How do you make the most of your time at Cal? We’ve covered a lot about academics but how about outside the classroom? How do you meet people, feel comfortable on campus and create a new life chapter that is fun and engaging? This week we have Sharon Mueller, Kathy Barrett and Jane Paris joining with their tips on how to Make Connections whether it is through Golden Bear Orientation, students in your dorm or student organizations that share your interests.
- Berkeley Engineering teams and organizations
- LEAD(Leadership, Engagement, Advising, & Development) Center
- Campus teams and organizations
LAURA VOGT: Hi and welcome to the not so secret Guide to Being a Berkeley Engineer. My name is Laura Vogt and I’m the Communications and Event Manager for Engineering Student services in the College of Engineering and I’m excited to be with you again this week. Today we’ve brought back Sharon Mueller and Kathy Barrett and we’re excited to welcome Jane Paris to our podcast. Jane since you’re new, why don’t you start off introducing yourself.
JANE PARIS: Hi Laura. I’m Jane Paris and I’m an Engineering Student Services adviser. I work with civil engineering students and industrial engineering students and I’m really excited to talk about making connections today.
LAURA: And Kathy why don’t you give a little refresher on who you are and what you do for Engineering Student Services.
KATHY BARRETT: Hi Laura. I’m the Associate Director of Advising and I also work with mechanical engineering students and students in the joint majors.
LAURA: And Sharon?
SHARON MUELLER: I’m Sharon Mueller and I’m the Director of Advising and Policy at Engineering Student Services.
LAURA: And so today we’re bringing everyone together because we want to talk about making connections, and how as you start your career here at Berkeley How are you going to make those connections and why is it important. Jane do you want to start us off and explain that a little?
JANE: I do. Yes. So first what we mean by making connections that might seem obvious but it does mean getting involved in a really meaningful way in your education beyond just going to class. And normally when we think about it this involvement is about connecting with other people and sometimes it’s going to be risky it might feel risky for some students.
KATHY: You might have to talk to a stranger.
JANE: You’ll have to talk to people you have to kind of put yourself out there be the first one to introduce yourself or to ask the question about, you know, what is this group why would I belong to it. And the payoff is big though when you do that because there are a lot of benefits to connecting with others at Berkeley. So do you want to hear about those.
LAURA: Yeah that’ll be great. Do you have some specific reasons why we want to do this?
JANE: Yes. Yes so. So one reason is it’s really fun to make connections. Yeah, it’s super fun. So and in my mind what I’m thinking about is I’m remembering some students I used to work with to in particular who for them at a big connection they had here was the Bollywood dance team. So it didn’t have anything to do with engineering and that’s OK. They were super involved in it and that is where they got a lot of support. And those students that were also on the Bollywood – and I think they won, like they won a competition or something, you know, and they traveled all over the country, you know, dancing their hearts out. And those other students became family to them and really kind of helped them get through their time here. So that’s that’s just a big huge benefit is you need to be doing some fun stuff here. Do you want to hear another benefit?
JANE: So in addition to the fun, then we can think more practically about getting a dream job. So a lot of students come to Cal with this very specific idea in mind about I want to work for whomever, and making connections with other people here can help you do that. And what I’m thinking about again is in one of the majors I advise, civil engineering, there’s a lot of competition teams. So specifically the seismic team which is super cool. They build a structure and put it on a shaking table and like – [shaking sounds] – you know, shake it and hope it doesn’t –.
KATHY: We really need a visual on that –
JANE: – because my whole body is moving. But anyway so they shake it and hope it doesn’t fall down, and this is a competition, so this is happening in other engineering programs all over the country. And then they come together in you know regional competitions in the national competition so you can imagine this group gets very tight this seismic team that comes together and they all have different roles and how how can this help you. How can the, like – [shaking sounds] – shaking get to your dream job. Stick with me and you by doing this kind of activity you are learning a whole bunch of skills that you don’t necessarily learn in the classroom. So in the classroom we learn like awesome technical skills like you’re all going to learn that. But outside the classroom in this kind of setting you learn things like teamwork, communication, real life problem solving and leadership, and these things that employers are looking for.
