Discovery Advising Philosophy Statement

Advising for Discovery - A Statement of Philosophy

Written by the Discovery Advising & Student Services Staff Council

Fostering personal transformation, educational purpose, and community must be the central focus of our work with undergraduates, not the rote transactionalism and proceduralism that threatens higher education. We believe the Discovery Initiative provides a visionary framework for the realignment of our student support work toward this aim. For students, discovery foregrounds experiential learning as a doorway to educational purpose and community building, and this institutional focus opens up space for the transformation of our student support work. We seek to contribute to the Discovery Initiative by energizing and organizing our 1000+ campus colleagues around the following principles and practices: 

  • The most transformative learning experiences at Berkeley often happen beyond the classroom walls - where students deeply pursue questions and interests through research, community engagement, the arts, campus leadership, or entrepreneurship. What students do at Cal has become much more important to their learning and future than a high gpa or the “perfect major” for their life goals. These student stories demonstrate this shift in higher education. 

  • Higher education and the “work world” are dynamically changing, and we believe it's important for us to intentionally assist students in understanding these changes - coaching them in making choices at UC Berkeley that most effectively open the doors they want to go through upon graduation. A Berkeley degree on your resume is amazing, but what truly opens doors are project based experiences - with mentors and collaborators - that demonstrate to the world what one cares about and how one creatively and critically engages with social problems. This is especially true for historically underrepresented students. 

  • Our university is unique in its vast opportunities to connect students with world-renowned people and organizations. Our advising work should connect students with these unique Berkeley features, minimize the barriers of bureaucracy, and bring “transformation to the center” of our advisor-student work. All of this helps our big university feel smaller. 

  • Taking on committed projects is not limiting, it is what opens doors in life and learning, and avoids what author Pete Davis calls a life in “infinite browsing mode.” At the same time, for some students “staying open” to unexpected and unforeseen changes in life directions and identity is crucial to the college experience. These are in productive tension. 

  • Discovery is about student agency and choice - charting a path that is meaningful to their life long trajectory - centered on their own calling and purpose. Each student’s discovery experience is going to look different and that’s how it should be. The archive of student discovery stories demonstrates this diversity. 

Making transparent the hidden curriculum at Berkeley is necessary for students to access their power. We have an important role in assisting students with building social capital, leveraging campus resources, and strategizing curricular and co-curricular balance. Students should know that they are ready for this, and this is for them. In our dialogues with students: How can we examine our own assumptions and expectations about advising practices and what the university offers students? How can we question current practices and open space for redefining our role so that we may support students in new ways, as discovery becomes foregrounded for undergraduates?