Learning to Care About Politics

Hallie Balch, McCarthy Sacramento Fellow 2017

Something that I often hear from family members, friends, and teachers is, “The government doesn’t work.” Chances are, if you’re familiar with American politics, you have heard or even said something similar yourself. This was the mindset that I even had as I prepared for my internship with the McCarthy Fellows program. Pessimistic? Sure, but political inaction is prevalent within our society.

As a student at Dominican University, I have been surrounded by people with different political ideologies throughout my college experience. I came to the McCarthy Fellows program expecting liberal individuals with a streamlined theory on politics and little room for my own conservative ways of thinking. What I found in the Fellows was actually quite different – a unique group of people like me, eager to learn and better understand the ways of our government in California.

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This is the most important observation from my time in Sacramento is—just because someone holds different beliefs does not mean their reasons are not valid or that they lack a voice or passion. In my McCarthy Fellows cohort, we each study politics and government in our respective fields. To be a part of the process is eye-opening, to say the very least. For example, I comb through hundreds of bills every day that have an impact on my home district, my community, and people that I love. I study legislation that people may never see or notice. These are bills that legislators craft with teams of policymakers and spend months perfecting. This is a side of government that the public does not see.

I see policymakers in the Capitol working every day to negotiate across the aisle to craft policy that will benefit constituents. This is not what people outside of the Capitol see. They don’t see Assemblymembers buzzing around on the floor, lobbying to get votes from their colleagues for hours on end. They don’t see the effects that a seemingly monotonous bill on water consolidation will have on a community struggling to gain access to reliable, clean drinking water. They don’t see the countless staffers researching bill after bill in order to maximize the benefits for the state of California as a whole.  My greatest takeaway from the McCarthy Fellowship thus far—California’s state government is active. I just have not been staying involved with the politics that have the potential to impact my life.

It can be hard to stay up to date with the ins and outs of policies and procedures, but it is important to try and stay informed. The resources are there and the members of the California Assembly and Senate constantly try to reach out to the constituents of their state. Additionally, legislators are consistently working to pass legislation to increase transparency and open the lines of communication between government and the people. The next step is to use the tools and resources that our government provides us.  One can tune into the Assembly floor while they’re in session and listen to the debates taking place. One can get in contact with their district representative if they’re not happy about something in their community. Getting involved is not hard, one just hard to start taking action.

If we are not informed about what is happening in the world, how can we possibly expect to enact any positive change? I cannot express how important it is to understand what is going on in our government. Not only in Sacramento, with its fast-paced politics and savvy legislators, but also in our individual communities. So the next time you feel like throwing government under the bus, try researching it. Try learning about it. Try understanding it. After all, we’re all in the same bus and who says someone has to be thrown under it?

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Meet Our 2017 McCarthy Fellows

In this summer program, McCarthy Fellows spend 12 weeks in full time internships at Sacramento institutions that contribute to the California policy-making process. Student engage in everything from conducting legislative research to responding to constituent concerns to drafting policy memos. Concurrently, they participate in a California Politics course focused on exposing and analyzing the structures and systems that frame our state’s policy making processes and helping students make meaning of their first-hand experience. Students live, work, and learn in the state capital, while taking advantage of powerful learning opportunities within the context of their internships, their academic course, and the co-curricular offerings that abound in their thriving host city.

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Abigail Fay, Politics ’18 

Abby has spent the past year as a legislative intern in the office of Supervisor and Board President London Breed. Her time there has helped her develop a passion for community development and constituent relations, as well as for the unique culture of California politics. During her time in Sacramento, she hopes to further hone her policy analyst skills and knowledge of the California legislative process to enable her to accurately represent, and advocate for the people of San Francisco.

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Arely Escoto Pineda, Political Science ’18

As a first generation college student, Arely plans to use this fellowship as a new experience to gain a greater sense of independence. She hopes to use and expand the leadership and communication skills that she has learned from working for the local government in the City of Santa Ana. Arely will use this opportunity to gain a new perspective on the inner workings of the state capital.

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Chiweta Uzoka, Politics ’18

Chiweta is looking forward to gaining more knowledge about policy-making and developing stronger communication skills in a office in which serving the public good is a priority.