LAURA: I was just thinking you might be able to actually parlay this into some network connections afterwards because you’re working with students are all different ages right.
JANE: Oh that’s a very good point yes because the seniors usually are kind of leading the team. And so if you’re joining it when you’re a first year, then, you know, they’re going to have a job when they graduate and you’re connected to them. And yeah that is kind of a definitely a networking..and then there’s you know juniors and sophomores too so certainly it’s a big networking experience.
KATHY: And also companies expect these are things you talk about in your job interview say learning the skills that you’re able to talk about in your job interview. So that’s another big reason why students really want to participate in these competition teams because they’re really building skills – problem solving skills – that that’s something they’re going to talk about in their interviews for internships or eventual job so that’s really important.
JANE: That kind of reminds me of something I saw once some research I was doing about what recruiters are looking for and this was Space-X in particular that when they’re hiring there these were like the top things that they were filtering for. So they were looking for – and this is connected to you know why a group like the seismic team or some other competition team would help you – so they’re looking for like hands on hardware slash software development experience so what problems have you actually encountered and solved. The second thing they were looking for was experience with engineering competitions and placement in top positions at those competitions, so I remember how I was saying there were like regional competitions and national competitions. Looking at your GPA and maybe an SAT score or other kind of hard scores and then they’re looking for something that they describe, this just drive/grit so that fourth one in particular is the thing that I think you can really get in the organization that you join the connection you make because you’re going to learn that through these parts through these groups through participating in them the kind of analyzing why the structure fell down when you shook it at a certain level and how you’re going to be able to rebuild that in this very short timeframe. So that’s something that I would say is developing your grit having to really think on your feet and use your analytical skills in that somewhat real world situation.
KATHY: I think it’s interesting too, Jane, because you mentioned about GPA and I would say well GPA does matter to some companies. I would say they really do. I definitely have had students who don’t have the strongest GPA, but are working at Google or Apple because they have they built their skills set up so I would say it is important. It’s nice to have a good GPA but it also is really being able to communicate with recruiters with people that you interview with, what skills you have. So I think the more you can think about how my building my skills when I join a club or a team is really important when you go to those job interviews.
LAURA: So and then you’ve also got a note in here that this also gives you support that working with those in these competition teams –
JANE: That is my, I think, that’s that’s my final reason about you know why I would really try to convince a student to make a connection somehow with some type of group is the support you’ll feel, because it’s really important to know this like one kind of secret even though this podcast is the “not so secret guide.” But that’s what we’re you know we’re kind of illuminating it for you. Is that you cannot do engineering alone meaning Berkeley engineering the academic environment is not one that you should think of as like I’m just going to do it. You definitely need help from other people academically and you will need the support of friends. As I was talking about you know my students that were in Bollywood and thought of that group as their family, like things are going to be tough when you’re here. Things are also going to be good when you’re you know it’s kind of like life. There’s this whole range of experiences. But when things are tough that’s really when you need the support of your friends and these people that you’re spending time together and really can rely on. They’re going to kind of get you through those tougher times. Also just the academic part, you actually as I said you shouldn’t be trying to do these engineering problems said map and chemistry physics problem sets by yourself that’s one way of doing it. But at some point you’re going to want to work with other people as in a study group and that kind of support is is really critical to your success here.
KATHY: And you can find support. I mean, we have the Center for Access to Engineering Excellence, which is what the tutoring center, we call the center for short. And so, even if you don’t have a team or a club you have joined you can be welcomed and find folks you can work with. And a lot of times it does become I think a group study session because two or three people are there about their Math 1A class, they’re working together. So we think that’s a great place to kind of start that support too. I think a lot of people find that their main form of support is at the tutoring center which we think is awesome.
JANE: I see a lot of students and they’re like you know, studying.
LAURA: All right so now we know why we want to make these connections. Who wants to tell me a little bit about how we’re going to do it?
