A warm welcome to Vicky Lee, the Graduate Division’s new Director of Graduate Student Funding. Hear about her long-standing history with Cal, and why Evans Hall is one of her favorite spots on campus.

Vickey standing in front of a lion mural.
Marie Claire: What brings you here to Cal? 

Vicky Lee: I come from a Cal family. A lot of my family members went to Cal, including my dad and older sister, so Berkeley was always a part of my life. 

When I also found myself here for my undergraduate studies, I formed my own connection. The experiences I had on this campus changed the way that I viewed and interacted with the world. I did a lot of growing that shaped the way I live my adult life.

After receiving my undergraduate degree, I worked in the nonprofit sector for a few years and eventually decided that I wanted to get a master’s degree in education with the intent to come back to Berkeley as an advisor. Originally, I had wanted to work with undergraduates, but that changed after my first job in higher ed. I was the Student Services Coordinator for Public Health and Professional Degree Programs at Tufts Medical School in Boston, and realized that working with graduate students was better aligned with my professional interests and skill set. 

After living on the East Coast for a few years, I knew it was time for me to move back home to the Bay Area. I started looking for jobs, especially at Berkeley and ended up getting hired as a graduate advisor for the economics department. Since then I’ve been an advisor both in economics and math. I have been able to do exactly what I wanted to do: supporting graduate students and giving back to a population and institution that gave so much to me. It has all been really fulfilling work. 

I think that graduate students hold such an important role on this campus, and make vital contributions to the university that can easily get overlooked. I want to support their studies and improve their experience on campus. Graduate school is extremely difficult and I want to try to make it a little bit easier if I can. 

Now that I find myself in the Graduate Division, I hope to improve graduate student experiences on a broader level and support graduate advisors on the front line. 

MC: Thank you so much for your Golden Bear history! Where did you go to graduate school?

VL: I went to the Harvard Graduate School of Education, so that’s how I ended up in Boston. 

MC: What do you think is the current highlight of your job? You mentioned that advising graduate students felt fulfilling. Do you still feel that in this position? 

VL: I’m excited and I’m new, so it’s hard to tell right now. I’m excited for all the learning opportunities and being in a position to support departments and graduate advisors who are doing all the direct work with graduate students. I want to bring my lens as an advisor to the Graduate Division, and widen my impact across campus. 

MC: Could you explain some of what your role or position is like, what, and how you provide support? 

VL: I support departments with interpreting policy and assist with issues that arise involving funding. 


I hope that students know there are people who really care about them and their experience in the Graduate Division. We very intentionally want to help.

MC: What’s the best way to contact you?

VL: I’m reachable by email.

MC: What’s your favorite place on campus?

VL: I don’t know if I really have a favorite place on campus. I go to the Free Speech Movement Café a lot to grab lunch. I used to study at Caffe Strada every single day when I was an undergrad, but now I go to Free Speech.  

I also have this other funny answer. There’s this balcony on the 10th floor of Evans with a great view of the bay. It’s really nice. I used to work in Evans — it’s the only other building I’ve ever worked in on campus, aside from Sproul Hall. It’s just funny because everyone hates that building. 

MC: Do you have any goals for your role?

VL: I think the team and the unit that I’m in is already really strong, so I just want to be able to continue our level of service to graduate advisors, different departments, and students. I want to stay on that trend of being service-oriented and being a good resource for advisors and students. 

MC: When you’re not at work, what would you probably be doing?

VL: When I’m not at work, I like to go to the gym and other fitness classes. I also like to bake, cook, and tend to my house plants.

MC: Do you have any preferred plants that you care for or is there a certain type of species that you love? 

VL: My house plants are relatively new. Right now my favorites are peperomias. I have a watermelon peperomia and an owl eye peperomia that I really like. I also have a Pilea peperomioides, also known as a Chinese money plant that I’m enjoying. Those are my favorites right now.