Dear Graduate Student Community,
The start of the semester has coincided with a new wildfire crisis layered on top of the pandemic and ongoing expressions of state violence. The smoke in the air makes it difficult to breathe, increases our already high levels of anxiety, and makes it even harder to focus on the work at hand. Please know that we are here to support you. If you are in psychological distress, contact CAPS. If you are having financial difficulties, the Basic Needs Center is here to help. If you need general guidance, talk to your department support staff. Or, make an appointment to see Larissa Charnsangavej, our Director of Student Life, during her office hours.
Without the benefit of shared space on campus, it is easy to feel isolated at this time. I encourage you to be more intentional about staying connected to the campus community and to get the support you need to thrive this semester. The Graduate Division is offering four kinds of check-in groups and UC Berkeley offers a wealth of resources — I encourage you to use them. Hopefully they can help you to feel connected and support your sense of belonging at Berkeley, even if your interactions are virtual.
Our new cohort of Diversity and Community Fellows will be working throughout the academic year to support a more inclusive and diverse graduate community, enhancing the cultural, academic, and professional experiences of our historically underrepresented students. We’ll be announcing these new fellows toward the end of the month.
Helping to develop an enhanced skill set for our GSIs to enable a rich online learning environment has required an enormous commitment and investment. I’ve been truly inspired by our students, staff, and faculty’s efforts over this past summer to ensure this semester is a successful one. We launched the Graduate Remote Instruction Innovation Fellows Program, empowering 260 fellows to develop high-quality approaches for remote instruction. And the new GSI Remote Teaching Hub will be an invaluable resource for GSIs to find tools and training guides to help them make their teaching even better.
Across campus, numerous programs have been established to help ease the burden for students. Among those are STEP, which continues to connect students in need with technology, and the significant number of programs designed to support student parents and caregivers.
This is truly a year like no other and while we hope all the preparations we’ve made this summer will smooth out many hurdles, we know you will continue to experience challenges and stress. I encourage you to register for and attend our Virtual Town Hall for Graduate Students on September 23rd from 3:45 to 5:00 p.m., where we will outline the year ahead and do our best to answer your most pressing questions.
These are extraordinary times. I think it is important for us to continue to acknowledge that this is not normal; business as usual is not possible. But, together, we can work to weather this storm and hopefully come out the other side more connected and compassionate towards one another. The first step towards getting there is to be compassionate with ourselves. That means admitting when you need help and using the resources available to you on campus and in the broader community. Please do not hesitate to do so. And please be as well as you can be.
Wishing you the greatest success this semester,
Lisa García Bedolla
Vice Provost for Graduate Studies and Dean of the Graduate Division