Berkeley English-Chernin Program

If you have anything to do with the university’s English department, you may have already heard of something called the Chernin Program. It’s a mentoring program held every semester for anyone interested in English and literature, as a major or otherwise. Undergraduate groups meet every other week in the evening with a graduate student leader to talk about everything under the sun, from particulars about the English major to the nature of reading in general. Students talk about broad topics that you can’t get into during class and questions that have been bugging them, like what the heck does the dialectic mean? If you don’t get to talk about what you want during your regular meeting, your graduate leader holds office hours every other week to answer questions. You can ask about the major, classes you should take, applying to graduate school, or literature itself. There’s no extra homework or reading, just a relaxed meeting of the minds that can make you feel smart in your free time while taking a break from classwork. There’s also free food, which is always a bonus for poor, hungry college students.

Besides these regular meetings, the program also gives opportunities to explore Berkeley’s resources. You can sign up for seminars to learn how to research things in the libraries and online databases, or you can tour the Bancroft Library’s collection of cool old stuff. Want to see one of the first editions of ‘Paradise Lost’, or ‘David Copperfield’? They have them, and you can gawk at them all you want with fellow bookworms. You can view these items otherwise as a student at Berkeley, but a few choice items such as a Shakespeare’s first portfolio are kept for special occasions like the mentoring program’s visits.

There is also a career panel held towards the end of the semester, answering that ever-elusive question of ‘what do I do with an English major?’ Contrary to all the unemployment and barista jokes surrounding the subject, there’s a lot you can do with an English degree, and the panelists that speak to students at this event explain what they did with theirs as Berkeley alums.

Basically, this whole program is a great way to explore what’s offered at our school and to get to know faculty in the department, as well as other students. You can learn about what’s available to you while making connections you may not have made before in such a big department. Plus, you get one unit for it, Pass/NP. Just show up, eat good food, talk, and get the credit!

If we’ve got you interested through this shameless advertisement, email [email protected] Tell them your name, SID, and if you’re an English major. Otherwise check the interest form on their website in December to sign up. They’ll send out information about how to enroll for next semester.

Happy English-ing!

Image source: Courtesy of the UC Berkeley English Deptarment

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