Ethnic Studies & African-American Studies

BERKELEY CONNECT in ETHNIC STUDIES & AFRICAN AMERICAN STUDIES

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

Ree Botts-WardReelaviolette Botts-Ward is a PhD candidate in African Diaspora Studies.

Where did you grow up?

Atlanta & Philly

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

Spelman College, Sociology & Anthropology

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

I am a homegirl, an artist, and a nontraditional community curator from Philadelphia, PA. My research explores Black women’s healing spaces in Oakland, and as founder of blackwomxnhealing, I curate healing circles, exhibitions, courses, and research for and by Black womxn.


Cynthia LedesmaCynthia Ledesma is a PhD candidate in Ethnic Studies.

Where did you grow up?

I grew up on the southwest side of Chicago.

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

I attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and received a B.A. in Political Science and Latina/Latino Studies.

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

My research examines the battle over space and housing waged on Chicago’s southwest side during the mid-20th century. I study the racial and gendered tactics employed by working-class, ethnic white residents to secure racial boundaries through heightened surveillance, a demand for increased law enforcement, and the organization of resources around safeguarding private property.


Semester Activities

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

Recent discussion topics have included:

  • How students of color have shaped UC Berkeley throughout its history
  • Exploring the resources of *your* university
  • Getting involved in research: what’s your intellectual project?
  • Social justice in and outside the classroom

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:

  • Faculty Panel Discussion: Get to Know Your Professors
  • Alumni Guest Speaker: What Can You Do with a Degree from UC Berkeley?
  • Guided tour of Ethnic Studies Library

How to Sign Up

To sign up, enroll in a Berkeley Connect section when course registration opens.  To participate in Berkeley Connect in Ethnic Studies & African American Studies, you enroll in a section of 98BC (primarily for freshmen and sophomores) or 198BC (primarily for juniors and seniors) through either Ethnic Studies or African American Studies. All sections 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 Ethnic Studies, please contact: Maria Faini, Senior Fellow, at sgroi@berkeley.edu.

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

Links & Resources