The University Student Union Presents

USU Personal Story: Kira Dimitri

By Cheyenne Chavez, Student Public Relations Assistant, USU Marketing

Kira Dimitri standing on the stairs in the Sol Center, USU

You may know the smiling face of Kira Dimitri from seeing her all around the University Student Union (USU). The senior business management major has been working at the USU for over three years and currently holds the position of Student Administrative Support Assistant II in the Operations Department. What you probably don’t know is the extraordinary journey she went on before coming to CSUN — and it all started with her upbringing in a traveling circus family.

Kira was born on Dec. 15, 1994, in Arlesheim, Switzerland to the unconventional and exciting Dimitri circus family. Her late grandfather Jakob Dimitri was a renowned mime and clown, famous throughout Europe as “Dimitri the Clown”. Her mother, Masha Dimitri, is a skilled slack wire walker (similar to tight wire walker) and her father, Kai Leclerc, is a circus performer who is well known for innovating the illusion of walking on the ceiling. Her parents met while traveling as assistants in Switzerland’s largest circus, Circus Knie. Kira spent most of her childhood on a whirlwind adventure traveling the world in different circuses with her family, including Circus Roncalli in Germany and the Big Apple Circus in New York, where she was baptized at age one.

Kira Dimitri as a child next to a horseWhen she was 7, Kira joined the family show, performing an acrobatic introduction for Circus Knie in a comedic role as a super strong little girl opposite a “not-so-strong” man twice her size. When they weren’t touring, the Dimitri family returned to their home base in Ascona, Switzerland, just 20 minutes away from Italy. From that time, Kira has many fond memories of the unique activity-based education she received at the renowned Waldorf School that emphasizes the role of imagination in learning.

At the age of 8, she developed a strong desire to become an actress and took up many hobbies in hopes of reaching this goal, which included dancing, singing and horseback riding. Kira’s mother also told her that if she wanted to be an actress, she would need to learn English. At the time, the only languages she knew were Italian and French, so the yearning to study English flourished within her.

Although her childhood dream of acting didn’t last very long, Kira still pursued her passion to learn English — leading to a new dream of going to school outside of Switzerland. At 15, Kira applied to the Education First International High School Exchange Program. For her junior year, she traveled to Spencer, Iowa. Completely on her own in the United States, she was exposed to a completely new culture not yet knowing a word of English. Her new educational journey there was nothing like she expected it to be, but she was determined to continue her education abroad. 

Kira spent the majority of her high school experience traveling internationally to schools in different countries. In 2011, she went from Iowa to Montreal, Canada to study liberal arts at the Marianopolis College. She then took a semester off in January 2012 to study German at the rigorous DID Deutsch-Institut in Berlin, Germany. Kira then returned to the U.S. and finished high school in South Dakota, graduating from Sioux Falls Christian High. Her international journey was a personal rollercoaster. She felt the sting and disappointment of incompatible host families, but also found great friends and families along the way, immersed herself in the American high school experience with plenty of extracurricular activities and thrived in the broad range of available classes.

Kira Dimitri wearing a blue cap and gown being held up in the arms of her fatherWhen it came time to think about college, Kira had only one thing in mind: Los Angeles. “I wanted to be in California from the very first time I came to the U.S.,” said Kira. “It was my dream.”

Based on her interests and personality, Kira’s mother had always told her how good she would be at management. With this plan in mind, Kira began searching for schools that were the right match.

During her senior year spring break, Kira flew from Sioux Falls to Los Angeles — once again traveling all on her own with just one carry-on. She was a stranger in a strange land. After arriving at LAX, she had a chaotic journey that involved taxis, flyaway buses, subway rides and a Motel 8 while she tried to maneuver her way around the vast city of Los Angeles. She eventually took a two-hour bus ride to get from Hollywood to CSUN. Once she was on campus, she ended up taking a self-guided tour because the guided tours were all booked up that day. “I really liked the campus. It was the college setting that I always saw in movies,” said Kira, “and I wanted it.”

Kira visited and considered a few other colleges but she ended up choosing CSUN because of its great business program, beautiful campus and affordability. Her first week was very difficult when she arrived to begin her freshman year. “I honestly didn’t know where to get food, access the Internet or find transportation. I was kind of lost,” Kira continued.

But she definitely knew she needed to find a job as soon as possible to support herself. With her perseverance and positive attitude, she quickly figured things out. She saw an ad posted for an Events Services Assistant with USU Reservations and Event Services and knew it was a good position for her. Her job interview was the very first one in her life and she got hired within a month of starting school.

Since getting that first job, Kira has thrived in four different positions with the USU, including Student Meeting Room Crew, Student Meeting Room Crew Lead, Student Building Manager and her current position as Student Administrative Support Assistant II. “Working at the USU completely changed my entire CSUN experience,” Kira said. “Having a reason to stay on campus, working with others and understanding how lucky we are as students to have the many resources we have here has been amazing.”

