Each day until Aug. 18 Berkeley News will host a series of Q&As featuring 18 unsung heroines on staff from all corners of the campus. The series will culminate on Aug. 18 with a special edition of Berkeley Campus Conversations, featuring four remarkable female staffers:
- Cruz Grimaldo, assistant vice chancellor and director of the Financial Aid and Scholarships Office
- Sunny Lee, assistant vice chancellor and dean of students
- Mia Settles-Tidwell, assistant vice chancellor in the Division of Equity and Inclusion
- Charmin Smith, head coach of Cal women’s basketball
You were nominated by several colleagues for being an inspiration. Your colleagues said, “[Mimi] often works behind the scenes, and always with such humility. Mimi’s contributions to the Berkeley International Office’s staff management and internal processes might easily go unrecognized. But, her staff and her coworkers notice! Mimi leads with a quiet and calm authority, always steps up to help out, and genuinely cares about the people she supervises, works with, and serves. At times it feels like our office would crumble to the ground without her dedication, knowledge, and leadership. She deserves an enormous medal!”
How have you become a humble leader who inspires staff?
I’m honored to receive this nomination, but it definitely comes as a surprise. I have to attribute it in large part to the support I have received from current and past BIO staff. BIO is a highly collaborative office, and one of the challenges of holding a leadership position is ensuring that the internal systems and processes we have in place work effectively and efficiently so that teams can function well, either on their own or in collaboration with other teams within the office. I have my predecessor, Vanina Granell, to thank for developing so many of the excellent processes BIO still uses to this day. I do my best to keep them running and adapt them when needed. I hope that the people I supervise feel that there is clarity and transparency in our processes and that they can rely on me for support, answers and assistance. They report to me, but I also report to them; I want to make sure they have what they need to succeed, so I make it a priority to be available to them and to address their questions or concerns as soon as they arise. I try to frequently, and often informally, communicate to each of my team members my appreciation for their unique contributions, being as specific as possible when describing their accomplishments. I strive to make others feel seen and valued and I hope that this is evident to the wonderful people who report to me directly as well as to the rest of my BIO family.
Who is a female staff member that you admire on campus and why?
BIO works closely with Summer Sessions and I have had a working relationship with Hannah Burney since she started at that office as a Student Services Adviser a couple years ago. Soon after she started, we had an informal lunch meeting in the I-House dining hall with a couple of colleagues from our offices. Hannah asked a lot of in-depth questions about our offices’ collaboration and processes, and I distinctly remember thinking that I should follow her example and be more active about asking questions when starting something new (I used to be more of the silent observer type, but I’m changing). Hannah’s inquisitiveness and desire to learn obviously paid off because she quickly became an expert and I still frequently turn to her with questions about Summer Sessions knowing I will get a thorough, informed, and prompt answer. Because our offices collaborate so much, I am thankful for her calm and logical approach to problem-solving, and adapting to new circumstances and challenges. I truly appreciate being able to work with her.
What words of wisdom would you like to share with other female staff on campus?
- If you struggle with impostor syndrome, you’re not alone. I have been shocked by some of the incredibly bright, capable, and experienced UCB staff I know who have confessed to having experienced it. Knowing that I’m not the only one has helped me put my own occasional feelings of inadequacy into perspective.
- You are capable of more than you may realize. Learning the difference between fixed and growth mindsets and starting the path to develop a growth mindset changed my life, personally and professionally.
- Ask for help, advice, and support from your colleagues. You will receive it, you will learn from it, and your work will be all the better for it.