Chancellor's Friday Letters

How Does Your Garden Grow?

How Does Your Garden Grow?

January 27, 2012

Dear Friends,

Late Tuesday afternoon I met with eleven students, this time with such majors as sociology, environmental sciences, and plant biology.

Our hour-long meeting left me feeling so proud to see the power of students, faculty and staff coming together around important academic and practical issues, and doing so in deep connection with the larger Riverside area community.

The conversation encouraged me to reflect that, when a seed is planted, given the right conditions, it cannot only blossom but multiply, creating research, learning and outreach opportunities along the way, and engaging all who wish to be.

And everyone is better for it.

Flash back about two years: With the idea, energy and commitment of our then-student and now alum, Fortino Morales, I agreed to allow use of some temporarily empty land along Watkins Drive near the residence halls to become a sustainable community garden (http://newsroom.ucr.edu/2061).  And since then, many students have worked the land, grown crops, engaged in sustainable practices, and from time to time harvested a small bounty of food to share with those in need.

Current students Cynthia Deleon and Elizabeth Tizcareno requested a meeting with me, along with several of their peers, to provide an update on the UCR community garden. These students are working through the Undergraduate Research Office on a project called Cultivate R’Space. It’s the project’s second year focused on faculty-mentored research, community engagement, and hands-on learning at the community garden.

One order of business involved taking care of the details and expenses of moving the garden from its existing place to a permanent site near Lot 30 by the Canyon Crest entrance to campus – a one-acre spot with fencing and a water source that will provide a more secure and visible venue.

The vision they have created for UCR’s community garden, now dubbed R’Garden, is to serve as a space to build solidarity and inclusiveness through inter-generational engagement, as well as learning and understanding of the world through an interdisciplinary approach to education and awareness.  The new site for the garden will be a place for students, faculty, staff and community members to grow fresh produce while learning about social, environmental, and economically sustainable developments.  People will have an opportunity to create community-based research programs and service-learning opportunities around environmental education and interdisciplinary courses that enhance the students’ experience at UCR.  R’Garden will act as a hub for sustainability at various levels of UCR.

Good for them.  Good for us.

But also good for each student.

Take the case of Elizabeth, who shared with me a letter she sent to Governor Brown:

“I am an incoming junior at the University of California, Riverside. As a first-generation college student, my goal when I first arrived to this university was just to graduate as soon as possible to obtain a decent job to support my family. I was passionate towards my major in environmental science, but I felt the coursework was too abstract to connect it to my life and that of others… I enjoyed doing community service in my neighborhood since my parents taught me to share, listen, and help when possible. But what job could I obtain from my major while developing these social connections which were so important to me?

“As the school year proceeded, I even wondered if it mattered what job I got as long as it paid well enough to pay for my loans… I felt disconnected and lost in this research institution until I found people who felt similarly and were doing something about it… The program does not only create connections between higher-education institutions and surrounding communities, but it develops relationships between people who would otherwise never speak and learn from each other.

“What I once viewed as a countdown towards graduation is now a meaningful life experience that I will continue to live out after graduating.”

Best wishes,


Tim White, Chancellor

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We’re gobbling the earth
We’re consuming the Earth’s resources faster than they can be renewed. A university is the perfect place to explore those issues in a lecture series, which begins this Tuesday. Join us for a deep and thoughtful exploration of water quality, the politics of oil exploration, and the use of public space. There’s no charge.

Veterans cheer for free
A military ID (active or retired) is a free pass to the UCR men’s basketball game on Feb. 4. This annual tradition is a great opportunity to acknowledge and thank those who have served from both inside and outside the university.

Can any mother?
I love it when we take on challenging issues. You can join us tonight or tomorrow and again next week for “In The Blood,” a play about single motherhood and wrenching poverty roughly modeled on Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter.” The play starts at 8 p.m. with an added 2 p.m. show Feb. 4.

 Find out what else is going on at UC Riverside: http://www.ucr.edu/happenings/

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Riverside, CA 92521
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E-mail: chancellor@ucr.edu