Kira firmly believes that each of her jobs at the USU have helped her immensely in preparing for her career after graduation. She recently found an internship at Sony Pictures Entertainment through the referral of a fellow USU employee.

As a senior planning to graduate in Spring 2017, Kira admits that she feels the common uncertainty of not knowing exactly what her next move will be after college. In her Sony internship, she has been exposed to many aspects of the entertainment industry that interest her, but wants to keep her options open.

KIra also has a dream of someday returning to a university in a student affairs role to continue the legacy of her grandfather and father. Her grandfather was not only known for performing as “Dimitri the Clown”, but also founded the famed Accademia Teatro Dimitri to offer an unprecedented approach to breaking down barriers between the theatre and circus traditions. It is now part of the University of Applied Sciences and Arts in Southern Switzerland. Her father still produces and performs with circuses around the world and also provides free rehearsal space for students in his warehouse in return for their help with facility upkeep.

Kira Dimitri standing next to mural with "LA" inside a heartAlthough she is not sure of her next move, Kira has already been successful at creating many opportunities for herself throughout her life. “It seems surreal to me that I did all those things and I’m only 21,” said Kira.

Her advice to new USU employees is to not fool around with this great opportunity, but take it seriously and let the experience help develop you to your fullest. Kira is very excited to graduate, and both of her proud parents will be coming from Switzerland to attend her commencement ceremony in May.

“I don’t yet know what I want to be doing in even five years, but I am very interested in developing creative programs like my father and grandfather,” said Kira. “This campus is pretty separated into colleges right now. I would like to create different workshops that would bring talented people from all around the campus together to collaborate creatively.”

Don’t bet against her. Considering Kira’s determination and dedication, it’s very likely she will make it happen.

Q&A: Kira Dimitri

What is something that only a few people know about you?

Not everyone knows I grew up in the circus. I don’t usually bring that up because I am very grateful for that aspect of my life, but it leads to so many questions. I sometimes just pull out my own “Cliff Notes” version of my childhood.

If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you find yourself?

India. My mom used to teach there and I have friends who have worked and visited there as well and the culture looks amazing. Indian food is also delicious!

What three traits define you?

Well, my top StrengthsQuest talent themes are achiever, futuristic, responsibility, significance and self-assurance. At first I didn’t like my talent themes but now I understand them better and they are very true. Achiever is definitely a trait that defines me the most. It’s been demonstrated both positively and negatively in my life, but it’s what helps me keep going and I don’t know where I would be if I didn’t have that trait. My background and upbringing is also something that has really shaped me as a person. I also like to be spontaneous, going different places on a whim. So I would say that is something that also really defines me.

What is the greatest challenge you’ve had to overcome in your life thus far? 

Definitely leaving everything behind and being in America on my own. It’s hard to go on break from school and everyone gets to talk about seeing their families for holidays and that’s not something I get to do because my family is so far away.

Describe what you were like growing up.

I was a weird kid, but very active. Kids with a Waldorf Education were very unique and people would say they could spot us from a mile away. My parents raised me without TV and I was only allowed to watch one movie every Saturday. If I wanted to watch movies during the week, it had to be black and white. I think they really wanted me to spend time outside and not waste it watching TV so that’s what I did everyday. I got to explore my imagination by being outside all the time and I miss playing in the woods outside my house in Switzerland.

What do you miss most about Switzerland?

I obviously really miss friends and family. I also miss the food, which is anything related to cheese, like fondue and raclette.

As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Different things! Of course I wanted to be an actress, but I also had a phase where I wanted to be a surgeon. I was very open to different paths, which is probably why I struggled so much because I was never sure what I wanted to be and all of my friends seemed to know.

What do you think is the most important quality you need to have for success?

I think you should be true to yourself. I read a book titled “Outliers” and it taught how you can become successful by being different from others. I think it’s true that not conforming to what everyone else is doing is a key to becoming successful in your own goals.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Leaving home to pursue what I wanted to do and being persistent with it. People would tell me I was too young and couldn’t do it. But I go home now and my friends and family tell me they could never do what I have done and that I am so strong for achieving so much.

You’re happiest when?

When I am with my friends, as well as my co-workers. We have a whole new team in my department at the USU because everyone graduated last semester and its just cool, the laughs that we create, the memories in college - it’s what I’m focusing on this year. Obviously I still study a lot. But I want to create those memories so when I am older and have a family I can talk about having fun in college and not just being here to study. So I make sure to enjoy it when I am with my friends or when I am able to accomplish something here at the USU or at my internship with Sony.

What do you like to do in your spare time/days off?

Netflix! I truly enjoy watching shows like Grey’s Anatomy, Shameless and The Crown, as well as going to the movies with my friends. I want to explore L.A. more! There is so much California has to offer, like hiking and all of the different food options. It’s another reason I want to stay! I’ll also spontaneously go on a weekend trip — just for the adventure.