By Sarah Welsh
City on a Hill Press Reporter

Photo by Olivia Irvin.
Photo by Olivia Irvin.

Students who voted yes on Measure 37 in last year’s campus elections enacted a new fee of $1.33 per student, per quarter, beginning fall 2008. This fee supports the Global Information Internship Program (GIIP) and Global Information and Social Enterprise Studies (GISES), a new concentration in the sociology department.

The new fee enables GIIP to place more UC Santa Cruz students in the program, as well as fund more student projects and internships with community and nonprofit organizations that seek tech-savvy GIIP interns. GIIP students are encouraged to find internships that focus on concerns relating to the environment, health care, education, and women’s issues, among other subjects. The fee, which adds up to approximately $59,427 for the 2008-2009 school year, “provides funding for placement and grants students can apply for,” said Paul Lubeck, sociology professor and director of GIIP.

GIIP, which was founded 10 years ago, promotes the use of information technologies such as the Internet to advance social justice throughout the world. GISES, a new option for students, is an expansion of the GIIP internship program and lets GIIPers continue their work in pursuit of a degree. In Sociology 30B this quarter, taught by Lubeck and associate director Adam Thompson, students learn “to design innovative and sustainable project-centered solutions to various social problems,” according to the course syllabus. In 30B, students read case studies about existing efforts of nonprofits and effective grant proposal writing. They also work in tech labs with a focus on open-source and free technology.

GIIP is made up of three courses: Sociology 30A, 30B and 30C. The new GISES concentration includes these courses as well as Sociology 15 — World Society — and four upper-division electives.

“The project idea must be an executable project that you, as the inventor, could actually do within a three-month time period,” said Helen Jentzen, fourth-year sociology student. “I love that about the class. We are asked to think globally, because there are real problems of inequality and social injustice in this world.”

Though GIIP has always had popular support, students had trouble fitting the classes and hours they spend on their projects into their schedules. Now, with the new concentration, students can put their GIIP courses toward a degree and not just do the program as an extracurricular pursuit.

MaryJane Skjellerup, a UCSC alumna, was one of the original founders of GIIP. During the dot-com boom of the late 1990s, new technology was popping up everywhere. The world was getting connected, and she thought there must be some way to use this new technology for good.

“We realized that when we graduate, we’re going to know everything that’s wrong with the world and we’re not going to know how to fix it,” she said. “GIIP is all about training a new generation of community activists who value the importance of being skilled and who value the importance of information technologies to create change on a global scale.”

After graduating from UCSC, Skjellerup and another GIIP graduate started a nonprofit in Fresno, Calif., an area plagued with rampant poverty. The Center for Multicultural Cooperation works with Hmong and Latino youth to tell the stories of their parents, grandparents, and war veterans. The program is currently expanding and opening chapters throughout California. GIIP teaches a lab at UCSC for its students, inspired by Skjellerup’s own digital storytelling idea.

GIIP projects are diverse, and have sent students to Mexico, Honduras, Kenya, and Nigeria, among other places. Though GIIP remains a small program, they hope to use the money from Measure 37 to expand on campus.

As Lubeck said, “We want people to use information technology to make the world a better place.”