Category Archives: Champions of Change

Student advocate Alice A. Huffman honored by Sac State

Alice A. Huffman, a woman who has attained wide respect as a leader and advocate for the African American community, is the recipient of an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Sacramento State and the California State University. She will be recognized during Spring Commencement ceremonies on May 18 at Golden 1 Center.

Sacramento State President Robert S. Nelsen said the honorary doctorate is an acknowledgment of the tremendous impact Huffman has had in the region. She and the others receiving honorary doctorates this spring “have transformed Sacramento through their creativity, wisdom, generosity, and work. I am extremely pleased that we are able to celebrate them this spring.”

Huffman clearly represents the aspirations of the CSU for its diverse student body and a more inclusive society. After dropping out of high school, she overcame significant challenges and went on to graduate with honors from UC Berkeley.

Huffman served as a lobbyist and then Director of Political Affairs for the California Teachers Association from 1985 to 1994. She was elected president of the California Hawaii NAACP in 1999, since winning eight consecutive elections. Throughout, Huffman has supported the California State University system and is a former member of the CSU Board of Trustees.

Huffman continues to show her support for students by attending and speaking at events of the College of Education and Doctorate in Educational Leadership program. Her longstanding career as an advocate for educational opportunities for underrepresented youth in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields was evidenced through her Alice Huffman STEM program for youth. The California NAACP has also hosted graduate student interns from the Sacramento State Pathways Fellows grant program.

“Alice Huffman clearly represents the aspirations of the CSU for its diverse student body and a more inclusive society,” said Julian Vasquez Heilig, Director of the Sacramento State Doctorate in Educational Leadership program and NAACP Education Chair. “Her incredible legacy for millions of Americans lies in the fact that she is deeply committed to equality and equity for all Americans, and she is willing to do whatever it takes to achieve those ends. She is an extremely capable, influential and gracious professional.”


Alumna Melissa Repa named Career Center director

Dr. Melissa Repa, a 2015 graduate of the Doctorate in Educational Leadership program at Sacramento State, has been appointed as director of the campus Career Center. She previously served as the center’s interim director, as well as co-director of Services to Students with Disabilities and director of TRIO Student Support Services.

Dr. Repa’s diverse background includes program management, professional development, technology coordination, teaching, disability access, budget management, personnel supervision, and grant writing and administration. She has experience working with diverse employers and students, including low-income and first-generation students, and students with disabilities. She also is principal investigator for Project Rebound, which helps formerly incarcerated students apply to, enroll in and graduate from the University; and TRIO Student Support Services, a federally funded project focused on retention and graduation of students with disabilities.

While a student in the Ed.D. program, Dr. Repa received the Wayne K. Miyamoto Public Policy Dissertation fellowship. She ultimately received the Graduate of Distinction award for her outstanding dissertation, “Leadership to support e-quality for all: a study of a systemwide accessible technology policy implementation.”

She was featured in the video “What you should know before beginning a doctorate program,” and shared her tips for managing the demands of family life during school in a video about “Work-Life Balance.”

Additional reporting from Sacramento State Student Affairs

Local doctoral student named Nobel Peace Scholar

Cohort 10 student Suzie Dollesin recently had the honor of being invited to the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize Forum at Augsburg College in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Forum brings together Nobel laureates, world leaders, and accomplished peacemakers with students and community members to work on building a world in which people can live full, rich, meaningful lives. This year’s Forum focused on dialogue and strengthening democracy in divided societies.

“The theme of this year’s forum revolved around dialogue, and we were provided with ample opportunity to engage in rich discussion with all of the guests,” says Dollesin. “My biggest take-away is that all roads lead to the power of education, but not in the simplistic sense that knowledge is power. Knowledge is not given nor is it received. Knowledge is developed through dialogue because the negotiation of meaning enhances understanding, and this is what education promotes.”

