranski, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs
June 14, 2022

I wish you all the best this summer as you gather strength and happiness from summer sunshine (and rain, surprisingly), a different pace of work, and plans for travel and rest. As part of our commitment to increased communication, I am going to be sending out Summer Messages intermittently to keep you updated on what’s happening in the Provost’s suite and around campus. I hope these messages will provide you with relevant information. If you have any questions or ideas about topics for these messages, please feel free to email to let us know.

Have a great summer!


Presidential Transition

President Sakaki has announced that she is resigning from her position as of July 31, 2022, and we wish her well. I came to Sonoma State six years ago based on the meeting I had with President Sakaki, in which she promised to integrate student success with a commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Progress on this front, along with our HSI status and climate change initiative, are lasting legacies of the last six years that have changed the trajectory and culture of Sonoma State. I thank President Sakaki for challenging all of us to do better in those spaces and make a better SSU. 

A new Interim President will be appointed by Interim Chancellor Jolene Koester this summer. In the fall, the search for the next President of Sonoma State will commence. Lots of change is coming. Transitions are hard, but I know we will be ok. I am truly proud of the work we all are doing here at Sonoma State, including–faculty, staff, administrators, and students. That is what we hang our hats on as we work with new leaders, and should be the focus of the story we tell about SSU. We need to be very clear about the excellence of our work, since that is what our Interim President will hear and act on. 

This spring, our campus has been the focus of a lot of negative media attention. The news media are doing their jobs, but the journalistic focus on scandals and difficulties has overshadowed positive news about our campus and the great work underway at SSU. What we need to remember is that we can and must drive a more positive and accurate narrative about Sonoma State. 

Every Sonoma State employee ought to have a 30-second elevator pitch about the work we do and how it impacts the educational mission of this campus. You can certainly speak to the needs of the campus and our challenges, but new leadership will measure us not by what we can’t do because of the budget or enrollment or staffing shortages, but by what we are doing to help ourselves. Gear up, practice that elevator speech, and if you need help, let us know in the Provost’s Office so we can help. Think of this transition as similar to a WSCUC accreditation visit (which we successfully navigated in 2017 after the fires and again in spring 2021 during the pandemic, with broad participation from the campus). Incorporate your goals and your vision in your talking points and be ready to share that story widely. We have a powerful story to tell, and our Interim President will be proud to lead this campus and to help us help ourselves.


Faculty Affairs Update

I have sent out an update on our examination of an appropriate campus model for Faculty Affairs. Please note that there is a brief, 3-question survey in that update I hope faculty will take time to fill out. If you are off contract and unable to take the survey this summer, we’ll provide a reminder at the beginning of fall and provide time to respond. In the fall, we will have discussions and figure out the path forward. 


Good News

In the vein of controlling our narrative, let me tell you a bit about the good things that have been happening at Sonoma State over the last month or so. 


The return to in-person commencement in the Green Music Center was a smashing success, with 1720 students participating in six ceremonies. Thanks to all who volunteered their time to make that weekend such a success for our students and their loved ones.

Faculty Excellence Awards

Dr. Mark Gondree, Associate Professor of Computer Science, is the winner of the Faculty Excellence in Teaching Award.

Dr. Janet Hess, Professor of Art History/African and Diasporic Studies in the Hutchins School of Liberal Studies, is the winner of the Faculty Excellence in Research Award. 

Both of these excellent faculty members work in the space of diversity, equity, and inclusion and student success, and we celebrate their work and congratulate them both!

K-16 Collaborative Grant Focuses on Cradle to Career Initiative

Sonoma State University has collaborated with Cal Poly Humboldt to establish the Redwood Coast K-16 Education Collaborative, which has received an award  of $18.1 million dollars.  Sonoma State’s portion of this award will be $5.3 million dollars. The Co-PIs of this grant are Deans Elisabeth Wade and Laura Alamillo. 

This collaborative brings together educational institutions throughout the Redwood Coast region (Del Norte, Humboldt, Lake, and Mendocino Counties) to support the development of pathways from cradle to career in the key areas of education and health care. SSU will hire a co-director for the project, who will work with leadership at Cal Poly Humboldt. SSU will also work with Humboldt to collaborate on teacher residencies and the development of a virtual regional hub for dual enrollment, expand opportunities for internet access in underserved communities in the region, and work with UC Davis, Mendocino College, College of the Redwoods, and county Departments of Education to develop clear and structured pathways to careers.


Things We Need to Work On

We have work to do as we move Sonoma State from being the “hidden gem” to being a first-choice institution for students, faculty, staff, and administrators. We continue to manage our transition to a post-pandemic world, and that means that we need to repopulate our campus, fill our spaces (our residence halls and classrooms), and help our whole campus community feel safe being back on campus. 

At the same time, we need to continue telecommuting flexibility for our staff and explore how we can strategically use online learning to serve new populations of students and build enrollment. CTET has contracted with UPCEA, a nonprofit organization that serves as the leading association for professional, continuing, and online education, to do a study related to demand for online learning and online programs. The results of that study will be available for analysis by shared governance in the fall. APARC and EPC are working on updating the campus online teaching policy, including our target percentages for in-person vs. online modalities. Meetings with faculty and administrators are happening over the summer to prepare for further discussions this fall.

Title IX reform is a priority on our campus and for the system as a whole. This priority must move beyond verbal commitments to action. Julie Vivas, Director of the Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination, indicates that she and her office is in the process of re-evaluating trainings for employees and students in an effort to ensure their efficacy. She has also committed to come to every department and unit in Academic Affairs to provide Title IX reminders and question and answer sessions. To schedule those sessions, please contact Julie at

I will have more to say about enrollment, budget decision-making, curriculum development in future messages this summer.


Dr. Karen R. Moranski

She I Her I Hers

Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs

Sonoma State University