Sonoma State University

Sonoma State University
Former names
Sonoma State College (1960–1978)
Motto Lux Mentis, Lux Orbis (Latin)
Motto in English
Light of the Mind, Light of the World
Type Public
Established 1961[1]
Endowment $44.6 million (2015)[2]
President Judy K. Sakaki [1]
Academic staff
Students 9,408 (Fall 2015)[3]
Undergraduates 8,615 (Fall 2015)[3]
Postgraduates 793 (Fall 2015)[3]
Location Rohnert Park, California, U.S.
Campus Suburban, 269 acres (109 ha) (main campus)
Colors Navy, Columbia blue[4]
Athletics NCAA Division IICCAA
Nickname Seawolves
Mascot Lobo the Seawolf
Affiliations California State University, COPLAC

Sonoma State University (SSU, Sonoma State, and Sonoma) is a public comprehensive university, part of the 23-campus California State University (CSU) system. The main campus is located east of Rohnert Park, and north of Cotati, California, United States, approximately 10 miles (16 km) south of Santa Rosa and 50 miles (80 km) north of San Francisco. The university is one of the smallest of the 23 CSU campuses in California. Sonoma State offers 92 Bachelor's degrees, 19 Master's degrees, one Doctoral degree (Doctor of Education), and 11 teaching credentials.[5][6]



Sonoma State College was established by the California State Legislature in 1960 to be part of the California State College system, with significant involvement of the faculty from San Francisco State University. As with all California State Colleges, Sonoma State later became part of the California State University system. Sonoma opened for the first time in 1961, with an initial enrollment of 250 students. Classes offered took place in leased buildings in Rohnert Park where the college offered its first four-year Bachelor of Arts degree in Elementary Education. With the completion of its two main classroom halls, Stevenson Hall, named for politician Adlai Stevenson II, and Darwin Hall, named for Charles Darwin, developer of the theory of natural selection, the college moved to its permanent campus of 215 acres (87 ha) in 1966 where the first graduating class received their degrees.[7]

Early development

Sign at the main entrance to the Sonoma State University Campus.

As enrollment increased, the Sonoma State built more on-campus facilities, including Ives Hall for performing arts, The University Commons for dining, a small library, and a gymnasium. These buildings followed the physical master plan of the school which stated that the facilities would be urban in character, defining the use of smooth concrete building façades with landscaped courtyards. Among the landscaping features added with these facilities were the "Campus Lakes", two small reservoirs located behind the Commons next to Commencement Lawn, the site of the university's annual commencement ceremonies, as well as one lake near a housing facility, Beaujolais Village; the lakes are home to local waterfowl.

One of the ponds behind the Commons

In 1969, the academic master plan underwent a major revision as the first master's degrees in biology and psychology were offered. The new cluster school concept, coupled with a more intense focus on the surrounding rural environment, influenced the new physical master plan. The first facility built under the new plan was the Zinfandel residence area, a "village" of stucco and redwood structures. The new Student Health Center used a primarily redwood façade with a landscaped ground cover of wild roses and poppies. In 1975, Nichols Hall was built as the newest classroom hall and named in honor of Sonoma's founding president, Ambrose R. Nichols.

Early development of the modern campus came to a close in 1976 when the Student Union was constructed between the main quad and the lakes. This building continued the use of the physical master plan, using primarily redwood and preceded the similarly built Carson Hall, an art building, a childcare center, additional parking, and a computer center which was added onto the library.[7]

The modern university

In 1978, Sonoma State College became Sonoma State University when the school officially gained university status. In response to this achievement, the surrounding community provided funds for the new university to build a large swimming pool, completed in 1982, and the 500-seat Evert Person Theatre, 1989 and which dominates the view when entering campus through the main drive. Further enrollment increases and a new goal of movement toward a residential campus as opposed to a commuter campus facilitated the building of Verdot Village in 1995.[7]

Recent and future expansion

The Jean and Charles Schulz Information center

In May 2001, the Board of Trustees approved a new master plan, which added 48 acres (19 ha) to the campus, located north of Copeland Creek. Rapidly accelerated growth of the residential student body was alleviated by the construction of the third phase of on-campus housing named Sauvignon Village, offering housing to non-freshmen students. In the same year, the Jean and Charles Schulz Information Center was completed to accommodate the expanded needs of the library and computing services. The facility was built as a prototype library and information complex for the 21st century, housing more than 400,000 volumes in its stacks. The center also houses an advanced Automated Retrieval System (ARS) which contains an additional 750,000 volumes in a computer-managed shelving system in the library wing.

