According to Providence lore, a drink from the fountain outside the Providence Athenaeum compels the drinker to spend the rest of his life in the city. Although Roger Nozaki MAT '89 never took a drink the first time around, he didn't need to - his love for Brown and Providence and his dedication to public service have brought him back as director of the Swearer Center for Public Service and associate dean of the college.
A former executive director of the GE Foundation, Nozaki said his first job is to understand where the Swearer Center's programs, the Brown community and the Providence community are today.
"I see the Swearer Center as fundamentally about education and scholarship, impact in the community and opportunities for student leadership on important social issues," said Nozaki, who began the job Nov. 1.
"In order to achieve our goals in education and scholarship, I think we need to be just as rigorous about our work as any other department in the University," he said. "If we're not serious about our work in the community, I think the opportunities for learning, and creation of knowledge and understanding, are much lower."
The Swearer Center has a great reputation, he said, and its staff and programs provide "a terrific base to start from."
Nozaki received his undergraduate degree from Princeton University. His interest in education led him to Brown's master of arts in teaching program, which "appealed because it was grounded in the classroom." At the time, he also held a proctorship at the Swearer Center that examined faculty involvement in public service. He later worked at Campus Compact, a national coalition of college presidents centered on public service.
His attachment to Brown and the Prov-idence community drew him back. "I wasn't actually looking for a new job," he said. But the opportunity to be back at Brown and to be more directly in-volved in education and community work were appealing.
"Brown is a very different place from Princeton," Nozaki said. "In my experience, Brown has been an outwardly focused institution." Nozaki said he would not have been interested in a similar job elsewhere. "The students I've met with here are passionate, intellectually curious and engaged in the issues."
In addition, Nozaki said he thinks "the faculty and administration at Brown understand how engagement in the community can help strengthen education at Brown."
Nozaki has done public service work for much of his life. At the GE Foundation, he managed efforts to improve education for the disadvantaged. Those efforts focused on helping school systems build capacity to better serve their students.
Nozaki also co-founded the Pathways to College Network, which works to increase college attendance among underrepresented populations, and spent two years as a volunteer for adults with disabilities.
He credits his parents for teaching him about the importance of education and social justice from an early age. His parents, who were of Japanese descent, grew up during the Great Depression, lost their homes in Tokyo during World War II and came to the United States in the 1950s to start their lives over for a third time.
Nozaki said his new job brings him new challenges and new rewards. "It's been a great transition for me," he said, adding that he recognizes that the Swearer Center is a very different environment from the corporate world he left.
Some approaches from the corporate world may not be appropriate for the Swearer Center, Nozaki said, though he believes that his past experience is still relevant.
"Hopefully, there are things I can bring, in terms of how to focus efforts, think about outcomes, and how to get things done. But of course I am conscious of how all of this has to happen within the specific culture and context of Brown," he said. "Brown has a special place in higher education that I think lends itself to much more creativity, and is much more conducive to the work of the Swearer Center."
Former and current staff members at the Swearer Center were enthusiastic about Nozaki taking the helm.
"I'm absolutely thrilled with Roger's appointment," said former Swearer Center Director Peter Hocking, who worked at the center for 17 years. Hocking said he believed Nozaki would "help grow and develop" the center by bringing new energy and ideas. Hocking left the position to pursue teaching and art.
"We're very grateful to Peter," said Kath Connolly '89, senior associate director of the center. "He's made an enormous contribution to Brown."
Nozaki was selected by a search committee chaired by Margaret Klawunn, associate vice president for campus life and dean for student life.