New dean hopes to improve diversity
October 8, 2008 7:22 PM
In an effort to strengthen diversity and social justice among the campus community, SF State appointed the school’s first university dean for social justice initiatives on Monday.
Jacob Perea, dean of the College of Education for 12 years, was appointed to the new position by the school administration. He is expected to work closely with President Robert Corrigan, faculty and staff to plan and promote ways of ensuring equity and access on campus.
“There’s a lot of excitement in taking on this new challenge,” Perea said. “I really care about the thought of social justice.”
The position modifies the responsibilities of the former dean of human relations, which was held by current ethnic studies dean Kenneth Monteiro, and focused on maintaining diversity-oriented choices and peaceful relationships among faculty and staff, Corrigan said.
“We wanted a person with the authority and background to deal with campus tensions,” Corrigan said. “We knew [Perea] was the best person to take it on.”
In addition, the dean is responsible for ensuring that diversity and social justice are integrated into academics and teaching. The position reports directly to Corrigan. The president said this is “a very important appointment that affects the lives of faculty, staff and students.”
“Jake Perea lives his professional life with a deep dedication to social justice,” said Mark Phillips, director of school relations and educational outreach. “It is part of the core of who he is, so he is a perfect pick for the position.”
Perea has a long career as a teacher, educator and activist, which actually began when he was a graduate student at SF State during the 1968 strike. He was the school’s first joint-hire professor in two departments, ethnic studies and education.
“Many campuses are still trying to define what diversity means,” Perez said. “We’ve gone way beyond that…and there has to be a place on campus where [diversity] will receive even more support.”
The new dean worked on Apache and Navajo reservations in California. Perea’s ethnicity is a mix of Apache and Mexican backgrounds. He also spent two and a half years in the Peace Corps, working in Tanzania and Nigeria in Africa. “It was there where I really changed,” Perea said, referring to his views on equity and diversity.
He is known throughout the campus community for increasing access to education, such as through the Step To College preparatory program for high school seniors that Perea co-founded and currently helps facilitate. He is responsible for recruiting more women and people of color into the faculty of the College of Education.
“I am deeply indebted to Dean Perea for his unwavering support of training, research and development,” said Pamela Wolfberg, associate professor of the Department of Special Education. “He has created invaluable opportunities for students and faculty to engage in international exchange.”
Perea said his first step as the new dean is to sit down with faculty, staff and student and get a clear picture of how prevalent inequity and social injustice are on campus and what people’s needs are, and then tease out ideas for addressing those needs.
He expressed appreciation for the high level of diversity already existing on campus, and said that his work is not meant to change, but simply to improve current campus diversity efforts.
“We already have the fabric, and weaving is already being done,” he said.
Perea and Corrigan both said the dean’s official job description is “a work in progress” that will continually be evaluated and developed over the next several months.
David Hemphill, associate dean of education, will temporarily take over Perea’s former position.
A national search for the new dean of the College of Education will be conducted later this month.
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