‘On equal terms:’ Ardice Hartry, associate director

Ardice Hartry smiles at the camera

Ardice Hartry, the associate director of the Lawrence Hall of Science, is one of 18 Berkeley women being honored as “unsung heroines.” (Photo courtesy Ardice Hartry)

In honor of the “150 Years of Women at Berkeley” project, each day until Aug. 18  Berkeley News is hosting 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 fifteenth woman honored as part of this series is Ardice Hartry, the associate director of the Lawrence Hall of Science.

You were nominated for doing an incredible amount of behind-the-scenes people and project wrangling at the Lawrence Hall of Science. You’ve been a mentor for many staff across the organization, especially young women, and are always mindful of using your leadership position to advocate for and advance staff within the organization at UC Berkeley. How have you done this?

In many ways, it has been easy to be a mentor as I have worked with many remarkable young women in my time here at Berkeley, women who bring new ideas, different lived experiences and incredible enthusiasm for the work and the mission. I frequently learn from them, and I have always felt that there are multiple ways to conduct research and evaluation, and one advantage of working with younger people is that they bring innovations to our work. Knowing this helps me work with them as a learner; I bring humility and openness to our conversations and planning. I think, more than anything, this provides them with the opportunity to take on leadership roles, to see their ideas translated into action. What I bring is experience with work in different settings. I have encountered a wide range of challenges over the years, and I’ve worked with different institutions. I can help foresee future difficulties and pitfalls, and we can work together to plan solutions. My approach is not to tell younger members what to do, but to bring my breadth of experience to help them with their own problem solving.

Another thing that I try to be intentional about is recognizing that not every person who works for us at the Lawrence Hall of Science intends to make science learning research or program development their long-term goal. Women have left our staff to start innovative schools, obtain their doctorates in other disciplines, become teachers who lead with equity, or begin their own companies. I try to help them see what about the work we do, from planning to theorizing to working with a range of clients, will help them be successful in whatever they choose to do. I also focus my input on things that can make a difference in success, particularly in helping staff with their writing. While I don’t see myself as an excellent writer, I’m a good reader and try to focus my input not on revising documents that I’m reviewing but providing a reader’s perspective on their writing, helping them think about the story they are telling – what works and is exciting, what should be changed to enhance clarity. I think women who can be amazing storytellers are likely to be successful at anything they put their minds to!

Finally, I recognize and embrace the leadership role I have, and I’m excited to be able to advocate for equity. It’s very easy when I am in charge of a project to let go of responsibility, to enable others to take the reins – and when I let go of responsibility, I empower younger members to find their own path or direction to conducting the work. I feel this is quite different from giving responsibility while expecting everything to be done the way I would have done it. I learn so much from this letting go, and I know this is what has kept our work so innovative.

What is your title and how long have you been at UC Berkeley?

My title is Associate Director of the Lawrence Hall of Science. I have been an employee at UC Berkeley for 10 ½ years; I am also an alumna!

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

As hard as it is, I think it is critical to question your own sense of hierarchy. Who do you see as your “peer” and why? Who do you invite to conversations and how are they asked to contribute? Do you speak or write differently with one group than with another? How do you react when there is a problem? I also think it is critical to ask how your own ambition affects your colleagues. In particular, for those of us who are funded through grants, we need to think about who is put as the lead staff member or key personnel on proposals. We often make these decisions based on structures outside of our control – such as who is most likely to get funding or impress a panel of reviewers. These decisions are pragmatic, but they help maintain the status quo. At UCB, we are in a position of privilege and influence – we can lead the change we want to see in the world!

I also try to speak truth to power, and I encourage others to do so when they are given that brave space. My advice is to ignore anyone who says, “I don’t want to hear about a problem unless you have a solution.” Recognize that as a way to perpetuate the status quo. The world needs gadflies, as well as problem-solvers, and it is critical that we draw attention to inequities, to policies and practices that perpetuate inequities. The leaders I work with at UCB are open to challenges and are sincere listeners, but, like any of us, they do not necessarily see that what they are doing is part of the problem and that asking for us to be patient is delaying the solution. Be impatient!

What do you do for fun?

I love to spend time in nature, particularly hiking, snow-shoeing, and cross-country skiing. My parents grew up on the eastern side of the Sierras, so we spent a lot of my childhood near Lee Vining and June Lake, and that is still one of my favorite places to camp, hike and experience nature. I particularly enjoy the summer thunderstorms that pass through the mountains, the rage of the winds and healing cool of the rain.