Common Ground Purpose


Common Ground is integral to UC Santa Cruz’s commitment to being “a participatory community united by shared commitments to: service to society; preservation and advancement of knowledge; and innovative teaching and learning” (

The mission of Common Ground is to create cultural change for social justice, environmental regeneration, and economic viability. We act as a catalyst and facilitator of systemic change through action-education, research, advocacy, and civic engagement.

The Center’s primary focus is undergraduate education. Our educational philosophy is based on what Paulo Freire calls praxis, “reflection and action upon the world in order to transform it” (Freire 51).* In our approach, learners are at the center of their own education, studying questions that matter most to them. Facing the unprecedented political, economic and ecological turbulences of today, our students are concerned with transformative learning opportunities that bridge the gap between academia and society, theory and practice. In short, they want to make a change in the world. Accordingly, we teach courses that demonstrate best practices for social and environmental change, partake in faculty-student collaborations, and provide mentorship for students as they design and implement projects in their area of inquiry. We are committed to supporting students in developing their full capacity to contribute to social and environmental change.

We provide mentorship in particular skills including: project management, nonviolent communication, restorative justice, facilitation, leadership, regenerative design, nature awareness, social entrepreneurship, and sustainable food systems. Our courses seek to engage student’s heads, hearts, and hands, and move beyond the traditional classroom format. One faculty-student collaboration, The World Café, brings members of the campus community, civil society and government together through regular large scale dialogue to discover new solutions for commonly held challenges. Another example is the Kresge Garden, a 1/3 acre production and education garden that is a living model of sustainable community design. Additionally, we sponsor competent and committed students in advancing participatory action research, civic engagement projects, and peer-to-peer learning opportunities, by which students develop their own leadership capacities in service of the world they want to shape and inherit.

From this praxis and these examples we have distilled the following core commitments, values, and principles.

* As a pedagogy, praxis has been immensely transformative in higher education worldwide since it was first introduced in the 1970s. It led students and faculty at UCSC to develop prominent interdisciplinary fields such as Women’s Studies, Environmental Studies, and Community Studies, that provided the academic foundations for Kresge College in both its early years and still today (Wikipedia, “Kresge College-The Early Years”). These are examples of the new cultural forms that Cultural Creatives have made to advance solutions to today’s problems.