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 English. We’re excited to get to know you!

Message from the Director

Katherine Snyder

Berkeley Connect in English builds stronger connections between undergraduates, graduate students and professors. Small groups of undergraduate majors and undeclared students interested in the study of literature meet with faculty members and graduate student mentors throughout the semester. In these meetings we talk about intellectual, institutional, and practical issues. What is the English major? What kinds of reading do we do and why? What kinds of careers do people have with a Berkeley degree in English? In these discussions, free of the pressure of grades, we talk about our intellectual interests and about being part of an academic community. Graduate student mentors also hold one-on-one meetings with undergraduates to talk about challenges and goals. They lead explorations of campus resources like the Bancroft library and the art museum. Every semester,  Berkeley alumni in different professions speak about how the English major has contributed to their careers. Professors talk about how they came to study English, how they produce writing, or how they disagree about particular texts.

Berkeley Connect provides relaxed and fun opportunities to get to know your community and to think together about how to make the most of your Berkeley experience.

Professor Katherine Snyder

Director, Berkeley Connect in English

Program Description

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 English, 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 English. 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 English 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.


Katherine Snyder

Katherine Snyder (Director) is an Associate Professor in the English Department, specializing in contemporary novels and short stories. In her research and teaching, she focuses on cheerful narrative subgenres such as post-9/11 fiction, post-apocalyptic fiction, pandemic fiction, and climate fiction. She has taught at UC Berkeley since 1993, after getting her PhD in English at Yale and her BA in English at Cornell, a university that, like Cal, is large and hard-to-navigate. She loves the way that Berkeley Connect is designed to make the English major and the whole Cal experience a bit more intimate and a bit easier to navigate.

Nadia EllisNadia Ellis (Assistant Director) is an Associate Professor of English at UC Berkeley who specializes in black diasporic, Caribbean, and postcolonial literatures and cultures. She received her PhD in English from Princeton; her M.Phil. in English from Oxford, and her B.A. in Literatures in English from the University of the West Indies (Mona) Jamaica. Her book, Territories of the Soul: Queered Belonging in the Black Diaspora (Duke, 2015), explores forms of black belonging animated by queer utopian desire and diasporic aesthetics. It is a project built from a long-standing interest in following trajectories of literary cultures from the Caribbean to Britain to the United States. The work also developed through a preoccupation with several intersections, including those between queerness and diaspora, imperial identification and colonial resistance, performance and theory. Published essays that explore queer and black performance, sexuality and the archive, and the diasporic city have been supported by fellowships and grants from the AAUW, the SSRC, UC Berkeley’s Hellman Fund and Townsend Center for the Humanities. She regularly offers classes connecting literary cultures to questions of the city, migration, and sexuality and gender. She has received the University’s Distinguished Teaching Award (2020) and the American Cultures Innovation in Teaching Award (2016).




Berkeley Connect Mentors

Alexander UllmanAlex Ullman is a PhD candidate in English.

Where did you grow up?


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

University of Pennsylvania; English

How would you describe your research in a sentence or two?

Generally, my research is about conversation as a social, aesthetic, and political form. Specifically, I look at relationships between Black and Jewish artists, and how they used conversation to mediate their social, aesthetic, and political differences.

Michelle RipplingerMichelle Ripplinger is a PhD candidate in English.

Where did you grow up?

Ogden, UT

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

Princeton, English

How would you describe your research in a sentence or two?

I am interested in how premodern poets defended their poetry from accusations of immorality by deflecting blame onto the woman reader, carnal-minded and error-prone. In particular, my dissertation shows how Chaucer challenges the prevailing understanding of literature’s moral dangers by revaluing this female figure.

Emily SuttonEmily Sutton is a PhD candidate in English.

Where did you grow up?

I was born in the UK and grew up just outside of Brighton. I emigrated to Wellington, New Zealand when I was nine and lived there until I came to Berkeley.

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

Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand, where I completed a BA in English and History, and an MA in English.

How would you describe your research in a sentence or two?

I work on contemporary queer and feminist fiction and theory, focusing on the critical legacy of the liberation movements of the sixties and seventies and the history of queer criticism. I’ve also dabbled in pop culture criticism on the side.

Alexander WaltonAlex Walton is a PhD candidate in English.

Where did you grow up?

Seattle, WA

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

I majored in English at the University of Washington, in Seattle; and did an MFA in Poetry at the University of Iowa.

How would you describe your research in a sentence or two?

I work on the poetry and prose of the English Revolution (John Milton and his contemporaries); on capitalism in the 17th century; and on Marx and marxism. I am broadly interested in poetry as an object of study – contemporary, modern, not modern – and as a craft or practice.

Semester Activities

During a semester in Berkeley Connect in English, you will participate in one-on-one conversations with your mentor, small-group discussions, special events and field trips.

Recent discussion topics have included:

  • What is “work” in English?
  • How we write
  • Connecting with your professors
  • Developing as a writer

Berkeley Connect discussion sessions are informal and interactive, with time allowed for students to check in, talk about their experiences on campus, and reflect on current events that create the context for their academic studies.

Recent special events and field trips have included:

  • Professors in Dialogue: The Book That Made Me a Professor
  • Alumni Panel: What Can You Do with a Degree in English?
  • Guided tour of Bancroft Library Collection

How to Sign Up

To sign up, enroll in a Berkeley Connect section when course registration opens.  To participate in Berkeley Connect in English, you enroll in a section of English 98BC (primarily for freshmen and sophomores) or 198BC (primarily for juniors and seniors). Both are offered for one unit, taken on a Pass/Not Pass basis. Participation is NOT restricted to declared majors.

You may enroll in Berkeley Connect more than once (some students choose to participate for a full year by enrolling in both the fall and spring semesters), and you may enroll through more than one department. You may NOT enroll in more than two sections of Berkeley Connect in one semester, or enroll in more than one section in the same department in the same semester.

Contact Us

Please see our FAQs.  If you have additional questions about Berkeley Connect in English, please contact:  Professor Katherine Snyder, Berkeley Connect Director, ksnyder@berkeley.edu.

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

Links & Resources