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Craig Kapitan, News Service (650) 724-5708;

Columbia official named vice provost for student affairs

Gene Awakuni, vice president for student services at Columbia University, has been named Stanford's vice provost for student affairs, President John Hennessy announced Friday.

"I am delighted that Gene Awakuni has accepted our offer to become Stanford's next vice provost for student affairs," Hennessy said. "Gene brings an extraordinary combination of intelligence, academic credentials and breadth of experience to the job. He is considered a national leader in the area of student affairs and has earned the deep respect of undergraduates, graduate students and professional colleagues with whom he has worked."

The appointment is effective Jan. 2.

Awakuni has specialized in student affairs since 1988, when he became special assistant to the vice chancellor for student affairs at the University of California, Irvine. His responsibilities grew when he was recruited to the University of California, Santa Barbara, and then to California State Polytechnic University, where he served as vice president for student affairs. At Cal Poly, Awakuni estimates he helped the university garner $10 million in grants for causes that ranged from drug and alcohol prevention to AmeriCorps Volunteer Services.

In July 2000, Awakuni was recruited to Columbia. He believes his responsibilities at Stanford will be similar to those he held at Columbia, where he has a base budget of about $50 million and oversees 500 employees.

"It was clear to the search committee that Gene has both the vision to think creatively about student life as well as the strategic skills to consolidate Stanford's strengths and implement initiatives that reflect his vision," Hennessy said. "The provost and I look forward to working with Gene in this area of critical importance to the university."

The search for a vice provost for student affairs began last spring, after James Montoya announced he would leave Stanford to serve as vice president of the College Board.

Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education John Bravman has been serving in the position on an interim basis. Bravman will continue in that capacity until Awakuni comes on board in January.

The search committee, which Bravman chaired, sifted through more than 50 applicants, eventually narrowing the field to five finalists.

In addition to Bravman, committee members included Alan Acosta, director of university communications; Cheri Ross, associate director of the Introduction to the Humanities program; Robin Mamlet, dean of admission and financial aid; Karen Cook, the Ray Lyman Wilbur Professor of Sociology; John Perry, the Henry Waldgrave Stuart Professor of Philosophy; Denis Phillips, professor of education; LaDoris Cordell, vice provost and special counselor to the president for campus relations; Jennifer Westerlind, associate university counsel; Scotty McLennan, dean for religious life; Tim Warner, vice provost for budget and auxiliaries management; and students Charlene Ng, a senior majoring in biology and history, and Wendelin Wright, a doctoral candidate in materials science and engineering.

"I think he just kind of emerged from the pool as a very strong candidate," Wright said. "It was obvious to me that he has a sincere interest in students and their well-being.

"We were just very impressed with his ideas and the experience he has had. He's obviously a talented administrator and he already has a deep understanding of some of the most difficult issues we face at Stanford."

Among those issues, she said, are housing and health care. Currently, Awakuni is working on a student health care plan at Columbia and a project to improve primary care. While at U.C. Irvine in the 1980s, he helped build one of the first residential education programs in the country.

"I think I have a good track record," he said, explaining that he has overseen health and housing services for the past eight years. "It's an area that I know very well."

Awakuni says his philosophy is "to provide the best possible service to students." One way he has helped identify students' needs is through the classroom setting, where he occasionally teaches courses on psychology and multiculturalism. He just co-authored a book on the subject entitled Resistance to Multiculturalism: Issues and Interventions.

"I feel like being in a classroom helps me understand the students from a different vantage point," he explained.

Awakuni said a background in multiculturalism also helps enhance the work he does. He got started in administrative work while a psychologist at U.C. Irvine, where he helped calm racial tensions through conflict mediation. He holds an Ed. D and an Ed. M in counseling and consulting psychology from Harvard University, as well as a M.S.W. in clinical social work and a B.A. in political science from the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Awakuni said he is looking forward to helping shape new projects at Stanford, such as the career center and the health services building.

"As I walked onto the campus, I was just amazed," he said. "I'll get to work with the best and the brightest students from all over the world. Stanford is an extraordinary place."


By Craig Kapitan<

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