West Sacramento Deputy Fire Chief hopes to inspire more diverse fire crews as she takes over as Fire Chief in Woodland

west_sacramento_fire_department_patchEarly in her career, West Sacramento Deputy Fire Chief Rebecca Ramirez, who will take over as the first female fire chief for the Woodland Fire Department on Feb. 27, said she received a compliment that embodied what she and most women desire in their careers.

It came in the form of overhearing an “old timer” on the phone telling someone that she was a woman but that he just considered her a part of the crew.

“That, to me, had always stood out as all I ever wanted,” Ramirez said. “Don’t look at me for my gender or the color of my skin or the way I speak; Look at me as what I can contribute to the organization.”

Ramirez said she has never felt discriminated against as a woman in firefighting. By working as hard as possible and being as selfless and respectable as possible, she feels she’s been able to overcome any barriers she has faced.

“I am glad to be representing women in leadership roles, particularly in roles that are not so typical, [like] the fire service,” said Ramirez, who started her tenure with the West Sacramento Fire Department in 1993. “I think we have struggled in getting women into the fire service as a whole and we need to work on that a little bit. Maybe for people seeing me in that role, some young girls…will realize that fire service is a true opportunity for them.”

Battalion Chief Steve Binns, who’s worked for the West Sacramento Fire Department since 1990, will be replacing Ramirez as deputy fire chief.

As battalion chief, Binns is responsible for working hands-on with the fire crew and running day-to-day operations for the department. In his new role, he’ll work closely with the fire chief to balance budgets, implement new programs and processes and run current programs like consortium training sessions, where all of the county’s fire departments learn to cooperate in preparation for large-scale emergencies.

“It’s just more broad-based, more higher-level looking at things,” Binns said. “I’ve always kind of operated on today and at this [new] level, [I’ll] need to operate more about tomorrow.”

Ramirez said the fire department works diligently to help prepare its staff for the job above them in the case of promotion, so Binns already has some experience with some of the duties of his new role.

“We’re going to definitely miss her,” Binns said. “We’re on a steep learning curve over the next two or three weeks, [but] she’s still going to be in the county, so we’re going to talk often, I’m sure.”

Some of Ramirez’s contributions to the West Sacramento Fire Department will have a long-lasting impact on the city.

In recent years, she was directly involved with improving the city’s Insurances Services Office rating, which ranks the department on its abilities to provide fire protection services and sets insurance rates for city residents and businesses based on the ranking.

She also worked to secure a $1.2 million grant in May to purchase Self-Contained Breathing Apparatuses, which are worn on the backs of firefighters and provide them with breathable air while inside a burning building, for the department’s firetrucks.

“She has been an amazing person to work with,” said West Sacramento Fire Chief John Heilmann. “I think I’ve learned more from her than she’s probably learned from me.”

Ramirez’s new role is part of a restructuring of Woodland’s fire and police departments, which are both currently led by Public Safety Chief Dan Bellini.

With the announcement of his retirement, the city decided Bellini’s position should be eliminated in favor of a more traditional set up, according to a Feb. 2 press release from the city of Woodland. The fire and police chief positions were previously combined following cutbacks as a result of the 2008 economic downturn.

“I think it’s good for the county and good for the fire department,” Heilmann said. “I think everyone will benefit in the end.”

Ramirez found out about her new position in early February.

“It was very exciting to find out about it and I was a little overwhelmed by it,” Ramirez said. “The support and the encouragement that I’ve received from the city of West Sacramento has been just truly amazing.”

West Sacramento City Manager Martin Tuttle said he is confident in Ramirez’s future in Woodland and is proud of the legacy she’ll leave behind in West Sacramento.

“Chief Ramirez is a pioneer in fire service and a great role model for women who are pursuing a career in fire,” Tuttle said. “She’s done a great job for us. Her appointment of Woodland expands West Sacramento’s fire department. That’s good, I think in terms of cooperation with other departments.”

Though it will take a while to assess where improvements need to be made and how to approach them, Ramirez said the crew at the Woodland Fire Department will help make the transition a smooth one.

“They’re a very dedicated group, who’s committed both organizationally and on an individual level to the citizens,” Ramirez said. “Their culture is solid, their firefighting skills are solid and the city philosophy is very supportive of the fire department.”

Tuttle said he thinks the West Sacramento Fire Department’s deputy fire chief role is being left in good hands with Binns.

“He’s outstanding,” Tuttle said. “The department won’t miss a beat. We’re going to miss Ramirez, but to her credit, there’s a lot of folks who can step into leadership positions.”

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Friends of the Library book sale raises $1,547.70 for community programs

Originally published in the West Sacramento News-Ledger Feb. 8, 2017


Flier scan courtesy City of West Sac via Twitter.

As the sun poked out over the Arthur F. Turner Community Library on Jan. 28, book enthusiasts from West Sacramento and beyond packed into the tiny community room on the building’s south side for the West Sacramento Friends of the Library book sale.

