GCR Spotlight

Interview with Jenn Tang

Jenn Tang joined Berkeley Lab six years ago as a member of the Government and Community Relations (GCR) Office. Until recently, she served as the Director of Federal and Community Relations. She used her extensive public service experience from her time working for Senator Barbara Boxer, and in the district office of a State Assembly member, to educate Congress and congressional staffers on Berkeley Lab’s mission, and to deepen the Lab’s ties with local governments and organizations.

Beginning August 9, Jenn will devote her energies fully to the Lab’s community engagement work in her new role as the Director of Community Relations. For Don Medley, the Executive Director of Government and Community Relations, this is a natural progression for his team. “Because of Laboratory leadership’s commitment to being a good neighbor and Jenn’s experience and expertise, the Lab is well poised to increase our outreach, enrich our own communities, and make a bigger difference in lives across the Bay Area,” he said.

Don sees Jenn as the perfect fit for her newly expanded role. “Jenn understands the East Bay community and the Bay Area. She is thoughtful, creative, and listens, and is dedicated to the Lab and its mission. She has the vision, compassion, and focus needed to expand the Lab’s community outreach.”

Lab Director Mike Witherell agrees. “The new Director of Community Relations role reflects Berkeley Lab's deep commitment to our neighbors in the East Bay.” he said. “Jenn is the perfect person to extend the Lab's role as a valued and trusted partner to our local community.”

Jenn took some time to share her thoughts on her new role, her goals, and how the GCR team supports the Lab’s mission.

One of the first questions is always what attracted you to Berkeley Lab?

I'm a science nerd at heart who couldn't actually hack it in the hard sciences. So I use my social sciences and policy skills to help support the incredible work that happens at the Lab on a day to day basis.

You're starting a new role, Director of Community Relations. What can you tell me about it?

I am transitioning from a split portfolio that covers both federal relations and community relations to being able to focus full time on community relations. I’m really excited about that transition. One of the things that I'm excited about is being able to increase the Lab’s emphasis on, and efforts related to, community engagement, especially with underserved and under-resourced communities. What I'm hoping to do is expand the reach of the Lab’s community relations activities and grow the Lab's profile as a critical asset in the Bay Area.

Tell me more about the Lab as a critical asset?

That phrase means a number of things, whether it's sharing our groundbreaking research, educational outreach, providing jobs to the community, or volunteerism. It’s broadly coordinating with community organizations and local governments to make sure they're able to take advantage of the discovery science and more practical research and technologies that we've developed. It’s training the next generation of scientists and engineers, and making sure that we're building up a deep talent pool in our own backyard.

What are you most looking forward to in the new role?

I'm excited to be able to expand the impact of our community relations programs, growing our reputation as a good neighbor and responsible community institution. There are so many new opportunities and ways to think about how the Lab can have an impact in the community. One of the things that I love most about the community relations portfolio is being out and about talking to people in the community, and I look forward to the day where we can do that again. At big street festivals, at smaller events, just really having those one-on-one engagements and getting people excited about who we are and what we do. And just sharing that passion.

It's not just me, I have Joselyn [Delgado, Community Relations Administrator] on the team as well. The two of us have a really exciting opportunity to grow the footprint of the Lab's impact in the community. The Lab’s mission is “bringing science solutions to the world.” I want the local community to know that those efforts are built on strong partnerships with the community. We have a global reach, but that doesn't happen without our community partners.

Now that you can focus on community relations full time, what's one thing that you've been waiting to be able to do?

Now that I'm able to focus full time on community relations, I want to do a listening tour with the Lab community to hear what their ideas are as well. I want this to be a collaborative effort. So many people at the Lab live in Berkeley or live in the East Bay and it's important for me to hear their thoughts, where their interests and passions are. I feel like the community relations portfolio and the work that we do within community relations can also build community internally at the Lab. It’s a way to bring team science to life, and there are so many great opportunities to collaborate internally at the Lab in service of a really robust external community relations program.

How would you encourage the Lab community to utilize you in your community relations role?

I’ll give two examples. To start, there's the practical side, the operations of the Lab side. There are issues like wildfire, or our annual chemical inventory, that result in the need for the public to know what is going on at the Lab. Anytime something happens that impacts folks outside our gates, I would appreciate getting a heads up to help ensure that we are appropriately messaging any impacts that might need to be communicated. I think one of the things that is really important for the Lab is to be a trusted institution, and I can help socialize whatever the issue might be.

And on the science side, if a researcher is interested in pursuing partnerships with nonprofit organizations or local governments, that's something I'm happy to help with. We have good relationships with our local elected officials and with a number of community organizations whose missions are complementary to the Lab’s. I’m happy to help be a resource for researchers.