Meet Sei Yoshioka-Cefalo, Academic Program Manager

Sei Yoshioka-Cefalo made a huge career change after 19 years as a counselor.
Sei Yoshioka-Cefalo is the academic program manager for the School of City and Regional Planning in the College of Design. (Photo by Allison Carter)

Sei Yoshioka-Cefalo is the academic program manager for the School of City and Regional Planning in the College of Design. (Photo by Allison Carter)

After providing counseling services to college students for 19 years, Sei Yoshioka-Cefalo decided to make a change. In November 2019 he became the academic program manager for the School of City and Regional Planning in the College of Design, where he oversees finance and budgeting, human resources, and general operations.

“I made a huge career change,” said Yoshioka-Cefalo, who has a master’s degree in counseling psychology from New York University and worked for City University of New York, Pepperdine University, and Emory University. He said he feared he wasn’t going to be an expert anymore, and he was scared about trying something new.

“When I spoke with people who know me well, they all said that maybe it was time to step out of my comfort zone,” he said. “So I took a leap of faith and accepted my current position. Each day has been exciting because I’m learning a new set of skills and new systems.”   

Yoshioka-Cefalo said he is gaining a better understanding of the business of higher education and that will help him become a better administrator. He also values the encouragement he has received from his colleagues in the School of City and Regional Planning and across campus. It has helped him grow more comfortable in his new role.

“The level of support that I’ve gotten from the people I work with has been absolutely amazing. I appreciate their patience and their willingness to help,” he said. “Even if I make a mistake they provide me with the resources to make sure I don’t make the same mistake again. That kind of accountability is something that I really appreciate.”

Drawing on his experience as a counselor, Yoshioka-Cefalo began facilitating virtual check-in meetings with graduate students last fall.

“The meetings are casual and they give me an opportunity to see how our students are doing,” he said. “Graduate programs are hard. So this is an open forum for them to tell us what they need to succeed. It’s important for them to know they have resources for support. If it’s something that I can take care of at the School, I will. And If they need to be referred out for counseling, I call the Center for Assessment, Referral, and Education (CARE).”

Away From the Office

Yoshioka-Cefalo’s interests include aromatherapy, candle making, and commercial aviation.

“I know that some people say aromatherapy is not science. But I believe that certain scents have an effect; lavender is calming, sweet orange is uplifting, and peppermint perks you up,” said Yoshioka-Cefalo, who has been into aromatherapy for more than 20 years.

“One day I just went into a shop and bought a few books and a few bottles of essential oils,” he said, explaining how it began. Working with essential oils led to candle making.

“The first time I made candles they were lopsided and ugly and the wicks were not placed properly. They weren’t functional at all,” he said, laughing. Then he watched YouTube videos and improved his technique.

“Now my candles are very nice,” he said. He doesn’t sell the candles, but he sometimes gives them to family, friends, and co-workers.

His fascination with commercial aviation began when he was a child and has never waned.

As he put it, “Most people just want to get in and out of an airport, but I could literally sit at an airport and watch planes take off and land all day long.” He has a collection of almost 200 diecast airplane models displayed at home in an airport layout.

“I have a small airport here in my office as well, but my airport at home is expansive,” he said. “It has upper, mezzanine, and lower levels; terminals 1, 2, and 3; satellite terminals A, B, and C, and the Bucchi and Slinky Memorial Concourse — named for my two cats that I had for 17 years,” he said.

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