Congratulations to Michael Balasek, New Advising Center Director

Jan. 31, 2019

Michael Balasek

Congratulations to Michael Balasek, our new Director of The Advising Center.

Michael has worked at Sonoma State University for the past nine years and has served as the Athletics’ Compliance Coordinator, Compliance and Student-Athlete Academic Advisor, and most recently a Professional Academic Advisor. As Michael transitions to his new role, he looks forward to collaborating and supporting the building of The Advising Center which provides holistic, intensive, and proactive academic advising, while also actively assisting in university-wide efforts to improve students’ experiences, retention, persistence, and graduation.

Michael earned his M.Ed. in Physical Education – Athletic Administration from Idaho State University and his B.A. in Philosophy with an emphasis in Pre-Law Advising and a Minor in Ethics from CSU, Chico. While at CSU Chico, Michael was also a student-athlete on the Men’s Track & Field team, specializing in the 110m and 400m hurdles. In his free time, Michael loves being outdoors, running the trails in Trione-Annadel State Park, hiking and fishing in the Stanislaus National Forest, exploring Sonoma County for new Cab Francs, free-diving on our coasts, and spending time with his wife Alena, son Jackson, and dog Cousteaux.

Michael’s first day as Director of The Advising Center will be Thursday, January 31st. Please help me in congratulating Michael on his new position!

Welcome New Outdoor Programs Coordinator

Jan. 7, 2019

Reed Mathieson

It is with great pleasure that we welcome Reed Mathieson to the Recreation Center and Sonoma State University. Reed starts today and will be serving as our Outdoor Program Coordinator. He will be overseeing the Low Ropes Course, Outdoor Resource Center, Climbing Wall and Outdoor Programs. Feel free to reach out to Reed at to say hello.

Reed has worked in the outdoor industry for the past 7 years; his roles have included climbing wall instructor, outdoor educator, mountain guide, and administrator. While his training and drive lies in alpine climbing and glacier mountaineering, he finds equal enjoyment on rivers, forest trails, ski slopes and in the ocean. Prior to working in the outdoor industry, Reed worked as a custom woodworker in San Francisco and attended City College of San Francisco and Portland State University. When not out adventuring in the mountains Reed tells me he enjoys following his first passion of cooking, listening to far too much public radio and podcasts, being a bad yet resilient gardener, and a solid Netflix binge every now and again. Reed is excited to return home to the North Bay and to work for the students at SSU! Welcome Reed!

Welcome Dr. Dean Kennedy!

Jan. 3, 2019

Dean KennedyWe are pleased to announce that Dr. Dean Kennedy will join the SSU family on January 6, 2019 as our new Director of Residential Education and Campus Housing (REACH).

Dr. Kennedy is originally from Durham, NH and has been fortunate to work at eight universities in six states, all within the student housing realm. He received his PhD and MA degrees from the University of Northern Colorado, and bachelor's degree from the University of New Hampshire. Dean enjoys most activities outside but his favorites are mountain and road biking, backpacking, hiking, paddling, and ultimate frisbee. In life, he is joined by his partner Elyssia and three dogs: Bambou, Dakota, and Rikki.

Dean’s office will be located on the third floor of the Student Center, so please consider stopping by to introduce yourself. Welcome to SSU, Dean!

Changes in International Education

Jan. 3, 2019

Effective January 31, 2019, the followiing organizational changes will impact international education on campus. This includes Sonoma State American Language Institute (SSALI), Semester at Sonoma, international student recruiting & admissions, international student services, and study abroad.

The Center for International Education (CIE) located in International Hall 107 will close before the Spring semester begins on January 22, 2019. The space will be re-purposed for another department.

International Student Services will move from the CIE to the Advising Center (Salazar 1070) and will oversee advising for degree-seeking undergraduate international students as well as SSALI students and Semester at Sonoma students, co-curricular activities, and cultural and social programming for any and all international students on campus.

International Admissions for degree-seeking students / SSALI students / Semester at Sonoma students will move from Student Affairs to Academic Affairs and report to Natalie Kalogiannis and Karen Moranski in Admissions. There is an open search for this position and once hired, this position will be located in the Admissions Department (Salazar 2030). This position will serve international students, athletes and non-degree-seeking SEIE students, with other special populations. Katie O'Brien and other staff in Admissions will continue to serve international students until this position is filled.

SSALI, the institution's intensive English program and Semester at Sonoma (study abroad for those that come to SSU from outside the United States outside of our CSU IP/Study Abroad partners otherwise), will continue to be administered by SEIE and is responsible for academic faculty and curriculum. Administgration for these programs will move and be located in IH 106 until June 20, 2019.

