Many Berkeley grad students volunteer their time and talents to make their community a better place. If you volunteer your time to an organization or know of a local, worthy cause, please add it below.


Astronomy, Physics, and Math

If you're interested in starting to do astronomy outreach, the grad student Public Liaisons should know what opportunities are currently available. Some of the teaching opportunities that may be available are listed below.

  • Sciece@Cal is a networked, cross-disciplinary effort on campus to inform and engage the public about the diversity and depth of science research at Berkeley and the resulting contributions to society. The Public Liaisons do a lot of work with this group directly. They run monthly (free) public lectures and put together large events such as the Cal Science & Engineering Festival (January 2011) and participate in even larger events like the Bay Area Science Festival (October 2011).
  • The Berkeley Astronomy Graduate Student Public Lectures Series started in June 2008 with graduate students and postdocs from the U. C. Berkeley Astronomy Department giving public lectures for local amateur astronomy clubs. The BADGrads Public Lecture series connects astronomy graduate students with local amateur astronomy clubs through a series of public lectures. These lectures give graduate students a chance to share the results of their research with the public and gain valuable presentation experience. These lectures provide astronomy clubs with enthusiastic speakers who are doing cutting edge research at U. C. Berkeley. Lectures happen typically once a month in conjunction with a local astronomy organization. The lectures are usually about an hour in length, with plenty of time for questions and discussion.
  • Bay Area Project ASTRO is run through the Astronomy Society of the Pacific and matches astronomers with Bay Area teachers in 4th-9th grades in yearlong partnerships. You will visit the classroom a few times during the school year acting as an “Astronomer in the Classroom”. This is a great way to build a relationship with a class or community group. Recent participants are Steve Croft (scroft@astro), Matt George (mgeorge@astro), and James McBride (jmcbride@astro).
  • The Compass Project is an initiative at UC Berkeley, and is a program that supports diversity in the physical sciences by bringing together undergraduate and graduate students through exceptional teaching and learning experiences. For the undergraduates, the main focus of Compass is an intensive two-week summer program for incoming freshmen (with an emphasis on women and minorities), as well as continued mentorship and support throughout their college careers. For the graduate students, Compass provides a platform for discussing issues related to physics education, and a unique opportunity to advance their teaching skills. People how are heavily involved are Josh Shiode (jhshiode@astro), Nathaniel Roth (nathaniel.roth@berkeley), and Josiah Schwab (jwschwab@berkeley).
  • Patten University's Prison University Project at San Quentin helps inmates earn degrees. Volunteers teach and tutor math, astronomy, and physics. (Donations and volunteers are needed because, by law, federal funds may not be used for education of the incarcerated). Casey Law (claw@astro) has worked with them recently.
  • Bay Area Scientists In Schools (formerly Community in the Classroom) is like Project ASTRO but you visit a bunch of different classrooms throughout the school year and do basically the same demo every time. They also include all sciences, not just astronomy. Nicholas McConnell (nmcc@astro) and Adam Morgaon (amorgan@astro) have participated recently.
  • SSL Center for Science Education has lots of educational programs available. Bryan Mendez (bmendez@ssl) and Dan Zevin (dzevin@ssl) collaborate often with our Department.
  • There are tons of astronomy and general science museums in the Bay Area and many of them love to have astro grads as docents/volunteers or to run star parties. Jeffrey Silverman (jsilverman@astro) has volunteered at the Lawrence Hall of Science just up the hill from campus and Statia Cook (sluszc@astro) has volunteered at the Chabot Space & Science Center in Oakland.
  • Expanding Your Horizons is a nationwide program that conducts one-day conferences to educate middle-school girls about careers in science and technology. Mills College runs a local conference each March. No one in institutional memory has participated in this.
  • The Multicultural Engineering Program seeks to increase participation and retention of women and underrepresented minorities in the sciences and engineering. Berkeley grad student volunteers have helped with their “boot camp”, an intense summer session where incoming freshmen get early exposure to their first year coursework. No one in institutional memory has participated in this.
  • Adjunct Positions at various junior colleges and universities in the Bay Area. Many will hire one semester adjunct faculty, usually to cover their Astro 10 equivalent. In the relatively recent past, Laney College in Oakland needed a replacement teacher. The requirement often appears to be a Masters in Astronomy (i.e. post-prelim grad students).
  • The Academic Talent Development Program runs a summer school project where you can teach gifted students Astronomy at the Astro 10 level and they receive school credit for it. The students are very fun and energetic. The syllabus should go up sometime in December. No one in institutional memory has participated in this.
  • Tutoring local middle and high school students in math and physics is also a great way to make money on the side. The Berkeley Parents Network has some information on finding students who need tutoring although some of the listings appear to be quite outdated. The Berkeley High Math Department also has a list of tutors. E-mail a math teacher to put your name on the list. A reasonable rate to charge students is $35/hour. Mo Ganesh (mganesh@astro) has been doing this for awhile.

