About the Program

History and Philosophy of Community Studies

The longstanding hallmarks of Community Studies are its focus on social justice and its distinctive pedagogy integrating classroom learning and extended field study. Founded in 1969, Community Studies is the oldest interdisciplinary program at UCSC. Community Studies was born during a moment of profound intellectual ferment that gave rise to multiple innovative campus initiatives such as the Alan Chadwick Garden and the legendary History of Consciousness doctoral program. The significance of this moment in the larger history of UCSC is signaled in the recent comprehensive fundraising campaign whose theme touted the campus as “the original authority on questioning authority.”

In addition to its role in defining the founding spirit of the campus, Community Studies was also a national pioneer in the field of experiential education. Its community-focused civic engagement model has been emulated widely by other colleges and universities. Community Studies is an academic program pioneer in addressing principles of social justice, specifically inequities arising from race, class and gender dynamics in society at large, and in critically assessing strategies for achieving social change.

Over the 40+ years since its founding, the Community Studies program has evolved as the platforms and needs for social justice work have changed in the wider world.  Our core commitments have remained intact and, arguably, are in more demand than ever.

Occupy UCSC"Academic Activists: Community Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz," an article published in 2003 by founding professor William Friedland and founding field study coordinator Michael Rotkin traces some of the early history of Community Studies.  The essay originally appeared as Chapter 2 in Torry D. Dickinson’s edited collection entitled Community and the World: Participating in Social Change. The link appears on this website with the permission of Nova Science Publishers, Inc. With the exception of short passages for purposes of review or comment, it may not be reproduced in its entirety without the permission of the publisher. We gratefully acknowledge the generosity of the publisher in permitting us to reproduce this chapter for the benefit of students and others interested in Community Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz.