When I saw the call for nominations for the 2019-20 Chancellor’s Awards for Public Service, I immediately thought of International House resident Benny Corona. This was affirmed when an email appeared in my inbox just minutes later from another I-House resident saying he felt the same way, followed by a request that I (as an administrator) nominate Benny. I did so without hesitation and was thrilled to hear that Benny won the Graduate Award for Civic Engagement! While we were unable to celebrate in person this past May due to the pandemic, the Chancellor’s office will be honoring Benny and others at a virtual ceremony next week and I hope you’ll join.
But I have gotten ahead of myself.
Sometimes, you land the good fortune of remembering exactly when and where you met someone. This was the case for me with regard to Benny.
It was our second New Resident Orientation Retreat in Fall 2019 and I was exhausted. Still, I remember with clarity the exact moment I first met Benny. I was instantly drawn to his soft spoken but confident demeanor. In a short conversation over lunch, I quickly learned what matters most to Benny: his community in the Central Valley of California. Continue reading →
With a career that spans four decades, Kathryn Anthony (IH 1976-79) has risen to prominence in the field of architecture. She studied psychology as an undergraduate at UC Berkeley and continued her education there, getting her Ph.D. in the same concentration where she focused on social and cultural factors in design. Her dissertation was on the architecture of International House at UC Berkeley, titled “Home Away from Home” where she analyzed the history of its foundation, part of which included the Spanish Moorish style it was influenced by. In August, Anthony was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Chicago Women in Architecture Foundation to honor her contributions to the field. I spoke with her through a Zoom interview to discuss what she’s been up to since she last spoke to I-House, and hear some of her favorite memories from her time as a resident in the ’70s. The interview is part of a series of “spotlights” where alumni and former executive directors are featured for an oral history discussion about their time at I-House. While the House will be closed for the 2020-2021 academic year, the oral history discussions are a way to help keep the alumni community connected virtually. Continue reading →
As we now celebrate the 90th Anniversary of the founding of International House at UC Berkeley, our mission still rings true: to foster intercultural respect and understanding, lifelong friendships, and leadership skills for a more just and peaceful world. While we celebrate, commemorate, and contemplate the collective achievements of our 95,000 distinguished alumni, it is also important to remember the inspirational words of John D. Rockefeller Jr., the original I-House Berkeley benefactor, written at the time of our founding in a letter to President Robert G. Sproul in the fall of 1930: Continue reading →
With the school semester dramatically disrupted due to the coronavirus pandemic, most colleges and universities moved to online instruction, with students having no choice but to adjust to the changes. Given the lack of in-person classes and social distancing measures in place, quarantining while studying became a new balancing act.
At International House, UC Berkeley, a place known for fostering cultural understanding and celebrating different nationalities, community staples such as Coffee Hour and eating in the Dining Commons were halted. With countries closing borders as a way to prevent the further spread of COVID-19, many I-House residents returned to their countries of origin. As the hallways got quieter by the day, the I-House staff came together to form new virtual activities to keep residents engaged. Here’s a recap of the Spring 2020 semester at I-House:
I-House got its year off to the right start with a New Resident Orientation retreat to Walker Creek Ranch. The two-day trip involved hiking, group activities, good food, a bonfire, and a chance for residents to learn more about each other and how to make the most of their I-House experience. The final day ended with a trip to the beach in Point Reyes.
More New Year celebrations were underway as I-House Dining hosted a special Lunar New Year themed dinner which featured Lion Dance performances from San Francisco-based dance group Lion Dance Me. The meal included traditional East Asian Cuisine and desserts as well as special decorations honoring the new year.
With January filled with adventure and new beginnings, February doubled the fun starting with Super Bowl Sunday. This was the 54th annual Super Bowl, a deeply-rooted American tradition, where those not able to go to the actual game sit around their TV with family and/or friends to root for a team or watch the highly anticipated half-time show. Residents gathered around the TV in the Great Hall to watch the game. A projector was set up in the Dining Commons as well so people could eat and watch the event.
I-House also hosted it’s Sunday Supper event in mid-February with “Winter Soirée” as this year’s theme. For the price of meal swipe, residents, dressed to the nines, enjoyed a talent show featuring their fellow I-House friends.
For Valentine’s Day, the Program Office put together a match-making activity that would help resident’s find their Valentine. To those that weren’t able to find their one true love through the app, they were at least comforted by a serenade from Cal’s Mariachi Band, invited by I-House resident Benny Corona. The band played a few songs on the front steps to a cheerful crowd.
Two weeks later, the I-House dining team hosted a Black History month dinner, featuring traditional southern food from fried chicken, to sweet potato pie. The menu was designed by sous chef Raymond Sharp, a Bay Area native with southern roots. African artwork aligned the buffet room, most of which belonged to the mother of I-House cook Morgan Townsend. Read more about the dinner in our February I-House blog post.
