School of Arts, Humanities to hold forums for open dean position

Thaine Stearns up for reappointment as dean.

Candidates for the new dean of the School of Arts and Humanities will be on campus this week for interviews and presentations leading up to the selection to fill the permanent position. The five finalists are Kathleen McSharry, Risa Dickson, Thaine Stearns, Scott Paynton and Sachiko Matsunaga.

“The finalists are outstanding,” said Lynn Stauffer, the dean of the School of Science and Technology and search committee chair for the open position within the School of Arts and Humanities. “Each has a strong background and record of commitment to academic excellence and student success.”

None of the candidates could be reached for comment at this time, but an email sent to the entire Sonoma State community includes short biographies of the five applicants.

McSharry is currently the Associate Dean of the College for Curriculum and Writing at Brown University and a member of the college’s leadership team. She also supervises academic support programs for all undergraduates and oversees college-wide curricular programs, including first-year and sophomore seminar programs. She earned her B.A. in English from the University of California at Berkeley and her M.A. and Ph.D. in English from the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

Dickson has been on the faculty at California State University, San Bernardino since 1991. She has served as Associate Provost for Academic Personnel, Executive Associate to the President, Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Letters and Chair of the Department of Communication Studies. She earned her Ph.D. and M.A. in Interpersonal and Organizational Communication from the University of Southern California and her B.A. in Communication Theory from California State University, Northridge.

Stearns, the incumbent for this position, was appointed to serve on an interim basis as dean of the School of Arts and Humanities at Sonoma State University in July 2011. He has also served as Graduate Coordinator of the English MA program and as department chair in the English Department at Sonoma State. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Washington in Seattle in 1999 and has held teaching posts at the University of Washington, the Pacific Northwest School of Art and in the University of Wisconsin school system.

Paynton has spent 22 years as a student, faculty and administrator in the CSU system. He served the past 16 years at Humboldt State University in positions such as Associate Dean, University Ombudsperson and Department Chair.  He is currently co-leading a faculty leadership-mentoring program in the schools of arts, humanities and behavioral sciences across the CSU system. He earned a Ph.D. in Communication from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale and also holds a B.A. in English from CSU, San Bernardino and an M.A. in Human Communication Studies from Chico State University.

Matsunaga has been a member of the California State University, Los Angeles faculty since 1994. She developed a distinguished record that included service as the Director of the Japanese Studies Center, founder and Director of the federally supported Strategic Language Initiative Korean program and professor and chair of the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures. She earned her Ph.D. and M.A. degree in East Asian Languages and Literatures from the University of Hawaii at Manoa and her B.A. degree in Psychology from the University of Oregon.

The open forums began on Friday with McSharry and will continue through this week, concluding with Matsunaga this Friday.

Led by Stauffer, a committee called the Search Committee is responsible for providing the initial position description, screening the applications, deciding on finalists to invite for campus interviews and making recommendations to Provost Andrew Rogerson. The provost, who could not be reached for comment, will make the final decision.

“We encourage the Sonoma State community to attend the Open Forums to learn more about the candidates and their visions for the School of Arts and Humanities,” said Stauffer.

For a complete list of the dates, times and locations of the forums and the full biographies of each candidate, visit