Environmental Science, Policy, and Management

Berkeley Connect in ESPM

Environmental Science Policy and ManagementThe 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

Laureano Gherardi I’m excited to welcome you on behalf of myself and our wonderful graduate fellows to Berkeley Connect ESPM! In these challenging 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!

Laureano Gherardi 
Faculty Director, Berkeley Connect ESPM
Assistant 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 discussion session. 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 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.


Laureano Gherardi Laureano Gherardi is a global ecosystem ecologist who combines manipulative experiments with ecological data synthesis at multiple temporal and spatial scales to advance our understanding of how interacting Global Change stressors such as climate change, land use change, and nutrient deposition affect the functioning of grassland ecosystems. Specifically, he is interested in the effects of resource availability variance on belowground processes that determine overall ecosystem responses. Gherardi carries out his research with justice, diversity and inclusion issues in mind and hopes land managers and decision-makers will apply his findings to achieve a sustainable future for high-value grassland ecosystems. Gherardi earned his master’s and PhD in Biology at Arizona State University. Before joining the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management (ESPM) as an assistant professor, he gained experience working in ecosystems ranging from the Patagonian Steppe in southern Argentina to the Great Plains in the USA to globally coordinated experiments and ecological synthesis groups.

Berkeley Connect Mentors

Pranjal Dwivedi is a PhD candidate in ESPM.Pranjal Dwivedi

Where did you grow up?

Lucknow, India

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

Indian Institute of Technology (Indian School of Mines), Dhanbad.  Environmental Engineering

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

I study whether wetlands can be feasible climate change solutions in the future and absorb more carbon from the atmosphere.

Mindy Jewell PriceMindy Price is a PhD candidate in ESPM.

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.

Coleman RaineyColeman Rainey is a PhD candidate in ESPM.

Where did you grow up?

South Pasadena, California

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

Columbia University, Major: Physics, Minor: Religious Studies

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

My work explores soil as a medium for collective transformation by focusing on Callifornia farms and land-based organizations that celebrate the unbroken relationship between people and the soil. It seeks the ecological and social thresholds that must be crossed to heal our landscapes, bodies, and cultures from extractive and violent modes of world-making, inspired by the emergent, unseen processes found in the soil.

Rachael Ryan is a PhD candidate in ESPM.Rachel Ryan

Where did you grow up?

Brampton, Ontario, Canada

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

McGill University (Montreal, Quebec), Biology

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

I study ecology, diversity and population dynamics of endangered salmon in California.

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. Laureano Gherardi at lau.gherardi@berkeley.edu.

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

Links & Resources