Although Michael Lin graduated from CED with a degree in Architecture, he likes to say that he actually majored in extracurricular activities. And though, like many CED alumni, Lin chose a career path outside of design, his spirited “extracurricular” support of Berkeley and CED is still keeping him quite busy.
Originally attracted to UC Berkeley because of its academic reputation, Lin knew he’d made the correct choice when he first visited the campus and it “just felt right.” He initially enrolled in the College of Letters & Science, but transferred to CED on a whim because it merged his interest in design and liberal arts.
That design talent and Cal spirit combined early to fuel his outside activities when as a student tour guide, he and a few fellow guides decided that the University Visitor Services’ video needed an upgrade. Though now retired, their remake, The Many Voices of Cal, was used in recruiting and sent to all incoming freshmen for over five years. Lin continued to produce videos including one celebrating 2003 Alumnus of the Year Warren Hellman, which piqued Lin’s interest in finance and investing, ultimately leading him to his current career as a financial advisor with Ameriprise Financial.
In spite of being employed outside of the design professions, Lin’s design education permeates much of his life and he acknowledges its value for many professions beyond the sphere of architecture, landscape, and planning, “It’s been especially useful in visually communicating and presenting complex information more clearly.” Lin also applies his design training to a variety of personal projects. For example, he created the artwork for the Cal at Sundance alumni networking event — a project in which he’s heavily involved, now going on its third year — at the famed Sundance Film Festival, and for other Cal events as well.
Over the years, Lin’s enthusiastic support fueled a history of campus involvement: in addition to his tour guide duties as a student, Lin was a member of the Cal Rally Committee, the ASUC, and co-founder of SEArch — Students for Environmental ARCHitecture.
More recently, he co-chaired UC Berkeley’s tenth reunion campaign committee for the Class of 2001, raising over $340,000 for the university, and currently serves as a reviewer of undergraduate admissions applications.
Acknowledging his belief in the crucial role the university plays in shaping the world, Lin is unwavering in promoting the merits of supporting Cal. As he sees it, what one does for oneself alone is fleeting, only lasting for one lifetime, but what you give to an institution has an enduring effect over generations.
And Lin’s contributions have not gone unnoticed. He was awarded the University of California Berkeley Foundation’s Young Bear Award in 2011 for outstanding achievement on a fundraising project and successful outreach to the community or alumni. And in March 2012, he received the Cal Alumni Association’s Bradford S. King Award for Excellence in Service by a Young Alumnus.
Crediting Dean Wolch with making significant positive headway in providing direction, building support and reaching out to make CED stronger, Lin was naturally honored when she recently asked him to join the Dean’s Advisory Council. He’s excited to help CED continue its trajectory by encouraging engagement and promoting a culture of giving back, and hopes that the Council’s successful efforts might potentially be replicated in other schools within the university.
As a student, Lin was inspired by the independent thinkers that surrounded and mentored him — those engaged in social issues who modeled their lives on their own terms. His advice to students preparing to graduate is to work hard and push forward in a chosen direction, but most importantly to design a uniquely individual path and make time for those things that are meaningful. “We are most energetic and creative when we are inspired and do the things that we love.”