UC Berkeley Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Stephen Sutton announced Sunny Lee as the permanent Assistant Vice Chancellor and Dean of Students on Tuesday.
Since July 2019, Lee served as the interim dean of students. Sutton said her leadership throughout the last few months resulted in him ending the national search and appointing her as the permanent assistant vice chancellor and dean of students. Lee has extensive experience working with students, including being the dean of students for Colorado State University’s Semester at Sea program.
“She has demonstrated a collaborative spirit and creative problem solving during some very challenging times, including the recent campus power outages and COVID-19,” Sutton said in an email. “I can think of no one better positioned to serve as our Dean of Students.”
Rooted in her undergraduate experience at UC Irvine, Lee said she has cultivated her leadership and activism throughout her higher education and later in her work at Pomona College’s Asian American Resource Center.
Lee sailed three times on a ship with the Semester at Sea program. She said the opportunity to be flexible and adaptable in response to uncertainty during the voyages helped prepare her for the PG&E power outages and the COVID-19 pandemic. She recognized her strength in her ability to stay calm among chaos.
With Assistant Vice Chancellor and Associate Dean of Students Samuel Santos, Lee oversees 12 campus entities including the Career Center, Public Service Center, ASUC Student Union and Student Legal Services. As the new dean of students, she is the first responder to student crises, including protests and student deaths, according to Lee.
Additionally, Lee sits on campuswide committees to represent student perspectives and experiences, as many campus administrators may not be so close to the students’ point of view. She also regularly meets with the ASUC and the Graduate Assembly to get a variety of opinions and perspectives on campus issues.
“The student population has been one of the brightest, most intelligent, motivated student bodies I’ve ever worked with. To me, it’s such a privilege and it’s so exciting,” Lee said. “Berkeley graduates go on to literally change the world and to be a small part of helping to shape that experience is such a great honor and privilege.”
Lee said she hopes to enhance the student experience and assist students, as well as faculty, in finding their community at UC Berkeley. She added that the pandemic allows for increased innovation and creativity in making connections.
Her predecessor, former dean of students Joseph Greenwell said the opportunity to appoint Lee as interim dean allowed him to know her as a dedicated professional and student advocate committed to equity. He said he believes campus will benefit greatly from her leadership.
“Stay true to who you are for you, Sunny,” Greenwell said in an email. “You bring incredible assets to this role and your voice is needed.”
A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Sunny Lee worked at Berkeley Study Abroad’s Semester at Sea program. In fact, Lee worked at Colorado State University’s Semester at Sea program.