Santa Cruz Commons

Santa Cruz Commons opens a space for the collaboration of community activists
and activist academics who seek innovative solutions at the local level
to social and economic problems that seem intransigent in a national context.

Santa Cruz Commons brings activist faculty and community members together to find innovative local solutions to social problems that often seem intractable nationally.

Santa Cruz Commons was made possible by an Andrew Mellon Foundation Grant, which was awarded to Nancy Chen (Professor, Anthropology) and Helene Moglen (Research Professor, Literature) by the UC Humanities Research Institute. The award enabled heads of local non-profit agencies and members of the UCSC faculty to begin meeting in January 2012 to strategize about the creation of collaborative forms of research and social activism. It soon became clear that while progressive groups abound in Santa Cruz County, they are often invisible to one another and to the general public. Similarly, although many UCSC faculty are engaged in research that is relevant to community needs and interests, their research is often unfamiliar to community members and non-profit groups. For these reasons, participants decided they would make the progressive work of the campus and community visible at the same time that they defined organizational forms and areas of research to engage community problems and strengths, facilitate advocacy, and support partnerships to benefit the county and the university. They designated as their areas of focus alternative economies, environmental justice, housing, homelessness, health, criminal justice, immigration, education, and art and democracy.

Regina Day Langhout is at an associate professor of psychology and co-director of Santa Cruz Commons at the University of California at Santa Cruz. Her commitment to issues and concerns of social justice stems from her working class background and informs her study of empowerment and conscientización in educational and neighborhood settings. Her primary research takes place in an elementary school, where she directs an arts-centered youth Participatory Action Research program. So far, students in the program have created two community-based murals, a book on how to make a community-based mural, and a documentary film. One mural has won the Santa Cruz County Gold Award for best public art. She has published approximately 30 articles in community psychology, education, international, and interdisciplinary journals, with some work being translated into Italian. She is also an active member of her local community.

Helene Moglen is Research Professor of Literature and Co-Director of Santa Cruz Commons. For fifty years, as scholar, writer, teacher and administrator, she has worked for social justice in educational institutions and local communities. She has practiced an experimental pedagogy in undergraduate, graduate and community classrooms, helping students to find their voices and commitments. Although a literary critic, she has written extensively in cultural and feminist theory and about education and literacy. As Dean of Humanities, Provost of Kresge College and Chair of the Academic Senate, she advocated with administrators for policies and programs that are socially responsible and aware. Directing a Feminist Studies Research Group while chairing Women's Studies and directing the UCSC Women's Center, she established collaborative structures for academic feminists and community activists. Now, with Santa Cruz Commons, she can put the skills she has achieved at the service of the community's shared social vision._

Mike Rotkin is a former five-time Mayor of the City of Santa Cruz and was elected six times to the Santa Cruz City Council. Dr. Rotkin recently retired from teaching in the Community Studies Program at UCSC after 42 years. He currently works part-time as a union organizer within the UC system statewide and is engaged in a wide variety of political and community building efforts in Santa Cruz County.

Kyle McKinley is a lecturer in the Art Department, coordinator of the Social Practice Arts Research Center and an alumni of UCSC. He is the designer of the interactive interface of the Santa Cruz Commons website, which seeks to visualize the network of connections between the individuals and organizations that, taken as a whole, constitute a commons in Santa Cruz. When not teaching, parenting or making art, Kyle helps run Bike Church Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz Community Farmers Markets, and the Building Collective.

Martin Garcia is a PhD student in the Literature Department at UCSC and an analyst for Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors, District 4 office. He has worked on issues around drug prevention and reform, immigration and youth violence. He shares a particular desire to focus on collaborative activities between North and South County and the disjunctures therein.