International House Traveler Spring Quarter 2016
Director’s Letter Dear I-House friends and colleagues, This is always a bittersweet time of year for me, the I-House staff, and for many of us. On one hand we’re all sad because many of the people who have become our close friends are either graduating or returning to their home countries. Yet on the other hand we also celebrate your accomplishments because you are graduating or moving back to the many countries you came from. And you are all moving on to your next exciting and worthwhile adventures. Several years ago I-House was fortunate to have Dr. Jaime Pineda, a renowned cognitive scientist, give a presentation at Sunday Supper about the lasting impact of our experiences. Dr. Pineda’s shared, with absolute scientific certainty, that our experiences are genetically encoded and as a result the people you associate with change you and who you are. Consider what that means for all of us here in I-House – 350 students from 40 countries! Three hundred and fifty different personalities influenced and shaped by forty nationalities, forty cultures, forty languages (if not even more), and even within those 40 countries are even greater regional variations in culture. The richness of that cultural and intellectual variation is near limitless. My previous work (in international public health and development) used to require me to travel and live all over the world. I always enjoyed going off to new places but I also always disliked leaving places. But you cannot go somewhere until you leave where you are. You are moving on to where you are meant to be and do what you are meant to be doing. We are grateful, even blessed, to have had the opportunity to share our lives with each other. Please keep in touch with us and each other. Let us know where you are and how you are doing. Thank you for being a part of I-House and for sharing yourselves with us. With respect and great admiration, Henri Migala, Ed.D., M.P.H. Director, UCSD I-House
Global Forum This year’s Global Forum events were all thematically linked to the idea of ‘global citizenship’. Our goal was to take a phrase that we hear all the time—on campus, in our communities, on the news—and pause to really consider what it means for us as individuals, as part of a university community, and as residents of San Diego, California, and the US, to be global citizens. Throughout the year we heard perspectives from our campus colleagues, from local activists and organizers, and from international visitors whose experiences modeled pathways to global citizenship. We learned from campus colleagues like Prof. Denise Ducheny who work with cross-border environmental justice that the local and the global are deeply intertwined and thoroughly overlapping. Local activists and organizers who work with resettled refugee populations in San Diego like Elizabeth Lou of Nile Sisters, showed us that how ‘flat’ the globe is depends on who is mapping it, and that access to ‘citizenship’ is shaped by long histories of inclusion and exclusion of racialized and gendered groups from power. International visitors like Namibian peace activist Pauline Dempers, also taught us how those of us who have access to the privileges of not only global but local citizenship can use that access to create opportunities for communities who have been denied those privileges. At the end of the year, we don’t quite have one concrete answer to ‘what is global citizenship?’ because we know that there are many, many modes of experiencing it – that it looks different in the middle of the economic turmoil of austerity-torn Greece than it does for the residents of the Marshall Islands who continue to deal with the literal and metaphorical fallout from nuclear testing on their homelands in the 1950s or than it does for an Eritrean-born American Olympic medalist. But we do know that global citizenship means that all these experiences are interconnected – that we are connected to all of them and that the geographies that might separate us are superseded by the histories that are drawing us together. - Global Forum Fellow, Vineeta Singh
I-House S I-House Spotlight: Chris Johnson, I-House and ERC Landscaper With this issue we introduce a new feature of The Travler: I-House Spotlight. We are starting this feature because of the exceptional accomplishments and dedication of the person who warrents our first spotlight: Mr. Chris Johnson, the I-House and ERC Landscaper. Chris’s educationally innovative horticultural work indeed exemplifies the University’s resolve to make the campus a “student-centered, research-focused, serviceoriented” public institution, and it is all the more impressive that he has done so almost entirely on the strength of his own personal resources. Chris has been working as a groundskeeper for ERC Housing for six years. During that time he worked with students to create the College’s first student garden, now affectionately known as “Ellie’s Garden”. Chris worked with ERC students to extend the plan over the next 3 years, helping them to design, build, and maintain two additional student gardens (“Ellie’s Farm” and “Ellie’s Backyard”) within the ERC complex. Most recently Chris has started ERC’s newest garden aptly called “Ellie’s Savage Garden” – an exhibit of 6 different carnivorous plants (viewable in the Student Activities Center). Thanks to his passion for environmental education, areas that were once uninspiring and vacant spaces are today thriving gardens that serve as models for student activity and creativity, hands-on education, and social engagement. Each quarter, students in ERC’s Garden Club harvest and prepare a hearty meal which they serve in Ellie’s Garden to any student who stops by. 150 students enjoyed both the meal and the educational experience this (Winter) quarter. The remaining vegetables are harvested and donated to the on-campus Food Pantry. Chris continues to serve as the Staff Advisor to the students who maintain the three gardens, thereby fostering an important link between students and staff while providing effective mentoring in environmental stewardship. I should note that Chris does this almost exclusively in his spare time. His botanical knowledge is extraordinary and belied by his modest and engaging demeanor. Aside from his work with the three gardens, Chris is currently leading a movement to establish an arboretum at UCSD. The project is drawing growing broad-based support from students, staff, faculty, and administration. The innovative facility that his proposal envisages focuses on sustainability and features four main components: a composting center, a food forest, a nursery for trees and drought tolerant plants for the campus, and recreational areas that require no water or power. The arboretum would provide a living laboratory for UCSD faculty, staff and students to engage in applied “hands on” learning in sustainability. Once established, Chris hopes that schools such as Lincoln High and the Preuss School will also regularly explore the arboretum and benefit from the lesson it teaches about sustainability.
