Author Archive for Jonathan Favero

Looking Forward

I don’t fully know what to expect this summer, but I’m definitely eager to begin my work with the Positive Youth Justice Initiative. Being a rookie in public scholarship, I will certainly learn a great deal from working with people who share goals similar to my own, who are already at-work, meeting their goals and setting new standards. I do expect that my work over the summer will lead to other opportunities for community engagement, and it will give me some insight to the numerous perspectives we have studied in the Public Scholars seminar. Again, I don’t know what sorts of opportunities will arise, or precisely how my views will take shape (or, be reshaped), or affect the work I do in the future, but it’s ok; the multitude of possibilities are exciting and invigorating.

The Public Scholars seminar, along with my training as a graduate student, and a variety of life experiences in general have given me the tools I need to begin my public scholarship. These tools will be useful for many tasks, whether it’s helping to write a report, or teaching, or being aware of the multifarious boundaries of community engagement, or knowing the stakes of my involvement with a community and the community’s involvement in the work we’re doing, or simply communicating effectively with people in and outside of the community.

We’ve learned in the Public Scholars seminar to think broadly and imaginatively about our, and the community’s goals and needs, as well as our careers following graduate school, and the potential to combine public scholarship with whatever paths we may take. My expectations for the summer are pretty simple really. I want to connect with like-minded people and learn from them, and gain more tools and experience, while making myself useful to the community. I will approach the work, not only with the skills I already have, but also with humility and dedication, and a willingness to meet any outcome with confidence.

For Once the Quarter System Exhibits Some Value: Or, Making the Most Out of Precious Little Time

What can we do in a summer? Well, as graduate students in this university we’re conditioned to accomplish quite a lot in very short flurries of activity. This conditioning, or training rather, is graciously given to us by the quarter system that UC Davis uses as its academic calendar. Within this framework we manage to absorb at least the foundations of, if not the full breadth of, and/or specific perspectives of a given topic, by engaging in discussions, readings, and our own writings related to the subject, and/or creating some sort of overarching project that exemplifies our understanding of the materials we’re studying, all in the tiny timeframe of ten weeks. But, we fully understand these quarters are simply small intervals within a larger progression; one which seemingly charts a clear path to a doctorate, or terminal degree of some sort, in our respective fields over the course of a handful of quarters that make-up five to eight years, or so (but who’s counting?).

Obviously the tasks we are taking on this summer possess drastically different stakes. But, we can take the brutal pace of an academic quarter, I mean the benefits of negotiating its brevity, into our summer projects, so that we will be able to (bear with me now, I know this is going to sound utterly corny) efficiently maximize our experiences with our community partners. While our summer projects clearly seem short, bounded by just two months, there is actually no clear beginning—I mean, this moment may serve as an entry point into specific communities, or realms of thought and being, for some of us, but all of us have at least taken a first step into the pool of public scholarship by applying to, and participating in this program with the DHI, and something in us, or our experiences propagated that action as well. Moreover, some folks in the program are already well-rooted in a particular community, where they are fully engaged in serving that community’s needs. Furthermore, there will likely be no end to the type of work we will be doing, in very general terms at least, meaning community engagement, or public service, or however you’d like to frame it. What I mean is, I imagine most of us are looking at our two month summer project as a small interval within a much bigger undertaking, (an approach that’s not unlike our academic work).

Surely, it goes without saying (although, I’m saying it anyway), that none of us can totally predict what we will encounter, or which directions our experiences this summer will take us; the only thing we should expect is that we will inevitably confront the unexpected. Again, like the track we take as academics—one that speciously has a clear beginning and end—the starting-point of our public scholarship may not be easy to identify, and as I just stated the outcome definitely lacks certainty; so what is two months within this context? How will we negotiate its terms, or quantify its significance? Who knows. Ultimately, our training, academic or otherwise, has us well prepared to dive head-first into the depths of chance this summer, and make the best of our partnerships and the outcomes they will bring.

