FPF Instructors

Background image: Instructor teaching in front of a white board
Image credit:
Andrew Guest

People who love teaching first-year students

We have an amazing team of instructors who are passionate about teaching first-year students at Berkeley. Our instructors are dedicated, accessible and knowledgeable, and many of them have taught or currently teach on the main campus. Coming from a wide range of disciplines, they help students make interdisciplinary connections in the classroom. They also work closely with the FPF advisors to provide students with a holistic and high-impact learning experience.

FPF instructors hold regular office hours and teach their own discussion sections to build relationships with their students. Year after year, our students have expressed that their instructors are one of the highlights of their first semester. A few are highlighted below.

Featured Instructors

Select the name of the featured instructor to read more about them.

Headshot of instructor Arun Sharma

Arun Sharma

At first glance, FPF instructor Arun Sharma seems to have one of the most difficult jobs. He teaches calculus to students who need to fulfill a requirement and who may have no particular interest in the subject.

But after talking with Arun, it's clear that he has a great job. He’s not merely teaching calculus, a set of formulas that need to be memorized. But he's teaching a fascinating way of thinking that can open up other ways of comprehending material. This may be in math, science, English Lit, and the list goes on.

Courses: Mathematics 1A—Calculus (4 units)

Headshot of instructor Catherine Hollis

Catherine Hollis

A Berkeley graduate herself, Catherine Hollis is no stranger to English R1B.

She's been teaching this R&C class for the past 22 years now! And while she has seen different types of students enter her classroom, Hollis keeps one thing consistent: face-to-face discussions about the material at hand.

Courses: English R1B—Reading and Composition (4 units)

Headshot of instructor Kenneth Worthy

Kenneth Worthy

Kenneth Worthy is that rare combination of dedicated environmentalist, writer and teacher.

His course material connects students to real-world issues: access to natural resources and environmental preservation.

Courses: Environmental Science Policy and Management 50AC—Introduction to Culture and Natural Resource Management (4 units)

Headshot of instructor Richie Kim

Richie Kim

When you attend Richie Kim’s Philosophy classes, don’t expect to be memorizing theories on self, thought, id and ego.

Don’t expect to use the same learning and test-taking habits that got you through high school.

*Additional Article: A Life-Changing Class

What you should expect is to use your brain.

Courses: Philosophy 2—Individual Morality and Social Justice (4 units)

Instructor Seth Lunine

Seth Lunine

Every spring, The American Cultures (AC) Center at UC Berkeley selects two recipients for the AC Excellence in Teaching Award.

This award recognizes “individual faculty’s exemplary teaching in the American Cultures curriculum.”

In 2020, our Dr. Seth Lunine, who teaches Geography 50AC: California, was honored in a virtual award ceremony.

Courses: Geography 50AC—California (4 units)

Alex Craghead

Courses: American Studies 10—Introduction to American Studies (4 units)
Alex Craghead is a curator, photographer, and historian who writes about the intersection of technology, representation, and landscape, with a special focus on urban design, transportation, and photography. Alex holds a Ph.D. in architectural history and teaches for both the Geography department and the Program in American Studies at UC Berkeley.

Ami Zins

Courses: Rhetoric 2—Fundamentals of Public Speaking (2 units)
Ami Zins (she/her) has an extensive background in film production, directing over a dozen theatrical productions with social justice themes. Her love for non-fiction podcasts led her to her passion for supporting people to become powerful, authentic, confident public speakers! Ami currently serves as board chair of Women in Film SF Bay Area (women-led/gender inclusive), supporting experienced and new filmmakers, producing events, and providing workshops. Ami occasionally tells stories at The Moth live performances.

Aparajita Nanda

Courses: English R1B—Reading and Composition (4 units), Gender and Women's Studies 50AC—Gender in American Culture (3 units)
Aparajita Nanda, recipient of a Visiting Associate Professorship to the University of California, Berkeley, is on the executive committee of the Modern Language and Literature Association (MLA). Her recent edited and co-edited book publications include Black California, The Strangled Cry: The Communication and Experience of Trauma, Romancing the Strange, Ethnic Literatures and Transnationalism, and God is Change: Religious Practices and Ideology in the Works of Octavia Butler. She has published several book chapters in edited volumes and her articles appear in peer-reviewed journals, including “Callaloo,” “Ariel,” “Subjectivity,” and “GRAMMA: Journal of Theory and Literary Criticism” while her academic treatises (by invitation) appear in Oxford African American Studies.