To round out the month, I-House residents enjoyed a special trip to the Chase Center in San Francisco to watch a basketball game between the Golden State Warriors and Sacramento Kings.
Each March I-House participates in an annual “Big Give” event to raise funds for scholarships and operations. Alumni such as Nancy Tivol proposed price-matching donations where residents and friends of I-House could donate to unlock a certain gift giving amount. Residents from and those on the leadership committee participated in promotional photos for the event and committee members hosted a raffle the night before to encourage more donations for a chance to win fun prizes. In total, I-House raised nearly $10,000 in its Big Give event.
With Spring break plans on people’s minds, the fast spread of COVID-19 in the U.S. and overseas began to impact how many carried out their social lives. On March 13th, UC Berkeley officially shutdown in-person classes and social distancing measures were strictly enforced. Gatherings were limited to ten people or less and people were encouraged to remain at least six feet apart. For the first time in decades, the Dining Commons closed its in-person dining, and residents were given to-go boxes to eat in their rooms or outside while maintaining a safe distance from each other.
To keep the I-House spirit alive, the Program Office hosted its first ever virtual coffee hour event, open to all the 2019-2020 I-House members, including those who were back in their hometowns. Residents tuned in from around the world to participate and share how they were coping during quarantine.
The Program Office also created a platform called “I-House Snapshots.” According to Program Office Director Valerie Ong, the program was “put together during the early days of COVID-19” and “created to celebrate I-House and to highlight the importance of vibrant communities during these difficult times.” Residents interested in participating were asked to submit a photo special to them and include a short message about its significance which were then put into a compilation. You can find snapshot stories from residents here.
Another platform unveiled by the Program Office during quarantine was “Under the Dome,” which was a continuation of their “From All Corners” podcast series. According to I-House Program Coordinator Alicia López, “Under the Dome” was “created to help us feel the community of the I-House dome — even if residents had left I-House already and were in different places across the globe.” The podcast featured fifteen residents “sharing I-House memories, laughter, and stories of coping during quarantine,” she said. You can listen to the “From All Corners” and “Under the Dome” series on Spotify, Apple Podcast, and Google Podcast.
After spending weeks adjusting to the strict social distancing measures and being quarantined in their rooms, some residents decided to use their free time to help those in need. Four residents launched a platform known as SF Food Friends, now SF Community Support, in late March as a way to help those at risk of contracting the virus get access to food and other necessities through the help of volunteers. The team officially started dispatching food package deliveries in mid-April. Their efforts were featured in our April I-House blog post.
To commemorate a rather peculiar yet enlightening semester, the Program Office hosted an I-House “Bon Voyage” virtual program “to celebrate and close the academic year, regardless of how it ended due to [COVID-19],” according to Ong. I-House 2019-2020 residents tuned in from around the world to listen to watch musical performances from their fellow residents. Among the performances was a virtual rendition of Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive.”
Before the semester can be considered complete, students must submit their final projects, theses, or complete final exams. Program Office staff put together a motivational video featuring I-House PAs and Resident Council members that encouraged residents to make it to the finish line.
Lastly, a tradition that wasn’t able to be held in-person this year was the Final Snap. Hosted by the program office, the event is where current residents gather on the front steps of I-House and take a group photo to commemorate the end of the school year and their time at I-House if they won’t be returning. Despite the COVID-19 restrictions keeping us apart, the final snap photo was able to come together through virtual means. Over one hundred current and former residents in the 2019-2020 class submitted photos for the virtual final snap and it was put together by yours truly.
While the semester didn’t go as originally planned, residents showed their ability to adapt and make the most of the changes. Whether it was sharing stories of quarantine, having dinner meetings through zoom, or virtual coffee hours, the I-House community stayed, and continues to remain, strong.
Although the 2019-2020 school year is over, some residents continued their stay at I-House for the summer. Due to the rising cases of COVID-19 across the U.S., efforts to stop the spread have become stricter. In mid-June, the state of California made masks mandatory for wearing in public as a way to ensure public safety. Knowing the difficulty for some residents to obtain masks, one I-House alumna wanted to do something to help.
In early June, Grace Hong (IH 2016-2018) joined forces with 45 other Taiwanese alumni from I-House Berkeley and I-House New York and raised money to provide current residents and staff with masks to help them stay safe from COVID-19 exposure. In a statement to I-House, the alumni wrote:
“While the pandemic is severe and we are forced to stay home, none of you is left behind. With the I-House spirit in mind, we want to do our best to make you feel our care and support from the other side of the Pacific and strengthen international friendships. Together, we will go through this.”
I-House residents and employees wearing masks sent by I-House alumni from Taiwan.