The delegates included, in part:

  • Hassine Abassi, Mohamed Mahfoudh, and Abdesattar Ben Moussa – three of the original four members of the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet that succeeded in forging a new democracy for which they received the Nobel Peace Prize for 2015.
  • The Honorable Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, Captain Mark Kelly, who are currently leading efforts to reduce gun violence
  • Native American Leaders who continue the fight against the Keystone Pipeline across protected Native-American lands, including Standing Rock

Dollesin and the other Peace Scholars were selected through a rigorous application and interview process. This year, students from Sacramento State were invited to apply along with students from  Augsburg College, Augustana University (Sioux Falls), Concordia (Moorhead), Luther College, Pacific Lutheran University, St. Olaf  College and University of Hawaii, Manoa. The Peace Scholars will further be invited for a seven-week academic experience in Norway.

Hassine Abassi, Mohamed Mahfoudh, and Abdesattar Ben Moussa – three of the original four members of the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet that succeeded in forging a new democracy for which they received the Nobel Peace Prize for 2015.
Dr. Elijah Anderson, Professor of Sociology at Yale University and author of recent ethnographic work entitled “The Cosmopolitan Canopy: Race and Civility in Everyday Life”; and Doualy Xaykaothao, Hmong-Texan, born in Laos and raised in Texas – NPR journalist and session moderator
Native American Leaders who continue the fight against the Keystone Pipeline across protected Native-American lands, including Standing Rock
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Dr. Tammy Sinkfield-Morey who developed a project to address victims of physical and emotional trauma entitled “StoryCare: Connecting Across Cultures Through Story”
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The 2017 Sac State Social Science and Interdisciplinary Studies (SSIS) Peace Scholar Awardees
Erica Ford, Executive Director of LIFE Camp, Inc. and TED Talk presenter of “From Angry Peacemaker to Heart Leader”; with scholar Morgan Summers
The Honorable Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, Captain Mark Kelly, who are currently leading efforts to reduce gun violence; with scholar Keely Adams
Ann Bancroft, founder of the Ann Bancroft Foundation and internationally recognized leader dedicated to inspiring women and young girls around the world to “unleash the power of their dreams”, and Dr. David Andersen-Rodgers, Associate Professor of Government and coordinator of the Peace and Conflict Resolution minor at California State University, Sacramento


Governor appoints EdD Alumnus to Community College Board of Governors

phanGov. Jerry Brown has appointed Man Phan, Ed.D., a cohort 4 alumnus of the Doctorate in Educational Leadership program, to the California Community Colleges Board of Governors.

His two-year term ends January 15, 2019. He is a faculty member at Cosumnes River College in Elk Grove, working directly with our students as a professor of business and marketing since 2012.

“We are thrilled the governor has selected Man Phan to join the Board of Governors,” said CCC Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley in a statement. “Man is highly regarded by colleagues and students alike and is dedicated to our system’s mission of expanding access, improving graduation rates and increasing our students’ social mobility. He will be a strong leader for our system and advocate for our 2.1 million students. I am pleased to welcome him to our board.”

In addition to Phan’s work at Cosumnes River College, he was a business development manager at Steinberg Architects from 2008 to 2012 and at Carrier Johnson and Culture from 2004 to 2008. Phan also served as a legislative assistant with the San Diego County Board of Supervisors from 2001 to 2003 and the San Diego City Council in 1998. Prior to receiving his doctorate at Sacramento State, Phan earned a master’s degree in Business Administration from the University of San Diego School of Business.

Foster youth a focus of alum’s new charter school


Another alumnus of the Sacramento State Doctorate in Educational Leadership is creating change to benefit students. Cesar Castaneda, Ed.D., who graduated with Cohort 6 in 2015, is the co-founder and director of business operations for Atkinson Academy Charter School in the Sacramento area.

Building on his dissertation research, Dr. Castaneda helped design the school’s educational program and charter petition, which was granted by the San Juan Unified School District in January 2016. Atkinson Academy Charter School opened in August.

The school’s mission is to empower students to achieve their highest potential. The online format provides many students with the flexibility they need.