The weekend book sale, which is held two to three times a year, supports free library programs and activities for the community. It attracted 300 to 400 people and raised $1,547.70, according to Friends of the Library Secretary Helen MacDonald.

The group also sells books and magazines throughout the year in the library’s alcove, which is located just inside the main entrance of the 18,000 square foot facility. The alcove book sales bring in about $600 to $800 a month, according to Bill and Lynda Campbell, longtime Friends of the Library members, who, along with other volunteers, oversee the book sales.

“I’m looking for older children’s books, especially ones with beautiful artwork,” said Sacramento book collector and online book seller Joseph Parker, who added that he heard about the sale online through bookfinder.com. “Also, classic books along with cookbooks, especially older collectible cookbooks.”

Another shopper was scanning books with a handheld device to check the titles against an online database to see if they were worth buying for resale.

XiuQing Hu, whose children were picking out a large selection of children’s books, said the sale was helping her save money because buying books from retail stores can be expensive.

Prices ranged from 10 cents for magazines, to 50 cents for paperbacks, to $1 for hardcover books. One table had specially-priced items ranging from $5 to $10. DVDs, video games, VHS tapes and more sold for up to $5 each. A $2 off discount was offered to members of the Friends of the Library.

The items offered at the sales are donated by the community and Friends of the Library members. In addition, library staff donate items that are outdated or need to be replaced.

“I saw the ad in Starbucks and I was really intrigued ‘cause I love books and I love that the money is going towards the library so that they can grow and I can come here more often,” said West Sacramento resident Paris Jarvis, a fan of books about history who attended the sale with her grandmother Toni Carlson. “I just really like getting used books because you feel more involved with it instead of just getting a brand new book.”

Touger Vang, programming and outreach librarian and public services coordinator for West Sacramento said the money supports programs like preschool story time, summer reading programs for children and teens, adult book clubs and various guest speakers.

Funds also help pay for special collections and other media that can be checked out like movies and video games. Vang said these funds are vital because Yolo County mandates that all of the library’s programs are free to the public.

“The West Sacramento Friends of the Library play a really critical role in the reach of this branch,” said Vang. “They help us by fundraising such as today, you know, when they do the book sales. All the proceeds come and supports all the programming. Without their support, we can’t do the things that we do here.”

Bill Campbell said any items that are not in sellable condition are hauled to a recycling facility. Proceeds from the recycling go into the fund. Money raised by Friends of the Library is in addition to money the library receives from the city.

“The library has a list of things, you know, programs and things like that and how much it’s going to cost and everything and so we go ahead and give them the money they need for the programs,” Bill Campbell said. “It’s a great library and financially we’re able to keep it going.”

West Sacramento Friends of the Library was founded in 1960, 27 years before West Sacramento officially became a city, and the non-profit organization has since supported the library both in its original and current location.

“I’ve really learned about all the services [the library does] for young toddlers, what they do for adults in terms of job education, what they do for teenagers in terms of career preparation,” said Alex Hirsch, the current president of the West Sacramento Friends of the Library. “The fact that it serves all the community makes it one of the special places within West Sacramento. The goal is to help support the West Sacramento staff’s programs that continue to expand as the population of the city continues to expand.”

For more information on the West Sacramento Friends of the Library, visit http://www.yolocounty.org. Those interested in donating books can use the drop box in front of the library, which is located at 1212 Merkley Ave.

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Sac State receives funding for math readiness initiative

Originally published Dec. 9, 2016 by The State Hornet

A $1.28 million grant will fund the Sacramento Mathematics Readiness Challenge Initiative (SMRCI) over the next two years to help incoming Sacramento State freshmen better prepare for math coursework through a new fourth-year high school math class and further training for instructors.

In addition to providing for better preparedness for incoming freshmen, the SMRCI program aims to build continuity between K-12 schools, community colleges and the University in terms of the teaching methods used for math.

The ultimate goal of the program is to reduce or eliminate the amount of time that students spend in remedial math courses, said Joy Salvetti, the director for Sac State’s Center for College and Career Readiness.

“It’s geared toward a 12th grade experience, but then a big part of the funding is going to go toward professional development for teachers and administrators,” Salvetti said.

According to the 2016 California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP), 73 percent of 11th grade students in the Sacramento City Unified and San Juan Unified school districts are not ready for college-level math.

The new high school course being developed with the grant money will begin for 23 SCUSD and SJUSD schools in the 2017-18 academic year, with teachers participating in training over summer 2017.

“The magic comes in the way it’s taught, and that’s a big shift for all of us,” Salvetti said. “The course is an opportunity for students to really think about math differently and to really see its relevancy. It’s not so you can balance your checkbook, it’s beyond that.”

The course will aim to reinforce a deeper understanding of math, a focus on team learning, an emphasis on practical or real-life applications, the use of project-based learning and to inspire students who don’t see themselves as “math people.”

Specific subject matters will include team building and problem solving, linear, quadratic and exponential functions and financial math.

Salvetti added that not only is the purpose of this fourth-year high school math course to help students continue doing math as opposed to not doing any for a year, but it’s also aimed at helping students learn math in new ways.

