Sarai Koo, Ph.D.

Helping You Create
a Life You Love

Your Personal Coach

Most revered for her revolutionary, time-sensitive presentations, Dr. Sarai Koo has been developing people all over the world to live happier and healthier lives. She is a transformative speaker, culture change engineer, coach, author, and community leader.

Sarai is the CEO and Founder of MAPS 4 College, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that helps students develop necessary competencies to graduate from high school, succeed in college, excel professionally and live a life with character and excellence. Students who completed her one-year college preparatory program all went to college and graduated. She has served more than 17,000 people in five counties throughout California and internationally and developing more than 200 innovative leadership, career training, and culture change programs. In 2014, the organization was chosen as the best service organization out of 28 cities.

Dr. Koo was the CEO and Founder of Project SPICES, a coaching, consultancy and speaking firm, creating programs and services for other companies and their leaders in leadership development, organizational behavior, and workforce transformation to advance new ways of doing things. She uses her SPICES Paradigm™, a process-oriented, decision-making approach to develop diverse people to become productive; assist workforce personnel to explore their respective strengths, recognize and maintain positive relationships and work-life balance; become aware of and release hindering behavior, and design a life plan that fulfills their potential.

She appears on national and international media; coaches people globally; and speaks at various universities, companies, nonprofit organizations, non-governmental associations, schools, and governmental agencies (CIA, ODNI, State, etc.). In 2011, Dr. Koo, was chosen as one of the top 25 Korean-American community leaders under the age of 40 nationwide.

Years of Experience
Happy Clients
Success Stories
Keynote & Presentations
Scholarly Presentations

Seoul Food interview

Korea Daily appearance Read more

How to make your UC application stand out

Korea Daily, Education section, featured on the first two pages For more information, read the article:
Read more

Dr. Koo provides information

How to Complete the UC Application Read more

Dr. Koo shares insight into the ACT exam

The curriculum reflects a lot more than the SAT. Who should take the ACT? Interviewed and shared insight about the ACT exam Read more

Dr. Koo shares about preparing for college

Interviewed and article featured on the front page in the Education section
Read more

