Lead Sacramento schools nurse cherishes her chance to ‘make a difference’

Terri Fox, Credential ’04 (Health Services) is blunt about her career path. For most young women entering the workforce in the 1950s and early 1960s, options were limited: “Your choices were teacher, nurse, or secretary.”

So she went into nursing, earning her associate’s degree in 1979 and building more and more on that foundation to the present. She is not only a registered nurse practitioner with Sutter Health but also the lead nurse for the Sacramento City Unified School District, where she says she enjoys seeing the effect of her work daily.

“I feel like I can make a difference in the lives of kids that might be underserved,” Fox says. That could mean making a doctor’s appointment for a family with limited resources, or buying them a bus ticket. We find out whatever the barrier is and we try and help with it.”

Lately, much of her time has been spent responding to the potential outbreak of norovirus in the district as well as nearby Yolo County school districts (she was quoted in a recent KCRA story about the issue). She has been working closely with the city and county health offices to draw up cleaning and hand washing procedures and ensure that parents get important prevention information.

“We have 44,000 students, so it’s like this little microcosm of a city of people under 21,” Fox says.

Building on her associate’s degree and her early career as a registered nurse in Redwood City, she earned her bachelor’s degree in nursing from CSU Dominguez Hills in 1991 and her master’s degree in nursing from UC San Francisco in 1996. She came to Sacramento State for her post-master’s school nurse credential, which she earned in 2003, then returned to campus in 2008 and 2009 as a lecturer and clinical instructor in the School of Nursing.

“I felt really lucky (at Sac State) to be around such experienced school nurses as my professors,” Fox says. To be in the program, she adds, you had to already be employed as a school nurse. “It really helped to be working while I was going through that program because it helped me know the questions I had and that I should ask in class.”

Prior to her current position, Fox has worked as a registered nurse, nurse practitioner, and lactation consultant in Santa Clara, San Mateo and South San Francisco. She also spent nine years as a family nurse practitioner with the Shingle Springs Tribal Health Clinic.

The School of Nursing is one of the strongest at Sacramento State, graduating more than 200 skilled nurses annually, and those who take the National Council of State Boards of Nursing’s licensure examination average a 95-98 percent pass rate.

Each semester, 40 bachelor of science in nursing students are placed in Sacramento public schools as part of the program’s community health and mental health clinical rotations, helping in a variety of capacities from teaching nutrition, to supporting immunization efforts, to conducting mental health assessments and counseling. These clinical experiences expose students to school nursing as a career option – many have gone on to serve in schools – and helps to fill a critical shortage of nurses in public health settings, says Samantha Blackburn, an assistant professor of nursing and school nurse program coordinator who works with Fox on partnership programs.

“Our partnership with Sacramento City Unified is essential for us to be able to teach students about the role of school nurses and to get them thinking about working as a school nurse in the future,” Blackburn says. “We encourage students to think about community-based nursing roles, and it’s hard for them to conceive of those roles if they don’t get clinical experience in them.”

For Grocers Association president, career comes full circle

Ron Fong ’83 (Psychology) grew up, literally, in his family’s community grocery store. It’s where he and he sisters went every night after school to eat dinner, do their homework and, once they were old enough, work. So when a friend reached out to him in 2008 with a job opportunity at the California Grocers Association, it was a natural fit.

“I didn’t know much about the grocers association,” Fong says. “I went into that hiring process more out of curiosity than anything else, but sitting in a board room with grocery store owners was like coming home. I knew exactly the struggles they were going through. I knew the issues already, from my years of owning a grocery store.”

As the president and CEO of the association, Fong is the statewide voice for approximately 500 retail members and more than 250 suppliers, advocating on their behalf in Sacramento and overseeing the organization’s strategic direction and staff. He also serves as president of the association’s Educational Foundation, which funds scholarships to member employees and their family.

Much of the work Fong does at the Grocers Association involves lobbying for or against legislation that affects those in the grocery industry, from small, community store owners like his parents to corporate giants like Safeway and Albertson’s. The organization just finished 10 years fighting for a statewide ban on plastic bags, a battle that ended when a plastic bag industry effort to overturn a 2014 voter-approved ban failed last November.

Bringing together multiple and often competing voices to develop a unified position on legislation can be difficult, Fong says, but it’s an area in which he can draw substantially on the education he received at Sacramento State. When he began at the campus, he decided to study organizational psychology, believing it would be a good complement to the business skills he had picked up during his years at the family store.

“The skills I learned (at Sac State) are things that I still use in my job as president and CEO today,” he says. “I learned how to deal with problem solving through understanding the culture of people. That’s what organizational psychology does. It helps you understand people.”