Arun Sharma

Courses: Mathematics 1A—Calculus (4 units) , Mathematics 16A—Analytic Geometry and Calculus (3 units)
Arun Sharma specializes in Combinatorics and has a Math Ph.D. from UC Berkeley.

Arunima Paul

Courses: GWS10—Introduction to Gender and Women’s Studies (4 units)
Arunima Paul's preferred pronouns are she/her/hers. She teaches Gender Studies, American Film and Ethnicity, Feminist Avant-garde Cinema, and Literature and Composition. Her teaching locates literary and visual representation at the heart of social understanding of histories of empire, race, gender, ethnicity, and indigeneity. Her doctoral research focused on how economic and cultural Liberalization enabled newer and more ambivalent notions of modernity and provinciality in Bombay cinema. In her classroom, she seeks to enable transformative encounters with texts through close reading and discussion.

Balthazar I. Beckett

Courses: English R1A—Reading and Composition (4 units)
Balthazar I. Beckett (he/them) holds a PhD from the City University of New York, Graduate Center. He specializes in 20th and 21st-century American literature with a focus on urbanity and multiculturalism.

Bonnie Rauscher

Courses: Integrative Biology 33—The Age of Dinosaurs (3 units)
Bonnie Rauscher (she/her) specializes in vertebrate paleontology, especially dinosaurs and mammals. She got her M.A. at UC Berkeley

Catherine Hollis

Courses: English R1B—Reading and Composition (4 units)
Catherine Hollis (she/her) holds a Ph.D. from UC Berkeley’s English department. She writes about mountains, Virginia Woolf, Emma Goldman, and a dog named Buff—but not all at the same time. She likes to talk about dystopian novels and films with her students in order to find the seeds of a better world through friendship, community, and social justice.

Cathleen Small

Courses: English R1A—Reading and Composition (4 units)
Cathleen Small (she/her) earned a bachelor's degree in English from Arizona State University and a master's degree in English from California State University Sacramento. In her course of study, Cathleen focused on contemporary American literature. She has worked as a writer, editor, and teacher for nearly two decades. Her current interests include disability rights and the works of marginalized groups.

Daniel Ayala

Courses: College Writing R1A—Accelerated Reading and Composition (6 units)
Daniel Ayala (he/him) is a highly experienced composition instructor who has had the pleasure of living and teaching throughout the United States. Drawing upon an extensive multidisciplinary academic and professional background, Daniel encourages students to develop new connections and expand ideas through an iterative, recursive writing process. In his work teaching R1A, Daniel aims to provide an engaging introduction to the world of ideas that students will encounter during their undergraduate education. His selection of readings introduces students to the diverse intellectual traditions of the humanities, including imaginative, expository, and argumentative texts. Daniel is passionate about guiding students through this transformative stage of their academic journey, striving to cultivate a spirit of curiosity and love of learning that students will carry into the future.

Derrick Smith

Courses: Mathematics 1B—Calculus (4 units)
Pronouns: Subjective - he, Objective- him, Possessive - his, and Reflexive - himself. Derrick Smith loves math and hopes you will too after taking one of my classes. He looks forward to meeting you.

Devin Leigh

Courses: Global Studies 10B—Critical Issues in Global Studies (3 units)
Devin Leigh (he/him) is a teacher and researcher who lives and works in the Bay Area. He holds degrees in History from DePaul University Chicago (BA), Loyola University Chicago (MA), and the University of California, Davis (PhD). He currently teaches History and Global Studies at the University of San Francisco and the University of California at Berkeley. His scholarship focuses on connections between Great Britain, West Africa, and the Caribbean in the eighteenth century.

Dolores McElroy

Courses: Film R1B—The Craft of Writing: Film Focus (4 units)
Dolores McElroy is a Lecturer in the Film & Media Department at UC Berkeley. She is currently working on a book manuscript titled Passionate Failures: The Diva Onscreen. Her most recent work, a chapter called “Arias for an Untold Want: The Queer Desire of the Diva Film,” appears in the Oxford Handbook of Queer Cinema, edited by Ronald E. Gregg and Amy Villarejo. She holds a PhD in Film & Media from UC Berkeley, and a Master’s Degree in Film Studies from Columbia University.

Emily West

Courses: Film 50—Film for Non-majors: California in the Cinematic Imagination (4 Units)
Emily West (she/her) teaches film theory, film genre (science fiction and romantic comedy), television history, and special topics in contemporary media (the Anthropocene, ecocritical cinemas, the attention economy) in the Department of Film & Media at UC Berkeley. She is a Cal alum with a PhD from the Department of Rhetoric, where she studied 19th- and 20th-century theories of visual culture, cinema, and art history. She lives in Richmond, CA with her husband and dogs.