Foster youth, in particular, benefit from the school’s format. California identifies foster youth as one of three populations named “targeted disadvantaged pupils” due to their low achievement. Atkinson Academy’s goal is to help all of our students gain the core belief and the value that education adds quality to their life, Dr. Castaneda said.

“With socio-emotional techniques to engage typical vulnerable students, we hope to gain the trust and build strong relationships that would create transformation in our students through high expectations and leadership invested in change.

“The greatest achievement that I feel we can accomplish,” he said, “is to make a difference in a person’s life in a way that impacts and transforms them from who they are to what they want to be.”


Ed.D. Alumnus Moffatt launches ‘scholar to officer’ partnership

Another Sacramento State Ed.D. alumnus is creating change for students. Dr. Shelby Moffatt from Cohort 6 founded the Law Enforcement Candidate Scholars’ (LECS) Program – the first partnership of its kind between local and state law enforcement agencies in California and their neighboring communities.

Shelby Moffat at LECS signing

The partnership became official Oct. 12 as Sacramento State President Robert S. Nelsen, Sacramento Police Department Chief Sam Somers, California Highway Patrol Assistant Chief Jonni Fenner, and founding director Moffatt signed the partnership agreement at Sacramento State. More than 50 uniformed officers, along with University faculty and staff, witnessed the launch of this unique “scholars to officers” program.

The LECS program is designed to eliminate challenges and barriers faced by women and men seeking law enforcement careers. The program’s goal is to increase higher education graduation rates and career placement, as well as to create greater inclusion in recruitment and hiring within law enforcement. It also addresses policy issues and community relations concerns locally and throughout the state and the nation.

“We believe this to be the gold standard in higher education,” Moffatt said.

Police Chief Somers, who was #MadeAtSacState, called LECS a “model program” that will get “people into the (law enforcement) profession and ready to hit the streets.”

LECS is open to Sacramento State juniors and seniors of any major. Learn more about the program at

Doctoral student Steve Roberson makes college degrees his mission

Champions of Change_SteveRobersonSteve Roberson, a member of Cohort 8 in the Sacramento State Ed.D. program, has made it his mission to steer more minority students onto the college track. In addition to his work as assistant principal and Dean of Students at Cristo Rey High School in Sacramento, his determination to help minority students succeed is the clearly seen in videos posted on the website he developed as the founder of The Graduation Code.

“My undergraduate career was a mess.  I hung out in the wrong circles and engaged in the social scene more than the academic scene,” Roberson says. “As a result, I was on academic probation several times and even dismissed from school.  The image I was portraying was not the proper representation of me, my family, or my culture.  I was blessed to have been provided with another opportunity, and with that opportunity I have dedicated myself to making sure that others do not travel down the same rough path towards attaining a college degree.”

With The Graduation Code, Roberson is building a platform that speaks directly to students who could easily fall off the college track. Short video messages from students, graduates, faculty members, alumni and other professionals speak directly to high school students, undergraduates, and students in masters and doctoral programs. His YouTube channel, The Graduation Code, is now in its second season.

Doctoral students, in particular, will be interested in his clips recorded just for them. One page on features advice from Sac State Cohort 3 graduate Dr. Vridiana Diaz, who shares tips on how to break down the first-year experience of doctoral study. Cohort 1 grad Dr. Angelo Williams helps students think about how to choose their dissertation topic by beginning with the end in mind. And former Sacramento State President Dr. Alexander Gonzalez likewise advises doctoral students to pick a topic for their dissertation that they truly care about.

Roberson’s connection to Sacramento State dates from his undergraduate years, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in Government from Sacramento State. While working as an assistant football coach at Sacramento State, he earned a master’s degree in Recreation and Sport Science from Ohio University. He was selected to the 2012 Bill Walsh Minority Fellowship Program as an Assistant Defensive Backs Coach for the NFL’s Cleveland Browns. He is currently pursuing his Doctorate degree in Education Leadership from Sacramento State.

See The Graduation Code’s advice for doctorate students: