Name: Noya Kansky
Host Site: Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo
Alma Mater: Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo
Major: Anthropology and Geography
Background: Truth be told, my undergraduate career was rather stagnant for the first two years. I mean, I sometimes identify my on-campus waitressing job as one of the highlights of my sophomore year of college – mostly because I discovered how delicious bacon was (have you ever put bacon in mac and cheese? I highly recommend it). I sort of “bumbled” through my Anthropology & Geography coursework, dispassionate about most of what I was learning, until I started to learn more about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I went on to study abroad in Haifa, Israel for one year. It was wild, to say the least. From the beginning, I sought to decolonize my mind (which had been coddled in an Israeli Zionist upbringing) from what I thought I knew about Israel – the “innocent” nation necessitated to be the bastion of Jewish culture… at the expense of uprooting countless indigenous Palestinians. I was able to visit the West Bank, where I explored rural and urban environments, met Palestinians, and heard narratives (including those of violent colonialism) much different than what I had heard throughout my life. Throughout the year, I noticed my opinions about war, exploitation, sexism, racism, and imperialism become concrete. I chose to reflect on this experience during my senior year through writing my senior thesis, which was a transnational feminist exploration of the role of women in Palestinian resistance against the Israeli Occupation. It was finally in my senior year that I actually started to enjoy learning and application of anthropological and geographical methodological frameworks. After graduation in 2014, I decided to take a position with CSU STEM VISTA at Cal Poly because I enjoyed being on a college campus so much, and the position allowed me to dive into social justice issues, research, and to continue engagement with my thesis. And of course, here I am, back again… for a second year with VISTA
at Cal Poly SLO.
Ah-ha moment: In my one-and-a-half years as a VISTA at Cal Poly SLO, I’ve learned that “it takes a village”… and that I have always wanted to be one of the Village People. Metaphorically speaking, if you want to create a successful and sustainable rendition of “Y.M.C.A.,” you need to know how to work with different people to really get down in the disco. Because my presence at my site is temporary, it’s important to me to disseminate knowledge and/or tools that I’ve developed for my site and project so that it lives beyond me.
Accomplishments: The work I’m most proud of is in leading efforts on campus to support students who lack documentation. This is where the aforementioned Village People metaphor comes into play. In a year-and-a-half, we have managed to gather a strong group of folks from across campus, and across the county (from local Allan Hancock College and Cuesta College) to work towards establishing a more equitable education for undocumented students. This year, we are hoping to start providing trainings for interested folks on campus that include foundational knowledge for working with these students on campus, and knowledge about how to be an effective mentor and ally.
Future Goals/Plans: My extended time at Cal Poly SLO has allowed me to reaffirm that I would like to be a student again! I recently applied to graduate school, and hoping that it works out. If not, well… I’ve always wanted to see the Grand Canyon, hike the John Muir Trail, and read A Song of Ice and Fire series (aka, the series that Game of Thrones is based off).