College Eight Update, Winter 2014

March 21, 2014

College Eight plans “Ecotopia Emerging” Conference for UCSC’s 50th Anniversary

From January 2015 through June 2016, UCSC will be celebrating its 50th anniversary (see, with many events being planned to mark the occasion.  For its part, College Eight will sponsor a conference recognizing the campus’s anniversary as well as the 40th anniversary of the first publication of Ernest Callenbach’s Ecotopia.  This is a novel whose impacts on California and the world are inestimable (see ).  Along with John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath, Ecotopia is required reading in the College Eight Fall Core Course. 

Ecotopia is the travel journal of William Weston, a reporter for The New York Times who visits the new ecologically-organized country of Ecotopia, which extends from Northern California to Washington state.  After a brief war, Ecotopia has seceded from the United States and is governed by the Survivalist Party, run almost entirely by women. Weston arrives a very skeptical observer but is gradually converted to Ecotopian ways and decides to remain. In many ways, Ecotopia is less a novel about the future than a reflection of environmental currents running through California and the United States during the late 1960s and early 1970s. 

The term “ecotopia” has become both a badge of honor in California and a focus of derision in other places.  An online search turns up more than 500,000 hits. There are some one million copies of the novel in print.  But how significant has Ecotopia really been?  Among the objectives of the conference is to assess the novel’s impact on California’s imaginaries and society and inquire whether there is, or will ever be, an “emerging ecotopia” on the West Coast.

The conference is scheduled for the weekend of November 6-8, 2015. It will include a keynote by science fiction writer Kim Stanley Robinson, whose Pacific Edge, one of his California Trilogy, envisions an ecotopian future in Orange County, California. Malcolm Margolin, author of The Ohlone Way, the second publisher of Ecotopia, and a close friend of Callenbach, as well as Callenbach’s widow, Christine Ledfeldt, will also give presentations. Other well-known writers and activists from the 1970s will be invited, and more academic articles will be commissioned for a book.  Keep your eyes on this space for future information about the conference.


New Westside Writing Center is open for business

UCSC's never-ending efforts to help students improve their writing and communication skills has a new player.  In September 2013, Colleges Eight, Oakes and Porter launched the Westside Writing Center (WWC).  Located at Oakes, the Center is co-financed by the three Colleges and serves only their affiliated students. Students can make appointments with or drop in to see graduate student tutors whom come from a broad range of Departments, including Music, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Education, Anthropology, Literature, and History of Art & Visual Culture (HAVC), History of Consciousness, Politics and Social Psychology.

Data are now in from Fall and Winter Quarters, and they show that students—primarily first and second year—have come in for more than 350 hours of tutoring.  Currently available resources limit the number of students that can be served and sessions that can be offered.  The three Colleges are hoping to procure funding from the University for expansion of the WWC over the next two years, as well as foundation and private monies. If you would like to help support the WWC and its essential student service, please contact College Eight Provost Ronnie Lipschutz, at


Building Green at College Eight

Green building is coming to College Eight! As part of the pending minor in Sustainability Studies (currently wending its way through the University bureaucracy; see the Fall Quarter Update for details), the college is sponsoring two classes in green building during Spring Quarter and Summer Session. 

The first, “Sustainable Sculptural Building with Earth & Fiber Materials,” focuses on building and structure design using high-fibered adobes and related materials. Philip Mirkin, a building and materials designer and developer of Hybrid Adobe, will teach the class in a mostly hands-on outdoor learning format. Topics include landscaping and sculptural applications as well as mixes, techniques, procedures, traits, and solutions to problems. Mirkin has taught over 90 workshops and seminars on Hybrid Adobe and is the author of "The Hybrid Adobe Handbook.” He will be holding a one-day workshop on the same topic on Saturday, April 19, 2014.

The second class will be taught by Thomas Rettenwender, a Monterey architect and principle in the firm EcoLogic Design Lab. Entitled “Ecological Design and Construction: Theory and Practice,” the course will run for 10 weeks (two sessions). During the first five weeks, students will learn about the principles of ecological design theory, receive training in design tools such as sketching, CAD drafting, 3-D modeling, physical modeling and then be guided through their own design of a Pocket House based on the design goals and program requirements they have established. During the second five weeks, students will follow through with the construction, installation and operation of a Pocket House, a life-size model of a portable, compact, net-zero sustainable living unit.

For further information about Summer Session at UCSC, please see


College Eight Students Participate in Service Learning Internships

 One of College Eight’s newest classes is CLEI 155, the Sustainability Service Learning Internship. Offered three times a year, this 2-unit class teaches students about service learning and participatory action research, and motivates them to reflect on their college education and how they have been taught. Students commit to 3 hours per week of service learning work at a campus or community project, including the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems (CASFS), Program in Community and Agroecology (PICA), campus natural reserves, campus non-reserve lands, UCSC Arboretum, Younger Lagoon, Homeless Garden Project and Habitat for Humanity, among others.

 For many students, the internship is a life-changing experience. The work they do at their placements is something most have neither engaged in or experienced at any other time during their college careers. For Niki Goularte, a College Eight senior Biochemistry and Molecular Biology major, “My service learning project involved working with the Habitat for Humanity ReStore organization…. It was an incredibly rewarding experience and I will always feel a connection to the store, those who worked there, and my classmates who participated at the site. Even though the class has ended, I know I'll be going back to ReStore."  Taryn Chiong, a senior in Molecular Cell and Developmental Biology, told us, “For the CLEI 155 class, at first I thought I was just going to plant native species and take out weeds for 10 weeks. But as weeks went on, working Natural Bridges was like second nature…. I came in narrow-minded, but came out with a… broader perspective.” 

 In addition to their work, students keep a participatory action research journal of their work, make an individual or group presentation to the class and instructors about their experiences, and write reflection papers. Several of the presentations are available on-line;  others will be posted as they become available.