Simple yet excellent—this is how most of the people would consider Dr. Tara Niraula, an educator, researcher, social policy expert, and advocate of minority and immigrants’ education rights. For more than 25 years in the profession, he has provided significant contributions in the education sector through his countless initiatives, and has created a big name in the social development sector by being an eminent leader and strong advocate for social justice and the protection of civil and human rights.
Dr. Niraula grew up in an isolated village in Northern-Eastern hills of Nepal. At the age of 13, Young Tara started the first days of his formal schooling learning alphabets of his vernacular language, Nepali, and continued experiencing real-life work on their farm while having his formal education. By demonstrating sheer determination early on, he stood top in his grades and often school-wide through his school years. Later on, he obtained his Bachelor’s degree in Education at Tribhuwan University, the national university of Nepal, and relocated to New York, USA to pursue a double Master’s degree in Educational Administration at Teachers College, Columbia University. This, however, did not mark an end on his desire to learn as he also pursued at the same Ivy League institution his Doctor of Education degree in Organization and Leadership.
After finishing his undergraduate study, Dr. Niraula was offered a number of positions in their community as well as in local universities. During his stay in Nepal, he acted as an administrator and education program officer of Save the Children Fund and Swiss development Cooperation, respectively, for a period of approximately 10 years. He also chose, among other professions, being an ‘educator’—as he wanted to be called so—in various universities in his native country. As an academician and development professional in Nepal, he has significantly developed the teaching methods and strategies of the aspiring school teachers through his much-appreciated lectures and instructional materials. By contributing to the development and implementation of various educational policies, Dr. Niraula earned a reputation of an outstanding teacher.
Aside from these experiences he had come upon while he was in Nepal, Dr. Niraula also thrived as a proactive and efficient academician in the US through his engagement with prestigious schools in New York. He decided to join Teachers College, the institution where he took his graduate and post-graduate studies, where he assumed several positions, namely research and program associate (1995–1998); graduate instructor (1994–2002); and senior research scholar and director of Education Schools Research Project (2004–2006). Under his tenure, he predominantly exemplified his versatility and skillfulness in performing duties and programs which aimed for the betterment in the fields of research, educational policies and curricula, and administrative functions. Aside from TC, Dr. Niraula also worked as an education research and consultant at Fordham University Graduate School of Education; and as the director and an education faculty member at the Institute for Urban Education, New School University wherein he provided essential institutional master plans and frameworks on improving educational opportunities for youths from under-served and under-resourced communities in urban areas; to go along with the teaching courses dealing with education policy and practices.
Dr. Niraula is also notable for his exceptional leadership capabilities through his numerous participations in the community and social service sectors, assuming different positions in a number of affiliations ranging from his institution up to various sociocultural associations. He served as the President of Student Senate (Student Government) of Teachers College, Columbia University where he represented approximately 5,000 graduate and post-graduate students to the College’s Board of Trustees and Columbia University Senate (1993-1994). Currently, he also serves as a member of the Alumni Council, a body that represents more than 90, 000 graduates of Teachers College, Columbia University. He also was twice a member of Nepal’s delegation to the Executive Board meeting of the United Nations Children’s Fund. Dr. Niraula also served as the President and Vice President of both the Nepalese Americas Council/Non-Resident Nepali Association of North America (2006-2009), a coordinating body for over 35 organizations in North America, and the America Nepal Friendship Society (2004–2008). Under both functions, he predominantly improved the images of both organizations by redefining their missions, goals, and policies and toughly strengthened the ties of Nepali-American communities. Meanwhile, he also took on the position of the Vice President of Asian American Coalition from 2008 to 2011. At present, Dr. Niraula is a forum member of the New York City Scholars of South Asian Politics (an informal group), wherein he represents the voice of South Asia in terms of political, economic, and social development issues.
Apart from these involvements, Dr. Niraula is also affiliated with different professional organizations. His participations in those development-oriented assemblies have definitely taken his abilities in leading yet a notch higher. Distinctive awards and honors from those associations flourished, all of which attest to his exemplary leadership performance. Some of these recognitions include Outstanding Leadership awards from the Student Body of Teachers College of Columbia University, American Nepal Friendship Society, Manhattan Center for Math and Science, and MCSM/High School Principals Association of the City of New York. Dr. Niraula was a recipient as well of the Asian American Coalition’s Hall of Fame Award for his outstanding and extensive work in promoting quality equal educational opportunities among Asian-American and linguistics minority communities in New York and beyond. For which, he was honored as one of the outstanding leaders by the Comptroller of the City of New York; with Council Member John Liu also issuing a citation recognizing him as an outstanding and most contributing resident of New York City. To date, Dr. Niraula possesses several distinguished awards to his credit.
Dr. Niraula is known for his plans of course which have considerably given ways for the immigrants and refugees in New York and beyond the opportunity to receive fair and equal rights. For instance, as a staunch advocate of protection of civil and human rights and staunch fighter for democratic system of polity, he effectively led initiatives to generate international support for democratic movements in his native country of Nepal in 1990, 2001 and 2005. Together with his intent of creating a harmonious relationship in Nepali-American groups was his desire to promote and support the campaign on democracy rule of law and constitutional rights within Nepal. Dr. Niraula’s endearing acts and heroic advocacies have brought him to the limelight. In fact, he has appeared before in a number of radio and television programs which he used as a channel in upholding his social advocacies. Though polite and soft-spoken, and extremely respectful to all people and cultures, he takes on the responsibility of being a strong foundation and driving force of various South Asian communities in the US, especially the Nepali communities in North America. In addition, Dr. Niraula has been keen on raising funds in order to support the education of children in Nepal who are in need the most. In his part and with the help of his friends, Dr. Niraula also personally contributed to the construction of schools and libraries.
By far, Dr. Niraula is undeniably prepared to assume a higher and even a bigger opportunity in the education sector as well as in the development of democratic system of polity and protection of civil and human rights. As a believer of the power of continuous learning and fair opportunities for all, these for him would entitle him to take on new reforms and transformations on the academic and non-academic standards of the scholastic system. With much success on his hand, Dr. Tara Niraula definitely has what it takes to make a big difference to the lives of others.