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Dean Kenji Hakuta Returning to Life as a Scholar

January 6, 2006

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.