Save the Date – Nov. 9 for Our 15th Anniversary

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On November 9, 2017, friends and supporters, alums, faculty and currents students will celebrate the Leo T. McCarthy Center and 15 years of training a new generation of ethical leaders. It’s an evening of recognizing the vision and legacy of co-founder Leo McCarthy, former San Francisco legislator, California Speaker of the Assembly and Lieutenant Governor.

We’ll mark this milestone by celebrating the continuation of Leo McCarthy’s values of service for the common good through the current programs of the McCarthy Center with students who have participated locally and internationally through the Privett Global Scholars, USF in D.C., McCarthy Fellows in Sacramento, Advocates  Community Engagement and our graduate degree programs in Urban and Public Affairs.

The night will begin with a reception followed by the presentation of the inaugural Leo T. McCarthy Award, to be given to the The Honorable Art Agnos, former San Francisco mayor, assembly member and regional head of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. 

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Today more than ever, the world needs future leaders who think critically and respond compassionately. Join us in preparing the next generation of ethical leaders and the programs that serve them—by becoming a sponsor or attending. Visit http://rsvp.usfca.edu/mccarthy-sponsorship-2017 or email Leslie Lombre, Associate Director at  llombre@usfca.edu or call (415) 422-2983.

Save The Date

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New MA in Urban and Public Affairs Program Combines for a Winning Formula

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This spring the Leo T. McCarthy Center announced that it will be combining two former programs: the Master of Arts in Urban Affairs and the Master of Public Affairs into one robust program, the MA in Urban and Public Affairs (UPA). Professor Rachel Brahinsky, program director of UPA, has been apart of the process since its inception.  In a recent USF News story, Professor Brahinsky speaks to the unique features of the program and the excitement of bringing the best of the two former programs together.  Read the full  story here.

April 15th is the priority date to apply to the USF’s MA in Urban and Public Affairs for fall 2017.  Applications received by this Saturday will receive priority consideration for admission and scholarships.

You can apply to the UPA program online. For questions about the application process, financial aid, or other topics about admission, please contact us at upa@usfca.edu or at 415-422-5683.  We wish you the best as you consider the University of San Francisco in your educational and professional goals!

Trump Exposes America’s Value

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Amir Abner

M.A. Urban Affairs ’17

Donald Trump was elected as the 45th President of the United States. President-Elect Trump has spewed racism, sexism and xenophobic ideals since his campaign started and it carried him all the way to victory. As soon as it was announced that he would win the bid to be the next President over Hillary Clinton, you could hear a collective gasp from the city of San Francisco and while many were shocked a man with his rhetoric and past could become the face of this country, I was not.

San Francisco and other cities in the Bay Area are really no different in their approach compared to southern cities and their residents that are constantly looked down on. The city still clings on the reputation built in the 1960’s and 70’s as this utopian place of solidarity and free thoughts. The “progressive” San Francisco is all but gone, not that it ever really existed (check out Urban Renewal in the Fillmore) but whatever you pretended it to be, it has been displaced. When was the last time residents of San Francisco looked themselves in the mirror and checked their own racist views and actions? You would think the unjust killings of civilians by police officers would do it… right?

Most people in San Francisco can ignore the issues that are faced by many people when it doesn’t directly impact their lives, in fact it actually helps their quality of life. The $5 coffee shops, that displace the corner store, can be seen as a cool hip place to meet friends and get work done, but what about the family of the person displaced? Look at the Mission District today, some will argue that communities naturally change over time, but being in the Mission makes me feel like I’m living during the apartheid in South Africa. Every corner you can see the historical importance of the Latino community with murals and cuisine but the high rents of residential spaces attract rich white transplants from other cities. The new residents walk around looking down on long time residents and it’s a bit sickening. The same can be said about the Fillmore district and Western Addition, but most of the black owned businesses in that neighborhood were displaced during the 1960’s and 70’s, so it’s a bit harder to find the history there. The destruction and mistreatment of people of color is constant so when a friend asked me “aren’t you afraid of Trump because he’s racist?” my answer is simply, no.

