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Cal Alumni Rally Online to Support the UC Berkeley Community

May 30, 2020

Alumni Pivot to Technology to Interview Scholarship Applicants

Cal alumni have always proven themselves to be special, and this year’s scholarship selection process has definitely demonstrated alumni commitment to current and incoming Berkeley students. 66 alumni interviewed 58 candidates for the African American Initiative (AAI) Scholarship, selecting 44 first-years for the 2020 cohort, the largest class of incoming AAI Scholars since the award’s conception in 2018.

The financial impact of COVID-19 on families has made the Cal Alumni Association’s Alumni Scholars Program even more important and timely. In order to select students and notify them of their financial support package in time for the university’s admission acceptance deadline, the Alumni Scholars Program team made the AAI Scholarship selection process entirely digital. Alumni volunteers were flexible, reviewing applications online and interviewing finalists using Google Hangouts.

The Cal Alumni Association’s scholarship interviews are usually the first interactions prospective UC Berkeley students have with their alumni network. Despite the virtual platform for this year’s selections, the current and incoming student applicants shared their appreciation for the ability to directly connect with alumni during the interview process.

“Berkeley Welcomes Everyone with Open Arms”

(left to right) Elijah Hicks, Eloisa Lopez. Image: Cal Alumni Association

In May, three Cal alums and one current student hosted a virtual panel moderated by the executive director of the Cal Alumni Association (CAA), Cloey Hewlett ’76, J.D. ’79. The panelists discussed how they decided to attend Cal and shared thoughts about their undergraduate experiences.

“It was a dream to have the opportunity to attend Cal,” shared CAA Board member, Kirk Tramble ’93. “I look back fondly on my memories. As a student, I interned at a large energy company, joined after graduating, and was able to take on international assignments over 17 years.”

“I’m the youngest of five siblings, and I was the first to travel far from home for school. During Summer Bridge, I made lifelong friends and learned the benefits of building my own community,” said Eloisa Lopez-Valencia ’19, who is also the leader of the Cal Bears in the Desert Alumni Chapter. As a student, Eloisa joined the Board of the Hispanic Engineers and Scientists and the Public Health Advocate journal. “I encourage students to become involved in multiple, diverse organizations across campus. Now as an alum, I am always looking to stay involved with the campus and give back.”

High school counselor Thuy Tran ’08 reflected on how she was able to meet a range of people through her dorm, her religious community, and the Public Service Center tutoring program. “Eventually, whenever I walked through Sproul Plaza, I would bump into someone I knew. Even today, I instantly have that bond with any Cal alum; we know that we share that ‘Berkeley mindset.”

“Through my Berkeley education, I’ve been able to get hands-on experience and already give back to my community. Our professors and alums are great mentors,” Cal sophomore Elijah Hicks ’21 shared. “I have taken entrepreneurship, business, and leadership classes, including working with a local startup. I gained the confidence to create my own nonprofit to respond to the COVID-19 impacts on students.”

Watch the recording here.

Alumni Scholars Find Guidance and Support Through Cal Alumni

The Prytanean Honor Society Alumnae chapter set up a fund to provide $200 emergency grants for current student members. They discussed and implemented this plan at their first virtual board meeting in early April. “We know that there are education expenses involved with the move to online classes and travel costs to go home,” said Maria Protti ’79, the Prytanean Alumnae President. “Since 1900, the Prytanean Society’s explicit mission has been to give ‘faith, service and loyalty to the university’ and we are up to the challenge of meeting our mission at this time of the virus spread. Speedily, we drafted an application form and grant award procedure. We want to help our student members in real time and make the awards as quickly and directly as we can because the need is immediate.”

In addition, through a generous donation from Mary Tuncer ’63 to CAA’s Alumni Scholarship Fund, The Cal Alumni Association raised $4,000, enabling seven Alumni Scholars to access technology resources for their remote coursework, as well as afford rent, food, and other living expenses.

Several of the scholars shared their gratitude for CAA, writing, “I am truly so touched by how there is finally a resource that can help me.” “I can’t thank you enough for helping me out in the past few days and for all the work you do throughout the year.” “I am incredibly fortunate to have mentors and role models supporting me throughout my undergraduate career, and I am eternally grateful.”

The Alumni Scholars Board, which is made up of current scholarship recipients, also developed a travel grant program. They provided $150 travel grants to 39 scholars. One of the recipients shared, “I am safely back at home in SoCal, and I was able to afford a rental car to move all my belongings down thanks to the travel grant!”

Alumni Chapters Partner with Office of Undergraduate Admissions to Become Alumni Ambassadors

The Alumni Ambassador program at Cal provides opportunities for alumni to support student admission efforts to recruit and enroll a diverse, competitive student body.

Alumni ambassadors serve as the “face” of the university while engaging with prospective students and their parents. They may be the first and only touchpoint that incoming students will have with Cal, so it is critical to make a positive and professional impression and provide accurate information.

Interested in becoming an alumni ambassador? Sign up here.