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CSU Stanislaus’ new president, Joseph F. Sheley, has firsthand experience with the contagious nature of university pride.
Sheley boarded a crowded hotel elevator last year while attending an event as provost and vice president for academic affairs at his alma mater, Sacramento State. One man noticed a Sac State pin on Sheley’s lapel and asked if he worked there.
“Yeah, but I also went to school there,” he replied. Within moments, everyone in the elevator had revealed that they, too, were Sac State graduates. “And our two kids are going there now,” a woman said.
“And they were proud,” Sheley recalled. “Man, I came off that elevator feeling 40 feet tall.”
For Sheley, who now wears a CSU Stanislaus pin wherever he goes, the story became symbolic of the connection alumni should feel to their university. That connection starts with outreach from the university, he said, and grows naturally from the sense of pride and appreciation a graduate feels for his or her college education and experience.
“I really am a firm believer that when you get an education at a university, you get a relationship with an institution for the rest of your life,” he said.
Sheley earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Sacramento State before receiving his Ph.D. in sociology at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He said he first recognized the importance of alumni relations during his 21 years as faculty member and department chair at Tulane University in New Orleans. Then, he helped build connections with alumni throughout his 16 years in leadership at Sacramento State.
His time at Sac State included a yearlong stint as executive director of alumni relations — an experience Sheley said was invaluable in his preparation for becoming president of a CSU campus.
“It was a great year in that sense,” Sheley said. “I learned a lot about events. I learned a lot about communication. It really reinforced my own values about creating connections between a university and its alumni.”
In his first several weeks on the job at CSU Stanislaus, Sheley has met with many elected officials and business leaders from throughout the area. He has found CSU Stanislaus graduates in many key positions, including dozens of CEOs and business owners.
The pride those graduates feel in their university — and their willingness and desire to talk about it — enhances the campus’ presence in the community and can serve as a valuable networking tool, providing a link between prospective employers and employees and a validation of the quality of a job applicant’s education.
“We have so many students who are staying in town, and they’re running the businesses,” Sheley said. “We belong in this community. We’re not an island. We’re part of it, and we always will be.”
Reconnect with your former classmates and meet President Sheley at an alumni reception Sept. 13, 2012, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., at the CSU Stanislaus Faculty Development Center (FDC). Proudly sponsored by Liberty Mutual. Refreshments will be provided. Please RSVP to Shannon Nichols at firstname.lastname@example.org.