Community Profile: Claire-Marie Kooi (May 2022)

Claire-Marie Kooi (she/her), Associate Director, MPS ScholarsHeadshot of smiling person with long dark curly hair and dangly earrings in front of a dark background.

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

The Mathematical and Physical Sciences (MPS) Diversity Office “provides support and assistance to the MPS community at Berkeley to increase diversity and inclusion, and to achieve equitable educational and career outcomes for all in MPS. We generate and lead diversity-focused programs, educational activities, and services, and conduct internal program assessments for the MPS departments.” - from MPS Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Access

Describe your job in five words:

Collaborative, Innovative, Fun, Inclusive, Strategic

Why Berkeley?

I came to Berkeley because of the institution’s commitment to advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion in STEM. I went to Cal as an undergraduate in the sciences and did not see my identities represented in the student or faculty populations. I came back because there are so many people (staff, faculty, students) and initiatives on campus that strive to create a more inclusive and diverse campus.

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

Building a network of support has helped me move through different stages of my career. Without the advice and wisdom of mentors, friends, and colleagues, I would not be where I am today. Additionally, taking courses through UC Berkeley Extension and being part of the Berkeley Staff Assembly (BSA) Governing Council have helped me develop critical professional skills such as project management, student development, communication, and more.

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

The best advice I’ve gotten from a mentor is to always advocate for myself. I know this seems obvious, but as someone who is shy and avoids conflict, this piece of advice was instrumental in my development as a professional. More importantly, my mentor walked me step-by-step through the process and always reminded me to aspire high.

What motivates you to do your best work?

Students motivate me to do my best work. I’ve been inspired in some way by every student I’ve worked with. I see the talent, passion, and drive they have in their fields of study and I want to do everything in my power to help cultivate and support their aspirations.

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

I don’t think I’ve had any weird jobs. However, my parents started a school garden at my elementary school, where we would grow fruits and vegetables (e.g. sugar cane, tomatoes, corn, squash, etc.) and sell them out front of the school. As I got older, I continued to work in the garden and taught students about the science behind food.

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

I was a competitive gymnast for 8 years and have also danced for most of my life. I learned invaluable life lessons through these experiences, including the value of preparation, perseverance, and teamwork.

What are you most looking forward to this year?

I’m looking forward to the launch of the MPS Scholars initiative this fall! This initiative has the potential to create meaningful change for students pursuing mathematics, astronomy, physics, and earth and planetary sciences.