Diversity Studies

Beyond Census

The U.S. Census does not represent an accurate number of Arab Americans. ENGAGE students gathered personal narratives from Arab American individuals living in the Bay Area.

Project Objective:

“Beyond Census: The Lives of Middle Eastern Immigrants in Post -9/11 America” explored the political, cultural, and social logic proliferated by US Census data about the experience of recent Middle Eastern immigrants .
In partnership with The Arab Cultural and Community Center of San Francisco [ACCC], ENGAGE students gathered personal narratives from (Arab American) individuals living in the Bay Area.  Students aggregated data from multiple sources to reflect a more accurate census count, both by country and across all residents of Middle Eastern descent aiming  to expose the myths perpetuated about the Arab American experience through Census data. Finally, “Beyond Census” visualized the data sets said to represent the Middle Eastern experience and presenting them alongside personal stories from Arab American community members.


Project Outcome(s):

The ENGAGE course culminated in the publication of qualitative and quantitative data uncovered by research conducted throughout the class. In their publication ENGAGE students visualized American Community Survey GIS data sets and detailed their findings. ENGAGE participants also curated the personal stories (lectures/ films) of Arab American community members amongst the datasets, complicating (or as a way to speak back to) the restrictive (limited/obscuring/ inaccurate) representation communicated by the visualized data.


Harrison Hotel

The Harrison Hotel, a residence for the formerly homeless, in Downtown Oakland, marked the site of collaboration and community building between students and residents for a mural series. Celebrating the residents’ personal stories, the seven murals show the value of public art by weaving together urban architecture, landscape, and language.

Project Objective:

Under Muralist, Eduardo Pineda’s instruction “Harrison Hotel” students gained valuable experience in the role of art making to strengthen community relationships by co-creating 7 murals. Informed by his experience in the Community Mural Movement, Pineda placed particular emphasis on the process of making a community art piece. ENGAGE students were asked students to learn about the complexities of the community ecology and cultivate trusting relationships through volunteering and working with the Harrison Hotel residents on mural designs. At each stage in development, “Harrison Hotel” collaborated with community organizations so that the final piece would give voice to the questions or issues that concerned each particular community group.

Project Outcomes(s):

“Harrison Hotel” resulted in seven murals exhibited along Jefferson and 12th Street in Downtown Oakland aptly titled “Building Community.” These murals showcase the residents’ personal stories as metaphors that weave together urban architecture, landscape, and language as a connection to the greater Oakland community. A collaborative effort on many levels, “Building Community” represents the efforts of residents, local nonprofit organizations and businesses to develop community ties.


Athena Project

CCA and ARISE High School art students researched Oakland history and collaborated on the creation of a 30-foot mural installation at the Fruitvale BART Station.

Project Objective

Through the “Athena Project” ENGAGE students mentored ARISE High School art students in the design of a community mural and that they painted together, bringing the mural to life. “Athena Project” participants developed leadership and collaborative skills in the research, design, and implementation of a community mural. As part of the design process, ARISE High School and ENGAGE students consulted with the National Park Service for guidance into the history of the area prior to submitting their mural proposal to City Hall.

Project Outcome(s)

The “Athena Project” culminated with the installation of a 30-foot mural in the Fruitvale station depicting the history of the De Anza trail, contemporary living, and future life of the Fruitvale neighborhood. The “Athena Project” created a mutually beneficial art making opportunity for under-served Bay Area youth and California College of the Arts students with a focus on service learning, youth empowerment, and socially engaged art. The mural was so well received that a local shopkeeper provided a site for the mural panels to be permanently installed.


Since its installation over 1,000 people view the mural each day. The mural has been displayed at festivals in Fruitvale, and students have been interviewed by the local news about the mural.