UC Berkeley is known for it’s amazing academics. We’re ranked in Chemistry, Engineering, and so many other departments. But I’d say there’s another special academic program here that goes beyond our rankings. At Berkeley, you can take classes on baking, Harry Potter, and even Pokemon! And you even get UNITS for taking these classes. All thanks to our DeCal program.
What’s a DeCal? The DeCal Program allows undergraduate students to organize their own course. These students teach the course on their own to other students with similar interests! By finding a faculty sponsor and drafting out a syllabus, students can get ready to submit a DeCal proposal in almost any type of course you can imagine. Dancing, music, Game of Thrones–there are hundreds of DeCals to choose from. I even teach a DeCal on the famous rapper, Drake.
I love Drake, I’m probably one of the biggest Drake fans you could ever meet. The day I heard about the DeCal program, I knew I needed to teach a class on him. There’s already been a Tupac DeCal in the past, and I took the Kanye West DeCal last semester, so I knew a Drake class would be a hit. The interest form for this class gathered up 300+ responses. With that in mind, we decided to take an application up for our class. Not all decals require an application, but due to the demand and the fact that we only had about 30 spots, we knew an application was necessary.
We ended up with about 100 applications and a lot of very passionate Drake fans. One of our application questions was:
“Drake has influenced music and culture in unprecedented ways. Choose one particular modern phenomena (an artist, a new sound, etc.) and explain how Drake played a role using concrete examples and comparisons. ”
As a class, we aim to analyze the factors that has created Drake’s success and how he continues to stay relevant. I think the best part about having this process was that it helped me create a great class full of people ready to discuss Drake as much as I love teaching him.
In class, we teach Drake’s evolution on an album by album basis. We watch music videos, analyze lyrics, and play a few games here and then. It’s so different being on the teaching perspective, especially with peers my own age. But it’s also great seeing the passion my students have for this class. For a lot of them, this is their break from regular school life. This is their chance to take a subject that they love casually, and to get a little mental break from regular academics. And I love having the opportunity to offer that.
The DeCals are one of the best opportunities Berkeley has to offer. I don’t know another single institution that has this type of program. It’s a great chance for students to earn academic credit for their more casual interests. But what I love more about this, is the chance to facilitate. I love sharing the story of an artist I’m passionate about, but most importantly–i love creating a space for students to be themselves and destress, all while having a fun and entertaining time.