Felicia Darling

Courses: Mathematics 32—Precalculus (4 units)
Dr. Felicia Darling (she/her) has a PhD in Math Ed from Stanford University and a Fulbright Scholarship for her ethnographic research in the Yucatán. Felicia believes everyone can be a powerful math learner. Also, she is a mental health advocate. She is author of Empathy Unchained: Heal Your Trauma, Uplift the World, the Empathy Unchained DEIA Conversation Deck, Teachin' It!, and the Professor Funnies. She teaches inclusive Yoga and meditation.

Francesca Rivera

Courses: Music 26AC—Music in American Culture (4 units)
Francesca Rivera (she/her/ella) has been part of UC Berkeley’s community since 1995 and with FPF since 2019. Undergraduate studies at Sarah Lawrence College, graduate studies at UC Berkeley in the Music Department. Francesca is an ethnomusicologist, and her research interests include ethno-racial formations and nationalism, multi-sensory engagements with music, and Caribbean and Latin American traditional and popular musics. She received the STAR Award and was nominated for Chancellor's Outstanding Staff and Faculty Award.

Gary Richards

Courses: Anthropology 1—Introduction to Biological Anthropology (4 units)
Gary Richards has a Ph.D. from UC Berkeley and specializes in Paleoanthropology, Primate Craniofacial Anatomy, and Human Anatomy

James Smiley

Courses: Molecular and Cell Biology 32—Introduction to Human Physiology (3 units)
James Smiley (he/him) Doctorate; Idiosyncratic Amalgamation in Improving Medical Diagnosis; Association of American Medical Colleges, academic member.

Jennifer Edwell

Courses: English R1A—Reading and Composition (4 units), English R1B—Reading and Composition (4 units)
Jennifer Edwell (she/her) earned a BA in English from The Ohio State University, a Masters in Theological Studies from the Methodist Theological School in Ohio, and a PhD in English Rhetoric and Composition from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She studies the historical convergence of religion and medicine, and she is super interested in how we talk about religion in the United States today. She loves teaching writing to science majors.

Joe Horton

Courses: College Writing R1A—Accelerated Reading and Composition (6 units)
Joseph Horton teaches R1A in the Fall Program for First Semester at UC Berkeley. He is also a Continuing Lecturer at UC Davis. He is formerly interim director of the English Department Writing Program at the University of Michigan. A Pushcart Prize nominee, his recent fiction and nonfiction has appeared with Ploughshares, Midwestern Gothic, the Colorado Review and TIME magazine. He is also playwright-in-residence with Savio(u)r Theatre Company, and his plays have been nominated for six Off West End Awards in London, including Best New Play. He previously worked for the PBS NewsHour in Washington, DC and Ketchum Pleon PR in London. He has been a Sozopol Fiction Fellow and Writer-in-Residence with Dine' College on the Navajo Nation.

Jonathan Rowan

Courses: College Writing R1A—Accelerated Reading and Composition (6 units)
Jonathan Rowan has a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from UC Berkeley. He wrote his dissertation on lifelikeness in fiction, focussing on novels by Marcel Proust, Jane Austen, Vladimir Nabokov, and James Joyce. He has published a solution to a notorious enigma in Ulysses: the identity of the “man in the macintosh.”

Jonathon Whooley

Courses: Political Science 2—Introduction to Comparative Politics (4 units)
Jonathon Whooley (he/him) teaches at UC Berkeley and is a full time lecturer at San Francisco State University. He specializes in gender, extremism, terrorism, and cyber and covert political warfare. He has written a book on US foreign policy and is currently coauthoring a book on internet governance. He has two little black kittens named Leo and Coco.

Julie Morfee

Courses: English R1A—Reading and Composition (4 units)
Julie Morfee (she/her) holds three degrees in Comparative Literature from UC Berkeley. She reads English French and Spanish and her graduate work specialized in 20th century poetry in those languages. A wheelchair user, she also enjoys 19th century gothic literature and works that champion diversity. She gave a live remote presentation for the Summer Speakers’ Series at Louisa May Alcott‘s Orchard House titled “Celebrations of Wildness, Not Wickedness in Louisa May Alcott’s Writing and Life“

Juliet Kunkel

Courses: English R1A—Reading and Composition (4 units)
Juliet Kunkel (she/her) has a PhD from UC Berkeley and studies the complicity of institutions like UC Berkeley in the eugenics movement, settlement, imperialism, and the formation of modern policing.