“Part of this course, there’s journal writing,” Salvetti said. “There’s a lot of reflection by students on what they just did and what they just learned. There are daily exit slips. So, every day after a lesson, they’re reflecting. And then through what they’re actually doing, they see how applicable it is in their everyday life.”

When it comes to students returning to college after some time away, there’s a realistic level of material that will naturally be forgotten by students, and so some remedial math courses could be expected, said Kimberly Elce, a Sac State professor who is part of the professional development team for the training aspect of the SMRCI program.

However, she said that even for those students, the new way of teaching math will help.

“I strongly believe that if you’re in a course where you are problem-solving and making connections, then that timeframe that you’re going to remember that stuff — even if you don’t remember the details, just the thought process — I think you’re in much better shape than somebody who’s just doing the standard learn this, learn this, learn this,” Elce said.

Money was awarded to five colleges, four of which are in the CSU system, according to a press release.

Though the five colleges are developing separate programs, the end goal will be for the state to evaluate each program’s outcomes to see whether an individual or a combination of several programs could be implemented statewide.

Once the programs are implemented at the various campuses and administrators have had some time for data to be collected, the results will be weighed to see if these types of programs should be used across the board.

“Part of the funding is going to go toward a very robust evaluation,” Salvetti said. “The California Department of (Education), who is administering these funds, wants to say, ‘If this works, we may come in and replicate it throughout the state,’ which is our hope.”

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Sac State professors dissect election returns

Originally published Nov. 17, 2016 by The State Hornet


Sacramento State professor Wesley Hussey discusses the results of the presidential election at a panel in the University Union on Tuesday, Nov. 15 as professor Danielle Martin, who was also on the panel, looks on. Photo by Rin Carbin.

The University Union’s Delta Room was filled beyond capacity as over 60 people packed into the third floor space on Tuesday to discuss the results of the 2016 election with a panel of five experts.

How president-elect Donald Trump pulled off his upset victory, issues with polling, how money and media influenced the election cycle, local ballot measure results, the electoral college and the impact that the Trump administration may have on California were among the topics discussed during the hour-long event.

“A lot of times in our culture we have a whole bunch of buildup before elections and we get overloaded with the information and then we don’t usually get together to talk about what happened,” said Kim Nalder, a professor of government at Sacramento State and the director of the Project for an Informed Electorate (PIE), the group that hosted the event. “(PIE) has a mission of informing voters and helping citizens understand more about their democracy.”

The discussion panel included Sac State government professors Andrew Hertzoff, who is also a political theorist, Danielle Martin, an American political behavior expert, and Wesley Hussey, an expert in California politics.

Rounding out the panel were Director of Legislative and External Affairs for the Fair Political Practices Commission and Sac State alum Phillip Ung, and Stacy Gordan Fisher, a retired professor of political science from the University of Nevada, Reno and an expert on money in politics.

Each of the five panelists took time to discuss their area of expertise. Though other election results were discussed, the main focus was on the presidential race.

Martin pointed out that many people were surprised by the results of the 2016 presidential election and that much of that may be attributed to polls and probability forecasts.

“A lot of the prediction models were saying that Trump was not going to win or that it was really unlikely, but we need to remember that polls are all about probabilities,” Martin said. “Even if there was just a one in three chance that Trump was going to win, that still means that there was a chance of that happening, and it did.”

Fisher discussed Trump’s populist rhetoric and why that may have been part of what led to his election. She also pointed out that populism can often lead a candidate to corruption.

“When a populist candidate wins, they won because people believe the system is broken,” said Fisher. “They usually win by saying, ‘I’m going to blow the system up,’ so their rhetoric is suggesting that, in fact, the system is broken and the only way to make it work for the people is to not follow the rules.”

Hussey addressed the fact that although Trump won the presidency, Clinton is currently ahead of Trump in the popular vote by a margin of over 1 million ballots, according to the Associated Press.

“This is the first time this has happened in American history,” Hussey said. “The other four times, there’s something I can explain to you to explain away why this was the case. I don’t know if that symbolizes a future where the parties are having different electoral constituencies and there’s a chance of this happening again or like everything else, this is a one-time, weird case that will never happen again.”

After the five panelists spoke, the floor was opened up to questions from attendees.

One student asked Ung if he thought there would be any reform to the ballot proposition process following this year’s election, when California voters decided the fates of 17 initiatives.

“You probably won’t see reform because polling has shown that voters know ballot measures are gained by special interests,” Ung said. “They know they’re funded a hundred percent by interest groups and they’re not grassroots campaigns at all. But when asked if you want to get rid of the ballot initiative process, overwhelming amounts of voters say no. More of them trust the initiative process than the legislature.”

Nadler said that although this event was planned months in advance, it’s particularly important to have these types of discussions with an election as emotionally-charged and divisive as this one.

“I’ve never, in my career, had students come up after an election and want a hug, and that has happened this year,” Nadler said. “I think a lot of our student body are in the groups that Trump targeted in some of his campaigns and are feeling afraid. When we have discussions like this, we normalize, we analyze and we think it through in a rational way and I think that always helps to sort of put things in perspective.”

