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Graduate College Deans


Wojtek chodzko-zajko

Wojtek-Chodzko-ZajkoWojtek Chodzko‑Zajko earned a bachelors degree in Education from the University of London and a Ph.D. degree in Kinesiology from Purdue University.  Chodzko-Zajko’s primary research interests are in the area of aging and health. He is the Shahid and Ann Carlson Khan Endowed Professor and Dean of the Graduate College at the University of Illinois. In his role as Dean of the Graduate College, Chodzko-Zajko leads campus efforts in setting policies, defining standards, and enabling excellence in graduate programs, graduate research, and graduate student life.

In his professional life, Chodzko‑Zajko remains active in the dissemination of information about healthy aging through his work on several major professional advisory boards. He served on the World Health Organization committee that developed the WHO Guidelines for Physical Activity among Older Persons. Chodzko-Zajko was the Principal Investigator for a series of projects charged with developing a national strategy for promoting healthy aging in the USA. The National Blueprint: Increasing Physical Activity among Adults Age 50 and Older serves as a guide for multiple organizations, associations, and agencies, to inform and support their planning work related to increasing physical activity among America's aging population. Chodzko-Zajko chaired the writing group that authored the American College of Sports Medicine’s Position Stand on Physical Activity and Exercise for Older Adults.

He currently serves, as co-chair of the Exercise is Medicine committee on older adults. Chodzko-Zajko was the founding Editor of the Journal of Aging and Physical Activity from 1992-2002.  He served as Chairman of the Board of Directors of the American Council on Exercise and is a Past-President of the American Kinesiology Association.


Executive Associate Dean

John C. Hart

John C. Hart is a professor in the Department of Computer Science, College of Engineering, where he studies computer graphics. His work on computer graphics over the past 25 years has been supported by Adobe, AT&T, DARPA, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, Nokia, NVIDIA and the NSF. He has also worked with graphics hardware manufacturers, defense contractors, visual effects studios, game developers and a medical imaging startup, and provided IP expertise for Microsoft, NVIDIA, AMD (ATI) and GPH (SGI). He is the graphics area editor for ACM Books, a past Editor-in-Chief of ACM Transactions on Graphics, a past member of the ACM SIGGRAPH Executive Committee, a co-author of “Real-Time Shading,” a contributing author to “Texturing and Modeling: A Procedural Approach,” and an executive producer of the documentary “The Story of Computer Graphics.”

Hart also contributes to the oversight of campus IT infrastructure. He serves on the campus IT Governance Executive Committee and chairs it's IT Governance Research Subcommittee. He is a campus senator, chairs the Senate IT Committee and serves on the Senate Executive Committee. In the past, he chaired both the campus’s Stewarding Excellence Committee on IT, and the College of Engineering IT governance planning committee. Hart has also served in the Computer Science department as Director of Graduate Studies and Area Chair of HCI, Graphics and Visualization, and for the College of Engineering as Chair of its Promotion and Tenure Committee and Vice-Chair (Dean is Chair) of its Executive Committee.

Areas within the Graduate College:

  • Academic programs - Graduate programs and policies (courses, degrees, minors, concentrations, etc.) including:
  • Committee on Extended Education and External Degrees (CEEED)
  • Illinois Professional Science Masters (PSM)
  • Graduate College representative on the Senate Education Policy Committee
  • Graduate & Professional Admissions


Associate Deans

Kim Shinew

Kimberly Shinew is a professor in the Department of Recreation, Sport and Tourism, University of Illinois. She received her Ph.D. in Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management from Clemson University. Her research focuses on the interrelated impacts of race, ethnicity, social class, and gender on leisure preferences/behaviors, the factors that make leisure and leisure services problematic for marginalized populations, including environmental degradation, insufficient access to open spaces, local crime, and undocumented status, the roles of leisure spaces/activities in facilitating interaction among diverse groups, and the roles of leisure in encouraging physical activity and active living.  Shinew’s research has been funded by the USDA Forest Service, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and National Recreation and Park Association. Her research has been published in Journal of Leisure Research, Leisure Sciences, Sex Roles, Journal of Physical Activity & Health, Annals of Behavioral Medicine, Preventive Medicine, Journal of Immigrant and Refugee Studies, Qualitative Research in Sport and Exercise, American Journal of Health Promotion and other outlets. She served as the editor of the Journal of Leisure Research from 2008-2013. She recently co-edited a book titled, Race, Ethnicity and Leisure: Perspectives on Research, Theory, and Practice.

