The Paths of Esther Madríz Diversity Scholars


The Esther Madríz Diversity Scholars (EMDS) is a living-learning community that explores issues of diversity, inequality, social justice, and social change. Named after the late Esther Madríz, beloved USF professor of sociology who embodied the Ignatian ideals of education of the whole person as a means toward social justice, Esther Madríz Diversity Scholars examine and challenge these boundaries to gain a fuller understanding of ourselves and the world around us. The program approaches hip-hop through sociological frameworks to explore the role of poverty, globalization, immigration, racism, sexism, homophobia, unemployment, incarceration, and urban marginality. During winter break students participate in a transborder travel experience (previous destinations include: Cuba, New York City, Marseille, and more) to gain new perspectives on social problems and their solutions.

Below are excerpts from some of the EMDS Cohort 12’s reflections on their experience during fall and winter of this year:

Natalie Mills, Kinesiology ’20

We started our curriculum with learning about the sociology of hip-hop. I grew up with my papa rapping, “I said a hip-hop, hippie to the hippie, the hip, hip a hop, and you don’t stop,” to me and my brother, making us giggle. Through the EMDS program, I soon discovered that songs like “Rapper’s Delight” were pivotal points in the history of hip-hop. We have learned about the influences from Barbados and Jamaica, and how Afrika Bambatta turned the practices of yard parties into one of the integral elements of hip-hop: djing. The history and art of the Bronx that emerged from the struggle of black and brown folks has inspired me. I also learned about the politics surrounding the art of graffiti, which opened my eyes to government’s systematic oppression of youth of color.  The art of hip-hop can be explained as a means of resistance and a loud voice of the struggle.

Chaniece Jefferson, Art History ’19

One particular reading, Reflection in Service Learning: Making Meaning in Experience, helped me and my fellow students begin a dialogue about cultural competence. My cohort has provided a space for me to see things in new perspectives and challenge ideas. An issue we have discussed thoroughly is around gentrification, and how we as college students can be seen as gentrifiers ourselves in San Francisco. One memorable event that I was able to attend was a showing of the documentary film Dolores We had the honor and privilege of meeting Dolores Huerta herself, and it was a life-changing experience. Meeting someone who has sacrificed so much for her activism shifted my way of thinking and made rethink the roles I’m in and how I could become more like her. Most importantly, it made me rethink about what I would like to do with my college education and what I want to do in life.

Isaac Baron, Politics ’20

For my community work, I’ve had the privilege of working with San Francisco Rising on the College for All campaign. This has been an experience that I felt allowed me to recognize the level of privilege I have as a student pursuing higher education. It has made me reflect on my experience back home in Santa Barbara, and the economic disparity and how that parallels the educational disparity as well. Many of the people I grew up with either did not finish high school or did not pursue an education beyond it, so the idea of holding an internship with a community organization while attending an institution of higher learning never really crossed my mind growing up. In this way, I feel that the program has allowed me to cross a border set in an economic class that I never thought I would cross. The campaign that we’re working on through San Francisco Rising would make public education through California public colleges and universities free by establishing a grant funded by a tax that would cover tuition costs for students. This would make higher education more accessible to those who see their personal economic situation as a barrier. 

Alegra Bauder, Fine Arts ’20

The experience we had traveling to New York and to Washington D.C. is one that I will always cherish. Meeting and engaging with all of the people and organizations was a privilege and enhanced what we had learned over the semester. At Howard University and One D.C., I saw how gentrification and urban renewal affects other communities outside of San Francisco. In New York, and especially in the Bronx, seeing everything we had learned about the culture and world of hip-hop came to life, and it was incredible. I think that going to different boroughs and communities within the city helped me to fully grasp the long-term effects of what we had studied, such as planned shrinkage and benign neglect. Seeing it first hand, it’s obvious that the injustices that occurred in neighborhoods there are still evident today. By engaging with other communities, my EMDS cohort has begun to better understand our own communities in San Francisco.

