Advising for Discovery - Frequently Asked Questions

What does campus mean by "Discovery experience"?

Students thrive at UC Berkeley when they have a hands-on project or series of projects that enable them to experience, apply, explore, and integrate what they are learning in the classroom with what they are passionate about. Ideally students are engaged in their project for a minimum of 4 months (or a semester) and are supported with mentorship, collaboration, and structured reflection. Some of the more common forms of deep student discovery include research, artistic creation, community engagement, campus leadership, and entrepreneurship. Of course, there are many other ways that students can engage in intentional self-discovery. For more about the wide array of possibilities, take a look at the archive of student discovery stories

Is this a new campus requirement?

No, the Discovery Initiative is not a new campus requirement.  Rather, it is an exciting and powerful transformation of our culture of undergraduate education at Berkeley.  It is a way of fostering and shaping undergraduate aspiration by inviting students into an experience in which they can explore opportunities that support students' educational agency and long term goals. 

Which offices on campus are helping to coordinate student Discovery opportunities?

Curricular innovation for the Discovery Initiative on campus is being driven by the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education and the Division of Undergraduate Education’s Discovery Initiative. This includes the initiation of a grant program to fund departmental innovation for Discovery,  the building of a Discovery Hub to better consolidate resources for students, staff, and faculty, including launching a new centralized database for undergraduate opportunities. While Discovery is launching new programs, it also serves a coordinating function, lifting up the undergraduate student Discovery opportunities that are flourishing across campus. This means that everybody on campus can be a part of supporting undergraduate student Discovery.  A cluster of campus units including the Office for Undergraduate Research and Scholarship, the Public Service Center, the Career Center, Berkeley Study Abroad, and Berkeley Changemaker and BEGIN are ideally situated to connect students with opportunities.  

What are the Discovery Trailblazer departments?

In the fall of 2020 the Discovery Initiative released an RFP for departments to receive funding for undertaking significant transformation of their curriculum toward the vision of discovery learning. Six teams of faculty and staff were selected for this first cohort, and we consider these the Trailblazer departments: R&C/Foreign Language; Integrative Biology; Astronomy and Physics; EECS; Youth Equity Initiative; Chemistry. 

Is there a database of resources that I can point students to and that can help me understand the vast Discovery opportunities at UC Berkeley?

The Discovery Opportunities Database is UC Berkeley’s new, centralized tool for our 30k+ undergraduates to search for Discovery opportunities like research, internships, and/or scholarships in and beyond the classroom. As of January 2024, 15% of our total undergraduate population has used the database and conducted tens of thousands of searches. See our Staff & Faculty Database FAQ for more information. 

How does the Discovery Initiative center equity? How can I be sure I'm centering equity in my conversation with students?

One of the core goals of the initiative is to provide equity of experience by ensuring that all students have access to Discovery. The initiative exists precisely because campus aims for ALL students to have these transformative experiences - not just the students who have historically been able to gain access to them.  As student services professionals the ways that we already center equity in our student work should extend to discovery planning. Some specific things to consider: 

  • Consider adding a Discovery component to all of your conversations with students and not just when students specifically ask about it. 
  • Educate yourself on the different financial supports - scholarships, stipends, financial aid, etc. - for students engaged in discovery opportunities so you can share them with students. Students can begin their scholarship search in the Discovery Opportunities Database.
  • Talk about ways Discovery opportunities can be used to satisfy curricular or other graduation requirements, i.e. coursework and capstone projects.
  • Review the resource page dedicated to engaging around Discovery with first generation and URM students.

What can I as an advisor do to promote the fostering of the Discovery initiative in my unit?

The scaling up of this kind of educational experience at a large public institution like ours is unprecedented and will only come to life through all of us taking agency in our own units. We ask what are the barriers we see in our units to more students experiencing Discovery, and how can we advocate for programmatic changes that remove these barriers? For example, can we create mechanisms for students to satisfy major requirements for completion for research, public leadership, and entrepreneurship in our majors?  How might we advocate for funds that are specifically earmarked to support students engaging in Discovery activities? What kind of programming can we create in our units to foster undergraduate Discovery, and how might the Discovery Initiative Staff Council help you with this programming? 

What can advisors do to elevate this way of approaching UC Berkeley in orientation programming, advising meetings, and websites?

To promote the Discovery Initiative at Berkeley, advisors can provide Discovery specific workshops for students in orientation programming, advising meetings, newsletters, and websites. 

How do I make Discovery a meaningful part of conversations with students?  What questions do I ask to move the Discovery conversation forward with students?

Check out this list of “Opening Discussion Questions” to support conversations with students around Discovery goals and planning. 

What do we say to students who say they don’t have time to do anything except complete their courses?

We acknowledge Berkeley students are engaging in rigorous coursework and may express a lack of time to engage in other activities. If this is the case, we encourage conversations that ask students how they are spending their time and why. Students may be juggling family responsibilities, paid work, personal health management, and more. After getting a sense of what a student is facing, we may refer them to Discovery opportunities that fit their needs such as courses with a Discovery emphasis, financial resources to support research or study abroad experiences, etc. Students commonly report that they make compromises to engage deeply in Discovery projects, and it is common to hear students celebrate their decision to do so because of the benefits of project based experiences.

Are other colleges and universities engaged in similar work?

Yes! A wide variety of universities and campuses are seeking to scale up and require high impact practices (aka “HIPs”) such as project-based learning, internships, capstone projects, service learning, mentored cohorts, and undergraduate research. The American Association of Colleges and Universities has promoted and documented this movement extensively. A few examples from other campuses include UCSD’s REAL program, University of Georgia’s Experiential Learning effort, MITs Experiential Learning Opportunities program.