Sac State alumnus Jonathan Luke Wood returns to Hornet’s nest as new president

Former SDSU diversity officer, vice president of student affairs brings experience to Sac State


Jonathan Luke Wood will be taking over as the president of Sacramento State on July 16, according to a CSU press release Wednesday, May 24, 2023. A Sac State alumnus, Wood returns after working with San Diego State University since 2011. (Photo courtesy of CSU, CalstateTEACH)

Jacob Peterson

The California State University Board of Trustees appointed Jonathan Luke Wood as the future president of Sacramento State, according to a press release sent Wednesday.

Wood, in addition to serving as chief diversity officer and vice president of Student Affairs and Campus Diversity at San Diego State, is also a Sac State alumnus. Wood earned his bachelor’s in Black history and politics and master’s degrees in higher education leadership in student affairs at Sac State and is returning to take over for the outgoing President Robert Nelsen.

RELATED: Board of Trustees appoints Jonathan Luke Wood as new Sac State President 

“For me this is coming home,” Wood said. “It’s an incredible opportunity to be able to lead an institution that gave a lot to me.” 

Wood said he was heavily involved in student leadership during his time at Sac State, being a  board member with Associated Students Inc. and living at Jenkins Hall. He said it was at the “Hornet’s nest” that he met his future research partner and wife.

Wood, who is from a foster home background, said he accredited much of his success at the university to the help of the Educational Opportunity Program. He said the program helped him deal with various background challenges like food and housing insecurity.

Someone who remembers Wood from his time on campus is Interim Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Carlos Nevarez. Nevarez said he had met Wood back when the latter was a student completing his master’s degree.

“He clearly stood out as an outstanding student, even at a very young age,” Nevarez said. 

I would say he’s highly innovative, has this entrepreneurship mindset that would really advance and bring to scale Sacramento State.

— Carlos Nevarez

After departing Sac State, Wood earned his Ph.D. in educational leadership and policy studies from Arizona State University, according to the press release. Wood joined SDSU in 2011 as a professor.

Wood said one of the most crucial aspects of his role at SDSU was ensuring student success. 

“San Diego State and Sac State are very different institutions,” Wood said. “I want to hear from students in terms of things they want to see, what are they looking forward to in terms of the next phase of the campus.”

Wood also said his experience teaching classes on strategic planning and implementation and developing plans at SDSU would come in handy with carrying out Sac State’s 2023-2028 strategic plan.  

Another topic Wood addressed was the safety concerns students have had in the past year after multiple sexual assaults on and near the campus. Once again, Wood said he wanted to work together with the campus community to create a safer environment.

“The incidents that I saw are horrific,” Wood said. “Any leader has to take that seriously.”

RELATED: TIMELINE: Sexual assault at Sac State 

Wood said he also looks forward to working with the various resource centers on campus, such as the Pride, MLK and Asian Pacific Islander Sesi American Centers. He said he had helped start many of the cultural centers at San Diego State.

“We worked with student leaders, and we made some changes at San Diego State that resulted in those centers really becoming resource centers,” Wood said. “There’s nothing that I’m looking more forward to doing than meeting with ASI and the cultural centers on campus and seeing what we can accomplish together.”

There’s nothing that I’m looking more forward to doing than meeting with ASI and the cultural centers on campus and seeing what we can accomplish together.

— Jonathan Luke Wood

One of Sac State’s student leaders, incoming ASI President Nataly Andrade, said she was excited to work with Wood going into the fall 2023 semester.

“He’s someone who seems to genuinely care for student input, so I think he’s going to do a great job,” Andrade said. “I know I will be meeting him in the summer, so I’m excited to work with him.”

Wood said he was also impressed with the work Nelsen had in improving graduation rates.

“Luke Wood is a transformational leader,” Nelsen said. “He is ‘Made at Sac State,’ and he understands Sac State, especially our mission to ensure that all students have an opportunity to achieve their dreams.”  

Wood said he wants students to know he was one of them, describing himself as a product of the institution.

“At least that’s how I see myself,” Wood said. “My commitment to the community is deep, and it’s because of my own experience and what Sac State gave to me.”