Category Archives: Ideas

About environmental justice


After being involved in engaged scholarship in the field of environmental studies, I thought I would start thinking more seriously on what kind of environmental justice frame I am working on. Although I environmental justice may not necessarily my initial entry in my work, my environmental-related work has brought me to the issues of power across race, ethnicity, and class. So I have some knowledge and experience relevant to the conversations.

Continue reading About environmental justice

On teaching, learning, and service


My current community-based project has brought lots of reflective thinking. On one hand, I am blessed. On the other hand, I could not really avoid them. Here is my latest reflective thinking that I recently shared with my “partners in crime.”

If done right, community-based project is one of the most frustrating projects. Sometimes, one of the most successful is among the most frustrating. People might argue it doesn’t have to (be frustrating). I would argue back, I am not sure if he/she truly understands the complexities of a true community-based project.

One of the possible source of frustrations from this process is that I follow a learning process/theory called popular education (see Paulo Freire and Myles Horton if interested). While the very large majority of instructors follow traditional learning approaches called pedagogy (teaching for children) and/or andragogy (teaching for adult). Popular education is mostly adopted and continued to be developed in a specific area of sociology and community psychology. While pedagogy and andragogy are exclusive in school of education. Most of their strategies are contradictive.

In addition, I am *very* flexible, but I realize it does create confusions and messiness around me sometimes, and maybe they could be counter-productive. But as long as it produces good impacts on community partners and their immediate communities, that is all that matters to me, to be completely very honest. I don’t mind at all with all the messiness, I will have to deal with them.


” … to put simply, I am lost” : the reality of “unreal” world


” Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backward 10 years later.” – Steve Jobs, 6/12/2005

This week, I completed my first sessions working with a total of 51 undergraduate students; out of 275 or so total students  enrolled in the course .  In short, the course is to address students’ anxieties about the “real world” so they can strategize their college years.  The INTER-LS 210 2nd Yr Career Course “Taking Initiative” largely builds on the idea of liberal arts education that encourages students to think creatively about themselves, and eventually about the environment they belong to.

Rightly so, reading my students initial reflective writing, which is one of the assignments in this course, I have learned overwhelming  number of students experiencing fear about the “real world.”  One student wrote, “I have never understood how the real world works.”  This leads me to think, are we (students) now in an unreal world?   This post is my elaboration on the question. Continue reading ” … to put simply, I am lost” : the reality of “unreal” world

Why reciprocity is not as simple as it seems?

Reciprocity, just like many other terms such as equality, justice, participation, have become a rhetoric where we are often stuck with the talk rather than the walk. Because, in each of these terms, it involves at least two completely difference universe.

Let’s talk about it in the context of community-academic partnerships, and I would use a very specific case when people have differing opinions  leading to arguments. A phrase I was told says that “an argument is a moment of a productive conversation.” In this case, at least I would try to explain that the idea of reciprocity means almost nothing. This is because academics and community members are in two very different social constructions when committing to argumentative conversations.

Continue reading Why reciprocity is not as simple as it seems?

It’s more than just a job training, it is a civic engagement project

Robert Pierce at Meriter Hospital
Robert Pierce in the Meriter’s site of the South Madison Farmers’ Market

This post is about my partnership in South Madison.  Reading the most recent story at the Capital Times about our project could potentially be misleading as this may be perceived as just another job training trying to help Formerly Incarcerated Individuals (FIIs). FIIs are not the problem.  FIIs are part of our solution in developing a strong and just local food system in South Madison.

First, it is very possible that we have not been able to communicate clearly about what is it that we want to do with the project.  It is very convenient to think that our project is just another job training for FIIs who lack of skills and lack of trust when trying to reenter the society.  This project is thought to bring together a group of saviors who will give the skills and jobs to FIIs.  No, we are not a savior, and this project is not a job training.  We are using the job training as a means, but the ultimate goal is to build a strong connection between the commercial urban agriculture skills and the food desert community where these FIIs are a part of. Continue reading It’s more than just a job training, it is a civic engagement project

being unproductive for my 15-minute a day writing goal


I am debating myself about this writing, not the whole idea, but the idea of each post I am about to write.

Should I focus on a writing that is good and informative?  OR should I focus on writing that the quality I should care less as long as I write continuously 15-minute a day?

Even when you are trying to be as casual as possible in writing, knowing that your goal is merely to be comfortable in writing, you still have this constant barrier in your mind: what should I write?   Mostly probably because you can’t really get away with the idea of writing something informative.

But even if it is informative, maybe frame it in a different way, informative for who?  Who is my audience in this 15-minute a day writing?  Should I think that the audience is anyone out there online — (as if the trend visit on my website is high)?  Or maybe I should just think that my audience is my own, and I should care less about whoever reads my 15-minute a day posts?

They are easy questions with easy answers.  But when you are doing the work and actually trying to practically answer the question, that is probably the hard part.

Ciao —

ps.  Maybe I should just stick with this kind of writing I did for this post?

Infographic on South Madison Food Justice Project

Abby Jackson is a friend who joined our team for the South Madison food justice project.  She would be a Teaching Assistant for the service learning capstone course for the 2014-2015 academic year.  She was one of our students in our previous community-university partnership with The Natural Step Monona, where I got to know her excellent community-oriented skills that essential for our project.

Among one of a few things that she did in starting off her journey with us was to put together this infographic about the project.  The poster was presented at the Wisconsin Prevention of Diabetes & Center for Integrated Agriculture Studies, and won a prize in the category of Community Access to Healthy Food.

Please view the poster in pdf that illustrates our plan for the project.