UC Berkeley Fall Program for Freshmen relocates to Golden Bear Center

Celine Bellegarda/Staff

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UC Berkeley’s Fall Program for Freshmen, or FPF, is relocating to UC Berkeley’s Golden Bear Center, or GBC, during spring 2020 and students will start attending classes there in the fall.

Since the creation of the program in 1983, FPF has been located in a building on Hillegass Avenue, where its lease is up for renewal this year. UC Berkeley Extension assistant dean Ramu Nagappan, who oversees the program, said FPF decided to forgo renewing its lease because the building was not serving the program as well as it could.

“This space served us well in our mission to provide a close community for first-year students, but we’re equally excited by the opportunities our new space presents,” said FPF Director Tara Young in an email. “GBC’s proximity to campus offers modern classroom technology, more meeting space, and an upgraded facility.”

According to Nagappan, the cost of moving to GBC ⁠— located at 1995 University Ave. ⁠— will be minimal in part because most of the furniture and equipment is outdated and will be donated to the campus’s excess salvage instead of being moved. He added that FPF is hoping to invest in the building and create more accommodating common spaces for students to study and socialize.

The additional administrative space in GBC will help facilitate more instructor meetings, and the number of classrooms will remain the same, as well as the total number of students enrolled in the program, according to the Nagappan. Currently, there are 750 students enrolled in the program, a “sweet spot” because it is large enough to offer a wide variety of courses, while still promoting close advising relationships with students.

The new building also has heating and air conditioning, amenities the Hillegass building did not have, according to Salwa Meghjee, campus senior, FPF ambassador and a former columnist for The Daily Californian. According to Meghjee, another benefit of the move is GBC’s proximity to the main campus and Downtown Berkeley.

“While it is further from campus, it’s more central to Berkeley, which I think is good for the freshmen,” Meghjee said. “They get the best of both worlds in the city.”

One concern for Nagappan is the distance from student residence halls. Nagappan said students will be farther away and will likely have a 20 to 25-minute walk to classes.

FPF English instructor Kirsten Schwartz said in an email that GBC would be better suited to students’ needs, but when she first heard about the move, she was “depressed” because the Hillegass building is so “darling.”

“Ultimately, for me, it’s the students!” Schwartz said in an email. “As long as FPF keeps letting me teach the kinds of students I’ve been teaching there for the last 20 years, everything will be okay.”

Maria Young is a student life reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @maria_myoung.