Campus Conversations: Preparing students for the 21st century

Two top UC Berkeley administrators talked about the educational experience for UC Berkeley graduates and undergraduates at a Campus Conversation event on Tuesday. (UC Berkeley video by Stephen McNally)

A UC Berkeley education should be about discovery and support, the two UC Berkeley administrators in charge of the graduate and undergraduate programs said Tuesday.

Vice Chancellor for Undergraduate Education Cathy Koshland and Fiona Doyle, who is the vice provost for graduate studies and dean of the graduate division, spoke for nearly an hour during the latest Campus Conversation, designed to let campus leaders take questions from students, staff and faculty.

Koshland and Doyle talked about the strategic planning process and how they’re both laying the groundwork for a new era of excellence at UC Berkeley. Key among the areas of emphasis was sending UC Berkeley’s almost 41,000 graduate and undergraduate students on a path of discovery and critical thinking as they fulfill their academic requirements.

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Last month Athletic Director Jim Knowlton called sports the “front porch” of the Berkeley campus

“Discovery is important so they themselves can keep on learning,” Doyle said. “We can’t prepare them for what is there, we have to prepare them to keep on preparing themselves.”

Changes they hope to see in the next five to 10 years include ways for students to better navigate and understand all that UC Berkeley has to offer, including creating more classes for students and bolstering mentorship programs.

“Part of what we are embarking on is something we’re calling ‘Major Maps,’ which is going to be for each major, a navigation pathway not just for the major and classes but ideas for internship and study abroad and a number of things that will integrate and will be a useful guide.”

Doyle (left) and Koshland (middle) talked with Dan Mogulof (right), a spokesman for UC Berkeley. (UC Berkeley photo by Irene Yi)

Doyle (left) and Koshland (middle) talked with Dan Mogulof (right), a spokesman for UC Berkeley. (UC Berkeley photo by Irene Yi)

But the pair also acknowledged that UC Berkeley can be an intimidating place for students, many of whom are adjusting to life without protective parents nearby, or struggling to meet basic needs like food and shelter.

The campus has done much to support students, including offering financial aid and hiring its first basic needs manager.

But Koshland also acknowledged that campus leaders could make UC Berkeley more welcoming.

“We say so much about how hard this place is and how tough it is that I think we actually induce stress rather than help alleviate it,” Koshland said. “Part of what I would love to see us do is change the way we talk to students about what their experience is — and certainly support them. They do run into challenges, there is no denying that — but if we start out from the very beginning talking as if this place is an impossible lift, that’s what students are going to feel.

Discovery is important so (students) themselves can keep on learning.”

– Fiona Doyle, vice provost for graduate studies and Dean of the graduate division

“I’d like to think of us as a place that challenges folks,” she continued. “The bar is here, and we’d like to help you get there. It is a matter of how we help you navigate that and how we help you get there.”

Margie Winn, a graduate student affairs officer is the Department of Earth and Planetary Science, said she appreciated hearing Doyle and Koshland talk about their vision for education at UC Berkeley.

“The discovery process is important to our new student undergraduates, but it also has a huge impact on our ability to produce graduate students who can thrive in the work environment with the right tools,” she said.

The Campus Conversations will continue with Vice Chancellor for Research Randy Katz on October 15, Vice Chancellor for University Development and Alumni Relations Julie Hooper on November 14, and Chancellor Carol Christ at the semester’s final event on December 12. More details are available at campusconversations.berkeley.edu/