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Photo: Paul Kirchner Studios

The Berkeley Connect program opens up the extraordinary resources of the university to you: the extraordinary students on our campus. By joining, you will become part of a community of like-minded faculty, mentors, and students that will provide a supportive environment in which to exchange and discuss ideas and goals. Berkeley Connect will help you to make the most of your time at the university as you learn more about the major in Environmental Science, Policy, and Management (ESPM). We’re excited to get to know you!

Message from the Director

Laura LammersI’m excited to welcome you on behalf of myself and our wonderful graduate fellows to the 2020/2021 academic year for Berkeley Connect ESPM! In these uncertain times it is more critical than ever to find safe and relaxed venues for peer to peer interactions. Our mission is to provide an authentic space to build community with fellow UC Berkeley students who share your enthusiasm for environmental science, policy, and stewardship. We invite students of all stages and ages to teach, learn, and support one another as you gain the tools to access and navigate the incredible resources that the Berkeley campus has to offer. Curious about career opportunities after graduation? Seeking input from peers, grad students and professors on your ideas or educational path? Looking to learn more about environmental clubs on campus? Wanting to develop and hone those communication skills? Berkeley Connect in ESPM is here for you!

Laura Lammers, Faculty Director, Berkeley Connect in ESPM

Program Description

Berkeley Connect links undergraduate students with experienced mentors in ESPM. These mentors lead small groups of 10-20 students in regular meetings; they also meet with students One-on-one to provide guidance and advice. The core of the Berkeley Connect program is a one-credit, pass-fail course that is designed to create a community of students with similar intellectual interests. There is no homework associated with Berkeley Connect: no exams, no papers, no quizzes. Instead, small group meetings focus on sharing ideas and learning new skills within the ESPM majors as a way to foster friendships and provide a supportive intellectual community for Berkeley undergraduates.The only requirement for joining Berkeley Connect in ESPM is that you have an interest in the field of study. You do not have to be in one of ESPM’s majors (CRS, ES, FNR, MEB or S&E) to participate! Undeclared freshmen and sophomores are welcome, along with entering junior transfers and juniors and seniors who have declared the major.

Every semester, Berkeley Connect sponsors a wide range of activities and events for participating students.  They include:

  • small-group meetings led by your mentor;
  • One-on-one meetings with your mentor;
  • special events, including informal lectures by professors and guest speakers, and panels on career options, graduate school admissions, and other topics;
  • and visits to Berkeley resources.

At the heart of Berkeley Connect is the relationship between you and your mentor. The Berkeley Connect mentors are advanced graduate students or recent PhDs in ESPM, who are chosen both for their demonstrated commitment to undergraduates and for their scholarly achievement. They are dedicated to providing the kind of close-knit community and One-on-one attention that can be hard to find at a large university.

When you sign up for Berkeley Connect, you will join one of several small groups of participants in ESPM. Your small group will be led by your mentor, and will meet every other week during the semester for an hour-long dinner discussion sessions. Discussions will focus on key intellectual issues within ESPM as well as key skills you need to succeed in the major. Above all, the small groups will focus on building connections among students, so that each group becomes a supportive community for all participants.

You will also meet with your mentor One-on-one at least twice during the semester, once to get acquainted, and a second time just before Tele-Bears, to discuss your plans for completing your major. Your mentor also has Office hours every other week, during which you are free to show up and ask questions, talk over your day or your week, discuss what you are learning in class, or just have an informal conversation.


Laura Lammers

Laura LammersLaura Lammers is an Assistant Professor in the Environmental Science, Policy, and Management Department. Her research group studies the chemistry of natural processes in the environment that regulate the cycling of nutrients, contaminants, and carbon. Laura relies on a range of experimental and theoretical tools to study how the unique chemical environments at mineral and microbial surfaces affect the transport and transformations of key elements. An important goal of her work is to develop better methods for contaminant immobilization and nutrient recovery to promote sustainable supplies of clean water and energy. For more information check out her group’s website at https://nature.berkeley.edu/~lnlammers/index.html.

Justin Brashares 

Justin is an Associate Professor of Ecology and Conservation in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management. Justin has worked on wildlife projects and with rural communities in Africa and North America for more than 20 years. His work extends beyond traditional ecology and conservation to consider the economic, political and cultural factors that drive and, in turn, are driven by, changes in biodiversity. When not trying to convince people that wildlife is more than just neat to look at, Justin can be found with his kids at a Cal soccer game or walking his embarrassingly small dog, Alfie.

Contact: Brashares@berkeley.edu

Berkeley Connect Mentors

Kelsey ScheckelKelsey Scheckel is a PhD candidate in ESPM.

Where did you grow up?

Chicago, IL.

Where did you go to college and what was your major?

University of Colorado, Boulder.

In a sentence or two, how would you describe your research?

I study the chemical deception strategies that kidnapper ants use as they usurp other ant colonies and steal their babies! I’m interested in understanding how this kidnapping behavior in ants evolved and what strategies these parasites use to maintain cohesive, mixed-species nests.

Chryl CorbinChryl Corbin is a PhD candidate in ESPM.

Where did you grow up?

Silver Spring, MD/Washington D.C Metro Area.

Where did you go to college and what was your major?

Berkeley City College AA/ UC Berkeley BA.

In a sentence or two, how would you describe your research?

I look at the historical and current relationships between the build and the natural environment at the intersection of race, class, and access to green space.

Anne Kakouridis Anne Kakouridis is a PhD candidate in Environmental Science, Policy & Management at UC Berkeley.

Where did you grow up?

In Aix-en-Provence, France.

Where did you go to college and what was your major?

University of Utah, Biology.