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Crystal Vega, Critical Diversity Studies and Urban Studies ’18

Crystal hopes to bridge her existing knowledge of San Francisco nonprofits with her experience working in the state capitol. She is most interested in learning how to integrate intersectionality and community building into local politics.

Hallie Balch, Communication Studies, Media Studies & Political Science ’18

Hallie will be joining the McCarthy Fellows Program in Sacramento this summer to pursue a greater depth of knowledge of legislation. She plans to use this time to hone in her research skills and is excited to have the opportunity to work with her peers with similar passions and to learn from the immersive experience. Similarly, she will use her writing and analytical skills and use this program to aid her in becoming a legislative analyst.

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Kayla Derby, Sociology ’18

Kayla is excited to be working and learning in Sacramento this summer. She plans to use her writing skills and Spanish fluency to help impact public policy surrounding immigration. Kayla hopes to apply the skills she obtains over the summer in her dream career of immigration social work.

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Kelli Hughes, International Studies ’17

Kelli is looking forward to a future in public service promoting international trade and investment. While in Sacramento, Kelli hopes to use her research and analytical skills in supporting California reach its economic development goals.

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Mathew Maulino, Computer Science ’19

Matthew is excited to be a part of the 2017 McCarthy Fellows Cohort. Matthew will be working to further develop his leadership qualities, build his communication skills among a team, and foster his passion for service to his community. He is looking forward to taking full advantage of the unique opportunity the McCarthy Fellows Program offers, so that he can learn from this new experience and one day fulfill USF’s motto to “change the world from here.”

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Rachel Chin, Communication Studies ’18 

Rachel is hopes to gain the skills to help her in her career as an environmental lawyer in the future. During her time in Sacramento, she plans to learn more about her career path and bring these skills back to San Francisco.

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Maddelyn Bryan, International Studies ’18

Maddelyn is excited to build upon her skills for interpersonal engagement and research through an internship in Sacramento. She expects to gain an in-depth understanding of the California legislative process while developing field-experience relevant to a career in public service. After completing the program, she hopes to have new insight into how she can apply her skills to help resolve issues on multiple levels of society.

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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Meet our 2016-17 Advocates for Community Engagement (ACEs)

Advocates for Community Engagement are socially responsible, civically engaged student leaders who facilitate meaningful service-learning experiences for USF students, faculty, and their host organizations. Primarily, ACEs act as liaisons to ensure the needs and expectations of all stakeholders are accounted for and prioritized. Each ACE makes a one-year commitment to work onsite at Bay Area nonprofit organizations. Meet our current cohort of ACEs  and learn about their hopes and expectations for the coming academic year.

 

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 Nell Bayliss

Major: Critical Diversity Studies

Minor: Public Service and Community Engagement

Year: Junior

Living Learning Community: Martin-Baró Scholars 

Nell Bayliss was born and raised in Washington D.C. and that fact ignites her passion for studying Critical Diversity Studies. She is was a part of both the Martin-Baró Scholars and Esther-Madríz Diversity Scholars living learning communities. She is excited to bring her experience from  both living learning communities into her ACE position this year.

 

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Alejandro Cuevas

Major: Latin American Studies

Minor: Dual Degree in Teaching Program

Year: Senior

Living Learning Community: Erasmus  

Alejandro’s experiences both on campus and off campus have prepared him for his role as an Advocate for Community Engagement in multiple ways. His involvement as a student in Erasmus this last year has impacted his view on service learning and issues globally. Experiences doing community organizing have helped him develop skills that will support his involvement as an advocate for community engagement. He is excited to grow as a student and supporting students through their service learning experience.

 

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Amanda Geraldo

Major: Communication Studies

Minor: Theater

Year: Senior

Community Partner Site: Upward Bound

After studying abroad in London last semester, Amanda is very excited to be back as an ACE. In addition to this role, she is actively involved on campus with Dance Generators, Magis Emerging Leadership Program, Lambda Pi Eta, and the Arrupe Immersion program. She has always had a passion for working with youth and is excited to continue exploring this passion through her ACE partnership this year.

