Public Scholarship is a capacious category. It includes diverse forms of creating, transforming, or disseminating knowledge with, for and about various publics and communities. Community partners can include (but are not limited to) cultural, governmental, non-profit, and grassroots organizations. We seek to promote dialogue, exchange, and collaboration between UCSD scholars and the greater San Diego community.

Collaboration and partnership is based on values including relationship-building, reciprocity, and mutual benefit; participation, transparency, and reflection; innovation, integration, and dialogue; cultural diversity and social equality.

Below are examples of public scholarship initiatives funded and supported by the Center for the Humanities.


Landscape of Los Laureles Canyon

Los Laureles Canyon Wicking Gardens

The Los Laureles Wicking Garden Project worked in Los Laureles Canyon on the Mexican side of the Tijuana River Estuary, a precarious urban landscape of weak infrastructure, rampant industrial growth, water scarcity, and contamination from waste dumping. This canyon is particularly interesting because it crosses the border and is implicated in a number of different ecological and economic environments of pertinence to both California and Baja. The project addresses the challenge of designing and implementing a system of vegetable gardening in a toxic environment. Members of the Wicking Garden Collective worked with community members through Alter Terra, an environmental group led by Oscar Romo, Watershed Coordinator of the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve, and lecturer in the Urban Studies and Planning Dept, UCSD. Visual Arts faculty and graduate students blended material and social design, ethnography and permaculture, to re-purpose waste material into sustainable environmental projects.

Mark Hanna on the Californian

Teaching Students the Age of Sail

“People ask me this all the time – how I became interested in pirates, and the assumption is that I was always fascinated with pirates, and I was not at all. In fact, I never dressed as a pirate; I never talked like a pirate. I actually went to grad school at Harvard to study fatherhood in early America.”

It was in this research that Professor Mark G. Hanna was first exposed to pirates – they had only a brief mention in the last part of a dissertation chapter draft, but he was encouraged to explore the topic further by members of a seminar he was taking. At first he was dubious, and told them he would only give it one month to see what existed in the archives. What did he find? “Pirates were everywhere.” Hanna became enthralled, and quickly shifted focus. His passion ever since, both in research and teaching, has been pirates.

A History of Seafaring in the Age of Sail is an upper-division undergraduate seminar conceptualized and conceived by Hanna, Associate Professor in the Department of History at UC San Diego, in conjunction with the San Diego Maritime Museum. The course was birthed out of a conversation Hanna had with Center Director Stefan Tanaka: “I had already started teaching the Golden Age of Piracy, which is a pretty large class. I told Stefan that the class is really about the maritime world, but it’s hard to talk about it. Often when I lecture I’ll use a lot of metaphors. I’ll pretend the room is a ship, and tell the students, ‘Imagine what it’s like…’ But it’s much easier to be able to understand these difficult concepts when you’re on a ship. So we said, let’s get a small seminar and put them on a ship.”

The course, which focuses on life at sea from the age of discovery to the advent of the steamship, was wildly successful in its first year, even resulting in a documentary film by Shannon Bradley of UCSD-TV. Students in the course got hands-on experience in the field through three unique experiences. They enjoyed sailing the Californian vessel in the San Diego Bay thanks to a partnership with Ray Ashley of the San Diego Maritime Museum. The class presented on never-before-studied original logbooks produced by seafaring captains during the 1800s, while also assisting in their digitization for UC San Diego’s Special Collections Library. Finally, they toured the the Real Pirates and Pirates: Unlikely Naturalists exhibits at the Natural History Museum co-curated by Professor Hanna with Susan Loveall, at the San Diego Natural History Museum. This course has lasting effects on the UCSD and San Diego landscape and likely will for years to come, as is offered again in 2015.

Tijuana-San Diego Border

Mapping Transborder Spacemaking

“Interrogating the Line: A Transdisciplinary Collective for Mexico-­US. Border Research” project supports a trans-border artistic collaboration. Funded by the UC President’s Public Partnerships in the Humanities Community Partnerships grant, this project plans to work with cross-border communities to create a digital map that documents the history of radical place-making in the San Diego-Tijuana region.