Uncharted Territory

Elizabeth blogPosted by Matsui Washington Fellow Elizabeth Householder

As I write this, it is now my second official snow day. As a California native who never really ventured too far from home, I must admit this is still all amazingly surprising and surreal, to say the least. The first time I saw snow was last week. I was so shocked I halted in my tracks in awe to watch the first little snowflakes fall from the sky. Little did I know those cute little snow flakes would turn into a blizzard that would trap us all inside for four days, but hey, I guess you should be careful what you wish for!

Walking in the streets after the blizzard finally ended… SO MUCH SNOW!

Walking in the streets after the blizzard finally ended… SO MUCH SNOW!

5 Continue reading


Washington DC: Reconnecting with a Familiar Space

Gurchit blogPosted by Matsui Washington Fellow Gurchit Chatha

In 2014, after having just transferred to Cal, I decided I’d take it upon myself to independently apply for an internship in Washington, D.C. and begin dabbling in the political world. Though I had a stellar experience interning for Congressman Mike Honda, because I was on my own, I was forced to rely on personal finances and limited funding from the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF) to manage the hefty costs associated with living in D.C. In retrospect, boy was that a huge mistake! DC’s housing costs climb every year, eating out averages around $15-20 per meal, and keeping up with the city’s chic fashion trends is no poor man’s task.

A couple of friends and I got our Library of Congress Researcher cards!

A couple of friends and I got our Library of Congress Researcher cards!

Fast-forward two years, and here I am again embarking on another journey in DC, this time interning at the Brookings Institution’s Center for Effective Public Management as part of the Spring 2016 UCDC class. Thankfully, however, with lessons learned from the past come greater prospects for the future: I remain grateful to UC Berkeley and generous donors like the ones that make the Matsui Center Fellowships possible for helping me finance my stay in D.C. It’s no understatement that financial stability has great effects on one’s mental health, and thus, being able to perceive these next few months through the lens of a worry-free college student is a privilege in it of itself. Continue reading

Lived Experience as a Source of Knowledge

Danny MurilloPosted by John Gardner Fellow Danny Murillo

Founded by Dr. Donald Roden of Rutgers University – New Brunswick, the MountainviewProgram (MVP) initially started as a volunteer GED tutoring group for incarcerated youth at the Mountainview Youth Correctional Facility in Annandale, New Jersey. In 2013 the MVP program was incorporated into a consortium of higher education institutions known as the New Jersey Scholarship and Transformative Education in Prisons (NJ – STEP). The MVP then transitioned into the reentry component within NJ – STEP’s prison to higher education pipeline and is housed at the School of Criminal Justice at Rutgers University – Newark.

Following the formalization of NJ-STEP, the Vera Institute of Justice selected them as part of a five-year national initiative that provides incentive funding and technical assistance to three selected states to participate in the Pathways from Prison to Postsecondary Education Project. The consortium is a membership of community colleges and public and private universities that collaborates with the New Jersey Department of Corrections and State Parole Board by providing post-secondary courses to incarcerated students in seven state correctional facilities and formerly incarcerated students in various New Jersey community colleges and the Rutgers University. Continue reading

Amid Anxiety, Human Rights Should be a Priority

Paras blog headshotPosted by John Gardner Fellow Paras Shah

December in midtown Manhattan brings tourists, holiday lights, and time with friends and family. The year’s final month also celebrates two important global human rights events: The International Day of Persons with Disabilities on December 3, and Human Rights Day on December 10.

Recent events make us realize how important it is to include planning to meet the needs of  people with disabilities in emergency and conflict situations. And human rights as a concept has taken on particular meaning and urgency in the last few weeks.

In recognition of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, Human Rights Watch issued a  news release on people with disabilities in conflict situations. Governments, donors, and aid agencies are overwhelmed with many competing priorities during emergencies. Yet it is  essential to make sure that the needs and concerns of people with disabilities are not lost in the shuffle Continue reading

Becoming More Intentional

danielle blogPosted by Gardner Fellow Danielle Puretz

On December 6, 2014 I wrote myself a letter as a closing exercise for the Global Poverty and Practice capstone course. I remember our discussion on the day we received the assignment: very few of the students in the class knew what they would be doing upon graduation, and among those that did, all were applying to grad school. I remember the professor passing out the sheets of blue paper, the black and yellow sketch of a tree I’d included with my letter and the smugness I felt at my idea to enclose a twenty dollar bill as a reminder from my past to present self that we have cause to celebrate.

In December of last year I did not know that come fall, I would be embarking on the John Gardner Fellowship, I did not know where I would be or what I would be doing and my biggest fear was that I would be “tired and stuck in a lease I can’t afford.” But beyond the evidence of chaos and confusion that was my life at the time, I asked myself some crucial questions, shared some personal insights and posed some exciting challenges. I dared myself to do things that scare me, shared the hope that I would be making art and writing for the sake of it, reminded myself to read and exercise my mind, wrote that “creative processes are opportunities for [us] to listen to [ourselves]” and incited a call to action telling myself to cultivate insatiability, never stop seeking inspiration, listening, learning and experimenting. Continue reading

Post-Secondary Education is Critical for the Formerly Incarcerated

Danny MurilloPosted by John Gardner Fellow Danny Murillo

It’s early Tuesday morning and I am on a flight to Detroit-Metro Airport. Due to weather conditions the flight is being delayed. As the plane sits on the runway at Newark Liberty International Airport I am second guessing my participation in this trip. I am accompanying my colleagues Rebecca Silber and Sean Addie to Michigan to meet with our partners and students of the Pathways from Prison to Postsecondary Education Project. Thirty minutes have passed and the plane is still grounded. I am beginning to feel anxious. My anxiety is compounded as I think about the two prisons I will be entering; Parnall Correctional Facility (SMT) and Macomb Correctional Facility (MRF). This is my first time entering a prison facility since my release in 2010. I am concerned for my well-being, and I understand that my anxiety is linked to the trauma of incarceration.

Channeling the Spirit of Detroit, with my colleague Rebecca Silber.

Channeling the Spirit of Detroit, with my colleague Rebecca Silber.

Continue reading

Goodbye for Now, DC

Lucy headshot for blogPosted by Matsui Washington Fellow Lucy Song

I spent my last night in DC eating Ethiopian food with my intern friends, and the weather was mild enough for my friend and I to take a stroll around Embassy Row, the Potomac River, and Georgetown. Between saying goodbyes to friends, working on term papers, and wrapping up my internship, it wasn’t until my last day in DC when I realized how much I would miss being able to walk around the National Mall everyday, live a few blocks away from the White House, stop by the numerous Smithsonian museums at a moment’s notice, and immerse myself in the DC atmosphere. Continue reading