Exploring with Berkeley Connect

Legal studies major Rebekah Flores ’24 hadn’t thought a lot about social welfare before she joined her second Berkeley Connect cohort.

Photo of Rebekah leaning against a wooden table, wearing a blue, short-sleeved button-up top.

Rebekah Flores ’24

After a positive experience with the Berkeley Connect in English program, Flores decided to “dip her toe” into a second area of scholarship outside of her major. While she remains dedicated to and passionate about legal studies, she enjoys the opportunities that Berkeley Connect provides to explore a wide array of subjects in a relaxed atmosphere.

The conviviality of Berkeley Connect encourages students to discover unexpected connections among disciplines. Inspired by her graduate mentor, Nehal Eldeeb, Flores began to recognize that a social welfare framework can be applied to many careers and research endeavors, including her own.

“There were students in political science, computer science, and psychology,” she says, adding that Eldeeb’s warmth and openness were particularly welcome as she and other students began to socialize again after COVID. “She made it possible for us to really learn about one another. Berkeley Connect is such a close peer environment — we humans work best bouncing ideas off of each other, especially in this post-pandemic moment.”

43% of Berkeley Connect undergraduates are transfer students, 34% are underrepresented minorities, and 32% are first generation

Eldeeb’s infectious passion for the field of social welfare inspired Flores to envision providing a “basics of the law” course to high schoolers and other young people, so that they can understand their legal rights and navigate government systems effectively. Flores would like to develop a curriculum that can be widely shared, so that more people understand what to do if they are pulled over while driving, or want to learn how to effectively navigate tax law and government services.

“Previously, my major was about career goals, not so much about the work I want to do to serve others,” she says. Berkeley Connect also provided an opportunity for Flores, a self-described “enthusiastic participant” in class discussions, to drive conversations and encourage others to join in.

95% of participants surveyed indicate increased sense of belonging and confidence in success helping them to realize their potential at UC Berkeley.

When Eldeeb asked the social welfare cohort to share the best advice they had ever received, Flores gathered the group’s responses and created a post that was featured on Berkeley Connect’s website.

The advice that students shared reflects the ethos of Berkeley Connect, which is to foster the sense of belonging that is fundamental to a successful college career. Students’ responses included valuable tips for us all, such as not taking things personally and remembering the golden rule (treat others as you would like to be treated). One piece of advice reflects Flores’s Berkeley Connect experience in particular: remember that you don’t have to do one thing for your whole life.

And sometimes being open to other possibilities means cupcakes. Flores’s post won the annual Berkeley Connect contest to capture a moment that reveals the program’s essence. Ultimately, the real treat for students in Berkeley Connect is finding out that they belong at Berkeley — and so do the students around them, whatever their backgrounds, interests, or career plans may be.

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