The Thrill and Awe of UC Berkeley

Independent and driven, Linnea Norton ’19 displayed leadership talent as a toddler with her earliest phrase to her mother: “Nea do it!” she protested. Now a recipient of CAA’s Leadership Award, Linnea continues to drive her own success. Prior to entering Cal as a transfer student and molecular environmental biology major, she studied veterinary science at Pierce College and served as an officer of the Pierce College Pre-Veterinary Club.

Linnea acknowledges Cal has had its challenges. “The time before my first midterms was hard,” she says. “But transfer students are smart. We’ve received plenty of attention from our previous professors and counselors and have learned study techniques.” Today she has more confidence in her abilities. “I can do this,” she says. “That’s easy to say now, but before it was ‘Oh, my God, what have I done? I miss my mom and my dog.’ My parents visited a lot in my first semester and helped me get through it.”

“Getting through it” has meant developing ways to decompress from academic rigors. Linnea’s friends lift each other up and provide support, especially her roommate. “I got very lucky with my roommate.” Hiking the Clark Kerr trail, practicing meditation, and attending yoga and kickboxing classes at Cal Rec Sports also help her relax, as do the classical music jam sessions she enjoys with friends. “Little moments of community, connectedness, and friendship are important.”

Linnea now serves as a campus campaign coordinator for the California Public Interest Research Group and addresses hunger and homelessness among Cal students, work inspired by her food justice service projects at her church. “Food insecurity is a huge problem for Cal students due to high rent and tuition,” she notes. She helps the UC Berkeley Food Pantry with financing and visibility and has produced a resource file for students.

When asked about her best Cal experience, Linnea calls herself “a very sentimental person.” “My first class in the Valley Life Sciences Building, I walked up the stairs of this gorgeous and intimidating building, passing a big glass case filled with old microscopes. It was crazy being reminded of the great scientific achievements at Berkeley! I felt like an excited little kid. Now I’m doing research, with my own desk in this incredible building where I first felt the thrill and awe at the privilege of being here, studying the things I love with all of these smart, world-changing people.”


Since 1934, The Leadership Award has recognized and supported Cal student leaders with merit-based scholarships. Leadership Award scholars are acknowledged for their outstanding, innovative, and motivational leadership in their academic, work, and community environments. For more information, visit alumni.berkeley.edu/leadership.