CED names first cohort of Arcus Social Justice Corps fellows
The College of Environmental Design hosted Chancellor Carol Christ on Friday, November 19th, as she welcomed the very first cohort of Arcus Social Justice Corps Fellows.
“I must admit that I love the name of this program: the Arcus Social Justice Corps,” Christ said in her remarks to the 22 newly inducted fellows. “If Berkeley was in the business of making movies about societal super heroes, I could think of no better title… if only because I can think of no better program when it comes to making manifest the values, aspirations, and public service mission of this university.”
Christ’s remarks echo and honor the stories of CED’s real-world Arcus Fellow superheroes, who through this fellowship will receive significant debt relief for their commitment to devote at least three years of their careers to social impact work. Seeking solutions for our world’s most pressing social and environmental justice issues, the fellows make up a CED cohort who will not only dedicate themselves to supporting vulnerable communities but who also focus on creating a greater sense of belonging for all students at CED. Through programming designed for the fellows, they will ideate and iterate upon what it means to make systemic, lasting, and meaningful change though social impact design work.
Reflecting on the significance of the Arcus Social Justice Corps, Dean Renee Chow remarked: "The College is deeply grateful to alumnus Jon Stryker (M. Arch '89) for creating this new fellowship program. In one bold and generous gesture, Jon has launched the public service careers of a new cohort of leaders and helped CED extend its commitment to social justice in environmental design."
Our fellows span across all of CED’s Master’s programs, from all departments. Their important stories reflect their experiences and future aspirations:
"My personal and professional experiences have shown me that if you do not have a seat at the table, you’ll be on the menu…
Working so closely with folks who had just recently exited homelessness while also experiencing my own homelessness and subsequent housing insecurity showed me the transformative power of affordable housing. It is why I have dedicated the last 10 years of my career to affordable supportive housing and homelessness…
I believe that studying the history and implementation of city planning will equip me with the tools to build a bigger and better table for my community."
– Claire Genese, Master of City Planning (M.C.P.)
"Demographically – I am a queer, foreign-born, brown, Latinx, abled-bodied cis-male that grew up in a non-English speaking household within a predominantly low-income POC majority neighborhood; it’s a mixed bag…
Growing up in the ’90s and ’00s, the dominant “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” maxim of the time coupled with the positive and negative attributes of an immigrant mentality have allowed me to overcome some of these challenges, but not without sacrifice and hardship…
Although capitalistic interest and developers that implement them are in part responsible for the equity issues we have in cities, I believe it is them who can also reverse the trend…I hope the ASJC fellowship will expose me to new ways of thinking and tackling social justice issues, connecting me to practitioners who are stewarding a more just future."
– Cesar Mesias, Master of Real Estate Development + Design (MRED+D)
"The defining point for me came when rhetoric against the people I knew as hard-working and community-driven misrepresented them as drug dealers, thieves, and rapists. This was the moment I understood the true injustices committed against my ancestors – instances in the past like my grandfather’s experiences as a Bracero being sprayed with DDT at the border for no other reason than being Mexican…
The architectural profession has historically been a field for the rich and powerful, negating its much needed resources to lower-income and marginalized communities. Recently, there has been a shift in focus towards those very communities.
By incorporating the necessary resources, like proven methods of construction and habitation to historically marginalized people, architects can help bring stability and provide the basic human right of habitation."
– Mario Devora, Master of Architecture (M.Arch)
"Growing up in a lower-income household, my family had to rely on our Oakland Chinatown community as an essential resource to cultivate a home in America…Rather than focusing on those particular positions of disadvantage, I would like to be able to showcase the abilities people in my situation are capable of.
I not only see the Arcus Fellowship as an immense help in furthering my education but also as a method of motivation for future generations. My enthusiasm for aiding disadvantaged communities arises from the very situation I was brought up in…
For me, social justice begins and ends with my hometown, which is a representation of the sheer resilience and untapped power that marginalized communities hold and are ready to wield."
– Eugene Lau, Master of City Planning (MCP)
"From 2013, I practiced civil rights law in Louisiana, where I litigated cases challenging unjust policies and represented low-income tenants facing eviction or the loss of housing subsidies.
While law provides potent tools to aid in ending current injustices and reining in future misdeeds, I am excited by landscape architecture's ability to reimagine different relationships to the land and between people to meet the challenges posed by climate change."
– Ivy Wang: Master of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning (MLA-EP)
"Growing up at the margins, I had to learn early and quickly how to code-switch through life. Spending so much time appeasing others makes it all too easy to lose one’s own sense of place.
It wasn’t until I began writing and creating art that I found value in my own voice and realized that I could use it to support others whose lives also sit at the margins."
– Tera Johnson: Master of City Planning (MCP) / Master of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning (MLA-EP)
"As a product of one of San Francisco’s most historical and challenged neighborhoods, the Fillmore, I’ve watched polarizing gentrification first-hand.
This gentrification has not been inclusive or equitable, and the byproduct can be seen today - reduced Black homeownership, displacement, and loss of equity. Sadly, most of my community did not understand the gravity of what was happening until it was too late.
While exciting to see neighborhood development, witnessing the constant development bringing equity and wealth generation almost exclusively to newcomers has left those that have called the Fillmore home for generations feeling powerless. I hope to be the one to change that for the coming generations - creating a community fabric that is more inclusive and equitable for all."
– Obinna Uwakah: Master of Real Estate Development + Design (MRED+D)
"Navigating my own mobility issues has prompted me to seek creative solutions for myself and motivated me to address the broader challenges faced by the disabled community within a society centered around able-bodied people.
Disability in contemporary society is almost inescapably isolating; our choices are to either diminish our disability--by hiding or ‘overcoming’-- or disclose it, with all of the stigmatizing implications that can involve.
Through ASJC, I want to create an environment where people instead feel supported by the community, one that doesn’t try to mold people to existing taxonomies of ability or difference, but instead respects autonomy."
– Eleanor Mayes: Master of Design (MDes)
Please welcome our inaugural cohort of Arcus Fellows and stay tuned for updates on their important contributions to social justice planning, research, and design work to come!