Engineering Student Services (ESS) was recently called the “heart of the College of Engineering” in a student survey and we want you to know why it is so important to our students. This week we have two of people that make ESS a success Sharon Mueller, director of policy and advising and Marvin Lopez, director of programs. They share all of the programs and resources available to undergraduate students and where you can get all the details.
LAURA VOGT: Hello and welcome to The Not So Secret Guide to Being a Berkeley Engineer. I am your host, Laura Vogt, the Associate Director of Marketing and Communications in the College of Engineering. This week I’ve invited two guests to talk about Engineering Student Services or as we shorten it – ESS, and the awesome resources it provides for all our undergraduate engineers. Last year in a student survey ESS was voted the heart of the College of Engineering and Marvin Lopez and Sharon Mueller are a big part of what makes our heart. Hi Marvin and Sharon, welcome to the podcast! Marvin, please introduce yourself by telling us a little about yourself and what your role is in ESS.
MARVIN: Sure. So I’m one half of the heart of ESS and my name is Marvin Lopez and I’m director of student programs in the College of Engineering, Engineering Student Services. My background, I’m actually an engineer, so it’s kind of cool to come full circle back into the engineering world. I came from industry where I was at one time, actually coding, and then moved into recruiting and diversity and supporting programs, just like what I run now in ESS. And what I do in ESS is I run the programs team which is basically the team that supports the co-curricular aspect of support for students. So we provide support outside of the classroom in basically three realms: academic support, professional development, and leadership development. Working closely with our advising team, who you’ll hear from in a minute, we put together programs, workshops and initiatives to support students holistically. And so that is what I do.
LAURA: And thank you so much for being here. Sharon I know you were here last week with the GBA overview but can you remind everyone who you are?
SHARON: Yes, I’m Sharon Mueller and I’m the director of advising and policy in Engineering Student Services. And it was lovely to see that ESS is the heart for engineering undergraduates. I think after quarantining for a couple of months my family would wish I would go back to the heart of the College of Engineering. I’ve been working on campus for almost 30 years, it’ll be 30 years in January, and all of that time has been in advising. I’ve been in the College of Engineering for seven years and I oversee the advising half of Engineering Student Services.
LAURA: Thank you so much for coming back. And as I said last week, this is our fourth year of podcasting and I realize during my planning that we’ve never done a deep look into ESS and everything that it provides and offers for undergraduate engineering students. So let’s start with our two different teams, we have advising and programs, that you both just started introducing to us. So Sharon, why don’t you tell me a little bit more about the advising team.
SHARON: We have eight advisers, all for College of Engineering undergraduates and we have about 3700 undergraduates and I think we’re gonna have the largest incoming class we’ve ever had this year. Our advisers are all very experienced, most of them have master’s degrees, either in counseling or college advising or higher education. And the advisers are split out by major and for the larger majors, there might be multiple advisers by major.
LAURA: What is the role of the ESS adviser?
SHARON: The ESS adviser, we can we can sort of be the role of a surrogate parent in some cases. You know sometimes students just have general questions and they don’t know who to go to, Berkeley is a really big place, and we’re certainly helpful with referring students to different offices, if it’s not a question we can answer or we can find out the answer for. We track a student’s degree progress. We handle all sorts of petitions. Petitions for exceptions or petitions for substituting courses. We work with students who want to go abroad or students who want to withdraw and come back or maybe a student wants to change their major, we can work with them through that process. So we’re a good starting point for students and certainly with any concern they have with their academics or if students are struggling. I know Marvin will talk about this as well. But ESS is really there to support students holistically and that’s why we have these two pillars of advising and programs. So the student’s ESS adviser is really someone we hope that they will visit often and feel comfortable with addressing their questions
LAURA: How are students assigned to an adviser?
SHARON: Advisers are broken out by major. For a lot of majors that just means that all students in that major are assigned to be advised by the same adviser. For the larger majors, that would be EECS, mechanical engineering and bioengineering, those are also split by the student’s last name.
LAURA: How can students make their own appointments?
