Cal State alumna Judy Sakaki named as university president

For the first time in 24 years, the California State University Board of Trustees has named a new president of Sonoma State University.

Dr. Judy K. Sakaki, vice president of student affairs at the University of California, Office of the President, is Ruben Armiñana’s successor who is retiring on June 30 of this year.  The announcement of the new president came at 8:30 a.m. last Wednesday during the Board of Trustees Committee on University and Faculty Personnel.

“I was absolutely honored and elated when I first learned that I had been selected to be Sonoma State’s next president,” said Sakaki, “It was a wonderful and very exciting moment in my life.”

Sakaki will be filling in the spot for Armiñana, the longest tenured president in the California State University history. Since 1992, when Armiñana was named president of Sonoma State, he has put the 269-acre campus through an overall introducing new buildings such as the Green Music Center and the Student Center, the central hub of student life on campus.  On top of that, the student population of Sonoma State has grown to all-time highs while Arminana manned the helm.

“I have known Dr. Sakaki for a number of years and I believe that she is a great fit for [ Sonoma State ],” said Armiñana, “She will be a very successful president here.”

Sakaki, 62, is inheriting an institution of higher education that welcomes 9,400 students and 1,300 faculty and staff members.  Prior to her current position at the Office of the President, Sakaki served as vice chancellor of student affairs at University of California, Davis, as well as the vice president and dean of student affairs at Fresno State University.  

A majority of Sakaki’s life has been dedicated to the Caliifornia State University

system, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in Human Development and her master’s in Educational

Psychology from Cal State’s Hayward campus, now known as CSU East Bay.

“It is nice to know that our next president attended a California State University,” said Jorge Bautista, sophomore computer science major and employee of Sonoma State’s Outreach office, “That makes it feel like I can connect to her a little bit easier.  Maybe she knows a little more accurately how to appeal to the students.”

Later, Sakaki earned her doctorate in education from University of California, Berkeley.

“Dr. Sakaki is taking over the leadership of a campus that is in very good shape and can move it even farther in providing retention, graduation and satisfaction to the students,” said Armiñana.

Now that the Board of Trustees has made their decision, it ultimately comes down to a transition process with Arminana on the way out and Sakaki moving in.  Changing leaders can prove a challenging task, but Sakaki’s familiarity with the daily operations of an institution of higher learning will only make the transition easier.

Prior to earning this position, Sakaki visited Sonoma State for two days, interacting with students, staff and the campus life. During this visit, she listened to the concerns that various people had about the coming president.  The current administration plans on taking several steps in making sure that Sakaki can come into her presidency position on July 1 as prepared as possible.

 “We will be setting a date for her to visit [ Sonoma State ] and have meetings with me and the university leadership,” said Armiñana, “Every cabinet member has been asked to provide her with a briefing statement about their area of responsibility and there will be an open reception for all to meet her.”

Armiñana still has this spring semester at the helm, and he still holds goals and ideas he would like to get started before he must vacate the seat. Armiñana would like to see that the MasterCard Pavilion and the Wine Business Education Institute projects start construction before his last day.  He would also enjoy seeing the graduation rates increase.  Once he retires, Armiñana will still benefit the community of Sonoma State by being a trustee professor.

For Sakaki, she intends to come into office with the intention going into the community, listening, and learning from students, staff, faculty, alums, and community members so she can better assess the needs and be the best leader she can be

“Sonoma State is truly a gem,” said Sakaki, “We are the ‘small campus with big ideas’ and the ‘light of the mind, light of the world’.