Hearst Field Annex B-22
Berkeley CA 94720-2495
Phone: (510) 664-4182
Email: berkeleyconnect@berkeley.edu

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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 majors in Ethnic Studies and African American Studies. We’re excited to get to know you!

Message from the Director

Michael Mark CohenDo you enjoy the discussions you have in class and wish you could continue them in a supportive and grade-free environment? Do you ever wonder what professors and graduate students actually do and how they made their way into the academy? Want to learn more about your campus, its resources and history?If so then join Berkeley Connect in African American Studies and Ethnic Studies. Berkeley Connect offers you an opportunity to build an on-campus community with your fellow students in African American Studies and Ethnic Studies.

The University of California at Berkeley is still the greatest public university in the world. But it can also be overwhelming. It can be easy to feel small and to get lost.  Which is why building an on-campus community, one connected to student mentors, engaged faculty and campus resources, is so important. These connections are especially important for students of color, under-represented minorities and anyone dedicated to building a just and equitable climate here at Berkeley. For these students, those of you engaged in the complex, on-going conversation about race, diversity and identity, finding a supportive community of students who share these questions and experiences can make a critical difference in the quality of your time here at Cal.

Berkeley Connect in African American Studies and Ethnic Studies offers a range of activities from one-on-one meetings to small group sessions, study breaks, and field trips. What is unique to our program is that our topics are designed specifically for students interested in our fields: How does the intellectual work of African American Studies and Ethnic Studies relate to communities of color in the politics of the everyday? How do differences in social class impact our experiences at the university? How do we care for ourselves and each other when we are dealing with difficult histories, awkward encounters and institutional structures? And what does one do with an Ethnic Studies or African American Studies major?

There’s more of course to Berkeley Connect — we serve food at every group meeting, there are opportunities to interact in a casual atmosphere with professors, and we host all sorts of field trips and special events. Best of all: no homework and no grades! Sign up and enjoy the conversation and companionship, connect to your friends,  the university, and your future.

Michael Mark Cohen
Faculty Director, Berkeley Connect in African American Studies and Ethnic Studies

Associate Teaching Professor of American Studies and African American Studies

Program Description

Berkeley Connect links undergraduate students with experienced mentors in Ethnic Studies and African American Studies. 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 Ethnic Studies and African American Studies majors as a way to foster friendships and provide a supportive intellectual community for Berkeley undergraduates.The only requirement for joining Berkeley Connect in Ethnic Studies and African American Studies is that you have an interest in these fields of study. You do not have to be a major in order 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 Ethnic Studies or African American Studies, 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 Ethnic Studies and African American Studies. 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 Ethnic Studies and African American Studies 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.


Michael Mark Cohen (Director)
Michael Mark Cohenis Associate Teaching Professor of American Studies and African American Studies. He earned his Ph.D. in American Studies from Yale University in 2004.  His writings have appeared in Social Text, International Review of Social History, Al Jazeera English, Radical History Review and Gawker.

Keith FeldmanKeith P. Feldman
is Assistant Professor of Comparative Ethnic Studies. He is also core faculty in the Program in Critical Theory and affiliated faculty for the Designated Emphasis in Women, Gender, and Sexuality, and the Center for Middle East Studies. He received his BA from Brown University (2000), his MA from the George Washington University (2003), and his PhD in English from the University of Washington (2008). Since 2011, he has served as an undergraduate faculty advisor in the Department of Ethnic Studies. His research and teaching focuses on theories of race and ethnicity; cultures of the African, Arab, and Jewish diasporas; visual culture studies; 19th and 20th century U.S. popular culture; critical prison studies; postcolonial theory; and the digital humanities. He is the author of A Shadow over Palestine: The Imperial Life of Race in America (University of Minnesota Press, 2015).

Berkeley Connect Mentors

Selina MakanaSelina Makana is a PhD candidate in African Diaspora Studies, with a designated emphasis in Gender & Women’s Studies. A Kenyan citizen, she received her BA from the Kenyatta University, Nairobi where she majored in Education and African Literature and Linguistics, and an MA in African American Studies from UC Berkeley. Her research explores the relationship between women, nationalism, and militarization in southern Africa. Selina’s dissertation, “Soldiering Women: Gender and Militarization in Angola, 1961-1992,” examines the complexities of women’s lives and how they are mobilized to enter the projects of war (making) and post-war national reconstruction. Prior to coming to the United States, she worked as a high school teacher for five years; and this is where her passion for students and teaching was honed. She owes her academic journey from Kenya to the U.S. to the Fulbright Fellowship she received in 2009-2010 to teach Swahili at Stanford. Selina is more than honored to be working as a Berkeley Connect Fellow, because she believes in the power of mentorship and networking to both personal and intellectual growth.

Ina KelleherIna Kelleher is a doctoral student in the department of Comparative Ethnic Studies with a designated emphasis in Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies. Her dissertation project analyses how grief and mourning are experienced and performed, both publicly and privately, by mothers who lose their children to urban violence. Ina is also a researcher with Dr. Nikki Jones on the project “Good Stranger,” an ethnographic study of local police departments in the Bay Area. This research examines the daily routines of police and their encounters with civilians – bringing forth how the underlying logics of daily policing are shaped by race, gender, class and place.


* These events are held outside of regular class time and are optional.

January 24   Welcome Event: Barrows 554 from 5 to 7 pm

January 31   First Small Group Meeting

Topic: What is African American Studies & Ethnic Studies
(and Why do They Matter)?

February 7   Second Small Group Meeting

Topic: Office Hours, or, How to Talk to Your Professor

February 14  Third Small Group Meeting

Topic:  What It Took To Get Here, or, Why go to College?

February 21  Faculty Panel Discussion: Barrows 554 from 5 to 7 pm

February 28  One on One Meetings with Mentors

March 7       Fourth Small Group Meeting

Topic: Social Justice in and Beyond the Classroom

March  14     Alumni Panel Discussion: Barrows 554 from 5 to 7 pm

March  21    Fifth Small Group Meeting

Topic:  Power and Popular Culture, or, Representation Matters

March 28     Spring Break – No Meeting

April 4         Study Break – No Meeting

April 11        Sixth Small Group Meeting

Topic: Three Months of Trump, or, What’s New

April 18        One-on-One Meetings with Mentors

April 25        Final Small Group Meeting

Topic: What Does Success Look Like?


To find sections in the upcoming semester, search the Schedule of Classes for 98BC (for first-year and sophomores) or 198BC (for juniors and seniors) in either Ethnic Studies or African American Studies.

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 Ethnic Studies and African American Studies, you enroll in a designated section of Ethnic Studies 98 BC or 198BC or African American Studies 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 Ethnic Studies, please contact: Michael Mark Cohen, Faculty Director, mmcohen@berkeley.edu.

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

Links & Resources