Spotlight Global Forum As an expression of his passion and commitment to this effort, Chris continues to propagate hundreds of trees and xeriphytic plants. While going about his daily responsibilities and duties on the grounds of the campus, he collects and grows Torrey Pines seeds. He sells the healthy little seedlings on Earth Day with the hope that students and faculty will plant them around campus. Proceeds from the sales of these and other seedlings help support the UCSD Staff Sustainability Network (SSN). A Lifetime Member of the SSN, Chris’s vision and track record exemplify the organization’s promise to “serve as a hub that strives to foster sustainability efforts on campus and in the local community by: 1. 2. 3.
Bringing awareness, transparency, and collaboration to existing sustainability efforts; Providing support in pursuing new opportunities for positive impact; Connecting faculty, staff, students, alumni, and community members with similar eco-passions.”
Chris also serves as an important mentor to students in the Urban Studies and Planning field research practicum. Students rely on him for insights into green infrastructure and have produced videos that showcase his horticultural expertize and indispensable contribution to campus agriculture. Chris played a key role in helping the Urban Studies and Planning Program imagine its recently-established Center for Sustainability, Science, Planning and Design. The goal of the Center is to create on-campus research opportunities for undergrads and graduate students who are interested in landscape, ecology and green design. The integration of groundskeeping and academic activities is a rare and salutary accomplishment that contributes to a sense of community amongst staff, students and academics at UCSD. In addition to his most welcoming, kind and gentle nature, Chris’ efforts have been self-funded. Moreover, he also voluntarily comes onto campus on almost every Saturday to help students maintain ERC’s three gardens. Even more remarkably, Chris clocks in each day hours before his shift formally begins. Such generosity expresses his passionate resolve to help UCSD achieve its goals with regard to Carbon Neutrality, Zero Waste, and Community Engagement while fueling the Global Food Initiative to boot. Chris’s environmentalism ably embodies, and in fact pre-dates UC San Diego’s commitment to become a “student-centered, research-focused, service-oriented” campus. His practical contributions ensure that the campus will remain a leader in each of these endeavors. It is hard to imagine a more deserving person with whom to initiate our I-House Spotlight.
I-House Spotlight Comments from students “Chris is one of the most wonderful people I’ve met since coming to UCSD. Since first meeting him through Ellie’s Garden 2 years ago, he has taught me so much about gardening and about the environment, but also so much besides that. He genuinely cares both about the students and about the impact we have on the earth and it shows in what he has helped pursue and bring to life. I am so thankful to have him as our ‘Garden Guru.’” “Chris has been one of my most influential mentors in college, and that includes all of the faculty and academic staff that I interact with on a daily basis. He is intelligent, good-natured, and kind, and nothing seems to bring him more joy than sharing his knowledge of the world with others. If I had my way, it would be Chris and not the Chancellor who would be the highest paid employee of the UC system. Chris, I have so much love and respect for you, thanks for everything that you do to make this campus my home.” “Chris is truly a special person and role model who takes compassion to new heights with his infectious wisdom, smile, and laugh. Chris dedicates countless hours in his effort to share the beauty and fun of sustainability with students, making UCSD a more compassionate place.” “Chris has been one of the nicest people I’ve met at UCSD. His compassionate, welcoming attitude has made Ellie’s Garden and ERC a home for me and many other students. He does so much for Ellie’s Garden and for the sustainability groups on campus. I know the campus is certainly better because of him, and he is always cheering people up with his great jokes!”
Compassion Week Global Forum Over the course of week 8, I-House launched its very first annual Compassion Week! Here was our mission: Compassion is needed in our global community in order to understand and connect with each other - on the diplomatic level as well as the individual level. Often we can become consumed by our hectic lives and forget the importance of self-compassion too. But it is only when we are at our full health and happiness that we can be fully ready to tackle the challenges life inevitably hands us. Kindness is a powerful tool, but often underestimated. Through various events, Compassion Week aims to promote a beautifully simple, but tremendously overlooked idea: Compassion is power. And it really is, compassion has so much power. Especially in the context of so many issues we’re facing today as global citizens: terror threats, war, global warming, the refugee crisis. Sadly the list goes on. Luckily we can look to members of the global community who have shown compassion in these tough times. Whether it’s Justin Trudeau, the Canadian prime minister, effortlessly welcoming Syrian refugees into Canada, or Antoine Leiris responding to the terrorists who claimed his wife in this Paris attacks, by saying ‘I will not give you the gift of hating you’. Hate is easy, compassion is strength. That said, when we think of compassion we usually associate it with kind acts towards others. But what about applying compassion to ourselves? Without question we all need to be strong when tackling global issues, but how can we tackle issues so monumental when we as individuals often tend to keep our voices so small, simply because we do not see the value in showing compassion to ourselves. And often this isn’t even our fault. We as a society have become used to the idea that in order to be above average, you have to exhaust yourself 110%. Why is this the case? Would it be such a ludicrous idea to say that doing well means actually looking after yourself? Because when we do that we are more ready to be global citizens. The Compassion Week events were open to everyone. Throughout the entirety of the week we invited people to send wishes to an Icelandic wish tree established by Yoko Ono, in memory of John Lennon, named the Imagine Peace Tower. People from all over the world have been sending in wishes to this tower. The Imagine Peace Tower is described as a ‘Tower of Light which emanates wisdom, healing and joy. It communicates awareness to the whole world that peace & love is what connects all lives on Earth.’ A stunning concept and the epitome of what we strived to here in I-House and across the campus. Other activities included the planting of the wish tree in Ellie’s garden to celebrate compassion to our earth and the environment, tabling on library walk and Great Relaxations (a free yoga and mindfulness morning offered by CAPS and UCSD Rec). Whether or not community members could attend some, none, or all of the events, we hoped that Compassion Week would encourage people to think about how Compassion Week is weaved into their lives. For now and in the future too. - I-House Program Intern, Sophie Ranson
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The Spring Quarter 2016 edition of the quarterly newsletter of International House, UC San Diego.