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Sac State working on two major maintenance projects

Originally published Nov. 7 by The State Hornet


The CSU received a one-time funding amount of $87 million, $35 million of which will be spent on deferred maintenance projects, including two at Sacramento State. Graph by John Ferrannini.

Two maintenance projects with a total cost of $1,406,000 are underway at Sacramento State, using funds allocated to the campus as part of a one-time funding amount for the CSU system of $35 million for deferred maintenance.

The one-time funding amount for deferred maintenance is part of an overall $87 million, which comes from the Budget Act of 2016 and the Education Trailer Bill, signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in June. The funding was discussed at last month’s open forum on the 2016-17 academic year budget.

According to Victor Takahashi, the director of planning, design, and construction for Sac State facilities management, the two projects include adding a second point of entry for telecommunications on campus, with a cost of $706,000, and infrastructure updates and repairs for natural gas lines, with a cost of $700,000.

“(Consolidated Communications) serves our campus for all telecommunications (and) that comes in through the AIRC building,” Takahashi said. “So, what we’re worried about is that if somehow someone cuts the line accidentally — maybe they’re digging out there and they cut the line — we’d lose all telecoms services to the campus.”

Takahashi added that this would include all phone lines, internet services and network connections, which, depending on how long it would take to get back up and running, would potentially shut down the entire campus.

“What we’re trying to do is bring in another feed from AT&T as kind of a redundant feed into the AIRC, so in case (the current line) goes we can just switch over to the second point of entry,” he said.

In addition, facilities management is working to duplicate some of these services through the Athletics Center building, which is on the opposite side of campus, so if the AIRC were to burn down, for example, the campus wouldn’t lose those services, Takahashi said.

The project is still in the design and planning phase, but Takahashi said they are looking at completing it within a year and a half.

The second maintenance project includes replacing and repairing infrastructure for natural gas lines on campus, some of which haven’t been replaced since the campus was built, according to Takahashi.

“If we lost natural gas, we couldn’t heat the buildings,” Takahashi said. “And then also there’s problems with providing the gas for cooking and so maybe dining services might go down. We want to make sure that we repair those lines so we avoid the situation, hopefully, that if those old lines failed, we’d have to cut off the service and potentially we might have to shut down buildings and disrupt the education process.”

The two projects were chosen to be tackled first based on a long list of deferred maintenance projects put together by the facilities management team that identifies and prioritizes the most important repairs to the campus.

According to Takahashi, the list was put together after a power outage shut down the Fresno State University campus recently. The repair took longer because of outdated parts that needed to be tracked down and replaced. This prompted all 23 campuses of the CSU system to put together a prioritized list of needed repairs to try to avoid similar disruptions for students.

“With an old campus like this, we have a pretty big backlog of deferred maintenance,” said Takahashi. “Our backlog is about $200 million. So, this only makes a small dent in things. If we don’t get some funding every year, it just grows that much more because as things get older, the more things break down.”

The remainder of the $87 million will be allocated to campuses for student success, college readiness, graduation rate increase initiatives and other areas like equal employment opportunities across the CSU.

According to Norman Kwong, the interim budget officer for the budget planning and administration office and one of the two presenters at the October budget forum, it can take the chancellor’s office several months to allocate funds to each campus as it needs to take into account individual campus priorities.

At this point, the majority of this year’s one-time funding hasn’t been received by the CSU or the campuses yet, but administrators have plans for where the money will go once it is received.

“One-time funding comes from multiple places,” Kwong said. “Preferably, the state gives it to the CSU. When extra revenues appear for the state, (Gov. Brown) doesn’t necessarily want to commit them on a permanent basis because he does consider them to be a temporary thing. So, what he likes to do is just give it as a one-year thing.”

Kwong explained that one-time funding can also come from the chancellor’s office when it has leftover funds from other projects. An additional $38 million, held over from the 2015-16 academic year, will be sent to campuses this year.

“If we don’t get it from the state, then sometimes the chancellor’s office has some one-time,” Kwong said. “It could be for various reasons, but last year’s reason was they were expecting to give the faculty a two percent raise. The faculty wanted to negotiate a slightly higher raise since they hadn’t gotten raises during the recession. By the time they agreed to it, the chancellor’s office had already saved the money for the two percent, but it didn’t turn out that they got their two percent that year.”

As for Student Success, Sac State’s Academic Affairs office doesn’t have specifics on how much money it will receive, but plans are in place to expand class section offerings.

“So, any student success funding that we would receive, we would use to add courses,” said Angel Thayer, director of business operations for Academic Affairs. “In fact, we have added 380 courses (sections) this fall over last fall. We’re trying to ensure that students have all the classes that they need, and that’s really our top priority.”

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Christine Miller first Sac State professor to chair CSU Academic Senate in 51 years

Originally published Oct. 28 by The State Hornet


Christine Miller, a professor of communication studies at Sacramento State, is the chair of the CSU Academic Senate for the 2016-17 school year — the first chair from Sac State in a half century. Photo by Jessica Wilson.