Study Abroad will continue to report to Dr. Karen Moranski in Academic Affairs and will have a temporary location in the Advising Center (Salazar 1070) until their permanent location is ready.

Please contact the following if you have any questions:

  • Dr. Rob Eyler, Senior International Officer and Dean of SEIE or (707) 664-4256
  • Dr. Karen Moranski, Sr. Associate Vice President and Dean of Academic Programs or (707) 664-3609
  • Jamie Zamjahn, Sr. Director for Student Success and Advising or (707) 664-3079
  • Welcome Leroy (Roy) Edens!

    Dec. 12, 2018

    We are pleased to welcome Leroy (Roy) Edens as our new Administrative Support Coordinator in Residential Education and Campus Housing (REACH).
    Roy is originally from Chicago, IL and is an avid Chicago Bears, Cubs, and Bulls fan. He is a proud United States Marines Corps Veteran and received his bachelor’s degree in Public Administration from Upper Iowa University. He lived and worked in Madison, Wisconsin for many years before retiring from Dane County. He and his family recently relocated from Anchorage, AK to Rohnert Park in June of 2018. He has a wife, Jennifer, two children Johnathan age 9, Amelia age 6, and a dog Nori!

    Please help in welcoming Roy to the Division of Student Affairs!

    Disability Services for Students Welcomes New Staff

    August 8, 2018

    Joanne Harris Joanne Harris has spent most of her professional career as an advocate for adults with disabilities. For over 20 years, Joanne worked as an attorney representing workers injured on the job to navigate through the complex and challenging system of workers’ compensation entitlements.While her legal career has been rewarding, Joanne has been interested in transitioning her work in disability services to higher education to further her commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. To achieve this, she recently completed a graduate program at UC Berkeley in student affairs and higher education administration. Joanne is eager to be part of Disability Services for Students and of the Sonoma State University community.

    Participating in community activities for youth also speaks to Joanne. Raising her three children n Santa Rosa provided the opportunity to be involved in a multitude of athletic and educational activities. Most recently, Joanne served on the Board of Directors for Chop’s Teen Club for many years.
    Originally from San Diego, Joanne studied political science at UCLA and law at UC Davis. Since law school, she has made Northern California and Sonoma County her home.


    Michael Eynon Michael Eynon joined the DSS team during summer of 2018 and has been involved at SSU in some capacity since fall of 2005. He is a Sonoma County local and SSU alumni, graduating with a B.A. in Psychology and Theatre Arts in 2010. Michael received his Master’s degree in December 2014 in Counseling Psychology with an emphasis in Drama Therapy from the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco.

    While at SSU, Michael has worked as a summer mentor, student assistant, and outreach advisor for the pre-college TRIO program Academic Talent Search (ATS) from 2007-2016. Michael worked for the TRIO Student Support Services program United for Success for the 2017-2018 academic year as a College Support Coach assisting first-generation, income eligible, and disability students with time management, stress management, and other non-cognitive academic needs. As a student, he was president of the comedy improvisation club, an officer in the PSI CHI honors society, and was involved both onstage and backstage on many SSU theatre productions.

    Recently, Michael completed 3000 hours of supervised therapy practice from 2013-2017 to gain his Marriage and Family Therapy License in June of 2018. Michael completed all of his hours working primarily with middle and high school students and their families in the Novato area of Marin County. Michael is passionate about mental health and supporting students with time management and presentation skills. He enjoys advocating for educational access for students with disabilities and first generation students.

    When not at the office, Michael can be found on nearby tennis courts playing recreation and United States Tennis Association tournaments and leagues. Michael also spends his time viewing theatre performances with his significant other, gaming, reading (everything from neuroscience to YA novels), and planning how to travel to all four grand slam tennis tournaments during his lifetime. Michael is looking forward to this chapter at SSU with the DSS office!

    New Retention Specialist Joins SSU Advising Center

    August 8, 2018

    Carmen TowlerMy name is Carmen Towler and I am a Los Angeles native. I received my B.A. in History from UCLA, and my M.A. in Guidance and Counseling from Loyola Marymount University. Following graduate school I worked as an academic advisor at a private university, and worked closely with students on academic probation to get them back on track and continuing toward graduation. I genuinely enjoy getting to know students personally, and assisting them as they navigate their undergraduate studies and explore career interests. I am thrilled to begin a new chapter at Sonoma State University as a Retention Specialist, where I will work to identify barriers and challenges to students' academic success while providing them resources, and serve the school in other student-focused roles. I love to travel internationally, and aim to take a trip every 2 years. So far I have been to England, France, Spain, Italy, Egypt, China, and Thailand. In my spare time I like to go to concerts and festivals, read YA novels, stream movies and TV series, and volunteer with social justice non-profits. I look forward to meeting the folks that make SSU so great, so please say hi if you see me!