Kenneth Worthy

Courses: Environmental Science Policy and Management 50AC—Introduction to Culture and Natural Resource Management (4 units)
Kenneth Worthy is a Ph.D. Lecturer, Chancellor's Public Scholar, Creative Discovery Fellow, and teaches at the University of California, Berkeley and St. Mary’s College of California. His scholarly interests are in environmental philosophy, culture, ethics, history, and psychology. His research and reviews have been published in books, articles, and an encyclopedia. His book Invisible Nature: Healing the Destructive Divide between People and the Environment explores the underlying causes of global environmental crisis. In early 2023 Dr. Worthy spent two months studying challenges and successes for environmental and social sustainability in Bali, Indonesia.

Mahmood Monshipouri

Courses: Geography 4—World Peoples and Cultural Environments (4 units)
Mahmood Monshipouri has a Ph.D. and is a Professor of International Relations at San Francisco State University and a lecturer at FPF and Global Studies/International and Area Studies at UC Berkeley, where he teaches Middle East Politics as well as a course entitled, “Climate Change, Migration, Refugees, and Human Rights.” He is the author, most recently, of In the Shadow of Mistrust: The Geopolitics and Diplomacy of US-Iran Relations, the editor of Why Human Rights Still Matter in Contemporary Global Affairs, and the author of Middle East Politics: Changing Dynamics. His recent essays have appeared in The Middle East Journal, Middle East Policy, Human Rights Quarterly, Seton Hall Journal of Diplomacy and International Relations, and The Maghreb Review, and Insight Turkey. He is currently working on a book tentatively entitled Climate Change, Environmental Rights, and Forced Migration in the Middle East. He is the recipient of the 2022 Distinguished Scholar of the Year at San Francisco State University.

Rachel Schmale

Courses: Psychology 1—General Psychology (3 units)
Rachel Schmale (she/her) specializes in Developmental psychology and Language acquisition Education and Training. She has a B.A. in Psychology and Spanish and Portuguese, UC Berkeley M.S. & Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology, Purdue University Professional Work. Dr. Schmale worked as a Professor of Psychology at a small liberal arts university in Chicago, Illinois for 10 years where she taught a variety of psychology courses and conducted research on the mechanisms underlying how infants accommodate variability in foreign accent and dialect. She relocated to California and has been teaching at Cal since 2021. She is passionate about pedagogy and is incredibly proud to return to her alma mater as an educator.

Rebecca Whittington

Courses: South and Southeast Asian Studies R5A—Self, Representation, and Nation (4 units)
Rebecca Whittington (she/her) specializes in linguistic diversity and social/environmental justice in South Asian literatures. She completed her PhD in SSEAS from UC Berkeley in 2019 and two Fulbright-Nehru senior research grants in India. She is a literary translator from Tamil, Bangla, and Hindi. She has published a translation of a memoir by Noorjahan Bose, Daughter of the Agunmukha.

Richie Kim

Courses: Philosophy 2—Individual Morality and Social Justice (4 units), Philosophy 3—The Nature of Mind (4 units)
Richie Kim (he/him/his) has taught philosophy at Stanford, UC Berkeley, and the University of San Francisco. In 2020, he received Stanford’s Centennial Teaching Assistant Award in philosophy and UC Berkeley’s Inspirational Instructors Award. He received a PhD in philosophy from Stanford.

Rodolfo J. Alaniz

Courses: History 30—Science and Society (4 units)
Rodolfo J. Alaniz (he/him) History and Philosophy of Science; BS Genetics (UW-Madison), MA/PhD Science Studies (UC-San Diego). Dr. Alaniz studies the creation and consumption of biological evidence in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Samantha Gervase

Courses: History 7B (AC)—The United States From Civil War to Present (4 units)
Samantha Gervase. (she/her) did her undergrad at UC Berkeley (Go Bears!) and Grad at UCLA. Her research interests include the diversity of the 19th century American South and West. She is also interested the Gilded Age and the rise of the American experience.

Sarah Herbold

Courses: English R1B—Reading and Composition (4 units)
Sarah Herbold (she/her) is a longtime literature and writing instructor at UC Berkeley who loves working with first-year students. She is a rigorous instructor who dedicates herself to working closely with students to help them acquire the reading and writing skills they need to succeed in their studies. She earned her doctorate in Comparative Literature at UC Berkeley in 1998. Besides books, she loves music, nature, cooking, and having parties.

