Undergraduate Research Advocates Program

Artist Gaila Patrice Turner with her portrait of James Baldwin. With scholars Tatiana Butte and Amber Griffin-Royal.

The Social Sciences Division’s Undergraduate Research Advocates Program was initiated in spring 2022 by division head Susan Edwards and librarian David Eifler. This small pilot program worked with students from NavCal, the fellowship that assists incoming nontraditional students navigate the Berkeley campus. The pilot provided three NavCal fellows with small research stipends to explore new ways to provide library services to first generation and historically underrepresented students. It was designed to be a collaboration in which student research advocates educate librarians about ways to improve outreach; librarians, in turn, taught in-depth research methods to the students who then became trusted emissaries doing library outreach to communities to which they belong or identify.

Our first cohort — Tatiana Butte, Crystal Swan and Amber Griffin-Royal — was selected from students expressing interest in the internship and with guidance from NavCal Director Dean Tanioka. The cohort met weekly with Environmental Design Librarian David Eifler to improve their research skills and develop ways the Environmental Design Library could be more welcoming to historically underserved communities. As with any pilot, there were failures and successes – hosting a film about Oakland gentrification on a busy night failed to attract anyone. However, acquiring more welcoming art for the Library and incorporating informative posters about women and underrepresented architects and landscape architects has been successful. Perhaps most exciting was Amber and Tatiana’s presentation to NavCal students highlighting key library resources and demonstrating Zotero citation software.

The student research advocates and the librarians learned a great deal in the process: opening new lines of communication, re-exploring the role of the library and the librarian in undergraduate education, making physical improvements to the Environmental Design Library, and establishing new friendships. Perhaps most important, bonds of trust, understanding, and empathy were created that extend to today.

Amber Griffin-Royal and Tatiana Butte provide library instruction to NavCal cohort.