SHARON: At the moment, we are happy to talk to incoming students who are interested in taking summer courses. We want to be able to advise them on which courses to take, what kind of course load to take, or students who are taking something elsewhere, we can help them determine if that course is going to fulfill a requirement for them. So for students who are taking something in the summer, we’re happy to talk to them now because we know that they’re trying to choose courses and we want to make sure that they choose wisely. Otherwise, we ask that students wait until they have completed Golden Bear Advising before they make an appointment with their adviser. So our system is set up in a way that as soon as the student finishes module four of Golden Bear Advising, which is the College of Engineering online orientation, the system will then allow them to make an appointment with their adviser. There are some pretty detailed instructions in the email confirmation that the student gets that shows them how to make an appointment with their adviser. It’s all done online, it’s very easy, advisers have a lot of availability, especially during the summer so they should be able to get an appointment within a day or two.
LAURA: What can a student do to get the most out of the resources that there is found in having this ESS adviser?
SHARON: You know, our ESS advisers are really experienced and have been on campus for a really long time. They know the policies in and out, not just college policies but a campus wide policies and university wide policies. They know the curriculum really well especially for the majors they advise. They know the requirements for students to change majors. We know that sometimes students get advice from their peers. And if you think about it if you’re asking your close friend who is also a new student, they haven’t even set foot on campus yet, you might be better off asking an adviser who’s been on campus for 20 years and trust that you’re going to get the right answer. We really hope students will see us as a resource for answering their questions. And if we can’t answer it we certainly know who can. We really want students to feel comfortable coming to us with all sorts of questions.
LAURA: Thank you so much and we’re going to change gears a little bit now and bring in Marvin. Marvin could you tell me a little bit more about your programs team?
MARVIN: Sure. So my program’s team or the program’s team, is three individuals, who similar to advising have a background and a passion for education. We have been on campus, maybe not as long as the advising team, I’ve been on campus nearly three years and two of my three team members have been on campus less than three years and one has been around for seven years. We come from diverse backgrounds, diverse interests, but all united with the advising team in one thing, and that is the success of our students. So that’s something that I appreciate enormously and that our students, I think we’ll see in interacting with our programs team and their advising team that we are here for one reason and that is their success which is why we say you can’t spell success without ESS. We have three individuals that split up the duties and the programs across the portfolio. Our programs are really centered around three key areas as I mentioned: academic support, professional development, and leadership development. And the one thing that we aim for and that we really intend to address and we addressed to the programs, is really leveling the playing field. So ensuring that regardless of where you come from, regardless of your zip code, and whether your high school had 20 AP classes or two, that you will have access to the knowledge, the tools, the resources to succeed, not just at Cal but beyond. So that is at the heart of what we do. We have physical spaces through which we offer up programs where we try to build community and to build and foster a sense of collaboration and working together and learning together, which we know is a key factor in success at Berkeley. That is the key, the heart of what the program team does in my group.
LAURA: Can you tell me a little bit more about the programs that are available to our incoming students?
MARVIN: Absolutely. Our signature programs Pre-engineering Program and Transfer Pre-Engineering Program are really aimed at students who could benefit from the additional support prior to the beginning of their fall semester. These are students that may not have all the resources and all the preparation, the classes that their peers would have. And so we try to level the playing field in terms of preparation, through these summer programs. They start three week residential programs prior to the beginning of the fall semester. This year, because of the circumstances we’re in, both programs will be offered remotely, online, which while it takes away the physical presence, that physical community, I think will allow us to create, to offer opportunities that we hadn’t had before. So more virtual presentations from companies, virtual presentations from guest speakers, expanding the access to the program, since it won’t be physically in-person. It allows it to take advantage of some opportunities while it won’t be in-person. So these programs happen before the beginning of the semester and then we have what we call the engineering excellence programs, which happen through the academic year – the first academic year for incoming freshmen, transfer students. Again, those that we think can benefit from the additional support. In addition, we offer broadly to the entire student body things like tutoring. So we have free tutoring offered in the Center for Access to Engineering Excellence in Bechtel Engineering Center. In the last semester we were offering free tutoring in almost 50 classes, so everything, the entire suite of lower division classes: math, physics, chemistry, CS and even slipping into upper division: CS, mechanical. And even outside of engineering and outside of STEM, so we’re offering economics, biology tutoring, simply because the tutors that we have are so adept at a number of courses that if they can tutor we’ll offer it. And we have a number of students that come every year to take advantage of tutoring. Something I want to point out to our incoming students, to think that tutoring is not remedial. And very often our students are coming from backgrounds where they themselves are tutors and so now they might need some tutoring themselves and that is perfectly OK. And I would even encourage you to come to tutoring before you need it. So don’t wait until it becomes remedial. If you’re ahead of the game, then stay even further ahead of the game. And if you need it, well then, make sure you catch up with some tutoring. At some point, come and see us to become a tutor. All our tutors are our own students who have a passion for giving back.
