Try Calapalooza for Clubs

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What is Calapalooza?

Each fall and spring semester, UC Berkeley hosts a tabling fair with hundreds of clubs and student organizations on Sproul Plaza, fondly known as “Calapalooza.” Thousands of students flock to campus to learn about potential ways to get further involved within the Berkeley community. University-registered organizations are provided tables to distribute information to prospective members, such as the recruitment process, membership requirements, and responsibilities. 

With over 1,200 registered student organizations, 60 sororities and fraternities, and a multitude of student government groups sponsored by the Associated Students of the University of California (ASUC) or the Graduate Student Assembly, there are countless opportunities to immerse yourself in as a member of the Cal student body.

Learning outside of the classroom

Berkeley is a hub for intellectual development and countless academic opportunities, and it is always refreshing to have the ability to learn outside of the classroom. Clubs are a great way to do just that alongside like-minded students, even if the organization may not directly relate to your major.

A chapter of the National Audubon Society, Bears for Birds is a birdwatching organization for students to learn about the intersection of conservation and education. Members learn about Berkeley’s “urban wilderness” and the sociological and ecological factors that create this habitat. With numerous free field trips and data-based projects, Bears for Birds is for anyone who is interested in conservation efforts and wildlife, particularly birds.

Senior integrative biology major Sierra Glassman serves as the chapter’s officer and emphasizes the importance of getting outside to not only help the Bay Area’s birds but to improve students’ mental health. Glassman hopes anyone who loves the environment and wants the opportunity to be published in a scientific journal will look to join the group. 

“A new thing that we’re starting is… we’re going to catch pigeons with strings on their feet and cut them off so they don’t get infected,” Glassman also noted. “This is a really bad problem in urban areas all over the world, so it’s just helping pigeons lead a normal life.”  

Two club members table on Sproul Plaza to promote their club Bears for Birds, which is a chapter of the National Audubon Society. Their sign features a large yellow bird and there is bird watching equipment like cameras on their table.

Audubon Student Conservation Chapter Bears for Birds at Berkeley tabling.

The Cinematic Arts and Production Club is Berkeley’s premiere film production club for film majors and enthusiasts to gain hands-on experience in the production process. From directing to screenwriting, post-production editing to sound design, the organization strives to fully immerse students in the world of filmmaking. Open to all majors, the club has two screenings a semester, one of which is often an all-day festival that showcases all of the work students have completed thus far. 

“We don’t require experience in the sense that what we emphasize is improvement because we think that provides value, not just to a person’s skills as a filmmaker but also to them as a person,” the club’s External Affairs Director Jarvis Nguyen said. “By providing people with a leeway for that film production, we’re also teaching them other aspects of life and being prepared for life after school.”

Jarvis Nguyen, Steven Zeng, Addie Tweet, and one other member of the Cinematic Arts & Production at UC Berkeley speak to a prospective club member while tabling. There is a colorful sign displaying Cinematic Arts & Production Club at Berkeley behind the club members.

Jarvis Ngyuyen (left) engaging with students about Cinematic Arts and Production.

Pursue a passion

Drawing people together from completely different majors or backgrounds, clubs are a medium to connect with people you otherwise wouldn’t. Calapalooza highlights how many opportunities there are within Berkeley outside of academics. 

ReUSE is a student-run, non-profit thrift store with headquarters on the first floor of the MLK Student Union. As Berkeley’s only on-campus thrift store, ReUSE encourages all Berkeley community members to practice sustainability and waste reduction. All clothes and materials are donated and priced at $3 or less – find ReUSE stations across campus and the general Berkeley area!

Senior physics and computer science major Nishank Jite, who serves as co–vice president of these stations’ upkeep, ensures that ReUSE stations have all supplies needed for ReUSE volunteers, including informational binders and water bottles. With frequent sales on Sproul Plaza, Jite has loved further exploring his love of thrifting and encourages anyone who shares this interest to join ReUSE. A perk he wanted to note was the club’s “Berk points”: Every hour you volunteer, you get a dollar that goes towards any ReUSE item. 

“I came across the club from an Instagram post and thought it was really cool,” Jite said. “(ReUSE) donated all proceeds to charity and I feel like just reworking old clothes is pretty awesome.” 

Two members of the ReUSE club hold up a sign reading "clothing sale!" In front of their table is a blue sandwich board that describes ReUSE as a on-campus thrift store and clothing sign.

ReUSE advertising their on-campus thrift store and clothing sale.

Air Bears is exactly what it sounds like: Berkeley Bears learning how to skydive. One of the busiest tables I saw at Calapalooza, Air Bears encourages anyone to join the world of skydiving, even if you are scared of heights, aren’t ready to jump just yet, or just want to hang out. Every month, about 40 Berkeley community members carpool to a drop zone, or the site of skydiving, in Davis. They spend the day in the sky, playing games on the ground, and fostering a community. Air Bears receives extensive discounts via a partnership with this drop zone, offering some of the least expensive rates for skydiving within the United States. The organization also supports licensing; after participating in 25 jumps, individuals are even eligible to pursue a coaching ranking, eliminating the need for an instructor and the associated fees. 

