Dean Kenji Hakuta Returning to Life as a Scholar
Founding Dean Leaving Administrative Post to Refocus on Research
MERCED, CA— Motivated by a desire to resume his research in the areas of educational access, language and diversity, Kenji Hakuta has announced his intention to resign as dean of the School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts effective July 1.
Hakuta, whose extensive scholarly work emphasizes the psychology of bilingualism and second language acquisition, also is one of the nation's foremost experts on education policy in areas including educational research and affirmative action in higher education.
Previously the Vida Jacks Chair in Education at Stanford University, he was recruited by UC Merced as a founding dean and began his tenure at the new UC campus on July 1, 2003.
"To prepare for a successful campus opening, we needed an individual with exceptional vision and energy to serve as founding dean," said Chancellor Carol Tomlinson-Keasey. "By every measure, Kenji has fulfilled our needs and exceeded expectations. Within just two years, he hired nearly 20 faculty members and built the opening academic programs, launching an extraordinary breadth of disciplines within the school for UC Merced's first year."
Hakuta also has been a leader in linking the university and its scholarship with key issues facing the Central Valley, from demographics and social issues to early education and community college transfer rates, according to Tomlinson-Keasey.
"Beyond his leadership role in founding the School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts, Kenji has made invaluable contributions to creating a campus culture that values academic excellence and promotes community interaction," said David B. Ashley, executive vice chancellor and provost. "Among his most enduring accomplishments is his recruitment of outstanding scholars to serve as our founding faculty. He is himself an extraordinary scholar, and a superb mentor to both undergraduate and graduate students who are pursuing similar career paths."
For the next approximately six months, Hakuta has outlined an extensive list of priorities to further strengthen the foundation of the school and support the continued growth of UC Merced. Most importantly for the university and the community, he has placed special emphasis on the development of the Early Care and Education Center which would provide child care and education services to the university and community. The center would also serve as a center for research and center for early childhood providers throughout the Valley.
During the Spring 2006 semester, he is scheduled to teach a social and cognitive science course and a Core 100 lecture and section. Core 100 is a required general education course for upper division students. In addition, he plans to repeat the teaching of a section of a Freshman Seminar which studies the history of the Civil Rights movement, with a careful reading of the writings of Harvard Law School Professor Charles Ogletree, a Merced native and nationally recognized legal scholar. Hakuta taught this seminar in conjunction during the fall semester with Merced dignitaries Denard Davis and Lew Braxton, who served as community resources to the course, and will do so again in this semester.
"I came to Merced as the founding dean of the School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts because I wanted to help develop a campus with a mission of serving the needs of the Central Valley," Hakuta said. "In the past, these students had been underserved by the higher education system and I was eager to play a role in better serving this growing region of California. I am pleased that UC Merced has been able to attract a high proportion of Valley students and a remarkably diverse group of students from throughout California in our opening year. In addition, I feel privileged to have helped chart the course for the school and campus. My wife Nancy and I have made many wonderful lifelong friends in this wonderfully diverse community, and we will continue to advocate nationally on its behalf."
Hakuta said he has realized how much he missed the opportunity to conduct research on issues relevant to California, the nation and the world. At this point, he is considering options at leading public and private universities in the state that would allow him to pursue his scholarship on a full-time basis. As the primary caretaker for his aging mother, who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, he also is hoping to pursue an opportunity that will permit him to live in closer proximity as her needs increase.
To UC Merced, Hakuta has brought considerable national policy experience from Washington, D.C., largely focused on the goal of improving education for language minority students. He has served on numerous committees and task forces for the federal government and the National Academy of Sciences, including eight years as chair of the U.S. Department of Education's National Educational Research Policy and Priorities Board.
He also is a member of the Educational Testing Service Board of Trustees and the Spencer Foundation Board of Directors, an organization committed to supporting educational research and improving education around the world. Within the University of California system, he sits on the committee for UC's Linguistic Minority Research Institute and the President's Task Force on Faculty Diversity.
Regionally, Hakuta has been actively engaged in building connections with the Great Valley Center, which recently entered into a formal partnership with UC Merced. He also serves on the Great Valley Center Board of Directors.
Hakuta received his B.A. in Psychology and Social Relations in 1975 and Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology in 1979, both from Harvard University.
He began his academic career in 1979 as an assistant professor of psychology at Yale University, then earning a promotion to associate professor. In 1987, Hakuta moved to UC Santa Cruz, where he held a joint appointment as the director of the Bilingual Research Group and a professor of education and psychology. Two years later, he was named a professor of education at Stanford, where he remained until his recruitment to UC Merced in 2003.