Hitomi Yoshida, former manager of diversity programs at Penn Museum, has taken over as office coordinator for the Pan-Asian American Community House. Yoshida replaces Kusum Soin, who retired in May after holding the role for more than 18 years.
Yoshida, a 1995 graduate of the Graduate School of Education, brings an extensive background in intercultural education and community work to the role. Described as a “natural connector” by Ellen Owens, Yoshida’s former co-worker at the Penn Museum, Yoshida will regularly work with PAACH student leaders and staff to facilitate programming.
Yoshida said her favorite part of the job so far has been meeting with the center's "amazingly rich and diverse" community of students.
"PAACH is a sort of resource for students, but it's very mutual," Yoshida said. "To me, it's reciprocal, right, because they're teaching me about their experiences."
Yoshida said she will focus on creating opportunities for students to realize their strengths and utilize their cultural backgrounds.
“I see my job as a coordinator as more of nurturing talent," she said. "If you call it mentoring, that’s mentoring, but I spot so much talent and capacity within these students."
Yoshida attributes her outlook on mentorship to her time at GSE, where she studied inquiry-based teaching strategies. As a mentor, Yoshida said her approach is to ask "very reflective, in-depth questions as a facilitator to promote learning and growth."
"The learning that I gained, the philosophy and approach that I gained from that two years — it was just very eye-opening," Yoshida said.
After graduating from Penn, Yoshida went on to work at Temple University's Intergenerational Center. There, she partnered with local organizations that serve immigrant communities in facilitating conversations between youths and elders.
Yoshida returned to Penn in January 2015 as Penn Museum’s first ever diversity programs manager. In the role, Yoshida managed the International Classroom program, where she worked with educators from around the world to teach Philadelphia students in K-12 education about different cultural traditions.
Ellen Owens, the director of learning programs at Penn Museum, worked with Yoshida on the education program. She said Yoshida built "incredible relationships" with the international educators who grew under her guidance.
"She really likes to bring people in contact with one another that have things to share," Owens said. "So in that regard I feel like she can put students in contact with departments or resources they might need."
Before leaving Penn Museum, Yoshida worked with Owens to create a program for K-12 schoolchildren called "Inquiry into China," and hired two Chinese educators for the program.
As coordinator, Yoshida will work with PAACH’s intern staff, facilitate the planning of Asian Pacific American Heritage Week, and help cultivate PAACH Pals, a new discussion-based program housed in the cultural center.
PAACH Director Peter Van Do said Yoshida's background in diversity and education stood out to him in the search process, as well as Yoshida's "connectedness with the local Asian-American community here in Philadelphia." He added that Yoshida has been "hitting the ground running" since starting at PAACH in August, and recently helped hire five new interns for the center.
Asian Pacific Student Coalition Chair and College senior Kamal Gill was one of the students on the committee who met with Yoshida before she was hired. He noted her extensive working experience at Penn, and said that when he spoke to Yoshida, she was already brainstorming possible PAACH collaborations with community groups.
Van Do added that he looks forward to having Yoshida's "fresh eyes and new perspective" in expanding PAACH's work.
"I think that Hitomi's strength would be connecting with the local community and connecting students with the local community," Van Do said
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