Check out the slideshow from Cohort 12’s trip to New York and Washington, D.C.:

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Traveling with the Esther Madriz Diversity Scholars to NYC


Janelle Nunez (’19) is a participant of the Esther Madriz Diversity Scholars cohort that went to New York this January.  Here she shares her reflections on this transformative trip


During the University of San Francisco’s winter intercession, the Esther Madriz Diversity Scholars (EMDS) got the incredible opportunity to spend a week in New York. Prior to their travel, this living-learning community spent a semester exploring issues of diversity, inequality, and social justice through the lens of hip-hop. The four elements of hip-hop (MCing, DJing, B-boy/B-girling, and graffiti writing) were examined as well as the fundamental relationship to the network of youth subcultures. From the origins of hip-hop music as it began in the Bronx neighborhoods to the multi-billion dollar business that it is today, the EMDS students analyzed this incredible journey as a means to better understand their conception of “resistance”and “social justice” that has engulfed our nation’s history. Now that you have a better understanding of who EMDS is, let me introduce myself and take you to New York on this recent adventure.

My name is Janelle Nunez and I am currently a sophomore at USF. I am a History major, Chemistry minor, and pre-med. Like many of my fellow cohort members, I have a passion for social change and have a love for hip-hop. What makes the EMDS experience so unique amongst many examples, is that all us of come from various walks of life. Our cohort has members from Southern California, the Bay Area, Chicago, and Latin America, each of us with diverse majors as well. You take all that diversity and put them together and it makes for well rounded perspectives that were applied to our New York excursion. The New York trip was an amazing experience and I know the members from my cohort who were able to take part in this will agree. However, there were three events that my cohort and I were able to participate in that exceeded all of our expectations, and that was the Art as a Weapon conference, the visit to the BOOM!Health center, and the discussion at the Apollo Theater, “Where do we go from here?” Let’s explore these experiences.

Art as a Weapon

On one of of our last days of the trip we attended Art as a Weapon, an all day conference that discussed a variety of topics on the use of art as a form of activism and healing. The conference agenda included a morning keynote address, two workshop sessions and a closing panel. One of the workshops I attended was called “Happened Yesterday, Happening Tomorrow.” This session discussed the Black Lives Matter movement, and looked at the historical context of police brutality, and racial profiling. In this small intimate setting, our groups conversed about how artists have responded to injustice with the use of poetry and performance. We were put into small groups and together made a collaborative art piece of poetry that we later shared with the larger group. What struck me most from this experience, was the realization that historically, police brutality against people of color has been an ongoing battle. From the first graphic images of Emmit Till to the case of Trayvon Martin, history doesn’t necessarily repeat itself but it sure does rhyme.


(New York City) We are Esther Madriz Diversity Scholars

BOOM Health 

Our visit to BOOM!Health in the south side of the Bronx, introduced us to a full range of prevention. This one stop shop, provides syringe access, health coordination, housing, behavioral health, legal and advocacy services to over 8,000 communities in New York. After having one-on-one conversations with their employees, it was inspiring to see their hard work and dedication even when they left the building. The center actively works to fight the viral HIV and hepatitis illnesses that can severely harm those who are active drug users or at risk for HIV/AIDS. While we were there, my cohort and I were also trained in opioid overdose prevention. It was beautiful to see how the organization prioritized the dignity of its everyday members who receive services and made their facility a comfortable place to call home. BOOM!Health is a family that works for its communities’ unique needs.

Apollo Theater: Where do We go from Here?

Lastly, our time spent at the Apollo Theater during M.L.K. weekend discussing “Where do we go from here?” celebrated the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King. Here EMDS students were able to engage in dialogue about inclusion and what that means for our future. The Black Lives Matter co-founder Opal Tometi and Shaun King, a social justice journalist, were a part of a panel that we got to hear from. It was an empowering afternoon with poetry renditions with a theme was about igniting hope. The speakers reminded me that this country is more than our president. It is about us—the people that create power and movement for change.

Thank you for joining me in this experience of social change.

Interested in becoming an Esther Madriz Diversity Scholar? Applications for next year’s 2017-18 EMDS cohort are due on February 28, 2017. Apply here