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

Professor Katherine SnyderBerkeley 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

Every semester, Berkeley Connect sponsors a wide range of activities and events for participating studentsThey 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 discussion session. 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 meet with your mentor one-on-one at least twice during the semester, to talk about anything you choose related to your academic life—questions you have, challenges you are facing, resources you are seeking, goals you are seeking to achieve. Your mentor will also hold open mentoring hours throughout the semester, during which you are free to show up and continue these conversations, or just check in.


Professor Katherine SnyderKatherine 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.

Elizabeth Abel (Assistant Director) is a Professor in the English Department, specializing in twentieth-century British literature, with a focus on issues of gender, race, and sexuality.After receiving her Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from Princeton, she began her academic career as a Romanticist working on the intersections between literary and visual arts, but the emergence of feminist literary criticism induced her to shift directions. She teaches courses on twentieth-century literature; Virginia Woolf and Bloomsbury; gender, sexuality, and modernism; literature and photography; and literary theory. In addition to numerous essays and co-edited volumes, she has published three books:Virginia Woolf and the Fictions of Psychoanalysis(1989);Signs of the Times: The Visual Politics of Jim Crow (2010); andOdd Affinities: Virginia Woolf’s Shadow Genealogies (forthcoming 2024). She looks forward to fostering stronger connections within the English major.

Photo of a middle-aged white female with short brown hair wearing a black shirt and a long gray cardigan.

Berkeley Connect Mentors

Eliot D'Silva

Eliot D'Silva is a PhD candidate in English.

Where did you grow up?

England, United Kingdom

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

Cambridge University. English major

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

My research is about writers and artists who make art out of their everyday lives. I’m interested in how recording daily experiences opens a space for self-reflection and contemplation, as well as the forms of communication these artists use to document whatever is going on at a given time, from letter writing to digital photography.

Jessica Laser

Jessica Laser is a PhD candidate in English.

Where did you grow up?


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

Brown; Literary Arts

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

I'm writing on Robert Frost and American poetry.

Jared Robinson is a PhD candidate in English.Jared Robinson

Where did you grow up?

Indianapolis, Indiana

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

Indiana University, Bloomington // English Literature and Creative Writing

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

I think about how the writings of the enslaved in America participate in the critique of the Enlightenment; the very ideas on which America was founded. I do this in a way that thinks deeply about deception, figuration, and imagined presence.

Abigail StruhlAbigail Struhl is a PhD candidate in English.

Where did you grow up?

New York City

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

Columbia, where I double-majored in English and Creative Writing

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

I study eighteenth-century British fiction and visual culture, with particular interest in how writers and artists in the period questioned what it meant to make a “just” representation—at once moral and accurate to the particulars of everyday life. I also edit creative nonfiction about urban experience and experiment with writing for nonacademic audiences.

Rudi Yniguez is a PhD candidate in English.Rudi Yniguez

Where did you grow up?

Redding, California

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

I was an English major at Williams College.

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

I work mostly with 18th and 19th Century British novels, and I'm especially interested in the formal influence of revolutionary political texts upon novels written in the first-person.

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