Seoul Food Interview

Get rid of the pain inside to live happy Read more

Percentage of California students meeting benchmarks on college-readiness test falls slightly Read more
  • State Senator for the 24th Senate District commemorated MAPS for spearheading the first and only comprehensive college preparatory organization in the City of Baldwin Park to help 91% of low-income, first generation, minority students attend more than 65 different four-year institution throughout the nation and 9% attend two-year colleges. Students who completed the college preparatory program and attended four year colleges have all graduated or are in the process of graduating from college.
  • Successfully developed a network of more than 70 colleges and universities, 25 restaurants and local businesses, 14 agencies, 9 schools, six entertainment industries, three government agencies, and six national and regional organizations to cultivate a college-to-work pipeline, ensuring both financial and in-kind resources directly supported programs and services. Received five in-kind buildings in four cities to reduce overhead costs; secured partnerships with corporations and restaurant industries to feed students, families, and community; and secured 17 Memorandum of Understanding agreements to provide services to other organizations and schools
  • Conceived and launched a successful agency by providing more than 200 professional, leadership, and career development to adults and young adults; organizational development and cultural change for agencies, businesses, and cities; and established a network of businesses, agencies, colleges, and companies to cultivate a college to work pipeline. Over 17,000 adults and young adults served. 
  • Culture Change Engineer – changing behaviors
  • Keynote Speaker
  • Motivational/Transformational Speaker
  • Leadership Coach
  • Teaching/Training/Facilitating
  • Identifying company and people root issues
  • CEO, Project SPICES
  • CEO, MAPS 4 College
  • Senior Consultant, Motivation Inspiration Consulting
  • Consultant/Ambassador, ACT, Inc.
  • Founding Executive Director, StandUp For Kids-Long Beach
  • Professor/Adult Educator, Various Graduate/Undergraduate/Adult Schools
  • Student Affairs Officer, UCSD
  • Educator and Professor, multiple locations
  • Certificate of Recognition, State of California Senate (Project SPICES), Feb. 18, 2015
  • Certificate of Recognition, State of California Senate (MAPS 4 College), Feb. 18, 2015
  • The Best Community Service Organization out of 28 cities in San Gabriel Valley, California Recreation and Parks Society District 13, 2014
  • Certificate of Recognition, State of California Senate (MAPS 4 College), Jan. 23, 2014
  • Certificate of Recognition, State of California Senate (MAPS 4 College), Nov 11, 2011
  • Certificate of Recognition, State of California Senate (MAPS 4 College), April 28, 2011
  • Certificate of Recognition, California State Assembly, April 23, 2011
  • Certificate of Recognition, California State Assembly (MAPS 4 College), April 10, 2010
  • Certificate of Recognition, State of California Senate (MAPS 4 College), April 10, 2010
  • Emerging Scholars Workshop, 2013 Division J (Postsecondary Education)
    Chapman Educational Studies Dean’s Fellowship, Chapman University, 2011-2013
  • Division E (Counseling and Human Development) Pre-Conference, Graduate Student Seminar Fellow, 2012
  • Division E (Counseling and Human Development) Pre-Conference, Graduate Student Seminar Fellow, 2011
  • Ph.D. Graduate Fellowship, Chapman University, 2009-2013
  • Joan Turner Cox Scholarship, Chapman University, 2009-2012
  • Chosen as one of the top 25 Next Generation Korean American community leaders nationwide and one of the top 100 Korean American leaders under the age of 40 (The Korean Times), Dec. 2011
  • Chancellor’s List for Graduate Students, 2004-2006
  • Change Behavior Specialist, National Academy of Sports Medicine
  • Certified Leadership Coach (Georgetown University, SPICES)
  • Certificate of Specialization in Content Strategy for Professionals, Northwestern University
  • Ability to administer and evaluate Level C psychological assessments
  • Certified to administer and evaluate Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), Strong Interest Inventory and Kuder Assessments
  • Certified College Planning Specialist
  • Certified Personal Trainer – National Academy of Sports Medicine; Aerobics and Fitness Association of America
  • Fitness Nutrition Specialist and Weight Loss Specialist – National Academy of Sports Medicine
  • Certified Group Fitness Instructor – Aerobics and Fitness Association of America
  • Basic Life Support (CPR/AED) Certification
  • Cerritos Community College District, Teaching Assistant Program
  • Additional Certificate and Curriculum Training Programs—Domestic violence/child maltreatment  (House of Ruth), FDIC Money Smart: Financial Education Program, 24/7 Dad™ Fatherhood Program (part of the National Fatherhood Initiative–Promoting Responsible Fatherhood, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services), Love Notes, and more
  • YTN World
  • Halo Halo LA-18
  • Dish Network, Chanel 668
  • The Korea Times
  • The Korea Daily
  • Radio Seoul
  • Where People Make a Difference
  • Gospel Broadcasting Company
  • San Gabriel Valley Tribune
  • Highlander
  • Baldwin Park Patch

University Affiliation

  • WASC Student/Faculty Research Sub-committee, Chapman University, CA, 2011- 2012

Scholarly Journal

  • Reviewer, Educational Review, 2012

Federal Grant Reviewer

  • Reviewer, Investing in Innovation (I3) federal grant, 2012

Professional Associations

  • Asian American Government Executive Network, Conference planner and one-on-one executive coach, 2017
  • American Anthropological Association, Council on Anthropology and Education, Chair for the Systemic Violence in Education, Schools, and Communities committee, 2012-2015
College Access and Readiness
  • National Association of College Admission Counseling, Greater Los Angeles, College Fair Committee Member (co-chair – workshops, publicity, busing, and volunteer), 2006-present
Community Engagement
  • Asian & Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund, Evaluated scholarship applicants for funding award, 2008
  • City of Long Beach, Subcommittee member for the 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness in Long Beach and participated in the education, outreach, and the continuum care and Implementation subcommittee, 2005-2006
  • Mary Bethune Transitional Center, Assisted the lead teacher and other staff with any support; guided and helped students in a positive learning environment to fully transition to a public school, 2005-2006
  • School Board Member Candidate and San Gabriel City Council Candidate, 1997, 2005, 2014
  • Assisted Assemblymember Young Kim get seated as the first Republican Korean American in the Assembly
  • Provided assistance in having Olympia Chen win as the first Asian American school board member for ABC Unified School District
  • Artesia Christian Home, Provided assistance to elderly patients, 2003-2004
  • Boys and Girls Club, Researcher/Volunteer at the Solana Beach Site; provided observation notes with Professor Michael Cole, creator of the Fifth Dimension, which is a program that used computer technology games to educate children to advance their cognitive, social-emotional, and physical skills, 2001-2002


