Intro to Berkeley Forum

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The Berkeley Forum is a Student-Run Speaker Series at UC Berkeley

Whenever I step onto the stage for the first time, I can feel my heart beating a bit faster, the lights shining brighter, and the silence getting louder right before I speak. Even though I’m generally comfortable with public speaking, the minutes before being introduced on stage are always a bit daunting. Despite the inevitable nerves, I never fail to look at the audience with a bright smile.

“Thank you everyone for joining us this evening it’s a pleasure to have you here at the Berkeley Forum.”

As a student moderator for the Berkeley Forum, it is an honor to be part of a club that has deepened my connection to the historically radical and outspoken soul of the university. The Berkeley Forum is a non-partisan, student-run organization that prides itself on fostering public discourse through a series of speaker events that bring together voices from a variety of fields. The Forum does not just host events, it holds the power of student initiative that defines our UC Berkeley campus culture as the number one public university. The Forum transforms lecture halls into community spaces of debate and inspiration. It is a shining example of what can be achieved when students are empowered to create their own platforms for intellectual engagement.

The Value of Intellectual Spaces

The Berkeley Forum’s mission to create discourse plays a crucial role on our campus, especially since UC Berkeley is known for its strong political history. I believe it to be incredibly important for such spaces to exist in large public universities, where students come from all over the world and bring a wide range of viewpoints.

Every semester, the Forum’s programming committee is dedicated to ensuring the diversity of each semester’s speaker lineup. For example, we have invited speakers with an incredible range of backgrounds from film editing to tech journalism to business start-up culture. These talks offer students a chance to meet their favorite CEO, songwriter, or journalist, and they bring students an opportunity to better understand of the world.

Shannon interviewing Mell Willis, founder and owner of So-So Supermarket and Indigo Vintage.

Behind the Scenes

I think what truly sets the Forum apart from other larger, application-based organizations on campus is that every single member is genuinely dedicated and passionate about the events we put on. There is no financial incentive, no resume-stacking seekers—just pure passion for creating community spaces that are free to the public. The whole team puts so much effort into each event behind the scenes, beginning from the process of getting in contact with the speaker to hosting the speaker on stage. The main tasks for putting on these events are split into 5 committees:

Programming & Events: Come up with ideas for new events and prospective speakers, invite guests, reserve venues, handle speaker travel and accommodations, and take care of other event logistics.

Finance: Responsible for sourcing, budgeting, and planning financials for the Forum. Members conduct all crowdfunding outreach campaigns, negotiating with business and corporate partners, projecting event financials, drafting event grants, and planning future Forum expenditures.

Systems & Technology: Set up equipment and monitor audio and video. These subcommittees work on multiple projects throughout the semester such as maintaining the Forum’s website, producing YouTube videos and podcast episodes, and analyzing the organization’s data to improve efficiency.

Moderating: Moderate all Forum events and provide the necessary platform for the audience to ask questions and interact with the speakers. Members have a passion for public speaking through hosting conversations and sparking debate.

Communications: Serve as the marketing and public relations wing of the Berkeley Forum. The marketing team focuses on promoting the Berkeley Forum’s events through a variety of social and traditional media and partnerships with other organizations.

Although the club is quite large, members across committees still become close with each other through the countless, creative socials we have! From DJ workshops to tomato soup dinner parties, it’s a wonderful time to spend time with my fellow members. People often say that college is the last time you’ll easily have access to friends who aren’t connected to your work, but my experience with the Forum has contradicted this: It has provided an extensive social network of friends who share my similar interests for community and with whom I plan on keeping in touch with beyond graduation.

How YOU Can Get Involved

The recruitment cycles for the Berkeley Forum happen at the beginning of both fall and spring semesters. We can usually be seen tabling before application deadlines and at Calapalooza, handing out flyers with our recruitment timeline. Members stationed at the table are able to answer any committee-related questions. The Forum receives funding from Haas, so our application portal can be located directly at the Haas-sponsored organizations page. Despite asking for a resume, our hiring process is generally resume-blind, and like I said before, we truly only seek individuals who have a passion to learn and create community spaces, regardless of how many internships or difficult classes they are balancing.

If your written application is liked by our members, you are invited to the first round of interviews. If your interest in the Forum is notably recognizable, you are invited to the second round, which is much more committee-specific.

The Berkeley Forum is an organization on campus I have dedicated a majority of my student life to so far, and I am very grateful for the people and experiences it has brought me. I hope to see you in the next application cycle!

Group picture of the members of the Berkeley Forum student club at UC Berkeley.

Members of the Berkeley Forum.

 

Shannon Kim is a second-year at UC Berkeley majoring in political economy and anthropology. Feature image features Ansh Gupta interviewing Paul Rogers, Oscar awardee for editing Everything Everywhere All at Once. Taken by Ani Petrossian.

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