Kerfuffle Foundation Gives $1 Million to School of Education During Pandemic Year

by Robin Dutton-Cookston, Office of Development Communications

When USF made the shift to remote learning in the face of the pandemic, the School of Education focused its efforts on supporting students affected by the converging pandemics of the coronavirus, the nation's reckoning with racial injustice, and a host of other challenges presented by the various social, political and economic disruptions. Fortunately, a generous gift of $1 million from the Kerfuffle Foundation helped bridge the gap and build capacity for the School of Education to increase scholarships and build social justice programming to support those who needed it most.

Students at the Heart

The infusion of unrestricted funds from the Kerfuffle Foundation allowed the School of Education’s Dean Shabnam Koirala-Azad to direct the majority of the gift toward students, offering 151 scholarships to future teachers, educational leaders, and mental health professionals over the past year. 

Michiko M. Kealoha ‘22 is one such student. When the pandemic hit, she and her partner made the difficult choice to leave their home of five years and relocate to the East Bay to move in with Kealoha’s mother and grandmother and engage in elder care. As a doctoral student in the International and Multicultural Education (IME) program, Kealoha juggled working full-time at Cañada College, attending her program at USF in a remote environment, and caring for aging family members in a time of crisis.

“I am so grateful to USF,” said Kealoha, who was able to continue her studies at USF thanks to a scholarship provided by the Kerfuffle Foundation. “Scholarships and supportive faculty helped me to stay in the program.” 

Kealoha defended her doctoral dissertation proposal 14 days in advance of the due date of the birth of her first child.

The financial support provided by the Kerfuffle Foundation served as a lifeline. “It’s important for [them] to know that I was trying to feed and house my family and support them and be a student. And I didn’t have to worry about continuing my education,” says Kealoha. “I want to pay it forward and do the same things for my students.”

A Focus on Equity and Justice

"This generous gift gave us the financial backing to both take care of our community while continuing to imagine and create spaces and conditions necessary for a more equitable, just, and constructive post-pandemic world," said Dean Koirala-Azad. 

In addition to a significant increase in student financial support, the donation from the Kerfuffle Foundation also enabled initial funding for the creation of programs and spaces that seek to address the challenges of the moment through the generation and application of new knowledge. 

These new programs include the SOE's Strategic Prioritizing Process and other resulting initiatives, including professional development and support of faculty and staff, a re-envisioning of partnerships with Bay Area schools and communities, program development such as a new concentration in Racial Justice in Education at the doctoral level, and the launch of the SOE's new Center for Humanizing Education and Research (C-HER). 

These efforts have brought national attention to the School of Education, raising the school’s profile nationwide as a standard-bearer in the advancement of educational justice during a challenging time.

I will always be deeply grateful to the Kerfuffle Foundation for believing in our work, for investing in the training of education professionals of the future, and in so doing, assisting us in the work of designing a different educational landscape based on principles of equity and justice," said Dean Koirala-Azad.

To help more students have access to scholarships, please consider making a gift in support of the School of Education as part of Changing the World From Here: Campaign for the University of San Francisco.