Born out of the passion of students committed to creating a better world, the Public Service Center serves as the hub for public service engagement at Berkeley. In honor of the Public Service Center’s 50th Anniversary, Barbara Lee shares in a video how transformative her Berkeley years were, especially her participation in the Cal in the Capital program.

Congresswoman Barbara Lee was a graduate student at UC Berkeley in the early 1970’s. A student parent, who had become a mother at 17, Lee came to the School of Social Welfare on a fellowship, where her focus on public assistance shaped her career path:

Much of what I do in Congress is reflective of my understanding of what it takes to become self-sufficient. At UC Berkeley, I probably was one of the few students in the graduate program on welfare, and I was able to give a unique perspective even though I never told anybody, because you know the stigma associated with welfare is still pretty real. I think that going through UC Berkeley really studying social work, community mental health, understanding human nature, what it means to help people—all of that really informed my work.”

The Public Service Center anniversary commemorates a legacy of putting forward innovative, collaborative solutions to pressing social problems. Currently, 13 percent of the UC Berkeley population participates in Public Service Center programs. That’s a significant number, but it doesn’t meet the demand. The goal of the Public Service Center is to be able to provide every Berkeley student with the opportunity to participate in these life-changing experiences, like Lee’s Cal in the Capital experience.