Campus & community

UC Berkeley leaders offer pearls of wisdom, call to action for new students

Ask big questions. Seek new experiences. And it’s OK if you get lost on campus.

Such was the advice to the roughly 10,000 new UC Berkeley students who gathered Thursday at the 2023 New Student Convocation at Haas Pavilion. Between rousing performances from Cal Raijin Taiko (Berkeley’s Japanese drumming ensemble) and Berkeley rally chants, campus leaders encouraged students to find their passion — be it in the form of scholarly research, public service or creative projects.

“There is a need and an opportunity to rethink and reexamine how we can, in the finest Berkeley fashion, make the world a better place and model the change that we wish to see,” said Chancellor Carol Christ. “This is the community that awaits you, that needs your participation and perspectives.”

Christ, in her final fall convocation address as chancellor, celebrated the diversity of the incoming class and campus-wide efforts to build an inclusive community. It’s particularly important now, she said, given the urgent need to uplift social justice causes and combat those who are attacking the foundations of science and knowledge.

“The world needs people who believe in science and the notion of a greater good, in justice, equity, diversity, inclusiveness and the truth,” Christ said. “And these, of course, are the very values that form the foundation of all that Berkeley is and stands for.

“It’s our collective responsibility to ensure that it will ever be so.”

A woman in a blue jacket speaks into a microphone
Carol Christ celebrated the diversity of the incoming class and campus-wide efforts to build an inclusive community at New Student Convocation Thursday, Aug. 17, 2023.

A rite of passage for new students, fall convocation takes place during Golden Bear Orientation, a whirlwind of activity that lasts through the weekend and ahead of Wednesday’s start of classes.

Sydney Roberts, the new ASUC president, described to the crowd of incoming students the emotions she felt when she arrived on campus three years ago, feelings she imagined many of them also were experiencing: overwhelmed, turned around and yearning for community.

Roberts is entering her fourth year at Berkeley and majoring in African American studies and political science, with minors in race and the law and in public policy. The key to a successful Berkeley journey, she said, is taking chances and embracing seemingly small interactions with others from one day to the next — whether it’s a conversation with a professor that might reshape a way of thinking or with students at a table on Sproul Plaza who are offering new opportunities and social circles.

Time at Berkeley, Roberts said, should be “marked by curiosity and courage and camaraderie.”

“You may decide to join a hiking club or an a cappella group and find your place there,” Roberts said. “Just know, however you start, it may take time. But you will absolutely find a community here ready to embrace you and an environment you’re going to flourish in.”