Life is Not Linear – Learning to Fight for Equity, Diversity, and Democracy in San Francisco


David Woo
Master of Arts in Urban Affairs candidate ’17

I decided late last summer to apply to the Master of Arts in Urban Affairs program at the University of San Francisco (USF) in a move to change my career path. As an undergraduate at the University of California Santa Cruz (UCSC), I studied both chemistry and sociology. While I was passionate about both fields, upon graduating I ended up working with the Environmental, Health, and Safety department at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) in the chemical safety department. While the work I was doing was important, I was not doing the type and scope of work that I truly wanted to do – that is work that addresses issues surrounding social justice. After moving back home to San Francisco after graduating UCSC, there were apparent differences brought about by the technology boom. Increased displacement, skyrocketing housing prices, and a general feeling of unease as trendy boutiques went up in the place of longtime neighborhood serving establishments.

After leaving my job at UCSF I took some time off to reconsider what I wanted out of my career. The serious crisis in San Francisco brought about by rising economic inequality was in full force and my desire to get involved in social justice work ultimately led me to the Urban Affairs program at USF. While I was unsure if I was too late to apply, the staff at the USF McCarthy center took the time to respond to all my questions and helped me get an application in very quickly, well past the official deadline to apply to the program. Having previously been interested in sociology, political activism, and social change movements in college, the interdisciplinary focus of the program seemed like a great fit.

Now one year in, I am very happy with the program, classes, and instructors. Using San Francisco as a case study, the program looks at current and historical economic, social, and cultural conditions and how they are affected by a range of political influences as well as local, state, and federal policies. I have gained great insight to how cities function and operate and especially the role that community and local activism play in shaping policies. Taking classes such as Issues in Urban Policy with former Bay Guardian editor, Tim Redmond and Housing, Community, and Public Policy with activist, Calvin Welch, core policy issues in San Francisco are addressed within a historical context. Topics and questions that arise in class revolve around issues of economic and social equality and equity – what type of city is San Francisco striving to be and who benefits from current economic policies? Is the current course that the city administration is taking towards economic growth beneficial to all residents of San Francisco or only a handful of individuals?

I am currently interning with the South of Market Community Action Network in the South of Market in San Francisco, working on a range of community land use issues with the organization. In my next year of the Urban Affairs program I hope to continue to study the current conditions in San Francisco as they relate to the technology boom, housing crisis, and growing economic inequality in San Francisco. I hope to work in some capacity on land use issues in San Francisco after graduating, whether it be through policy work, community engagement, or another avenue – focusing on how to make San Francisco a space for all people, not just the wealthy.

MA Urban Affairs

Apply now for the Master of Arts in Urban Affairs degree.

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Bay AreaCalvin WelchDavid WooEnvironmentalHealth and Safetyhigher educationhousing policyincome inequalityland use policyLeo T. McCarthy CenterMcCarthy Centerpolicypolitical activismpoliticsSan Franciscosocial changeSouth of Market Community Action Networktechnology boomTim RedmondUniversity of California Santa CruzUniversity of San FranciscoUrban Affairs

usfmccarthycenter • July 5, 2016

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