Seizing Life at UC Berkeley

When Amanda Pouchot ’08, the current president of the Board of Directors for the Cal Alumni Association (CAA), was a student, the cost of attending UC Berkeley was dramatically lower than what it is today. The fact that the cost only keeps soaring year after year, and that state funding is curtailing, leaves Amanda wondering about future generations of Golden Bears. “Nothing should be standing in the way of a student who wishes to inspire impact in their community,” she remarks.

Without financial support, many students cannot make the most of their time at UC Berkeley. This is where CAA’s Alumni Scholars Program steps into the lives of these next-generation leaders. “At CAA, there’s a network of people who invest in the student experience. We’re bridging the gap between alum and student,” Amanda shares. Because of her own experience as an Alumni Scholar, Amanda cares about UC Berkeley’s legacy of perseverance and the students that define her alma mater.

As a Leadership Award scholar during her freshman, junior, and senior years, Amanda was afforded the space to focus on being a student rather than worry about student loan debt. Established in 1934, The Leadership Award (TLA) is a one-year, merit-based scholarship that recognizes and supports undergraduate students at Cal who demonstrate innovative, initiative-driven leadership in their academic, work, or community environments. “Receiving the scholarship meant that I could devote myself to academics, philanthropic work, and meaningful campus involvement,” she recalls. “It meant that I didn’t have to be engulfed in financial anxiety all throughout my undergraduate life.”

It’s a familiar phenomenon among new students to wonder how they will attain a sense of belonging on such a huge campus. “How can anyone at a place like this care about me?” Amanda recalls asking herself upon stepping foot on campus for the first time. “It was the Alumni Scholars Program that irrevocably eradicated this thought from my head. There are always people who listen and care.

“Through community participation, I cultivated the interpersonal and leadership skills that have never ceased to serve me well in my career.” Without the burden of student loan debt, Amanda was able to explore her passion for public service. She was the 2008 Cal Greeks & Order of Omega Woman of the Year, a Chronicler in the Order of the Golden Bear, Panhellenic Executive Vice President, and Panhellenic Director of Programming. She has fond memories of participating in Cal Greeks Programming Council’s annual Trick-or-Greek, a service event for UC Berkeley’s fraternity and sorority community. Amanda also served as chair of her 5th and 10th-year UC Berkeley Class Reunions.

When asked about her incentive to serve on the board of directors, Amanda shared that sometimes alumni can lose sight of how awe-inspiring it is to go to Cal. It is the responsibility of Cal alumni, as forever Golden Bears, to ensure that others have a UC Berkeley undergraduate experience that they too will endlessly appreciate. “What impresses me the most about Cal students is that they take full advantage of the opportunities they are given and don’t let any, not big nor small, slip through their fingers,” she shares. “I will continue paying forward the support I’ve had for as long as I can.”