Make an impact with Berkeley Changemaker

May 2, 2022

Students in Berkeley Changemakers t-shirts posing with the Oski Bear mascot who is holding up a Berkeley Changemakers t-shirt What are the Berkeley Changemaker courses? Can anyone enroll?

Berkeley Changemaker courses are designed to help students clarify the impact they want to make in the world and understand how to make that happen. Changemaking is baked into the DNA of UC Berkeley; it's the reason so many decide to come here. The Berkeley Changemaker courses help students of every major, background, and discipline connect to that spirit of making a difference. In the words of one Course 12 student, the curriculum helped them "bring their ideas to life."

Since the launch of Berkeley Changemaker courses in Summer 2020, 10-15% of UC Berkeley undergrads have enrolled in them. That tells a powerful story about our students' eagerness to apply their education in meaningful ways. 

Berkeley Changemaker courses help students develop the three main skills that are necessary for making an impact:

  1. Critical thinking, which is crucial for recognizing one's opportunities for changemaking and developing a plan for action
  2. Communicationparticularly increasing confidence in public speaking and telling one’s own story in order to recruit others into a shared vision
  3. Collaboration, since bringing ideas into action is a team sport that benefits from diverse lived experiences and perspectives

And yes, these courses are open to all undergrads! To find them easily, simply search for Berkeley Changemaker as a “course type” in the Academic Guide’s class schedule.

I want to do something that feels more hands-on. Can Berkeley Changemaker courses help with that?

Yes! Berkeley Changemaker courses offer students a chance to both develop the skills outlined above and to make lasting change. For example, the Berkeley Changemaker Public Speaking course (COLWRIT 11) allows students to practice speaking skills and receive feedback in a supportive environment. 

In Course 12 (listed as LS C12 or UGBA C12), students start by identifying a change they might like to make---whether that's an artistic endeavor, a technological innovation, a new business, a social justice action or something else--and work on developing that idea throughout the term. As faculty, it's inspiring to see how students apply the skills to their own, unique efforts and leave the class ready to take action in pursuit of their change. Previous students have used this project for advancing food security on campus, building community for Black students, and for increasing the inclusivity of campus organizations as a few examples. The possibilities are enormous.

As a bonus, this experience-driven learning approach serves students even beyond changemaking. These skills can make students stand out in job interviews or while working in internships.  

What do you wish students knew about Berkeley Changemaker courses?

One of the loveliest outcomes of the curriculum is a strong sense of community. Not only do students meet like-minded students naturally due to common purpose, the courses themselves create opportunities for connection. For example, in Course 12, students are connected in groups of four to five students, which we call "Changemaker Pods." These close-knit learning groups provide spaces for students to support one another on everything from idea generation to establishing team agreements to bring out the best in one another.

The Berkeley Changemaker community has an active Slack channel that helps students keep in touch even after the term ends. Alums from Course 12 regularly contribute to the curriculum for the next generation of students. Many students stick together well after the course, continuing to feel part of something. 

Where should I start?

You can jump into whichever Berkeley Changemaker course feels like the best fit. We have offered classes on food systems change, living with agency, innovations in tech, the labor movement, and financial inclusion, just to scratch the surface. If you have an impact area already in mind, these courses can help you identify, and build teams of like-minded students to work on, specific areas of interest.

If you want to do something important  but don’t quite know what that is yet, Course 12 is a particularly popular and useful starting point. This course aims to activate your passions and help you develop a sharper sense of who you want to be. Do you want to start your own company, launch an NGO, or just effect lasting, positive change from wherever you are? Defining these larger goals can serve you as you build a roadmap for what your undergraduate experience can be. 

Wherever you start, we routinely get feedback from students on our courses that make us proud, saying they feel empowered by the curriculum. In the words of one student, “Best course I’ve taken. Ever.”

Learn more...

You can learn more about Berkeley Changemaker courses, including offerings for upcoming terms, at the Berkeley Changemaker Courses website. You can also follow the program on Twitter or Instagram @UCBChangemaker.

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