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Meet the SOE Leadership Team

08-07-2014
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The SOE Office of Communications & Outreach sat down with Dean Kumashiro and Associate Deans Flores, Koirala-Azad and Thomas to learn about them, how they spent their summer and the advice they have for incoming graduate students. You may be surprised by some of their responses!

Dr. Kevin Kumashiro

Dean, USF School of Education

Where did you grow up?

I was born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii. My father’s family is from Honolulu and my mother’s family is from the Big Island. Most of my family still lives in Hawaii.

How long have you been a part of USF?

I joined USF in July 2013. My move to USF is actually a return to the Bay Area after 10 years living in different parts of the country—most recently, Chicago.

What is the best thing you did this summer?

The highlight of my summer was attending a yoga retreat. Four years ago I attended a meditation retreat led by Thích Nhất Hạnh. It was a powerful and important experience for me. Attending the yoga retreat this summer helped me reconnect with what I learned several years ago.

What is something that people may be surprised to learn about you?

If I did not work in higher education, I would be a yoga teacher!

What is one piece of advice you would give a new graduate student?

I encourage graduate students to reflect on how their work is part of something bigger. We often get so caught up in our day-to-day business, we lose sight of the larger movement we are contributing to—education as social justice. We need constant reminders of the larger, more collective work that has to happen. The Associate Deans and I do this together. We take time to reflect on the relationship between our work, and the mission of the School. For me, this makes the work feel more meaningful and helps me keep things in perspective. Even when the work is draining, I am reminded that I am contributing to something much larger.


Dr. Elena Flores

Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, USF School of Education

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Where did you grow up?

I grew up in the country in Wyoming on sugar beet farms where my father worked as a farm laborer. We raised animals, had a large garden with lots of vegetables, spent a lot of family time fishing, camping, and hiking in the Big Horn Mountains.

How long have you been a part of USF?

I started working at USF in the Counseling Center in a part-time psychologist position serving Latin@ students in 1994. I was hired as an assistant professor in the USF Counseling Psychology Department in January 1995, so I have been in an academic position for 19.5 years.

What is the best thing you did this summer?

Being a part of the USF cultural immersion experience in San Salvador, El Salvador this summer was one of the most profound and transformative learning moments in my educational life.

What is something that people may be surprised to learn about you?

I am a country girl at heart who used to sew her own clothes and enjoy simple farm living.

What is one piece of advice you would give a new graduate student?

I always tell graduate students to cherish this time in their graduate professional program to delve deep into the theory and concepts of the profession in a critical, thoughtful way and to reflect on their own growth and development during the training and practice of the skills in the profession.


Dr. Shabnam Koirala-Azad

Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, USF School of Education

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Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Kathmandu, Nepal.

How long have you been a part of USF?

I’ve been a part of USF for 10 great years!

What is the best thing you did this summer?

I gave my first webinar this summer. I was able to share my work on activist scholarship and participatory research with over 200 participants from around the world. I was blown away both by the technology and the outstanding individuals involved in grassroots change initiatives across the globe! I learned so much and was deeply humbled and inspired.

What is something that people may be surprised to learn about you?

Among the unfortunate effects of Westernization and globalization of Nepal in the 1970s and 80s is my love for popular music from the 1980s. I can sing along to most 80s chart toppers and even some one-hit wonders!

What is one piece of advice you would give a new graduate student?

Learning is an individual and collective endeavor—stay grounded in who you are but open yourself up to the new perspectives and people you will encounter at SOE.


Dr. Christopher Thomas

Associate Dean for Strategy, Assessment, & Impact, USF School of Education

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Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Evansville, Indiana. It is a little bit Midwest and South combined.

How long have you been a part of USF?

This will be the start of my 8th year at USF.

What is the best thing you did this summer?

The best thing I did this summer was see my mom. She is battling cancer, so every chance I get to see her is great.

What is something that people may be surprised to learn about you?

People are often surprised to hear that I was a kindergarten teacher before becoming a school principal.

What is one piece of advice you would give a new graduate student?

Graduate school is a huge commitment. You have to make time for the things that are most important in life. It is very easy to just work. Even when spending time with family and friends, your mind can wander back to school or work. Make sure to schedule time where you can completely focus on family or friends. They will be supportive of you, but you have to make at least some time when you can be fully present with them in mind and space.

Written by School of Education