Next President

The Occidental College Board of Trustees has appointed Dr. Tom Stritikus as the College’s 17th president. Stritikus comes to Occidental from his position as president of Fort Lewis College, a public liberal arts college located in Durango, Colorado.

The board unanimously selected Stritikus at the conclusion of a national search, advised by a search committee drawn from all segments of the college community. He will begin his term at Occidental on July 1 and will succeed Harry J. Elam, Jr., who announced in August 2023 that he will leave the College on June 30 after a four-year presidency.

“I am honored to have been selected to lead Occidental, an institution that defines excellence, equity and service,” Stritikus said. “I look forward to collaborating with world-class faculty and staff to engage the Los Angeles community and help students realize the full potential of an immersive liberal arts education.”

Stritikus will bring to Occidental more than three decades of higher education leadership experience, as well as an abiding commitment to values of inclusive excellence and equity.

Prior to his presidency at Fort Lewis, he was a deputy director of education at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, where he developed funding plans for initiatives to improve outcomes for low-income students and youth of color nationwide. Prior to that, he served as the dean of the University of Washington’s College of Education, which US News & World Report ranked as the sixth-best program in the nation during his tenure.

In his six years at Fort Lewis, Stritikus helped to reinvigorate a campus that served high percentages of first generation students and students of color. He oversaw record increases in fundraising and more than doubled the College’s cash endowment.

He also led the college as it embraced its role as a Native American-serving institution, which included engaging with Tribal Nations as partners and reckoning with the college’s complicated history as a former Native American boarding school.

“Dr. Stritikus’ demonstrated success in creating an inclusive campus environment, bolstering experiential learning, accelerating financial support for the mission and programs at Fort Lewis and being a consistent advocate for students, faculty, and academic excellence speak well to the alignment of his skills and experience with the needs and opportunities in the Occidental community,” said Lisa Link, chair of Occidental’s Board of Trustees.

As president, Stritikus will lead Occidental in bringing to fruition the Occidental Promise, the College’s integrated strategic plan. The plan focuses on providing students with a distinctive urban liberal arts experience grounded in the values of academic excellence, equity and justice, and immersive student learning in Los Angeles.

“The ability for our students to apply what they’re learning to issues in Los Angeles — one of the nation’s most dynamic and important cities — is a huge opportunity to show the world the value of a liberal arts education,” Stritikus said.

Art Peck, the Occidental alumnus, parent, and trustee who chaired the Presidential Search Advisory Committee, said trustees saw in Stritikus a deep commitment to the liberal arts, a student and faculty-centric leader, a person who understands what makes Occidental special, and a personal and humble connection to the transformative power of higher education.

“We are confident that, working within the framework and vision of the Occidental Promise, Dr. Stritikus will continue to fulfill the College’s mission of providing a diverse student body with an excellent educational experience that prepares them for leadership and citizenship in an increasingly complex world,” Peck said.

Stritikus’ scholarly work examines the effect of bilingual education policy and teacher practice on the academic lives of Latinx and Asian immigrants. A first-generation college student and son of immigrant parents, he received a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and earned his Ph.D. in language, literacy and culture from the University of California, Berkeley. He began his teaching experience as a Teach For America corps member in Baltimore.

Mark Suzman, CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, lauded Stritikus’ commitment to educational access.

“Dr. Stritikus has been a great leader in higher education for many years, dedicating his career to making sure that all students — no matter their background — experience great teaching and have every opportunity to succeed,” said Suzman.

Members of the Presidential Search Advisory Committee echoed the Board’s enthusiasm about Stritikus.

“Dr. Stritikus’ focus on building community partnerships during his time at Fort Lewis College resonates with Occidental’s mission of immersive, community-based learning,” said John McCormack, professor of biology, faculty council president and search committee member. “His time in both academia and philanthropy should give him a unique vantage point for pushing forward the implementation of our strategic plan.”

Claire Kosek ’25, who served as a student representative, said she believes Stritikus will be an outstanding president, mentor and friend to the Occidental community.

“Dr. Stritikus’ vision for the college offers a bridge between the beauty of what Occidental is and the creativity to explore what Occidental could be,” she said.

Elam said he looks forward to working with Stritikus and the Board to ensure a smooth leadership transition.

“I have had the privilege of working with Dr. Stritikus as a fellow elected board member of the American Council on Education,” said President Elam. “I am excited to watch Occidental grow and thrive in new ways under his leadership and to see him build on initiatives that we have underway. ”

The executive search firm Isaacson, Miller assisted Occidental College with the search.

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