Seema Singh Saharan

Courses: Statistics 2—Introduction to Statistics (4 units)
Seema Singh Saharan, Ph.D.(Statistics focused on Data Science) (She/her/hers) teaches at UC Berkeley Extension, California State university and other local colleges. She previously served as a software engineer and is now a UCSF postdoctoral scholar. Her pioneering AI research employing Big Data in medical and health economics results in saving lives and cutting costs. She has published across esteemed journals such as Elsevier and IEEE, and more. She obtained her Ph.D. degree in Statistics focused on Data Science

Seth Lunine

Courses: Geography 50AC—California (4 units)
Seth Lunine (he/him/his) focuses on cities and suburbs; race and ethnicity; economic geography; landscape studies; the SF Bay Area, California, and the American west. He got his B.A., Geography, from the University of California, Berkeley; M.A., Geography, California State University, Northridge; Ph.D., Geography, University of California, Berkeley. He has participation in the American Cultures Engaged Scholarship Program (ACES), which has enhanced his teaching and expanded his exploration of issues of power, race, and class in the Bay Area.

Sharon Coleman

Courses: English R1A—Reading and Composition (4 units)
Sharon Coleman (she/they) B.A. Comparative Literature, U.C.B., M.A./M.F.A. Poetics, New College of California. She specializes in contemporary poetry, creative process, French and Yiddish literature, translation, and Surrealism. She is the co-director of the Berkeley Poetry Festival. You can learn more about her writing at sharoncolemanpoetry.com. In September 2022, they received the Maverick Award from the Ruth Weiss Foundation for their poetry.

Sima Belmar

Courses: XTDPS 52AC
Sima Belmar (she/her) holds a Ph.D. in Performance Studies from UC Berkeley and an M.F.A. in Dance from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. Her research foci include the relationship between dance, talk, and gesture in North American concert dance, Dance in Popular Film and Television, Somatic Theory/Practice/Pedagogy, Performance and Phenomenology, and embodied research methods. Sima is also a dance writer and podcaster.

Siri Brown

Courses: Ethnic Studies 21AC—A Comparative Survey of Racial and Ethnic Groups in the United States (4 units)
Dr. Siri Brown holds an M.A. in African American Studies and Ph.D. in U.S. History with an emphasis in Early American, African American and U.S. Women’s history from The Ohio State University. Her research centers on the racialized legal and social resistance to violence against women. She is a two-time Fulbright recipient of a research project on the African cultural heritage of Salvador Bahia, Brazil (2012) where she focused on the role of African spirituality in the history of resistance to slavery in that region, and South Africa (2019) where the focus of the project was on post-apartheid resistance and justice movements.

Srijani Ghosh

Courses: English R1B—Reading and Composition (4 units)
Srijani Ghosh (she/her) holds a Ph.D. in English from Michigan State University. Her research primarily focuses on popular women’s fiction. Her work has appeared in The Journal of Popular Culture, Popular Culture Review, Women’s Studies, English Studies, and South Asian Popular Culture. She loves teaching at FPF and looks forward to it every year!

Stephen Andrews

Courses: Earth and Planetary Science (Geology) 20—Earthquakes in Your Backyard (3 units), Earth and Planetary Science (Geology) 80—Environmental Earth Sciences: Soils (3 units)
Stephen Andrews (he/him) specializes in soil science, natural resources management, and anthropogenic environmental change. He enjoys teaching first semester students

Wendy Muse Sinek

Courses: Political Science 1—Introduction to American Politics (4 units), Political Science 2—Introduction to Comparative Politics (4 units)
Dr. Wendy Muse Sinek (she/her) • Ph.D., Political Science, UC-Berkeley; M.A. International Policy Studies, Middlebury Institute; B.A. Sociology, Mercer University • American Politics, Comparative Politics, Social Movements in Comparative Perspective, Latin American Politics, U.S. Policy in Latin America • She is fascinated by the potential and limitations of collective action, and her academic research in this area has taken her to Ecuador, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, and Brazil. • FPF students are the best! I look forward to teaching in the program every year.

Yasmin Syed

Courses: Ancient Greek and Roman Studies 10A (formerly known as Classics 10A)—Introduction to Greek Civilization (4 units)
Yasmin Syed (she/her) is from Germany. She specializes in Latin Literature (She has written a book on Vergil's epic poem 'Aeneid' and is currently writing a book about Ovid's epic poem 'Metamorphoses'); education: MA from Freie Universität Berlin, PhD in Ancient Greek and Roman Studies from UC Berkeley. She has taught AGRS at Berkeley, Stanford, Ohio State University and the Freie Universität Berlin.