The power of the first day of school, and a big thank you

New Berkeley student takes a selfie with Chancellor Carol Christ

New Berkeley student takes a selfie with Chancellor Carol Christ on move-in day

Welcome to the new and improved Berkeleyan! It is an honor to write the first of what I hope will be many columns for this newsletter. I’m excited for the opportunity to share my thoughts and discuss my activities as chancellor in a less formal way than usual.

Today I would like to talk about our incoming students and the staff who put so much work into helping them make Berkeley their new home.

On My Mind

This is the first in a series of columns by Chancellor Christ and other campus administrators that is being published in The Berkeleyan and reposted here.

My granddaughter recently began second grade, and watching her sit nervously at the kitchen table on the first day of school, dressed in an outfit she picked out for the occasion, I was reminded of how powerful a moment the start of the school year can be. It is a time that is marked by great energy and optimism, yet it is also a daunting period in which students unsettle themselves from one life and reestablish themselves in a different one, often in a new place and surrounded by new faces.

For Berkeley’s freshmen, transfer students and new graduate students, the beginning of their time on campus marks perhaps the most thrilling and frightening first day of school they ever experience.

While I don’t believe we should (or could!) try to coax the butterflies from their stomachs at a moment like this, I do think it is incumbent upon our community to try to ease the transition. This is not easy — and I want to thank all of the staff, faculty and students who make it possible. The beginning of the school year feels like a great coming together, a time in which units all over campus work in tandem so that our newest bears build connections to their community, prepare for the rigors of college, learn about resources and tools and campus traditions and start their Cal careers — to borrow a phrase from our summer reading series — on the same page.

I would like to extend a special thanks to those involved in Golden Bear Orientation — the advisers, orientation leaders, new student services team, steering committee and others who built or now run this successful new welcome program. But staff of all kinds go above and beyond at this critical time as well. I was recently told that an elevator had broken down at Norton Hall in Unit 3 and the required replacement parts arrived only two days before new student move-in. A small facilities team worked over the weekend and well into the night to replace 2,000 pounds of equipment, determined to get the elevator running so that families would not have to carry belongings up several flights of stairs.

Whether out in the open or behind the scenes, this is the kind of commitment that helps anxious new Cal students settle in, ready to make the most of their time here.

On My Mind columns by Chancellor Christ and other campus leaders will be a regular feature of the weekly Berkeleyan email newsletter. Subscribe at