By David Peterkofsky
Berkeley is academically demanding, and some students learn that all too quickly when they arrive on campus. Success at the university requires not only aptitude and grit but also community and academic support — and the latter is where the Student Learning Center (SLC) comes in.
Founded more than 45 years ago, the SLC serves 30% of undergraduates through 12 curricular and co-curricular programs. Services are provided by 300 undergraduate peer tutors and 20 subject-matter specialists, all of whom trained in the science of learning to guide students in the learning process.
Whether students are focused on declaring their dream major, embarking on an original research project for the first time, or looking to hone their multicultural literacy, the SLC meets them where they are, and provides them with the tools to achieve their academic goals and find success at Berkeley.
In addition to extensive academic support services, the SLC manages a wide range of other programs created to enrich the Berkeley academic excellence:
The Research Associate Program provides opportunities for highly motivated low-income and/or first-generation college students to conduct research. Each scholar receives a stipend and extensive mentorship to produce an original research paper over the course of eight weeks in their first or second summer at Berkeley.
DeCal is a partnership that adds more than 300 student-taught courses to the formal curriculum at Berkeley each year, under the sponsorship of related faculty. The SLC trains all DeCal student facilitators, enabling up to 4,000 students to take these unique classes each semester.
The Language Exchange Program connects nearly 1,000 students each year, providing a platform where students from around the globe can share their language skills and cultural knowledge. Encompassing more than 20 languages, this innovative program expands language ability as well as multicultural literacy, building community among students from diverse backgrounds.
Summer Bridge serves a diverse student community through a six-week residential program that prepares entering undergraduates to navigate the demands of a research university. Scholars take a full course load, including two courses and a mentorship program, to gain deep exposure to the rigor and expectations of the university.
Gaining an edge — and a calling
For Angela Ortiz ’21, the first-year transition from high school to Berkeley went well, thanks in large part to her participation in Summer Bridge prior to her first semester.
“Although it felt like a no-brainer to attend the #1 public university, I was incredibly scared,” recalls Ortiz, who came to campus from Madera, California, in the Central Valley. “Summer Bridge helped me discover skills and abilities I did not know I possessed, strengthened my study habits, and helped build my social circles.”
The program, she says, introduced her to “a learning community and a cultural community,” and the connections she made there inspired her to volunteer as a student with Berkeley’s Chicanx Latinx Student Development Office and the Chicanx Latinx Alumni Association.
Today, Ortiz works as program coordinator for the Chicana Latina Foundation, based in the Bay Area, and her formative Berkeley connections and experiences appear to have an influence in her post-Berkeley life. “I am grateful because I was able to grow as a scholar,” she says, “and as a person.”
Supporting educational access and equity
The SLC was initially conceived to serve the needs of emerging student populations, including student parents, minorities, veterans, and disabled students. While it serves all undergraduates today, the center continues to honor its historical mission by being especially attuned to the needs of historically underrepresented and underserved students, including but not limited to women in STEM, international students, and neurodivergent students.
The SLC is supported by gifts to the Cal Parents Fund, which offers parents an opportunity to enhance campus programs with the greatest need or the greatest potential to enhance student life. Donors may also directly support the SLC and its mission to empower all students to realize their full academic potential and aspirations. Learn more at slc.berkeley.edu/give-slc.
For more information about the Student Learning Center and how your student may get involved and benefit from its high-quality academic support, visit slc.berkeley.edu.