Now, as June comes to an end, the focus on racial inequality and justice reform has been at the forefront of national conversations with young people leading the way for change. As I-House prepares for a new semester, its foundation around inclusion still holds true today. As I-House Berkeley Executive Director Hans Giesecke stated:
“More than anything, these events reinforce in my own mind the essential need for places such as International House Berkeley, whose mission is to stand for intercultural harmony, civic responsibility, and bringing justice for those who have been dehumanized and, in many cases, murdered. We will continue to stand for these values as we move forward, and we will continue to focus on challenging ourselves to find the most effective ways to use our voices in service of positive social change.”
Follow I-House Berkeley on social media for the latest updates on events and activities.
I have worked with students in higher education for about a decade, and have been moved and shaped by many of them. They’ve made me laugh, expanded my heart, challenged me, and taught me new ways of thinking and doing with their fresh and diverse perspectives.
One student I met this past academic year has done all of the above and more. He has truly taught me how to live a fuller, more joyful life.
Claudio Berther came to I-House and Cal to study law as a Fulbright scholar. He is from Switzerland, he enjoys being outdoors in the sun, he loves a good slice of Artichoke Basille’s pizza and Swiss chocolates, he has the best sense of humor (more on this below), and he uses a wheelchair. While the fact that Claudio uses a wheelchair does not define him, it does provide important context: Claudio showed me that while he may have a physical limitation, he is limitless in all other ways.
With Claudio in the I-House Great Hall. Photo Credit: Mary Cinko.
Every year, I-House receives a generous grant through Davis Projects for Peace that is awarded to a resident for designing a grassroots project that addresses the root causes of conflict. Patrick Thelen (IH 2016-17) won the 2017 Davis Projects for Peace, and has since gone on to grow the impact of his winning project. Patrick, who is from Germany and currently lives in Canada, chatted with the Program Office to share what he’s been up to since leaving International House.
Helping Syrian refugees in Lebanon to live a more humane life
You won the Davis Projects for Peace Prize for a proposal that has since expanded to become “doin’ good,” a full-fledged and growing non-profit. Could you share how the idea for this initiative first came about?
Patrick: When I was in Berkeley, it was the peak of the Syrian refugee crisis and I had heard that many refugees do not have access to education. At this time, I was spending a lot of time in the Makerspaces in Berkeley and really enjoyed building things. Since the living conditions in many refugee settlements are terrible, a few classmates and myself wanted to see if the makerspace concept could also work in refugee settlements and if we could use this space to provide vocational training while at the same time empowering refugees to improve their living conditions by building things they could use in the settlements. Continue reading →
With the rising spread of COVID-19, often referred to as the coronavirus, sweeping across the globe, efforts to stop the pandemic have been put in place. Numerous countries have implemented nation-wide lockdowns along with stay at home orders intended for the safety of the public. Those more susceptible to the virus, such as the elderly and people with pre-existing conditions, can be left in precarious situations if unable to get the resources they need to quarantine properly at home.
At UC Berkeley’s International House, or I-House, four residents decided they wanted to do something to help. Graduate students Nitasha Goyal, Marcel Schaack, Marie Rajon Bernard, and Oluwatoni “Toni” Adetayo, created SF Food Friends, a volunteer-matching program to help at-risk residents of San Francisco get their groceries and medication delivered to them by low-risk volunteers in the area. The idea for the platform came shortly after UC Berkeley moved to online instruction and social distancing measures were firmly implemented. Goyal, a native of New Jersey and a graduate student in Translational Medicine, helped pioneer the concept.
After viewing a flyer online from Oakland at Risk, an organization which launched a volunteer-matching program to help deliver food to the elderly during the pandemic, Goyal was inspired to create something similar.
“I was at lunch, and I mentioned [the flyer] to Marcel, like, ‘Hey Marcel, I kinda want to do this thing. Would you be interested?’ He said, ‘Yeah, let me think about it and I’ll get back to you,’ and that night, he sent me a Google Doc, [where] he’d already laid out stuff,” she said. “And then we had a meeting and within 24 hours, Marie and Toni joined onboard as well.”
The conception of SF Food Friends to its launch happened within a matter of days. “I talked to Marcel on March 20th . . . and then by March 23rd, we launched our platform,” said Goyal.
Over 50 people have signed up as volunteers since its launch, according to the team. Volunteering is open to those aged 18 to 50 in the San Francisco area with no compromising health conditions. Their identities are verified after the sign-up process so the team knows they are real people.
SF Food Friends has partnered with different grocery outlets in San Francisco to create affordable care packages that can be delivered to residents in the area. The packages include milk, eggs, pasta, fruits and vegetables, to name a few, with both meat and vegetarian options available. One of their first partnerships was with Mission Grocery Outlet which helped create $20 care packages. The official launch of deliveries began on April 13. The group recently partnered with SF Farmers Market which will provide meal packages ranging from $10-$30.
