English

BERKELEY CONNECT in ENGLISH

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

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.

Faculty

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.


Joanna M. PicciottoJoanna M. Picciotto (Assistant Director) is an Associate Professor of English at UC Berkeley.

Where did you grow up?

Washington DC

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

Columbia University, English

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

I am interested in the concept of divinity as collectivity. I study practical and literary expressions of this concept as they evolved after the Reformation, with a special focus on England’s revolutionary period (1640s and 50s).


Berkeley Connect Mentors

Alex CatchingsAlex Catchings recently received a PhD in English from UC Berkeley and is now a Berkeley Lecturer.

Where did you grow up?

Reno, Nevada and Vancouver, Washington

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

University of Washington – English

How would you describe your research in a sentence or two?
I research how the way we read and write novels has changed with the advent of the Open Source Web (especially Wikipedia and Google).


Imogen Forbes-MacphailImogen Forbes-Macphail is a PhD candidate in English.

Where did you grow up?

Perth, Australia

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

University of Western Australia, English and Cultural Studies

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

My dissertation examines the relationship between poetry and mathematics in the nineteenth century. In particular, I explore how people in both fields think about form, aesthetics, and the nature of time and space.


Robert ReyesRobert Reyes recently received a PhD in English from UC Berkeley and is now a Berkeley Lecturer.

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in the Coachella Valley.

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

I earned an AA from College of the Desert, in Palm Desert, CA. I transferred to Cal in 2004 and majored in English and Chicano Studies.

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

My work examines representations of race in Chicanx literature and film. My focus is on the history of the greaser character that emerged in 19th century legal discourse and films of the silent era, beginning with D.W. Griffith’s “The Greaser’s Gauntlet” (1908). I trace the character through extant films, the archive of movie periodicals, and three Chicanx novels.


Laura RitlandLaura Ritland is a PhD candidate in English.

Where did you grow up?

Toronto and Vancouver, Canada

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

I double majored in English and Creative Writing at the University of British Columbia

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

My research focuses on the intersections between literary education, democracy, and the concept of “the public” from the Victorian era to postwar and contemporary Anglophone contexts. I’m also a writer (a poet!) and my first book, East and West, was published in 2018.


Lucy Sirianni recently received a PhD in English from UC Berkeley and is now a Berkeley Lecturer.

Where did you grow up?

St. Paul, MN

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

Johns Hopkins University, English

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

I research nineteenth-century social justice literature, focusing especially on women’s rights, anti-racism, and anti-ableism writings by authors from marginalized backgrounds.


Mark ScottMark Scott is a PhD candidate in English.

Where did you grow up?

Edinburgh, Scotland

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

King’s College London, English Language and Literature

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

My dissertation on Shakespeare’s drama unfolds from a straightforward – but pressing– question: what were Renaissance Londoners looking for when they went to the theater? Amid outbreaks of plague (which led to intermittent theater shutdowns) and in the face of condemnation from puritan pulpits, what compelled people to risk the health of their bodies and their souls by frequenting playhouses?


Max StevensonMax Stevenson is a PhD candidate in English.

Where did you grow up?

Minnesota.

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

Ohio State, where I majored in English and Medieval and Renaissance Studies.

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

I study how English writers around the turn of the first millennium experimented with new poetic forms, and what that can tell us about how we view literature written in Old English.


Atti Viragh Atti Viragh (Fall 2020) is a PhD candidate in English.

Where did you grow up?

Boston

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

Columbia University, where I studied English and Comparative Literature.

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

I work on literary and intellectual history, focusing on how nineteenth-century poetry, science and philosophy engage with each another.


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