School of Arts and Humanities hires new dean, Dr. Hollis Robbins

Dr. Hollis Robbins is Sonoma State University’s new Dean for Arts and Humanities. Dr. Robbins has a B.A. from Johns Hopkins, a Master of Public Policy from Harvard University, M.A. in English from the University of Colorado and a Ph.D in English from Princeton University. Dr. Robbins previously taught at Johns Hopkins University, where she had received several teaching awards, including “Alumni Association Excellence In Teaching.” She was inducted in June 2018. 

She began her journey at Johns Hopkins as a 16-year-old undergrad on a math scholarship, so when she returned in 2006 as an instructor she enjoyed coming back to her roots. “It was nice to teach where I had gone to school,” she said. “I wasn’t a great student I should say. I partied a little bit too much, I skipped too many classes, I didn’t ask my teachers often enough for advice.” 

She uses her experience as an undergrad to relate to undergraduate students she works with today, encouraging them to seek advice, ask questions and to get to know the faculty and staff. One of the reasons she likes Sonoma State, besides the beautiful campus, is the opportunity students have to interact with administration because of the small campus population.

Dr. Robbins chose Sonoma State because she was interested in the advantages of the publicly funded system. She feels that every student deserves to have a great education at a reasonable cost, something that the students at Johns Hopkins University were not offered. “These students were going to be artists and musicians, and they were going to be graduating with upwards of $100,000 in debt. That’s an enterprise that I just couldn’t continue with,” she said, “Sonoma State has the potential to be a national leader in publicly-funded education.” 

One of her main goals is to create what she calls, “outward excellence” at Sonoma State: that is, to present the best version of what we are to the general public. She said, “We should reflect the excellence that we have here at Sonoma State. We have an excellent faculty, excellent staff, and excellent students. That means striving for excellence and putting forward in front of the public excellent work.” She plans to be here at Sonoma State long-term – as long as President Sakaki will have her. She believes her plans to achieve “outward excellence” and the length of her career at Sonoma State are both long-term. 

As Dean, Dr. Robbins supports the faculty in 10 departments, “so that the faculty can do the best work supporting the students.” Her ability to create programs, promote collaborations, and provide a vision, all while keeping in mind the fact that this is a publicly-funded institution will benefit the department. “I’m never going to forget that it’s the taxpayers who are paying our salary,” she says. “They deserve the most bang for their buck.” She keeps this in mind while preparing to make difficult decisions, asking herself what is ethical and if it “serves the interests of the taxpayers.” 

In her spare time, Dr. Robbins enjoys writing. She is currently writing a book titled “African-American Sonnet Tradition: Forms of Contention.” Her poetry has been published in literary journals. She also enjoys watching 10 movies per month. She enjoys fashion as an art form, especially when it comes to shoes. “A woman who chooses to wears high heels should never complain that they hurt her feet,” she said. 

Other members of staff are excited to have her here at Sonoma State. “Dr. Hollis Robbins is a dynamic leader and an accomplished scholar. She is wholly committed to student, faculty, and staff success, and I am thrilled to welcome her to Sonoma State,” Provost Lisa Vollendorf said.