Cluster Organizing

Southern California Cluster

The Imagining America Southern California (SoCal) Cluster meets every 2 months and is hosted by campuses interested in the cluster and/or Imagining America (IA). The cluster provides a local space for campuses to highlight community engaged work and scholarship, as well as network. It has become a professional development space for students, staff, faculty, and community partners.  For the past several years, the cluster has presented at the national conference. Undergraduate students have been mentored and supported by the cluster to make presentations at the conference, along with faculty, staff, and community partners. See more on the SoCal IA cluster here.  

To learn more about cluster organizing we suggest reading the document “Building a Regional Cluster for Cultural Change in Higher Education: The Imagining America SoCal Cluster” by Celestina Castillo, past SoCal Cluster Lead Organizer, which provides more detail regarding the history and approach to cluster organizing used by the SoCal Cluster. We also recommend viewing our past Teaching and Learning Circle webinar “Creating Culture Change through Regional Cluster Organizing: A Conversation with the IA SoCal Cluster” with Rissi Zimmermann, IA SoCal Cluster Lead Organizer, and Maria Avila, IA SoCal Cluster Founder.

IA Southern California Cluster Members

• Art Center College of Design 

• California State University, Dominguez Hills (CSUDH)

• College of the Canyons 

• University of La Verne

• Claremont Graduate University 

• Occidental College (Oxy)

• University of California, Irvine (UCI)

• University of Southern California (USC)

• University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)

• Pitzer College

• California State University, Los Angeles (CSULA)

IA Southern California Cluster History

The IA Southern California Cluster (the cluster) was organized in 2015 by Maria Avila (CSUDH). Original members and co-founders include Celestina Castillo (Occidental), Elizabeth Chin (Art Center), Vicki Ruiz (UCI), Kim Yasuda (UCSB), Marisol Morales (University of La Verne), Rissi Zimmerman (USC), and George Sanchez (USC). Throughout its five-year trajectory, the cluster has brought together faculty, administrators, and undergraduate and graduate students from an estimated 11 plus colleges and universities. These cluster participants value and support the implementation and dissemination of productively humane approaches to a civically engaged education across a diversity of educational communities and settings, and in partnership with on and off campus organizations. To this end, cluster members aim to build collaboratives within their campus towards the aim of creating a culture that values and rewards humane approaches to civically engaged education and scholarship. Our cluster’s collaborative efforts have made it possible to participate in four consecutive Imagining America national gatherings which include participating in a plenary session on community organizing in 2016 in Milwaukee as well as a panel presentation on cultural and broad-based organizing; a workshop to share progress after our second year as a cluster in 2017 in Davis; and creating a collective space where members shared civically engaged scholarship projects at their institutions in 2018, in Chicago. In 2019, cluster members presented on numerous panels, including one led by students from USC, UCI, and College of the Canyon focused on civically engaged undergraduate research. 

To learn more about regional cluster organizing, please reach out to Trina Van Schyndel, IA Membership Director, at, and Rissi Zimmermann, IA SoCal Cluster Lead Organizer, at