University president brings interim administration

As Sonoma State University welcomed President Judy K. Sakaki to campus over the summer, the school also bid farewell to several top administrators who were replaced by interim administrators with extensive backgrounds in the every-day operations of running a university. 

 “I feel very fortunate to have a world class team of experienced higher education administrators and leaders, all of whom I’ve had the pleasure of working with during my career,” said Sakaki during her convocation speech on Aug. 22. “They each have expertise and experience in their respective areas but none of them are candidates for permanent positions.”

Administrators who are no longer with the university are Provost Andrew Rogerson, former Vice President for Development Erik Greeny, co-executive director of the Green Music Center and former Vice President of Administration and Finance Larry Furukawa-Schlereth, and former Vice President of Student Affairs Mathew Lopez-Phillips. Rogerson left the university to become president of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, while Phillips is now the associate vice president of student affairs at Sonoma State. Schlereth, according to Nicholas Grizzle, news and information coordinator for Sonoma State, decided to retire at the end of the previous school year.Except for newly appointed Chief of Staff Bill Kidder, who most recently served as associate vice chancellor and assistant provost at UC Riverside, all of Sakaki’s hand-picked administrators are at Sonoma State on an interim basis and were in retirement before agreeing to join Sakaki at the university. 

“Each one of us has worked with President Sakaki over the years in different capacities,” said Interim Provost Jeri Echeverria. “Let’s just say I wouldn’t have come out of retirement just for anybody.” 

Echeverria was associate provost at CSU Fresno and most recently was the executive vice chancellor of the California State University system. Echeverria knew Sakaki since their time at CSU Fresno where Sakaki was the vice president for student affairs.

When asked what can be improved at Sonoma State during her time here, Echeverria looked long term, long after she’s gone, and how the university can improve its image.

“Over the next five years, Sonoma State is going to want to look at its image in the community and what it contributes,” said Echeverria. “It is a lot better run than most people know.”

Taking over the position of vice president of administration and finance is Stan Nosek, who previouslywas vice chancellor for administration at UC Davis.  Nosek, whose daughter graduated from Sonoma State, also knew Sakaki from her time as vice president of student affairs for the UC system. Nosek said he considers Sakaki not only a colleague but a friend as well.

“Even though retirement is the best thing ever invented,” said Nosek, “My respect for Dr. Sakaki, and sense of service to Sonoma State, compelled me to respond affirmatively.

Newly occupying the position of vice president of student affairs is Michael D. Young, previous vice chancellor for student affairs at UC Santa Barbara. Young has had extensive work with student health over his career in the University of California system and also points to his relationship with Sakaki as a major reason why he decided to leave retirement.

“I have known Dr. Sakaki for over 15 years,” said Young, “I believe in her vision, her values and she supports what I hold most dear.” 

John Welty will be a special advisor to Sakaki on a temporary, part-time basis. Welty is the president emeritus at CSU Fresno and will be working on how to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of the Green Music Center and the university.

“Facilities such as Weill Hall are among the best in the country,” said Welty. “I think the facility has an opportunity to provide exceptional opportunities to students and faculty and serve the region and beyond.”

Peter Smits, former vice president emeritus at CSU Fresno, has taken over as the vice president for advancement.

There is no timetable for when permanent positions will be appointed to replace the interim administrators.