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Departing Staff Advisor Lucy Tseng on building relationships (over Zoom), expressing gratitude and paying it forward

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As a child, Lucy Tseng, outgoing staff advisor to the Regents and regional director for UCLA Giving, was inspired by her mother’s work translating for other members of their immigrant community, “so their voices could be heard.” So it’s no surprise that Tseng refused to let the pandemic get in the way of her commitment to raising the voices of UC staff.

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“I’ll admit that was disappointed that I wasn’t able to spend more time visiting campuses and talking with staff members, Regents and senior leaders in person. But it forced us to be creative. I’m so grateful for the connections I’ve made over the last two years.”

As Tseng comes to the end of her two-year term, which she began alongside Staff Advisor Ann Jeffrey, who recently retired from her role as UC Berkeley assistant vice chancellor and chief of staff, and is concluding alongside Staff Advisor Designate Priya Lakireddy, assistant regional director of the Small Business Development Center at UC Merced, she shares a few highlights of her experience. 

You stepped in as staff advisor designate three months into the pandemic. How did you navigate everything that was going on, and how did these unprecedented times affect your tenure as staff advisor?

Those of us who’ve served over the last couple of years really feel the importance of the work we’re doing. It’s hard to build trust online, and trust is essential to significant advocacy work. So we’ve all had to work harder, to be more intentional about building relationships, and it’s paid off.

Because — until recently — we couldn’t have casual chats with Regents and senior leaders between meetings, they’ve been incredibly gracious about setting aside time for Zoom meetings with us. The Regents are such accomplished and busy people. They make time because they understand the value of the staff perspective.  

Priya and I both became active as advocates for staff through our work with Staff Assembly. The networks available through local assemblies and CUCSA [Council of UC Staff Assemblies] have been invaluable in helping us stay connected to staff.

UCnetwork has really helped us to reach out broadly to staff across the system, including those who may not feel as connected to staff organizations. We’ve been able to develop and promote our new virtual office hours — which we call ‘get to know your STARs’ — to make it easy for anyone to drop into a Zoom and talk with us. I’ve heard from people who might not have made it out to an in-person meeting, but they could take a few minutes to call in and share their perspectives.

What issues drove you as you took on the role of Staff Advisor to the Regents, and what accomplishments are you most proud of?

I was very immersed in staff advocacy through CUCSA and the UCLA Staff Assembly, and I knew I had the energy to continue the work. There’s a lot to do, and I couldn’t pass up this opportunity.

Everything that happens at UC involves the work of countless people, but I’ve been gratified by many things that have happened during my term. We’re still waiting for the final budget, but I appreciate that the Regents voted to approve a 4.5% pay increase for staff because they understand our value.

As a UC alumna, I’m also a strong supporter of our new tuition model. When I was a student, budget issues meant that my family had to deal with unexpected tuition increases, and it wasn’t easy. With our new model, students will avoid those hits and it will be easier for campuses to plan ahead, hopefully in favor of compensating staff with more consistent increases.

On a personal level, to make the most of this opportunity I’ve become more thoughtful and strategic. I’ve learned how to read a room and how to figure out what information will be most valuable to share.

What’s next for you?

I’m expecting a baby this summer, so I’ll be taking a much-needed break to adjust to that huge change in my life. I’m grateful to everyone who worked to advance UC’s Pay for Family Care and Bonding program! This makes my advocacy for the future of UC much more personal – I know being a parent will give me a new perspective on the challenges we face.

After my leave, I’ll be serving on several UCLA workgroups on campus, including a workgroup on threat response. It’s so important to bring the staff perspective to our work to make sure we’re all safe on campus. As a Rotarian, I’ll continue to be active in the fight against human trafficking. I’ve taken the lead in efforts to raise awareness about this global issue.

Any closing thoughts?

I want to extend my deepest gratitude to those who have shared their time, energy and wisdom with me during my term. The Regents and senior leaders have treated me, a relatively new UC staff member and the child of immigrants, as a respected colleague. They have always regarded my differences as strengths because of the perspective they’ve given me — just like I do.

I’m honored and excited to be joining the community of former staff advisors. This group of people is so generous and committed – I’m looking forward to paying it forward by doing everything I can to support future staff advisors.

Finally, I want to encourage anyone who is interested to consider applying to be the next staff advisor to the Regents. Everyone who’s taken on this role has brought something unique and valuable to it. Think about what you could bring. It’s a huge commitment, but it’s a privilege to be in a position to make a real difference. 

Learn more about the staff advisors to the UC Regents (aka STARS).

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