Emil Tsao's profile photo

Emil Tsao

Relational Strategist, Oregon Department of Education

Emil Tsao's profile photo
Location: Portland, OR
Start Year: 2023
TRHT Pillar: Law


Originally from Albuquerque, New Mexico, Emil is first-generation Filipino and second-generation Chinese. Emil was appointed to the role of relational strategist for the Oregon Department of Education (ODE). This leadership position is intended to support and nurture systems, relationships and ways of being for ODE’s Office of Education Innovation & Improvement (EII) to model the practices and competencies it is seeking to advance across the state, in partnership with nine sovereign nations. Their role is designed to cultivate strong teams, healthy organizational culture, and living out core values and vision rooted in the wisdom and strengths of staff within the department and with the people and communities we serve. This includes operationalizing a deep equity and anti-racist lens, as well as tending to wellbeing, promoting courage and humility, and shifting paradigms about educational and organizational change.

Prior to joining ODE, Emil helped launch the cutting-edge Master’s in Leadership for Sustainability Program and Crossroads Leadership Lab at the University of Vermont. By looking to the wisdom of nature and experienced changemakers, Emil co-created the programs with the mission to support aspiring leaders in more adeptly addressing complex transformation processes while dismantling systems of oppression. Now, as a doctoral student at the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources, Emil’s dissertation research draws on intersections among ecology, organizational change and non-dominant wisdom traditions in liberation and justice. Emil received a B.A. in sociology and American studies from Boston College in 2012, and an M.S. in environmental thought and culture from the University of Vermont in 2015.



Future Focus

Emil is currently supporting the alignment and implementation of six key State of Oregon programs that total over $1 billion annually to districts, charter schools and other eligible applicants across Oregon. These initiatives are intended to support underserved students, families and communities, and include major state legislation such as the Student Investment Account and High School Success. The integration of these programs under one umbrella, called Aligning for Student Success, has required EII to radically restructure how it offers coaching, technical assistance and support across the state. Emil is excited to learn how the Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation framework can contribute to this statewide effort that seeks to work strength-to-strength with school districts, communities, organizations and regional educational service districts.



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