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Q: What’s made of gumdrops, Legos and 10,000 gallons of water? A: Take Our Kids to Work Day!

On April 27, UCOP celebrated Take Our Sons and Daughters to Work Day for the third consecutive year, with more than 100 children of UCOP staff joining the estimated 39 million kids participating in the event nationwide.

After a group breakfast, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Rachael Nava and her Chief of Staff Cathy O’Sullivan kicked off the day with an enthusiastic welcome, including to staff and children at the UCPath Center and UCDC office, who joined the Oakland group by remote video link before beginning their own events. Nava and O’Sullivan shared some fun facts about UC before giving out the mission for the day: “Ask questions, participate, volunteer to do or try things – and have fun!”

Months of careful planning were evident in the creativity and ingenuity of dozens of sessions conducted by UCOP staff volunteers, all aimed at entertaining kids ranging from 5 to 17 while educating them on a wide variety of topics. Here are descriptions of just some of the many group activities that the kids participated in:

How do you use gumdrops and toothpicks to teach communication skills to middle-schoolers? The UCPath PMO staff had groups of three build a gumdrop structure while restricting who could ask questions or see what was being built. Result: An “a-ha” at the value of asking questions, having two-way communication, and giving step-by-step instructions – as well as having a shared vision of what you want to create.

Fourth-graders learned a shocking secret when the Nutrition Policy Institute folks had them figure out how many teaspoons of sugar are in a single can of soda: At least nine, more sugar than a child should consume in an entire day. Even more surprising (“because it’s sour!”) was the fact that sweetened lemonade isn’t much better. But these are California kids — they not only knew that a nutritionist helps you stop eating “fat things” but could eagerly name their favorite vegetable. And they elbowed each other for the chance to make their own healthy drinks by combining plain fizzy water with squeezes of fresh fruit.

Institutional Research and Planning (IRAP) took a subject that might not sound like fun – data – and engaged a group of third-graders by using it to tell the UC story. On a map of California, the eight-year-olds eagerly filled in different colors to illustrate how many of the 56,000 freshmen arriving at UC this past fall came from each county to the nine campuses, making a rainbow of our geographic diversity.

In another session for third-graders, the Office of the Chief Investment Officer (OCIO) introduced the idea of needs vs. wants – a necessary distinction given that candy and “more data” for a smartphone were initially identified as “needs” by some kids. As the art of budgeting and saving was discussed, many of the kids participated by telling personal stories, including hiding money from their siblings, saving for the toy they really want and dreaming of one day owning “a pink mansion.”

You’d think that talking about retirement to middle-schoolers would be impossible, but Retirement Services (RASC) got the group enthusiastically engaged with a discussion of spending that focused on sneakers, Starbucks and smartphones. The kids easily identified expenses you have to budget for, and were full of ideas for saving money, such as riding a bike vs. driving, and doing chores like gardening and car washing yourself instead of paying someone. So, parents, the ground has been laid for some dollar-saving discussions at home.

The UCPath Technical Program staff gave the fourth-graders an introduction to financial literacy starting with the invention of currency before illustrating the flow of money between people, businesses and banks. Asked if any of the group had coins from other countries, kids eagerly named Australia, England, Mexico – and California. After clearing up that confusion, it was on to the importance of savings, with one conscientious boy saying he’s already storing money in his wallet for college. In another session, the same fourth-graders were coached on presentation skills by Learning and Development — practicing the art of speaking clearly, making eye contact and using relaxed gestures. So if your nine-year-old is looking more poised or squirreling away money, you now know why.

Even an adult might be stumped when asked what “usability” refers to, but groups of both third and fifth-graders caught on quickly when the HR Business Information Systems staff broke out Lego kits and divided them into pairs of tester-builders and observers who watched and took note of assembly problems. And when asked to tell someone how to make a PB&J sandwich, the command to “Put peanut butter on bread” resulted in a jar of peanut butter being placed on top of a loaf of bread, illustrating the importance of accurate instructions while making the group laugh.

Technical construction was also on the minds of middle-schoolers who worked in pairs to disassemble and then reassemble the innards of laptops under the watchful coaching of ITS staff. (Don’t worry, parents, those weren’t your computers they took apart.) ITS also led the only quiet session of the day, helping silently mesmerized kids program their own computer games.

“You guys want to touch a kneecap?” Kindergartners and first-graders were wide-eyed but eager to explore when UC Health brought out the human skeleton again this year, leading the group through the bones, largest to smallest (in the ear) and answering curious questions such as “What happens when an alligator bites a dog’s foot?” After learning that the “funny bone” is actually just a nerve that hurts when you hit your elbow, the kids were excited to demonstrate the agonized faces they make when that happens. And don’t be surprised if your child lets you know that while she was born with 300 bones, she’ll only have 206 when she’s all grown up.

