‘On equal terms:’ Colleen Rovetti, executive director

Colleen Rovetti stands with harm arm around a man in a yellow blazer

Colleen Rovetti, left, executive director of external relations and marketing communications in the office of University Development and Alumni Relations, is one of 18 women being honored as “unsung heroines” on Berkeley’s campus. Here, she poses with Berkeley graduate Peter Van Houten. (Photo courtesy Colleen Rovetti)

In honor of the “150 Years of Women at Berkeley” project, 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

The eighth woman honored as part of this series is Colleen Rovetti, executive director of external relations and marketing communications in the office of University Development and Alumni Relations.

You were nominated for being a female staff member who “reflects the very best of Berkeley” in your work leading the External Relations & Marketing Communications team. While leading a department full of diverse skill sets and strong personalities, you’ve sailed the shifting seas of a big campaign launch, followed by COVID quarantine, with grace and compassion. Additionally you negotiate political challenges to make things happen.” How have you done this?

I cannot really take full credit for this honor – though I am deeply appreciative for it. The work that I do is contingent upon strong partnerships, collaboration and a huge amount of trust. The months leading up to the February 29 campaign launch were some of the most fulfilling for me professionally over the course of my career. The camaraderie, creativity and humor that we experienced as a team, not only in ERMC, but across UDAR (University Development & Alumni Relations) and the campus, made it all incredibly rewarding and quite a lot of fun.

When we made the pivot to working from home, I was worried how my team would fare. However, true to form, their perseverance and creativity have made this experience of remote work one that I will never forget. While I miss our in-person interactions, I am grateful to them for finding new ways to highlight Cal to our external audiences with virtual events, publications and through our web assets.

What advice would you give to other staff members looking to move individuals, teams, units, or improvements forward at UCB?

I have always found that transparency and honest feedback build a lot of trust across teams. When people know what their goals are and have the tools, training and resources to reach them, you mitigate confusion and you set people up for success. By nature, I am a very accessible person – so when we were in the office, my door was always open for quick updates or chats. Now that we are all remote, I have tried to maintain the same level of connectivity through zooms and calls. To move teams forward, you have to be open to conflict and feel comfortable in finding solutions that best serve the team and the university. And you need to be open to the fact that you will not always be right. Opening myself up to a multitude of ideas and opinions, while still driving to the decision, has served me well.

Who is a female staff member that you admire on campus and why?

There are three women I deeply admire: Lila Blanco, senior director of external relations, Cardis McKines-Jones, director of operations and Helena Weiss-Duman, deputy director of ERMC. They are fierce, fun and creative. They have been a constant source of inspiration and joy. And, while this is about honoring women, in the spirit of inclusion, I would be remiss if I didn’t round out this triumvirate with a male colleague: José Rodriguez, senior director of editorial. He has been my mentor, my friend and sometimes my voice. The five of us grew up together here at Cal and have gone through a myriad of life changing experiences. We have shored each other up through loss, and we have celebrated work and family triumphs. They don’t pull any punches with me and are often the first to tell me when I have misstepped. Without these colleagues, I would not have succeeded in this job. In fact, I probably wouldn’t have stayed in this job. If you add up our tenure, we have a combined service to Cal of 125 years.

What advice would you give colleagues to ensure that they aren’t creating obstacles or inequities for their peers?

One of the biggest challenges at Berkeley is the complexity of the bureaucracy. We have a responsibility to our teams to help them navigate through this and help them find ways to solve the problems, and not just talk about them. Always be looking for the connections between people and teams and then share them with your colleagues and teams. Be willing to reach out on behalf of someone else. And, look for ways to connect all of your staff across campus, through training and networking. Make sure that you do this for everyone on your team (or even for those who aren’t on it) – you never know when that entry level hire will be the next chief of staff or AVC – and our greatest hope is that we are inspiring them to remain at Cal and do their best work.