94% would recommend the program

Back to Top


PhilosophyThe 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 Philosophy. We’re excited to get to know you!

Message from the Director

Lara BuchakHave you been enjoying your philosophy classes but wish you had an opportunity to develop closer relationships with professors, graduate students, and your peers?  Do you have questions about how to get the most out of your experience in the Philosophy Department – whether and when to go to office hours, how to structure the paper-writing process, how to think about which classes to take – but are unsure who to ask?  Are you interested in why philosophy uses the methods it uses, and how these methods contribute to our understanding?  If so, Berkeley Connect in Philosophy is specially designed for you.Berkeley Connect is an opportunity to connect with professors, graduate students, and your peers, while receiving mentoring and reflecting on philosophy as a discipline.

Professor Lara Buchak

Director, Berkeley Connect in Philosophy

Program Description

Berkeley Connect links undergraduate students with experienced mentors in Philosophy. 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 Philosophy major as a way to foster friendships and provide a supportive intellectual community for Berkeley undergraduates.The only requirement for joining Berkeley Connect in Philosophy is that you have an interest in the field 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 Philosophy, 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 Philosophy. 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 Philosophy 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.


Professor Lara Buchak, Faculty Director, buchak@berkeley.eduLara BuchakLara Buchak’s primary research interests are in decision, game, and rational choice theory. Her work focuses on how an individual ought to take risk into account when making decisions and how we should best model risk attitudes within decision theory. She argues for a more permissive theory of rationality than is standardly assumed. Her book in this area, entitled Risk and Rationality, is forthcoming in January 2014 (Oxford University Press). Further work in formal epistemology explores the questions of when and why one ought to stop one’s search for further evidence. In the philosophy of religion, she has written on the question of what faith is, and under what circumstances it is rational to have faith. She also has more general interests in the philosophy of religion, and in epistemology.

Professor Buchak is excited to be directing Berkeley Connect because she thinks Berkeley students are some of the best in the world and she wants to create opportunities for faculty and students to interact more, and for students to feel at home in the Philosophy department.

Professor Geoffrey Lee, Assistant Director, geoffrey_lee@berkeley.edu

Geoffrey Lee is an Associate Professor of Philosophy (Ph.D., New York University). His main areas of research interest are philosophy of mind, metaphysics, and the foundations of cognitive science and neuroscience. One of his current projects is writing a book on the experience of time, tentatively titled “Consciousness and the Passage of Time.”

Berkeley Connect Mentors

Russell Ahmed-BuehlerRussell Ahmed-Buehler is working on a PhD in Philosophy with a focus on logic and the methodology of science. He’s naturally a pretty big fan of logic and philosophy of science but also spends a lot of time thinking about epistemology and philosophy of language. When not working, Russell enjoys a simple life of running in the hills above Berkeley and eating donuts (though not at the same time!). As a part of Berkeley Connect, Russell is most looking forward to talking individually with students about both philosophy and life outside philosophy!

Nick Gooding is completing his PhD in Philosophy, writing a dissertation on the place of friendship in Aristotle’s practical philosophy. His research is focused on ancient Greek philosophy, especially on ancient ethics and political philosophy, but he has interests that range across philosophy and its history. He has recently been thinking a lot about the relationship between literature (especially poetry) and philosophy. Nick is also an avid climber, and loves to travel to travel all over the world to go climbing — and to see some wonderful and wild places.

Erica KlempnerErica Klempner recently received her PhD in Philosophy at Berkeley. Her research focuses on foundational issues in aesthetics and ethics. She is also interested in the philosophy of language. She loves talking to students and is excited to be part of Berkeley Connect.

Semester Activities


  • Attend weekly meetings (small-group and large-group events and mentoring meetings). Note that small-group meetings are at your designated time and large-group meetings are at times announced on the syllabus.
  • Field Trip(s) to a movie at the Pacific Film Archive or a talk in the philosophy department.
  • Fill out a questionnaire at the end of the semester.

Attendance policy:

In order to receive a pass, you must satisfy all of the following:

(i)  you must attend both meetings with your mentor

(ii) you must not miss more than two small-group sessions

(iii) you must attend both large-group sessions OR one large-group session and one Field Trip OR two Field Trips;

(iv) you must fill out the end-of-semester survey.

Sessions start on the hour, not on “Berkeley time.”  This is so that everyone can get food and discussion can begin by 10 after the hour.


Week 1 (Jan 16th): Welcome, TUESDAY 7-8 PM, Howison Library

Welcome meeting

Hearing about the program, meeting your mentor, syllabus

Week 2 (Jan 22-24): Intro meeting

Small group meeting

Getting to know each other, courses and goals for this semester

Week 3 (Jan 29-Feb 2): Mentoring

One-on-one mentoring meeting.

Initial meeting, getting to know you.

Week 4 (Feb 5-7): What is philosophy?

Small group meeting

Discussion questions: What is philosophy?  Why should we study it?  What got you interested in philosophy?  What are some examples of philosophical problems?  What is the value to society of what we do, as philosophers?

Week 5 (Feb 12-14): Truth and Objectivity

Small group meeting

Is there such a thing as ‘objective truth’?  In science, in politics, in religion?  Is it possible to know things apart from our own cultural background?

Week 6 (Feb 20-21, Feb 26). Ethics

**Note that Monday 2/19 is a holiday, so Monday small groups will meet 2/26

Small group meeting

What makes an action right or wrong?  When do different ethical theories recommend different actions, and which theory is more convincing?  What is the role of thought-experiments in philosophy?  How are they similar and different from the “data” in other disciplines?