  • National Association of Asian American Professionals, DC Chapter, 2017-present
  • Asian American Government Executives Networks, 2017-present
  • Association for Talent Development, 2015-2017
  • Western Association of College Admission Counseling, 2006-2011, 2014-present
  • American Educational Research Association (AERA), since 2009
  • American Anthropological Association (AAA), since 2012

• Former affiliations: Independent Educational Consultants Association, Higher Education Consultants Association (HECA), American Association of University Women (AAUW), National Association of College Admission Counseling, Phi Delta Kappan International, National Association for the Education of Young Children

Coaching, Education & Training

Learning Experiences

American Educational Research Association 2018

Program evaluation on the community connectedness and motivation of at-risk and low-income youth. Read more

World Education Research Association 2016

Cultivating community: Building relationships and sustainability towards addressing the achievement gap in a low-income Latino community Read more

American Anthropological Association 2015

From oppression to agency: Operationalizing the rise of the agental subject in higher education Read more

Cultural Studies Association 2015

Collaborating for public good: How three local agencies overcame obstacles to reach its Latino community Read more

American Educational Resesarch Association 2014

Naming and un-naming a research study "participatory"
Read more

American Educational Research Association 2013

An examination of how homeless youth succeed in high school despite barriers
Read more

8th Annual Summer Institute on Leadership for Educational Justice, University of Redlands

Discussant panelist with the Superintendents at various school districts and Dr. David Berliner
Read more

American Anthropological Association 2013

Closing the achievement gap: Peer to peer youth teaching model
Read more

Keynote Speaker, Human Development Speaker Series

Koo, S. (2015, March). Stepping out of PO to fulfilling my passion in life. Speaker at Pacific Oaks College, Pasadena, CA. For more information: Read more

Guest Lecturer

Koo, S. (2015, March). What do violence, racism, hate, and other negative issues have to do with you and me? Examining me by learning about the other. Guest speaker at the Pasadena City College, STACC Eng1A course, Pasadena, CA.
Read more

Life-long Learning: Find the Roadmap to Educate Yourself

Roadmap to Educate Yourself
Read more

Chapman University 2015

Racism or W.A.T.?
Read more

Citrus City College 2015

Intersectionality of culture, ka-shi, Kpop, and identity
Read more

Pacific Oaks College 2015

SPICES: The key ingredients to unlock your life path
Read more

Special Approach To Every Client

Leadership & Professional Development

See Sarai in Action:

How I Work


I used to hate life. I hated my job, I hated the people I worked with, I hated existing. I hated, felt hopeless, and didn’t want to live. I was a depressed person.  I felt like a depressed person, I acted like a depressed person, I felt the hopelessness of a depressed person.

And now, after Project Spices…

I don’t have the inner pain that used to be a part of me all the time…

Now, I am a person who has hope.  I am able to think positively.  I take on challenges I vowed I would never do. I am able to meet some of the goals I make for myself. I’m not devastated about the goals that I don’t meet; I’m still able to feel hope that I can accomplish those goals.


40 y.o.

Recently, I had the pleasure of attending one of Dr. Sarai Koo’s training sessions and am very impressed by her candor and professionalism. I found the training both powerful and effective and I have heard nothing, but good comments from coworkers. She has the ability to get to the root of an issue and communicate in a way where everyone could understand and relate. I especially appreciated that she personalized the session and made the information relevant to both our professional and personal lives. I look forward to working with her again in the future.

Tammy F.L., Career Development Specialist Customer Marketing and Communication

39 y.o.

“Visionary. Gifted. Anointed. Groundbreaking. Lively. Theatrical. Informative. These are just some of the words that describe the Dr. Koo experience. What she did in a matter of 8 hours was remarkable. She came in, peeled back my onion, and helped me dump out all of the stuff that was holding me back. I now have a deeper appreciation and feel much lighter than before. Dr. Koo is a human kaleidoscope. She empowers, uplifts, transforms, confronts (in a loving/direct way), breaks down and builds up. Her approach is one that is force to be reckoned with and cannot be duplicated. Dr. Koo’s love and investment in people is genuine, compassionate with a touch of tough love. What I appreciate most about her is that she does not give credit and boast about her schooling. She shows up, delivers and let her anointing and gift speak. If you are looking to boost the productivity of your workers and enhance company results, I beseech you to contact Dr. Koo immediately.

Anthony S., Career Development Specialist

26 y.o.