We offer workshops for things like note taking, how to maximize office hours. Things like that around the academic space. We offer a number of workshops on professional development and career readiness. To Sharon’s earlier point, students often get advice from all sorts of people out there in terms of what constitutes proper career readiness. And so we work closely with the Career Center and through my own background from recruiting and industry in putting on workshops that help prepare students for their career goals whether they’re academia or industry. So things like the etiquette dinner, to understand how to work an etiquette dinner, a banquet, where the opportunities are where you take advantage of opportunities like internships and promotions and things like that. We teach them how to use LinkedIn, how to negotiate job offers, etc. And fundamentally given that confidence to go into the recruiting process prepared and ready.
Then on the leadership side we work closely with both our student organizations. So we have 82, at last count, student clubs that offer and address every aspect of student life and really societal life that’s out there. Clubs that work in philanthropy, community service, competitions, professional service, consulting. So we work closely with them and help them achieve their goals through funding, through guidance, through coaching. We work closely with them to help them embody and demonstrate the values of the College of being inclusive and diverse. To develop themselves as leaders and again have that readiness and the preparation for industry or for their career goals in general. At the same time we offer workshops and initiatives for students to develop themselves as leaders individually. Our signature event is LeaderShape, our six-day retreat in January, where students go to the Redwoods for six days to think deeply about what does it mean to be a leader, an inclusive leader. And other workshops throughout the year to develop students individually as leaders. This is I believe that’s kind of the tip of the iceberg. We offer more and we were closely again with our advising team, with our engineering student council, to develop new and interesting initiatives to serve our students to make sure they have that knowledge and that support that they need to succeed at Cal and beyond
LAURA: Awesome. There’s a lot of stuff that you’re offering in there. I know that one program that’s still open that students can apply for till the end of June is Engineering Scholars as Engaged Scholars and we have one of your team members is going to do a podcast with us in two weeks.
LAURE: It’s a little bit more about that program and the initiatives that it offers as well. So I’m excited that we’re getting to bring in different members of each of your teams, will be coming in to talk more about programs that we’ve got. So we’re going to meet more advisers, we’re going to meet more of the program’s team. So throughout the summer make sure you tune in and you can get to know bits and pieces of everybody that we have any assets that are there to support you.
MARVIN: Absolutely. And I think I want to point out Laura, is that for you or the other students incoming, if you have initiatives or thoughts of programs that we could offer something, that we just don’t do, let us know. You get the newsletter every week. You’ll have a contact information. Let us know what more can we offer that we just that we may not offer right now. I’m a huge proponent of trying. And if it works we’ll expand an offering. If it doesn’t work, we’ll move on to something else. And because of that we’ll be able to offer the rich portfolio that we now offer. So please let us know what you need and we’ll make it happen.
LAURA: I know this is going to be hard to answer but we had already talked about how we’re making PREP and T-PREP online programs this summer. Do you see in the fall semester that we’re going to be able to bring any of our programs so that they’re online, any of the activities other workshops?
