Commencement Address

New President Judy K. Sakaki Reaffirms Commitment to Students, Inclusivity at Convocation
August 25, 2016
President Judy K. Sakaki at convocation

President Judy K. Sakaki at convocation

President Judy K. Sakaki was welcomed with a standing ovation in Weill Hall at Sonoma State University's Green Music Center Monday morning at her first ever Sonoma State Convocation, and that was even before she delighted the audience with her commitment to making Sonoma State a more student-centered, inclusive and academically excellent university.

"I am listening and learning every single day," said Sakaki. "I have been since day one here on campus."

She said her first seven weeks on campus have been spent, in large part, getting to know the Sonoma State community. "I started with meetings, individual appointments, and department visits," she said. "There is incredible wisdom and experience on campus. Leadership, for me, is a collaborative process."

Sakaki introduced her "Dream Team" of interim administrators, in place while the candidate search for permanent positions is conducted. The team includes former CSU Executive Vice Chancellor and Chief Academic Officer Jeri Echeverria as interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs; former Vice Chancellor for Administration at UC Davis Stan Nosek as interim Vice President for Administration and Finance; Fresno State President Emeritus John Welty as Special Advisor to the President, assisting with the Green Music Center and operational efficiency; former Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs at UC Santa Barbara (for over 25 years) Dr. Michael Young as interim Vice President for Student Affairs; and Peter Smits (35 years in Advancement with Fresno State, Chico State, and now with Phoenix Consulting) as interim Vice President for Advancement.

She also introduced a permanent Associate Vice President and Chief of Staff, Bill Kidder, J.D., who served most recently as Associate Vice Chancellor/Chief Compliance Officer and also Assistant Provost at UC Riverside.

"We will be a collaborative, team oriented, not siloed university," said Sakaki. "We all are focused on student success and on academic inclusive excellence. We are fostering and modeling a respectful community on campus, celebratory of differences -- a community that is fair, open, and transparent with integrity."

Sonoma State's 24 new faculty were then introduced by interim Provost Jeri Echeverria. Of those 24, 18 are full time, tenure-track faculty and six are visiting faculty.

Faculty chair Ben Ford invited the audience to consider what improvements could be made to the University, and to consider what those changes would look like five years from now. "We have in front of us an opportunity as profound as any since the University's founding to shape its future," he said. "We have a president committed to collaborative and transparent leadership, a team of interim vice presidents with amazing skills and deep knowledge and connections for making things happen in the California State University system."

Toward the end of the program, student body President Emily Hinton described how important it was for students to feel like their voices were heard by faculty, staff and administrators. About 150 students joined her on stage as she presented Sakaki with a gift, which prompted the president to embrace students from one side of the stage to the other.

A faculty showcase saw professors from across the university describe their research projects, albeit in brief, five-minute presentations. And Elaine Newman, chair of the faculty union at Sonoma State, spoke about the averted strike and the 10 percent pay increase faculty has already started to receive.

Kinesiology Professor Lauren Morimoto and Women's and Gender Studies Professor Lena McQuade were honored with -- and surprised by -- the Faculty Excellence Award.

Continuing the theme of inclusion, Katie Musick, staff representative to the Academic Senate, detailed the efforts she and others have been undertaking toward the creation of a Staff Council at Sonoma State. Sakaki touched on this effort in her speech as well, highlighting the importance of giving everyone in the Sonoma State community a voice in the governance of the University.

An album of photos is available to view on Sonoma State University's Facebook page.

Media Contact

Nicolas Grizzle