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Faculty Spotlight: Mitsunori Misawa

Mitsunori MisawaOriginally from Japan, Mitsunori Misawa (PhD) came to the U.S. to pursue higher education opportunities which took him from Colorado to Alaska to Georgia and now Tennessee. Over the years, he has held a variety of positions in the private sector, non-profit organizations and public universitiesIn 2016, he joined the Vol Family as associate professor and associate department head of Educational Psychology and Counseling in the College of Education, Health and Human Sciences. 

Knowing he wanted to be a professor since his undergraduate years, Misawa’s own identity influenced his research early on. “Because of my experiences, and also, I witnessed many people identify themselves as racial minorities or sexual minorities or both, I was interested in seeing what other people like me experience in academic settings like higher education, for example, he explains.  

As a person of color and member of the LGBT+ community, he began conducting qualitative research on bullying in academia. I studied how gay, male faculty of color were surviving in higher ed because traditionally, higher education is more white, heterosexual male oriented. So, if you don’t identify as that particular population, I was wondering how they survive, he says.  

His interest in adults in higher education (including faculty, staff and students), the intersectionality of race, gender and sexual orientation, and how people’s positionality or identity influence how people interact with each other continues to permeate itself through his work and commitments at the University of Tennessee today 

As associate professor and associate department head of Educational Psychology and Counseling, Misawa teaches master’s and doctoral level courses such as adult learning, qualitative research methods and educational psychology. In his classes, he uses Queer Theory and Critical Race Theory pedagogy to help his students understand how agents influence educational experiences and determine the ways in which adult and higher education institutions can more effectively serve diverse populations in contemporary society through class dialoguediscussion and activities. 

He is also co-coordinator of the master’s educational psychology degree, coordinator for the graduate certificate for coordinated research methods and supervises approximately 30 masters and doctoral candidates.  

In fact, throughout this semester, Misawa and several of his doctoral students will be holding a series of workshops with TLI:  

“A man of many hats,” as he calls himself, Misawa has several additional responsibilities outside of his role in CEHHS. Currently serving as chair for the Chancellor’s Commission for LGBT+ People, Misawa leads the committee in advising the Chancellor in creating a more inclusive and diverse campus environment. He also serves as Faculty Fellow for the Division of Diversity and Engagement as well as the SEC & UT Academic Leadership Programs.  

With so many responsibilities you would think that Misawa has no time for anything else in his life, but you might be surprised. “I started body building when I got into my PhD program at UGA,” says Misawa. “I’ve been doing it ever since!” In addition to body building, Misawa and his partner love going to the mountains with their dog, and pre-COVID, they loved exploring downtown and going to concerts. He explains the importance of having a work-life balance saying, Saturday is my day…especially with COVID, you have to take a day offI’m not going to do anything related to school or work. It’s a day to just recover.”  

Visit our website for more information on the Inclusive Approach to Teaching & Learning Reading Community, a new initiative co-sponsored this semester by the Commission for LGBT+ People and the Pride Center.