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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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.



 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.



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.



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.



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.



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.



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.



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.



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.



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.



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!