Christine Miller, a professor of communication studies at Sacramento State, was appointed as the chair of the CSU Academic Senate (ASCSU) and is focusing on three major issues this year: reevaluating general education requirements, protecting faculty intellectual property and integrating quantitative reasoning into more coursework.

The ASCSU represents faculty members across the CSU system and recommends policies to the board of trustees.

Miller has taught at Sac State for 30 years and is the first Sac State professor to be appointed chair of the ASCSU since 1965 when John Livingston, who taught government at Sac State from 1954 until he died in 1981, headed the Senate.

A task force was set up by the ASCSU to identify issues with students’ knowledge of quantitative reasoning and it was found that it would be helpful if students could develop these skills in a wider range of courses than what is currently offered.

“It’s not just math; It’s important to say quantitative reasoning because it’s not just, for instance, algebra,” said Miller. “The kinds of things you would do in a computer science class would be different than what you would do in a statistics class. It’s trying to sort of meet students where they are with respect to their math knowledge and skills and then build and develop those abilities, but not just in math.”

Miller has served on the ASCSU as one of three senators from Sac State for several years and has chaired several of the Senate’s committees.

Miller was awarded the Outstanding University Service Award in 2012. Before she was appointed chair of the ASCSU, she was the vice chair of the executive committee.

“It’s not an automatic ascension from vice chair to chair,” Miller said. “You have to be elected by the Senate, so it’s all of those senators from all of the campuses that decide who’s going to lead the Senate for the next year.”

The chair serves for one year and can be elected for a second. After serving, the chair becomes the immediate past chair, who then supports the next chair in transitioning into the role.

“The immediate past chair has a sense of strategy and knowledge of the players involved that a new chair would need to develop,” Miller said. “The advisory capacity of that immediate past chair is really valuable.”

The current immediate past chair is Steven Filling, a professor of accounting and finance at CSU Stanislaus, who has not responded to a request for comment as of press time.

Miller has also been relying on Diana Guerin, a professor of child and adolescent studies at CSU Fullerton, who was the past chair prior to Filling and served as chair from 2012 to 2014.

“The idea (of the past chair) is to provide continuity, so that things don’t get lost when there’s a transition,” Guerin said. “A one-year term is really very short and you have a lot of initiatives ongoing and they’re complex. It is such a wise thing to have someone there who knows what was happening the year before and can help move that project along in spite of new leadership coming in.”

Guerin added that Miller has asked her to continue work on a project Guerin spearheaded when she was chair that focused on the importance of hiring full-time faculty.

“I’m not serving on the Senate as a senator this year but because of my extensive experience on some issues, she’s relying on me to continue that effort,” Guerin said.

Though still in the early stages, another of the three big issues being worked on this year is gathering as much information as possible about how each of the 23 CSU campuses approaches curriculum regarding general education requirements.

“We’ll see whether we can make some recommendations that might help the value of students’ degrees improve as well as improve graduation rates,” Miller said. “I don’t really think that GE stands in the way of graduation, but it can be evaluated and that’s ultimately what we’re going to be trying to do is get a better picture of GE in the system.”

Thomas Krabacher, a professor of geography at Sac State, is one of the other senators that represents Sac State and is a legislative liaison for the Senate. He was part of the election process that elected Miller.

Krabacher said that Miller was the obvious choice and essentially ran unopposed.

“She’s been a very strong presence on the statewide academic senate ever since she joined it,” Krabacher said. “She is incredibly well-informed about the major issues that have come up. And she’s got a good personality too. She feels passionate about things, but she doesn’t run over people either and not open up to their ideas.”

Another one of the issues that Miller and the Senate are tackling this year is the protection of faculty academic freedom and intellectual property. Miller explained that when professors create a class assignment or a syllabus for their class, they own it.

Many faculty members are concerned, however, because the CSU system argues that it owns that material because it was developed with resources provided to the faculty by the universities.

“In one case that I know of, the faculty member developed things for an online course and then someone else taught the course using those materials,” said Miller. “So, there are issues like that that make faculty pause and wonder whether their intellectual property is being properly protected by policy.”

Miller said the biggest challenges of her new role as chair have been the traveling and being out of the classroom. Much of her job as chair requires her to travel around to the 23 campuses in the system to be a part of meetings and to listen to concerns from faculty members, students, board members and others.

“I don’t miss the grading,” she said with a chuckle. “It’s been very odd. I haven’t been on campus for a couple of weeks and it just felt so strange. I walked by the fountain over by the Union and the fountain was going for the first time that I’d seen it in quite a while with the drought and I just thought, ‘What a nice place I work.’ I was reflecting on walking around all the other campuses that I either have or will be walking around and being proud of this place.”

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Students protest Customs and Border Protection visit to Sac State

Originally published Oct. 20, 2016 by The State Hornet


Students, seen here posed for a photo they were taking of the group, protested the presence of Customs and Border Protection on the Sac State campus on Thursday, Oct. 20, 2016. Photo by Daniel Wilson.

