California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye speaks about her journey as an attorney and judge

Imran Majid

California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye spoke at Sacramento State on Monday about the significance and role of mentors in her journey as an attorney and judge.

Cantil-Sakauye said she was a beneficiary of good will because of professors and colleagues who pushed her to seek out opportunity, and encouraged students to become not only mentees, but mentors in their own community as well.

“Sometimes mentors are thrust upon you,” Cantil-Sakauye said. “Other times you seek them out because you have a goal in mind, and you are on the cutting edge of your life and you don’t know how to accomplish that goal. Or you have accomplished it, and now you need to execute it and that’s where mentors come in.”

The speech was part of the Spring Convocation, an annual event sponsored by the President’s Committee to Build Campus Unity.

Kimo Ah Yun, associate dean of the College of Arts and Letters and committee chair, said the board hosts a variety of events, including coffee chats and short film competitions, with the intent of having university conversations and enhancing campus unity.

“(Cantil-Sakauye is) such a role model, being local and having experiences that are similar to our students,” Ah Yun said. “Being the chief justice, you have a lot of experiences and (the committee) anticipated that she would be able to share (them).”

Before Cantil-Sakauye spoke, students were provided with a complimentary lunch, and facilitators at each table guided a discussion exploring the mentoring experiences of each participant.

Based on his conversation with other students, senior electrical engineering major Emmanuel Dupart said mentors play a crucial role in today’s society because they provide connections and opportunities.

“Our generation is a much different generation than the ones in the past,” Dupart said. “The entire process has changed. With mentors on campus, I feel like it makes it a lot easier to get a job outside. With mentorship, you get the connection.”

April is Alumni Month, a time celebrating the professional accomplishments and real-world experiences of past Sac State graduates.

But the month also represents an opportunity for students to create an interactive long-term relationship with alumni for professional connections and advice, said Director of Alumni Relations Jennifer Barber.

“The mentees will end up benefitting from some of the more general life experiences that these alumni have to offer,” Barber said. “Learning how to navigate those turns life is going to throw at you is that intangible experience that you can only gain from knowing somebody.”

Graduate Lisa Morrical, a table facilitator and Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages student, said she hopes Sac State will continue to encourage mentorship opportunities.

“As a student here, I feel a little disconnected from everything,” Morrical said. “It’s so spread out. I think a lot of other students feel so disconnected too. But there’s so many opportunities available here. I think people should take part in those more so we can get a more united campus.”

After her speech, Cantil-Sakauye held an open question-and-answer session, and addressed topics such as the challenges of being chief justice and the role of higher education. 

She was sworn into office in 2011 after serving for more than 20 years on California appellate and trial courts. As the first Asian-Filipino American and the second woman to serve as the state’s chief justice, Cantil-Sakauye credited much of her success to mentors who taught her to never set limits. 

“If you consider yourself the most valuable top Fortune 500 Company in the world – which you are – you would want to have a board of directors who would be available for you to bounce ideas off, to give you advice,” Cantil-Sakauye said. “Who could tell you things honestly. Who could give you faithful, constructive criticism (and) at the same time, encourage you. That you know they have your best intent at heart.”