Sacramento State to House First CSU Statewide Central Office for the Advancement of Black Excellence

By Michael Anguille

California State University (CSU), Sacramento will house the first CSU Statewide Central Office for the Advancement of Black Excellence, the CSU announced May 9.

The office will serve as the primary administrative body responsible for programs and practices that help promote and support Black students’ success across the CSU’s 23 campuses. The Office for the Advancement of Black Excellence will work on improving the enrollment, retention, and graduation rates of Black students.

We are thrilled to establish the CSU’s first-ever Statewide Central Office for the Advancement of Black Excellence, not only to accelerate action and drive change across our 23 universities but, just as important, to clearly demonstrate our institution’s deep commitment to becoming a national leader in Black student success,¬†CSU Chancellor Mildred Garc√≠a said in a press release.

With an exemplary track record in supporting and elevating outcomes for Black students, I am proud that Sacramento State has been selected as the inaugural site and will continue its legacy of inspiring, informing, and empowering our statewide efforts in close collaboration with our universities across the system.

The announcement of the new office comes as states across the nation have summarily cut funding to collegiate diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives.

Led by Sacramento State ‚ÄĒ which announced the nation’s first¬†Black Honors College¬†in February ‚ÄĒ California seems to have bucked the trend.

In the CSU system alone, almost 80% of its over 450,000 students identified as non-white in fall 2023, according to¬†figures released¬†by the CSU Chancellor’s Office.

With almost 2,000 students comprising 6.4% of its total student body in 2023, Sacramento State is host to the largest population of Black students within the CSU system.

Sacramento State’s Vision for Success

Sacramento State’s selection as the site for the new office followed a¬†competitive¬†statewide review process involving multiple candidates from the CSU system, according to a press release.

As part of the process, candidates, including Sacramento State, submitted their visions for implementing the recommendations in CSU’s¬†Black Student Success Report.

Issued last June, the report calls for a systemwide effort to increase outcomes for Black students.

Some of its recommendations include:

  • Promoting pathways for Black students to obtain their CSU education
  • Developing an enrollment strategy for Black students to be proportionally represented based on the institution’s geographic region
  • Developing a strategy to address a gap between Black students’ retention and completion rates compared to other racial/ethnic groups
  • Creating welcoming and affirming spaces for Black students
  • Developing and implementing an¬†inclusive and culturally relevant curriculum
  • Increasing Black faculty and staff recruitment and support

In addition, Sacramento State highlighted other transformative practices in its application that it seeks to implement to drive Black student success across the CSU system.

According to Amy Bentley-Smith, CSU’s director of strategic communications and public affairs, some of these practices include:

  • Developing¬†culturally responsive learning communities
  • Offering effective academic advising
  • Offering counseling services, including for mental health purposes
  • Offering leadership development opportunities
  • Amplifying community-based programs specific to Black students
  • Expanding avenues for students to engage in supplemental instruction or peer mentoring
  • Expanding the participation of Black students in internship opportunities
  • Expanding access to culturally responsive curriculum

Existing Sacramento State programs and facilities will serve to further complement the new office’s mission, Bentley-Smith said. They include:

  • The campus¬†Martin Luther King Jr. Center, a focal point for community-building among Black students
  • The¬†Cooper-Woodson College Enhancement Program, which aids in academic support and retention, offers mentorship programs to help ensure graduation, and offers a certificate in Pan African Studies

An Effort to Support Black California College Students

Statewide, the CSU Office of the Chancellor has already allocated $10 million to advancing Black student success across its campuses since the publication of its Black Student Success Report.

It designated $1.3 million of this allocation for use as an initial investment in the new Office for the Advancement of Black Excellence.

But even before the allocations, Sacramento State sought ways to increase diversity and academic offerings on its campus.

Announced earlier this year, Sacramento State will house the nation’s¬†first Black Honors College¬†beginning this fall.

Open to all students regardless of race, the college targets participants with a 3.5 GPA or higher who are interested in Black history, life, culture, and contributions, according to its website. Benefits include smaller classes taught by specially selected faculty and program-specific scholarships.

The honors college is part of what made Sacramento State an ideal candidate for housing the Office for the Advancement of Black Excellence, Sacramento State President Luke Wood said.

Placing the statewide office on our campus acknowledges our work and success, and further highlights our programs such as the first-ever Black Honors College, as well as our having the largest population of Black students of any CSU campus. We know our success will be reflected and multiplied by the work that will be done here on behalf of the entire CSU.

An official opening date for the new center has not yet been announced.