Blending Passions

Hoi-Fei Mok ’10

A photo portrait of Hoi-Fei Mok '10

Photo by Julia Kim

Photo by Julia Kim

Hoi-Fei Mok ’10 once saw themselves as someone with three separate interests: environmental science, social justice, and art. But now, Hoi-Fei, a self-described “artist, community organizer, and climate policy practitioner,” has found ways to bring these areas together.

A biological chemistry major at Wellesley, Hoi-Fei became interested in environmental studies senior year. Then they received a Katharine Malone Prize for Academic Excellence, allowing them to pursue an environmental science Ph.D. at the University of Melbourne, studying wastewater reuse for agricultural irrigation in regional cities. From Australia, Hoi-Fei returned to their hometown in the Bay Area to be a CivicSpark AmeriCorps fellow, focusing on sustainability and environmental action.

Meanwhile, Hoi-Fei’s interest in social and racial justice grew. They had come out at Wellesley and joined Tea Talks, a social-support group for LGBTQIA+ students of Pan-Asian descent, and then joined another queer Asian group in Melbourne. In California, they got involved with Lavender Phoenix, an organizing space for transgender, nonbinary, and queer Asians and Pacific Islanders. Hoi-Fei began to see how environmental issues directly impacted marginalized populations and began to blend their social justice activism with climate equity work.

Hoi-Fei, who had always been interested in making art, was also named a Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Fellow and an Intercultural Leadership Institute Year 4 Fellow. Interacting with other artists of color, they saw how art could be a vehicle to talk about social justice and politics, connecting art with their climate work.

“It feels authentic to be doing all these things at once,” says Hoi-Fei, who now is the sustainability manager for the City of San Leandro, Calif.

It took a while to get to this place, though—Hoi-Fei was unemployed for over a year and recalls applying for 120 jobs in six months. “Know that your life doesn’t have to look like everyone who usually gets profiled in the magazine,” Hoi-Fei says.

Finding your mission is a long-term struggle, they say. “It’s a marathon, so pace yourself and know your capacity and strengths and skills. And find ways to replenish your joy. I’ve sunk over 200 hours into playing [the video game] Baldur’s Gate,” Hoi-Fei says, laughing. “Sometimes you just have to transform into a bear and fight some goblins.”

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