In her role as the director of George Mason University’s Child Development Center (CDC), Shira Kulok leverages her creativity, knowledge, and more than 20+ years of experience to enhance and further develop the center’s education program, while meeting the diverse needs of Mason families.
Parents of children at the center speak highly of Kulok’s leadership, especially during the post-pandemic transition. For her leadership and compassion during challenging times, Kulok has been recognized as July’s Employee of the Month.
“Shira has been a steadfast leader at the CDC, dealing with complex public health guidelines, concerned parents, challenging staff issues, and children returning to care after long periods of time at home,” said Sophia Balakian, an assistant professor in Mason’s School of Integrative Studies and CDC parent. “Time and again, she shows that her number one concern is the well-being—physical, psychological, and socio-emotional—of children under her care. This means that the parents are freed to do their work with peace of mind.”
“Shira and the staff at the CDC were immensely impactful and helpful to my family,” said Philip Wilkerson III, an employer engagement consultant at Mason’s University Career Services. “Our youngest, Miles, started attending the CDC at the height of the pandemic in Fall 2020. It was comforting to know that while we all were struggling with the demands of work and uncertainty, he was safe and cared for during the day…. The CDC provides a space of kindness, compassion, learning, and confidence that I know will have a lifelong effect on my son.”
“Shira has embodied the Mason value of ‘thriving together’ by creating a Mason CDC community essential to the well-being of its students and their caregivers,” said Jenna Krall, assistant professor in the Department of Global and Community Health and CDC parent.
“Over the past three years, I have developed great respect for the care and dedication Shira shows while running the CDC,” said community member Hunter Brown, the parent of two children at the center. “Shira has eased concerns of parents by providing transparent and consistent communication in the face of significant uncertainty.”
“Shira’s leadership has tremendously helped the Child Development Center get one of the highest ratings in the area,” says CDC parent Katherine Fakhri. “And the long waitlist is a prime example of how popular this program is.”
How did you come to Mason:
After working in a large corporate early childhood organization for 12 years, I searched for an organization that offered a smaller community and opportunities for me to develop curriculum and programming together with my team. The opening at Mason's CDC came just at this time and seemed perfect. My experiences at the center have offered me the space to strengthen my skills as a leader, shape a program based in research and high standards that support children's development, and raise awareness to the importance of prioritizing the well-being of both children and educators through mindfulness and nature-based play.
Best day on the job:
My best days on the job are when we are well staffed, and my team feels at ease and supported. When I go home knowing we all experienced a sense of fulfillment during the day, I know we did our job well.
What do you like best about working at Mason:
There's a lot I enjoy about working for Mason. I enjoy walking the beautiful campus during a break in the day, but what I enjoy most is the sense of community. Wherever I go on campus, or whichever department I contact for assistance, I feel like I belong, and I feel supported. Of course, the best community of all is at the CDC. I am very fortunate to be supported by such a nurturing and dedicated team and have wonderful families and children to connect with each day.
What do you like to do when you’re not working:
When I'm not working, I enjoy walking in the woods, meditation, cooking, writing, and spending time with my family and dog.