 

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Alexa Gonzalez

Major: Politics // International Studies // Latin American Studies

Year: Senior

Community Partner Site: Viviendas Leon

Alexa grew up in Nogales, Sonora—a border town where you can travel from Mexico to the United States in less than 10 minutes. One of her most rewarding college experiences has been working with environmental groups to complete an independent research project focusing on analyzing social resistances emerging in response to the extractivist agribusiness model in the Industrial Belt in Rosario, Argentina. She is very excited to work with Vivendas Leon and support service learners in their projects.

 

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Greta Karisny

Major: Sociology

Minor: Public Service and Community Engagement

Year: Senior

Community Partner Site: 826 Valencia-Tenderloin Center

Greta’s second year as an ACE  is spent working in partnership with 826 Valencia for the 2016/17 school year.She loves being a part of the ACE community and the space it creates for positive discussions towards social justice, community-building, and personal growth. Last year she partnered with Upward Bound USF and had an incredible experience working with the organization, service learning students, and the students that they serve. She had the opportunity to do her direct service with their after-school program at Mission High School and fell in love with the students and the school.Her time at Mission was one of the most positive experiences she’s had at the ACE program and throughout her college career. She is so excited to begin to build relationships with students at 826 this year and to be able to see their growth as the school year continues.

 

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Kiana Rai Martinez

Major: Double major in Sociology and Critical Diversity Studies with a Minor in Public Service and Community Engagement

Year: Junior

Living Learning Community: Esther Madriz Diversity Scholars Living Learning Community

Kiana was a member of cohort ten of the Esther Madriz Diversity Scholars prompting her to pursue a role that gave her the chance to continue working with the program. She enjoys surrounding herself with people who challenge her to think critically and flourish — just two of the traits she sees in the Esther Madriz Scholars, year after year.

 

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Sonia Hurtado Ureño

Major: Sociology and Latin American Studies

Year: Senior

Community Partner Site: Mission Graduates

Sonia Hurtado Ureno was born in Fremont, California to Mexican immigrants. Her experiences as a low income, first generation Chicana has led her to participate in activist efforts during her time at USF. As an ACE, she looks forward to working with first generation college bound students and current students.

 

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Chiweta Uzoka

Major: Politics

Minor: Legal Studies

Year: Junior

Community Partner Site: Bayview Hunter’s Point Community Legal

Chiweta Rozaline Uzoka is Secretary of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated – Tau Tau Chapter, President of Sister Connection, and a member of the Black Student Union here at USF. She was also a member of Esther Madriz Diversity Scholars living-learning community and is currently a peer mentor in this community as well. She is excited to be working with Bayview Legal and moving towards universal access to legal services and representation.

 

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Miriam Uribe

Major: Politics, Latin American Studies, and International Studies

Year: Junior

Community Partner Site: Generation Citizen

During her time here at USF, Miriam has been a strong advocate for more resources for undocumented students in our community. It has been an experience that has allowed her to reflect on the power of story telling to create change. She is excited to work with Generation Citizen this year and redefine what “citizenship” means.

 

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Vivienne Pismarov

Major: Psychology/Legal Studies

Year: Sophomore

Community Partner Site: Faithful Fools

Vivienne Pismarov is a first-year ACE who is excited to explore social justice issues with the McCarthy Center. She was part of the Martín-Baró Scholars Living-Learning Community here at USF last year where she first became interested in engaging issues of diversity and homelessness in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood. Additionally, Vivienne is interested in how legal policies in San Francisco can be modified or created to help better address homelessness, women’s rights issues, and environmental problems.

 

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Nichole Vasquez

Major: Kinesiology

Year: Senior

Community Partner Site:Family House

On campus, Nichole has had different experiences that have prepared her for the ACE role. Her first service experience in college was as a democracy coach with Generation Citizen, where she facilitated a class of seventh graders leading them through a service project. Her experience with Generation Citizen sparked a passion for service that she is excited to continue this year with Family House!

 

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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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2016 McCarthy Fellows in Sacramento

The McCarthy Fellows in Sacramento participants are immersing themselves in their internships and helping to make a difference from California’s Capitol!

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Isabella Gonzalez Potter: Assembly Member Thurmond’s office.

McCarthy Fellows 2016

Ivette Chow: CalHFA Single Family Lending within the Department of Housing and Community Development.

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