The L&S Division of Undergraduate Studies is dedicated to creating and overseeing curricular and co-curricular programs that nurture rich intellectual relationships between faculty members and students. In the best tradition of a liberal arts education, our programs encourage students to explore new worlds of knowledge. Our programs and courses serve students in every college and school across campus at every stage of their undergraduate careers, from the initial years of intellectual exploration through the process of finding and pursuing an in-depth academic focus.
Hallmarks of the L&S liberal arts curriculum are the small-group freshman and sophomore seminars, the Big Ideas Courses that bring together prominent professors from divergent disciplines around a single vital concept, and the L&S Discovery Courses taught by legendary Berkeley faculty. These teaching jewels offer undergraduates in their initial years of intellectual exploration a great way to explore new and exciting fields of study.
The Berkeley faculty who teach in our programs are not only superb teachers, they are also distinguished experts in their fields. Our esteemed faculty include:
Saul Perlmutter received the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics. He led one of the two research teams that simultaneously discovered the accelerating expansion of the universe. He co-teaches the Big Ideas Course Sense & Sensibility & Science and has taught the L&S Discovery Course Physics and Music.
Courtney Dressing received the prestigious Packard Fellowship in Science and Engineering in 2019. Her research group is advancing the search for life on planets orbiting nearby stars. She co-teaches the L&S Discovery Course The Planets.
Michael J. Hindelang Award
Nikki Jones received the 2020 Michael J. Hindelang Award from the American Society of Criminology (ASC) for her book The Chosen Ones: Black Men and the Politics of Redemption. She co-teaches the Big Ideas Course Prison.
Randy Schekman received the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his role in revealing the machinery that regulates the transport and secretion of proteins in our cells. He teaches freshman seminars on Insulin as a Window on Discovery in Biology and The Challenge of Neurodegenerative Disease.
Michael Manga received a MacArthur “Genius Grant” Fellowship in 2005. He studies the geological processes that shape Earth’s surface. He teaches freshman seminars on The Day the World Exploded: The 1883 Eruption of Krakatoa, Geoscience in the Movies, and Geoscience in the News, and has taught the L&S Discovery Course The Planets.
American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Fellow
Whendee Silver, professor and the Rudy Grah Chair in environmental science, policy and management and faculty scientist at Berkeley Lab, was elected lifetime fellow of AAAS “for distinguished contributions to determine the biogeochemical effects of climate change and human impacts on the environment, and the potential for mitigating these effects.” She co-teaches the Big Ideas Course Climate Change and the Future of California.
Leadership and Team
Director, Curricular Engagement Initiatives
Aileen Liu is the Director of Curricular Engagement Initiatives. In this role, she oversees several campus-wide undergraduate programs, including On the Same Page, Big Ideas Courses, L&S Discovery Courses, Freshman and Sophomore Seminars, and L&S 1: Exploring the Liberal Arts. Her favorite places on campus are Morrison Library, the Dwinelle benches, the top of the Campanile (she learned to play the bells through the Carillon DeCal as a grad student), and Noon Concerts at Hertz Hall. She earned her BA in English from Duke University, and her PhD in English with a Designated Emphasis in Renaissance and Early Modern Studies from UC Berkeley.
Academic Engagement Policy Analyst
Heather Mäkiharju is the Academic Engagement Policy Analyst. In this role she oversees student program coordination and administration as well as curriculum planning and assessment. She has over a decade of experience working in higher education. Prior to joining the University of California, Berkeley, Heather held positions in the College of Engineering and the Medical School at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. In her free time, she enjoys running and indoor cycling. Heather earned her BA in Psychology & History from Mount Holyoke College and her MA in Higher Education Administration with a concentration in Academic Affairs & Student Development from the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor.
Executive Dean, College of Letters & Science
Jennifer Johnson-Hanks is a professor of demography and sociology. She is a cultural demographer with interests in fertility and family, epistemology, and the history of population thought. Her publications include the books Uncertain Honor: Modern Motherhood in an African Crisis; Understanding Family Change and Variation: Structure, Conjuncture, and Action; and a forthcoming book, How We Count: Why Quantitative Social Science Matters. Johnson-Hanks served as Chair of the Committee on Academic Planning and Resource Allocation and as Chair of the Berkeley Division of the Academic Senate. She received her undergraduate degree from UC Berkeley and her M.A. and Ph.D. from Northwestern University, all in anthropology.
Associate Dean for Programs & Planning, College of Letters & Science
Shannon Steen writes and teaches about race and performance, primarily in the intersection of the African American and Asian American worlds. She is the author most recently of Racial Geometries: The Black Atlantic, Asian Pacific, and American Theatre (Palgrave Macmillan, 2010; part of the Studies in International Performance Series), and is co-editor of AfroAsian Encounters: Culture, History, Politics (New York University Press, 2006). She has published articles in Theater Journal as well as Essays in Theater/Études Théâtrales. She is currently at work on her new project ReOrientations: California and the Performance of Cultural Location. She received her Ph.D. in Drama and Humanities, Stanford University.