MERCED, CA. — Kenji Hakuta, Ph.D., is an experimental psychologist by training, a teacher and researcher by profession, and a builder of bridges by nature. He will bring this passion for building bridges to educational excellence, opportunity and enlightenment to the University of California, Merced as the newly named founding Dean of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts.
Hakuta s official appointment at UC Merced is effective July 1, 2003 following recent action by the UC Board of Regents.
“Kenji Hakuta and his outstanding academic credentials are perfectly matched to the deanship at UC Merced,” said Chancellor Carol Tomlinson-Keasey. “I am delighted to welcome him to our campus. It is also my pleasure to note his national and international stature as a social scientist and educator, which will be a tremendous boon to our faculty recruitment efforts.”
Hakuta is best known for his research on the psychology of bilingualism and second language learning, as well as for his work in education policy and equal educational access for minority students.
Hakuta has published over 100 articles and books in the social sciences, with book titles that include Mirror of Language: The Debate on Bilingualism (Basic Books, 1986) and In Other Words: The Science and Psychology of Second Language Acquisition (Basic Books, 1994) and, most recently, Compelling Interest: Examining the Evidence on Racial Dynamics in Colleges and Universities (Stanford University Press, 2003).
Currently the Vida Jacks Professor of Education at Stanford University, Hakuta teaches courses in the areas of psychology, language, bilingualism, teacher education, research methods and statistics.
“Kenji has brought energy and enthusiasm to his position at Stanford and he will do the same in this new position,” said Stanford Dean of Education Deborah Stipek. “In addition to being an excellent scholar and teacher, he is a devoted mentor to his students and junior colleagues.
“UC Merced has hired a good leader and a great human being. He will be missed at Stanford, but our feeling of loss is mitigated by the knowledge that he will be doing something that is very important and very good for the citizens of California.”
Hakuta brings with him considerable national policy experience from Washington, D.C. He has spearheaded committees and task forces for the Federal government and the National Academy of Sciences, especially in the areas of improving education of language minority students. For eight years, he served as Chair of the U.S. Department of Education's National Educational Research Policy and Priorities Board and he presently serves on the Education Advisory Committee for the General Accounting Office.
He also is a member of the National Academy of Education and the Board of Trustees for the Educational Testing Service.
Hakuta's immediate charge is to attract the complement of founding faculty for the Division of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts before the campus opens in August 2004.
“At UC Merced, I will be busy hiring and developing the academic program, but the precious time that I have for research will be trained on improving access to higher education,” Hakuta said. “I look forward to partnering with K-12 educational institutions to increase regional student access to the University of California and developing methods to more extensively track progress toward improvement. Fortunately, there is great staff in student outreach already in place at UC Merced, and my goal is to give that effort as much research backing as possible.”
“Dr. Hakuta is a scholar of immense integrity whose skills in teaching, research and administration will contribute not only to the formation of the division, but to the development of the UC Merced campus,” said Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost David Ashley.
Hakuta is particularly excited about applying knowledge he has acquired from the field of education toward building the liberal arts component of the campus. He has a clear vision for the academic foundation he hopes to help create: an educational environment that fosters critical and reflective reading, persuasive and analytic writing, and effective and responsible leadership.
“I feel it is important to achieve a balance between excellence and equity,” Hakuta said. “As a new campus, there also is the really interesting challenge of creating the kind of culture where teaching has a shared priority with research. We want to recruit faculty who have spectacular research programs, but who also see themselves as teachers. That kind of supportive teaching environment is especially vital given UC Merced's special mission to serve students of the Central Valley, many of whom may be the first in their families to attend a university, along with students from the balance of California.”
As with the mix of students, Hakuta aspires to attract a mix of faculty, including some with local connections. Another personal priority is hire faculty members whose interests cut across divisions of academic discipline and who are committed to increasing educational access and, more broadly, to regional development such as the environment and the economy.
He is intrigued by the opportunity to contribute to the World Cultures Institute, one of UC Merced's two signature research institutes. Looking at the institute as a means to facilitate cultural and linguistic understanding through scholarship and internship programs, he points to the learning opportunities that arise when connections are made between the cultures and languages at the local scale with cultures and languages at the global scale.
Hakuta received his B.A. in Psychology and Social Relations in 1975 and Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology in 1979, both from Harvard University. His wife of 24 years, Nancy Goodban, is a consultant in human services. Their children will be attending the Merced schools, and the family is looking forward to becoming citizens of the great Central Valley. When asked for additional motivations for moving to Merced, Hakuta noted that he is an enthusiastic rock climber and looks forward to spending some free time in Yosemite. More information about Kenji Hakuta can be found at his personal web site at www.stanford.edu/~hakuta/.
UC Merced is the first major research university to be built in the United States in the 21st century. Currently employing approximately 130 educators and professionals, the University has a special mission to serve the educational needs of California's San Joaquin Valley. The Merced campus is scheduled to open in fall 2004 to serve 1,000 students. In the coming decades, the campus will grow to a student population of 25,000.