Fung Fellowship 2020 Boot Camp: Sustaining Virtual Communities

By Ya Chi “Angelina” Liang and Oscar Ramos

Pictured: Fung Fellowship 2021 cohorts, Honors Fellows, Staff, and HBI stakeholders

Welcoming two first-year cohorts

A program specifically focused on the intersection of social good and technology has never been more fitting — and this year, it has expanded to meet the rising need and student interest. The current cohort includes the first class in the program’s new Conservation + Tech track. While the two tracks will be working on separate design challenges during the year, all the fellows were able to collaborate on the first project together during the boot camp event. Celine Yang, a Political Science and Society & Environment double major, and a fellow in the new Conservation + Tech track, stated, “I’ve never met so many people who were just as passionate as I am about making a social and environmental impact. Everyone I’ve met comes from such diverse backgrounds and has so much to bring to the table.”

This expansive range of experiences and perspectives is intentional at the Fung Fellowship, a program built on the fundamental belief that “diverse teams develop better solutions, especially as those solutions will be used by diverse stakeholders.” As fellows in both tracks practiced addressing different facets of social impact with this innovative model during boot camp, the Fung Fellowship continues to embrace its core values of diversity and inclusion in developing emerging technologies.

Coleman Fung shares an inspiring message

To start off the weekend, the 115 new 2020–21 fellows were welcomed by Fung Fellowship founder Coleman Fung. In a year that is looking increasingly uncertain, Fung empowered students to engage with the program in ways to develop as more considerate, imaginative, and flexible leaders. He emphasized the value of collaborative, community-based design models that are utilized and have been taught in the Health + Tech track since its launch. With all of the weaknesses of our current healthcare system fully exposed and most industries pivoting towards remote or virtual options amidst a pandemic, Fung urged everyone to consider, “Look, this is messy, the system is broken. How are you going to fix it?”

Screenshot of a Zoom call with a bald man in glasses and a light blue button down speaking.
Screenshot of a Zoom call with a bald man in glasses and a light blue button down speaking.
Coleman Fung shared words of inspiration to kick off the boot camp.

Jason Lam’s (Conservation + Tech) favorite part of the weekend:
“Being able to work together and collaborate on projects where each of the members had a chance to shine in their own specific way.”

Introducing University Health Services’s design challenge

This year, the boot camp design challenge featured a partnership with University of California’s Healthy Campus Network on the Healthy Beverage Initiative (HBI). University Health Services representatives Kim Guess and Min Choi introduced HBI’s goal of providing free and accessible alternatives to sugar-sweetened beverages on UC campuses, and focused on how to make this possible at UC Berkeley. Additionally, they proposed two “How Might We” questions for fellows to address in their projects based on their respective tracks:

With campuses transitioning to remote learning:
“How might we promote and engage in healthy water consumption on our ‘virtual’ campuses?
[2] “How might we reduce single-use plastic and promote the most sustainable water source?”

Teams of 7-10 fellows were given a day and a half to address these two problems and pitch their solutions in three minute presentations to the HBI team, Honors Fellows, and other Fung Fellowship staff on the last day of the boot camp.

Screenshot of a Zoom call with a dark-haired man in glasses and a blue sweater smiling.
Screenshot of a Zoom call with a dark-haired man in glasses and a blue sweater smiling.
Vivek Rao gives a presentation on design thinking.

Exploring tips and tricks for teaming and design thinking

To equip teams for their first design challenge in the Fung Fellowship, the boot camp included a series of workshops that exposed them to basic design thinking and teaming principles. The 2021 Fung Fellows cohort had the opportunity to hear from Ashley Villanueva, Fung Institute Marketing Manager, to learn about why telling your story matters and what marketing tools are available to help showcase the Fung Fellowship experience throughout the year.

Fellows also heard from Health + Tech track Graduate Student Instructor (GSI), AJ Velasquez-Mao, and Honors Fellow, Erin Kramer, to gain insight into teaming and collaboration tools to kickstart the team building process of the intense weekend ahead. Lastly, fellows got a taste of human-centered design through Vivek Rao’s interactive session on design thinking frameworks, which assisted many teams with the problem identification and ideation processes of the design challenge.

Reflecting on final presentations and takeaways from the weekend

At the final presentations, it was interesting and insightful to see there were connecting themes between different teams’ solutions, such as the use of “water ambassadors,” apps to track water consumption, websites with educational information, and social media campaigns. In addition, some teams use shared unique ideas such as TikTok challenges and the translation of meeting water goals to the planting of trees. The breadth and care that each team put into their research, ideas, and presentations was inspiring. As each team presented, thier peers supported them through comments in the Zoom chat, making the mood during final presentations supportive and celebratory.

Alison Huh’s (Conservation + Tech) favorite part of the weekend: “Definitely the final presentations, seeing how everyone’s design sprints came to fruition at the end of the weekend. It was really inspiring seeing the similarities and differences in the way everyone approached the original ‘How Might We’ statement, alongside the different creative solutions.”

Kaan Gezguc’s (Conservation + Tech) biggest takeaway:
“With a passionate team that shares the same values, completing any task is possible — even preparing a deliverable for a design challenge in two days!”

Making connections and emphasizing self-care

While the boot camp was filled with intensity, new lessons learned, and some exposure to what was ahead of the year, it was also about building and fostering a community. At the end of day one, fellows were able to connect with Honors Fellows and ask questions during a Bring Your Own Dinner. From getting to share a meal with new teammates to playing games like Two Truths and a Lie, it was a great time and everyone made new friends; it almost felt like things weren’t virtual, which goes to show how engaged everyone was. Students were also very appreciative of the candid advice and insight Honors Fellows offered into the fellowship.

Ameek Bindra’s (Health + Tech) biggest takeaway:
“I am so excited to be part of a group that is #MoreThanYourMajor and explore more of human-centered design.”

It is clear that the boot camp was an immersive experience despite being remote, but the reality is that at the end of the day, the boot camp encompassed 20 hours of having to sit behind a screen in a Zoom meeting. Many students have already been on Zoom over the summer due to courses and/or internships, and were weary about the draining effects of Zoom fatigue. At the end of day two we were honest about how we felt as a community, leading to a significant emphasis on self-care during these turbulent moments. We all agreed to set the norm to take a break from a meeting and take a moment to do something offline if need be to recenter yourself. We are all experiencing the effects of the world’s changes differently, so it is essential to be empathetic of people’s situations and experiences more than ever before.

Valerie V. Ekko’s (Health + Tech) biggest takeaway:
“As a transfer student I was completely blown away. I have never been in a room full of brilliant, talented, competent people with follow-through. At the Fung Fellowship Boot Camp, not only was I able to propose a high-level vision, but our group completed and surpassed all expectations of what the finished product would look like… I’m certain that this is where I’ll be meeting my lifelong friends and future co-founders at Cal.”

The boot camp was an intense yet fruitful experience where fellows were challenged and exposed to new ideas, yet at the same time it was a space for our community to grow and acknowledge that we need to be supportive of each other during these turbulent moments. All of this contributes into making the Fung Fellowship a truly unique experience. This was just a small taste of what Fung Fellows will learn and the potential for impact they have. Although the rest of this year may likely continue to be virtual, there is no doubt this experience will be treasured by everyone involved.

Connect with Oscar and Angelina.

Learn more about the Fung Fellowship at

The Fung Fellowship at UC Berkeley is shaping the next generation of health, conservation, and technology leaders for a better world. 🌱