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New College of Education dean committed to its students, UTEP community

Alexia Xiomara Carmona
Clifton Tanabe is the new dean for the College of Education.

Walking into the dean’s office in the education building can be somewhat intimidating, but the new dean of the College of Education is far from that.

Clifton Tanabe, Ph.D. is welcoming, kind, and eager to work for and alongside students in the College of Education.

Tanabe is one UTEP’s newest additions to its era of change. He comes to El Paso from the University of Hawaii at Mānoa .

“I’m extremely grateful, honored, privileged and committed to joining this team and to working together with folks across the campus and the community,” Dr. Tanabe said.

Born in Indiana and raised in Honolulu. Tanabe has a master’s in educational foundations from UH Mānoa , a doctorate in educational policy studies and a law degree from the University of Wisconsin – Madison.

Before coming to El Paso, he actually knew about UTEP as a child. The University of Hawaii and UTEP were both members of the old Western Athletic Conference (WAC) for the better part of three decades.

Even as Tanabe grew passionate about education, he would hear about the work UTEP President Diana Natalicio was doing in the community and the work of the El Paso Collaborative for Academic Excellence (EPCAE).

“That collaborative work is very interesting to me because it resonated with some of the types of things that I was trying to do as a faculty member in various communities,” Tanabe said.

EPCAE works to respond to the needs of schools in the El Paso area, something Tanabe is very excited to be a part of.

“(EPCAE) is 25-years-old and that’s an amazing reality in and of itself. To have something exist for that long, it’s powerful,” Tanabe said.

Tanabe believes that working in the field of education creates a foundation for the future, especially in El Paso. He said the work that educators do can spark hope; providing a pathway for individuals.

“It’s challenging, but I keep that the back of my mind,” Tanabe said.

While the work may be tiring, Tanabe said he gets goosebumps as he drives home and is thrilled to contribute to UTEP’s mission even if it’s in a small way. Tanabe acknowledged that there is a lot of work that must be done within the college, which is why his biggest goal for this new school year is listening.

To Tanabe, the most successful educators and administrators at other institutions were those who “had a dose of humility” and put all their efforts trying to understand and learn, something he will be focusing on this year. 

Tanabe said he’s optimistic about the impact the college will be making moving forward.

The college is working hard on their partnerships with schools across the area to provide interesting, yet exciting new experiences for educators in the field. 

He hopes UTEP students notice the College of Education’s efforts in “continuing a culture of support” as well as their dedication in making sure students become “the best educational professionals.”

“I just have a tremendous drive to try to do better for students here to the extent that I’m capable of doing. I promise I will put every drop of energy into it,” Tanabe said.

Dr. Tanabe will also be a tenured professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Foundations, however students won’t be seeing him in the classroom this semester. The Honolulu native wants to get his feet under him before he steps back into the classroom.

While Tanabe has only been on the job for about six weeks now, he has already grown to appreciate El Paso and the UTEP community, especially the sunsets.

“I come from a place that has a reputation for beauty, but El Paso is every bit as beautiful,” Tanabe said. “Hawaiian folks pride themselves on the sunsets, but [El Paso’s] sunsets might be even prettier.” 

Brianna Chavez may be reached at [email protected].

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New College of Education dean committed to its students, UTEP community