First-Year Connect

Berkeley Connect is a mentoring program open to all students at UC Berkeley—thousands of students enroll each year. First-Year Connect is a specially designed version of Berkeley Connect for Freshmen Edge participants.

Through First-Year Connect you will be matched with a graduate student who will be your personal mentor for the summer. You will also be placed in a small group of your peers that will meet weekly for discussions facilitated by your mentor. Through one-on-one and group mentoring, you will start to build your intellectual community and support network at UC Berkeley.

The Berkeley Connect motto is “you belong here.” Students tell us that Berkeley Connect mentoring helps them connect with other students and with professors; increases their awareness of resources available to them on campus; and boosts their sense of confidence and belonging at UC Berkeley.

Learning in community is more fulfilling and effective than learning alone. We can’t wait to Connect with you!

Message from the Director

Catherine FlynnWelcome to First-Year Connect!

First-Year Connect is a new program that helps incoming freshmen find their feet at UC Berkeley before the semester begins. The program will help you to make a variety of campus connections: you will have a graduate student mentor who will offer you orientation and guidance. You will get to know some of your peers, as you convene with a small group of freshmen for weekly discussions. You will meet professors who will visit your group to talk with you about study and research at Berkeley. In addition to these connections, you’ll also learn about the various resources that are available to you on campus.

You’ll find that First-Year Connect provides relaxed and fun opportunities to build up your community at Berkeley and to think about how to make the most of your experience here. This program offers an on-ramp to the exciting array of opportunities for research and study at this university, helping you to orient yourself and strategize before the academic year begins.

Looking forward to meeting you—

Catherine Flynn
Faculty Director, First-Year Connect
Associate Professor of English

Program Description

At the heart of First-Year Connect is the relationship between you and your mentor. The First-Year Connect mentors are advanced graduate students, or recent PhDs, 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.

You will meet one-on-one with your mentor at least twice, once near the beginning of the session and once near the end. At these meetings you will be able to talk with your mentor about your goals and aspirations, your questions and concerns—anything you want related to your academic life.

Your mentor will also hold open mentoring hours every week, giving you additional opportunities to check in and make the most of his/her support and expertise throughout the session.

Your small group will meet every week for an hour-long discussion session facilitated by your mentor. Discussions will focus on exploring the research university environment and how you will chart your own path through it—how you will identify and connect with the people, places, and programs that can help you achieve your academic goals. The small group discussions are designed to build connections among students, so that each group becomes a supportive community.

First-Year Connect carries one unit of academic credit, and is offered Pass/Not Pass. In order to pass, you simply need to attend, participate, and complete the required surveys. First-Year Connect will not add to your study load or stress load. First-Year Connect will offer you opportunities for reflection, exploration, and connection as you begin your journey through UC Berkeley.


Catherine FlynnCatherine Flynnis an Associate Professor of English and faculty director of Berkeley Connect in English.

  • Where did you spend your childhood? In the countryside of Cork, Ireland.
  • Where did you go to college? What was your major? First architecture, at University College Dublin; later English and Philosophy, at University College Cork.
  • How would you describe your research in a sentence or two? I work on modernist literature in a European avant-garde context; I’m especially interested in how Irish writers absorb and develop European literary innovations.

Meet Your Mentor

Jeehyun ChoiJeehyun Choi is a PhD candidate in English.

  • Where did you spend your childhood? Seoul, South Korea.
  • Where did you go to college? What was your major? Brown University; English.
  • How would you describe your research in a sentence or two? I study Asian/American literature with a particular focus on Cold War histories, imperial formations, and the relation between literary form and history in Korean and Korean American literary contexts.

Donna HonarpishehDonna Honarpisheh is a PhD candidate in Comparative Literature.

Where did you grow up?

Montreal, CA and Bethesda MD

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

Sarah Lawrence College, we did not have majors but I focused in Literature, Film and Anthropology

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

My research focuses on 20th century modernist aesthetics from Iran and North Africa that approaches literary form as a way of illuminating elided histories.

Ana LyonsAna Lyons is a PhD candidate in Computational Biology.

Where did you grow up?

Stanwood, MI

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

MIT, Double Major Biology and Philosophy

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

I use a combination of wet lab techniques (proteomics, molecular biology, and microscopy) and computational methods to discover and characterize mechanisms that underly cold tolerance in the charismatic microscopic organisms known as tardigrades. Earlier in my PhD work, I conducted field work at McMurdo Station Antarctica, where I was able to collect especially cold-tolerance Antarctic tardigrade species firsthand.

Jessica SchirmerJessica Schirmer is a PhD candidate in Sociology.

Where did you grow up?

North Bergen, New Jersey

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

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Physics

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

I study how political parties, interest groups and ideas shaped federal housing policy from 1945 through the 2008 foreclosure crisis. My current project examines why policymakers abandoned federal credit and subsidized housing programs linked to national housing goals, and instead, focused on expanding the supply of mortgage credit in the 1980s and 1990s

Semester Plan

First-Year Connect Summer 2019 **DRAFT** Schedule

Details subject to change

WEEK 1 (week of July 8) Beginning the journey of discovery

  • Small-group discussion: What is mentoring and how can we seek mentors throughout our time at Cal?
  • Start-of-semester survey
  • Online reflection exercise

WEEK 2 (week of July 15) Taking advantage of opportunities at the research university

  • Small-group discussion: What makes a research university special and how can we best navigate the opportunities at Cal?
  • Online reflection exercise
  • One-on-one meetings with mentors
  • Field trip option #1: Berkeley Art Museum

WEEK 3 (week of July 22) Addressing challenges at the research university

  • Small-group discussion: What are common challenges encountered at a research university and how can we address them?
  • Online reflection exercise
  • Open mentoring hours

WEEK 4 (week of July 29) Getting to know the faculty and their stories

  • Small-group discussion: What are the best ways to get support from professors during our time at Cal?
  • Faculty guest speakers
  • Field trip option #2: Natural history museums
  • Online reflection exercise
  • Open mentoring hours

WEEK 5 (week of Aug 5) Creating your own discovery experience at Cal

  • Small-group discussion: What are opportunities to tailor our time at Cal through research, community engagement, entrepreneurship, or creative work?
  • Field trip option #3: Bancroft Library
  • Online reflection exercise
  • Open mentoring hours

WEEK 6 (week of Aug 12) Setting your goals and intentions

  • Small-group discussion: What are our goals and aspirations for the next leg of the journey at Cal?
  • One-on-one meetings with mentors
  • Online reflection exercise
  • Exit survey

How to Sign Up

First-Year Connect will take place during Summer Session D and is open to enrollment only to students participating in the Freshmen Edge program for newly-admitted freshmen. Weekly meetings will be held on Wednesdays at 5 pm and 6 pm. To sign up, enroll in a section of English 198BC offered during Session D.

If you would like to continue with Berkeley Connect during the academic year, you can enroll in Berkeley Connect (198BC) for the Fall or Spring during the regular course selection process. Berkeley Connect is offered through 14 different academic departments and is open to all students regardless of declared or intended major.

Contact Us

If you have additional questions about First-Year Connect, please contact:

Catherine Flynn, Faculty Director,

Michele Rabkin, Associate Director,, (510)664-4182