Once upon a time, students became alumni the moment they graduated. Diploma in hand, their inboxes overflowed with fundraising requests and invitations to networking events. Then, the alumni magazine began appearing via snail mail, and recent grads could finally untangle the long history of their new community—always a bit mysterious.
The Berkeley Alumni-In-Residence Program offers an antidote to this version of culture shock. BAIR—pun intended—is a new Berkeley Law program that flips the traditional script, welcoming students into the lifelong alumni fold as soon as they enroll at the school.
And it’s the alumni engagement staff, not the development team, who meet, greet, and get to know incoming students. They show up with T-shirts for incoming 1Ls; provide goodie bags with stress balls, snacks, and inspirational messages during exam weeks; throw a “Halfway-There Celebration” for 2Ls to mark the midpoint of their coursework; and officially welcome 3Ls to the Alumni Association at a mixer at the end of their final term.
With 18,000-plus Berkeley Law graduates dispersed around the world, Associate Director of Alumni Relations and BAIR coordinator Erin Dineen works to instill a sense of connection and community as early as possible.
That outreach includes the weekly—and increasingly popular—coffee klatch. Dineen shows up at 7:30 each Monday morning, coffee at the ready, to chat with all comers about their lives as law students, their hopes as future attorneys, and, no doubt, their need for caffeine.
Chen Yu ’21, who makes a point of attending each week to chat with peers, says she appreciates the regular gathering because “it shows that the school cares about every student and wants us to stay connected, both in school and after graduation.”
After about 80 students went to the first coffee morning, the turnout has since soared to between 160 and 180. “It’s the best part of my week,” Dineen says. “I love talking with students about the projects they’re working on, their plans for the future, and what they’ll be doing during the summer break.”
This shift in thinking about alumni is simple but profound, offering a new kind of social capital. Once new students connect with BAIR, a world of possibilities opens up for engaging with Berkeley Law’s global alumni community.