Isela Isela Peña-Rager (December 2022)

Isela Peña-Rager (she/ella), Assistant Director of L&S Advising

What does your program, unit, or division do on campus?

Headshot of smiling person with long dark hair and a black lace top.

L&S Advising provides academic planning, advising, and compassionate support for 23,000+ L&S undergraduates and prospective students in other schools.colleges. We operate under 7 core values: Care; Communication; Continuous Learning; Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging; Healthy Boundaries; Mutual Accountability & Responsibility; and Strengths-Based Advising.

Describe your job in five words:

Complicated (!), rewarding, collaborative, humbling, stimulating

Why Berkeley?

It’s a question that enters my mind not too infrequently. Honestly, UC Berkeley provides some of the best communities or support and is made up of some of the most incredible humans I have ever known. The communities are the heartbeat of the university, and I constantly tap into them for healing, nourishment, survival, and inspiration.

Over your career, what are some of the things that have helped you move to the next level and to new opportunities?

It’s been a challenge for me to move to the next level in terms of job classifications on this campus. Especially earlier on in my career at Berkeley, I felt that I had to hide from my employer the extra and collaborative work in which I was involved. Over time, the relationships I built have gifted me a deeper understanding of the structures and the people across campus. One always has more to learn, yet I’ve gained more confidence to work with people and contribute my insight in multiple spaces knowing that my experience and perspective matter and can serve as catalysts to effect structural and cultural change. Recently, through a 360 evaluation process I learned that one of my hidden talents is my ability to build trust, and I don’t take that lightly or for granted. I realize that building trust requires constant work and sticking to my word and my values while remaining open to ideas and perspectives other than mine.

What is the best advice a mentor has given you in work, life, or beyond?

To paraphrase a few superstars in my life: Be careful with whom and how you share your energy. Prioritize the people and things that fill you with joy and elevate your confidence!

What motivates you to do your best work?

The brilliant student and staff community with and for whom I work daily! And also thinking about what kind of future we’re setting up for my son and future generations.

What’s the weirdest job you’ve ever had?

My very first paid job was serving punch to customers alongside my great aunt Tía Ramona at a Stats Floral Supply in Whittier, California during the holiday season while my older brother and cousins rounded up carts in the parking lot and restocked the shelves. That business was owned by the family who sponsored my mom’s entire family to come to the United States as residents. At the time I found it curious and didn’t quite understand why my tía felt so connected and loyal to her employer and his family. Later, I would learn more about her role as the family’s nanny and how the Stathatos family still remains so interconnected with ours.

Anyhow, I still don’t know of many people who have worked as punch servers at a retail store.

What is an interesting or little-known fact about you?

I was the first Latina photography editor for my undergraduate student magazine. I even won several awards from the California Intercollegiate Press Association (CIPA) for photographs and editorial illustrations published in my alma mater’s newspaper and magazine, which led to my first and short-lived career as a member of the press.

What are you most looking forward to this year?

Generating joy for everyone around me and making more time to rest!