Exponential Possibilities in Public Engagement

As an artist I am regularly concerned with the audience, or my public. I compose what most would call “classical music,” so it probably goes without saying that my public in that realm is, unfortunately, pretty small, and often not too diverse (i.e., sometimes it’s only other composers).  All of us in the public scholars program are writers, and here too we consider our public, who in most cases is made-up of our colleagues. Perhaps, the regularity of audiences being other academics is why we often speak of “the public at-large” as some sort of Other that exists beyond the borders of the academy. But, many of us teach, and here we encounter a broader, relatively more assorted public that makes these so-called borders more pliable and porous, as teaching presents an abstract idea of what the public means, how far it reaches, and the exponential possibilities there in. This reminds us that the academy, and all of us in it, are part of the public, or at least, a public that engages with other publics, that together affect other publics, and so on, and so on… The public scholars program gives us a lot to think about in these regards of who and/or what is “the public,” as we are challenging these notions of identity and place, and their relationships within and outside all sorts of communities, along with their real, or imaginary borders.

This summer I will be working with the Positive Youth Justice Initiative and the Sierra Health Foundation on a report that addresses standards of care, regulations, and reforms in the California Division of Juvenile Justice. I am looking forward to exploring the concept of the public within this framework, as I am sure my current conception of what it is, and my expectations of what my role will be in it, will likely be accurate in a handful of ways, while simultaneously taking shape within, or being reshaped by the experience, as there is so much for me to learn about this particular public, or this community. Obviously, the people reading the report that I contribute to, whether it’s my supervisor and co-workers, or policy makers and legislatures, or anyone with an interest in reading it, will be an audience, and a type, or types of a public that I will be engaging with. Examining previous reports, policies, and standards, will create another abstract means of public engagement, e.g. interacting with a “past public” so-to-speak. The past and present standards and policies, and data analyses and subsequent reports, will likely lead to interaction with administrators and staff members within the juvenile justice system, and certainly within the PYJI, locally and possibly statewide.

With so many possibilities, this is all quite exciting, for a number of reasons, but foremost because I will be involved in what Matt Cervantes, Senior Program Officer at the Sierra Health Foundation, has described as, “(a) chance to do something transformative” for crossover youths—young people who have experienced trauma and/or maltreatment and currently are engaged in the juvenile justice system. This transformation that Cervantes speaks of is rethinking juvenile justice, and putting the needs of the detained in the forefront, so our justice system becomes less punitive and more supportive, as a majority of the youths involved in the system have faced emotional and physical traumas and abuses, and their needs have too often been neglected. Ultimately, these young people are the public that I will be engaging with; but, they in turn will engage with other publics, including me and my other publics, and all of us will continue engaging with our communities throughout our futures, and so on, and so on… Thus, again, we see an abstract, exponential set of possibilities for public engagement, where the borders are intangible, and the outcomes are limitless.

Why Am I Here?: The Age-old Question

Why am I here? It’s the ever-present, utterly perplexing question, and it underlies many of the decisions I make, whether they’re day-to-day, or big-picture. I’ve been asking myself this question for years, and am forever hopeful that, overall, life has at least some sort of meaning, and that mine in particular has a purpose. I contemplate life’s complexities and its possibilities in my compositions, and in art generally, and I find meaning through learning and my spirituality (although each propagates more questions and further doubt). Teaching, more than anything else I have done in my life, has given me a tremendous sense of purpose.

But, I often find myself feeling that I’m not doing enough, and that specifically I should be doing more for others. Although striving to create a more fulfilling existence for myself by serving others, is admittedly embedded in my ego, and stemming from my fear of life’s futility, I still fully believe it is a public-spirited pursuit, and one that everybody should undertake—as a civic duty? Yes, of course; but, also plainly as a basic measure of being human. Perhaps, this pursuit transcends self-interests when the ultimate goal is a collective well-being, in which everyone’s life is rewarding, and hopefully, some day, free of suffering.

Like my time on this planet, I will be here in the UC Davis community as a graduate student temporarily. So the question begins, “Why am I here?” and becomes, “What can I do while I’m here?”  This question drew me to the Public Scholars program in the UC Davis Humanities Institute, primarily because of the many possibilities the program affords to do public good, while meeting the community on its own terms, and placing the community’s needs first. Furthermore, the many learning experiences, the guidance and mentorship, and working with an eclectic mix of peers in the Public Scholars program will be highly beneficial, and the skills we gain in the program will undoubtedly serve us as we continue to serve our communities in the future.