Berkeley Connect

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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!

About Berkeley Connect in Ethnic Studies & African American Studies

Do 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.

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 their majors.

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.

Berkeley Connect Mentors

Maria Faini Maria Faini received a PhD in Ethnic Studies from UC Berkeley.

Where did you grow up?

Charlottesville, VA and Wheeling, WV

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

WVU, BFA in painting, printmaking

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

My book project centers the Combat Paper Project, an art collective, founded by veterans, that addresses moral injury by destroying military uniforms to pulp them into paper. I recently completed a multi-year research fellowship with Race Forward, a social justice nonprofit organization in Oakland.

John MundellJohn Mundell is a PhD candidate in African American Studies.

Where did you grow up?

Raleigh, North Carolina

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

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill – Spanish, Latin American Studies, African American Studies

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

I look at how race and sexuality show up in popular culture such as literature, film, television, music, and digital media and how this contributes to narratives of nation-making, especially in Latin America and the Caribbean. In discussing who has the means to produce culture on the national scale, I am interested in how whiteness racially and sexually exoticizes blackness for the purpose of making nations like Brazil, for example, appear to be a racial democracy and thus invisibilizes the power of whiteness.

Semester Activities

Week 1—Thursday, September 3

First Group Meeting—Welcome to BC in African American Studies!! Getting to Know You, Getting To Know Each Other

Week 2—Thursday, September 10

Second Group Meeting—How to Study Effectively under Conditions of Remote Learning

Week 3—Thursday, September 17

Third Group Meeting—How to Use Criticism & Grading Feedback Constructively

Week 4—Thursday, September 24

Fourth Group Meeting—Balancing Studies, Work, and Life in General (under “live” or remote conditions) at UC Berkeley

Week 5—Thursday, October 8

One-on-One Mentoring Meetings

Week 6—Thursday, October 15

Fifth Group Meeting—Decompression Session (e.g., Broad & Cathartic Discussion)/RE:  Navigating “Ups & Downs” of Midterms

Week 7—Thursday, October 22

Sixth Group Meeting—What is African American Studies (AAS) Anyway? Key Issues & Research Topics in AAS

Week 8—Thursday, October 29

Seventh Group Meeting—Decompression Session (#2)//RE: Social Justice
Movements//Current State of Politics & Sociopolitical Affairs in our “New Normal” World

Week 9—Thursday, November 5

Open Mentoring Hours

Week 10—Thursday, November 12

Eighth Group Meeting—Preparing for Finals (i.e., Final Exams/Research Papers/and/or Projects) under Conditions of Remote Learning

Week 11—Thursday, November 19

Special Event RE: Presentation on Career Paths in African American Studies

Week 12—Thursday, November 26


Week 13—Thursday, December 3

(Last Day of Instruction For BC in African American Studies)—How Are You All Doing?

Key Takeaways from Our Time Together


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: Gabrielle Williams, Senior Fellow,

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

Links & Resources