The Art of California Dreaming

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Greetings from sunny California! I think it’s definitely safe to say that UC Santa Cruz is one of the most unique campus environments I have experienced, and I’ve only been here for three weeks! To say that it has been different than I expected would be an understatement, but it is also… totally awesome!

What makes UC Santa Cruz so different than previous institutions that I’ve worked and learned at is its college system. Based on the University of Oxford college model, UCSC consists of ten individual colleges within the larger university that house individual academic themes, residential facilities, student senates, etc. The university was founded with the hope that the college system would provide students with a more integrated and intimate approach to learning as they adjusted to the large size university.

I am interning with College 8 this summer, the Environment & Society college. I work with Housing & Residential Life to connect the themes of the various residence halls and apartments (i.e. Women’s Hall, Sustainability Hall, Social Justice Hall, etc.) to programming during the academic year. My primary responsibilities so far have been creating programming guides for the RAs, researching best practices for theme housing, and developing a sustainability pilot program for the college. This upcoming year is the first attempt that College 8 is making to intentionally program related to these themes, so having resources to provide the RA staff will be very important!

The college system allows the residential life staff to have creative freedom over RA training and RA programming models. Coming from Seattle University, where HRL is a centralized system where practices are pretty consistent across all buildings, this has been a huge learning opportunity for me. 10 Colleges mean 10 separate RA trainings, 10 separate programming models, 10 separate commencements, you name it! Even after some time here, I’m still fascinated.

Another secret treasure of UC Santa Cruz is its artwork – there are beautiful murals and sculptures decorating each of the colleges, many carrying messages of social justice and equity. And with faculty such as Angela Davis, the chancellor’s hard work to incorporate sustainable practices into every aspect of university life, and the cultural centers on campus – UCSC has reinforced my passion for multicultural and social justice education in higher education. The campus is not exactly buzzing with racial and ethnic diversity, but I have found many of the professionals I’ve met to be highly committed to supporting underrepresented students.

The people I get to work with here are also pretty awesome. I am supervised by the Coordinators for Residential Education (similar to Area Coordinators), and there are three other ACUHO-I interns that I have had the honor and privilege of bonding with. The connections are definitely the highlight of my experience, and even though I miss my friends and colleagues in Seattle, I am extremely grateful for my time here! Go banana slugs! (Yeah, that’s a thing.)

You can follow some of my summer (and general student affairs adventures) at michaljones.wordpress.com

MJ Jones

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