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Alumni Spotlight: Senator Mike McGuire

Mike McGuire

Mike McGuire (BA, Political Science, 2002) is a third-generation Northern Californian whose family farmed Sonoma County’s Alexander Valley for nearly a half century. He was elected to the Healdsburg School Board at 19 – while a college student – and served on the Healdsburg City Council as the youngest mayor in city history. He was elected to the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors in 2010, and then to the state Senate in 2014, representing the Second Senate District. He took office as Senate President Pro Tempore in February 2024.

What attracted you to Sonoma State University when you were considering colleges?

The North Bay has been my family’s home for four generations now, and Sonoma State is a gem in our own backyard. It truly never crossed my mind to go anywhere else. At the time, I was serving on the school board and working full time, so it was a natural fit. Attending SSU was a life-changing experience. The education was incredibly rigorous and the professors and staff are some of the best in America who constantly go the extra mile for their students. On the personal side, I made friendships that will last a lifetime and I met my wife at SSU, which I’m forever grateful for.

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think about the university today?

Sonoma County and the North Bay are so incredibly lucky to have an institution like Sonoma State as a pillar in our community. For decades, SSU has made the North Bay stronger by graduating some of the brightest minds in Northern California. These graduates go on to contribute in amazing ways to the communities they call home. I feel so grateful to have had Sonoma State in my life.

How do you view SSU’s place in today’s higher ed environment?

Sonoma State is a beautiful and integral part of the 23-campus CSU system, and a beacon of high-quality public higher education here in the Golden State. It’s come a long way since its founding in 1961, and I could throw a lot of stats in here, like the university offering 49 majors and having one of the only wine business programs in the country. But honestly, I think what makes SSU one of a kind is the students, faculty, and staff. Yes, it’s an absolutely stellar university, yes, it’s set in a gorgeous and welcoming community, but it’s the people who make it shine. They are the heart of Sonoma.

What was the best thing that happened to you while attending SSU?

Meeting my wife Erika! She didn’t talk to me when we first met, which made it pretty damn awkward. But eventually I was able to convince her to grab a burger, and the rest is history. Erika is not only the best thing to happen to me while at Sonoma State, but the best thing to ever happen to me, period. And we couldn’t be more thrilled to have Connor (aka Corndog) now. He’s our amazing hell on wheels 3-year-old who is the center of our family’s universe.

What can alumni do to help the university, and how can the university continue to be of assistance to its graduates?

Get involved! There is so much value in connecting with the next generation of students. Some folks choose to financially contribute to their alma maters and that’s absolutely laudable, and others may choose to reconnect in different ways – either through a mentorship, jumping into a campus improvement project, or being a guest lecturer. Do what feels comfortable for you, but whatever you do, give back. There is so much virtue in connecting with this storied campus and the students who are the heart of the university, especially supporting students from underserved communities.

Any words of wisdom for SSU’s newest graduates?

Commencement is truly a special time in life and it gives you the ability to imagine your life in different ways! As soon as that diploma hits our hands, it’s tempting to run as fast as we can in one direction, and not want to veer away from it. But life comes at you fast, and sometimes what becomes important is the ability to pivot and reimagine possibilities. 
And for me, what’s always stuck and served me well is the advice my grandma kicked down: Work hard, work together, and never take no for an answer for the issues you believe in.

Read more from Insights / Spring 2024