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Obstacles are just opportunities in disguise to new Moorpark College Vice President

Dr.+Julius+Sokenu+is+the+Vice+President+of+Academic+Affairs+at+Moorpark+College%2C+and+is+responsible+for+the+academic+direction+of+the+college.+Photo+credit%3A+John+Louie+Menorca
Dr. Julius Sokenu is the Vice President of Academic Affairs at Moorpark College, and is responsible for the academic direction of the college. Photo credit: John Louie Menorca

Dr. Julius Sokenu is the Vice President of Academic Affairs at Moorpark College, and is responsible for the academic direction of the college. Photo credit: John Louie Menorca

Dr. Julius Sokenu is the Vice President of Academic Affairs at Moorpark College, and is responsible for the academic direction of the college. Photo credit: John Louie Menorca

Chuck Champion

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Ever since immigrating to America from Nigeria 30 years ago, Dr. Julius Sokenu, vice president of Academic Affairs at Moorpark College, hasn’t been unmindful to the biases in America. As a black, gay, single father, he steadfastly refuses to be stereotyped and has used these experiences to drive his ambitions and spirituality to greater heights.

“I came here, and I knew it was a racialized country, I wasn’t naïve. I came here because I knew I could have a better life, I could accomplish my dreams, my hopes and not be limited by where I came from or who I was,” said Sokenu.

Sokenu lives by the creed that issues and obstacles are merely disguised opportunities.

“You don’t complain, you just make changes to become part of the solution and not part of the problem,” said Sokenu.

Well respected by his peers and regarded for his calm and thoughtful approach to problems, Sokenu has many fans; not just at Moorpark, but at other colleges in the district as well. One such admirer is the interim vice president of Student Services at Oxnard College, Lisa Putnam.

“Dr. Sokenu is a genuine man who always places people at the center of his decision making,” said Putnam. “As a leader of the college, he focuses the conversations on students. This focus allows faculty and staff to engage in thoughtful discussions, even when the topic may be challenging.”

Throughout his life, Sokenu has enjoyed the full support of his family, which included his five siblings, his father, an accountant, his mother, a banker and his grandparents, who owned a jewelry business in Nigeria. His family had always hoped Julius would complete his studies, return to Nigeria and become involved in the family’s business. However, Sokenu had a different life plan.

After finishing high school in Nigeria at 15 years-old, he chose to return to England, where he was born, to do his “A-levels,” the equivalent of receiving an Associate’s degree. His next step even bolder.

“I wanted to be part of a free exchange of ideas, and the U.S. offered that opportunity,” said Sokenu. “I wanted to come to the United States; everyone wants to come to the U.S.” So he applied and received a scholarship from the University of Southern California, where he earned his Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and his Bachelor of Arts in English (Creative Writing).

He became involved as an officer in the African Students Association and began to appreciate being African and coming from a place that was considered a third world country.

“USC was very segregated. The black students were on one side of Tommy Trojan and the Asian students on that side,” said Sokenu. “I learned a lot about world economies and world cultures. I learn a lot about the importance of education. So for me, it was the first place I began to have a sense of myself as an educator, even though I was just a student.”

After graduating from USC, Sokenu went to Arizona State University, where he was a teaching assistant and earn his Master of Fine Arts degree (Creative Writing). That is was when he realized that he loved education. He got his Ph. D. from Boston University in 2004, while he was faculty and department chair of the English and Communications at Quinebaug Valley Community College in Connecticut.

While his education was traditional, Sokenu hasn’t shied away from challenging paths. After coming out, and realizing he would not be able to have his own natural born children, he elected to adopt. He took classes to prepare himself for this new role as a father and all while still reeling from the loss of his mother in a tragic air disaster; he knew that even with all of his accomplishments that life was fragile and everything could be lost in seconds. He needed to be close to family; one of his sisters was living in the Los Angeles area, and he was compelled to return. He is raising his son, Michael, who is a high school sophomore.

He applied to work at three community colleges and accepted a position here at Moorpark in 2007 as the Dean of the Media Arts department. In early 2017, Sokenu was appointed vice president of Academic Affairs. In this role, he is responsible for the academic direction of the college, working alongside President Luis Sanchez and vice presidents Barajas and Gebru.

According to Sanchez, Sokenu is different than most colleagues.

“He is unique, and the thing I think is so admirable about Julius is that he is a bona fide intellectual and a published poet but he is also very pragmatic, and he gets things done…Julius is right at the apex of both of those things[CC1] .”

“You’re not living in this world just for you,” said Sokenu. “You live in the world to honor your family, to honor your culture, your community, your ethnic group. You live in the world to honor your country, to honor your people, people like you. It is then you’re a citizen of the world. The best people are those who do that. That’s just how I was raised and how I have lived.”


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