Campus launches program connecting students and professors

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The campus announced an academic program on Tuesday that aims to provide undergraduate students with a more personal means of connecting with professors and graduate students within their major.

The program, Berkeley Connect, began as a pilot program in the campus department of English in the fall of 2010. It will follow the Peter and Megan Chernin Mentorship Program and expand to nine additional departments, ranging from environmental studies to philosophy, beginning in January 2014.

Although the program is geared toward each major, it is not reserved specifically for declared majors, according to campus English professor Maura Nolan, director of Berkeley Connect. Berkeley Connect classes are generally organized by academic standing so that students can discuss the issues that are pertinent to their levels of study.

The program offers resources for students at every level, covering advice on everything from declaring a major to applying to graduate school.

“We’re open to students from all majors as well as undeclared students, though we encourage participants to join the Berkeley Connect program in their actual or intended major, if possible,” Nolan said. “If you have a strong interest in a field of study, you would be welcome to participate in any of the programs, though they are focused on the topics and skills specific to that major.”

The basic structure of the program includes four central components, which include biweekly small group meetings led by graduate fellows, one-on-one student advising, special events with professors and alumni as well as planned field trips to sites such as the Berkeley Art Museum, Bancroft Library and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

By combining a form of advising with informal discussion, Nolan hopes that the program will enrich students’ learning experience and provide them with additional resources that will further personalize their academic experience.

Justin Park, a recent graduate of the English department, participated in the Chernin program for three semesters and believes that the program was helpful to him as a junior transfer and in applying to graduate programs.

“Being new to Berkeley and getting used to the idea of the English major, I had a lot of different questions,” Park said. “The Chernin program was a great place to ask those questions.”

Berkeley Connect will be offered to approximately 50 to 250 students per department, depending on the size of department. Nolan said she hopes to expand the program to 10 additional departments within the next few years.

With no grading, homework assignments or reading, Nolan emphasizes that the program is not designed to feel like a class.

“It’s a discussion,” Nolan said. “The goal is for most of the talking to be done by students.”

To enroll in Berkeley Connect, students should check the Berkeley Connect website for the appropriate course control numbers.

Contact Jennie Yoon at [email protected]