A group of about a dozen students protested by chanting and walking through and around the University Union on Thursday afternoon while U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) members were on campus for a criminal justice career information event.

“(CBP) were invited by the American Criminal Justice Association,” said Rosa Barrientos, a student who was leading the protesters, who added that the protesters weren’t with any particular group. “Border patrol has a history of deporting immigrants; we’re tired of that.”

The group of students chanted phrases such as “no justice, no peace” and held up “CBP out of Sac State” signs.

Hector Barrios, president of the American Criminal Justice Association at Sac State, explained that CBP is not an agency that deals with deporting people, but rather is concerned with protection of the borders. He said that CBP doesn’t single out any one ethnicity and that they protect all U.S. points of entry, including the Canadian border and airports.

“The (CBP members) we have here are stationed at San Francisco Airport, so basically what they do is baggage, passports, stuff like that,” said Barrios, who was hosting the career event in the Redwood Room of the University Union. “I know the protest was mainly based because they felt disrespected. They felt their sensitivity wasn’t taken seriously. We invited (CBP) because they have a high interest with the students that want to go into that department.”

Barrios made a distinction between CBP and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which has a primary function of deporting people who are illegally in the country, according to its official website.

Barrientos said the main concern was that students were not informed ahead of time that CBP would be on campus.

“We have 800 undocumented students here on campus,” she said. “We pay the same tuition as everybody else. We deserve safety. We deserve justice. We deserve the same thing as any other student.”

Barrios said the event wasn’t widely publicized on campus because it was intended to be for criminal justice students rather than the entire campus.

“There’s fliers and our Criminal Justice Department sent an email to every student within the department,” he said. “This is a law enforcement career fair, so that’s who our target was.”

Barrios said the student protesters were welcome to come in and speak to the event’s organizers or the border protection representatives directly.

“(The protesters) could have came in and talked to (CBP),” said Barrios. “(The protesters) would have found out (CBP’s) job title, what they do. (The protesters) would have found out that (the CBP members are) stationed at the airport. They’re not going knocking on someone’s homes and dragging family members out. They’re not doing that.”

Visit me on Twitter for a video of the protest. 

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Sac State wins best bathroom award at Tiny House Competition

Originally published Oct. 18, 2016 by The State Hornet

This article was also published in the Oct. 20, 2016 print edition of The State Hornet.


The award-winning bathroom inside of Sacramento State’s tiny house, built for the Tiny House Competition at Cosumnes River College on Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016. Photo by Bryce Fraser.

Sacramento State won the award for best bathroom on the final day of the SMUD Tiny House Competition on Oct. 15 at Cosumnes River College, where despite the looming threat of storm conditions, thousands of people filled parking lot E to tour the small living spaces.

Among the winners were Santa Clara University, which won the overall competition along with eight other awards, and the event’s hosting campus CRC, which won the SMUD Excellence Award and for best sleeping area.

“Because it was designed to have two people live in it, we wanted to have the bathroom space be the most accommodating because that’s where you spend a lot of your time,” said Rustin Vogt, a professor of mechanical engineering and the Sac State team’s adviser, who added that the Sac State house was the only one to have a full-size bathtub. “I’m incredibly proud of the students. Myself and 20 students, we built this.”

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Vogt said that the tiny house took about four months to build. In addition to the full-size bathroom, it includes a bay window, French doors, high windows for a passive cooling system, full-electric solar panels, a solar thermal hot water collector, efficient LED lighting, a recycled sink and accents that were made from recycled wood.

The Tiny Houses Competition was put on by SMUD and several other groups, including Intel, the U.S. Department of Energy, the American Society of Landscape Architects and Raley’s Supermarkets — which gave out free apples and water at the event.

“We put on events just like this in order to educate the youth and our leaders of tomorrow about new, sustainable technologies,” said Daniel Gehringer, a project manager with SMUD. “We’ve been planning this for over a year. This is the first Tiny House Competition in the nation, so it was a big undertaking for a public utility.”

According to the official rules, each team was given a stipend of between $3,000 and $8,000 and was able to raise additional funds through donations and other outlets up to $25,000.

The goal of the competition was to build a tiny house on wheels, ranging from 100 to 400 square feet, as is the requirement to qualify tiny houses as a recreational vehicle (RV).

The houses had to comply with certain living standards and had to produce as much power as they use.

“The best part of this whole project was the people I worked with,” said Matt Curtis, a 2016 mechanical engineering Sac State graduate, who designed the solar water heating system for the house. “It was just amazing. Their commitment and passion, just a really amazing experience.”

The event was held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and attracted over 5,000 people by noon, according to Gehringer, who acted as master of ceremonies.

The day included house tours, where the student teams answered questions and showed off their work, food trucks and several presentations on the main stage where experts discussed subjects like the popularity of tiny houses, what it’s like to live in a tiny house and how tiny houses can help the homeless.

Judges included Monica Woods, a meteorologist for ABC10, Isabelle LaRue, the creator of “Engineer Your Space,” and several architecture and energy experts, among others.