The racism in this country is very real, but we pretend to ignore it whenever we can. I am still not over how the government treated the people of New Orleans during the Hurricane Katrina disaster. If you think we’ve moved passed that, you are sadly mistaken. Every month there is a public lynching in the form of police executions taking place. I watched historically black communities become displaced over the last few years, a few examples are, Harlem, North Philadelphia and Oakland. The education systems in urban areas are crumbling and I watched how state officials dis-invest in HBCU’s. During this same time mass incarnation is still an issue and I watch people rejoice over the changing marijuana laws that will enrich thousands of white owned corporations. Even with these new state laws, federal law still classifies marijuana as illegal so if you’re black please be aware of this because we will continue to profiled while driving and stopped and frisked for the color of our skin. Last time I checked the water in Flint is still toxic and the Chicago police department continue to hold civilians illegally for years. Whenever there seems to be a pinch of black progress in America, ignorant white rage rises up in an attempt to reverse it (read White Rage written by Carol Anderson). The sentiment for most Americans is, in order to have winners we must have losers. If President Obama symbolized progressed in the eyes of millions of black folks, it must have meant the decline in the eyes of millions of white folks. Donald Trump’s rise should have been expected. If it took for a monster for America to address its racist nature then so be it.

When the hypertension dies down, will those who oppose him and his views still be on the front-line fighting for fairness? Or will they become reclusive due to his ignorance having no major direct impact on their lives as they were led to believe he would? Americas oldest tradition is racism and it will carry on with the electing of Donald Trump unless the people from the hardest hit communities come together rise up.

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Bringing Home into School

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Ofelia Bello

     Masters of Arts in Urban Affairs ’17

Contrary to what I thought growing up, one of the biggest struggles in graduate school – and there are many – is not the rigorous coursework as much as it is the pressure that comes along with being a first-generation student. That pressure manifests in different ways on a daily basis. However, being a first-generation student also means I get to draw from an inexhaustible source of knowledge, strength, and wisdom every day.

Throughout my educational career, my parents have expressed to me, at various points, feeling guilty and frustrated about not being able to help me with my academics through school. Before migrating to the Bay Area my mother was never allowed to go to school in Mexico and my father only attended up until elementary. Although I could have never articulated this as a young girl, I know now that my parents came to a country where it was engrained in them that the knowledge and wisdom they have is not valuable – because they certainly do not lack it. As a Master of Arts in Urban Affairs Candidate, I feel more confident now than ever asserting the fact that my parents are by far the best teachers I’ve ever had. They thoroughly excelled at humanizing me before I ever stepped foot in a classroom. I cared about the world before I knew what the world was – before I knew what my place in the world might be.

A couple weeks ago in my seminar Urban Education Reform, my professor Dr. Dave Donahue posed a question that has stuck with me since. He asked, “Why is it that we often talk about bringing school into the home, but we don’t necessarily talk about bringing home into the school?” There it was! The question I always had but didn’t know I had. Every college course I’ve taken has, in one way or another, reaffirmed values that my parents practiced in our home and in our community. Urban Education Reform has provided space for me where I can explicitly interrogate why we place value on certain kinds of knowledge over others and what that means for improving our education system. Given that schools are a critical part of both the physical and social fabric that makes up our cities, I think my professor’s inquiry beckons the follow up question: why can’t we bring the home out into the city?

I enrolled in the Master of Arts in Urban Affairs program with the fervent desire to learn about the complexities cities’ face and what concrete ways we can make them more equitable. I know I am in the right program because it is made explicit in the classroom that we do not enter as isolated beings. Every time I step into a seminar, I bring my parents and my community in with me and our knowledge is honored. So ultimately, although the daily struggles that come with being a first-generation student can be difficult, those struggles look dim in the shadow of the brilliant parents and community I come from and continue to learn from, in conjunction with my academic coursework.

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Reflection on Tolman

David Donahue Director of the Leo T. McCarthy Center

David Donahue
Director, Leo T. McCarthy Center

As I prepare to teach “Urban School Reform,” an elective in the Masters of Arts in Urban Affairs program, I googled William E. Tolman High School in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, the school where I began my teaching career over thirty years ago as a student teacher. 1024px-Pawtucket_HSThe first page of entries included links with titles like, “Pawtucket launches inquiry into student ‘takedown’ at Tolman” and “Students pepper-sprayed, cuffed during Tolman HS protest.” The first three entries on the Wikipedia page for the high school are “Thanksgiving football rivalries,” “dropout rate,” and “security issues.” According to the Wikipedia report, only 54% of the schools first year students go on to graduate, a dropout rate that resulted in the school being labeled a “dropout factory” in a Johns Hopkins study. The security issues section is a depressing catalog of shootings and violence in and around the school. I’m not sure what’s sadder: that the school began requiring photo IDs for all students to improve security or that the photo ID program was eventually dropped for lack of funding. The district is considered the most racially diverse in the state. It’s also one of the poorest. Approximately 70% of the school’s students qualify for free lunch. The photo of Tolman reminded me that even in the 1980s almost all the windows had been replaced by glass bricks, allowing opaque light into classrooms, but leaving no possibility for gazing outside. The online picture of Tolman High School follows a familiar narrative of urban public education: Schools serving mostly poor, mostly students of color, places of violence, places of academic despair.