The group also teamed up with City College of San Francisco (CCSF) to promote their efforts through social media.
“It’s amazing to see students from completely different universities who have no connection to each other whatsoever working together for the same cause,” said Goyal. “I cannot emphasize enough how much [CCSF] helped us in terms of outreach. It’s been great.”
While the group formed the platform to help those during the pandemic, they are open to exploring ways to continue it after stay at home orders have been lifted.
“I think [SF Food Friends] would definitely be a great thing to do further, but we definitely have to think about what we would do and how we would do it,” said Schaack, who is from Germany and pursuing a master’s in Bioengineering. For Goyal, the financial situation of the current economy is something to consider.
“We don’t see the . . . financial situation getting better right after the shelter in place, especially with the higher unemployment rates and things like that, so there would have to be some clear continuation, if that’s in the form of us continuing it, or merging with another partnership or helping a bigger organization,” she said.
While several I-House residents returned to their homes due to the pandemic and border closings within their home countries, the SF Food Friends team decided to stay behind.
“I . . . really wanted to make the most of the experience [at I-House] and stay with some people who are my age and who I could socially interact [with],” said Bernard, who is from France and pursuing a master’s in Civil and Environmental Engineering. “The biggest reason was also because I was looking for jobs, and if I had left the US, then I couldn’t have come back.”
All four are expected to graduate this Spring. When discussing their time at I-House, the group was grateful to be part of its community.
“I love meeting people from different cultures and backgrounds,” said Adetayo, who is from Pennsylvania and pursuing a master’s in Chemical Engineering. “Moving to I-House was one of the best decisions I made.”
Schaack shared the same sentiment.
“International House was probably the most important part of my Berkeley experience,” he said. “I met everyone at SF Food friends here . . . and it just shows . . . how engaging the people here are.”
Overall, the group is grateful to help those in need during the pandemic. Their efforts can be summed up in a West African adage Adetayo heard growing up: It takes a village to raise a child. “[The saying] emphasizes community,” he said. “If you see an opportunity to help, you should take responsibility to help.”
For more information on SF Food Friends, please visit their website at sffoodfriends.org
Last Thursday, March 12th, was Cal Big Give. A day where friends, family, and everyone part of the UC Berkeley community could donate to support fundraising efforts for individual schools and programs. Current residents, including myself, and members of the I-House Resident Council, came together to rally support for the event by encouraging others to donate to I-House during the 24 hours of Big Give.
A week prior to the event, Resident Council members Mikey Mohan and Benny Corona wrote letters that were sent to former resident council members about the Nancy Stock Tivol Resident Council Match. Nancy, an I-House alumna who lived here between 1965 and 1967 and served on the Resident Council, pledged a challenge match if I-House were to receive at least 180 gifts before the event was over. With a $10 minimum donation, the Big Give team gathered support from I-House residents and staff who helped us exceed our giving goals before the 9 p.m. (PDT) deadline on March 12th.
The Big Give team brainstormed different ideas that would appeal to residents. A table was set up in the Great Hall on March 11th, with cakes and raffle tickets ready to hand out for those who donated. Due to new COVID-19 regulations around public gatherings, the coffee hour scheduled for that evening was canceled, however, students could still come to the Great Hall to study. For the Big Give team, this was a great opportunity to still reach out to students for their support. One idea was setting up a large tri-fold poster display and taping colorful notecards on it that residents signed after giving. Continue reading →
The time has finally come for Cal Big Give 2020! We love our I-House community and want to keep it strong and growing! Donate today to help current and future residents experience the joy of living at I-House Berkeley! Watch the video below to see how you can show support! Giving ends at 9pm (PST)!
Our goal is to reach 180 gifts before the night ends!
Below are steps from our I-House Alumni, Communications, and Philanthropy team on how you can donate:
Participate with VIP gifts, challenge matches, and contests to unlock extra funds for I-House!
The countdown is on and I-House is buzzing with excitement about UC Berkeley’s Big Give on March 12th! We are grateful for all of your support throughout the year and wish to thank you in advance for considering taking part in this annual all-campus fundraising drive.
As the Communications Strategist for International House at UC Berkeley, I share stories online and in our I-House Times Newsletter. I created this blog for alumni, residents, and staff to share the I-House experience with the UC Berkeley community and beyond. If you would like to contribute a guest post, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Valerie Ong directs the Program Office at the International House at UC Berkeley where she has the privilege of interacting on a regular basis with residents. Valerie is a big proponent of story-telling through various platforms because it is a powerful way to learn more about yourself and others.
Chan'Cellore Makanjuola is a second-year graduate student at UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism, with her concentration in documentary filmmaking. She currently serves as the I-House Social Media Ambassador where she hopes to capture the magic that continues to make International House a prime residential experience for UC Berkeley students.