Carol Christ joined the University of California (UC) Berkeley faculty in 1970. She was a teacher and an administrator until 2002, when she became the president of Smith College in North Hampton, Massachusetts. After eleven years there, she transferred back to UC Berkeley in 2013. It is now her fourth year as chancellor of the school. Christ’s goal as chancellor is to “make the investments that do the most to improve the student experience.” This has included building more student housing in Berkeley, developing a distinguished faculty, and increasing diversity and inclusion. “The Berkeley community and the campus are so intertwined … our students are very important citizens of the community,” said Christ. “We provide lots of opportunities for the community, from concerts, to lectures, to football games, but we also do a fair amount of public service,” she explained. In the future, Chancellor Christ is leading a variety of different projects, including building an aerospace research park in Mountain View. However, diversity remains a key goal. “One of our long-term projects is to become a Hispanic serving institution by 2028. That means at least 25 percent Latinx students,” Christ said.
Beatriz Leyva-Cutler is the executive director of Bay Area Hispanic Institute for Advancement (BAHIA) Inc., a non-profit providing bilingual education and care for children ages two to ten. Leyva-Cutler graduated from San Francisco State University (SFSU) with a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in La Raza Studies — now renamed Latina and Latino Studies — and has worked at BAHIA for forty years. “When I first started with the org, I started to feel that there was a community here,” she said. Leyva-Cutler’s work at BAHIA has always been about maintaining access to bilingual education for children who might otherwise not have that connection to Spanish. She also served on the Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD) School Board for twelve years. In 1997, Leyva-Cutler helped form Latinos Unidos de Berkeley after noticing that “our children had started dropping out. … They were being disproportionately disciplined, and not given the resources they needed to succeed.” Alongside the group Parents of Children of African Descent (PCAD), she formed a larger group called United in Action. Now, Leyva-Cutler said, “My involvement with education is not with one age. I feel fortunate that I can see the whole spectrum and not just part of it.”
Kim Anno is a painter, photographer, filmmaker, and professor at the California College of the Arts. She has lived in Berkeley since 1996, and she creates thought-provoking art on a variety of topics, including climate change. Anno has a feature film coming out in 2021 called ¡Quba!, and she is curating a show called Contested Territories that “interrogate[s] nature and … [our] relationship with nature.” Anno is also the vice-chair of the Civic Arts Commission in Berkeley. She said, “I’ve been involved in making the arts more democratic, using the lens of equity, [and] spreading the resources around.” She encouraged students to get involved with public art around the community, and to “look at culture as a way that society can be resilient in the face of disaster.” Anno explained, “If it’s [COVID-19], or the freeze in Texas or … in the San Joaquin Valley [where] there’s one million people living without drinking water. These things are a crisis, and I think young people can get involved and do something, and art really has a role to play in that.”
Tina Stevens has lived in Berkeley for 35 years. She is the founder and owner of A Girl Named Pinky, a staple cake shop in Berkeley. She decided to start baking after the bakery that she often attended as a child closed. “Once they closed, I just really couldn’t find a place that had the distinctive taste that they had,” Stevens said. After making her own wedding cake, Stevens got many requests to make cakes for her friends and family. “That’s when I decided I could really make a business out of this,” she said. Stevens enjoys the work, despite the challenges of owning a small business. In the future, Stevens hopes to continue to grow A Girl Named Pinky and hopefully open up more locations. She said to young people who want to open their own business, “Don’t listen to anyone telling [you] that it can’t be done. … Find a way to make it happen.”
“I believe that art should be a big part of public life … that it can create beauty, create connection and belonging, create provocation,” shared Shannon Jackson, a professor and associate vice chancellor for Arts + Design at UC Berkeley. Jackson received her BA from Stanford University and her PhD from Northwestern University, and has worked at UC Berkeley for over two decades. As vice chancellor, Jackson focuses on integrating and fortifying the many creative units — departments, organizations, museums, clubs — and sharing them with the public. “As a professor, I do three things: research, teaching, and service,” said Jackson. “The arts can be an essential bridge builder between a university and its community, and a lot of my work involves that.” Jackson hosts free public programming and lectures, and collaborates on various service projects and internships with community organizations. Jackson said, “I love convening people, bringing people together and fostering collaboration and discussion … to imagine and create across different ways of thinking.”
“I love working with students, and that’s the majority of my job!” said Tammy Rose, vice principal of Berkeley High School (BHS). Rose grew up on the border of Berkeley and Oakland, and transitioned from the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) to BHS around three years ago. “It’s always my goal to approach students with an openness and to listen, to be respectful of their voice and their opinions and their past,” Rose explained. Most of Rose’s work involves supporting students, whether that be through projects like voter-registration or through advising and connection. “It’s amazing to be able to support students in their work and in their development, especially as they’re going through some of the most important and formative years of their lives,” said Rose.
“That’s my favorite part of being a counselor, to be there for someone’s journey as they’re growing, and to be someone they know they can go to for support,” shared Nashwa Emam, intervention counselor at BHS. Emam grew up in Oakland, and has always loved working with youth. A mentor suggested that Emam would make an adept social worker, an idea that was solidified when a high school friend had a mental health crisis resulting in his death. “I think things would’ve turned out differently if we’d had people to talk to at our high school, so that became a commitment to him … that teens would have access to the support they needed,” explained Emam. Emam worked with pregnant and parenting foster youth for several years before moving to BHS in 2016. Pre-pandemic, Emam would meet with at least six students a day, and provided on-the-fly support and counseling. Now, her work relies on texting and Zoom meetings, with work extending well beyond school hours. For Emam, working in a school allows her to focus on both individual support and systemic change. “I can work with someone individually but I can also look at how the systems they interact with affect them, and I can then work to improve those systems for the next person,” she explained.
“I’m fighting for my kids, for the option of in-person education … for democracy,” said Lei Levi, a community organizer. Levi and her husband moved to Berkeley to raise their family, and they now have two kids in BUSD. Unnerved by the initial school closures in March of 2020, Levi had grown frustrated with the closures by the summer. In July, when she got involved in the effort to reopen schools, she felt that there was a lack of accountability and urgency within the district. Levi was part of an email thread of concerned parents, and quickly became a leader within the group. “We made a petition, created a website, organized demonstrations, and fought to have our voices heard,” she explained. Levi’s passion and activism has undoubtedly contributed to the establishment of dates for the reopening of Berkeley public schools. Levi said, “I’m really trying to bring love into our Berkeley community … I know the reopen schools movement can be misshapen, but I hope we can shift those negative feelings into love and into positive results for all of our kids.”
A nurse practitioner in an outpatient cardiology clinic, Kristina Ryan’s work is crucial for the community. When speaking on her decision to go into the field of medicine, she said, “I wanted to do something that was meaningful and helping other people.” Ryan works in San Francisco, but graduated from UC Berkeley. She has lived in Berkeley for four years, and is a working mother. She said, “Personally, the biggest struggle [with the pandemic] has been … trying to continue to go to work and my kids not have school, and struggling to find childcare.” Working as a nurse practitioner during the COVID-19 pandemic, Ryan said she has been fearful of catching the disease at times, but never considered not going to work or not continuing to do her job at the clinic. “I feel like it’s an honor and a privilege to be able to be with people at a vulnerable time in their life,” Ryan said. “I just feel lucky to have that opportunity and those connections with my patients every day at work.”
Update: This article was changed to correct spelling.