Adult Literacy

Berkeley Reads is a free program at the Berkeley Public Library where volunteers work for 1-2 hours a week one-on-one with an adult literacy student.

Community Theater

There are several community theaters in the area:

Blood Donation

An easy way to help your community is to donate blood. It costs you nothing but a hour or two and a pint of blood, and you get to genuinely help your community (and get some free snacks). It's easiest not to wait for a blood drive (they're slow, anyway) – just sign up online.

Who can donate

Eligibility for blood donation is spelled out here.

If you are one of the lucky 8% of the population to have type O-negative blood, it's especially important for you to donate because you're a universal donor. Your blood can be used in local ERs for emergency, life-saving procedures.

If you have another type, your blood is still almost always desperately needed. A-positive and O-positive are the most common blood types (over 2/3 of the population), and therefore also the types in the highest demand. If you have another blood type, you're still not off the hook: not only is your whole blood is still needed, but you may be eligible for apheresis, a process which allows you to donate type-independent blood products, such as platelets, much more frequently than you can donate whole blood.

Where to donate

The mobile blood drives that come through campus are often excruciatingly slow and inconvenient

For most students, the most convenient location is the Oakland Blood Center on Claremont at College Ave. Call 1-800-GIVE-LIFE or go to to schedule an appointment.

When to donate

You can donate whole blood every 8 weeks and blood products every 48 hours (up to 24 times per year).


Your can volunteer at the blood center as well:

Political Activism

This section is for links to political organizations that need local volunteers or support. This is not a place for proselytizing, but a resource for people to find like-minded organizations to join.

The League of Women Voters

Founded in 1920, the League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan, nonprofit political organization that encourages the informed and active participation of citizens in government and influences public policy through education and advocacy. The LWV never supports or opposes candidates or political parties. The League works at the local, regional, state, and national levels, paralleling the levels of government.

The organization's name derives from the women's suffrage movement. Today's members are women and men, and may join through any level of the League.

Find your local chapter or look into the issues handled at the state and national levels.

The Phoenix Coalition (to Free the University of California)

Started in Spring of 2007, the Phoenix Coalition is a Berkeley student-led coalition that seeks to transform the University from an elitist, corporate, militaristic, autocratic institution into a responsible, just, diverse equitable, democratically-governed body that educates and works for the common welfare.

The Phoenix Coalition is a new radical student movement which uses nonviolent direct action to assist the evolution of the University structurally and ethically (i.e. “tree sit” at the Oak grove - 273 days as by August 23th,2007-; hunger strike for nukes abolition and civil disobedience at UC Regents meeting; public hearings of the British Petroleum-UC deal).

The members of the coalition believe that University's deeds not only affect the students, the faculty and the staff, but also affect the community, the state, the country and the World. Because of this reason, the coalition is evolving from student-led into community-led.

These are some of the groups that are involved in the Phoenix Coalition: Save the Oaks Stop British Petroleum-Berkeley Association of South Asian Political Activists (ASAPA) Berkeley Copwatch Berkeley National Organization for Women (BNOW) Berkeley Stop the War Coalition (BSTW) Fiat Pax Students Organizing for Justice in the Americas (SOJA) Student Worker Action Group (SWAG) The Local

As Mario Savio (one of the Berkeley student activists that started the Free Speech Movement) said: “There's a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can't take part, you can't even passively take part, and you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop! And you've got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you're free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!”

The choice is ours. The time is now. We are the ones we've been waiting for. If you want to be a rebel, be kind. Human-kind, be both.

KPFA radio

Founded in 1949 by Lewis Hill, a pacifist, poet, and journalist, KPFA was the first community supported radio station in the USA. KPFA broadcasts on 94.1 FM and KPFB 89.3 FM, Berkeley, and KFCF 88.1 FM, Fresno, California. The signal reaches one third of the state, utilizing 59,000 watts. Much of the programming is local, original and eclectic, with a well produced mix of news and in depth public affairs, an ongoing drama, literature and performance series, interviews, and reviews. The music ranges from folk to hip hop, Bach to Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. The station travels the region to broadcast live music, demonstrations, and cultural events. The majority of the staff are unpaid community volunteers donating their time and energy to bring you our programming.

