On March 6, nearly 200 graduate students, donors, faculty and staff celebrated the distinguished fellows who hold prestigious multi-year fellowships as well as the generous supporters who help sustain the excellence of graduate education at Berkeley. Throughout the evening, University House buzzed with deep conversation, laughter, and applause. Many graduate students met — some for the first time — the donors who make their fellowships possible — and the donors, in turn, learned about advances in their fellows’ research.

While mingling over wines donated by Longfellow Wines and sweet and savory bites, guests heard Chancellor Carol Christ and Fiona Doyle, Vice Provost for Graduate Studies and Dean of the Graduate Division, extoll the high caliber of Berkeley’s graduate students and recognize donors to the Graduate Division’s matching gift programs. About $16 million in University fellowships is supported by private philanthropy.

Catherine Ma (BS ‘75, MS ‘77), who created the Chun and Wai Sim Ma Endowed Fund for Graduate Fellowships, exclaimed “These leaders of our future are full of spunk and energy — they give me so much hope and pride!”

The high point of the evening was watching the winning entries of a two-minute video competition in which students describe their work and the value of their own fellowship support.

First-place contest winner Jon Jon Moore is a Detroit-born poet, graduate of Tufts University, and first-year doctoral student in the Department of African-American Studies at UC Berkeley. He is interested in the relationship between afro-pessimism, black feminist theories of the human, and experimental poetics. Jon Jon works at the Gender Equity Resource Center, co-coaches CalSLAM, and loves bad horror movies.

Adrian Bayer, the second-place video contest winner, is a first year PhD student in the Department of Physics. He completed his undergraduate studies in Physics at Imperial College London and obtained a masters in Mathematics from the University of Cambridge. He now works at the intersection of physics and data science, where he uncovers our universe’s deepest secrets.

Third-place in the video contest, Sara Ann Knutson is a Berkeley-Mellon Fellow and a 3rd year PhD student in the Department of Anthropology. She holds a masters degree in Archaeology from the University of Cambridge and an MA in Scandinavian Studies from UC Berkeley. Her research focuses on the medieval cross-cultural networks between Europe and the Arab World.

Such conversations kept the annual celebration going long past the intended hour. As caterers cleared tables, Berkeley students, donors, and other guests continued exchanging ideas and information.

Ma, now a water engineer, cited an old Chinese saying: “When one drinks water, one must be mindful of its source.” By creating an endowed fellowship, she said, “I pay humble tribute to my parents, who gave me life, and also to my alma mater — this fantastic institution of higher learning. For me, it’s simply completing the ‘mindful water cycle.’ What a joy!”

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