Vijay Pendakur, associate vice president for the Division of Student Affairs at California State University, Fullerton, has been named Cornell’s next dean of students. He will assume the post Jan. 3, 2017.
Pendakur, a practitioner and scholar of diversity and inclusion work, currently leads student support units at Cal State Fullerton, including the career center, student health center, counseling and psychological services, disability support services, veterans resource center and student academic services.
“I am pleased to have Vijay joining my senior leadership team to bring a voice for identity development and advocacy for students into every Student and Campus Life initiative,” said Ryan Lombardi, Cornell vice president for student and campus life, noting Pendakur’s high energy and an “undeniable passion for this work.”
“Vijay brings an incredible depth of knowledge around diversity, inclusion and social justice work, plus scholarship in these areas that has been the hallmark of his professional career, along with a wonderful breadth of experience in overseeing a broad portfolio of diverse departments at a large institution,” Lombardi said.
Pendakur said he is “thrilled” to be joining Cornell as the Robert W. and Elizabeth C. Staley Dean of Students.
“This unique opportunity to lead on issues of diversity and inclusion fits seamlessly with my core beliefs and work experiences,” Pendakur said. “The chance to extend Cornell’s ‘any person … any study’ historic focus on inclusion to encompass the complexities of identity, intersectionality and risk that college students face today is a challenge worth bringing my heart, mind and spirit to.”
“Vijay is incredibly gifted in all the traits one would hope for in a dean of students,” said Laura Spitz, vice provost for international affairs and chair of the screening committee Lombardi convened to assist with the search. “He’s warm and smart, with tons of empathy. Vijay has a deep understanding of the value that multiple points of view and multiple life experiences bring to the university.”
Lombardi said: “This search brought us a pool of exceptional candidates, and I am grateful to everyone who participated in the process and offered feedback. It was very important to me for this to be a transparent process, with an element of openness that allowed the campus to meet the candidates.” Three finalists visited campus and participated in open forums early this semester.
The dean of students serves as a highly engaged and visible advocate for students – both undergraduate and graduate/professional – and works broadly on aspects of equity, access and social justice at Cornell. The position also plays an essential role in building a sense of community among students and creating opportunities to explore the intersectionality of identity development, works to connect academics with co-curricular activities, and provides leadership and guidance on crisis response campuswide.
Kent Hubbell, B.Arch ’69, served as dean of students for 15 years before stepping down June 30. Alan Mittman ’71, senior adviser to Lombardi, is filling in as interim until Pendakur begins his appointment.
Pendakur previously served as director of the Office of Multicultural Student Success at DePaul University in Chicago, and as a coordinator and diversity and social justice trainer within student affairs for the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
He received his Ed.D. in curriculum studies from DePaul University (2013), his M.A. in U.S. history from the University of California, San Diego (2005), and his B.A. in history and East Asian studies from the University of Wisconsin, Madison (2001). He is the editor of “Closing the Opportunity Gap: Identity-Conscious Strategies for Retention and Student Success” (Stylus Publishing, 2016).
Pendakur’s other research interests include Asian-American racial identity development, critical race theory and color-blind racism.
He will be joined by his wife, Katie, and their daughter, Mira, who “are eager to build a robust life in Ithaca, focused on the beautiful outdoor environment of the Finger Lakes region,” Pendakur said.