A look back at Dean Toyoda’s time at Suffolk

Dean Maria Toyada and her colleagues are looking back at her time and accomplishments at Suffolk University as she prepares to start a new chapter at another New England institution.

Suffolk University announced on April 1 that Toyoda, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS), will be leaving Suffolk in June to serve as the senior vice president of academic affairs and provost of Western New England University.

Toyoda started as dean of CAS in 2015 after previously working as the associate dean for Interdisciplinary Studies and Global Initiatives at Villanova University’s College of Arts and Sciences. Prior to her tenure at Villanova, Toyoda was a research scholar at Stanford University’s Institute for International Studies, where she studied political finance.

In 2015, Toyoda was appointed as CAS dean by the Suffolk Board of Trustees in conjunction with a dean search committee. Professor Robert Allison, who was the chair of the search committee, said in an interview with The Journal in 2015 that Toyoda was the right choice because of her prior experiences.

“Maria is a stellar teacher, innovative scholar, an educational leader, a skilled administrator and the right person to lead the CAS into our next phase,” said Allison.

Toyoda explained that she heard about Suffolk two years before she was appointed as dean. While she was on an international trip, she met a group of students whom she thought were from Villanova. At the end of the day, she found out they were actually from Suffolk.

“I was just so impressed with the students that I began to look around [at Suffolk] online,” Toyoda said. “About a year later…I got an email from a recruiter saying there was a really great job at Suffolk to be a dean. I said ‘I know Suffolk, yes!’”

Since coming to Suffolk, Toyoda said her greatest success was the work she did with CAS faculty, both with the members that were here previously and those that were hired since she joined.

“I’m so proud of the faculty we have in the College of Arts and Sciences,” Toyoda said. “My team in the dean’s office worked very hard with the department chairs to find the very best faculty we could, and we’ve been very lucky.”

In 2016, Toyoda split the department of communications and journalism (CJN) to create the department of advertising and public relations (ADPR). CJN Professor Micky Lee explained that this move made the departments smaller, which helped improve the programs.

“I think it was a very wise move because [the departments] became so big that it was almost impossible to make any decisions,” Lee said. “Now that we are not so big, I think decisions can be made faster.”

Lee said the move also made sense due to the difference in content that both departments teach.

“If you think about the fast changing fields, advertising and public relations don’t really deal with mass media because it mainly deals with social media platforms,” Lee said. “[CJN] has a much more mass media-focused program.”

Political science and legal studies department Chair Rachel Cobb highlighted the work that Toyoda did to integrate more fields of study into CAS classes.

“I think she has really tried to nourish interdisciplinary programs and create intellectual vibrancy,” Cobb said.

In an email Provost Julie Sandell sent to CAS students, Suffolk will appoint an interim dean of CAS for the 2021-2022 academic year and begin a search for someone to permanently fill the position this summer. The new dean will be the ninth CAS dean at Suffolk.

Toyoda suggested that the new dean should have more conversations with faculty, students and staff about Suffolk to learn about what makes the university unique.

“Listen more than talk if you can. As I mentioned before, we have a wonderful community of students, faculty and alumni and they know a lot,” Toyoda said. “This is the fastest way of learning about the institution and finding out what makes this institution special.”