The start of every academic year tends to herald the new: fresh faces, experiences and opportunities. For the College of Environmental Design (ENV), it also applies to leadership, in the form of its new permanent associate dean, Mary Yu Danico.
Danico is an unconventional, dynamic addition to a 1,400-student college whose disciplines – architecture, landscape architecture, art and art history, regenerative studies, and urban and regional planning – shape and give context to the spaces in which we live and create culture. But, as she points out, relationships aren’t just inherent between people and groups but also between people and the spaces, structures and visual arts that transmit societal needs and perspectives.
“If you know sociology, sociology is everything,” Danico said. “It transcends college boundaries.”
“A highly accomplished professor, Dr. Danico brings an abundance of problem-solving and people skills to the challenging job of associate dean,” says Dean Michael Woo. “Her skills and talents will enable her to successfully address ENV’s many operational needs and initiatives.”
Danico’s duties involve managing the college budget and staff, coordinating the curriculum review and implementation process, and the planning and use of instructional space. She is serving as a liaison at various capacities, from enrollment management to overseeing reviews of student academic matters. She will also be an active part of the college’s fundraising activities and the development of on- and off-campus programs.
As associate dean, Danico says her goals are to continue solidifying the college’s shared vision of providing a cutting-edge curriculum for one of the few public universities whose environmental design program consistently ranks in the top 10 nationwide; finding innovative financial solutions to create more instructional, lab and class spaces for students and faculty; and increasing interdisciplinary opportunities by “creating new linkages internally and across other colleges.”
“Our faculty works hard teaching, writing publications and mentoring students,” Danico says. “As a college, we want to support them every way we can. We have so many great talents here, it makes my job easy.”
Danico began teaching at Cal Poly Pomona immediately after earning her Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Hawaii at Manoa. A prolific author in the area of Asian American studies, her expertise focuses on the intersectionality in social justice, youth culture and post-suburban transnational communities. In 2005-06, she was a senior Fulbright scholar at Ewha University, in Seoul, Korea. She served as the president of the Association for Asian American Studies (AAAS), a national academic association, from 2012-14. In 2014, she received the Outstanding Mentor award from AAAS.
In the College of Letters, Arts & Social Sciences, she taught sociology for 17 years and served as vice chair of the Department of Psychology & Sociology for eight years, during which she initiated several student mentorship programs. Her tenure in CLASS resulted in major university awards – the 2014-15 George P. Hart Award for Outstanding Faculty Leadership, the Partnership Award from the Division of Student Affairs and the Outstanding Advisor of the Year in the CLASS.
She plans to bring that energy to ENV during a time of change. “With President (Soraya) Coley coming in,” Danico notes, “there is a potential for a mind-shift, a culture transformation, that we can do more things to help our students.”
Prior to pursuing her doctorate, Danico rose through the ranks at the Nutrisystem headquarters in Northern California – for the higher pursuits of advocacy and education.