Communication Studies Professor Esteban del Rio, PhD will direct the 2011-2012 Sustainability Living Learning Community, beginning this fall. Participating students will live together and engage in coursework—as well as extracurricular exploration—all focusing on issues of sustainability.
"The Living Learning Communities build on something we already do in different classes in the college: suggest trans-disciplinary perspectives for approaching complex issues and questions," del Rio said. "With the LLCs, we make these links across the liberal arts curriculum explicit. In this sense, sustainability becomes a problematic for approaching a whole range of issues from different scholarly perspectives: political science, history, biology, communication, theology and religious studies and architecture."
The LLC model was introduced last year, and now reaches nearly one third of USD's first year population. The goal is to incorporate all first year students by 2014. Noelle Norton, Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences says the communities foster student and faculty connections, and help to enrich the university experience. Future LLC themes might include globalization, faith and self.
"With the LLCs, we make these links across the liberal arts curriculum explicit. In this sense, sustainability becomes a problematic for approaching a whole range of issues from different scholarly perspectives."
Esteban del Rio
Long before heading up the Sustainability LLC, del Rio was known in the community as a bicycle activist and advocate for natural living. In fact, he recently interviewed a like-minded alumnus, Jay Porter, who is a successful farm-to-table restaurateur and fellow bicycle advocate.
One of Porter's restaurants, El Take it Easy, will host an alumni-networking event on Sept. 10.
For del Rio, activism is common sense. He said his decision to bicycle, walk or use public transportation is a simple solution to "a whole range of problems" including pollution, climate change and petrol-politics.
"In our family, we've tried to make simple decisions about how we live and raise our daughters," del Rio said. "It really works for us."
One of those simple decisions was to enjoy the birth of their youngest child at home, with the assistance of two trained midwives. The baby girl was born on campus, in a UTA apartment, where del Rio served as a Resident Faculty member.
"Ida may be the only person born at USD," del Rio said. "Our oldest, three and a half at the time, woke up and emerged from her bedroom to meet her new sister. It was absolutely transformative."
del Rio and his family have a decades-long connection to the university. He and wife Alicia both earned their BAs in the College of Arts and Sciences, but the roots go even deeper for this Linda Vista native.
"I would sneak into the USD pool as a kid (and sometimes get kicked out) and played on the softball field where the Vista Apartments now stand," he said. "Both sets of my grandparents raised their families in Linda Vista and when the bishop asked Holy Family parishioners for donations to build a college, they gave what they could. My dad got his master's degree here, and both my younger sister and brother earned their BAs from USD. My first job when I was in high school at USDHS [USD High School] was serving food across the street at the 'caf.'"
"I try to strike a careful balance between challenge and support, but also to frame course material in a way that conveys the stakes of inquiry. For me, inquiry is about intellectual emancipation and cultivating justice."
del Rio said he feels lucky to serve the students at USD. And the appreciation appears to be mutual. Del Rio has been voted Professor of the Year three times by seniors in the College of Arts and Sciences.
"I try to strike a careful balance between challenge and support, but also to frame course material in a way that conveys the stakes of inquiry," he said. "For me, inquiry is about intellectual emancipation and cultivating justice."
- Anne Malinoski '11