FY17 Projects

Oaxacan Linguistics

Submitted by Pranav Anand and Maziar Toosarvandani, Linguistics

Sponsored by SB Master

Approved January 23, 2017


As a result of several decades of migration, as many as 12,000 immigrants from the Mexican state of Oaxaca now live in the Monterey Bay area. Their mother tongues, hundreds of distinct indigenous languages, are now on the verge of real loss. While many wish to pass on their language, most Oaxacan languages lack an orthography (writing system), precluding useful resources for language learning. The Linguistics Department at UC Santa Cruz is poised to play a pivotal role in the vitality of these Oaxacan communities by supporting the creation of orthographies and other materials for the preservation and perpetuation of their languages.

Already, through a graduate course in spring 2016, students and faculty in the Linguistics Department produced an online dictionary and collection of stories for one Zapotec language (http://zapotec.ucsc.edu/slz/), along with a rudimentary orthography. Through Senderos (http://scsenderos.org/), the primary Oaxacan cultural organization for the region, community members have asked the department to assist them in creating an orthography, dictionary, and story collection for several other languages. In the short term, this will require two steps.

First, we will continue basic research on the structure of these languages, a prerequisite to developing more complete orthographies and dictionaries. Several teams of students and faculty will conduct fieldwork with speakers of Zapotec and other Oaxacan languages. To contextualize this fieldwork, we will hold a one-day academic workshop in spring 2017, featuring three graduate student speakers from UC Santa Cruz and three invited scholars.

Second, we will reconfigure the existing software for the Zapotec dictionary and story collection into a more mature online database system that can support multiple languages and research aims.


To make significant progress on both of these goals within the next nine months. In addition, it will prepare us to apply to extramural funding sources for several important future opportunities. One is a “summer camp” bringing together linguists and community members to collaboratively construct orthographies for individual Oaxacan languages and to build literacy in this new communication medium.

Another is the generalization of the computational infrastructure we are building to support our fieldwork. We believe this software could be useful more generally for linguists worldwide.

By the end of the period of the BOF grant, we will have a deeper understanding of several Oaxacan languages, which we will be able to measure by the number of items in our online database system (words, sentences, texts) and of academic products, including undergraduate and master’s theses, dissertations, conference presentations, and journal articles.

Amount funded: $12,000

Key UCSC faculty and staff:

Pranav Anand, Associate Professor, Linguistics

Maziar Toosarvandani, Assistant Professor, Linguistics

Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems (CASFS)

Submitted by Daniel Press, Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems (CASFS)

Sponsored by Henry Chu

Approved March 7, 2017


From campus dining halls and cafes to student food pantries and a weekly student farm stand that accepts CalFresh, the Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems (CASFS) is growing and nourishing future leaders at UCSC. Building on its four decades as an institutional anchor for applied research, public engagement, and partnerships with community leaders for a healthier food system, CASFS is celebrating its 50th anniversary and looking at its promising future. An important component of our efforts at CASFS is aligning and introducing new ways of improving the UCSC student experience through research, education, and service.

Much has been accomplished in recent years to advance sustainable agriculture education at UCSC as well as to create a national model for undergraduate experiential education and farm-to-cafeteria learning. UCSC students now have more opportunities than ever to participate in academic courses, labs, and internships that involve them in the real work of managing organic field research trials and organic crop production from seed through harvest at the 30-acre CASFS Farm and 3-acre Chadwick Garden. CASFS has attracted grant and gift funds to support this work along with accompanying curriculum development. Additionally, CASFS received UC Global Food Initiative grants to aid the growth and efficacy of student food pantries across the UC system, with UCSC’s providing the model of student-grown produce from a campus farm provisioning the student food pantry and other food security and food access efforts on campus. 


We would like to ask for the Board Opportunity’s Fund’s investment in growing the capacity of the farm-to cafeteria connection in terms of both increased student learning and increased crop production with year round supply to campus cafeterias and the student food pantry. This project will expand and extend undergraduate engagement in farm-to-cafeteria crop production, harvest and post-harvest handling at CASFS through the winter and spring months when more students are on campus. UC GFI has already invested in this effort with funds committed to the purchase of three hoop houses in 2017 that will allow for winter food production starting fall/winter 2017-2018. From the Board Opportunity Fund, we are requesting funds for equipment that will also aid year-round production, a flame weeder and a barrel washer, along with funds for additional a student worker based in the farm fields for two quarters.

Currently, almost all the major crop production at CASFS relies on staff and apprentice participation. In recent years, CASFS has begun offering a consistent, year-round 5-unit internship serving 20 students each fall, winter, and spring quarter, along with summer sessions. Capacity for the internship expansion has been facilitated in part by hiring new student assistant managers whose responsibilities include mentoring and advising interns. We have developed a competency-based learning outcomes evaluation instrument and protocols for the CASFS Internship.

Over the past three years we have further integrated undergraduates in growing crops at the CASFS Farm, with an increase in organic produce supplied to cafeterias and restaurants. These crop production activities are tied to undergraduate courses, labs, and internships. Ongoing crop planning, production, harvest, and delivery activities are staffed by undergraduate students in the Hay Barn Field, under the Farm Manager’s direction. Undergraduate interest brought about the establishment of a new farmer’s market stand in the main campus plaza featuring CASFS Farm flowers, berries, and other produce, staffed by students. CASFS staff and affiliated faculty have recently sponsored undergraduate interns and farm crews so that students could begin to produce fruits and vegetables for their own peers’ consumption at the UC Santa Cruz dining halls. This has been an extraordinary learning experience for all students involved. Not only have they received valuable agronomic training and practice, they have learned how to interface with their client, Dining Services, so that they grow the right crops at the right time for the right end consumers. Student interest and demand for much greater involvement in Farm and Garden production is very high, but limited by two factors. First, CASFS has not historically run winter production operations, so most of our production comes on in the summer, when students are not here. Second, the greatest labor needs occur during harvest activities; we never have enough hands to harvest the volumes that Dining Services would, ideally, like to receive.

This project addresses both those limitations while leveraging other resources to greatly extend student crop production involvement. The project addresses the first obstacle by producing vegetables in winter and hiring student workers during winter quarter instead of just spring and summer. This proposed project would cover funding for student workers in winter and spring of 2017. Two key pieces of equipment, a barrel washer and a flame weeder, will address the labor limitations we have faced. By also concentrating on potatoes, carrots and beets – crops in high demand by Dining Services – harvesting can be done semi-mechanically. The primary outcomes will consist of 1) student training and participation, and 2) increased sales to Dining Services.

Amount funded: $7,790

Key UCSC faculty and staff:

Daniel Press, Olga T. Griswold Professor of Environmental Studies and Executive Director of Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems

UCSC undergraduates

UCSC CASFS student interns