NOVUM: A New Look at Yourself, Society, and the World

This article was contributed by Julie Xiao, External Vice President of Campus Affairs of Phi Beta Lambda.

On Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014, Phi Beta Lambda hosted its 3rd annual NOVUM. At its core, NOVUM is about the exchange and spread of ideas that change the way we go about our everyday lives. As students, it’s easy for us to get lost in the routine of our daily living, and not very often do we think about the depth of the world around us. NOVUM is a chance for like-minded, curious individuals to gather together for a moment in time to hear some of the greatest mind on campus speak about topics they are passionate about. This event was an exciting celebration of knowledge in all its forms.

This year, the theme for NOVUM was “Next Generation Leadership”. As a leading university and one of the bay area’s greatest hubs for innovation, the University of California, Berkeley is a place where the best and the brightest come to teach and learn. As students graduate, they become the leaders of their generation. We gathered a wide variety of some of UC Berkeley’s greatest faculty members to speak about their passion, inspiration, and the next generation.

The Golden Overtones
The Golden Overtones

We kickstarted the night with outstanding performances from The Golden Overtones who sang a variety of songs including a cover of “Happy” by Pharrell Williams. The crowd cheered and prepared themselves for a night full of moving presentations. To start off, Haas Business and Economics Professor Todd Fitch spoke about everyday trade-offs in his presentation titled “I Win, you Lose”. He explained how leaders need to weigh the gains and losses of every single decision they make. Bob Berring, a professor at Boalt Law, talked about integrity in his presentation titled “Contradiction, Law and Success”. He emphasized that the honest way is always the best way; when you feel good about yourself, you’ve already won. Emiliana Simon-Thomas, Director of Greater Good Science Society and Psychology Professor, spoke about “Leading People with (…the Science of) Happiness”. She explained that happiness affects over mental and physiological health. Happiness is contagious and leading others with happiness will build a strong healthy team.

During intermission, our audience had the chance to the interact with the speakers while enjoying refreshments from our generous sponsors. After the break, we had another high energy performance from Berkeley’s award winning Bollywood dance team, Azaad, that had the crowd on their feet and ready for more.

Phi Beta Lambda alumni performing in Azaad (Amanda Chin & Rohin Jethani)
Phi Beta Lambda alumni performing in Azaad (Amanda Chin & Rohin Jethani)

We continued our night of presentations with Gerald Friedland, a Computer Science professor, who spoke on the “Ten Principles for Social Media Privacy”. He cautioned social media usage by illustrating how private matters are becoming increasingly public via the internet and focused on important principles on how to protect yourself when using social media. Renowned Astronomy professor, Alex Filippenko, gave a research based seminar titled “Exploring the Frontiers of Astronomy, and the Funding Crisis at Lick Observatory”. He explained the importance of the Lick Observatory’s contribution to research, education, and public outreach. Last but not least, our very own former chancellor, Robert Birgeneau, spoke on “The State of Public Higher Education: Access and Excellence”. He addressed the scarcity of funding for higher level public education and the budget concerns for our next generation of leaders.


NOVUM Speakers L to R: Gerald Friedland, Bob Berring, Todd Fitch, Emiliana Simon-Thomas, Robert Birgeneau, Alex Filippenko
NOVUM Speakers L to R: Gerald Friedland, Bob Berring, Todd Fitch, Emiliana Simon-Thomas, Robert Birgeneau, Alex Filippenko

All in all, we had a total of 194 students in attendance who were tremendously engaged throughout the speaker presentations, and were fully participative during performances from clapping along to the songs to cheering during dance routines. We are so excited to have given our renown professors the opportunity to share their passions and spread their wide range of knowledge to our highly intellectual, curious student body. Thank you to everyone who made this event possible. We can not wait to host another NOVUM next year and for many more years to come.


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