UFLi Digital Archive

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Month: March 2020

Jasmine Ruiz (‘20.5)

Reflecting on the Community Narrative Series

It’s been a year and a half since I proposed this series. Drawing from Humans of New York, I wanted the Community Narrative Project to serve as a similar digital space to affirm shared experiences, provide intergenerational advice, and encourage vulnerability with community members. In my own experiences at Brown, my connections with other community members are without a doubt the reason I have come this far. 

I remember feeling particularly lonely my freshman year as I struggled to find community in Providence. I had high expectations for my time at Brown, and was discouraged and embarrassed when I felt unhappy with my college experience. I found solace in stories from graduating U-FLi seniors, who listed off the buildings they had cried in on campus or talked about the times they considered transferring. They mentioned how time and time again, their support networks came through to pick them up when they were down.

When proposing this digital project, I hoped to recreate the sense of community I felt during those U-FLi events. I wanted to acknowledge the weight of those moments when our individual realities feel especially salient and isolating, while also highlighting and affirming everything we bring to the table — our strengths, our pastimes, our passions.

I like to end interviews for this project by asking folks who they are away from Brown, as the pressures of academia can quickly feel overwhelming. It feels grounding to remind ourselves that our worth is not tied to our productivity, to our academic performance, to our student identities. We are friends, family members, poets, dancers, artists, Hot Cheetos consumers (and/or distributors).

I’m grateful to have shared moments of vulnerability and reflection with the folks I was lucky enough to interview, to witness how this community always shows up to affirm and celebrate each other. I’m excited to share we will be posting a few more highlights to finish out the semester. These times are difficult in more ways than one, but I hope we can continue to find joy in our stories, in our friends, and in our community.

If you’d like to view past highlights, please visit http://blogs.brown.edu/uflidigitalarchive/.

-Jasmine Ruiz ’20.5 (she/hers)

Harnessing the Power of Food

When: Thursday, March 19, 2020

Where: U-FLi Center, Room 520

Time: 5:30-7pm

We are proud to present a conversation and interactive workshop with alumni Jenny Li ’14 (Tooth and Nail Collective) and Chef Gabriela Alvarez ’11 (Liberation Cuisine). The workshop will address issues of building sustained community power and knowledge around food, focusing on accessible and communal practices for U-FLi students. Chef Gabriela Alvarez, based in NYC, works to bring healthy food options into urban communities and provides accessible and healthy cuisine for social justice organizations. Jenny Li, based locally, works in a farming collective that aims to reclaim ancestral knowledge of the land in order to use food sources as a method of healing. Together, they will discuss what it means to harness the social and cultural capital of community power and knowledge of food for working class people. Students will leave the event with personalized herbal tea blends and dining hall inspired food recipes.

U-FLiCon Remix: A Conversation with Vanessa Flores-Maldonado ’14

When: Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Where: Brown Faculty Club

Time: 6-8:30pm

Join us for a workshop titled “The Deadly Superhero Complex- How to Get the U.S. to Stop ‘Saving’ Us” followed by a keynote with Vanessa Flores-Maldonado`14.

Vanessa (she/her) is a Guatemalan American woman, born and raised in Los Angeles before moving out to Providence. Vanessa is the first in her family to do a lot of things: graduate high school, go to college, and come out as queer. She first became involved with the Providence Youth Student Movement (PrYSM) as a part of the queer trans programming before she was hired to coordinate the Community Safety Act Campaign. January 2020 marks a significant time for Vanessa as she transitions to become PrYSM’s Co-Executive Director with Steven Dy as her other half.

Loose Accents: Preserving Undocumented Resilience

When: Friday, March 6, 2020

Where: U-FLi Center, Room 520

Time: 5-6:30pm

Join the U-FLi Center and LGBTQ Center for an evening with Loose Accents. Our guests, Danyeli and Undocubae, will discuss the different ways in which they navigate Latinidad on the East and West coast, considering how immigration status, sexuality, race, and class shape their experiences. Danyeli, originally from The Bronx, is a a formerly undocumented, Afro-Dominican writer, podcaster, and activist. Undocubae, from South Central LA is an organizer, storyteller, transformational coal, TEDx speaker and presenter. Together they exemplify what building friendship, support networks, and community across different identities means, and how we can continue to bridge gaps during tumultuous times.

How U So FLi? A Mixer for U-FLi First Years

When: Monday, March 2, 2020

Where: U-FLi Center Room 520

Time: 7:30-9pm

Are you a first year? Do you have U-FLi identities? Well, if the answer to both of those questions is yes, come to the First Year U-FLi mixer on March 2nd from 7:30pm-9pm! Get to know your fellow U-FLi first years and make your own care package! Snacks will be provided! RSVP by Thursday!