It was a race to recycle when the first and second-graders were tasked with sorting a pile of trash into compost, recycling or landfill containers. (Parents, don’t worry – they had gloves on.) By making it into a game, the Energy and Sustainability staff ignited excitement, with the kids cheering each other on to make the right choices. Making smart decisions was also the message delivered to the oldest kids, as high school students heard the General Liability staff recount real cases from UC campuses. As they head off to college soon, they were encouraged to reflect on the possible outcomes of bad choices, like the one made by a UC student who flew a drone inside a dorm, breaking a sprinkler head and flooding the entire building.

In a replay of a popular session from last year, Risk Services staff also addressed safety, having second-graders dress up in lab coats and safety goggles and perform experiments to measure chlorine in our drinking water and radioactivity in every day products. Another popular reprise was the Franklin building tour led by Building Services, which modestly proclaimed it “the best event of the day.” Outfitted with safety glasses and earplugs, the group began its tour with a descent into “the underneath,” where a 10,000-gallon water tank serves as an emergency back-up in case city water is cut off during quake or fire. Although disappointed that their request to shut off the main electrical grid for the entire office was denied, awestruck faces were the rule when gazing up at the underside of the main elevator shafts and the steel columns that run from 60 feet below the garage all the way up to the roof.

Learning that you need to build a strong foundation, communicate clearly, be prepared and make the right choices – all in all, a fitting day for a child of UC.


Scores of UCOP staff members worked hard to make UCOP’s 2017 Take Our Daughters and Sons To Work Day a success, including:

Planning committee: Barbara Heilmann, Candace Jones, Emma Sebastian, Darin Jensen, Rebecca Stanek-Rykoff, Mylo Stine, Jeff MacCharles, Stephanie Hernandez, Caroline Rodriguez

Event staff: Veronica Cummings, Paul Lechner, Berni Fitzsimmons and Beth Kellman

Escorts for the groups of kids: William Guinto, Sally Gelini, Dave Kolodziejski, Michael Kusiak, Donna Collins, Cathy O’Sullivan, Patricia Osorio-O’Dea, Margarita Parkin, Bobby Cook, Randi Jenkins, Roni Wilson, Shaloo Jeswani, Yi Yin, Nicola Gruen, Jaime Espinoza, Angela Cervantes, Nancy Hamill, Susan Witt, Deshawn Boyd, Hubert Wong, Jennifer Chin, Angel Warren, Elaine Bulawin, Amy Vrizuela, Nancy Hamill, Joanna Trammell, Sam Davis, Jaswinder Saini, Terri Barton, Rowena Manlapaz, Rosario Mendoza, Alisa Hsiu, Kelly Howard, Julie Wong, Marion Kavanaugh-Lynch, Nichol Carranza, Dede Bruno

Building Services: Matthew Leet

Energy and Sustainability: Robbie Barton

Ethics, Compliance and Audit Services (ECAS): Brian Warshawsky

Global Food Initiative: Gale Sheean-Remotto, Deanna Geddie, Sam Gerston

HR-BIS: Sarah Emory Teran, Afroz Pathan, Chao Wang, Vicki Tran

IRAP: Darin Jensen

ITS: Steven Pease, Elisa Tang

Learning and Development/Local HR: John Blake

Nutrition Policy Institute: Lorrene Ritchie, Danielle Lee

OCIO: Philomela Pena, Jeff Donahue

Operational Services: Michele Maule, Nichol Carranza, Deb Hill, Jaswinder Saini, Raghuvir Goradia

RASC: Steve Ong, Ellen Lorenz, Leland Espinosa, Myrna Davis, Angela Yip, Angela Cervantes, Patricia Lencioni, Monica Courtney, Jackylyn Wong, Susan Navarro, Sharon Adesokan, Jeanine Williams

RGPO: Laura Packel, Tyler Martz, Lisa Loeb Stanga

Risk Services: Allison Hill, Karen Vecchi, Gary Leonard, Melissa Burley

UC Health: Brandi Schmitt


Leadership welcome: Mark Rhine
Building presentation: Daryl Brown
Tour guides: Nubia Herrera, Jill Estrema, Kasey Udink, Anna Angel
Employee Services workshop: Alma Hawkins, Oscar Aguilera, Gina Aguirre, Erika Martinez
QPM workshop: Stephanie Madison, Joe Torres, Michael Derrett
Communications/Mailroom workshop: Jennifer Mushinskie, Jennifer Carlos


OP’s event was part of a national campaign led by the Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Foundation. The foundation is dedicated to developing innovative strategies and research-based activities in informal educational programs that empower girls and boys in all sectors of society to confront and overcome societal messages about youth so that they may reach their full potential and live fulfilling lives.

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  1. Lena Zentall May 2, 2017 Reply

    My son was disappointed that I didn’t bring him. Next year! Bravo to everyone who contributed to inspiring the next generation and sharing UC spirit!

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