Cal Day is back. But this year, it’s virtual.
The annual campus-wide open house that attracts some 40,000 visitors to the typically bustling Berkeley campus was canceled last year because of the coronavirus pandemic, and it shifted many of its essential operations online, creating “Cal Week.” This year, on Saturday, April 24, the day’s events will happen online — and amplify Cal Week’s nearly 200 online live and pre-recorded offerings — to show off Berkeley to admitted students, who are facing a May 1 deadline to commit to Berkeley.
“This is a day to see what student engagement is like,” said La Dawn Duvall, executive director of Berkeley’s Visitor and Parent Services. “We’ll offer a digital sampling of activities that new students can get involved in at Berkeley, to show what the campus community has to offer.”
Cal Day festivities will kick-off at 9 a.m. with a series of virtual welcome addresses hosted by Femi Ogundele, associate vice chancellor of enrollment management and dean of undergraduate admissions. Speakers will include Chancellor Carol Christ, undergraduate student body president Victoria Vera and other campus leaders.
Christ will then host a Campus Conversations event at noon with biochemist and 2020 Nobel Prize winner Jennifer Doudna. They will discuss their roles and responsibilities as pioneering women in their respective fields.
“We really want young women who are interested in coming to Berkeley to hear from women like them, to see what is possible when you are part of the Berkeley community,” said Duvall. “These are some of the guiding lights and influential role models who students can learn from on this campus.”
The day will conclude with a virtual concert hosted by Berkeley’s student-run, nonprofit campus entertainment provider, ASUC Superb. The UC Rally Committee will also hold a Cal Spirit Virtual Rally, with performances from Cal spirit groups across campus.
Student Campus Ambassador Celine Chen helped coordinate and centralize Cal Day content, including video footage, on the Cal Day website. Chen said her favorite part of the day will be the rally, when future Berkeleyans — there are more than 15,000 newly admitted first-year and transfer students — will get a sense of the aura and atmosphere of student life.
“Just imagining the Cal Band playing on the Sproul steps with dance and cheer groups performing with them, it’s a really cool way for students to get a feel of the spirit on campus, even if they’re not physically there,” said Chen. “It’s a great avenue to kind of see what Cal spirit rallies are like on campus.”
Festivities and information sessions for prospective students and their families will continue for the remainder of Cal Week — which runs through Friday, April 30.
Individual colleges and departments are readying virtual presentations and virtual front desks to introduce students to particular majors and to connect them with professors and advisers.
A sampling of these events includes a talk on how to become a Berkeley engineer, a video on what the field of linguistics is all about and even the chance to shadow, virtually, a Berkeley student who is an environmental major.
Before the annual open house begins, the Berkeley Library is inviting prospective students to gear up for it by engaging in six fun ways to prepare for Cal Week.
Cal Week attendees also can tune in to interactive online student panels and video webinars in which Berkeley student leaders and academic groups will outline activities students can become involved in outside of their coursework. These events include a webinar from SkyDeck, Berkeley’s startup accelerator, on what it takes for students to launch their own startup companies. And a session by Berkeley’s Public Service Center on the importance of becoming involved in social justice efforts on campus.
That panel is especially relevant given the calls for racial justice that began last spring and have continued into 2021, said Stefan Montouth, associate director of marketing in Berkeley’s Office of Undergraduate Admissions.
“In this pandemic, we’ve seen every division exacerbated on a macro level, from greater income and racial inequality within countries to increasing tensions on a global scale,” added Manasi Hardikar, a student leader at Berkeley’s Public Service Center. “As members of the Berkeley community, I think the first step is dedicating time toward understanding social justice, power and privilege issues, and through that awareness taking action to make our rapidly changing world a better one.”
Prospective students who do not have access to or are unable to attend Cal Week’s live online sessions can watch recordings of the events through their own personalized “Admit Hub,” said Montouth. The hub provides customized content from Cal Week to fit each admitted student’s profile — a new addition to this year’s admissions offerings that Montouth said will continue beyond the pandemic.
Also new this year is Berkeley’s newly-launched virtual tour, which gives future students a way to interact with the campus community from afar and provides 360-degree panoramic views from 20 different locations across campus.
Montouth said students can also interact with Berkeley through Cal Week social media channels, which include Zeemee, a social app where prospective students can share stories and engage with current Berkeley students.
“Through these Cal Week panels and platforms, newly admitted students can ask questions and interact to understand what the Berkeley experience is actually like,” said Montouth. “They want to hear what life is like at Berkeley, and it’s important for them to hear from current students who have shown such resilience during the pandemic.”
Chen, a graduating senior majoring in sociology and cognitive science, has given guided tours to students and families at Berkeley for over two years. Admitted students, she said, have been most curious about how Berkeley’s academic life and values have changed in the face of the pandemic.
“Students at Berkeley are not just putting in the work to learn to get a degree,” said Chen, who will graduate this summer and work for computer software company Adobe. “It’s a campus where you really have the opportunity to develop your passions and discover new interests. So, I would urge prospective students to consider Berkeley and all it has to offer, because that’s what Berkeley has done for me.”