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Cal Culture

What It Means to Be a Cal Alum

Every Cal student walks the Berkeley campus in the footsteps of their predecessors to receive an education that will grant them a spot in the university’s long-lasting legacy.

September 15, 2017
Students at Sather Gate Photo by Katherine Fiordalis

As they graduate, each Cal alum leaves with the knowledge, skills, and resources necessary to build and create their own legacies. UC Berkeley alumni have founded companies like Intel and Apple; starred in blockbuster films including To Kill a Mockingbird and Star Trek; and written critically acclaimed books—The Year of Magical Thinking, the Ramona Quimby series, and Woman Warrior, just to name a few.

For the past 20 years, UC Berkeley has celebrated its status as the world’s number one public university. The university’s history is filled with pioneering scientific breakthroughs, like the development of the flu vaccine during WWII by Berkeley biochemist Wendell M. Stanley and the more recent discovery of the CRISPR method of fixing human genes. To date, 22 of our institution’s professors and 29 of our alumni have received the Nobel Prize.

The impact UC Berkeley imprints upon its students isn’t limited to academics. Cal alumni are shaped by their time at Berkeley—which does inevitably lend accurate fodder to the long-lasting Berkeley stereotypes that persist even years after graduation. We’ve been connecting with our alumni in-person for the past 145 years (the Cal Alumni Association was founded in 1872, one year before Cal’s first class of students graduated in 1873), and from all this, we’ve determined that our alumni community remains fiercely faithful and connected to our alma mater with these #BerkeleyForLife traits:

Cal Pride

When it comes to academic rankings, Berkeley never disappoints. We’re considered one of the top public universities in the nation; we rank among the top five research universities in the world; we send more of our graduates to the Silicon Valley tech industry than any other university in America; and according to Forbes, we’re the Number 1 Best Value College in the country. Whether our alumni graduated last year or 40 years ago, we continue to rise in force to show pride for our alma mater’s continuing success.

Students at Sather Gate
Students flood through Sather Gate. / Katherine Fiordalis

Stubborn Support for Our Athletics Teams

Through our winning and losing seasons alike, our alumni show up bleeding blue and gold to cheer on our Golden Bears at every game. Cal athletes like Marshawn Lynch, Missy Franklin, Ryan O’Callaghan, and Lily Zhang are prime representatives of everything Cal stands for when it comes to sportsmanship, drive, and integrity. There’s no questioning our support for our athletes, even if Oski might come off a little creepy at times. (Now that we’ve graduated, we can finally admit this.) With the unwavering spirit of the Cal Band on our side, we can leave every game with our heads held high. Of course, every Cal Football fan holds close to our hearts The Play, because we know only the Golden Bears could be capable of producing one of the most remarkable and memorable victories in college football history. (Plus, our band knows when to take the field.).

Cal Football
The Cal football team runs onto the field at Memorial Stadium. / Catharyn Hayne

Huge Love for Our Diverse Community

In the 2017–2018 year, UC Berkeley admitted more first-generation college students than ever before. Our alumni association, with the support of generous alumni donors, helps first-generation and underrepresented students gain access to Cal by awarding more than 700 scholarships each year. Since 1934, we’ve supported 200 underrepresented minority scholars, 50 of whom are first-generation college students. In June and September 2017, the Cal Alumni Association organized contingents of Cal community members including students, staff, faculty, alumni, and friends to march in the San Francisco and Oakland Pride Parades. Our Golden Bears turned out over 400 strong across both parades, ranging from ages 1 to 67, to show their love and support for the LGBTQ community at Cal, in the Bay Area, and around the world.

Cal at San Francisco Pride
The Cal community turns out in celebration of Pride at San Francisco’s annual parade. / Kenneth Macaraig

Keen Nose for Berkeley News

The Free Speech Movement that took place on UC Berkeley campus during the 1964–1965 academic year secured the university a permanent spot in any and all future discussions about our country’s first amendment politics. Cal continues to be on the leading edge of innovation and thought, making for frequent headlines—but Berkeley grads don’t shy away from intense debate and discussion. Founded during the Free Speech Movement, UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism holds its students to the highest standards, setting the bar high for award-winning news reporting and a precedent for genuine investigative journalism. Our alumni continue to carry this legacy as well as a deep care for our alma mater, lending our diverse voices to conversations about Cal and its global community.

The California Live! series invites discussion among alumni and Berkeley faculty on today’s pressing issues. / Kelley L Cox

Ability to Kick It like a Cal Student—or Reminisce Fondly on Those Memories

The passion UC Berkeley alumni continue to have for Cal athletics is manifested in our long-lasting rally and tailgate traditions. Before our match-off with Stanford to reclaim possession of the infamous Axe, our Rally Comm boosts campus morale at noon rallies on Sproul and at the evening Bonfire Rally at the Greek Theatre. The Cal Alumni Association also hosts tailgate events on campus and around the country (we recently hosted our first events in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where our Golden Bears beat the Tar Heels!) to give our alums another excuse to show off their Cal pride. Our annual Young Alumni Tailgate is celebrating a six-year-long history of bringing together alumni within ten years of graduation back to campus to enjoy iconic Top Dog, root for Golden Bear Football, reminisce on their time as Cal students.   

Young Alumni Tailgate
Young alumni rally at a pre-game alumni tailgate. / Kelley L Cox
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UC Berkeley’s nearly 150-year legacy is constantly adapting to fit the needs of new generations of students , but the soul and foundation of the university will always stay the same. Being a Cal alum means more than having a diploma from UC Berkeley; it means exuding pride for your alma mater, whether through academics and social impact, representation and diversity, or athletics and some good ol’ Cal spirit.

Fiat Lux, and Go Bears!

Alumni: Get involved now with our Alumni Scholars Program, come to an alumni event, join a local or identity-based chapter, or subscribe to our monthly Cal Connection newsletter to keep up with our alumni community.