    Carmen’s first day will be on Monday, August 27th. We are excited to have her join The Advising Center!

    ~ Jamie Zamjahn Sr. Director of Student Academic Services

    New Award for TRIO-Upward Bound Math and Science

    Jan. 18, 2019Kerry Jo Bourns

    Kerry Bourns,  Assistant Director of Pre-Collegiate Programs, has received a new five year award, TRiO Upward Bound Math & Science, for a total of $1,819,315. Funding for Year 1 is $395,863.  The sponsor for this award is the US Department of Education.  


    The seven (7) TRiO Upward Bound and Upward Bound Math & Science Programs at Sonoma State University serve 493 pre-college (9th – 12th grade) students who attend targeted high schools in Sonoma, Napa, Mendocino, and Lake Counties.  Participants attend a rigorous Saturday Academy and six-week Summer/STEM Academy along with participating in test preparation, financial aid, and college application workshops.  Students also attend numerous college campus tours and frequent social and cultural field trips.  Participants are prepared to enroll, persist, and graduate from the four-year college/university of their choice.


    Congratulations, Kerry! These grants will allow Sonoma State to continue its important work in helping pre-college students prepare, enroll and graduate with STEM degrees in four years.

    Welcome Rachel Carbone to Vice President's Office!

    July 1, 2018Rachel Carbone

    The Vice President for Student Affairs (VPSA) office is delighted to welcome Rachel Carbone as the Executive Assistant to the Vice President. Prior to joining our office, Rachel served for three years as the Office Manager of Sonoma State’s Associated Students auxiliary. In addition, she has had 20 years of experience in the private sector working in the insurance, financial, and education industries. Rachel holds a B.A. in English from UC Berkeley as well as certificates from UC Extension in both Marketing and Publishing. She is also a patent holder, having helped develop the first cloud-based business decision engine. Rachel is excited to continue her professional development within Student Affairs as the division strives to become one of the Most Promising Places to Work in Student Affairs. Please join us in welcoming Rachel to Student Affairs!

    The three newest members of Career Services

    June 4, 2018

    I am happy to introduce you to the Career Services staff. Audra, Becky and Kelsey bring new energy, experience, connection, and optimism to our Career Services Team. We are excited to work with our campus community to build a Career Services model and center that supports all of our Sonoma State students as they work through their education, develop their skills, refine their goals, and launch into the working world. Becky joined us in January as part of the interim team and we are happy to have her successfully move into a permanent position following a national search. Audra began in her position as Coordinator on May 31 and is quickly engaging throughout campus. Kelsey is completing her Master's degree and will join us on July 9th.

    Please help me welcome them all to SSU and the Seawolf community. Audra Grady - Career Services Coordinator Audra Grady

    While I have most recently been working as a Career and Business Coach serving clients internationally and providing strategic consulting for small businesses, I couldn't wait to be working with undergraduate students again! I have led career services, service learning and experiential learning departments at University of Maine, Brandeis University, and California Institute of Integral Studies. I am currently working on my Ph. D. in East-West Psychology, hold a Master of Science in Organizational Management and a Bachelors in Sociology and Art. I am writing my dissertation and forthcoming book Visionary Woman: The Transformative Journey of Women in Leadership (my academic lens' are ecofeminism, ecopsychology, and transformative leadership). My personal interests include hiking, gardening, cooking, meditation, and yoga. I lead a weekly meditation group with my fiance Rick for folks in recovery of all types. We live in Santa Rosa with our two nine-month-old pups, Lux and Pip and volunteer with Humane Society of Sonoma County doing canine care and foster care for dogs.

    Becky Young - Career Services Adviser Becky Young

    I have been working in higher education for 10 years, including time at Penn State at Altoona and Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. I am a Sonoma State Alum, I teach classes in the University Studies program and have previously worked for Residential Life for 3 years as an Area Cooridnator before transitioning into the temporary Career Services position last January. I am excited to be continuing my path in Career Services. Outside of work, I serve on the board of the Active 20-30 Club Redwood Empire #1029 where we work to serve underprivileged youth in Santa Rosa and Rohnert Park and in my free time, I like to bake, cook and explore Sonoma County.

