Cal Poly Establishes Center to Better Understand Cultural, Demographic Landscape of Central Coast

SAN LUIS OBISPO — A group of Cal Poly faculty members has established The Center for Applied Study of Place-based Indigeneity, Race and Ethnicity (ASPIRE) to further understand the cultural and demographic landscape of Cal Poly and the Central Coast, provide research-based support for historically underrepresented communities on the Central Coast, and support Cal Poly’s diversity, equity and inclusion efforts through sustained positive impacts on the surrounding communities.

Jenell Navarro, interim department chair of the Ethnic Studies Department, will serve as director of the ASPIRE Center. The research team also includes Denise Isom, interim vice president of Diversity and Inclusion; José Navarro, associate professor of ethnic studies; and Grace Yeh, professor of ethnic studies and interim chair of the Communication Studies Department. 

The research team aims to investigate and uncover the histories of indigeneity, racism and white supremacy in the region and the state; highlight the significant and ongoing contributions by people of color and their partners on the Central Coast and throughout the state; and engender and maintain greater equity and access at Cal Poly and across the Central Coast.

Cal Poly is situated on the traditional homelands of the yak titʸu titʸu yak tiłhini, Northern Chumash Tribe of San Luis Obispo County and Region. The research team aims to respect and honor the sovereignty of the tribe in all research efforts.

The faculty involved with the ASPIRE Center plan to work closely with student researchers and community partners, especially from communities of color on the Central Coast. Research projects include studying the visibility and community awareness of the yak titʸu titʸu yak tiłhini, Northern Chumash tribe; training teachers to better deliver social justice education in Central Coast schools; and developing a bilingual mobile app to help low-income families of color access information about attending college. The team will also work on developing curriculum on California Indian history and culture. 

“We believe that the project can complement and extend university work to create a more diverse, equitable and inclusive campus by providing new opportunities for our students, faculty and staff to research, teach and learn about our diverse communities and state,” Navarro said. “It will be a true benefit to them and to our university.”

In the future Navarro hopes the team can bring local tribes to campus and put on educational workshops for Native American youth as part of a California Indian Education Day on 
Cal Poly’s campus. 

“The Center for Applied Study of Place-based Indigeneity, Race and Ethnicity is a key step in providing our students greater opportunities to learn more about the diverse communities in our region and state and truly infusing diversity, equity and inclusion principles into our curriculum and scholarship,” said Renee Reijo Pera, Cal Poly’s vice president for Research and Economic Development.

The project is funded through the Strategic Research Initiatives (SRI) program, a partnership between Academic Affairs, Research and Economic Development and University Development. The SRI program identified proposals from Cal Poly faculty and staff that addressed problems facing the Central Coast, California and the world as a whole, that also placed an emphasis on the role of undergraduate and graduate student research experiences. For more information about the SRI program, visit https://research.calpoly.edu/strategic-research-initiatives.

Contact: Keegan Koberl
805-458-9302; kkoberl@calpoly.edu

September 22, 2020

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