Joanna Kourtidis ’05

A Women’s History Month Spotlight

Employee Joanna Kourtidis ’05 has been a Learning Specialist in USF’s Academic Resource Center since 2011. After graduating from USF in 2005, Joanna went on to graduate school, then returned to USF when the English Department beckoned her back to teach as an adjunct instructor. When the Learning Specialist position opened in the ARC in 2011, she quickly applied, having worked there many years prior when she was a student tutor.

As a Learning Specialist at USF, Kourtidis spends a lot of time meeting with students from all programs at the university–that even includes online students. They discuss plans for the student’s academic success, which “sometimes means time management and study skills, but other times it means managing a lot of other variables in their lives,” says Kourtidis.

She supervises tutors and Supplemental Instruction Leaders, so she’s often found doing observations, working through scheduling concerns, requesting study rooms, or reviewing lesson plans for study sessions. Like everyone else, gaps in her day are filled with reading, research, and attending to emails and meetings. She especially loves when students pop in for short pieces of advice, to celebrate a grade, to share news of a job offer, or to announce they received a grad school acceptance letter.

Kourtidis is very involved on campus. Some of her extra duties include working on the Retention Committee, the Assessment Committee for non-academic OGSM and the Writing Is Learning (WIL) Committee. She’s helped with AQIP and also coordinates mentors for “Foundations,” which is a special expererience for first-year students.

She also chairs the Women’s History Month (WHM) Committee, which engages the campus community in various activities to honor and celebrate Women’s History Month, which just so happens to be THIS month (March). Kourtidis first got involved when her former supervisor was hosting planning meetings in their office area, and Kourtidis overheard them. She approached the group and offered suggestions for some of the events being coordinated. Because the group liked her ideas, they invited Kourtidis to join the committee, and it was “history,” if you will. She eventually became chairperson.

“I really love this committee because no one participates as part of an obligation. Everyone participates to his or her ability. Some committee members share ideas and others really invest a lot of their time,” said Kourtidis. “I have always been passionate about women’s role in history and so it was a natural fit for me to jump in as a committee member. I think what really draws me to WHM is the focus we’ve always had on education. Our approach isn’t just ‘here’s some information,’ however. We focus on starting conversations on big issues that we think are important, and we try to think about meeting the needs of a variety of audiences—faculty and staff, students, and community members. By thinking about our programming this way—as conversation starters for a variety of audiences, I think helps keep our programming current and engaging.”

A lot of things will be happening on campus this month to celebrate women’s history. Throughout the entire month, the university will collect donations for Guardian Angel Community Services, an effort spearheaded by the Sisters of St. Francis, which helps empower people to improve the quality of their lives. GACS offers numerous initiatives including outreach, intervention, education, training, and addressing domestic violence and sexual assault.

The month kicked off with a lecture by Dr. Madonna Murphy and Dr. Deborah Glenn of the Education department, giving a presentation about Mary McLeod Bethune with an ad-hoc choir performance of “Ain’t I a Woman,” directed by music Professor Paul Laprade. On March 12, a breakfast panel will be hosted, featuring guests speaking about the “Finesse of Female Assertiveness.” Two days later, Petra Jamie will be honored with the annual Sister Clare Award in a special ceremony. Human trafficking will be discussed in a campus presentation on March 22, and an all-university book club meeting on March 27 will focus on “We Should All be Feminists” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. The final event of the month will be a women’s tea on March 28.
When asked about her favorite role model, Kourtidis says, “I think the answer to this question depends on what I’m trying to get done. I don’t think it’s very helpful to look to just one person because no one is perfect at all things—even if we have this myth of a work-life balance. You wear one hat at a time and decide when to wear which and for how long. But I think that Michelle Obama offers a great example of a woman whose shifts in those hats best mirror the kinds of choices I’d like to make.”

Kourtidis stays busy outside of work. She has two children, Dimitris (9) and Alexander (4), and is also working on her Ed.D. here at USF. In whatever free time she has left, she likes to work in the garden and spend as much time outside as possible.