    Kelsey Hayes - Career Services Adviser Kelsey Hayes

    Hello! My name is Kelsey Hayes, and I am so excited to join the Career Services team at Sonoma State. I am originally from Castro Valley, in the East Bay Area. I went to Cal Poly, SLO for undergrad, where I majored in Business Administration. After graduation, I worked in the bay area for several years at City of Hope as an event coordinator, and then GoPro in business operations. Eventually, I returned to Cal Poly to pursue my Master’s in Counseling & Guidance for Higher Education. In graduate school, I’ve held internships at the Center for Leadership and Orfalea College of Business, as well as served in a lecturer capacity for the College of Business, teaching our student success and career readiness courses.

    I love to run and be outdoors, spend time with family and friends, binge watch my favorite Netflix shows and explore new local restaurants. I am looking forward to checking out the Sonoma restaurant scene – recommendations welcome!

    I can't wait to join the growing Student Affairs team, and to support student success and development at Sonoma State!

    The two newest members of the Center for Transfer and Transition Programs

    May 5, 2018

    Please welcome the two newest members of the Center for Transfer and Transition Programs team, Erika Black and Kaila Shivers.

    In her Pre-Transfer Advisor role, Erika will focus on the outreach, recruitment, and advising of prospective transfer students at Santa Rosa Junior College, Napa Valley College, and Mendocino College. In her Transfer & Veteran Services Advisor role, Kaila will advise current transfer students as well as recruit and advise prospective and current active duty, reserve, and veteran students.

    Erika Black

    Erika Black, Pre-Transfer Advisor - My name is Erika Black and I am the Pre-Transfer Advisor in the Center for Transfer and Transition Programs. I am from Inglewood, California and I have lived in southern California for most of my life. I went to UCLA for undegrad where I majored in sociology with a minor in education #GoBruins. After graduating from UCLA, I took a gap year and I committed to a year of service with City Year Los Angeles serving as an AmeriCorps Member at Thomas Jefferson High School in South Los Angeles. Then I went to Loyola Marymount University (LMU) where I received my Master of Arts in Guidance and Counseling. I am a huge advocate for self-care! I practice self-care through watching Netflix series, hanging with friends, eating at local taco trucks, and playing Candy Crush. I am excited to work here at Sonoma State to contribute to and witness the amazing changes that are happening!

    Kaila Shivers

    Kaila Shivers, Transfer & Veteran Services Advisor - I was born and raised in southern California, primarily Orange County. I completed my Bachelor of Art in Sociology and Anthropology at UCLA, and recently completed my Master of Art in Higher Education Leadership at the University of San Diego. I was drawn to Sonoma State because I was looking for something different and heard exciting things were happening here. I pride myself on having worked with a variety of students at a variety of institutions and feel that the new Transfer and Veteran Services Advisor position gives me an opportunity to use what I know and learn what I don’t! Personally, I am very passionate about animal welfare and watching various shows and movies (ask me what my Harry Potter house is). I am looking forward to exploring the area and hoping getting more active while doing so. If anyone has any recommendations – for shows to watch or ways to get active – feel free to chat when you see me!

    Welcome Dr. Wm. Gregory Sawyer as Vice President for Student Affairs!

    March 5, 2018

    Dr. Wm. Gregory Sawyer, VP for Student AffairsDr. Wm. Gregory Sawyer, a seasoned higher education professional whose work has impacted the lives of thousands of students, will become the Vice President for Student Affairs at Sonoma State University, effective April 1.

    Sawyer has served in Texas and Florida, and most recently served as Vice President for Student Affairs at CSU Channel Islands, where he established a nationally recognized student-centered Division. Under his leadership, CSUCI’s Division of Student Affairs has been recognized as one of the nation’s Most Promising Places to Work in Student Affairs for the past three years.

    Sawyer began his career at the University of North Texas as a Residence Hall Director, where he later served as Coordinator of Intercultural Services, Assistant and Associate Dean of Students, and finally Dean of Students before relocating to southwest Florida where he served as the founding Chief Student Affairs Officer at the newly chartered Florida Gulf Coast University. After serving there for almost seven years, he was offered the opportunity to be part of a new state university in California – CSU Channel Islands – where he was founding Vice President for Student Affairs.

    He earned a Ph.D. from University of North Texas, a master's degree from Eastern New Mexico University and a bachelor's degree from the University of Mount Union, in Alliance, Ohio. Sawyer serves as a Governor-appointed Commissioner for the California Student Aid Commission and as faculty and co-director for the African American Male Summit of NASPA – Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education.

    Among his numerous awards are: Distinguished Service to the Profession and Pillar of the Profession by the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators; Excellence in Practice Award by the American College Personnel Association; The Wang Family Excellence Award for outstanding administrator of the CSU system. In 2016, he was awarded the highest honor bestowed by a university president – the Presidential Medallion – at CSU Channel Islands by President Emeritus Richard R. Rush.