SHARON: So I can talk about that a little bit. I would say you know really the first step is sort of researching what your options are and there are so many options. It’s probably a little bit overwhelming but just in the College of Engineering alone there are over 70 student organizations that students can join. Campus wide there are over 1500 student organizations so that is a lot. And there are so many different things to choose from that anything that you’re interested in or anything that you want to find out more about, there’s probably a club for you. And if there isn’t you could start one. So I’ll just sort of talk a little bit about some of the clubs that are affiliated with the College of Engineering. So we have clubs that are really focused on competition, that’s we’ve been talking a lot about that some of the competition teams. There are also community service clubs just within engineering and there are gender and culture and any kind of identity you can think of. We have those in engineering as well. And there are professional academic and professional clubs as well. So for example one of the community service organizations is BEAM that’s Berkeley engineers and mentors. And that’s a group of I think it’s over a hundred students and they’re in various disciplines some engineering some are math and they get together and they go out into the community, into our local community here in the Bay Area and they work in schools and they work with younger students and try to get them excited about STEM fields. So they do all sorts of fun experiments. They get messy and just a lot of outreach in our local community with students, trying to encourage students to to pursue the STEM fields. And but there are others in that arena as well that do a lot. Engineers Without Borders also. So if that’s how you’re leaning then there are several clubs just within engineering for you to do that. And then we had a big success with one of our competition teams actually just within a few days. And that is CalSol and that’s our solar vehicle team and they actually just won the Formula Sun Grand Prix which was in Austin, Texas and that was just wasn’t like a week ago.
LAURA: Their blog is saying that it was three days 220 laps and seven hundred and seventy five miles driven.
SHARON: The competition was three days? Oh my gosh.
KATHY: That sounds tiring.
SHARON: So this is this car is called the Zephyr and this is its fourth year in that club and each year they’ve refined it and each year they’ve done better and better and now they’ve won. So that’s super exciting and on CalSol it’s a group of I think about 50 students. They’re all undergraduates and they’re in a variety of disciplines, not necessarily all engineering. I think there are some students who are business students on there as well because you know there’s a lot of fundraising with that too. And so yeah they’ve done really great. And we’ve also got concrete canoe team there are a lot of civil engineers who build a canoe out of concrete. I don’t think I want them building my next cruise ship.
JANE: But you should see the concrete can you they made this year it was beautiful. Like that’s a part of it too.
SHARON: Is the aesthetics of it?
JANE: Yes the aesthetics are really graphics are really awesome.
SHARON: So beyond making concrete float, you have to make it look pretty.
SHARON: Wow. That is a lot of pressure. Yeah. And we have a I think the winning-est concrete canoe team is at Berkeley, so our competition teams are really successful. And so but as I said you know there are a lot of campus wide clubs as well. Jane mentioned Bollywood which sounds like a lot of fun to me. Any kind of dancing and I’m all over it. You know there are singing clubs maybe are a really good singer maybe you’re not but you want to sing anyway. There’s probably a club for you. It’s also important to sort of get some exercise and certainly with these competition teams there’s a lot of hands on. So you’re working really hard but if you really like sports and you’ve played competitive sports in high school you might find that you want to do an intramural sport here. So there are all sorts of intramural teams you could do. You can get the whole floor of your dorm to be on a team and you know there are different levels. There sort of like you know the really serious volleyball players and then there are sort of like the flip flop volleyball players, so no matter what your level, you can you can be on a intramural team as well if that’s what you’re interested in. So really the main thing is find something that you want to get involved in and just explore. This is your time to think about what am I interested in. What am I interested in trying or what clubs are in line with my values or with my career goals and any kind of experience that you got outside of the classroom. Those experiences build your soft skills which are really important when you’re going out in your interviews and you may not think that your intramural team is important but that shows teamwork and it shows collaboration. So any of these experiences can really help you land that dream job as Jane was talking about.
LAURA: And so now we figured out why we want to do it and what is available to do it. So Kathy when and how are we actually going to fit this into our schedule?
