Community Activities and Events

EMDS Activities

Fall Retreat

To kick off the Fall semester, Esther Madríz Scholars participate in a weekend retreat. Throughout the weekend, students learn about Esther’s legacy, reflect on their identity and engage in dialogue around living and learning as a community of leaders. Over the course of the weekend, we will play, laugh, and develop bonds that will sustain the community over the coming year.


Students also attend weekly community gatherings, or karamus, that are facilitated primarily by the Resident Advisor and Advocate for Community Engagement (ACE) and the community members. Karamu is a Swahili word generally referred to as "feast". For EMDS, we adapt the usage to reflect the celebratory gathering of our community to engage in reflection and discussion. As such, these meetings are a cross between a course “lab” and a club meeting. Karamus are an opportunity to process what you are learning in the classroom as well as work together to organize fundraising and community service activities. As part of karamu, students also attend off campus educational and cultural events.

In the Classroom

During the academic year, EMDS students take two classes — Social Problems and Community Organizing — that fulfill three graduation requirements: cultural diversity (CD), social science core (Area E), and service-learning (SL). During the fall semester, we put our sociological imaginations to use to examine the ways that race, class, gender, and sexuality intersect and structure our lives. In January we participate in an optional (but strongly encouraged) transborder travel experience. Finally, during spring semester, students enroll in Community Organizing and work with a community partner dedicated to social justice to create change in the Bay Area.

Social Change Projects

Throughout the year, we ask, "How does social change happen? And what do we need to know to be effective change agents?" A major component of the program is community engaged learning. In this capacity, students work closely with our community partners to support a community identified need, as well as to deepen their understanding of social problems and social change. Over the course of the year, students create social change projects that apply their classroom learning to real life issues. Students have produced a 40-minute feature film entitled SMOG, that looked at how systems of oppression keep us from really seeing each other; created a public art exhibit on Gleeson Lawn titled “Thinking inside the Box”; facilitated a USF day that brought local middle school students to the University; as well as organized a “Rock the Vote” event to encourage USF students to make their voices heard during the election. Recently EMDS students in conjunction with Esther Madríz Activist Scholars or EMAS have organized “Fight the Power.” This event brings together the USF community to educate and mobilize students to be agents of change in their own communities.

Transborder Experience (TBX)

The transborder travel experience takes place during winter intercession. This travel-study experience is unique for several reasons. First, we intentionally travel to two locations and examine the same social problems from these different perspectives. Second, this experience provides an opportunity for us “cross a border” before the end of the program. In this way, the trip is not a culminating project, but an integral part of the year-long learning that informs the academic as well as service experience during spring semester. During each trip, students meet with scholars, student leaders, community leaders and activists to learn how to work as allies, as well as how to utilize various social change strategies. Previous locations include: San Diego, CA – Tijuana, Mexico; New York, NY – San Juan, Puerto Rico; Atlanta, GA – New Orleans, LA; New York, NY – Marseilles France; Havana, Cuba -- Santiago de Cuba; and New York, NY – Washington, D.C. During the 2019-2020 academic year, we will be traveling to New York and Puerto Rico. 

Esther Madríz Dinner

The annual Esther Madríz dinner honors the memory of Dr. Esther Madríz, vivacious teacher, social activist and esteemed colleague. In honoring her life, the dinner also highlights her legacy, and how students like the Esther Madríz Diversity Scholars share her commitment to social justice and exemplify Esther’s spectacular gifts to USF and the world.