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Point of View

On your Berkeley experience — advice from professors

Opportunities abound at Berkeley. How do you make the most of your years here? The Public Affairs staff asked faculty and staff members to share their wisdom on that point, steering students toward what should be the best years of their lives.

Bob Berring"Follow your heart. If there is a course that interests you, take it. Do not do what you think you should do, do what you care about doing. The rest falls into place."
—Bob Berring, interim dean, Boalt School of Law
Nelson PolsbyLin Hsu "Eat dessert first. Take courses first in subjects where you already know the material. The idea is to do well, gain confidence, and feel comfortable in our learning environment. You will be surprised at how much new you will learn on topics already familiar to you. In fact, the more you already know, the more you will be able to learn."
—Nelson Polsby, professor of Political Science

George Chang "Don't be afraid to ask dumb questions, to knock on doors and talk with strangers in the offices, laboratories and studios!"
—George Chang, associate professor of Food Microbiology
Katharine Milton "If you want to succeed in your classes at Berkeley, my advice is to ALWAYS sit in the front row and to get to know your professors. Office hours are the best time to do this, rather than right before or after class."
—Katharine Milton, professor of Physical Anthropology and Insect Biology

Christina Maslach "Get to know some professors! It's probably one of the most important things you can do while you are here. You will get advice and guidance about what courses to take, what major to choose, what research opportunities to try, and what career options to consider – and eventually you may be able to get research mentoring and recommendations to help you pursue your chosen path."
—Christina Maslach, vice provost for Undergraduate Education and a Psychology professor
Daniel F. Melia "Sell the thesaurus and buy a useful dictionary and take it with you everywhere. For virtually all our students the thesaurus is a book that helps them replace a word they DO know the meaning of with a word that they DON'T know the meaning of."
—Daniel F. Melia, Rhetoric professor

Marjorie Weingrow "Many students coming from high school and community colleges tend to take too many classes their first semester. It's always best at first to take the minimum requirements for full-time student status. That extra valuable time you have can be used to join study groups and do research on declaring majors and career opportunities."
—Marjorie Weingrow, director of Sage Scholars Program
Rodolfo Mendoza-Denton"The most important piece of advice I can give is simple: go to class. The transition from high school to college brings with it huge independence, and with it the temptation to skip classes, but merely being in class will help you clear up potential problems and keep you on track. Take advantage of your freedom to be self-disciplined."
—Rodolfo Mendoza-Denton, assistant professor of Psychology

Franklin Zimring "For first year law students, and to a lesser extent for all students being exposed to new topics and methods, it is important to slow down your reading speed and give yourself a chance to absorb the texture of the new materials. Stop measuring your progress in pages turned or whether you used up an entire pen taking notes. Get your mind around new material, don't get through it."
—Franklin Zimring, Law professor
Tom Leonard "Haunt the three centers of learning that least resemble your dorm room: The well-upholstered Morrison Library, Doe's cavernous North Reading Room, and the welcoming tables at the Free Speech Movement Cafe."
—Tom Leonard, University Librarian

Randy Schekman "Find a quiet corner in the back of an obscure library or in a park that's rarely used to sit and read without distractions. Life is too busy and crowded around here, and students need a place to go to be alone with their thoughts and books."
—Randy Schekman, professor of Molecular and Cell Biology
Marian Diamond "Say hello to the person sitting next to you in your first day of class. Don't be afraid to be friendly. Find out why s/he is taking the class or where s/he is from? Who knows? You may make a friend with whom to study or at least compare notes. Some of such friends may even last a lifetime."
—Marian Diamond, Integrative Biology professor

Elizabeth Dupuis "Libraries aren't just for studying anymore - there are millions of journals, books, manuscripts, digital images, and videos just waiting for you to mine them for your class assignments and personal interests. Visit the library, be curious, and enjoy!"
—Elizabeth Dupuis, head of Instructional Services, The Library.