UCSD builds knowledge exchange corridors to connect to community

By Will Bowen

UCSD sits perched high atop a lofty hill overlooking the town of La Jolla. But has UCSD become an ivory tower, aloof and detached from the communities below it with very little in the way of structures that allow for the free flow of information, knowledge, and creative intelligence from the community to the university and back?

Professor Teddy Cruz of the UCSD Visual Arts Department and Professor Michael Cole of Communications both think so and they are trying to do something about it.

They’ve put together a pilot project called “Knowledge Exchange Corridors: The UCSD Community Stations Initiative.” The aim of the program is to revitalize the university’s commitment to community service through the installation of pipelines for information flow between the campus and surrounding communities.

At the Calit2 facility on campus on Aug. 19, Cruz and Cole gave a presentation about their work and opened an art show at the Calit2 Art Gallery that highlights the features of their program. Students and teachers from the associated Summer Workshop series were also present to share their projects.

In the Calit2 Art Gallery there were large colorful maps and visualizations of the people and organizations involved in the project. There were also three computer stations and three small visual display units to provide information. An “OptlPortable” (a large display screen for real-time video and audio Internet interaction between sites on and off campus) was also on view.

Through the project, UCSD will have a presence and be involved in some underserved, economically disadvantaged areas of San Diego. At these intervention sites or stations, dialogue and a two-way sharing of information will hopefully occur. There will be a partnership of organizations on campus with others off campus.

• The UCSD Center for Community Well-Being, headed by Michael Cole, will partner with San Diego Work Force Partnership’s South Metro Center in Southeast San Diego to further community health, education, and job training.

• Teddy Cruz will head up the on-campus Center of Urban Ecologies, which is paired up with Casa Familiar in San Ysidro, to focus on arts, culture, housing and urban development. Calt2 will be involved as a resource for the technology needed.

• Srinivas Sukumar, a researcher at Calit2 who helped found the Center for Community Well-Being, promised that, “Calit2 will provide the very latest technology to bring to bear on the community issues confronted by the organizations.”

• Deborah Forster, a cognitive scientist affiliated with the Center of Urban Ecology, who teaches at both the Woodbury School of Architecture at the New School of Architecture in San Diego, said she would bring engineering students into the communities. She also mentioned some projects already underway, such as a study of air pollution at the Border Crossing, where there are so many idling cars, as well as pollution studies at the Tijuana Estuary.

• Katie Rast, one of the teachers for the mini series of summer educational workshops, who is affiliated with Fab Lab based at the South Metro Center, showed off some of her refugee students from a community soccer league who had learned about web design and made Ipad battery chargers and Draw Audio pens that make music when you write.

• Trish Stone, curator at Calit2 gallery, invited La Jollans up to campus to check out the exhibit. “People can see some really good models of university/community interaction, which might lead them to formulate some ideas for how their own La Jolla community might be more involved with the university,” she said.

If you go

The Calit2 Art Gallery is open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday at Atkinson Hall, First Floor, 9500 Gilman Drive. Admission is free. The exhibit runs to Sept. 23. For more details, visit