The Green Music Center under construction in 2008.

A large portion of the funding to build the information center was donated by Charles Schulz, cartoonist and author of the popular Peanuts comic series, and his wife Jean.[8]

Darwin Hall after its renovation

In January 2005, the university began the renovation of Darwin Hall, the now 40-year-old science building. The new building was designed to provide efficient academic classrooms and study areas for faculty and their students. The renovated structure was completed and re-opened in fall 2006 and provided new laboratories and classrooms to support the needs of a modern science curriculum.[9]

The new property approved by the board of trustees in 2000 is also the site of the Donald and Maureen Green Music Center, funded by private donors. A component of the Green Music Center, Music Education Hall, was state-funded. The center contains the 1400-seat Joan and Sanford I. Weill Hall, which was completed in 2012. Students began taking classes and occupying the building in fall 2008. Its resident orchestra is the Santa Rosa Symphony.[10]

A new social center for the university gained approval in April 2011. Students voted to raise their fees $150 a semester to cover the cost of the $65 million facility.[11]


The Office of the President began with the university's founding in 1960 when Ambrose R. Nichols, Jr. became the founding president of the university. There have been six presidents of Sonoma State University.[7] In January 2016, the California State University Board of Trustees appointed Judy Sakaki as Sonoma State's next president.[12] Sakaki's term is expected to begin July 1, 2016.[13]

Name Years as President
1 Ambrose R. Nichols, Jr. (1960–70)
2 Thomas H. McGrath (1971–74)
3 Marjorie Downing Wagner (1974–76)
4 Peter Diamandopoulos (1977–83)
5 David W. Benson (1984–92)
6 Ruben Armiñana (1992–2016)
6 Judy K. Sakaki (2016-current)


Demographics of student body (Spring 2015)[14]
White American 54.0%
Hispanic American 26.2%
Asian American 5.4%
African American 3.6%
Native American 0.6%
Hawaiian/Pacific Islander 0.6%
Two or more races 8.0%
International 1.6%
Ethnicity unreported/unknown 1.7%

Sonoma State occupies approximately 269 acres (109 ha) on the east side of the main suburban area of Rohnert Park. Directly adjacent to the main campus is Wolf's Den Plaza, a frequent hangout and eating area for SSU students.

Ruben Salazar Hall, formerly Ruben Salazar Library.

University library

The three story, 215,000-square-foot (20,000 m2) library is separated into two wings housing different areas on each floor. The building has a total of 5 acres (2.0 ha) of indoor floor space and 50,000 feet (15,000 m) of shelving. There are over 1,000 seats for students to study and an outdoor study patio on the third floor, which is also the "quiet floor" where absolutely no talking is allowed for those who prefer to study in complete silence. The library houses a collection of writings and original letters from Jack London, as well as memorabilia relating to his works.[15]

The $41.5 million building is named after Charles M. Schulz, the creator of the Peanuts comic cartoon, and his wife Jean, who donated $5 million to help build and furnish the structure.[16]

The Green Music Center

Music Education Hall (one of 4 components of the Green Music Center) opened its doors in 2008 to students who taking classes in the two 60-person classrooms. The focal point of the Green Music Center is a 1,400-seat concert hall featuring precision engineered acoustics, named the Joan and Sanford I. Weill Hall.[17] The entire rear wall of the hall opens to lawn seating for a total of 4,000 additional guests.[18][19] The Hospitality Center, which includes a restaurant/executive conference center, opened in 2010. A $12 million donation from Joan and Sandy Weill, announced in March 2011, provided the funds to complete the concert hall for the fall 2012 opening. The 250-seat Schroeder Recital Hall opened in 2014.[20]

On-campus housing

Sonoma State provides suite-style housing. There are six villages on campus:

