Meet the Candidates for Dean, School of Arts and Humanities

Candidates for Dean, School of Arts and Humanities are on campus for interviews and presentations beginning this week. All members of the campus community are invited to attend the presentation and Q&A sessions.

Open Forum Schedule:


Dr. Kathleen McSharry

  • Date: Friday, May 2
  • Location: Schulz 1121
  • Time: 1:30 – 2:30 p.m. (presentation and Q&A)

Dr. Risa Dickson

  • Date: Monday, May 5
  • Location: Schulz 1121
  • Time: 2:30 – 3:30 p.m. (presentation and Q&A)

Dr. Thaine Stearns

  • Date: Wednesday, May 7
  • Location: Schulz 1121
  • Time: 1:30 – 2:30 p.m. (presentation and Q&A)

Dr. Scott Paynton

  • Date: Thursday, May 8
  • Location: Schulz 1121
  • Time: 2:15 – 3:15 p.m. (presentation and Q&A)

Dr. Sachiko Matsunaga

  • Date: Friday, May 9
  • Location: Salazar 2016
  • Time: 1:30 – 2:30 p.m. (presentation and Q&A)

Candidate Summaries:


Dr. Kathleen McSharry

Kathleen McSharry is Associate Dean of the College for Curriculum and Writing at Brown University. Dr. McSharry oversees College-wide curricular programs, including first-year and sophomore seminar programs, the writing requirement, and integrative scholarship in the disciplines. A member of the College’s leadership team, Dr. McSharry supervises academic support programs for all undergraduates and has primary responsibility for College communications and assessment. Dr. McSharry began her career as an English professor at small liberal arts college in the Midwest. In her next position, she administered a 58-credit general education program at a master’s-level comprehensive university. Her publications focus on Holocaust pedagogy and standards-based approaches to assessing general education learning outcomes. A native Californian, McSharry 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-Madison.

Dr. Risa Dickson

Dr. Dickson has been on the faculty at California State University, San Bernardino (CSUSB) since 1991. She has a distinguished record at CSUSB and 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. In these roles she has been involved with many facets of the university, such as the CSU system level graduation initiative, enrollment strategies, labor relations, government and community relations, strategic planning, assessment, accreditation, space management, and oversight of special projects. Additionally she has robust experience with curriculum, department and college level programming, faculty orientation and faculty development, mentoring, and retention, tenure and promotion. 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 CSU, Northridge. In 2008-09 she was awarded an American Council on Education Fellowship and spent a year at Pitzer College in Claremont, CA.

Dr. Thaine Stearns

Dr. Thaine Stearns was appointed to serve on an interim basis as Dean of the School of Arts and Humanities at Sonoma State University in July 2011. His Ph.D. is from the University of Washington in Seattle (1999), and before coming to SSU in 2003, he has held teaching posts at the University of Washington, the Pacific Northwest School of Art, and in the University of Wisconsin system. Before becoming an English professor, he earned a BA in business and worked for several years as a banker. His scholarly and teaching interests are in twentieth-century British, U.S. and European literatures, visual culture, literary theory, and the novel. An active scholar, he has published on James Joyce and Dora Marsden; Rebecca West and T.S. Eliot; and on Wyndham Lewis, Vladimir Nabokov, and William Carlos Williams. His 2012 article “Woolf and America,” was published in the Cambridge University Press volume, Virginia Woolf in Context. At SSU, Stearns has served as Graduate Coordinator of the English MA program and as Department Chair. In addition, he has been deeply committed to faculty governance, serving on the Educational Policies Committee from Fall 2005 through Spring 2010, and as the chair of that committee in 2007-2008 and Spring 2009. The title of his presentation is “Collaboration, Creativity, Interdisciplinarity, and Virginia Woolf’s Recommendations for Deans.”

Dr. Scott Paynton

Dr. Scott T. Paynton has spent 22 years as a student, faculty, and administrator in the CSU, serving the past 16 years at Humboldt State University. He earned a Ph.D. in Communication from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale. He also holds a B.A. in English from CSU, San Bernardino, and a M.A. in Human Communication Studies from Chico State University. While at Humboldt State, Dr. Paynton has used his academic expertise in Organizational Communication and Leadership to guide his leadership efforts as Associate Dean, University Ombudsperson, and Department Chair. He has served in leadership roles in CFA, the academic senate, assessment, program review, and curricular development and innovation. He is currently co-leading a faculty leadership mentoring program for the colleges of Arts, Humanities, and Behavioral Sciences across the CSU system. His current research interests center around leadership in academic contexts. With a sophisticated understanding of the faculty experience, the heart of Dr. Paynton’s work focuses on creating a supportive educational and working environment for faculty, staff, and students. Upholding the CSU tradition for excellence in teaching, during his time in the classroom Dr. Paynton maintained a 4.84 out of 5.0 for “Overall Teaching Effectiveness” with an emphasis on building mentoring relationships with his students.

Dr. Sachiko Matsunaga

A member of the California State University, Los Angeles (CSULA) faculty since 1994, Dr. Matsunaga earned her Ph.D. and M.A. degree (Phi Kappa Phi) in East Asian Languages and Literatures (Japanese) from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and her B.A. degree (Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa) in Psychology from the University of Oregon. While at CSULA, Dr. Matsunaga has developed a distinguished record that includes service as 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 has fulfilled critical roles in curricular innovation, student scholarship, and faculty development and is active in various outreach activities that engage the community in international education. Dr. Matsunaga is a recipient of a CSULA Outstanding Professor Award honoring her excellence in teaching, scholarship, and service to the University. At CSULA, she has served on the Strategic Planning Coordination Taskforce since 2010, and the Faculty Visioning Taskforce since 2014.

If you have a chance to meet all the candidates and would like to share your feedback, please send any comments you have to me at stauffer@sonoma.edu or you may send them directly to Provost Rogerson at andrew.rogerson@sonoma.edu. If you would like to forward your comments anonymously, you may do so by sending them to Cory Oates at cory.oates@sonoma.edu. All feedback will be kept in confidence.