Soka University and my new position as Dean of Faculty, Undergraduate Program

(A note from March of 2017 ) After a fantastic interview and visit to beautiful Aliso Viejo, CA, I have been given the opportunity and honor to become the next Dean of Faculty for Soka University of America! The opportunity is very exciting as it includes a chance to join a dynamic and creative intellectual community as they provide a unique and excellent form of global liberal arts education. The work will include leading the undergraduate academic program, as well as to supervise the Learning Clusters, an experiential learning 3-week course unique to Soka University. In the coming years, I will also help Soka develop a new science concentration, which will focus on Life Sciences and which will feature a brand new science building and a cohort of newly hired science faculty.

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Some signature features of the Soka University of America academic program include a common curriculum featuring two courses entitled “The Enduring Questions of Humanity” and “The Enduring Questions in Contemporary Contexts,” as well as common curriculum courses on Communication Skills, Modes of Inquiry, the American Experience and the Pacific Basin. Soka University features an interdisciplinary faculty without departments, a hybrid academic calendar that includes both semester-length courses and three-week experiential “Learning Clusters,” and a very strong emphasis on Global Citizenship. Their program offers a degree in Liberal Arts in one of four concentrations, which include concentrations in Environmental Studies, Humanities, International Studies, and Social and Behavioural Sciences. The campus houses all of its students in a beautiful residential campus in the hills above Laguna Beach, in Aliso Viejo. The Soka University of America is also a relatively new liberal arts college – founded in 2001 – and has a strong emphasis on Asia and the Pacific Basin and many similarities to Yale-NUS College in Singapore, my previous home institution.

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Soka University of America leads the US in its international component of students, with more than 40% international students among its 430 enrolled undergraduates, who represent dozens of countries.  The university is founded on the belief that “student-centered education” can promote peace and human rights “by fostering a global humanistic perspective on the world” with “creative co-existence of nature and humanity.”  All of the Soka University of America students are required to reach a high level of proficiency in a foreign language, and all participate in a study abroad semester, as well as a variety of experiential and international trips connected with the academic program. Soka is tied in the USNews rankings of National Liberal Arts Colleges at  #41 with Dickinson and Whitman College, and ahead of several well-known colleges such as Occidental College.  I am extremely excited to begin this new position and look forward to getting to know my new colleagues at Soka University of America, and helping them further develop their excellent academic programs!

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