Successful pilot helps reimagine undergraduate education
“If we are going to charge more for public education, we have to offer the best. Berkeley Connect raises the bar on excellence for undergraduates.”
Peter Chernin ’73 was a sheltered student from New York when he started at Berkeley. While the campus “exploded (his) universe socially and intellectually,” he says, it was tough to navigate. Years later, as a deeply engaged volunteer who seeks opportunities to make a difference on campus, Peter approached Berkeley about finding a solution.
The result — thanks to a significant gift from Peter and his wife, Megan — was the Chernin Mentoring Program, founded in the College of Letters & Science’s English department in 2010. Pairing students with faculty and graduate students, it offers one-on-one mentoring, small-group discussions, informal activities with professors, and, most notably, rigorous participation in an intellectual community.
“No other large research institution is attempting to create the nurturing, inclusive feel of a small college,” says Chernin.
One participant, Justin Park ’13, spent years in odd jobs and in the U.S. Navy before starting college. The program gave him “an immediate place to draw comfort from,” he says, and helped prepare him for a solid future. He is headed to Yale University for a Ph.D.
“I wouldn’t have had the courage or the motivation without it,” says Park.
Because of the program’s spectacular results — 97 percent of participants reported overall satisfaction — the campus expanded it in 2014 to 10 departments. Now called Berkeley Connect, it served more than 1,100 students during its first semester alone.
Plans are underway to further extend Berkeley Connect’s reach. In the meantime, it is already transforming the undergraduate experience.