KPFA's mission: To promote cultural diversity and pluralistic community expression. To contribute to a lasting understanding between individuals of all nations, races, creeds and colors. To promote freedom of the press and serve as a forum for various viewpoints. To maintain an independent funding base.

Food Not Bombs

Food Not Bombs is one of the fastest growing revolutionary movements and is gaining momentum throughout the World. There are hundreds of autonomous chapters sharing free vegetarian food with hungry people and protesting war and poverty. Food Not Bombs is not a charity. This energetic grassroots movement is active throughout the Americas, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Australia. Food Not Bombs is organizing for peace and an end to the occupations of Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine. For over 25 years the movement has worked to end hunger and has supported actions to stop the globalization of the economy, restrictions to the movements of people, end exploitation and the destruction of the earth.

The first group was formed in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1980 by anti-nuclear activists. Food Not Bombs is an all-volunteer organization dedicated to nonviolent social change. Food Not Bombs has no formal leaders and strives to include everyone in its decision making process. Each group recovers food that would otherwise be thrown out and makes fresh hot vegetarian meals that are served in outside in public spaces to anyone without restriction. Each independent group also serves free vegetarian meals at protests and other events. The San Francisco chapter has been arrested over 1,000 times in government's effort to silence its protest against the city's anti- homeless policies. Amnesty International states it will adopt those Food Not Bombs volunteers that are convicted as “Prisoners of Conscience” and will work for their unconditional release. Even though we are dedicated to nonviolence Food Not Bombs activists in the United States have been under investigation by the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force, Pentagon and other intelligence agencies. A number of Food Not Bombs volunteers have been arrested on terrorism charges but there has never been a conviction.

Food Not Bombs is often the first to provide food and supplies to the survivors of natural disasters and terrorist attacks. During the first three days after the 1989 Earthquake, Food Not Bombs was the only organization in San Francisco providing hot meals to the survivors and the Long Beach chapter provided food after the North Ridge Earthquake. Food Not Bombs was also the first to provide hot meals to the rescue workers responding to September 11th World Trade Center attacks. Food Not Bombs volunteers were among the first to provide food and help to the survivors of the Asian Tsunami and Hurricane Katrina. Our volunteers organized a national collection program and delivered bus and truckloads of food and supplies to the gulf region. We have been one of the only organizations sharing daily meals in New Orleans since Katrina. You can rely on Food Not Bombs in a disaster and we are ready to help in the future.

Food Not Bombs works in coalition with groups like Earth First!, The Leonard Peltier Defense Committee, Anarchist Black Cross, the IWW, Homes Not Jails, Anti Racist Action, In Defense of Animals, the Free Radio Movement and other organizations on the cutting edge of positive social change and resistance to the new global austerity program. One collective publishes a movement wide newsletter called A Food Not Bombs Menu. Another hosts FNB News where you can learn more about the Food Not Bombs community. Food Not Bombs Publishing in Takoma Park, Maryland publishes books like On Conflict and Consensus which has been an important guide for group democracy. We hope you will join us in taking direct action towards creating a world free from domination, coercion and violence.

Food is a right, not a privilege.

Not in Our Name Project

The Not In Our Name Project was initiated at a meeting in New York City, on March 23, 2002. The meeting was called for by a letter that proposed ways to strengthen and expand resistance to our government's course in the wake of September 11, 2001. The meeting adopted the proposal - and Not in Our Name was born.

The Not In Our Name Pledge of Resistance was created collectively by artists and activists (ARTivists) in April 2002 as a means of inspiring protest and resistance. The Pledge was not intended to be signed, rather, it is a tool to be used by individuals, organizations and communities to inspire and strengthen individual and group resistance. The Pledge of Resistance was subsequently written, translated to 24 languages and distributed at anti-war actions on April 20, 2002–along with a call to take up the Not in Our Name project.

The Not in Our Name National Steering Committee is the final decision making body of the national project. However, local chapters maintain great autonomy of action. Steering Committee members are selected or recruited by the local chapters, or are nominated and affirmed by the current steering committee. The Steering Committee is open to Not in Our Name activists and organizers of all backgrounds, races, religions, ethnicities, sexual orientations, political affiliations and immigration status, from major urban areas to small communities across the country.