Last month, graduate and professional students had the opportunity to engage with campus departments, and graduate student organizations in one central place as these exhibitors showcased their resources, and communities at GradFest. Held in Pauley Ballroom in the ASUC Student Union, GradFest featured free hors d’oeuvres, quick exercise demos by University Health Services, painting led by the ASUC SU Art Studio, yoga, and meditation. Attendees were also invited to join post-event meet-ups at venues off campus for additional networking and socializing.

“GradFest came about because we noticed an opportunity to better integrate — and build community amongst — graduate and professional students.” said GradFest committee member, Shirley Giraldo, LEAD Center Coordinator.

Kena Hazelwood-Carter, Graduate Assembly President, added that while many graduate students are provided with information about their particular degree program, they are often left to their own devices when it comes to navigating the broader campus. “This has left our population siloed and underserved. We developed GradFest as a way to not only connect graduate students with the fantastic academic, social, and wellness resources UC Berkeley has — but to offer them an opportunity to get engaged in extracurricular activities such as clubs, and intramural sports. Our student fees pay for these resources, it’s only right that we are afforded the opportunity to use them.”

Although this is the first-time GradFest was open to all graduate and professional students, it has happened twice before for incoming students. GradFest was piloted directly following Graduate Division’s New Graduate Student Orientation (NGSO) in August 2016. The initial GradFest generated such positive results (74% of respondents said that GradFest helped increase their sense of community at UC Berkeley) that the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on Student Services and Fees (CACSSF) awarded a grant to expand the program for all graduate and professional students for spring 2018.  

Luis Tenorio, a PhD student in Sociology, commented that GradFest exposed him to campus groups and resources that he had not known existed. “I consider myself pretty involved on campus, yet at GradFest I found an organization that was focused on Mexico, from Mexican identity to research on Mexico, etc. I was floored. It was a community and group that I knew I was missing, but without GradFest I wouldn’t have known they existed. GradFest offers something for every type of student: new, continuing, involved, unsure of what to be involved in, those seeking community, those seeking a venue to socialize, and those across any discipline.”

“By the end of the event, we had reached nearly 400 students,” said Deepak Sharma, LEAD Center Coordinator and Chair of the GradFest planning committee. “We got a lot of positive feedback and it was great to see so many graduate students come to get information, connect, and enjoy an event just for them.”