A look back at my first semester

For the past six weeks, I have been back in New York City and away from my life as a graduate student in San Francisco. This time has given me the opportunity to reflect on my first semester at USF, and try to readjust to my old life in NYC. I cannot help but make comparisons between life on the East and West Coast. I am relieved to be back in a city where I can wholly rely on public transportation, but I am not enjoying the weather here.

Looking back, I cannot make sense of all of the leaps of faith I have taken in the past 6 months. From withdrawing money from my savings to make the initial deposit at USF, to turning in my last paper of the semester, I cannot believe that I made the series of decisions that have led me to today.

Every doubt that I have had, at every turn, I have been met with the excellence of my peers and professors. Each student has pushed me to reason differently and think critically. Each professor has made me question my preconceived notions and imagine new possibilities.
 In Data Visualization we hacked data and learned about online mapping platforms. With GIS we mapped urban health disparities, potential sites for transportation improvements, and emergency response deficiencies in the city of San Francisco. I was beginning to see the city in many new ways.
 In Issues in Urban Public Policy class we were blown away by Fainstein’s the Just City and disgusted by Moretti’s the New Geography of Jobs. Then three months later, when given the opportunity to create our plan for increasing moderate income housing in San Francisco, our ideals went out the window and Neo Liberalism might as well have written our final plans. The ‘gotcha!’ look on Corey Cook’s face when he explained to the class how we had so clearly and quickly gone back on our ideals was gratifying for only Corey.
In History of Urbanism class we learned about the disturbing history of racial covenants in San Francisco. Now I find myself constantly searching for street signs, and racking my brain for names of neighborhoods from my readings.
For my TA position with Professor Shin, I got a glimpse of what it is like to manage 80 undergraduate students. I was able to sit in on sociology lectures and learn about social determinants of health. Ultimately these lectures informed my own research interests in my graduate classes.

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For my social media position with the McCarthy Center, I found myself attending events on campus that I wouldn’t normally have gone to. I had the opportunity to learn about varying subjects, from the imperial history of San Francisco to ranked choice voting in Oakland. I have become more involved on campus, and am beginning to feel a sense of ownership for USF and its community.

Uprooting my life and becoming a student again has been challenging to say the least. Thanks to the support I’ve found, I’ve been able to fully take advantage of this new life. My professors, my fellow cohort members, the McCarthy Center, the beautiful campus, the city of San Francisco, my supportive and loving family… all encourage and inspire me to continue to take these leaps of faith.

I have a few more weeks in NYC before spring semester starts. While I am enjoying my time off, I am also looking forward to getting back in the classroom.

- Amanda Smith, MA in Urban Affairs Candidate

Looking Back and Sharing our Journey

On the evening of November 19th, my fellow Privett Global Scholars and I had the opportunity to showcase our summer experiences abroad with friends, family, and the USF community. The event turned out to be a huge success; the room was filled with live music, the sharing of fond memories, and of course, delicious Indian and Bolivian cuisine.

As I looked around the room, I saw beautiful posters, artwork, displays, and photos that lined the walls, encompassing our yearlong journey in the Privett Global Scholars program. It is hard to believe that a year has passed since we embarked on it, but what an incredible journey it has been. Over the course of the program, I have had the opportunity to: form lasting friendships with my fellow classmates; work alongside the amazing professors, Professor Friedman and Professor Hoag; receive much support from the McCarthy Center and Foundation for Sustainable Development; and intern at ALFA Educational Society, a NGO located in a rural village in India.

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Looking back on this experience, I am amazed to see how much I have grown, both as a student and as a citizen of the world. I am extremely thankful for the knowledge I have gained throughout this journey and for the support I have received along the way. The Maté and Chai Evening Showcase event was the perfect way to celebrate our yearlong journey. It has shown me that although our summer experiences abroad have concluded, we are able to keep them very much alive through sharing our memories and knowledge with others.

This Showcase was only a stepping-stone; I am excited to see how this experience will shape us as we embark on our future endeavors. On behalf of the Privett Global Scholars ’14, thank you to everyone who made this possible.

– Joey Jordan

Championing New Deal Public Art

Urban Affairs faculty member Rachel Brahinsky contributed to this lovely mini-documentary on the life of Masha Zakheim, daughter of a New Deal artist and protector of many of San Francisco’s New Deal murals. Zakheim, who passed away in 2014, wrote the key text on the history of the Coit Tower murals, and was a champion of the kind of political public art that was funded by FDR’s New Deal.

