Imagining America: Consortium Works to Connect Higher Education with Civic Purpose
The goals of Imagining America are lofty, to put it mildly. “Imagining America is an organization whose mission is to really help students, scholars and community groups to work together on the most pressing issues of our time,” explained Erica Kohl-Arenas, associate professor of American studies at UC Davis and faculty director of Imagining America: Artists and Scholars in Public Life. The civic-engagement consortium of more than 100 academic institutions and cultural organizations moved its national headquarters to UCD this past summer, and Kohl-Arenas moved to be with it. As to why Imagining America was a good fit for Davis and UCD, Kohl-Arenas said many of the goals of the consortium were already being achieved here. “Davis was a perfect campus for Imagining America,” she said. “This work is already happening everywhere. I don’t see us bringing new partnerships here but supporting what’s already going on here.” Kohl-Arenas called UCD “ground zero” for the work Imagining America aims to do. She also praised Jonathan London and Bernadette Austin — the director and associate director, respectively — of the Center for Regional Change, as well as jesikah maria ross for her work at Art of Regional Change, which she founded at UCD. Additionally, Kohl-Arenas highlighted professor Michael Rios’ work in landscape architecture, which she said involves conducting an 18-month study for community-engaged teaching and scholarship at UCD. This includes “rigorous study, stakeholder interviews and a comprehensive report at the end of the year,” she said.