I know from my experience teaching at Tolman there and my subsequent years working with teachers in districts like Oakland and San Francisco that this is such a biased and incomplete picture of urban schools . What stands out from my experience at Tolman is the brilliance and hard work of students. I remember students from Puerto Rico, Cape Verde, and Cambodia in my 11th grade U.S. history class navigating the English they were still learning to debate whether the city should have a nativity scene in front of City Hall during Christmas, to discuss whether it was fair that only “natural born” citizens could become President of the United States, and to share with each other a “coming to America story” from their own lives or someone in their family. Those who doubt the intelligence of adolescents should have observed that class. This very first teaching experience convinced me about the truth behind a statement that has almost become cliché: All children can learn. Those who say that urban school teachers are lazy and academically mediocre should have met my cooperating teacher, a man with a PhD from Notre Dame who returned to teach at Tolman, the high school he graduated from, because he believed in public education. His dedication, thoughtfulness, and intelligence were inspiring. Sadly, stories of urban school failure focus on the actors — students and teachers — as the problem, rather than the larger political and economic contexts that result in the unequal distribution of resources for education, the segregation of children by race, and the reproduction and legitimization of inequality in our nation. My years of teaching children and working with teachers convince me that children and teachers are not the problem. Larger social inequities are. Meaningful school reform has to be part of larger efforts to eradicate poverty, end racism, and strengthen democracy.

My experience teaching and preparing others to work in urban schools shapes my elective course on urban school reform in the United States. While school reform suffers no shortage of market driven calls to tear schools down in order to rebuild them, I’ve come to understand that creating schools to support meaningful, rigorous, and joyful learning requires listening to a variety of perspectives, including those of teachers and students as well as researchers and policy makers. My experience also teaches me that schools do not stand apart from society but reflect and reproduce it. As part of the course, we will hold a joint class with students from a nearby San Francisco public high school. We will also interact with teachers and administrators in the middle of making city schools work for diverse students to hear voices that are not always reflected in monographs of school reform. We will work with Californians for Justice, an Oakland-based advocacy organization, to document the benefits of social emotional learning so they can make the case for strategies to support students of color, immigrant students, LGBTQ students, and students from low income families in urban schools. My goal is to spend as much time learning in and from real teachers, students, and social justice advocates as from the scholars who can provide us with new lenses to understand urban education.

Far from a place of despair, Tolman remains for me a place of hopefulness, not because it works as it is, but because it’s not impossible to imagine schools that do work for the students who go there. I still believe classrooms are places of joy and possibility, of transformation and growth. That’s why I so look forward to teaching my first class at USF this fall. I can’t wait to work with the students in Urban Affairs to understand why city schools are the way they are, to imagine them as they could be, and to begin working towards more just and equitable education for young people in the Bay Area.

 

Changing Transportation: My Path from USF to Sacramento

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Shannon Simonds
Master of Arts in Urban Affairs ’16
Transportation Planner, Caltrans

When I started at Master of Arts in Urban Affairs program at the University of San Francisco I just knew that I was interested in understanding the opportunities to mitigate climate change through urban transportation policies and planning. To be working for the state of California as a transportation planner at Caltrans just two years later as an alumna of the Urban Affairs program is still a little crazy to me; but also very exciting.

As a graduate student, I tailored my classes and research to focus on different aspects of transportation as it relates to the environment and urban spaces—and it worked! I get to work in the field I studied and get to learn something new every day. I currently work on the Rail Planning team developing the 2018 State Rail Plan. I am working to coordinate commuter, regional and intercity trains with freight and local bus routes to create a truly integrated, state-wide system. I like that I get to learn about a new area of transportation for me—rail while bringing in a new perspective that tries to incorporate climate sensitivities and equity into the rail planning processes.

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