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The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

On a long road

Dean of Humanities and Fine Arts, Chris Iwata never imagined becoming dean after being a City College student in the 1970s. Jeff Rawlinson | [email protected]

In a frantic world that never seems to stop moving, there are people who don’t seem to be negatively affected by life’s hectic pace. Such people come across as calm, helpful and understanding—all words often used to defi ne the qualities of a great leader.

They’re also words that, according to his colleagues, fit Chris Iwata, a City College alumnus and dean of Fine Arts and Humanities.
Iwata has worked as the dean of Fine Arts and Humanities at City College for 20 years and also studied at City College from 1974 to 1976.

“I never thought I would be returning to City College in any capacity, let alone [as] a dean,” Iwata says.

After City College, Iwata transferred to California State University, Northridge, where he worked as the assistant coach of the debate program. After graduating, he was hired as the interim director of the debate team at Northridge in 1980.

With an opportunity to teach full time as a communications professor, Iwata came back to City College in 1982. He also became the coach of the school’s speech and debate program, which Iwata says was the first stepping stone to working in administration.

“As a coach, your job is to motivate students to excel in a particular area,” says Iwata. “This was a valuable experience which helped me to consider becoming the dean.”

The “nagging” of his friend and colleague, Les Read, Iwata says, was an even bigger determining factor for his choice. Read was the interim Dean of Fine Arts and Humanities in 1992 and, while he held the position, he constantly encouraged Iwata to apply, Iwata says.

Read died before the end of the semester, however, and his death motivated Iwata to make a change.

“In many ways [Read’s death] motivated me to give it my best shot,” says Iwata. “I felt that I had a responsibility to at least give it my best.”

Later, after Iwata was selected as dean, he says he faced a steep learning curve.
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“There is always something new to learn in the job,” Iwata says. “One of the reasons I am still here is because I am always learning something.”

Now, Iwata’s duties include community outreach in an effort to spread awareness of fine arts and humanities.

He also forges partnerships within the community to benefit City College and the community itself, he says. Longtime friend Sharon Terry, City College’s President of the Classified Senate, says that Iwata hasn’t changed since she first met him 25 years ago.

“I always thought of Chris as [a] closet hippy,” says Terry, laughing. “Long hair with grey wing and blue jeans. He might act like a manager, but he’s a hippy.”

And, Terry says, Iwata is responsive to everybody, whether they are working with him or in his division.

“You can call him with a frantic message and he will calmly do the best he can to get it done,” says Terry.

Larry Dun, interim dean of matriculation and longtime friend and colleague, calls Iwata “a friendly person with great people skills.”

Iwata isn’t just nice, says Dun. He is also modest.

“People see [Iwata] as a person who provides leadership,” says Dun. “He brings an approachable style to the campus and doesn’t wear his title on his sleeve.”

After being at City College for more than 25 years, Terry says, Iwata has become a helpful presence on campus.

“Chris is a great guy, but I hope he doesn’t retire before me,” says Terry. “The campus would miss him.”

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