MARVIN: We think that the majority of our programs will be online. In particular tutoring. Social distancing tutoring doesn’t quite work we think. We’ve already tried online tutoring since the quarantine began and through the summer, so I think we’ve done a fairly good job of migrating tutoring online. We think tutoring we’ll be online, probably for the most part, regardless of what we end up doing in the fall. And then the other programs will depend, so as conditions change and dictates from campus and our health experts, we’ll adopt and adopt different policies as we go forward. But for sure, we know that tutoring will most likely be online for the fall. The Center and the physical space that we offer in 240 Bechtel and the Center for Access to Engineering Excellence, same thing. We’ll see how we’ll make that happen, if we’re back on campus, what the appropriate level of support we can offer physically, given the constraints.
LAURA: What’s going to be the best way for students to know what activities are offered and what resources are available?
MARVIN: The newsletter. The newsletter is the final word on what we offer. If it’s not on the newsletter it does not exist. Or maybe the other way around- if it exists, it’s in the newsletter. Everything that we offer, not just the workshops, but things like scholarships, when companies and partners offer scholarships we put them in a newsletter. Workshops or opportunities for research that we are starting to expand the funding for – in the newsletter. Our company visits, club presentations, and initiatives are in the newsletter. So please, we encourage you highly, highly to look at the newsletter every single Monday afternoon when it comes out, along with all the other social media presence that we do offer but the newsletter is the final word.
SHARON: And I might add Laura, that we’re expecting certainly through the summer advising will also be online. So when students make an appointment with their adviser, their adviser will email them, perhaps the day before, perhaps the day of, a Zoom link or a Google Hangout link to have that advising appointment. At this point we’re sort of expecting we’ll continue that way through the fall. Similarly for the reasons it’s quite challenging to create social distancing in an advising office. And so it’s very likely that we’ll continue with online advising in the fall as well.
LAURA: And Marvin, what do you think are the benefits of using the programs and using the resources that are provided by ESS?
MARVIN: I think the data bears it out, so I won’t even say my opinion, but just the data bears it out that students that are more engaged, engaged in their education, and every aspect of their education, not just in the classroom, not just in office hours, but take advantage of tutoring, of collaborating with their peers in the center and other places, who do research, who do internships, who travel abroad – the more they do all of the things that we offer, the more confidence, the more readiness they have to go off and do the things they want to do, to achieve all the great goals they come to Cal with. We know that the more that they do what we offer, the better off they are,the readier they are and the more confident they are in pursuing their goals. We see that over and over and over. And so I encourage all of you to take advantage of the resources we have. To explore early. Don’t wait till the last minute. Explore early what we offer. And again if it’s something we don’t offer let us know and we’ll work with you.
LAURA: Is there anything that I missed that either one of you want to put out there about what ESS has to for students or resources that we’re putting out there for them?
SHARON: Well we’re certainly excited to welcome them in the fall. That might be virtually, we’re going to do our best to figure out how to create connections with students and how to help them create connections with each other. That’s a really important part of being a successful engineer is having your cohort of friends you can study with and just join clubs with. So we’re gonna do our best to help students make connections. I know it’s going to be a challenging transition to college for the freshmen and a challenging transition to Berkeley for the transfer students. We don’t know yet what classes are going to be online or what may or may not be offered in person. But however it is the College of Engineering Is truly invested in helping these students have a successful transition.
MARVIN: The one thing I didn’t mention is that for all the seriousness of what we offer, the one thing I want to remind you is to have fun and we are also here to make sure that you have fun. So a lot of what we offer that I didn’t mention are things to build community to bring some fun to the environment. So at the end of the semester we have our Alive Week where we have a number of events like the karaoke dance and “Paws before Finals” where you get to play with a doggy, which is a personal favorite. So we try to make things try to lighten the environment because we know that the program is rigorous so we’re not just serious about things. We’re also about fun and making sure that you’re enjoying yourselves as people and as students, not just focusing on school and clubs.
LAURA: Marvin and Sharon, thank you again for sharing with our students the resources and programs available through ESS.
SHARON: You’re welcome.
MARVIN: My pleasure, thanks for having me.
LAURA: And thank you students for tuning in to the (Not So) Secret Guide to Being a Berkeley Engineer, I look forward to podcasting with you next week. Bye!