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CFS Begins Fall 2022 with New Department Chair as Mario Hernandez Plans for Retirement

New CFS Department Chair

Professor Lise Fox receives several gavels from Professor Mario Hernandez as he hands over the CFS department leadership.

CFS Department Chairs

CFS Department Chairs (l to r): Professor Mario Hernandez, 2007- 2022; Professor Lise Fox, 2022-present; Professor Emeritus Robert Friedman, 1991-2006.

Since 2007, Professor Mario Hernandez has served as Chair for the USF Department of Children and Families (CFS). In August, he will step down and pass the leadership gavel to Professor Lise Fox, a longtime faculty member within CFS and Co-Director of the Florida Center for Inclusive Communities, the University of South Florida Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities.

A "Passing of the Gavel" event was held July 29th for faculty, staff, family members and guests to recognize and thank Dr. Hernandez for his years of service to the department, and welcome Dr. Fox into her new leadership role.

Under the leadership of Dr. Hernandez, CFS experienced a transformation of one focused primarily on grants and contracts to one with a growing set of academic programs. His direction led the department to the creation and expansion of programs in Applied Behavior Analysis, Child & Adolescent Behavioral Health, Clinical Rehabilitation & Mental Health Counseling and Marriage & Family Therapy. During his tenure, he also worked to re-brand the expertise within the department in the areas of evaluation, research, training/technical assistance, and academics to create a lens for external funders and collaborators to better view the department's talents and strengths. Also under his leadership, the Annual Children's Mental Health Research & Policy Conference, held through 2019, became self-sustaining and drew an average audience of 600 attendees that included national and international researchers and policy-makers.

Descriptions of Dr. Hernandez from the CFS Leadership Team  include:

"What made Mario a great leader is that he truly cares about the people he leads. His leadership style is relationship based and he was always looking to help people reach their professional goals. He has a way of empowering and trusting people to do great things and then finding ways to support them along the way."
"Mario knows that the heart of our work is our relationships and he has a gift for matching possibilities with people. He’s genuinely invested in ensuring that we are engaged in work that we enjoy and that has a positive impact on children and families. He was always thoughtful, connecting me with someone or something that let me know that he cared about and valued my experience and interests."
"Mario has shown himself to be an excellent and effective department chair throughout his time in the position. It is clear that his work as chair is always about the health of the department and not about him. Mario exemplifies the exact opposite of a zero-sum approach to leadership. He believes we can all be successful, and he does what he can to help make that happen."

The CFS Leadership Team was unanimous in identifying Lise Fox as the best candidate to replace Mario as Chair. She has the knowledge and experience in CFS to step into the position and carry on with the same values and commitment as Dr. Hernandez showed over the years. She will be assisted by Dr. Raymond Miltenberger who has agreed to serve as the Associate Chair for Academic Programs for CFS.

"I am very proud of CFS and know that all of its accomplishments will continue to thrive," said Dr. Hernandez. "I made the plans to step down as Chair while still healthy and happy enough to enjoy a lot of activities that I love. I look forward to new adventures yet to come and of course hanging with my grandkids!