Mia Cooper receives 2020 Outstanding GSI Award in Engineering

By Lauren Leung

Portrait of a smiling woman with shoulder length brown hair.
Mia Cooper, recipient of the Outstanding GSI Award in Engineering.

The Graduate Division and Graduate Student Instructor (GSI) Teaching and Resource Center recently presented Mia Cooper with the Outstanding GSI Award in Engineering. The Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor (OGSI) Award honors over 200 UC Berkeley GSIs each year and recipients are nominated from within their teaching department.

Mia is a second-year Masters candidate at the UC Berkeley School of Public Health with a concentration in Health and Social Behavior. Her academic and professional interests are focused on organizational design, behavior management and performance improvement in healthcare settings. She holds a BA in Urban Studies from Barnard College.

Mia was nominated for the award by Thomas Fitzpatrick, instructor for E295: Communication for Engineering Leaders, who has worked with Mia for two semesters. He praised her diligence, sharing that, “Mia’s positivity and can-do attitude help generate a great class atmosphere and she shows genuine care for her students.”

Susan Houlihan, another E295 instructor, said of Mia, “Mia is a very insightful communications coach; very empathetic yet provides excellent feedback. A great partner for me — great ideas and [she’s] willing to always volunteer and go the extra mile to help.”

Here, we had the opportunity to catch up with Mia, reflect on her teaching experience, and learn more about how she spends her free time.

Can you share a bit about yourself and the class you help teach in the MEng program?

“I am currently finishing my Masters of Public Health at UC Berkeley. As highlighted by the current pandemic, thinking about health on a population level and building solutions that consider the vast inequities that exist in our modern, global society is essential. During my time at Berkeley, I have been able to explore how community and belonging impact health and developed skills towards helping organizations and teams implement changes and move through transitions. For example, for my summer internship I worked with an Optometry Clinic at a local Federally Qualified Health Center to think about how to incorporate new patient workflows into the clinic.

I GSI’d five sections of E295: Developing your Leadership Presence in Fall 2019 which focused on learning how to communicate clearly, persuasively and professionally. In Spring 2020, I GSI’d four sections of E295: Communication for Engineering Leaders which focused more on developing written and presentation elements of students’ capstone projects.

It has been an honor to be part of the E295 teaching team, and learn from my fellow GSIs, the professors, and the amazing MEng students!

As a someone studying Public Health, how have you found teaching engineering students?

I was drawn to this role by the leadership development lens. I loved getting to see another slice of campus, and seeing how MEng students think! At the end of the day, whether we are studying public health or engineering, we are all trying to make the world a better place.

On the left, Mia during a backpacking trip. On the right, Mia shows some of the produce from her garden.

How would you describe your teaching philosophy?

There is no one way to be a leader. From a young age, many of us are taught to value certain forms of leadership and ways of being over others. When we source from our hearts, it opens doors for connection and transformation. In my teaching I strive to create spaces where people can bring their full selves. I believe that these kinds of relational spaces are essential for fostering personal growth!

What are some lessons you’ve learned through teaching?

Human connection is everything. No matter how technical the work is, it’s so important to relate to each other with empathy, compassion, and respect.

How do you spend your free time?

In my free time, I enjoy being outside backpacking, gardening, and playing and listening to music. I was born and raised in the Bay Area and I feel a deep connection to the land, air, and waterways here that connect us all.”

“Human connection is everything. No matter how technical the work is, it’s so important to relate to each other with empathy, compassion, and respect.”

Connect with Mia

Learn more about the Fung Institute at funginstitute.berkeley.edu.

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