Office of Student Support Faces Changes, but Keep the Care Referrals Coming

As the Spring semester comes to a close, Student Affairs’ Office of Student Support (OSS) expresses our appreciation for your collaboration in addressing over 1,000 Care Referrals (as of May 2024). Dr. Laura Stallings, the Dean of Student Wellbeing, overseeing OSS and the Care Referral system, is pleased to announce that as of May 20th Sara Pitkanen, the Assistant Dean of Students of Students for Graduate Student Support, will be transitioning from OSS into her new role as the inaugural Associate Director of Clinical Services in Pacific’s Student Counseling Center. This exciting opportunity allows her to return to her roots as a licensed mental health therapist while embracing a leadership role focused on optimizing clinical operations to increase effectiveness in serving the growing mental health needs of our students. Pitkanen graduated from the University of Oregon with her Master’s of Education in Couples & Family Therapy in 2009. She worked in community mental health, behavioral health care, group practice, and private practice prior to joining Pacific in 2018. During Pitkanen’s time with OSS she demonstrated unyielding compassion, creativity, and determination in the pursuit of student support and advocacy. She led the OSS’s development of the Care Liaison Role and Network, and contributed to awareness and trust building with academic stakeholders contributing to increased utilization of the Care Referral System among Graduate and Professional Programs. 

Additionally, Justin Li will continue his vital leadership within the OSS by focusing his efforts on building on the current momentum with graduate student support and advocacy in his new role as the Assistant Dean of Students for Graduate Student Support, starting May 20th. Li first joined what is now the Office of Student Support in 2016, serving successively as the Student Support Specialist, Student Support Manager, and currently serves as Assistant Dean of Students for Undergraduate Student Support. During Li’s first five years at Pacific, he routinely served both undergraduate and graduate students. Now, he is shifting his focus to primarily support graduate and professional students. Li has over 20 years of experience in student support, advocacy, and crisis management. While in graduate school Li provided mental health services in multiple settings including college mental health at Northern Illinois University and UC Santa Cruz, community mental health, and serving on the Emergency Room Crisis Team at Illinois Masonic Hospital, a Level 1 Trauma Center in Chicago. Li spent 6 years as the Assistant Director of Student Support and Crisis Management at The New School in New York City. Immediately prior to joining Pacific, Li served as an overnight supervisor at Lines for Life in Portland, overseeing critical calls on several crisis phone lines, such as the National Suicide Lifeline and the Veteran’s Crisis Line. Dr. Stallings greatly appreciates Li’s dedication and unwavering support for our students and is looking forward to working with him as he collaborates with key stakeholders in continuing to develop innovative ways to meet the increasing retention risks, systemic barriers, and student wellbeing concerns that our graduate and professional students face. 

While these transitions happen, OSS remains in good stewardship with Tori Henning continuing in her role as our Case Manager. Henning joined OSS in June 2023 after graduating with a Master’s degree in Higher Education and Student Affairs Leadership from Grand Valley State University in Michigan. Henning has held meaningful roles in student conduct and conflict resolution, student advocacy, and college athletics as an assistant basketball coach to Grand Valley’s Women’s Club Basketball Team. She is excited to continue her work supporting and advocating for students here at Pacific. 

We are starting the hiring process for a new Assistant Dean of Students for Undergraduate Student Support and hope to have them join our team before the Fall 2024 semester. In the meantime, OSS remains available and eager to support our students, therefore continue to submit Care Referrals or email our team at

Tuesday, May 14, 2024