Week 7 (Feb 28): The Reading and Writing Process, WEDNESDAY Feb 28 4-6 PM, Howison Library

Large group meeting, led by Professor Niko Kolodny

Thurs, Mar 1, 4-6 PM: Study Break with Faculty and Graduate Students (301 Moses), optional

Week 8 (Mar 5-7): Your Future and the Good Life

Small group meeting.

What challenges do I face in making decisions about what to do in college, after college, and beyond?  Strategies for choosing a career or what to do after college.  (Freshman and sophomores: strategies for choosing a major.  Sections where there’s interest: should I go to philosophy graduate school, and how can I prepare?)  How do my grades matter for the future?  How can I integrate my intellectual pursuits, my interests, my skills, and my need to make a living?

Week 9 (Mar 13): What can I do with my degree?  TUESDAY Mar 13, 6-7:30 PM, Howison Library

Large group meeting: panel with those with philosophy degrees that have gone on to do something else.  Statistics and anecdotes.  How to think about one’s career.

Week 10 (Mar 19-21): Conversation with a professor

Small group meeting

Ask a philosophy professor anything that’s on your mind, about philosophy itself or life in the university.

March 26-30: SPRING BREAK

Week 11 (Apr 2-4): Climate and Diversity

Small group meeting

What has been my experience of being a philosopher of a particular gender, race, religion, sexual preference, nationality, socioeconomic class, or other identity?  How can we better understand each other’s viewpoint when doing philosophy?  Does and should identity matter when doing philosophy?

Week 12 (Apr 9-13): Mentoring

One-on-one mentoring meeting: writing papers, working habits, or topic of mentee’s choice.

Week 13 (Apr 16-18): Philosophy and Culture

Small group meeting

How much should philosophy engage with science, with politics, with literature, or with the concerns of the citizens around us?  Looking at a philosophical article in the popular press.

Week 14 (Apr 23-25). Topic TBD

Small group meeting

Topic determined by student interests.




Tuesday, Jan 16th: welcome event, Howison Library, 7-8pm

Monday, Jan 22nd: small group, regular time

Week of Jan 29th: mentoring meeting, sign up for time

Monday, Feb 5th: small group, regular time

Monday, Feb 12th: small group, regular time

Monday, Feb 19th: holiday, no class

Monday, Feb 26th: small group, regular time

Wednesday, Feb 28th: large group, Howison Library, 4-6pm

Thursday, Mar 1st: study break, 301 Moses, 4-6pm (optional)

Monday, Mar 5th: small group, regular time

Tuesday, Mar 13th: large group, Howison Library, 6-7:30pm

Monday, Mar 19th: small group, regular time

Week of Mar 26th: spring break, no class

Monday, Apr 2nd: small group, regular time

Week of Apr 9th: mentoring meeting, sign up for time

Monday, Apr 16th: small group, regular time

Monday, Apr 23rd: small group, regular time



Tuesday, Jan 16th: welcome event, 7-8pm

Tuesday, Jan 23rd: small group, regular time

Week of Jan 29th: mentoring meeting, sign up for time

Tuesday, Feb 6th: small group, regular time

Tuesday, Feb 13th: small group, regular time

Tuesday Feb 20th: small group, regular time

Wednesday, Feb 28th: large group, Howison Library, 4-6pm

Thursday, Mar 1st: study break, 301 Moses, 4-6pm (optional)

Tuesday, Mar 6th: small group, regular time

Tuesday, Mar 13th: large group, Howison Library, 6-7:30pm

Tuesday, Mar 20th: small group, regular time

Week of Mar 26th: spring break, no class

Tuesday, Apr 3rd: small group, regular time

Week of Apr 9th: mentoring meeting, sign up for time

Tuesday, Apr 17th: small group, regular time

Tuesday, Apr 24rd: small group, regular time



Tuesday, Jan 16th: welcome event, 7-8pm

Wednesday, Jan 24th: small group, regular time

Week of Jan 29th: mentoring meeting, sign up for time

Wednesday, Feb 7th: small group, regular time

Wednesday, Feb 14th: small group, regular time

Wednesday Feb 21st: small group, regular time

Wednesday, Feb 28th: large group, Howison Library, 4-6pm

Thursday, Mar 1st: study break, 301 Moses, 4-6pm (optional)

Wednesday, Mar 7th: small group, regular time

Tuesday, Mar 13th: large group, Howison Library, 6-7:30pm

Wednesday, Mar 21st: small group, regular time

Week of Mar 26th: spring break, no class

Wednesday, Apr 4th: small group, regular time

Week of Apr 9th: mentoring meeting, sign up for time

Wednesday, Apr 18th: small group, regular time

Wednesday, Apr 25th: small group, regular time


To find sections for the upcoming semester, search the Schedule of Classes for Philosophy 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 Philosophy, you enroll in a designated section of Philosophy 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 Philosophy, please contact:  Professor Lara Buchak, buchak@berkeley.edu, (510) 296-5932.

Assistant Director: Geoff Lee, geoffrey_lee@berkeley.edu

Graduate Fellows:

Umrao Sethi (Monday sections), umraosethi@berkeley.edu

Arpy Khatchirian (Tuesday sections), arpykhatch@yahoo.com

Jeremiah Carey (Wednesday sections), jeremycarey@berkeley.edu

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

Links & Resources