J. Luke Wood returns to his alma mater as Sacramento State's ninth president. (Photo courtesy of CSU)

By OBSERVER Newsroom

Distinguished professor and equity leader J. Luke Wood has been appointed the incoming president of Sacramento State University by the CSU trustee board on Wednesday, May 24. Dr. Wood becomes the ninth president in the university’s history, and the second African American named to the position.

Dr. Wood, 41, is coming from San Diego State University, where he is vice president for Student Affairs and Campus Diversity and chief diversity officer. He will assume the presidency July 16, after the departure of retiring President Robert S. Nelsen, who has led the University since 2015. 

Dr. James G. Bond

Dr. James G. Bond became Sacramento State’s first Black president in 1972. He served as university president until 1978.

Dr. Wood, who earned his bachelor’s degree in Black History and Politics as well as a master’s degree in Higher Education Leadership at Sac State, says he is excited to return to the Sacramento campus — this time to lead it.

“Sacramento State is California’s capital university, providing world-class, life-changing education and a shining example of community engagement and partnership in the heart of the Golden State,” said Dr. Wood. “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.” 

“President Nelsen has done an incredible job in increasing graduation rates and creating a sense of community at Sac State,” Dr. Wood said. “So, it’s really about furthering the good work that’s been done around student success, diversity and inclusion, and seeing how we can further continue those trajectories to continue to be even better every day.”

CSU Trustee Diego Arambula, chair of the Sacramento State Presidential Search Committee, said Dr. Wood has been a “champion for access, educational excellence and student success.”

“He is an equity-driven leader with a demonstrated history of innovation, who will continue to elevate Sacramento State’s vision during its period of continued, transformational growth,” Arambula said. 

Dr. Wood has served as SDSU’s chief diversity officer since 2018 and as vice president for Student Affairs and Campus Diversity since 2020, in which capacity he serves as a key leader in transformational change in the areas of student success, enrollment and campus diversity. 

Wood was a highly engaged student leader during his time at Sac State, serving in Associated Students Inc. as a board member and in several vice president positions.

He met his future wife, San Diego State Child and Family Development Professor Idara Essien, while they were students at Sac State.

“We met at the Hornet’s Nest. I saw her and walked up to her. I walked her to class, and we’ve been together ever since,” Wood said. “Sac State gave me two degrees and a life partner.”

They have three children, ages 7 to 14, and frequently visit family in Sacramento.

Wood attended guest lectures at Sac State, as well as Hornet football playoff games last season.

“Sac State is my home base,” he said, emphasizing his enthusiasm for his new job as president.

“For me, it’s coming home.”