By Kathleen Aycock
Photo: The CED undergraduate advising team (l-r): Rhommel Canare, Susan Hagstrom, Omar Ramirez and Nancy Trinh.
As the undergraduate advisor at UC Berkeley’s College of Environmental Design, Rhommel Canare has seen the academic, social and emotional highs and lows of the undergraduate student experience. When he started at CED, Canare prioritized a holistic approach to wellness at the College — not only tackling problems related to academic stress or unhealthy habits, but laying a foundation of mentorship, student advocacy, and student-led programs that fostered inclusiveness within the CED community.
In recognition of the positive impact Canare has made on student learning, performance, engagement and progress, Canare was awarded the 2017 Outstanding New Advisor Award from the UC Berkeley Advising Council.
In addition to traditional staff-student guidance, Canare has championed peer-to-peer and class-to-class mentorship. His encouragement of student-driven leadership led to the formation of an undergraduate student council, a wellness affairs group, and student-faculty panels. By amplifying student voice, Canare hopes to improve the sense of ownership undergraduates feel about their college experience, and to create a self-sustaining peer advising community.
The hands-on, technical nature of environmental design education can foster unhealthy lifestyle habits, according to undergraduate adviser Omar Ramirez, but Canare has worked tirelessly to change the foundational culture of the student experience. “Rhommel has excelled in implementing programs and discussions that have significantly changed the conversation of wellness — and we have started to see a shift in the culture,” Ramirez said.
The impact of this shift in culture has touched faculty and staff as well. In addition to launching a wellness newsletter, Canare helped form a staff wellness working group within CED. His efforts inspired the College to subsidize free Workfit memberships for staff and noontime weekly yoga classes for the CED community.
Colleagues like undergraduate advisor (and previous award recipient) Nancy Trinh remark on his empathy and drive for continuous improvement: “Witnessing Rhommel’s commitment to serving students and hearing him share his story as a first generation Filipino college student has inspired many individuals including myself. It has been an honor and a privilege to work with Rhommel, and I learn from him every day,” Trinh shared.
We can’t wait to see what Canare does next at CED!