KATHY: I know where it when can you fit all that in. So we do know that clubs can be time consuming or not. I mean some are more so than others. I was reading the student blog for the FSAE which they build a formula 1 race car every year and they were talking about that they can spend up to eight hours at the garage welding and on weekends they’re sometimes there 12 to 15 hours a day welding and putting this car together. And so you know some of you that may sound super exciting to be welding and building this car every single day. That’s awesome. Others of you that may sound terrible. So that’s one thing you want to start thinking about is what is it that sounds fun for me to do. What is it that sounds terrible. You’re going to spend 10 hours a day doing something you want to make sure you love it. So certainly you know getting involved means thinking about what is it you want to do. And one of the things I mean how to start thinking about that, is to think about like what did you love doing while you were in high school or at the community college. What were the teams or clubs that you were involved in and would you want to continue that forward. Because certainly there’s definitely robotics teams and you know debate and speech teams are things that you love to do there you could still continue to do that. You also might want to do something totally new but there definitely are those things that are still. So think what you love and what you love about them.
Sharon mentioned you know there’s clubs you know for any really affiliation you might have whether that’s ethnic or religious or cultural. So certainly you know think about it. Would that be important for you to find a group of people that you really identify with culturally or ethnically you share the same religious beliefs that maybe a club that you want to join because that would be a really important support group for you to have. Now of course you want to think about, are there skills that you want to build. And definitely as you know Sharon has talked about and Jane has talked about, a lot of these clubs will really give me the opportunity to build some real hands on skills and I know certainly for like my mechanical engineering students a lot of reasons they become a mechanical engineer they want to build something. They want to make and build things. So they want to find clubs or for students who are in EECS, they want to do programming, they want to you know there’s hackathon, where they’re given a problem and they have to solve it. So there’s lots of cool things to do. Sharon mentioned there’s clubs that do community service that you know if you’re someone who feels like you really want to make an impact on your community and whether you know really small community right here and camp as large around Berkeley around the world like pioneers in engineering, I think they’re going to Peru and they work on a water project a clean water project. So really the things that you can do are you know very micro and macro. You can do.
And then of course do you want to just have fun which fund is very important so it’s you know we really want to think about what are all those things that you want to do and you kind of think about what’s important for you.
We would say for your first semester we definitely don’t want you jumping into ten clubs. We want to use this first semester to really explore and they’ll be some ways to explore clubs. Certainly websites and we’ll have on our podcast site there’ll be a link to a bunch of different places where you can start exploring what clubs are out there. When you guys are all here for GBO on Monday afternoon (August 21) you’ll have student groups we’ll be tabling at the ice cream social. So you’ll come you’ll have some ice cream you’ll be social, you’ll talk to some people in clubs. That’s a great way to start to figure out what clubs. There’s also the campus’s been doing Calapalooza which is clubs across campus have a site and they’re all I forget I don’t know where they’re going to do it this year I should know we’ll know more. We’ll post that but I’m usually at some large site where you can wander around and talk to more people at more clubs than you ever imagined existed.
JANE: Kathy can I interject?
KATHY: Yes you can.
JANE: OK thank you. Like what you were saying about you know maybe we don’t want you to join ten clubs, even though you’re going to be so excited and stimulated by these that you kind of want to…
KATHY: I’ve thought of three that I want to join right now.
JANE: I know, I know.
SHARON: If they’ll have you.
JANE: I think they would have you…But sometimes even one club is a huge. Yeah. Like what you were saying about FSAE that builds a car from scratch. So if you’re spending 12 hours on the weekend you know and I guess on a Saturday that’s 12 hours obviously that you’re not spending on your academics. And so you really have to be very good with your time management to kind of be aware of how much time do I have in a week and how much time do I need to first give to my academics. So I’m not trying to be a buzzkill but I’m just know it does take a lot of planning.
KATHY: No normally that’s my job to be the Debbie Downer. So thank you for doing that for me. No it’s very true and that’s all we really think this first semester we would like it you to really take it as this is the exploration semester and also for you to gauge how much free time you really do have and certainly that’s a conversation with students I have that like wow I had more free time or a whole lot less free time than I thought I was going to have. Even though 12 or 13 or 14 units didn’t seem like very much when I looked at my schedule. Seemed like I have a lot of free time and in the end for me to be a really good student I didn’t have that much free time. So yeah we want you to kind of figure out how to be a successful student here. You know it’s all in the living environment. Everything’s all new. So we want you to give yourself time to get used to that. So yeah it’s a big it’s a big adjustment.
LAURA: And we do have great time management tips. Like my number one tip is use your Google Calendar and actually schedule in each of your classes, each of your study hours.
