Chancellor welcomes new faces to campus


With a smile as warm as the afternoon was not, Dong Hao reclines in comfort, enjoying a light moment during Chancellor Berdahl's welcoming address to new students.
Noah Berger photo

21 August 2002 | Arriving to the tunes of “Beat It” and the Cal fight song, a large crowd of new students, many setting foot on the Berkeley campus for the first time, filled Memorial Glade Aug. 19 to hear words of welcome from Chancellor Robert Berdahl.

“It’s inspiring to be here,” said Alfredo Medina, an 18-year-old freshman from Los Angeles. He and many other new students arrived in Berkeley over the weekend and were just getting settled in their residence halls during the campus’s annual Sunday afternoon “Opening Day.”

“I heard that Cal was the best school to go to,” said 18-year-old Geraldine Melgar, who plans to major in political science. “I got in at UCLA, UC Irvine, and UC San Diego, but Berkeley seemed to be the place best suited to my academic interests.”

Many new students were navigating the campus for the first time. Some were still arm-in-arm with their parents. Others joked that they’d made a good start by finding their way to the Chancellor’s new-student convocation ceremony.

Opening his remarks with a spirited “Go Bears!” and receiving an equally resounding round of applause from the audience, the chancellor introduced students to the history and reputation of the Cal campus.

“You are gathered in an area that is called Memorial Glade,” Berdahl said, “…a memorial to those Cal students who, years ago, fought in the Second World War, many of whom didn’t come back.

“You are part of a great tradition….and you come with a lot of expectations,” he said. “We expect all of you to succeed at Cal because you have what it takes to succeed.”

This year’s incoming class totals approximately 5,350 new first-year and junior transfer students. They represent the top 25 percent of all applicants received last year. Ninety percent of the students are California residents, but many are not accustomed to large campuses.

Familiar with the fears of being “a small fish in a giant blue-and-gold sea” of students, Karen Kenney, dean of students in the Office of Student Life, advised the new crop of undergraduates to avoid that problem by “seeking out smaller groups of people, who will then become your community.”

Students listened intently to the chancellor while he laid out the values of the Berkeley community — including quality education, openess, fairness, tolerance, care, and celebration — huddling together and donning sweatshirts against a chilly late-afternoon breeze.

“In the next four years, you’re going to form the foundation for the life that will follow,” Berdahl said. “You’re going to shape the values that will shape your lives, form the friendships that will be continuing friendships throughout your lives, gain direction and purpose that will guide you through the decades ahead.”

But the “Berkeley experience” will only be as rich and rewarding as the amount of initiative each student takes to get involved in campus activities, social and academic organizations, and community service projects, Kenney reminded the audience.

“The experience that will really lay the foundation for who you become in the next phase of your life must go far beyond acing exams, knowing your career path, making the right friends, having the perfect roommate, or finding the best cappuccino in Berkeley,” she said.

Vice Chancellor for Under-graduate Affairs Genaro Padilla voiced his support and admiration for the remarkable accomplishments and diversity of the incoming class. Many are second-generation Berkeley students, with parents who are Cal alumni. But many are the first in their families to enter the UC system.

Padilla told students that they will be attending a university that prides itself on free speech, and that they should practice tolerance and respect for others’ opinions at all times.

“But it’s no joke,” he said, “that the world leaders of the future are sitting in this audience….that the next diplomat able to avert nuclear war, or the first person to walk on Mars, and quite possibly, the first female president of the United States, may well be seated right here in this audience.”

“That’s why I wanted to be here,” added one student as the crowd headed for the free box dinners at the nearby Campanile. “You heard him. It’s so challenging.”


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Copyright 2002, The Regents of the University of California.
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