UCI Immersive Field Study

In spring 2015 the School of Social Ecology, in collaboration with the UCI Blum Center, launched a pilot program in immersive Field Study.  Four students had a unique opportunity to do fieldwork for 10 weeks on a full-time basis for an organization that concentrates on poverty alleviation and social injustice. The students were placed not just locally in Orange County, but also across the nation. Over the course of the academic year, the program offers current students special opportunities, including:

Negar Fatahi
Metro St. Louis Coalition for Inclusion and Equity
St. Louis, MO

Negar was placed at an organization dedicated to advocating for the equitable allocation of public and private investments in community programs that transform vulnerable neighborhoods into socially and economically vibrant places to live. Negar lived in two very different communities during her placement. After four weeks in her Field Study, she moved to the Central West End, an affluent and predominantly white neighborhood. As Negar explains it, “I have gone from an area where cab companies refused to dispatch their drivers  (due to various claims of imminent danger) to an area where the same cab companies make sure to have a driver at my house within five minutes.” She observed how the segregation of affluent individuals is somehow normal and expected. Negar reflects that “It’s this exact normalized segregation that has robbed individuals of their empathy and allows them to remain blind to the problems that affect other individuals in their own city.” Negar will return to campus in the fall for her senior year in the Department of Psychology and Social Behavior

Courtney King
William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation
Oxford, MS

As a Southern native, going to her Field Study location in Mississippi was like going home. But after a short time, Courtney saw a different side of the South, one she did not experience growing up. While working at the Winter Institute, Courtney attended multi-racial reconciliation community meetings. Hearing the experiences and stories from locals exposed her to the current situation and issues people are trying to overcome. Also,
she had informal interactions with locals that challenged her ways of thinking about the communication of racial issues. In addition to learning about the present situation in the south, Courtney researched historical acts of regional racial violence. Reading these first-hand accounts was eye-opening for her and allowed her to connect them to current issues. Overall, Courtney describes her Field Study as “an unforgettable educational adventure that the conventional classroom does not offer.”


Crystal Torres
Orange County Family Justice Center
Anaheim, CA

Crystal did not have to go far from UCI to have a transformative Field Study experience at the Orange County Family Justice Center. The Center provides direct services to victims of domestic violence, child abuse, elder abuse and sexual assault, many of whom are immigrants. Crystal had the opportunity to work directly with their clients to break the cycle of violence. Her site supervisor said that the Center received very positive feedback from clients and that Crystal “…didn’t miss a beat and provided the world class customer service expected at OCFJC.” Through her work, Crystal experienced first-hand the psychological distress of victims and helped to facilitate their access to community resources in the justice system, social services, mental health, and housing.


Samantha Willis
William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation
Oxford, MS

Samantha knew that by going to the rural Mississippi Delta for her Field Study, she would be confronted with explicit racism. But what she didn’t realize was how many different forms it would take, nor the interesting situations she would find herself in. After participating in just a few community meetings organized by the William Winter Institute, Samantha realized that race relations was much more complicated than the theories she had learned about at UCI. The meetings exposed her to effects of history, social biases, and the need for everyone to have a say in reconciliation. Beyond these meetings, Samantha participated in a Die-In protest, a Black Lives Matter march in Baltimore, and helped the William Winter Institute improve their MS Civil Rights website for K-12 students. Samantha graduated from UCI in June and is making plans to go back to Mississippi to continue working with the William Winter Institute. Her experiences this spring have fueled her interest in going to law school to become a human rights attorney