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Berkeley Connect: Big ideas, cupcakes and fun

According to Michele Rabkin, associate director of the Berkeley Connect mentoring program, students from all majors have one interest in common: cupcakes.

The community-building nature of Berkeley Connect means that participants are highly motivated by the chance to win treats for their classmates. Students who enter the “Student Voices Contest” share their favorite Berkeley Connect moments, and not only is the winning entry published on the Berkeley Connect blog, but Rabkin herself delivers cupcakes for everyone in the winner’s class.

What are students’ favorite Berkeley Connect moments? Students write about getting the chance to pursue their passions in a pressure-free environment, explore new career options and relax and de-stress. They also write about finding new friends, realizing that professors are human too, feeling less alone and gaining a sense of belonging at UC Berkeley.

These experiences reflect the goals of Berkeley Connect, which is designed to help students meet like-minded peers; become more comfortable approaching professors; learn about campus resources and career paths and, most importantly, increase their sense of belonging and confidence they can succeed at Berkeley.

Open to all students, regardless of major, Berkeley Connect matches undergraduates with graduate students who serve as their personal mentors for the semester, and places them in small groups with students who share their interests. Participants receive one unit of academic credit, but this is not a traditional class — there are no homework assignments, papers or tests. Graduate students lead dinnertime discussion groups and one-on-one mentoring sessions, inviting students to delight in intellectual pursuits, and even to envision how their interests might lead to careers after graduation.

Parents and students alike are enthusiastic about the program, which makes Berkeley seem smaller and more intimate. Over 90% of participants say they would recommend Berkeley Connect to a friend. The program currently serves about 2,000 students a year; the long-term goal is to expand so that every student can have a Berkeley Connect experience.

Created with a foundational gift from Peter Chernin ’73, Berkeley Connect has grown as a result of donor support. Expressing her gratitude for the support of the Cal Parents Fund, Rabkin notes that parents understand what a tremendous difference Berkeley Connect makes for their children, as they seek community and guidance to help them navigate all that Berkeley has to offer.

Learn more about this innovative and uniquely Berkeley program at


Woman with arm around younger woman

Berkeley Connect Associate Director Michele Rabkin with contest winner Arelli Adams

Girl with knit cap and second girl without smiling

Contest winner Taylor Chan (left) wrote about finding a new friend

Group of students holding up cupcakes

Surina Gulati (center) won cupcakes for her Berkeley Connect classmates

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