Biography of President Judy K. Sakaki
President, Sonoma State University
Dr. Judy K. Sakaki became Sonoma State University’s seventh president on July 1, 2016. She is the second female president on the campus and the first Japanese American woman president in the nation to lead a four-year college or university. She is a first-generation college student, a product of public education and a graduate of both the California State University and the University of California. She has devoted her entire career to issues of access, affordability, inclusive excellence, educational opportunities and achievement for all students.
Since her arrival at Sonoma State, Dr. Sakaki has reprioritized the academic mission of the University and has focused on student success. She helped SSU achieve eligibility as an Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) and is developing an Undocumented Student Center as well as a transition center to better support transfer students. In keeping with her focus on inclusion and opportunity, during her first weeks as president she hosted the largest group of young people in the University’s history when nearly 500 elementary and middle school students visited Sonoma State to experience a taste of college life. The students were from an ethnically diverse, economically challenged area of Sacramento.
Prior to Sonoma State, Dr. Sakaki served as Vice President for Student Affairs for the University of California, Office of the President. There she worked on admissions, financial aid and student success initiatives. Before that, she was Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs at UC Davis, Vice President and Dean of Students at Fresno State and Executive Director of Student Academic Services, including the Educational Opportunity Program at CSU East Bay. She has taught university classes; managed departments and divisions ranging from 45 to 1,000 employees; and has testified before Senate and Assembly Committees regarding financial aid, academic preparation programs, gender equity in athletics and student mental health. She has a strong commitment to vulnerable populations including underrepresented students, undocumented students, veterans and LGBTQI students, faculty and staff communities.
In 2009, Dr. Sakaki co-chaired a system-wide faculty and administrative task force to award honorary degrees to approximately 700 Japanese American University of California students who were unable to complete their degree due to their internment during World War II.
Dr. Sakaki is a former American Council on Education Fellow, a Millennium Leadership Institute Fellow, an Executive Fellow of the California State University and a Senior Fellow of the American Leadership Forum. She attended the MDP/IEM Harvard Management Institutes and was a member of the 2010 Japanese American Leadership Delegation to Japan.
She has received numerous honors and awards. Most recently, Dr. Sakaki was honored with the Pillar of the Profession award by NASPA, the national organization of Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education. She graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. in Human Development and an M.A. in Educational Psychology from CSU East Bay and a Ph.D. in Education from UC Berkeley.