The award-winning bathroom inside of Sacramento State’s tiny house, built for the Tiny House Competition at Cosumnes River College on Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016. Photo by Bryce Fraser.

Teams were judged based on a scale of 1,000 points across all of the categories and the winner with the most points was named as the winner of the overall competition.

“There’s just been so much hard work that’s been put into this,” said J.J. Galvin, project manager for Santa Clara University’s ‘rEvolve House,’ which takes its name from the fact that the house is on a revolving turntable in order to best utilize the sun’s position throughout the day. “Everyone is so dedicated and we’re just so happy to have this hard work be paid off.”

Attendees at the event were given a ballot to vote on their favorite tiny house in the people’s choice category. College of the Sequoias was announced the winner of the People’s Choice Award on SMUD’s website.

The tiny house built by CRC will be put up for auction with an intended sale price between $40,000 and $60,000. The money from the sale of the house will be used by students for the next tiny house competition.

The Sac State tiny house will be stored on campus at the Sustainable Technology Optimization Research Center (STORC), according to Vogt.

“It’s going to sit in STORC and be used as a research platform and then a teaching platform for a lot of energy studies,” Vogt said.

All of the teams at the event were pleased with the overwhelming outpouring of support from the community, many of them expressing how surprised they were at the number of people in attendance.

“Holy crap, so many people!” said Devin Swanick, a Sac State team member. “I didn’t realize that it was going to be this popular, especially with the rain we got yesterday. Our line has gone around the block. I was not expecting that.”

Other big winners included Laney College with five awards, U.C. Berkeley with four awards and Chico State with three awards. A full list of winners is available on the competition website.

Video and editing by Bryce Fraser. On-camera interviews by Daniel Wilson. 

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Sac State holds first-ever open forum on budget

Originally published Oct. 10, 2016 by The State Hornet

This article was also published in the Oct. 13, 2016 print edition of The State Hornet.

In an effort to clear up “misconceptions” about funding, the Sacramento State administration held an open forum in the University Union’s Hinde Auditorium on Oct. 7 to discuss the 2016-2017 budget and provide insight into how funds were allocated last year.

Topics of discussion included state funding, the CSU budget, the campus’s general operating fund, major differences in the Sac State budget, other separate university funds and funding for upcoming construction projects.

The forum, which is intended to become an annual event, was presented by Stacy Hayano, interim vice president and CFO for the division of administration and business affairs, and Norman Kwong, interim budget officer for the budget planning and administration office.

“We want to kind of clear up some misconceptions out there on how things are funded,” said Hayano.

Kwong explained that a big part of the problem with the budget is that the state’s timeline doesn’t necessarily match the timeline of when the college actually needs those funds.

“In an ideal world, the state would get the budget finalized and then the chancellor would get their budget finalized and then the campus would get their budget finalized,” Kwong said.

Kwong continued that after the chancellor’s office sends its budget to the state, it can take up to six months to be finalized and for funds to be released to the campus.

“That kind of outlines one of the difficulties that we have in budget,” said Kwong. “We’re all guessing as to how much we’re going to have.”

For the 2016-17 academic year, state-funded budget increases include $182 million in permanent funding and $87 million in one-time funding.



A chart shows how the Sacramento State 2016-17 permanent funding, totaling $182 million, was allocated. Additional one-time funding totaling $87 million will be spent on campus maintenance, student success, graduation rate initiatives, and equal employment opportunities. Graphic by Barbara Harvey.

“When you look at this list, most of it is stuff that we have to pay for,” said Kwong. “So again, we did get a lot of money, but where did it go? It went to stuff that we have to pay for.”

For the one-time funding increase of $87 million, that money will be spread across campus maintenance, student success and grad rate increase initiatives and equal employment opportunities.

Another $38 million was given to the campus this year, which was money the chancellor’s office held over from last year’s budget, and that money will be used for faculty compensation and student success.

“When we talk about one-time funding versus permanent funding, in my mind, an allegory is almost like health food versus candy,” said Kwong. “So, permanent funding is like getting fruits and vegetables and salads. It’s good for you in the long run. One-time funding, to me, is almost like eating junk food. If you’re hungry, it’s going to do it for this year, but that’s it.”

Another topic discussed was the general operating fund, which is made up of student tuition fees and other revenue, including application fees, late fees and library fees. The other portion of the general operating fund comes from state tax revenue. Hayano pointed out that tuition fees have not increased since the 2011-12 academic year.

Hayano talked about how the lack of budget increases from the state affect the general operating fund over time, but that without increasing student tuition or reducing the amount of money being set aside for state university grants, it isn’t possible to use the state money to fund things like faculty hires or benefits or for other purposes.

After the presentation was completed, the floor was opened up for questions. One woman in attendance asked if the upcoming minimum wage increases will affect the campus.

Hayano responded by saying that she thinks the increase will affect the campus’s businesses like the eateries in the University Union, for instance, but that adjustments are already being made in anticipation for the wage hike. Hayano said that’s where the unused money that each department is able to rollover from various projects comes into play.

