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Tuesday, October 3, 2023

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San Diego State University Vice President J. Luke Wood. (SDSU File Photo) San Diego State University Vice President J. Luke Wood. (SDSU File Photo)

Vice President Wood Named Sacramento State President

J. Luke Wood, a nationally recognized higher education scholar and administrator known for advancing diversity and equity initiatives and education reform, will take the helm at Sacramento State.
By SDSU News Team

San Diego State University Vice President J. Luke Wood, a nationally recognized scholar known for both his research and statewide policy advocacy, has been named president of Sacramento State University. His position begins on July 16. 


“I am pleased that Dr. Wood will remain a colleague in the California State University system and look forward to our ongoing collaboration in advancing diversity, equity, student success and faculty advancement initiatives in our state,” said SDSU President Adela de la Torre


Wood, SDSU’s Vice President for Student Affairs and Campus Diversity and Chief Diversity Officer, will succeed former Sacramento State University President Robert S. Nelsen, who will retire on July 15.


Christy Samarkos has been named interim Vice President for Student Affairs and Campus Diversity and will also join de la Torre’s leadership team effective June 20 and until a permanent vice president is named. 


“I am honored to serve the university and division in this capacity. I look forward to working closely with President de la Torre and continuing the critical work that she and Dr. Wood have instituted for our campus,” said Samarkos, who previously served as the interim vice president for Student Affairs in 2019 and 2020. 


Earlier this year, Wood announced that he would return to the faculty and to his policy advocacy work, and the university subsequently launched a national search for the vice president role. The search, previously underway, is continuing and remains on track to bring finalists to campus in August and September. 


“I have had amazing opportunities at SDSU and in collaboration with partners nationwide to design and implement programs, policies and legislation that are improving the lives and well-being of our students and faculty. I am grateful to have worked with amazing faculty, staff and student leaders – work that I am proud to continue during my presidency,” Wood said. “This work is my heart.” 


At SDSU, Wood has served as a key member of President de la Torre’s leadership team since 2018, when he was appointed Chief Diversity Officer. Wood was later appointed Vice President for Student Affairs and Campus Diversity. During his tenure, Wood has guided and overseen many of SDSU’s most critical units while also building an infrastructure in support of student, faculty and staff success, advancement and diversity. 


Wood was co-lead in the development and implementation of the university’s 5-year strategic plan, with more than 75% of all goals accomplished to this day, and he has also led strategic initiatives to help improve student success across all metrics and to close student equity gaps. 


Also, under Wood’s leadership, SDSU has seen the creation of several new cultural centers, including the Asian Pacific Islander Desi American Resource Center (APIDA), the Latinx Resource Center, the Native Resource Center, and the Undocumented Resource Center. The university has also been successful in cluster hires of faculty, including those with a demonstrated commitment to serving members of the Black and Hispanic/Latinx communities, and growth among Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), which are groups dedicated to supporting an inclusive environment for SDSU employees. 


Also a Distinguished Professor of Education in the College of Education and associate director of the Community College Equity Assessment Lab (CCEAL), has remained a dedicated academic and researcher. Along with SDSU professor Frank Harris III, Wood has worked to support community colleges in improving their ability to better serve historically underrepresented and underserved students, particularly men of color.  


Wood, prolific in publishing and presenting his work, also appeared alongside Harris III in the 2023 RHSU Edu-Scholar Public Influence Rankings, a list that represents the top 1% of influential education scholars in the nation. Wood is the number-10-ranked scholar in the nation in the fields of Curriculum, Instruction, and Administration. Wood and Harris co-authored, with other researchers, a series of research reports drawing attention to inequitable disciplinary practices against Black children and youth and those who are in foster care. This work ultimately contributed to new legislation (AB 740) addressing such practices in California public schools. This bill was recently signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom. 


Wood, who earned a master’s degree in higher education leadership in student affairs, and a bachelor’s degree in Black history and politics from Sacramento State University, also said: “As a double alumnus of Sac State, I am eager to work with its talented faculty and staff to steward the university into its next chapter of advancing equity and student success and further strengthening its vital role in the region.”