In her urban history classes, Brahinsky explores the tension between public and private spending in the evolution of urban space, including art and architecture. She also serves on the board of directors for the Living New Deal Project, a non-profit group that is mapping New Deal art and infrastructure nationally. She was interviewed for the documentary by Laura Paull at 3200Stories, a cultural/political blog produced by the San Francisco Jewish Community Center’s 3200Stories.org

An Afternoon With MAGIC ZONE


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My fellow members of Urban Cohort 2 are super humans: juggling a full class schedule, adjusting to being back in the classroom, working full time or multiple part time jobs, volunteering for incredible causes all over the Bay Area and … Continue reading

Election Day Reflection: Supporting Stevon Cook’s Campaign for Board of Education

“”Our campaigns have not grown more humanistic because candidates are more benevolent or their policy concerns more salient. In fact, over the last decade, public confidence in institutions- big business, the church, the media, government- has declined dramatically. The political conversation has privileged the nasty and trivial. Yet during that period, election seasons have awakened a new culture of volunteer activity. This cannot be credited to a politics inspiring people to hand over their time but rather to campaigns, newly alert to the irreplaceable value of a human touch, seeking it out. Finally campaigns are learning to quantify the ineffable- the value of a neighbor’s knock, of a stranger’s call, the delicate condition of being undecided- and isolate the moment where a behavior can be changed, or a heart won. Campaigns have started treating voters like people again.”- Sasha Issenberg, Victory Lab

As campaign workers we canvassed the city, precinct by precinct.

As campaign workers, we canvassed the city, precinct by precinct.

The last ten months have been quite the journey in supporting my friend Stevon Cook’s campaign for San Francisco Board of Education for the November election.  From attending an intimate house party back in January in his apartment where he formally announced to 30 of his closest friends he was launching the campaign, to these last few weeks of early morning and late night voter outreach and canvassing, this has been an intense, memorable, and impactful community-building experience. My role in the core campaign team has primarily consisted of field organizing and voter outreach, which includes targeting key areas of the city to generate support for his candidacy. The last few weeks have been packed with precinct-walking, campaign literature distribution, and speaking to voters all over the city leading up to November 4th .

San Franciscans often say ours is a “small city”- it certainly doesn’t feel that way while canvassing block by block, precinct by precinct to generate support for our candidate in a city-wide election. While precinct sizes vary, I’d estimate that the average precinct is comprised of about 200-300 homes. If working in pairs, two people can complete an average-sized precinct in about three or four hours. Over the last few months, our team has collectively walked dozens of precincts, distributed tens of thousands of pieces of campaign materials, secured pivotal endorsements from elected officials and political clubs, and expanded our reach to increase visibility and support leading up to tonight.

One of the lasting lessons I’ve learned throughout this experience is that every prospective voter we speak with matters, from those first 1000 registered voters who lent support to get Stevon qualified to appear on the November ballot before the June deadline, to those that will vote for him throughout this evening.  While the year has been a blur of campaign madness, before my involvement in this race, I had not reflected on the full journey for a campaign team to simply have their candidate listed on the ballot and all the work this process entails leading to election day.  In hindsight, more than anything, I’ve learned to appreciate that process as I have had the privilege to experience the full cycle of this race from campaign inception date to election day. As a native San Franciscan, graduate of SFUSD K-12 schools, and having the privilege to call Stevon a colleague and friend over the last five years, I can think of no better candidate for the San Francisco Board of Education, and I’m thankful to have been part of this journey leading up to today’s election.
Fernando Enciso-Márquez
Coordinator of Community Partnerships

Urban Affairs student joins the Ferguson Freedom Ride

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We’re proud to see Urban Affairs graduate student Nolizwe Nondabula featured in a gofundme campaign designed to send activists to Ferguson, Missouri with the group Black Life Matters. Nolizwe joins the USF community and many others who are deeply troubled by the Aug 9, 2014 killing of Michael Brown, and by the militarized police response to community protests ever since. The Black Life Matters campaign is bringing awareness of the connections these events have to everyday violence against people of color across the US. For more information on the campaign, go to http://www.gofundme.com/df9254