“If the department has saved some money, they can still hire students using those funds,” she said.

The upcoming construction projects including the new science building, additional student housing and the new parking structure, were discussed and the funding for those projects was detailed.

“One of the things that we are actually concerned about this year is the wave of construction that’s coming up and whether or not students understand that the money for those construction projects do not come from the same pool of money that we use to hold extra classes,” said Kwong.

Kwong said the main purpose of holding the forum is to add transparency and allow students and campus members a chance to get their questions answered.

“It’s better to have it out there so people are on the same page about what’s going on,” Kwong said.

This article was distributed as part of the CSU Daily Clips email subscription from the CSU Chancellor’s Office on Oct. 11, 2016. According to chair of the CSU Academic Senate and Sac State Communication Studies Professor Christine Miller, student newspaper articles are rarely chosen as daily clips. 

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New student center tool to track graduation progress announced

Originally published Oct. 7, 2016 by The State Hornet

Smart Planner, a new tool in the Sacramento State Student Center unveiled by President Nelsen on Oct. 7, will soon allow students to view required coursework, plan upcoming semesters and work with academic advisers in a more streamlined process for staying on track to graduation.

Smart Planner generates a roadmap based on information provided by each academic department, which details required coursework for each student’s specific degree program and places these classes into a semester-by-semester schedule that can then be customized to fit each student’s needs.

Smart Planner will roll out in two groups of majors — one on Oct. 17 and the other in March of 2017. The first group will include approximately 70 majors — about 8-9,000 students.

screenshot-9_edited“The tool is sort of complex on the backend and I think that creates simplicity on the frontend,” said Christine Miller, interim vice president for Information Resources and Technology, during a presentation at a recent faculty senate meeting. “It understands the general education requirements. It understands the prerequisites, the co-requisites and all of the ways that students can satisfy a degree requirement.”

If a student tries to plan to take a certain class prior to its prerequisite, for example, an alert will inform the student that a revision is needed. For expressed interest students — those who are planning to apply to an impacted major — Smart Planner will show the roadmap, but those students would need to meet with an adviser before making any changes in their Smart Planner.

Smart Planner is part of the new Finish in Four initiative under the KEYS to Degree (Kit to Empower Your Success) toolbox. The toolbox includes existing programs that directly connect with Smart Planner like the Sac State scheduler, transfer credit report, graduation application, academic requirements report and more.

In addition to being a student planning tool, Smart Planner, which was chosen approximately one year ago through an evaluation process of several alternative degree-planning tools, will help faculty, administrators and academic advisers collect important data on student behavior to help improve graduation rates by allowing them to gather information such as which courses and programs are in need of more sections or larger class sizes.

“I think that’s been a barrier in the past to graduation — not necessarily having that alignment between the courses students need and the courses that are offered,” Miller said. “This gives us a source of data to help make improvements.”

Miller said even though use of Smart Planner isn’t required, she thinks it will attract enough usage to create valuable data for administrators. The previous planning tool, My Planner, was used by a large number of students despite never being promoted by the administration, she said.

“I think there’s a student appetite for a tool like this and when we taught peer advisers (how to use Smart Planner), they were very engaged and immediately started plugging in their own information and trying to use the tool,” Miller said. “Just by virtue of having that outline available for all students, we at least know the major courses that are required, so we still have some data even without making it a requirement.”

Changes can be made by advisers and students in real time during advising sessions, so the hope, according to members of the project team, is that Smart Planner will help make the process more productive. Smart Planner is intended to help students plan, but the aim isn’t to replace academic advising, according to Miller.

Smart Planner can also be accessed in the same way by faculty members who want to help students make changes to their plans or suggest alternative paths.

“It’s been really awesome to see the power of the tool,” said Andrew Michaud, graduate studies director for the ASI board of directors and student representative for the Smart Planner project. “It is a very powerful tool. Students are able to grasp onto it really quickly and in my perspective, it’s going to help us really improve graduation rates because students are able to see (what they’re) looking towards in the future.”

Michaud added that because students will be able to plan out their coursework for the coming semesters with this tool, it will allow for scenarios such as a major change consideration because it would be able to display what that would entail in an easy-to-evaluate manner and help students make more informed decisions.

Professor of Sociology Todd Migliaccio, who acts as voice of the faculty for the project, said he’s looking forward to the launch of the program after having worked on it since the beginning.

“It’s going to be a great tool for students and I think it’s going to be a great tool for faculty to advise students,” he said. “Everyone who’s (tried it) thus far has loved it. It’s going to give faculty the ability to have a different conversation – a more proactive one.”

All of the resources in the KEYS toolbox, including Smart Planner, are part of a larger Sac State graduation ecosystem aimed at improving time to graduation. Additional student tools are in the works including one that will launch alongside Smart Planner and help students better monitor financial aid status, according to Miller.

To find out whether your major is part of the first or second launch group, visit csus.edu/smartplanner, click on “students” and then scroll to the dropdown menu under the “When Can I Access Smart Planner?” heading and select your major.

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