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Ethnic staff welcome Chancellor Birgeneau

| 10 November 2004

On Wednesday, Nov. 3, more than 150 people gathered in a festively decorated Tang Center room for the first official staff reception for Chancellor Birgeneau, sponsored by the Coalition of Ethnic Staff Organizations.


Monica Lin, chair of the Chancellor’s Staff Advisory Committee and a member of the Asian and Pacific American Systemwide Alliance, welcomed Chancellor Birgeneau to the Berkeley campus at a Nov. 3 reception sponsored by the Coalition of Ethnic Staff Organizations. (Cathy Cockrell photo)
“This was truly a labor of love,” staff member Elvia Villalobos told the standing-room-only crowd. Villalobos spoke as co-chair of the Alianza Staff Association (ASA), a group that addresses the needs and concerns of Chicano/Latino staff on campus. ASA and three other staff organizations — the Asian and Pacific American Systemwide Alliance (APASA), the Black Staff and Faculty Organization (BFSO), and the Native American Staff Council (NASC) — make up the coalition.

“We thought this was an opportune time for the chancellor to meet a cross-section of staff that make up the rich diversity of our campus community, and for us to learn more about his vision for Berkeley,” said Roseanne Fong, chair of APASA. “This reception marks the first time in a few years that the coalition has worked on an important project together, and I’m excited about what we as a group can accomplish in the future.”

The event featured a multicultural ethnic banquet — a spread that ran from taquitos and Mexican rice to inari sushi, red curry lamb on miniature papadums, Chinese chicken salad, and a Native American cherry compote known as wojape.

Alex Alday of the Native American Staff Council welcomed Chancellor Birgeneau to the “Bear’s hogan” (“hogan” meaning “home” in Navajo) with a gift, as is customary among the Navajo. The chancellor was also presented with a certificate of honorary membership in the Coalition of Ethnic Staff Organizations.

In his remarks, Birgeneau referred to those in Canada known as métis (based on the French word for “half”) — people who are half French Canadian and half First Nations. “Birgeneaus are métis people,” he said.

The chancellor emphasized the vital role that staff play in maintaining the operational excellence of the campus. “I often tell people that if staff disappeared, the university would grind to a halt and nothing would happen,” he said. “The staff are fundamentally important to the operation of the university.”

Birgeneau outlined three themes he sees as central to his strategic vision for the campus — themes he’s been referring to as leadership, connection, and inclusion. “Our obligation as a public institution,” he said of the latter, is to ensure that we “access the talent pool” of the entire population.

The reception concluded with a traditional receiving line, providing staff an opportunity to welcome the chancellor personally. Kin Jung, a manager with the Scholar’s Workstation, presented Birgeneau with an iPod. “This is absolutely wonderful,” Jung said of the reception. “The chancellor being able to engage directly with staff is a real treat for us.”