espmThe 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

I’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!

Kipling (Kip) Will
Faculty Director, Berkeley Connect ESPM
Associate Professor of Environmental Science, Policy & Management

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.


Kip Will Kipling (Kip) Will is an Associate Professor of Environmental Science, Policy & Management. His research interests center on the systematics, integrative-taxonomy and natural history of insects. The research in his lab uses a broad range of data types (morphology, DNA, behaviors, etc.) to develop phylogenies, identify and describe new species, and understand the biogeographic distribution of insects. To develop a broader understanding of insects his research emphasizes field work and observation of the living animals whenever possible. His focal group is the highly-diverse, worldwide group known as carabid beetles (Coleoptera: Carabidae), and includes work across all taxonomic levels and projects that cover a wide range of topics including chemical ecology and microbiomes of the beetles.

Berkeley Connect Mentors

Anna HolmquistAnna Holmquist is a PhD candidate in Environmental Science, Policy & Management.

Where did you grow up?

Pleasanton, CA and Corvallis, OR

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

I attended North Carolina State University and majored in Zoology with a minor in Entomology.

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

I study how biodiversity has been formed through a combination of ancient and modern processes at the community level. Additionally, I study how endemic biodiversity responds to changing environments.

Trinity WallsTrinity Walls is a PhD candidate in Environmental Science, Policy & Management.

Where did you grow up?

Raleigh, NC

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

Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri; Biology

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

I study how spiders communicate, mate, and hybridize. I am interested in how closely related species distinguish each other, what signals they use, and how those signals combine in hybrids.

Mindy PriceMindy Price is a PhD candidate in Environmental Science, Policy & Management.

Where did you grow up?

The US (a few different states!)

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

Emory University, Sociology

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

I am a political ecologist and rural sociologist studying agrarian change in northern Canada, with a specific focus on climate-driven subarctic/arctic agriculture. My previous work examined gender inequities in livestock systems in East Africa and local food systems in the southeastern US.

Leslie McGinnisLeslie McGinnis is a PhD candidate in Environmental Science, Policy & Management.

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in a rural area outside of Spokane, Washington.

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

I went to the University of Washinton in Seattle and my major was Biology (Ecology, Evolution, Conservation).

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

I study interactions between insects and plants and how human activities change those interactions.  Currently, I am studying the relationships between milkweed gardeners, urban habitats, and monarch butterflies in the East Bay.

Valeria Ramirez CastanedaValeria Ramírez Castañeda is a PhD candidate in Integrative Biology.

Where did you grow up?

Bogotá, Colombia

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

National University of Colombia, Biology

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

I work with snakes that feed on poison frogs. My research aims to understand how these snakes resist the toxins present in the frog skin and tries to show how this antagonist interaction creates diversity in the Amazon rainforest.

Semester Activities

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

Recent discussion topics have included:

  • Current issues in environmental studies
  • Skill-building: how to make the most of your time at Berkeley

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:

  • Get to Know ESPM Professors

How to Sign Up

To sign up, enroll in a Berkeley Connect section when course registration opens.  To participate in Berkeley Connect in ESPM, you enroll in a section of ESPM 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 ESPM, please contact faculty director Prof. Laura Lammers at

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

Links & Resources