Senior nuclear engineering and mechanical engineering double major Ashley Lee is currently pursuing this coach rating. She encourages everyone to join the club, which she considers her “second family.” Diving all over the world, Lee has always found a home amongst fellow skydiving enthusiasts. 

“A lot of people are scared of heights or don’t think they can do it by themselves, but once you do it, you definitely can,” Lee said. “I’ve seen paraplegics skydiving, I’ve seen people over 80 skydive, anyone can do it. The best part of skydiving is that you build that community. I’ve been to Texas, I’ve been to Belgium, and I instantly had a home. We accept everyone. We want to facilitate community.”

Four students, including Ashley Lee (middle left), table at Calapalooza on Sproul for their Air Bears club. One student wears a skydiving helmet.

Ashley Lee (middle left) representing Air Bears with other members.

By community, for community

Cultural clubs at Cal bring students with shared identities together. Berkeley is internationally recognized for the celebration of intersecting identities. Numerous clubs and organizations demonstrate this mentality through the provision of community spaces for both personal and professional development. 

Brown Issues is dedicated to the advancement of Chicanx- and Latinx-identifying students as part of a state-wide initiative for academic excellence and support. With social and political education events as well as community service work, Brown Issues’ Berkeley chapter is an inclusive organization that builds connections with other Latinx students on campus.

Fourth-year political science and ethnic studies double major Jasmine Lozano advocates for the club’s foundation of “civic engagement, academic advancement, professional development of Chicanx- and Latinx-identifying students here at UC Berkeley, which is a predominantly Asian and white institution.”

Third-year co-president Kristal Roman believes the chapter’s political education series distinguishes Berkeley from other Brown Issues’ chapters. With discussions and presentations regarding different issues and policies pertaining to the Latinx community across the diaspora, this series offers the theoretical and practical framework for understanding identity’s role in current events, especially within an institution like UC Berkeley.

“The UC Berkeley chapter specifically tries to focus on uplifting social justice initiatives within our Latinx community,” Roman said.

Jasmine Lozano speaks to two prospective club members while tablig or Brown Issues at Calapalooza.

Jasmine Lozano (middle) at the Brown Issues table.

Resources and support services

While the focus of Calapalooza is on club recruitment, there are still numerous organizations representing the multitude of resources available for Cal students. 

The Associated Students of the University of California (ASUC) is a hub for student support and services separate from the university’s governance. Although most associated with managing the financial affairs of clubs and organizations on campus, as well as ASUC-elected student representatives, the ASUC also oversees numerous commercial activities, programming, and general resource allocation. 

Programming Manager Jill Matson reflected on the creative opportunities ASUC offers, including art classes, free student events, graphic design and printing services, the Basic Needs Center, Amazon delivery sites, and the coffee shop Goldie’s. Matson revealed there is even a new robot that paints your nails called “Clockwork.” 

“The main mission [of the ASUC] is to be very inclusive and welcoming and a safe place for students, so they can meet people outside of academics and just have fun and relax… there’s a ton of resources!”

Jill Matson smiles wearing a green dress while tabling for the ASUC Student Union at Calapalooza. The ASUC Student Union banner is dark blue, and yellow pinwheels rest atop it.

Programming Manager Jill Matson representing ASUC Student Union.

The Disabled Students Commission (DSC) is an ASUC-affiliated student group that addresses campus-specific disability issues and advocates for disability rights across Berkeley. Often partnering with other intersectional student groups on campus, the DSC creates a community for disabled students and allies to come together with a common goal of legislative progress and disability justice. 

Shelby Suppiger (third-year, gender and women’s studies major) believes DSC is a great place to find community, resources, and ways to help with disability-related issues. Suppiger emphasized that the DSC includes students who are neurodivergent or physically disabled, as well as disability justice advocates. 

Carlyn Leavitt (second-year, molecular and cell biology) believes the DSC is where Berkeley students can “come together for legislative action and disability justice work to uplift the disabled students at Berkeley because oftentimes disabled students’ voices are left unheard.” Leavitt believes this community is founded upon empowerment and a strong voice for change.

Shelby Suppiger and Carlyn Leavitt table at Calapalooza for the Disabled Students Commission. Their sign boasts four colorful signs, all reading "Disabled Students Commission."

Shelby Suppiger and Carlyn Leavitt tabling for the Disabled Students Commission.

Let yourself enjoy the process!

Clubs are an amazing way to get involved at Berkeley because these organizations provide you with opportunities to grow personally and professionally. Despite extra commitments that may come with joining a club, you gain both invaluable experience and friends. For me, the greatest joy of my four years at Cal has been the communities I’ve found within organizations, especially those that are not entirely academically related – I hope you have a similar experience!


Kelsey McIvor is a senior at UC Berkeley majoring in Global Studies and minoring in Spanish and public policy. Featured photo is a collage of the Disabled Students Commission, Air Bears Skydiving Club, ASUC Student Union, and Brown Issues organization all tabling at Calapalooza.

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