In a sentence or two, how would you describe your research?

I study fungi that associate with plants roots and help plants get nutrients in exchange for carbon. My experiments focus on their roles in water and carbon cycles.

Brian KleinBrian Klein is a PhD candidate in ESPM.

Where did you grow up?

Kailua, Hawai’i.

Where did you go to college and what was your major?

University of Notre Dame, Political Science and International Peace Studies.

In a sentence or two, how would you describe your research?

I study natural resource politics and policy, and my dissertation research is on the governance of artisanal and small-scale gold mining in Madagascar.

Andrew RothsteinAndrew Rothstein is a PhD candidate in ESPM.

Where did you grow up?

I grew up outside of Philadelphia in Wayne, PA.

Where did you go to college and what was your major?

I went to University of Vermont and majored in Natural Resources Ecology.

In a sentence or two, how would you describe your research?

My current work is combating emerging wildlife diseases with an emphasis on using genetics to monitor and conserve wildlife populations.  Specifically, conduct research on an emerging fungal disease and its impact on an endangered amphibian in Sierra Nevada of California.

Laura WardLaura Ward is a PhD candidate in ESPM.

Where did you grow up?

Castro Valley, CA.

Where did you go to college and what was your major?

I went to Saint Mary’s College and received my BA in the Integral Program, a seminar style “great books” program.

In a sentence or two, how would you describe your research?

I study the impact of pesticides on wild bees in California agriculture and I also have an exciting side project measuring the outcomes of a unique undergraduate mentoring program.

Semester Activities

Note: field trip dates are still being finalized!

Week Format Notes
Jan 20 Full group


Opening reception: Community building activities to learn about Berkeley Connect, ESPM, and the mentors.


Jan 27 Sections


Introductions: Berkeley Connect is here to support you. In our opening small group meeting we will get to know each other, the mentors, and Berkeley Connect. We will play some name games, review the syllabus, and discuss our community agreements.


Feb 3 Sections


Skill development I: Goal setting: Knowing how to set goals is a key skill in any field. Learn why we set goals, what makes a good goal, and how to achieve your goals. We will introduce a “boulders-rocks-sand” framework, practice crafting “SMART” goals, and play a “reaching your goals” game.


Feb 10 Office hours


Individual meetings: *Required meeting with your fellow to discuss goals for the semester.


Feb 17 Sections


Current Environmental topic I: Environmental perspectives: Environmental topics often inspire strong feelings and opinions. In this session we will explore different perspectives on environmental issues. There will be opportunities to explore your unique perspective, learn new things, and perhaps change your mind! We will do an interactive activity called “stand your ground or move around”.


Feb 24 Office hours


Individual check in: Drop in meetings with your fellow
Mar 2 Sections


Skill development II: Connecting with professors: Cal has amazing faculty but it can often feel difficult to connect with them outside of formal class time. This session will focus on getting to know one faculty member through conversation and Q&A. Learn how to take advantage of office hours, how to get a great letter of recommendation, and how to find research positions at Cal!


Mar 9 Office hours


Individual check in
Mar 16 Sections


Current Environmental topic II: Conservation and conflict: Conservation issues are often extremely thorny with many different trade-offs. We will explore challenges in allocating conservation resources for biodiversity conservation in our rapidly changing world.


Mar 23 Spring Break


No meetings


Mar 30 Sections


Skill development III: Getting the job: Looking for jobs and internships in the environmental field can be both exciting and daunting. We will focus this session on how to find jobs and internships on and off campus. We play a BINGO game about environmental resources on campus. We will also do some peer review of resumes and cover letters and mock interviews for environmental jobs off campus.


Apr 6 Office hours


Individual check in: *Required meetings with your fellow to discuss goals and next steps


Apr 13 Sections


Current Environmental topic III: What is nature? Are humans a part of nature or apart from nature? We will explore this topic from various lenses (philosophical, ecological, evolutionary, etc) and discuss why this question matters so much in this day and age.


Apr 20 Office hours


Individual check in: Drop in meetings with your fellow


Apr 27 Sections


Closing: Semester wrap-up! We will review how we have learned and grown together over the semester and write a “message in a bottle” to a future Berkeley Connect student.


May 4 Full group Optional study break activities




To find sections for the upcoming semester, search the Schedule of Classes for ESPM 98BC (for first-year and sophomores) or 198BC (for juniors and seniors).

To help you meet other students who share your experiences and perspectives, Berkeley Connect sections are designated as lower division (first-year students and sophomores), new junior transfers, and upper division (juniors and seniors), but you can enroll in any section that fits your schedule and credit requirements.

How to Sign Up

To participate in Berkeley Connect in ESPM, you enroll in a designated section of ESPM 98BC or 198BC (one unit, taken on a Pass/Not Pass basis). Many students chose to enroll for more than one semester. Participation is NOT restricted to declared majors.To sign up, enroll in a Berkeley Connect section when course registration opens.  Please see the Berkeley Connect Sections listed above under “Schedule.”

**Read the schedule notes carefully—different Sections are designated as primarily for lower-division (freshmen and sophomores), upper-division (juniors and seniors), or junior transfer students.

If you are interested in participating in Berkeley Connect, but course registration is not currently open, you can join the Berkeley Connect Mailing List, and you will be sent more details when the next semester’s information becomes available.

Contact Us

Please see our FAQs.  If you have additional questions about Berkeley Connect in ESPM, please contact:Prof. Justin Brashares, 13 Mulford Hall, phone: (510) 643-6080, email: Brashares@berkeley.edu

You can also contact the central Berkeley Connect office  at berkeleyconnect@berkeley.edu or (510) 664-4182.

Links & Resources