L&S Leadership Fund Impact Report October 2023

Since assuming the role of executive dean in 2021, I have focused on improving the student experience by expanding support services and building a more welcoming, inclusive community. The majority of UC Berkeley’s student population is in the College of Letters & Science — 22,500 undergraduates and 2,300 graduate students. The university entrusts us to care for these creative and inquisitive thinkers as they grow their skills, knowledge, confidence, and leadership.

You play a critical role in helping us provide a nurturing and enriching environment for our students to realize their full potential at Berkeley and beyond. Our students come first, and I am excited to share some new resources and programs we are implementing to better serve these brilliant young minds. Thank you for all you do to advance the largest college in the world’s No. 1 public university.


Jennifer Johnson-Hanks, Executive Dean of the College of Letters & Science

Welcoming new students to academic life

For many new students at Berkeley, choosing the right courses can be overwhelming. We launched L&S First-Year Pathways this fall so first-year students can join a small cohort of their peers to help them make a successful academic and social transition into college life. This exciting new program is organized around academic themes — such as Technology and Society — to complete the diverse breadth requirements that form the foundation of a liberal arts education.

L&S First-Year Pathways builds on years of similar innovations that L&S Leadership Fund donors have sponsored to expand the horizons of our students. From Golden Bear Orientation welcome and advising events to eye-opening Big Ideas Courses and Freshman/Sophomore Seminars, students can explore many trajectories and choose what is the right fit for them.

Bolstering advising support services

I am proud to announce a milestone in our efforts to enhance college-wide collaboration with the hiring of our inaugural Assistant Dean of Advising, Sharon Mueller, in August. Mueller will utilize her 29 years of advising experience to extend the reach of the new peer advisors we have added through the L&S Leadership Fund. Peer advisors play a critical role in helping students navigate the campus and access advising services.

Preparing students to lead meaningful lives in the 21st century

Raka Ray, the dean of the Division of Social Sciences, addresses participants at the kickoff meeting for L&S Futures.

Since our graduation requirements last underwent revision over 30 years ago, much about the world has changed. In response to the transformed landscape of higher education, this past year we launched L&S Futures, a comprehensive review to determine the skills, knowledge, and dispositions students need to succeed in the world after graduation. Thousands of students, faculty, alums, staff, employers, and civic leaders provided feedback to inform changes in our core curriculum, which will be investigated over the new academic year and implemented with the help of the L&S Leadership Fund.

Building community through shared cultural frameworks

We produced the latest season of On the Same Page, a community-building effort that gives new students something in common to talk about: a work that changed the way we view the world. This past year’s selection was Interior Chinatown, a novel by alum Charles Yu ’97. In September, first-year students gathered to watch Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution, learned about Berkeley’s role in the disability rights movement, and heard from the documentary’s filmmakers.

Providing undergraduates with research opportunities

Your support for the L&S Leadership Fund augmented our Undergraduate Studies Division in ultimately providing 134 Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships (SURF) and connecting 1,900 students with 371 mentors through the Undergraduate Research Apprentice Program (URAP) this year. These programs have a multidimensional impact, allowing students to develop skills, assist faculty, and advance cutting-edge science.

“Your investment in my education and development has not only provided me with valuable opportunities to enhance my scientific skills but also allowed me to contribute to the advancement of knowledge in this field.” – 2023 SURF Fellow

Thank you for supporting the L&S Leadership Fund.

Through generous supporters like you, our college can take big steps toward helping all of our students find their people, place, and passion at Berkeley.

PHOTOS © UC Regents | PHOTOGRAPHERS: Neil Freese, Brittany Hosea-Small, Keegan Houser, Lauren Miller, Elena Zhukova
“Students come to Berkeley because they want to make a difference. They see something about the world that isn't right, and they want to learn to fix it. These are the kids who are going to make the world better, and I am very grateful for your willingness to step up and contribute.” – Jennifer Johnson-Hanks