Sacramento State also opened his mind to a world beyond what he called the limited environs of his high school and the family store. In one class, he says, he began a friendship with an LGBT woman who was 20 years his senior.

“Without Sac State, I would have never been exposed to a friend like her,” he says. “We ended up keeping in touch for many years after graduation, she was a terrific person. The exposure to different people, different lifestyles, and different cultures was just beautiful at Sac State.”

Of course, like many Sacramento State students, the campus was attractive for practical reasons as well: attending the University allowed him to earn his degree while continuing to work with his family. After he graduated, he began working full time at the store, eventually becoming the corporate president before deciding to get his law degree.

Shortly after he finished law school, his parents decided to sell the business that had been started in 1941 by his grandfather, who had immigrated to the United States from China in the late 1930s. Fong worked for two years as a prosecutor in the Sacramento County District Attorney’s office, then spent 13 years with the California Credit Union League, where he eventually became the chief lobbyist, before moving to his current position back in the grocery industry.

“Your career path sometimes takes unusual turns, and you just have to be open to it,” Fong says. It’s a lesson he hopes current Sac State students take to heart.

“Stay fluid and be open to career moves and choices. “What you plan with your degree at Sac State will not necessarily be what you end up doing as a career. Be open to that.”

Kraig Clark’s dream of starting his own business began at Sac State

Sacramento State alumnus Kraig Clark accepts his Distinguished Service Award, during the annual Distinguished Alumni Awards event held in April. (Sacramento State/Andrea Price)

While at Sacramento State, Kraig Clark ’91 (Accountancy) and his roommate Steve Schroeder ’93 (Business Administration) already were dreaming about the company they one day would start.

“Half of the time we were supposed to be studying, we were talking about different businesses and what might work from a scaling perspective.  A lot of our discussions were related to building a company that could scale.” Clark says. “I don’t think we knew exactly what we were going to start, we just knew we were going to start.”

In 1997 they founded CoreLogic, a data analytics firm for the mortgage banking industry, which they grew into a multimillion-dollar business that eventually resulted in a profitable merger. Today, Clark is the co-founder of JLM Energy, an energy technology firm, and eScreenLogic, an environmental consulting firm.

Clark sees his work as an entrepreneur as being similar to that of a contractor who takes an empty lot of land and turns it into a building, shopping center, office, or something else that becomes used and enjoyed by others.

“You start with nothing, you have a concept and an idea,” he says. “I like building things, “things” meaning companies. You bring a collection of people together, you have a strategy and a concept, and you see if you can turn that into something that’s scalable or livable.”

His current companies merge his lifelong passion for entrepreneurship with another of his interests, sustainability, something he was able to foster while a student at what now is one of the nation’s “greenest” campuses.

“At Sac State, I remember Earth Day, and I had a solar cooker that I experimented with,” Clark says. “In the back of my mind, it was always something that I wanted to explore and the opportunity presented itself and I jumped in with JLM Energy and eScreenLogic.”

Clark, who grew up in Lodi, transferred to Sacramento State in 1989 from Delta College in Stockton and decided to major in accountancy, believing it would give him a solid financial foundation he could use to start his first business. The fact that his courses actually were taught by faculty members, and not teaching student assistants, he says, was a huge benefit to attending, as was a curriculum designed to prepare him for the working world.

His first job after graduation was working in the finance department of a Suisun City-based aerospace company. He eventually became the assistant controller, but left after 4½ years to pursue his longtime dream of starting his own business, which became CoreLogic.

In 2011, he and business partner Farid Dibachi founded JLM because they saw an opportunity to make their mark in the burgeoning renewable energy industry. One year later, they branched into energy storage, meaning they were ahead of the game when Tesla CEO Elon Musk made his own, much-publicized foray into the technology in 2015.

“We were like, ‘Great!’ ” Clark says. “It really helped cut down the time that it took to educate the client. He educated the public, and we were already selling our systems.”

Starting and running his own businesses, however, never has been easy – “There are challenges all the time,” he says – but one thing Clark says that Sacramento State does well is teach students how to be resourceful. He also is pleased that students now can major in entrepreneurship and encourages anyone who wants to follow his career path to be patient, break the rules, and not be afraid to fail.

“If you’re not failing, you’re not trying,” he says. “You have to go through a lot of intelligent trial and error. You’re not going to get there if you don’t try and work hard and put your whole focus into what you’re trying to achieve.”

Clark was one of seven Sacramento State alumni to be honored at the Distinguished Alumni Awards, held last month. He received a Distinguished Service Award, given to University graduates who have achieved prominence in their chosen field and brought distinction to Sac State and/or the community through their accomplishments.