To kick off the Fall semester, Esther Madriz Scholars participate in a weekend retreat. Throughout the weekend, students learn about Esther’s legacy, reflect on their identity and engage in dialogue around living and learning as a community of leaders. Over the course of the weekend, we will play, laugh, and develop bonds that will sustain the community over the coming year.
Students also attend weekly community gatherings, or karamus, that are facilitated primarily by the RA and the community members. Karamu is a Swahili word generally referred to as "feast". For EMDS, we adapt the usage to reflect the celebratory gathering of our community to engage in reflection and discussion. As such, these meetings are a cross between a course “lab” and a club meeting. Karamus are an opportunity to process what you are learning in the classroom as well as work together to organize fundraising and community service activities. As part of karamu, students also attend off campus educational and cultural events.
In the Classroom
During the academic year, EMDS students take two classes — Social Problems and Community Organizing — that fulfill three graduation requirements: cultural diversity (CD), social science core, and service-learning (SL). During the Fall semester in Social Problems, we put our sociological imaginations to use to examine the ways that race ,class, gender, and sexuality intersect and structure our lives. The CD and social science core requirements are met during this class. In January we participate in an optional (but strongly encouraged) transborder experience. Then, in the spring semester, students enroll in Community Organizing and work with a community partner dedicated to social justice to create change in the Bay Area. The community organizing course fulfills the USF SL requirement.
Social Change Projects & "Fight the Power"
As part of this course, we ask, "How does social change happen? And what do we need to know to be effective change agents?" A major component for both courses is service learning. In this capacity students are expected to provide direct service as needed by our community partner, as well as act as a participant researcher, gathering data to help inform their understanding of the causes and consequences of social problems, activism, and social change. During the fall semester, students create social change projects that apply their learning to life at USF. One year students wrote, directed, acted and filmed a 40-minute feature film entitled SMOG which looked at how systems of oppression keep us from really seeing each other. In other years, students created a public art exhibit on Gleeson Lawn titled “Thinking inside the Box,” facilitated a USF day that brought local middle school students to the University, as well as organized a “Rock the Vote” event to encourage USF students to make their voices heard in the 2012 election
Recently EMDS students in conjuction with Esther Madriz Activist Scholars or EMAS have organized “Fight the Power.” This event brings together the USF community to educate and mobilize students to be agents of change in their own communities.
Transborder Experience (TBX)
The transborder experience that takes place during winter intercession. This travel-study experience is unique for several reasons. First, we intentionally travel to two locations and examine the same social problems from these different perspectives. Second, this experience provides an opportunity for us “cross a border” before the end of the program. In this way, the trip is not a culminating project, but an integral part of the year-long learning that informs the academic as well as service experience during spring semester. During each trip, students meet with scholars, student leaders, community leaders/activists (who may or may not be elected officials), and faith-based organizations to learn how to work as allies, as well as how to utilize various social change strategies. All of these features help break down the Us and Them, and the Global/Local divides that can hinder our role as engaged citizens in our global world. Previous locations include San Diego, CA – Tijuana, Mexico; New York, NY – San Juan, Puerto Rico, Atlanta, GA – New Orleans, LA and New York, NY—Marseilles France. During the 2013-2014 academic year, we will be going to Nicaragua.
The annual Esther Madriz dinner honors the memory of Dr. Esther Madriz, vivacious teacher, social activist and esteemed colleague. In honoring her life, the dinner also highlights her legacy, and how students like the Esther Madriz Diversity Scholars share her commitment to social justice and exemplify Esther’s spectacular gifts to USF and the world.