Earlier this week, I attended the Star Party with Professor Filippenko, hosted by the Regents’ and Chancellor’s Scholars Association’s Faculty Committee. In a span of one and a half hours, we got to gaze at stars, planets, and nebula, and talk about fascinating stuff! A large, high-power telescope was focused on the Orion Nebula, and we could see four bright dots in a diamond shape clustered in the center of the bluish cloud of gas and dust, adjacent to Orion’s belt. Professor Filippenko mentioned that it takes a million years for the stars to form out of the particles in the nebula, and each of the bright dots we saw formed at different points in time.
It’s hard to step onto Sproul Plaza on a weekday and not immediately sense the uniquely quirky energy that has come to characterize the Cal campus. Student groups flyering between the trees, a capella groups serenading students by Sather Gate, the occasional protestor emphatically speaking on the Sproul steps – all of these are common features of the campus’ busiest and most visible entrance. But last week and this week, it’s been even busier, as campus election season has transformed the plaza.
One of the things I was really excited about when I came to UC Berkeley was the opportunity to explore different interests and activities. Before college, I had swum competitively and played piano and violin for over a decade each; while I still love swimming and music, Cal has introduced me to a panoply of additional extracurricular possibilities. Our university has over 1,200 student organizations, including a cappella singing groups, ethnic student associations, community service organizations, and many others. I remember the exhilaration of Calapalooza during freshman year and visiting dozens of tables and picking up flyers for various student organizations.
Just last week, on Monday, March 23, Cal celebrated its 147th birthday, 147 years since the 1868 founding of the University of California. As a student attending Cal in the 2010s, I’ve found I often see Cal and my daily adventures through my 21st century eyes, through the challenges and characteristics that distinguish Cal in its current, vibrant form. But Cal’s recent birthday has gotten me to thinking more about the many thousands of students who have come before me, and all of the adventures they experienced at a Cal that was very different from what it is today.
If UC Berkeley were its own country, it would have been sixth in the world for the number of gold medals won in the 2012 London Olympics. Of the 11 gold medals won by Cal Olympians, an impressive 7 of them came from swimming. Cal swimming has been a powerhouse in the past few years, and this past week was no exception!
Finishing with a school-record 513 points, the Cal women’s swimming team captured its fourth NCAA Championships title on Saturday, March 21. Missy Franklin, a sophomore at Cal, scored huge points with individual wins in the 200-yard freestyle, 200-yard individual medley, and 200-yard backstroke. Following her stellar performance at the national meet, her final meet as a Golden Bear before turning pro, Franklin was named the NCAA Swimmer of the Year and is one of four nominees for the Honda Sports Award for women’s swimming and diving this year.
One of the perks of being a student at UC Berkeley is the opportunity to attend talks by renowned researchers and experts in various fields. Last week on March 9, I attended Professor Frans de Waal’s talk on “Prosocial Primates.” Professor de Waal is listed as one of Times’ most influential people, and he has authored numerous papers and books about empathy and cooperation among primates. As I am currently taking the Psychology of Human Happiness class with Professor Dacher Keltner and topics of empathy, compassion, awe, gratitude, and social interactions are a staple of the course, I was excited for the talk and arrived with a friend before the 2:30pm start time in Sibley Auditorium.
Stepping onto the UC Berkeley campus for even just a minute, it’s easy to see the school spirit filling Sproul Plaza and Cal’s hallowed halls. Whether it’s the blue and gold gear students don, the “go bears!” offered to friends walking by, or active participation in school spirit events, Cal pride is a very palpable thing.
Attending sporting events is one way I, along with many of my fellow Cal students, immerse ourselves in this tangibly thrilling spirit. One of my favorite teams to support has been Cal Women’s Basketball. Our women’s team reached the NCAA Final Four in the 2012-2013 season, and has consistently demonstrated athletic prowess in the seasons since. Women’s senior Reshanda Gray was just honored with the PAC-12 Player of the Year award, voted on by coaches in the conference, and four of her teammates, Brittney Boyd, Mikayla Cowling, Gabby Green, and Mercedes Jefflo, also received honors from the PAC-12.
When my friend asked me if I was interested in talking a Bridge class, my only response was, “I can get class credit for playing cards? Sign me up!”
This semester, I’m enrolled in the “Learn to Play Bridge” Decal, which meets for an hour every Tuesday. Each week, we learn something new about the game: we began with the structure and rules, and are now beginning to dig into strategy. After class, students are invited to stay and polish our skills.
Isha, who is both the DeCal instructor and the President of UC Berkeley’s Bridge Club, is a certified Bridge instructor. She was also part of a team of UC Berkeley students who won the collegiate Bridge national championship in 2014. UC Berkeley offers over 200 DeCal courses every semester – on topics ranging from “Introduction to Investment Banking” to “Knitting 101.” It’s convenient to add DeCals into your schedule because the classes are only one or two units, taken Pass/No Pass, usually in the early evening, and focus on a fun topic. Every week, I look forward to Tuesdays at 5 p.m. because I get to hone my Bridge skills with a group of new friends I’ve made over the past few weeks. That’s another great thing about DeCals – you get to interact with people from every department on campus, ranging from freshman to seniors.
The first time I heard about the carillon four years ago, I was standing at the base of UC Berkeley’s beloved Campanile. Peering up, up, up at the 61 bells that loomed impressively from the top of our 307-ft tall bell and clock tower, the first word that came to mind was “Wow!” Ever since I’ve heard about this majestic instrument, I’ve wanted to learn how to play it. This semester, I am one of twelve lucky students in the Carillon DeCal, a class facilitated by two experienced carillon students. We will be having weekly private lessons, and at the end of the semester, I will be playing the bells for the entire campus to hear!
This past Saturday on February 28, over 2,000 attendees packed Zellerbach Hall for TEDxBerkeley, an independently organized TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) event. Centered around the theme of wisdom, compassion, and connection, this year’s TEDxBerkeley featured 21 speakers and performances on an array of topics, including Ebola, forgiveness, computing literacy and gender equity, and happiness.
My friend, Erin Roberts, curator of TEDxBerkeley, and her TEDx team, had been working hard all year to coordinate the event, and it was exciting to see everything come together so beautifully. As a volunteer for TEDxBerkeley, I had the opportunity to see some of the behind-the-scenes aspects, as I served lunch to attendees, transported heavy items around Zellerbach Hall, and assisted with security backstage. It was my first time in the backstage of Zellerbach, and it was an amazing experience meeting the speakers, cheering them on before and after their talks, and seeing their warm interactions with each other.