KATHY: We do have gathers lots of resources to help you you know online to manage your schedule. To figure out what is your free time. And then you you know you’re going to prioritize what feels like the things that are important to you. Some of it may be the most important is hanging out in your dorm and talking to the people in your dorm and getting to know them. That’s a really important thing. I did a lot of that.
JANE: That’s part of your community.
KATHY: Yeah, that is totally your community.
JANE: I definitely had students who for them, their community, they became resident assistants in the residence halls. So that staff was the connection they made. You know which you wouldn’t think about but that’s what we mean like it’s like so many different ways and this is where you start to think about who are you and what’s important to you and your values. So I think you mentioned that earlier about values and things like that.
KATHY: I think I don’t know. But you did. But thank you. Yes. Because I think in the end that’s sort of what we hope that they’re going to get from any club or organization that you belong to is that you really start to explore who you are and what you want out of campus and kind of becoming the person you want to become.
LAURA: This reminds me of Jane’s got the six word story that she likes to tell people, I think would be a great way to wrap everything up with that. And the ideas that go along with it.
JANE: Oh thank you I’m glad it’s only six words. I can remember it. So yeah the story is “I needed to find myself first.” Isn’t that good?
KATHY: I know we should probably have a pause to think about that for a minute and let it sink in. “I needed to find myself first.”
JANE: What goes with that story? It’s a very short story but there’s a lot in there. So yeah we want you to think about, you know you’re going to start meeting people, you’re going to test out this kind of new environment that you’re in and it might make you think about things. I mean we kind of hope that it does make you think about your life and the world differently and you will like slowly but surely start becoming a different person which might sound a little scary but it’s very exciting. So we want you to kind of embrace that and run with it and ultimately help you figure out what you’re going to contribute to this world. So it seems like OK we’re talking about clubs but it’s really it’s a lot this is so much bigger than I needed to find myself first.
SHARON: So I could see because you know I’m kind of an introvert, so I could see hearing this I might be a little overwhelmed. I might kind of wonder, I don’t even know how I would start. You know how how would I get myself to go into a room where I don’t know anybody and maybe I’m thinking in my head, Oh they all know each other and I’m sort of going to be the new person and so that might be something I could I could see some students might be challenged with then and maybe the hope is that at GBO certainly these students will be in smaller groups and they’ll get to know some other students in their major. And some students who are not in their major too. And hopefully you can connect with you know maybe one or two people and feel comfortable enough to say hey when you come with me. And that might be a good way to kind of overcome, you can motivate each other to go. And it really is that first step that is sometimes the scariest. And then you get there and then you know the bigger things happen. But just taking that first step I could I could see myself being a little bit overwhelmed by that.
KATHY: I would just watch Game of Thrones instead of leaving my dorm room.
SHARON: That sounds like heaven too.
KATHY: Don’t do that people.
JANE: Well here’s what I hope, that multiple people listening to this who are are experiencing maybe that kind of fear and then we have a lot of people who are probably like very outgoing. That everyone kind of takes a step. So like the people that are super outgoing maybe one thing you do is look for people who maybe look like they might be a little shy and maybe you’re the one that says Hey come with me I’m going to the this club. And then people that are a little shy kind of take that step forward like Sharon was saying to be open to that.
SHARON: Yes, hopefully kind of everyone can balance each other out.
JANE: Yes, help each other out. We’re very idealistic.
KATHY: You know I think the nice thing too if you listen to our old podcasts with previous podcasts. Giovanni one of our students talked about he’d been in one club and he realized it wasn’t quite working for him so he joined a different one. So it’s also not like you’re getting married to any of these people. You can divorce that club.
SHARON: I mean so it’s a lot easier to get out.
KATHY: It really is yeah there’s no sharing of the property, there’s not joint custody. So yeah I really think about trying some things out. We want you to you know dip your toe and see what it feels like you know that that water is the right temperature. If not it’s OK to get out and go to a different pool. That’s all right. Yeah just a little advice for you when you’re swimming, go to a different pool.
LAURA: Well thank you all so much for coming in today and talking about this making connections. We are back next week to talk about engineering scholars.