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College promotes Sakomura to Assistant Academic Affairs Dean

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After eight years in the position, Associate Professor of Educational Studies and Associate Dean of Academic Affairs Diane Anderson will be leaving her position in the Dean’s Office. Chair of the art history department Tomoka Sakomura will succeed Anderson in the role. The decision was announced in an email sent out to students on Jan. 10. A committee of six individuals, including two professors, two deans, and two students completed the search process that ended with the hiring of Sakomura.

Sakomura was selected for both her experience and energy. A professor at the college since 2005, she has served on the Committee on Faculty Procedures, the Council on Educational Policy, the Committee on Academic Requirements, and the Committee on Fellowships and Prizes.

The primary responsibilities of the Associate Dean of Academic Affairs are to help to foster relationships between faculty and administrative colleagues in order to support the academics of the college.

The Associate Dean works directly with students, and through a team of colleagues in the Dean’s division, to provide advising on both academic and personal issues, and provides leadership on initiatives that advance the college’s academic mission,” said Dean of Students Liz Braun.

Braun said that she is excited to have Sakomura in the Dean’s Office.

I am really looking forward to working with Professor Sakomura in this role. She brings tremendous strengths and expertise to the position,” said Braun.

Blake Oetting ’18, a student in the art history department and an advisee of Sakomura, is excited to see her in the Dean’s Office.

“Tomoko has the rare ability of providing academic guidance while making you feel absolutely confident in your ability to carry out her advice. She will excel as a dean, and I’m thrilled that students outside of the art history program will get to experience her mentoring,” said Oetting.

Sakomura is excited for the opportunity to help support students, particularly in times of transition. She remembered the support she received as an undergrad, grad student, and a new faculty member on campus. Sakomura hopes she can help support others as they are transitioning.

“As a graduate student, my first semester was peachy, but the second semester, I had really a mightily struggle that semester, and I just remember the great support I received at the time, and when I thought about the possibility that I would be able to play that role, it really attracted me to this position,” said Sakomura.

Anderson noted that problem-solving with students was one of her favorite parts of the job. She has enjoyed asking questions and listening, and working with others to find a solution to a problem that felt overwhelming.

“Another favorite part was being on a team. If you work in student affairs, it’s teamwork. There’s almost nothing that you do by yourself …  Working on a team collaborating for the good of students, and faculty, and the institution, and the values of the institution — it just feels like a gift to be able to do that kind of work, to have been able to do that for eight years. It’s been the best job I’ve ever had,” said Anderson.

She hopes to learn more about how students find balance in their life. One of her greatest goals is to help students balance their life.

“I’m very curious to learn about the student experience here. On the faculty side, we talk about the work-life balance, but I am very curious to know how that looks on the student side. I’m really interested in learning about the programs that are in place for students now. I am especially curious about this new movement of reflection or meditation, so I’m very curious to explore ways that we can bring a greater sense of balance [to campus],” said Sakomura.

Sakomura also expressed an interest in facilitating dialogue and building bridges between different parts of the college. She hopes to find a way to promote different programs on campus and collaborate with faculty both in and out of the Dean’s Office. Anderson echoed the importance of communication with faculty across the college. Anderson said she believes Sakomura will do a good job balancing the needs of different people across the campus.

“I think she’s going to be very good at that kind of big picture thinking, she understands that the college is a complex system, but she also understands that we have an educational mission here, that we’re a diverse and inclusive community. She’s going to be very good at keeping all of those things in play in her brain at the same time while she’s working with students, and faculty, and other deans,” said Anderson.

When asked what advice she would give Sakomura as she entered the Dean’s Office, Anderson stressed the importance of the office space. Saying that it is important to create an environment in which people feel comfortable, especially when dealing with difficult decisions. She joked that she would be taking her Easter Island head tissue box and artwork out of the office, so Sakomura will have to bring her own style to the office.

After Sakomura officially takes over the position on Aug. 1, she will continue to have a presence in the art and art history department by teaching one class a year.

Anderson will take a sabbatical next year, taking time to write articles on topics such as Learning for Life, persuasive writing in elementary school, and other topics in education. She will return to teaching in the educational studies department in the 2018-2019 academic year.

Anderson said she was thrilled and relieved when she heard Sakomura was going to be taking over her position, because she knew everything would be left in good hands.

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