Sac State hosts events, award ceremony for Alumni Month

Mallory Fites

The month of April marks Alumni Month, when Sacramento State alumni are honored on campus for their acquired education and shared experience.

Alumni are active in the Sac State community and are honored by the university.

Sac State and the Sacramento State Alumni Association recognized alumni for their professional achievements and community service with the annual Distinguished Service Award Homecoming on April 13.

The honorees must have achieved prominence in their field and brought distinction to the university or their community through their accomplishments.

One of the Distinguished Service Award Honorees recognized this year was Thomas Gilbert, who received a master’s of business administration from Sac State in 1980. He is managing shareholder of Gilbert Associates Inc., a business for financial planning services.

Another was Krista Bernasconi, a 1999 Sac State alumna who is now the director of public affairs at Surewest, which provides telecommunications for the greater Sacramento area.

More than 200,000 alumni can be found in the Sacramento region.

Alumni membership for the Sacramento State Alumni Association has gone up 12 percent in the last three years, said Jennifer Barber, executive director of Alumni Relations. She said the increase in membership has made it possible for alumni to sponsor lecture series, networking mixers and mentoring opportunities with the Student Alumni Association.

Valencia Kamara, a Sac State alumna with a bachelor’s in ethnic studies and a minor in peace and conflict resolution, said she was able to start a career after graduating and has tried to build a community based on the ideas, visions and teachings she studied at Sac State.

“The Monday after I graduated I started a career as a field director for Environment California,” Kamara said. “Now I am a union representative and I was able to start a beautiful family.”

Alumni Month honors and showcases students who have gone on to maintain a connection with Sac State and benefit the Sacramento community with their acquired education.

Barber said graduating from Sac State is more than a name on a degree – it is a long-term connection to Sac State.

“The knowledge alumni acquired, the friendships they made, the professional connections they formed, the experiences they had, will always be a significant part of their lives,” Barber said. “That relationship can provide significant benefits to alumni for years to come.”

April was not enough time for organizers of Alumni Month to feature their events so they had to extend the events into May.

Upcoming events will allow Sac State graduates to meet one another and network with current students to share their educational and social experiences.

Thursday is Alumni Open House, in which Sac State alumni learn what is new at the Sacramento State Alumni Association and how to stay connected to Sac State.

Events in May include a Capitol Networking barbecue, the Stinger Wine and Food Classic, and a Hornet Alumni Mixer.

There are several ways Sac State alumni stay involved on campus, including being a Sac State Alumni member, attending events, sharing their experiences with others in their community, leading an alumni chapter and mentoring current students.

Kamara said Sac State professors nourished and molded her into the activist and free thinker she has become. She has taken what she has learned and gave back to the community by volunteering to tutor high school students in Sacramento.

Since 2002, the Sacramento State Alumni Association has offered 12 scholarships for an award of $2,000 each offered to freshmen, undergraduates and graduates.

There is also a Student Alumni Association, which offers students the opportunity to network before graduating.

“You hear time and time again that getting a job is all about who you know, with one out of every 24 Sacramento area residents being a Sac State alumni,” Barber said. “This is a vast network for students to tap into.”

Alumni Association President Chris Higdon, who graduated in 1985 with a degree in business administration, said students and recent graduates need to be able to network and a college degree to be competitive in the job market.

“They need to have made, or know how to make, useful connections in the community,” Higdon said.