In just three short weeks, Elaine Sundberg will retire from Sonoma State University. She has been a force here for 29 years, but it is the last ten or so, particularly her work with the CCE, that I am writing about today.
In 2007, I was living in RI and visiting a friend in Palm Springs. I received a message asking that I re-fax my application to open and coordinate the SSU Center for Community Engagement. It seemed that several pages stuck together in the fax machine. I called back and explained that I would be happy to re-send it when I got back home, and that I'd be in the Bay Area later that week. Elaine organized a special meeting of the hiring committee to interview me while I was in town. I rented a car, and although I had no appropriate clothes for an interview, I printed out directions from MapQuest and made my way to SSU. The team explained to that when the old Office of Community Based Learning had closed almost two years prior, they decided to take the opportunity to explore what Sonoma State actually wanted and needed. They developed the idea for the Center for Community Engagement, with it's broader focus, and secured the physical location where I now spend most of my time.
Since then, I have had the great pleasure of being supervised by Elaine for the past eight and a half years. She has served tirelessly as a supporter and advocate for community engagement and civic learning here at SSU. She has been an incredible leader and mentor to me personally. She has continuously supported my growth and development. Sometimes I have felt that she is something like a West Coast Mom and others much more like a friend. She is an excellent listener and one of the best and most prolific writers I know. She is a powerful feminist and has a keen sense of social justice as her ongoing work with the Mario Savio Memorial Lecture Board demonstrates. In fact, she and I had the truly spectacular experience of having dinner with Robert Reich and then standing directly behind him while he spoke to the Occupiers from the steps of Sproul Hall.
Elaine's role in the CCE is just a tiny part of her massive job at SSU and many other people will feel her loss here. Her retirement is well deserved. Please feel free to post comments and stories about Elaine here.