New CSBS Team Member: Brenda Koester

CSBS Associate Director Brenda Koester
CSBS Associate Director Brenda Koester

Brenda Davis Koester joined the Center for Social and Behavioral Science in July 2023 as the Associate Director. In this role, Brenda is responsible for developing, implementing, and managing CSBS programs, services, and facilities with the goal of strategically enhancing the research enterprise in social and behavioral science.

Tell us briefly about your personal and professional background.

I was raised in the Chicago suburbs but have called the Champaign-Urbana community home for over 35 years. Before joining CSBS, I served as the Associate Director of the Family Resiliency Center at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. I am also a proud alum having received both my bachelor’s degree (Communication) and master’s degree (Labor and Employment Relations) from Illinois and am currently a graduate student in Communication.

What are you excited for in your new role with CSBS?

There are two CSBS initiatives that I am particularly excited about. One is our collaboration with the Cancer Center at Illinois that highlights the important contribution that social and behavioral science can play in cancer research. This is a particularly good fit with ongoing research I am involved with that is examining the social and behavioral aspects of food access for cancer survivors.

The other is the launch of our new interdisciplinary team network program. Some of the most pressing issues facing our society today require innovative problem solving that require contributions from a variety of disciplines. Funding agencies are increasingly interested in funding interdisciplinary research, but effective teams are not formed overnight. They take careful planning and investment of time and energy. Our initiative will help to provide support to form and launch these teams.

Where and when do you get your best ideas?

My best ideas come when I’m on a walk/run, working in my garden, or in the kitchen cooking.   

Outside of work or home, where might we find you?

My husband Tom and I love to travel. There are so many interesting places in the world we still want to see, but our favorite destinations are New York and Colorado where our adult children live. We also love spending time at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts. Our community is fortunate to have renowned artists performing right in our backyard in a world-class affordable space.

What is your real-life superpower?

My real-life superpower is making connections. Those connections might be between people or ideas or even both! The Illinois campus is the perfect environment for this as there are so many interesting people on campus that conduct and support innovative groundbreaking research.