Staff Spotlight: Michael Cerda-Jara (he/him/his)

January 10, 2024

Co-Associate Director, Berkeley Underground Scholars

How would you describe Berkeley Underground Scholars to someone who has never heard about it before?

Berkeley Underground Scholars (BUS) is a student support program that centers on formerly incarcerated and systems-impacted people in higher education. Focusing on recruitment, retention, advocacy, and wellness; the program offers a wide variety of opportunities and resources for both current and prospective students who have experienced incarceration or the incarceration of their close relative(s). As an alum of the program, I can confidently say I would not be where I am today without the support BUS provided me with.

Can you describe your job/role?

I’m serving as Co-Associate Director for Berkeley Underground Scholars. In my role, I focus primarily on student retention. This means I help support our students with meeting their needs and connecting them with the right resources to help them succeed at UC Berkeley. I also lead our Transfer Program, which focuses on the recruitment of prospective community college students both in and out of jails and prisons across the state of California.

How long have you been at Berkeley?

I came to Berkeley as an undergraduate student in 2017 and graduated in 2020. I returned at the end of February 2023 and am so happy to be back serving my peers in my new role!

What do you love most about working here?

I love connecting with students and helping them succeed. Whether it’s helping with thinking problems or projects through, relating to each other’s lived experiences, offering scholarship/graduate school application guidance and support, or simply connecting them to the right resources and opportunities. Each day brings something different and I’m grateful I get to experience that.

Where’s your favorite place on campus?

My favorite place on campus is Stiles Hall! There are definitely some cool and beautiful spots throughout campus, but Stiles Hall always feels like home.

Fun fact about me:

Every Sunday I HAVE to listen to Oldies. Some of my favorite artists are Mary Wells, Brenton Wood, and Ralfi Pagan. Oh, and I was a UC Berkeley Medal finalist when I graduated in 2020!

Photo of Michael Cerda-Jara in front of a sculpture