Fifteen years ago, I moved cross country and began working at Sonoma State. I thought I’d be here for two or three years and then move to a campus in San Francisco or the East Bay. But I fell in love with SSU and our community and time and time again, I watched positions open up and didn’t apply. Yes, the hills are beautiful, the weather amazing, and the burritos are perfect, but, of course, it’s the people that keep me here.
I am exceptionally privileged to work with such fantastic community partners and faculty. Our community partners have contributed to the learning of our students and led me on the right path. Without their guidance, I certainly would have gotten lost long ago. Faculty here have always treated me as a respected colleague and have risen to the challenges we face again and again. I count many faculty and community folks as friends. Just today, a faculty member who started soon after me dropped by the office to reunite after 2 years of pandemic. He did not know that it was my 15-year anniversary, and that made his thoughtfulness even more appreciated.
The work of community engagement is all about relationships. I have been fortunate to work with collaborative folks, not only in the community but on campus as well. The dedicated CCE volunteers, interns, student assistants, VISTAs, staff, and Faculty Fellows make our work of “building beloved community” a joy. Departments and programs across the university have always been supportive and open to partnering. I remain grateful and humbled that the search committee members took a chance on me to do a community engagement job in communities I knew nothing at all about.
Fifteen years is a long time, and of course, there have been challenges. Perhaps what I most value is that I have been given space to try things, make mistakes, and grow. As we learn more and as change is constant, being flexible, creative, and resilient is crucial. I found myself more committed than ever during the Tubbs fire and then recommitted again when the pandemic caused such loss of life, trauma, and disruption. Unlike many of my counterparts, I have been consistently encouraged to engage our students with work that is not only charitable in nature but also focused on social and racial justice. For example, the CCE continues to support the racial reckoning and BLM actions, etc. I know that the work I’m doing matters all the time, but when times are tough, it’s crucial. I am privileged to be able to do it.
So how do you celebrate 15 years? I made my Mom’s stuffed peppers, a dish I’ve never made before and haven’t had since before I moved here from the East Coast. They were pretty good, but also pretty bland for my California-influenced palate. I doused them with Tapatío, and they were perfect!