Many, perhaps even most, of the 45,000 people expected to come to UC Berkeley on Saturday for the 26th annual Cal Day will be returning to a place they know.
They’ll be students and staff, alumni and friends. For them, Berkeley is a known quantity, but one with still much to explore. For them, Saturday is a chance to get out and enjoy a once-a-year celebration of music and art and science and university life and maybe to glimpse Nobel laureates and Olympic medalists.
For the rest, most of them newly offered entry to the university as freshmen, this annual open house is a chance to finalize a decision: to attend Berkeley or head elsewhere. For students considering a spot in Berkeley’s first-year or new transfer classes, Cal Day 2019 is being crafted as the ultimate lure.
“For the new students, this is important, because they get the opportunity to really see themselves on our campus, as well as to get a better and deeper idea of what we are all about,” says Olufemi Ogundele, Berkeley’s assistant vice chancellor and director of undergraduate admissions. “This is their chance to see our faculty, our staff and our alumni.
“More than that, they can see our strong academics, as well as our amazing communities.”
This is the first time Cal Day has been so devoted to the newbies. And they’ll be treated like VIPs. Once they register, they’ll get badges that allow them to sit in the front rows of many events, and they even can use the badge to jump the line for a trip to the top of the Campanile.
The day will start at 8 a.m., when Chancellor Carol Christ will talk with the newly admitted students in California Memorial Stadium. Immediately afterward, at Gate 2 of the stadium, there will be a VIP new student resource and info expo.
Cal Day gets fully rolling at 9 a.m. and runs through 4 p.m., although some events will go even later, including the Cal Day Concert, which is scheduled from 4 p.m.-6 p.m. and will take place in a zone spreading from the Doe Library steps to Memorial Glade.
This is a party with a purpose.
“We throw a party, and everybody on campus wants to play,” says La Dawn Duvall, executive director of Visitor and Parent Services at the campus’s Office of Communications and Public Affairs. It’s her job to put the annual fun together, “and we’re definitely upping the ante this year,” she says.
On the schedule are more than 450 different events, all of them free, ranging from lectures to exhibits to guided tours to open museums to garden walks to performance art. The day is designed as one not to miss.
“My preference would be to get every admitted student to be here for Cal Day,” Ogundele says. “But some live too far away. Specifically, we’d like to see those from the state of California — and, more specifically, those who have never had a chance to see Berkeley in person — make it.
“This is a chance for them to see what we offer. Even for those who live locally and who have been on the campus before, they have not seen Berkeley the way they will see it on Saturday.”
Over 87,000 high school seniors applied to Berkeley for fall semester 2019; UC campuses will release admissions data this summer. How many admitted students will take Berkeley up on the offer? That’s a large part of what Saturday is about. Ogundele wants them all.
“For my staff and me, Cal Day gives us the opportunity to see all the stories we’ve read in the students’ essays come to life,” he says. “These are the stories we fell in love with, and they were written by people we believe will add to the fabric of life at Berkeley.
“And now they can get to know us as we’ve gotten to know them.”
Part of the getting-to-know-you system has gone digital this year. Ram Kapoor, chief marketing officer at the Office of Communications and Public Affairs, led the development of a Cal Day app in collaboration with IS&T, Arts+Design and a student team. Housed inside the primary Berkeley app and available for both the iPhone and Android operating systems, the Cal Day app will enable the user to do everything from locating food to creating a personal agenda for the day.
“This is the first time we’ve done something like this,” Kapoor says. “The idea is to help make it easy to see what you might want to do.”
While much of the action on Saturday will be visible in the open spaces between Sproul Plaza and Dwinelle Hall, very little of the campus will be in the shadows on Cal Day.
And Ogundele will be looking to cover as much ground as anyone in the crowd of tens of thousands. This is his first Cal Day, having just assumed his current role in the Office of Undergraduate Admissions in October. He considers himself a new student, in a way.
“For me, a new director, there is a chance to learn, as well. There will be lots of interactions covering all that Berkeley has offer,” Ogundele says. “I’ll be as bright-eyed as any new student or any new parent.”
Ogundele will be paying particular attention on Saturday to the parents of prospective new students.
“It’s important to understand that the decision on where to attend college is not just an individual decision,” he says. “Families have contributed a lot to the students’ success.
“It’s important that the parents and the families know that Cal is a place that will take care of their sons and their daughters. We will explain to them and show them who we are and how they will fit in. Parents will get face time with us. They will know that when we say we will take care of students, we stand behind it.”