As Juilliard’s human resources associate Caitlin Choi meets with new hires, helps write faculty contracts and leave plans, does countless other tasks—and is the face behind the candy bowl. (Most popular: Snickers and, while they last, Peppermint Patties. Least popular: Three Musketeers.) Born in Tallahassee, Fla., she grew up mostly in Melbourne, Fla., with a brief stint in Bloomington, Ind., while her dad went to graduate school for comparative literature. A graduate of Stetson University, she majored in international studies with minors in French and business. After college, she was an Americorps/VISTA volunteer at the Coalition for the Homeless in Daytona Beach and then worked as a human resources training specialist at Haven Recovery Center in Daytona Beach. Caitlin and her husband, Jason, live in Brooklyn.
What is the most memorable job you’ve had and what made it so?
After college, I was one of two coordinators for a Faces of Homelessness Speakers’ Bureau, meaning I helped find individuals who had experienced (or were currently experiencing) homelessness who wanted to share their story through public speaking. The idea was to change negative stereotypes about the homeless (and decrease crime against the homeless) by giving them a face and a name. It was a really unique situation, because we weren’t just serving food or providing shelter, but giving people a platform to share their stories and be heard. It was a really incredible experience and gave me a great appreciation for the power of an individual with a story.
How do you balance your job and your artistic endeavors?
I play the viola, and when I first moved here, I had a hard time finding the time to practice or perform. But then I joined the Brooklyn Symphony Orchestra (there are so many community orchestras in the city!) and having dedicated weekly rehearsals and regular concerts has really allowed me the space to enjoy playing again. I love the social aspect of being involved in an ensemble, as well, and I’ve gotten to know some really great people through the orchestra.
What job at Juilliard would you like to try out for a day?
I would love to work for a day in one of the production shops—maybe wigs and makeup or props—just to see what their day is like. I love the idea of working with my hands instead of staring at a computer all day.
What do you remember about your first day at Juilliard?
I’ve been working here for a little over two years. On my first day here, I remember being amazed that the School served wine in the middle of the afternoon at a going-away party. My previous job had been at a mental health and substance abuse facility, so I was used to a very different company culture. But I wasn’t complaining!
What’s the craziest day at work you’ve ever had?
Every work day from the end of August through the beginning of October feels like the craziest day I’ve ever had!
If your boss said to take the day off, what would you do?
I would walk across Central Park and go to the Met for a few hours, take myself out to lunch, and then spend the rest of the day exploring a neighborhood I don’t know very well. Or maybe I would just hang out in my pajamas and watch TV—it depends on the kind of week I’m having.
What other pursuits are you passionate about?
I’m pretty involved in my church, especially the children’s ministry. I absolutely love working with kids—getting to know their personalities and spending time with their families is one of my favorite things to do. My husband and I also try to make sure we have New York City “fun days” every so often to get out and see the best that the city has to offer (museum exhibits, boat rides, walking tours, outdoor movie nights, etc.). We still feel entitled to act like tourists when we get a chance.
What was the best vacation you’ve had?
We went to Alaska in August, and it was unlike anything I’ve seen before: I was seriously in awe. Having grown up in Florida and then living in the city, I’ve never lived near mountains and Alaska is full of them. We got to see a glacier calving, watch beluga and orca whales, and pick wild blueberries in Denali. If you ever get a chance to go, do it.
What might people be surprised to know about you?
I speak French and love to practice it every chance I get. So if you speak it as well, stop by and chat! I am also really into making ice cream—my husband and I started using an ice-cream maker at home about two years ago, and we really enjoy creating custom flavors (Speculoos and chocolate-covered pretzels, lemon with candied ginger, vanilla with Oreos and raspberry swirl) for our friends.
What's your favorite thing about New York City?
The people! We have found a really great community here—from coworkers to church friends to neighbors—and we feel so lucky to have stumbled into such a vibrant and welcoming group of people.
What are you reading/following?
I read a swath of design, food, and lifestyle blogs that keep me inspired to create, cook, learn, and grow in my life outside of work. I enjoy The Kitchn, Oh Happy Day, Smitten Kitchen, and Little Green Notebook, to name a few blogs. I’m also an avid fiction reader and love everything from Jane Austen to J. K. Rowling.
What’s the H.R. question you’re asked most?
“Can I please get an employment letter for my apartment search?” People sure do move a lot in New York City.
What brought you to New York in the first place?
The short answer is that we just wanted to move here—so we did!