This week, the Center for Social Innovation at University of California, Riverside welcomed our new Associate Director, Michelle G. Magalong. Michelle received her BA in Ethnic Studies and Urban Studies and Planning at University of California, San Diego (UCSD), and MA and PhD in Urban Planning at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).
Her research and professional experience is in community development, historic preservation, and public health in underrepresented communities. She also serves as Executive Director of Asian and Pacific Islander Americans in Historic Preservation, a national volunteer-run organization.
We sat down to learn more about Michelle and what she’s excited about in the work ahead:
What are you looking forward to working on at the Center for Social Innovation?
I love the notion that social innovation is about ideas and solutions that create social value—as well as the processes through which they are generated. For the Inland Empire, this allows various stakeholders — from community leaders to elected officials, scholars to entrepreneurs — to think outside of the box at the possibilities of leveraging the region’s assets while address needs and issues. At the Center for Social Innovation, we have the opportunity to explore and collaborate on issues critical to the region and its diverse communities regarding civic engagement, economic mobility, immigrant integration, and leadership and entrepreneurship.
What drew you to the Center for Social Innovation?
As an urban planner, I have been intrigued by the social, cultural, and economic landscape of the Inland Empire. There is such great diversity in terms of communities, industries, and services across the region and I am drawn to exploring its rich and complex assets and needs. The Center allows me to utilize both my academic skills and nonprofit experience to explore and analyze these issues while engaging and collaborating with partners within UCR and across the region.
Can you share with us a notable project or experience you have worked on in the Inland Empire?
In my work in historic preservation, I worked with local historic preservation groups to stop the demolition of a historic structure in Rancho Cucamonga. China House was built around 1919 and slated for demolition in 2011. With it being the last remaining structure to a once-thriving Chinese community in the city, we fought to save it. The campaign caught national attention as it was named on the list of 11 most endangered sites by the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 2011. All the media attention and community support helped save China House, which still remains intact today. It was amazing to see the power of local groups fight to save such an important place.
What is a little known gem about the Inland Empire that you often share with others?
One of my favorite places to visit is the California Citrus Historic State Park in Riverside. During my first visit, I got a tour of the citrus groves by a docent and learned about the history of the citrus industry in the region, the contributions of owners and laborers alike, and how Riverside’s parent Washington navel orange tree is the mother to millions of navel orange trees. It’s a wonderful state park to visit and learn about the history of the Inland Empire. On your way out, you can pick up a bag of the most delicious navel oranges at the citrus stand.
In addition to being a frequent visitor to this park, I recently sat on a advisory group with California State Park staff and UCR public history scholars on fostering community engagement, telling inclusive histories of the region, and bridging connections between past and present. In this process, I got a chance to learn from and interact with community leaders, public historians, and conservationists about the great work they all do in telling their histories in and contributions to the Inland Empire.
Where would you choose to live: by the ocean, in the mountains or in the desert?
It’s great to live in the Inland Empire as I can say that it’s easy to access all three. On the weekends, I frequent places like the Crystal Cove State Park and beach for a hike on the trails, Joshua Tree National Park for stargazing and camping, and Mount Baldy for hiking and snowboarding.
Photo Credit: Les Talusan