Mission Statement

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 undergraduate action-education, research, advocacy, and civic engagement.

Kresge College, 1156 High St, Santa Cruz, CA, 95064
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Kresge College's Common Ground Center 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” (www.ucsc.edu).

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.

Core Commitments

Stewardship of the Earth

Meeting Universal Human Rights and Needs

Equitable Share of the Surplus

Limiting Wasteful Growth and Consumption

Values and Guiding Principles

Inclusivity and Diversity

Inter-generational Co-mentoring

Community Self-Reliance and Self-Management

Civic Engagement and Global Citizenship

Community Stewardship of the Land base

Compassion and Empathy

Social and Environmental Justice

Personal Empowerment

Regenerative Community Design

Creativity and Spiritual Development


We offer undergraduate coursework that supports personal and professional development in the areas that matter most to students. Faculty members Christine King and David Shaw teach courses each quarter that inspire and encourage life-long learning in regenerative design and transformative action. These classes are experiential, interactive, and project-based. In many cases the class is co-taught with undergraduate student Teaching Assistants, affording a select group of committed returning students the opportunity to participate in a track of educational leadership & change.

Being in close connection with TAs also allows the Faculty to stay abreast of the critical issues and cultural trends that make the pursuit of a university degree relevant in the context of today’s rapidly changing world. Based on this connection, Faculty are able to modify their curriculum appropriately to focus on solutions nuanced to the issues at hand.

Lastly, the Faculty support Independent Studies, Internships, Student-Directed Seminars and Individual Majors in their areas of expertise. 

David Shaw

Collaborative Learning: The Great Turning and Nature Connection (2 and 5 units) - Fall

Collaborative Learning: Sustainable Communities and Reclaiming the Commons (2 and 5 units) - Winter

Collaborative Learning: Permaculture Skills and Transition Towns (2 and 5 units) - Spring

Previously offered:

Food and Community (2 units) - Fall

Permaculture and Whole Systems Design (5 units) - Winter

Tools for World Changers (2 units) - Winter

Kresge Garden Co-op (2 units) - Spring

Christine King

Nonviolent Communication (1 unit) - Fall, Winter

Transformative Action (5 units) - Winter

Transformative Communication (2 units) - Spring

Transformative Justice (3 units) - Spring

University Culture (2 units) - Fall

Residential Life

In conjunction with the Housing Office, Common Ground has created a themed apartments at Kresge College, nurturing intentional community living at UCSC.

The Ecovillage - Intentional community living based on cooperation, justice, and sustainability. Limited to frosh.

The Ecovillage is a community striving to live well and lightly together. From appropriate technologies to holistic health, from sustainable agriculture to group facilitation, the ecovillage brings together 1st year students who wish to actively create a new world based on cooperation, justice, and sustainable living. If you are looking to cultivate a deep sense of place, host regular potlucks, and engage with sustainability education, this is the place for you. Students are highly encouraged to participate in the Kresge Garden Co-op, The World Cafe, and the classes, workshops, and events sponsored by the Common Ground Center at Kresge. Space is limited.


Right Livelihood College

Bioneers Conference Scholarship

Workshops and Lectures

Kresge Garden Co-op

Garden Herbalism

The World Cafe

Compassionate University Initiative

Take Back the Tap

Ancestor Feast

Media Archive


Please consider making a contribution to Common Ground. 

Any amount donated will help us enhance the quality and quantity of the transformative experiences we offer. If you are not able to give, we understand, and we hope you'll consider other ways of getting involved with Common Ground. To make a donation click on "Make a Gift" above (please be sure to write "Kresge Common Ground Center" in the notes) or send a check payable to "UC Regents" with "Common Ground Center" in the memo line to:

Common Ground Center
Kresge College
1156 High St
Santa Cruz, CA 95064