Campus Bookstore

The Sonoma State Bookstore was operated by Sonoma State Enterprises, Inc. until the spring of 2006 when the operation was outsourced to Barnes & Noble College Booksellers, despite some opposition from faculty members.[21]

Off-campus sites

In addition to the main campus, the university also owns and operates two off–campus study sites for students of the natural sciences. The first site is the 411-acre (166 ha) Fairfield Osborn Preserve, located on nearby Sonoma Mountain.[22] The second site is the 3,200-acre (1,300 ha) Galbreath Wildlands Preserve in Mendocino County.[23] Both offer opportunities for research and hands-on education to students of the university. Sonoma State also offers students the opportunity to obtain their bachelor's degree in liberal arts partly through classes offered at Napa Valley College.


Fall Statistics[24][25][26]

2013 2012 2011 2010 2009
Freshman Applicants 14,272 13,239 12,151 12,610 11,244
Admits 12,870 12,223 10,317 10,198 8,690
% Admitted 90.2 92.3 84.9 80.9 77.3
Enrolled 1,807 1,729 1,810 2,215 1,655
GPA 3.20 3.17 3.17 3.16 3.22

Schools and special programs

The more than 65 departments and academic programs are divided into six distinct schools,[27] all offering undergraduate and graduate degrees and courses, and nearly all offering minors and doctorates.

Accreditations and memberships

Sonoma State is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. Several of the schools within Sonoma State also have additional accreditations, such as the School of Business and Economics, which is accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. Sonoma State University remains the only California school that belongs to the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges.[28]

Hutchins School of Liberal Studies

The Hutchins School of Liberal Studies is a nationally–known interdisciplinary learning community within the larger institution of Sonoma State University.[29] HIPPS is currently under the direction of professor Francisco Vázquez.

Wine Business program

Sonoma State's location in the California Wine Country allows the school to offer the Wine Business program as well and related courses in viticulture. Sonoma State's program offers a curriculum targeted at the business challenges of the wine industry. Courses are offered in wine marketing, wine finance and accounting, human resources management, wine business strategies, wine production, operations, and distribution.[30]

Department of Engineering Science

With the support of the local industries and community, the department's laboratories located in the Cerent Engineering Science Complex are equipped with instruments to conduct study and research.[31]

Controversies and incidents

In the spring of 2005, the Learning Disability program at SSU was under investigation by the Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights Case # 09-05-2100, for failing to meet Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, Title II. The Office of Civil Rights found Disabled Student Services accommodations policy in violation of Title II.

In March 2006, 70 students staged a protest because the Academic Senate refused to let their representatives vote on academic policies which directly affected students.[32]

In May 2007, SSU faculty voted no confidence in President Armiñana based upon financial issues surrounding the building of the Green Music Center,[33] and faculty allegations that the building of the center took money away from academic programs. The center, originally intended to be a $10 million project, grew into a $120 million complex as additional venues and features were added to the original plan. The construction of the center was initially funded by bond measures, loans, and private donations as the use of academic funds for other uses is illegal.[18] The Board of Trustees continues to support Armiñana despite the vote.[34]

In February 2010, the FBI and investigators from the Sonoma County District Attorney's offices raided the campus's administrative and finance offices, seizing dozens of boxes from a storage area, as well as examining computers. The operation focused on an alleged misuse of federal grant money by the California Institute for Human Services (CIHS),[35] a unit closed by SSU in 2007. The two top CIHS administrators were dismissed at that time.[36]

On November 2, the body of an 18-year-old Cotati man, Kirk Kimberly, was found partially buried on the SSU campus. He allegedly died from stab wounds.

Art from the Heart

An annual fundraising event, Art from the Heart, has taken place at the university since 1984. Held in the university's art gallery, the silent art auction raises funds for the art gallery’s display, advertising, and lecture program by selling artwork created by invited professional artists.[37]

Student life


Sonoma State teams compete in intercollegiate athletics as the Sonoma State Seawolves. Sonoma State University is an NCAA Division II member and part of the California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA), Western Water Polo Association (WWPA) and the Pacific West Conference (PacWest). Ten of SSU's sports are in the CCAA, water polo is in the WWPA, and men's and women's tennis are in the PacWest.

