Lester Holt enjoys a proud homecoming

Lester Holt is one of the world’s most respected broadcast journalists – and it all began for him at Sacramento State. He became a better student and made the decision to become a journalist while at the University, he says. “It set me off into the world.”

He still considers himself a student – “and my finals are every night at 6:30 Eastern time when I get in front of the camera.”

Holt, 57, who anchors both NBC Nightly News and Dateline NBC, came home to Sacramento this month when he interviewed Sac State graduate students Ahlam Abdul-Rahman and Norma Mendoza as a part of a national discussion on immigration in the days leading up to the presidential inauguration. Sacramento was the first stop on his “Across America” series for Nightly News.

President Robert S. Nelsen with NBC News anchor Lester Holt on the Sac State campus during Holt’s Jan. 17 visit. (Sacramento State/Rob Neep)

While in town, he also visited the Sacramento State campus, where he was a government major in the late 1970s. (See our photos from his visit.) His parents worried when he left school to take a chance on a job with a San Francisco radio station. They needn’t have been concerned: Eighteen months later, he was working at the CBS-TV affiliate in New York City and was on his way.

Last year, Holt was named as one of the 100 most influential people in the world. And in September 2016, he became the first African American moderator of a general-election presidential debate in nearly a quarter-century when candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump faced off for the first time.

Holt’s alma mater has recognized his world-famous achievements – conferring an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree on the broadcaster during Spring 2015 Commencement ceremonies at Sleep Train Arena. Holt noted in his remarks that his father, Lester Holt Sr., is a Sac State graduate. (View a video of his Commencement talk.)

Please enjoy this video – and read more about Lester Holt Jr., who is proud to be #MadeAtSacState.


Viridiana Díaz honored as a shining star for underrepresented Sac State students

Viridiana Díaz is inspired every day by the students she serves as assistant vice president of Strategic Diversity Initiatives at Sacramento State.

Over the past 15 years, she has dedicated herself to creating a more inclusive campus for first-generation, Pell Grant-eligible, migrant, immigrant, undocumented, viridianadiaz-jpegand underserved students, including out-of-school youth.

“They keep me full of energy, optimism, and pride,” she recently told Villa en el valle, a publication of The Sacramento Bee. “They are willing to go outside of their comfort zone to access resources, build a strategic network of caring mentors, and furthermore choose to transform their lives and, by doing so, the lives of their future generations.”

The Sacramento Hispanic Chamber of Commerce honored Díaz – who was #MadeAtSacState – with its 2016 Latina Inspiration Estrella (“star”) award during a Dec. 14 luncheon at the Sterling Hotel.

“You were chosen by our committee for your dedication and perseverance to achieve your goals and motivate others to do the same,” chamber president Cathy Rodriguez said in congratulating Díaz. “Your professional achievements and leadership are an inspiration to us all.”

Díaz oversees a number of equity programs on campus: the Dedicated to Educating, Graduating, and Retaining Educational Equity Students (DEGREES) Project; the College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP); the Serna Center; the Dreamer Resource Center; the Migrant Student Leadership Institute; and the High School Equivalency Program (HEP).

She came to the United States from Mexico at age 12 and was the first in her family to graduate from college, earning a bachelor’s degree in communication studies and two master’s degrees – art in Spanish and art in history – all from Sacramento State. She went on to complete an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership and Policy at Sac State.

To learn more about Díaz and her tireless efforts to help students succeed, please see the story in Villa en el valle: http://bit.ly/2eDllzi.

Sac State’s Malika Murray wins CSU Trustees scholarship


Malika Murray, winner of a 2016 California State University (CSU) Trustees’ Award for Outstanding Achievement, is a dreamer committed to making dreams come true for others.

“I am particularly concerned with the rights of people who have been both historically and currently marginalized because of ethnicity and socioeconomic status,” she says.

“It is my responsibility to combat those processes, theories, and power struggles that serve to oppress the underrepresented. At the heart of my drive to lead others in school and in the community is my unswerving commitment to bettering the quality of their lives and their societies through education.”

Murray is a graduate student in Sacramento State’s Doctorate of Educational Leadership (Ed.D.) program. She received the Trustee Emeritus Murray L. Galinson Scholar award and plans to use her $8,000 scholarship toward her tuition fees. She expects to graduate from Sac State in spring 2017.

The Trustees’ Awards for Outstanding Achievement were given to 24 students – one from each of the 23 CSU campuses and a special award for the top-scoring CSU-wide scholar – who have demonstrated superior academic performance, personal accomplishments, community service, and financial need.

Murray was born in New York City. She and her younger brother were raised in “a loving Puerto Rican household” by their mother and grandmother. The family moved to the San Francisco area when Murray was a teenager, and she started working with inner-city kids by age 16. She served as a recreation leader, afterschool leader, and activities director at a middle school.

“I realized then that I wanted to work with underrepresented young people as a career,” she says.

She dropped out of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo to raise her three children as a single mom, and she ran a home-based day-care center while they were young.

She returned to college in 2000, enrolling at Sac State to earn her bachelor’s degree in ethnic studies. Three months after graduation, she got a job teaching at Sacramento’s Luther Burbank High School. She taught at a few other schools in the area before deciding to make a major change in her life.

She returned to Sac State in 2011 to get her master’s degree in bilingual and multicultural education.

“I realized that I needed still more education to be able to impact and influence education for underrepresented students,” she says. And so she enrolled in the Ed.D. program in 2014.

“There are many things I want to do after I get my doctorate,” she says. “I want to develop educational theory. I want to write about the experiences of teachers and students of color. I want to become a professor and train new educators. And I would love to open a school or educational center/museum based on the cultural arts.”

More than 340 CSU students have received CSU Trustees awards since the endowed scholarship fund was created in 1984 by the William Randolph Hearst Foundation. The CSU Board of Trustees in 1999 partnered with the foundation and supplements the endowment with contributions from the Trustees and private donors.

“I am extremely grateful and humbled for the scholarship,” says Murray. “I want the CSU to know that I dedicate my life to helping others through education, in the same way that I was helped by caring, conscientious teachers and professors.”