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Departing Staff Advisor Kate Klimow reflects on the power of the personal

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Kate Klimow

Kate Klimow, outgoing staff advisor to the Regents and chief administrative officer and director of External Relations at UC Irvine Beall Applied Innovation, was prepared for the policy side of her service as staff advisor. “I wasn’t prepared, though, for how personal the role would feel. I knew that I was representing staff — 200,000+ across the system — but the people I met and the stories they shared made the impact of this role very real.”

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As Klimow concludes her two-year term, she shares some of what she’s learned about UC and about dealing with change, and why you should consider applying by Friday, April 3, to be the next staff advisor to the UC Regents.

What issues drove you as you took on the role of Staff Advisor to the Regents, and what issues arose during your term?

I really didn’t want to come in with preconceived notions about what needed to be changed, or how to fix things. Instead, I dug in to what’s working and what issues are most affecting people.

The discussion of family leave has gained more momentum this year. Big issues like this take time. I was able to take the baton from my predecessor, Sherry Main, and I will pass it along to Ann Jeffrey.

We’ve heard so many stories about why family leave matters, and how family leave policies affect people’s lives. Hearing those personal stories drove our advocacy with the Regents and helped us serve our role much more profoundly. The Regents saw that we weren’t just offering our opinion – we’re sharing real life experiences of people across the system.

What have been your proudest moments as staff advisor?

Students and faculty are central to UC’s mission, and to the decisions the Regents are called upon to make. Our job is to make sure that the curtain is drawn all the way back, so the Regents understand the impact of their decisions on staff, as well – the people fielding the calls, doing the paperwork, taking care of the dorms. Every policy or program the Regents implement means a lot of back of house work that will affect staff members’ lives – even if they do the work so seamlessly and well that it doesn’t get a lot of attention.

More and more, I hear one of the Regents stop during a meeting and ask how a decision would affect staff. That’s a win. Our job is all about education, and we’ve worked hard to educate the Regents about how critical staff contributions are to UC’s success.

What impact has this experience had on your perspective, both on your work at UC and in your personal life?

Wherever I am, I now think about the people behind the scenes that make everything happen. A beautiful dinner isn’t just because of the chef – it’s everyone in the kitchen and the people serving the food and clearing the plates. UC is made up of so many amazing teams working together, and I’m incredibly grateful I’ve had this chance to learn a bit more about what they do.

Given your many new experiences and responsibilities these last two years, you’ve had a crash course in dealing with change. As we at UC approach a transition to a new president, do you have any change management advice for the UC community?

Chocolate always helps.

Seriously, for me it’s been invaluable to have a terrific mentor in Chancellor Wilcox and a strong support group in my staff advisor community. Chancellor Wilcox’s guidance has been wonderful and necessary. And Sherry Main, Ann Jeffrey and the community of former staff advisors – they’ve been there for me throughout this journey, just like we’ll all be there for the next staff advisor.

Everyone who steps into the staff advisor role is given the support to do amazing things. Take the leap and apply – the application process is a learning experience in itself, encouraging you to step back and be thoughtful about yourself and your role at UC. And if you are selected for this incredible opportunity, I guarantee you’ll never look at UC the same way again.

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