Frances Imarhia (’22)

Meet Frances Imarhia (she/hers), a sophomore from Granbury, Texas. Frances is a Program in Liberal Medical Education (PLME) candidate and plans to concentrate in Biomedical Engineering. She is also a junior representative for First-Generation/Underrepresented in Medicine (FURM). Read the full interview below:

How are you? How’s your year going so far?
I’m doing well surprisingly. My year has been really busy. I decided to take 5 classes this semester. So far, I’ve been managing it. You can say managing very loosely. I’ve been really busy but in a good way. I think I’m getting a lot accomplished and starting to really settle in here. 

Can you tell me a bit about your work with FURM?
I’m currently a junior representative for FURM. First of all, I’m a PLME, which coming here I was really excited about. I quickly grew to notice as a PLME you’re surrounded by a lot of people who have been exposed to medical and higher education for pretty much their entire life.

For people like me who are first-generation, there are obvious differences in our experiences in the field and our comfort talking to physicians. When I heard about FURM, I saw it as something that was really necessary. I was looking for more ways to get involved. That’s how I became a junior rep.

My freshman year, I struggled a lot with imposter syndrome. Getting to know these people in the UFLi community and the FURM community and realizing that these intelligent and talented people also felt the same way, it made me feel like maybe I’m not the problem. I felt really comforted by that fact so I’m hoping to help other people who feel the same way. 

Advice you’d give your freshman year self?
Learn to ask for help. It’s not a sign of weakness. Specifically in the STEM community for UFLi students, we typically come from schools that are underfunded or not well run. We don’t start off on the same playing field as our peers, so it makes intro classes very difficult. I struggled in multivariable calculus. Half the people in the class had taken it in high school. At my high school, the calculus class was basically just us watching Khan Academy trying to piece things together. It feels like you’re playing catch up, so it’s not wrong to ask for help. We’re the ones those resources are here for. We deserve to be here just as much as anyone else.

Carla Yuridia Balvaneda (’22)

Meet Carla Yuridia Balvaneda (she/hers), a sophomore from Southern California. Carla plans to concentrate in International and Public Affairs, and potentially Education Studies as well. She is also the Community Outreach Chair for First-Gens@Brown. Read the full interview below:

How are you?
I’m alive. I’ve actually been doing pretty well I think. I almost don’t recognize myself with how well I’m doing. I’m putting support systems in place and taking care of myself in ways that I didn’t prioritize in other semesters. I really enjoy my classes this semester also.

Why did you decide to get involved with First-Gens@Brown?
I think coming in as a first-year, move-in day was probably the worst day. I remember during orientation week there was an event for U-FLi students. I almost cried because I remember hearing things that resonate with me. Coming here and not knowing a single soul was kind of alienating, along with the introduction to academia. Being involved with First-Gens@Brown was a way to be involved with the U-FLi Center and a group that works together to empower students. I think it was helpful for me to find that community and help foster that community I was looking for. 

Any advice for first years?
Go to CAPS. I think it’s okay to not know, whether that’s what I want to concentrate in or feeling lost. I’ve realized that that’s not something only I was experiencing. Also definitely take advantage of resources, like being able to communicate with alumni, talking to deans, going to office hours. It’s definitely something I wasn’t comfortable with my first year because I didn’t have experience with it and was learning how to navigate it. I wish I had taken more risks in those areas. In terms of balancing family expectations and my expectations, I’ve realized that what really matters is what I want to do and that I enjoy doing what I want to do.

Who are you outside of Brown?
I feel like that’s something that lately I’ve been trying to figure out. In realizing that I’m going home, or things outside of school, I think it’s hard sometimes. Being on campus and living here, it feels like Brown is everything but I remind myself I’m only 19 years old. Being here is only a small part of who I’m going to be and who I want to be.

I also like literary fiction. I like hot cheetos with cheese, with lemon, or Valentina.

Jose Martinez (’23)

This week, our Community Narrative highlights Jose Martinez (he/him/his), a first-year from San Antonio, Texas. Jose is double-concentrating in Visual Arts and Modern Culture and Media Studies. He is also a photographer and filmmaker. Read the interview below:

How are you? How’s your semester going so far?
It’s good. Coming back was a huge change in weather. It’s been much colder than I expected, but shopping period treated me well. I got into the classes I wanted to get into, but I ended up with a schedule completely different than the one I started off with.

How did you get into photo/video work?
It’s funny – the camera that I have today isn’t my camera. It’s my sister’s camera. She got a camera for her quinceañera. That was her big present, but she didn’t really use it. I was like 15 or 16 when I saw it in the closet collecting dust, so I was like hey I might as well just take pictures. 

I started off doing sports photography for my middle school and high school. People would be like, oh I like you’re pictures, and I thought I could take this a little more seriously. That’s when I transitioned to doing more portraits and concert photography. I honestly didn’t start taking it super seriously until my junior year, so I was already like 3 or so years into shooting. 

What does it mean to you to be U-FLi?
I guess a big part of it is understanding that you’re special. Most people don’t have the same experiences you have, and even within the U-FLi community, not everyone’s experiences are the same. It’s being cognizant that you’re going to have to work harder than other people because the system is built that way. But you also know to not forget where you come from. A big part of it is looking back to your roots and the reason that you work so hard. 

You can find Jose’s portfolio here.

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