1. In-Person, Remote, or Hybrid Campus for the Fall Semester —It is still too early to say exactly where Berkeley will be in August, and any university that is telling you they know for sure right now is not being straightforward with you. I am also not going to sell you on the wonders of remote instruction except to say that is a widely available option and I am extremely grateful to have it. That all being said, the MEng faculty take our responsibility of providing you with the best possible instruction we can regardless of mode, and we are working hard every day to scenario plan for every possibility. We also believe there is learning in every situation as well, and that doing so requires adjusting to change, something we will discuss extensively in your MEng leadership courses. For example, most of you will be working remotely on global teams across time zones at some point in your careers (very true in my business career, long before Zoom existed), including both individual and group presentations, and doing so effectively requires more than just having the latest, greatest technology.
2. One Year vs. Two Year Program & Deferral —Given how difficult it is to get into Berkeley, I imagine that most of you were admitted to other high-quality graduate programs as well. Some of those programs were two years vs. one year and most of them are considering more deferral requests than ever before. And I am sure that in making your initial decision about which school to attend, almost all of you created a huge list of pros and cons across many dimensions, academic, career, financial, opportunity cost, OPT, COVID uncertainty, etc. As many of you are finding yourselves revisiting this decision because of circumstances outside your control, I encourage you not to forget one non-evidence based data point, “What do your instincts tell you about where you want to go to school and when?” In no way, shape, or form am I arguing against utilizing yours pros and cons list all over again (you are likely adding to it), but projecting how things will unfold in the future based on the data that is available currently is difficult in the best of times, and almost none of us have faced more uncertain times than we do now. If you love the idea of attending Berkeley in 2020–21, you will use every ounce of your energy to make it work for you. And I can tell you for a fact that in my 22 years of employment on the Berkeley campus, I have never seen the administration, faculty, and staff more committed to an entering class of students than yours. It’s been a lifelong honor for me to be a California Golden Bear, and I would love to have each and every one of you join my Berkeley network like you originally planned, but more than anything else, I want you to do what you think is best for you. Trust yourselves and those that matter to you, and if I can be of any help along the way, please feel free to reach out to me. All the best, Dan Himelstein Berkeley MEng Faculty LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/danhimelstein
Letter to the MEng Class of 2021 from a Berkeley alumnus and engineering leadership faculty was originally published in Berkeley Master of Engineering on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.