At the University of Illinois, she has served as a member of the Assessment of the Illinois Doctoral Experience (AIDE) Review Committee and as the Associate Head of her department. She has also been a member of the University Diversity Initiatives Committee, Campus Budget Oversight Committee, Stewarding Excellence @ Illinois-Advisory Committee, Provost’s Advisory Committee, University Promotion and Tenure Committee, and chair of the Senate Committee on Equal Opportunity and Inclusion.

Areas within the Graduate College:

  • Assessment of the Illinois Doctoral Experience (AIDE)
  • Academic programs, with a focus on Social and Life/Biological Sciences
  • Special initiatives related to Graduate Education


Assata Zerai

Dr. Assata Zerai is director Center for African Studies and associate professor of Sociology at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. She received her Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Chicago. Her scholarship focuses on the ways that race, class and gender as interlocking spheres are reflected in maternal and child health, safe water and sanitation, evangelical religious settings and anti-war activism. Her research expertise includes (1) development and testing Africana Feminist methodologies for social analysis and social organizing. She has used insights from this research to study maternal substance use in the U.S., maternal and child health in sub Saharan Africa, and a number of other sites, including work to understand ways to incorporate the safe water and sanitation technologies without reproducing inequality in the sites under study. (2) She has conducted multilevel analyses of child health in the U.S. Her most recent publication is Hypermasculinity and State Violence in Zimbabwe Undermining Family Wellbeing:  An Africana Feminist Analysis of Maternal and Child Health (2014, Africa World Press). 

In Fall 2015, Zerai recieved the Larine Y. Cowan Award for Leadership in Diversity.


Areas within the Graduate College:

  • Educational Equity Programs and other Graduate College diversity initiatives, including: Illinois Partners for Diversity (IPD)
  • SPI Mentoring @ Illinois
  • ASPIRE early admission program
  • Community of Scholars (COS) Campus Visit Program
  • Summer Research Opportunities Program (SROP)
  • Summer Pre-Doctoral Institute (SPI)
  • Graduate College Fellowships (for under-represented students)
  • Research on equity and access to graduate education at Illinois
  • Chair of Ambassadors for Diversity and Access in Graduate Education (ADAGE)
  • Chair of the Graduate College’s Council on Equity and Access (CEA)


Assistant Deans

Anne Kopera

Anne Kopera serves as Assistant Dean for Graduate Student Experiences and the Graduate College Ombudsperson.  In this role, she works with students and departments to navigate problems and conflicts and identify options for resolution, including problem solving, referrals, and coordination with other university offices. Kopera counsels graduate students on academic and non-academic matters including providing information on campus policies; coaching students on how to approach their problems; recommending corrective action such as petitions, mediation, and grievances; providing advice with respect to wellness and work-life balance; and providing referrals to appropriate campus units. She also counsels faculty, Directors of Graduate Study, and departmental staff on graduate student academic and non-academic matters including explaining and interpreting campus policies; advising on best practices; recommending corrective action such as academic performance reviews, petitions and mediation; providing advice with respect to graduate student wellness and work-life balance; and providing referrals to appropriate campus units. In addition, she provide leadership, coordination and oversight for new graduate student orientation processes and programs. 

A native of Chicago, Kopera completed her A.B., M.A. (both in English) and M. Ed. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She earned her Ph.D. from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Prior to joining the Graduate College in 2007, she served as Director of the Arts and Sciences Advising Center and as Assistant Dean for Advising Services at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. In these roles, she advised thousands of students, provided career and academic support services, and coordinated academic advising services for the College of Arts and Sciences.


Alexis Thompson

Alexis Thompson is Assistant Dean for Graduate Student Development and Postdoctoral Affairs. In this role, she oversees the Graduate College Career Development Office, Thesis Office and Postdoctoral Affairs Office. She is committed to providing resources and support to help graduate students and postdocs excel in their current roles and throughout their careers. She also plays an active role in many Graduate College-wide events, including the annual mentoring workshop for faculty, the Graduate College Symposium and Commencement. She is currently serving as president of the Graduate Career Consortium, a national organization of people providing career and professional development for doctoral and postdoctoral scholars.

Thompson completed bachelor of science degrees in Chemistry and Physics from Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas and a Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She joined the Graduate College in 2008 and previously served as the Assistant Director of Career Development and the Director of the Postdoctoral Affairs Office.