Sonoma State athletics began in 1964 with the school's first men's basketball team. Through the years, the Seawolves have had various successes including national championships in 1990 (women's soccer), 2002 (men's soccer), and 2009 (men's golf). The school's traditional colors are navy, Columbia, and white. SSU athletic teams participate in the CCAA, an association within the NCAA's Division II. The SSU Athletic Department offers nine NCCAA women's sports teams and five men's teams. Women's track and field has recently been re-added to university's program.<[38]

Student housing

The housing of Sonoma State offers 6 different villages for freshman, upperclassman, and transfers.[39] Sonoma States dorms are ranked #25 in the nation as of 2015, according to Niche Rankings.[40]

Campus life

Sonoma State University has over one hundred chartered student organizations, including fraternities and sororities. More than 20 sports clubs are offered. Several teams compete regionally and in national tournaments. These teams are formed, developed, governed, and administrated by students.[41]

Associated Students

Associated Students (AS) is a student-run and student-owned organization that represents the goals and interests of the student population. The AS Senate is the student government and board of directors of the corporation. AS also encompasses two smaller divisions, Associated Students Productions (ASP), which plans and produces on-campus concerts and student events, and Join Us Making Progress (JUMP), which organizes community service programs.

Notable alumni

Name Known for Relationship to Sonoma
Larry Allen Former Dallas Cowboys offensive guard Played on now defunct football team.
Michael Fellows Noted computer science researcher BA Mathematics
Mike McGuire California State Senator[42] BA Political Science, 2002
Carl Peterson Kansas City Chiefs Former president & general managerCoached on now defunct football team.
Kevin Danaher Author and activist, co-founder of Global Exchange
Mike Horner Film Actor BA Philosophy, 1980
Carole Migden Former California State Senator
Dave Smeds Science fiction author & Nebula Award finalist
Virginia Strom-Martin Former California State Assemblywoman
Jason Robinson American jazz saxophonist, electronic musician, and composer. Jazz Studies and Philosophy
Tendai Mukomberanwa Soapstone Sculptor Bachelor of Fine Arts
William C. Davis Civil War historian Bachelor of Arts, Master of Arts ('69)
David V. Brewer Associate Justice of the Oregon Supreme Court Bachelor of Arts, Economics ('74)
Sam Hernandez Arena Football League Hall of Fame lineman Played on now defunct football team.
Abdul Rahman Dahlan Member of the Parliament of Malaysia BA Economics & Management


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  17. "Joan and Sanford I. Weill Hall". Retrieved January 9, 2015.
  18. 1 2 Bob Norberg (November 25, 2008). "Music Center Still Silent". The Press Democrat. Retrieved 2008-11-26.
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  30. Kevin McCallum, "SSU to offer wine industry M.B.A.," Santa Rosa Press Democrat, May 30, 2007, pp. E1-back.
  31. Steve Hart, "Engineering for the Future," Santa Rosa Press Democrat, October 11, 2005, pp. E1, 5.
  32. "SSU students protest, demand faculty group vote". The Press Democrat. Santa Rosa, California. March 24, 2006. Retrieved February 6, 2015.
  33. Elia Powers (May 30, 2007). "No Confidence Vote at Cal State". Inside Higher Education. Retrieved 2007-09-11.
  34. George Lauer, "SSU Faculty Approves 'No Confidence' in President," Santa Rosa Press Democrat, May 19, 2007, pp. A1, 8.
  35. Bob Norberg, "Institute was thriving, 125-employee operation," The Press Democrat, Feb. 19, 2010, p. A5.
  36. Nathan Halverson and Jeremy Hay, "FBI raids Sonoma State offices," The Press Democrat, February 19, 2010, pp. A1, A5.
  37. "Art from the Heart celebrates 30th anniversary". Sonoma State Star. Sonoma State University. January 21, 2014. Retrieved February 2, 2015.
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  40. "Best Dorms - College Rankings - Niche". Retrieved 2015-07-22.
  41. "Center for Student Leadership, Involvement & Service at Sonoma State University". 2014-11-04. Retrieved 2015-07-22.
  42. "Biography : Senator Mike McGuire". Retrieved March 15, 2015.

Coordinates: 38°20′23″N 122°40′31″W / 38.33972°N 122.67528°W / 38.33972; -122.67528

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