Former associate dean and commercial co-star among seven alumni to be honored

Remember this Sacramento State commercial from 2013? Recognize the man in the green robe? It’s none other than Sac State alum, longtime professor and former associate dean of the College of Arts and Letters, Kimo Ah Yun ’90 (Communication Studies).

Why the throwback? Ah Yun is one of several impressive Sacramento State graduates who will be honored April 20 during the Distinguished Alumni Awards, which honor community and industry leaders for their contributions to Sacramento State and the community.

In addition to Ah Yun, who now is dean of the Diederich College of Communication at Marquette University, five other Hornets will receive Distinguished Service Awards:

  • Kraig Clark ’91 (Accountancy): Founder of JLM Energy and eScreen Logic
  • Carol Garcia ’08 (Family and Consumer Sciences): Senior Vice President of Community 1st Bank
  • Gilbert Herdt, MA ’72 (Anthropology): Clinical and cultural anthropologist specializing in human sexuality
  • Andrei Tokmakoff ’98 (Chemistry): Henry G. Gale Distinguished Service Professor in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Chicago
  • Angelo Williams, MA ’06 (Education), MA ’07 (Higher Education Leadership), Ed.D. ’10: Director of Community Engagement and Mobilization for the California Black Health Network

In addition, Ryan Harrison, MS ’11 (Criminal Justice) will receive the Rising Star Award, given to a graduate of Sacramento State to have received his or her first Sac State degree since 2006. Harrison is a principal human resources consultant for the California Senate Rules Committee.

Learn more about each of this year’s Distinguished Alumni Award winners at To learn more about the awards and see past winners, visit

And if the above video has you pumped for Commencement, you can learn more about the event at

Washington Post reporter says Sac State student newspaper ‘got me out of my shell’

Washington Post reporter Kristine Phillips got her start in journalism as a member of Sacramento State’s student newspaper, The State Hornet. Photo: Danese Kenon/Indianapolis Star

When Kristine Phillips ’10 (Journalism) arrived as a student at Sacramento State in 2008, just two years removed from immigrating to the United States from the Philippines, she was admittedly shy and self-conscious about her English. That changed when she took a couple of journalism classes, which led her to join the student newspaper, The State Hornet.

“I met people with the same interest in journalism, people my age, and that got me out of my shell,” Phillips says.

Today, she is a general assignment reporter at the Washington Post, covering everything from immigration to politics to crime. Most recently, she has written about Taiwan banning the eating of cats and dogs, the Anne Frank Center’s response to White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s comments about Adolf Hitler, a gun rights bill passed in Iowa, and an 11-year-old boy who killed himself after his girlfriend faked her death.

Phillips, who previously worked at the Indianapolis Star and the Oregonian, says that while the general assignment beat can be challenging because she often is learning on the go about the topics and issues she covers, she appreciates the opportunity to work at one of the country’s most prestigious newspapers.

“I love coming to work knowing that I’m surrounded by talented people, people who are basically at the top of their career,” she says. “I work in the same building as people who are the best in their field.”

She also is working at a time of immense change in the journalism industry. The expansion of digital and social media channels means her story is not intended just for print audiences. The video, social media, graphic and digital teams all will look at what components can be added or how else it can be shared. For that reason, she encourages current journalism students to learn as many skills as possible.

Something else that has changed is a presidential administration that is openly hostile to journalists and a political climate in which distrust of the news media is high. Most reporters are accustomed to getting criticism or “hate mail,” but as a woman of color, Phillips must also deal with uglier messages filled with racist and sexist remarks.

“Sometimes I just have to get away from my computer and get away from everything, gather my thoughts,” she says. “But after a while, you learn to not let it get to you, because these are people who don’t really know you, so why let them affect how you feel?”

In addition to diversifying their skill set, Phillips says current journalism students should try to get as much practical experience as possible, whether it is by working for the student newspaper as she did or by landing internships.

“Editors care less about where you graduated or what your GPA is,” she says. “They care more about the work you’ve done so far and the quality of clips you can provide.”

Through it all – the hate mail, the learning on the go, the 12-hour days that mean most of her spare time is spent catching up on sleep – Phillips looks to her mother, who came to the United States ahead of the rest of her family, for inspiration.

“She was the breadwinner of the family, and she moved to the United States to support us so we were able to go to good schools,” she says. “She spent several years separated from her children to work, and I don’t think that’s something that anyone would have the strength to do. I wouldn’t be where I am now if my mom didn’t make it possible or give me the opportunities to do it.”

Ryan Todd builds ‘culture of sustainability’ at Sac State

Sacramento State Sustainability Manager and alum Ryan Todd, left , works with environmental studies student Nicolette Garces at the University’s compost facility, which functions as a “living lab” for students from a variety of disciplines. (Sacramento State/Jessica Vernone)

Ryan Todd graduated from Sacramento State in 2009 with a degree in environmental studies and a resolve to do his part to help the planet. Now, he’s back at the University doing exactly that, leading the team responsible for keeping Sac State one of the most sustainable campuses in the world.

Todd recently was profiled by the California State University as part of a series focusing on students, faculty, and alumni who are proving the transformative impact of a CSU education. He talked about how he became a student at Sac State, getting involved in sustainability issues, and some of the projects he is working on as the University’s sustainability manager.

Sacramento State’s roots as an environmentally friendly university run deep – literally. The campus is home to more than 3,500 trees and has been designated a Tree Campus USA by the Arbor Day Foundation five years in a row. Sac State was one of just 21 campuses and the only CSU to make The Princeton Review’s 2017 Green College Honor Roll, and the Closed Loop program – through which green waste such as leaves and lawn clippings is turned into compost used across campus as well as clean natural gas for the University’s shuttles – received a Best Practice Award at last year’s CSU Facilities Management Conference.

Todd embraces the concept of the “campus as a living lab,” involving students, faculty, and other parts of the University whenever possible in sustainability initiatives. The sustainability office has a new solar-powered golf cart, for example, thanks to engineering students who designed it using leftover solar panels. The Closed Loop program is another example: Students are dispatched to collect food waste, and the compost generated is used by groups across campus including Capital Public Radio, Associated Students Inc. (ASI) and the ASI Children’s Center.

“Everything we do, we do in collaboration with different groups,” Todd said.

Some of the projects Todd and his team – Energy & Utilities Analyst and Sac State alum Nathaniel Martin, Sustainability Analyst Kristina Cullen, and Recycling & Sustainability Coordinator and alum Joey Martinez – are working on include:

  • Replacing standard water faucets with infrared, motion-sensor faucets that save water, as well as replacing showerheads at Yosemite Hall, a project funded by a grant from the state Department of Water Resources
  • Partnering with local elementary schools to bring students onto campus to learn about sustainability issues and expose them to college
  • Retrofitting lighting inside Mendocino Hall to feature “daylight harvesting” technology, which automatically dims indoor lights depending on the amount of natural light coming into a room
  • Facilitating competition between residence halls to see which can conserve the most energy
  • Developing the campus’ first greenhouse gas emissions report following President Robert S. Nelsen’s pledge to reduce such emissions at Sac State and achieve carbon neutrality

The University’s new “Science II” building, which breaks ground this summer, is expected to be certified LEED Gold, becoming the third building on campus to earn a LEED designation (the other two are The WELL and American River Commons).

“What we’re doing is trying to create a culture of sustainability,” Todd said. “When you do that, it makes being environmentally responsible happen naturally. It sets the expectation that this is just how we do things at Sac State.”

To learn more about sustainability initiatives on campus, visit the Sac State Sustainability homepage at