Dear Berkeley Class of 2027,
Greetings and salutations to you, newest and most welcome Berkeleyites! I very much look forward to meeting each of you in August. Congratulations on your acceptance to Yale and on the good fortune that brought you to Berkeley!
As your dean and the chief academic officer of the college, I will advise you on all manner of things in the years to come, and we will grow to know each other quite well. I’m sure there are many questions on your mind as you think ahead to August, and that is exactly as it should be. You may be wondering: What will life at Yale be like? What do I want to study? What extracurricular interests do I want to pursue? How can I balance those interests with my academics? What if I don’t have answers to these questions before the fall semester starts, or what if my answers change over time? First, know that it’s good to ask such questions! As Einstein once said, “The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existence.” Second, know that you do not need to have everything figured out before you get here. The next four years will be one of the most developmental periods of your life; allow yourself time to question, explore, and grow as a person. In his philosophical writings, our very own namesake, Bishop Berkeley, recognized the importance of devoting careful attention to one’s studies and one’s self, noting that “The eye by long use comes to see even in the darkest cavern: and there is no subject so obscure but we may discern some glimpse of truth by long poring on it” (Siris, 1744). I encourage all of you to take the Bishop’s words to heart, keep an open mind, and challenge yourself to seek out new ideas and experiences throughout your time at Yale.
Also know that you do not have to navigate this journey on your own. You have an amazing support network waiting to help you here at Berkeley. Your First-Year Counselors (a.k.a. FroCos) represent the great spectrum of knowledge and interests that makes up Berkeley and Yale, and they blend compassion and understanding with practical know-how and hard-won experience. The FroCos are wonderful resources and are dedicated to helping you make your first year the best it can be. You also certainly will come to rely on the warmth and knowledge of Damaris Cardona, senior administrative assistant to the dean. She is an invaluable resource for routine academic questions as well as a provider of good cheer to help you in times of need. And, of course, you can come to me with any and all questions—even when you have so many that you don’t know where to start! Over the summer, the best way to have your immediate questions answered is by contacting your First-Year Counselor. I also highly recommend that you look at the Berkeley FAQ sheet.
When I was in my first semester of college, one of my professors introduced me to an article by the writer William Cronon, and it has stuck with me ever since. It’s called “Only Connect …” The Goals of a Liberal Education,” and in it, Cronon offers what I think is a simple yet powerful definition of what it means to be a liberally educated person. “More than anything else,” he says, “[it] is finally about connecting. A liberal education is about gaining the power and the wisdom, the generosity and the freedom to connect.” BK 2027, your time within the Berkeley and Yale communities undoubtedly will be characterized by making connections—with people, with places, with ideas, with your future self—and Head of College David Evans and I can’t wait to help you begin this process. We are delighted to spend the next four years with you, and we are eagerly awaiting your arrival in August. Once again, congratulations on all you have accomplished!
All the best,
Brianne Bilsky, Ph.D.
John B. Madden Dean of Berkeley College
Lecturer, Humanities Program