Kevin Weaver poses with Graduate Division staff
To the left: 2017 Institute Fellows from the Teaching Portfolio Course.

Over the summer, I spent many afternoons in Sproul Hall surrounded by 19 other fellows, PhD candidates and postdocs. We represented the 14th cohort of the UCB Summer Institute for Preparing Future Faculty. We hailed from a plethora of disciplines, from Integrative Biology to Ethnic Studies to Mechanical Engineering — all there to tackle issues facing future faculty members by exploring the landscape of higher education.

My schedule consisted of studying constitutional law in the morning at Berkeley Law and higher education in the afternoon as a summer fellow. During the fellowship, we presented research on current issues and trends in higher education, developed our teaching portfolios, and listened to panelists of faculty members from several institutions across the Bay Area. Many of the panelists were former Berkeley Summer Institute Fellows, which was encouraging.

My research explored social justice issues in education, including issues of gender equity, diversity and inclusion, and case law pertaining to civil rights. As part of my research, I analyzed prior Supreme Court decisions, from Brown v. Board of Education to United States v. Virginia. One goal of my research is to equip marginalized and underrepresented minorities with better opportunities to overcome barriers for academic and community achievement. Although better opportunities to overcome barriers are desirable, strengthening the civic empowerment of youth creates a force beyond academics and extends into the realm of community engagement. My research aims to capture how community forces influence politics, and how politics help to shape policy.

2017 LL.M. Constitutional Law Class
To the right: 2017 LL.M. Constitutional Law Class.

The East Bay offers several opportunities for community outreach. I was surprised by the number of people experiencing homelessness within the community. It was as if an entirely separate world existed directly across the street on the same block. Though I didn’t possess the means to make a financial difference, on a community level, I was intentional on engaging with anyone who requested donations. As I walked to campus from my apartment each day, there were at least five people that I knew I was going to see at designated intersections at specific times.

These casual encounters developed into weekly prolonged discussions. I began to recognize a change. My new friends no longer requested donations; rather, they asked me about my day. They wanted to talk about my research or the politics of the week, whether it was the current administration or Oakland politics. As the summer came to an end, we all celebrated at Bongo Burger. It was one of those moments where you deeply reflect and realize the true value of community.

The fellowship concluded the way it began, listening to Professor Kim Voss encourage us to go out into the world to do amazing things. As always, she was inspiring. The same can be said for two of my mentors, Linda von Hoene and Sabrina Soracco, both of whom have Berkeley Ph.D.s and co-direct the Summer Institute.

Now, when people ask about my summer research and fellowship at Berkeley, I will speak about the inspiration of the one block (Telegraph and Bancroft) and two worlds (Scholarship and Community).