After a nationwide search, New Mexico State University (NMSU) has named Yoshitaka Iwasaki as the inaugural dean of the College of Health, Education and Social Transformation.
Iwasaki will begin his new role at NMSU on July 1, NMSU’s interim provost, Dorothy Campbell, announced Thursday.
Iwasaki has more than 20 years of higher education experience and expertise in community-engaged research and education, knowledge mobilization and capacity-building. He currently serves as a professor and department chair of the Department of Public Health and Recreation at San Jose State University.
“Dr. Iwasaki’s research and experiences will align with our community and NMSU’s mission and goals of academic excellence, community engagement and social justice,” Campbell said.
Iwasaki, who has a Ph.D. in recreation and leisure studies from the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, will arrive at NMSU at a pivotal time to lead the university’s newest college.
Established in 2021, the College of Health, Education and Social Transformation is the result of a merger between the former colleges of Education and Health and Social Services and the Department of Sociology.
The college houses eight academic departments and offers degrees, certificates and stackable credentials in several areas, including communication disorders; counseling and educational psychology; kinesiology; nursing; public health; social work; sociology; and teacher preparation, administration and leadership.
As dean, Iwasaki will work to develop initiatives that support and advance NMSU’s strategic plan, its mission as a land-grant university and its commitment to student social mobility. He will also have an opportunity to have a significant impact throughout the borderland region and its education, health and socioeconomic outcomes while contributing to NMSU’s teaching, service, and research efforts through strategic leadership and relationship-building.
Iwasaki’s areas of interest and expertise include culture, diversity and community-university engagement, active living and quality of life. He also specializes in participatory action research to address social justice issues such as human rights, poverty, empowerment, youth engagement, mental health and social change.
“I am very inspired and attracted to two distinct areas of recognitions and differentiations that NMSU and HEST possess,” Iwasaki said. “The first are the people who have founded and are mobilizing this preeminent land-grant public research university with its commitment to transformative student-centered education, community-university engagement and innovative translational research, as guided by diversity, equity and inclusion, social justice and entrepreneurial orientations.”
Iwasaki continued: “The second is the organizational structure of HEST, which is a distinctive, truly interdisciplinary solution-oriented college that integrates both human and health dimensions across clinical and community contexts with its emphasis on holistic health, well-being and human development, and a fierce commitment to addressing health, educational and socio-economic disparities across New Mexico.”
Before joining San Jose State University, Iwasaki served as a professor, associate dean for research and director of a research center at the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Extension from 2011 to 2018. He also worked as a professor in the Department of Rehabilitation Sciences, College of Health Professions and Social Work at Temple University in Philadelphia from 2006 to 2011.
Iwasaki’s professional experience includes more than a decade of serving in leadership roles at higher education institutions. In 2017, he received the inaugural McKinnon Walker Trust Global Fellowship from the University of Wollongong in Australia. In 2008, he was inducted into the Academy of Leisure Sciences.
At NMSU, Iwasaki will succeed Henrietta Pichon, who has served as the college’s interim dean since July 2021.
“As we embark our transformational journey together,” Iwasaki said, “we should invest into organizational culture and community-building to co-create ‘one college under one umbrella,’ while embracing the legacy and strengths of each unit embedded within one college.”