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Chancellor Berdahl Teaches Freshman Seminar This Fall

By Tamara Keith, Public Affairs
posted September 16, 1998

Chancellor Berdahl is one of 120 professors teaching a freshman seminar this fall -- the largest number of faculty involved in a semester since the Freshman Seminar Program was launched in 1992.

This increase in professor participation comes just months after the chancellor announced a $2,000 research stipend to all professors teaching a seminar in addition to their regular teaching load.

"The Freshman Seminar Program has been plagued by only one problem: demand consistently exceeds supply," says program director Alix Schwartz. "For the first time ever, thanks to the chancellor's stipend and the faculty's dedication, we are on the verge of wiping out this plague. If the spring 1999 seminar list is as robust as the one this fall -- and I am confident it will be -- we will be able to accommodate every first-year student in a seminar this year."

The freshman seminar program offers one-unit classes for freshmen and two- to four-unit classes for freshmen and sophomores. Enrollment is limited to 15. Virtually all departments take part.

History 24, the freshman seminar taught by Chancellor Berdahl this semester, had more than 100 students clamoring for its 15 spaces. Called "Let There Be Light," it covers the history of the University of California -- "something I need to learn myself, and you learn best by teaching," says the chancellor. He is assisted by staff member and UC history buff Steve Finacom.

When the class gathered for its second weekly session in Bancroft Library, the chancellor asked his students for their reaction to his handling of the David Cash dilemma. They weren't bashful. A lively discussion took the chancellor well past his 5 p.m. departure time.

"Freshman seminars are a great idea," says the chancellor. "I've been involved either in teaching them or supporting them as an administrator almost my entire career. It's very important for freshmen to get off on the right foot, to have faculty they feel are easy to approach because they are meeting in a small class. Because seminars are small, they allow for open-ended discussions. That's very important."

For information on the Freshman Seminar Program, call 642-8378 or check


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