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Graduate College Deans

Sarah Theule Lubienski, Interim Dean

Sarah Theule Lubienski                                                                                  Dr. Lubienski served two years as Associate Dean in the Graduate College before becoming the Interim Dean Designate. She has worked to institutionalize the ongoing examination and improvement of doctoral programs through the Assessment of the Illinois Doctoral Experience (AIDE).  She has also advanced efforts to broaden participation in graduate education through her leadership of the Illinois Partners for Diversity and related initiatives.

Dr. Lubienski is a Professor of Mathematics Education in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, College of Education. Her research focuses on inequities in students’ educational outcomes and the policies and practices that shape those outcomes. She examines social class, race/ethnicity, and gender in large-scale studies using national datasets, as well as in smaller, classroom-based studies. Dr. Lubienski has chaired the National Assessment of Educational Progress Research Group and is a member of the American Educational Research Association’s Grants Governing Board. Her work has been funded by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), the National Center of Education Statistics, the National Science Foundation, the Illinois State Board of Education, and the Fulbright Program.  

 At the University of Illinois, she has served as director of the STEM Education Research Collaborative and is the PI and director of the IES-funded Postdoctoral Research Training Program in Mathematics Education. She has contributed to numerous campus initiatives, including the Gender Equity Council, the I-Promise mentoring program, and the Education Justice Project. She received the Thomas N. Urban Research Award and the Distinguished Scholar Award from the College of Education. She holds an M.S. in Mathematics and a Ph.D. in Curriculum, Teaching and Educational Policy from Michigan State University.


Associate Deans

Cara Finnegan

Dr. Cara Finnegan is an associate professor in the Department of Communication. She also holds affiliated appointments in Art History and Gender and Women's Studies, and is a core faculty member in the Center for Writing Studies. She is a scholar of rhetoric and visual culture whose research focuses on the persuasive role of photography in the public sphere. She is the author of two books on the history of U.S. photography: Picturing Poverty: Print Culture and FSA Photographs (Smithsonian, 2003) and Making Photography Matter: A Viewer's History from the Civil War to the Great Depression (Illinois, 2015). She is also co-editor of Visual Rhetoric: A Reader in Communication and American Culture (Sage, 2008). Her articles and reviews have been published in Rhetoric & Public Affairs, Quarterly Journal of Speech, Rhetoric Society Quarterly, American Historical Review, Argumentation and Advocacy, and other outlets. She is currently a Conrad Professorial Scholar in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

A faculty member at Illinois since 1999, Dr. Finnegan has served on the Stewarding Excellence Committee on the Graduate College, the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities (IPRH) advisory committee, and the Center for Writing Studies Executive Committee, among others. In the Department of Communication, she directed the Oral and Written Communication general education course for ten years and served for four years as the department's Director of Graduate Studies.

Areas within the Graduate College:

  • Interdisciplinary initiatives:  Focal Point and INTERSECT
  • Academic programs and policies (courses, degrees, minors, concentrations, etc.), with a focus on Humanities and Arts
  • Faculty workshops on mentoring graduate students


John C. Hart

Dr. 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.”

Dr. 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. Dr. 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


Kim Shinew

Dr. 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. Dr. 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 an associate professor of Sociology at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. She is a core faculty member in the Center for African Studies. 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).

Areas within the Graduate College:

  • Educational Equity Programs and other Graduate College diversity initiatives, including: Illinois Partners for Diversity (IPD)
  • Grad 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
  • Chair of the Graduate College’s Council on Equity and Access


Assistant Deans

Anne Kopera

Anne Kopera joined the Graduate College in September 2007. As Assistant Dean she is responsible for Graduate Student Academic Services (GSAS). GSAS provides services to currently enrolled graduate students and graduate programs in the areas of registration, records, student petitions, special situations, and conflict resolution. 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. She worked for NETCHE, a consortium of small Colleges in Nebraska, providing career and academic support services. She then coordinated advising services for the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where she eventually served as Director of the Arts and Sciences Advising Center and Assistant Dean for Advising Services.



Sharee Robinson

Sharee Robinson joined the Graduate College in October 2005. As Assistant Dean for Administration and Finance, she manages many of the resources within the college and has primary responsibility for the administration of graduate assistantship and fellowship policies. Robinson provides leadership for the Budget Office, Human Resources, Facilities Management, and the Fellowship Office.  Working closely with the Fellowship Board and the Dean of the Graduate College, Robinson is responsible for administering campus-level graduate fellowships and grant programs totaling some $5.5 million.

Robinson also provides leadership for the Office of External Fellowships and serves as the institutional representative for a number of externally funded fellowship programs, including the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute International Student Research Fellowship, and the Diversifying Higher Education Faculty in Illinois Program.

Robinson received a B.S. in Finance from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, College of Business and an MBA from Eastern Illinois University. After working for FMC Corporation for nine years, she began her career with the University of Illinois in 2001 as a member of the Finance Design and Implementation Team for the UI Integrate Project. She was a manager in University Accounting Services prior to beginning her work in the Graduate College.


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. Currently as part of the grant from the Council of Graduate Schools on enhancing financial literacy, she is working with units across campus to increase student awareness and use of financial education programs.

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.