"It is my belief that there is a strong alignment between what Sonoma State seeks in its next president and my experience and values," Judy K. Sakaki wrote in the letter to the search committee. The trustees' selection committee agreed whole-heartedly that she was the right person at the right time and in the right place. And the sentiment on campus was unanimous.
"I was sitting in my living room in 2009 watching the election results when Barack Obama was elected for his first term. When it was announced I just leapt out of my chair with hope for what could happen for the country. When I met and spoke with Judy Sakaki, I had that same feeling of hope and opportunity for the future of Sonoma State. There are so many new possibilities when you get a new set of eyes -- a different lens. I feel very hopeful for the future of SSU. And I am delighted to be part of that," said Deborah Roberts, chair of SSU's Nursing Program.
As the new president of Sonoma State University, Sakaki is the first Asian American woman to lead a four-year institution of higher education in California--and the first Japanese American woman president of a four-year college or university in the country. "She's a wonderful listener and collaborator, she's a very insightful person and she's a very inclusive person," said Frank Chong superintendent/president of Santa Rosa Junior College.
"Judy's personal and academic experiences have inspired her to become a champion for today's university students," says Willie Tamayo, executive vice president at La Tortilla Factory, and a member of the presidential search committee that selected Sakaki. "The Sonoma State community asked that the new president be student-centric and focused on providing the classes and support services they need, and that he or she be keenly aware of diversity concerns and be a leader in this arena. Students also asked that the new president build new bridges to the local community including fundraising, internships and job placements for SSU graduates. Judy Sakaki has both the values and skills to accomplish all of these. We're lucky to have such a fine president to lead Sonoma State into the future."
Sakaki has a unique background that has influenced her leadership style. Her parents and grandparents were placed in Japanese American Internment Camps during World War II. She was born and raised in Oakland and is a native Californian. She is a product of the Oakland Unified School District and a first-generation college student. In addition, she was a single parent who worked full-time while completing her doctorate at UC Berkeley.
Sakaki has taken on challenging projects: raised millions of dollars for education; brought thousands of students from underrepresented demographic groups to campuses around the state; developed curricula and created new academic programs; helped to streamline transfers from community colleges to the University of California; balanced big budgets and practiced shared governance. Sakaki earned her Ph.D. in Education at UC Berkeley and both her M.S. in Educational Psychology and B.A. in Human Development from CSU Hayward (now East Bay).
She has devoted her entire career to issues of inclusion, educational opportunities and achievement for all students. She has most recently been vice president for Student Affairs at the University of California, Office of the President (2007-2016); Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs and Dean of Students, CSU Fresno (2002-2006); and Dean of Students, CSU Fresno (1997-2002). She has taught at several universities, was an American Council on Education Fellow, a trustee of The College Board, and a CSU Executive Fellow.
Posted By: SSU News Center