Oregon Humanities' collaborative approach to programming and publications is possible thanks to the support of donors like you. In this special message, hear from Rozzell Medina, program manager, about the kind of intentional relationship building he's engaged in and how much time it takes. As part of our spring campaign, will you make a gift to support wonder and curiosity—one person, one connection at a time?
Rozzell Medina grew up in and around Choctaw, Oklahoma; San Francisco, California; and San Antonio, Texas. He has lived in Portland for about twenty years, though he loves wandering off now and then, mostly to visit ancestral homelands in Mexico and New Mexico. Prior to joining Oregon Humanities in 2019, he founded and directed the creative learning project Public Social University, which transformed art galleries, cafes, museums, and public parks into temporary community free schools. He earned a master’s degree in educational leadership and policy with an emphasis on regenerative ecological and cultural learning from Portland State University. There, he also instructed several interdisciplinary studies courses and coordinated the Chiron Studies program, which enabled students to create, design, and instruct official, for-credit classes. In addition to managing programs and serving as the lead instructor of Humanity in Perspective at Oregon Humanities, he is the festival director of the Portland EcoFilm Festival.
Further Reading and Resources
- Listen to "Advocating for Peace," a conversation between Sosan Amiri and Rozzell Medina about advocacy and community from June 2022.
- Read about Humanity in Perspective and So Much Together.
- Learn more about how you can support Oregon Humanities.
Hi! Rozzell Medina here. I’ve been thinking a lot about the many incredible relationships that have taken root and grown during my time at Oregon Humanities.
For almost four years now, I’ve had the pleasure of leading Humanity in Perspective (HIP), our longest-running program. HIP offers a variety of free, for-credit college courses for people living on low incomes and facing systemic barriers to continuing their education. These courses center the relationships, knowledge, curiosity, and creativity of the people who are learning together.
As you can imagine, I’ve gotten to know many wonderful people through HIP—including some who want to change their minds, their communities, and even the world. One such person is Sosan Amiri.
Sosan’s initial reason for enrolling in HIP was to improve her English and earn free college credits. And her English certainly improved through the course, and she earned nine free college credits. She also expanded her knowledge of how to serve her community and her family, and she deserves credit for helping more people than either she or I could have imagined.
Shortly after completing her second HIP course, Sosan used lessons she learned in HIP to connect hundreds of her fellow Afghan nationals (including her mother and father) and help them escape the uncertainty of Taliban rule. I don’t think I’ll ever forget when she called to ask me, “Rozzell, I have been invited to Washington, DC, to speak before members of Congress about what I did. Will you help me write my speech?”
It would be difficult for me to believe that I’m making a difference through this work if I only believed the headlines. I would see a world where everyone is at each other’s throats, where no one wants to lean in across difference and difficulty. A land where an uncrossable chasm has carved its way through the fabric of society, and voting is the only thing you can do about it. But I think about Sosan—and other HIP students—and I see a world where possibility is the only acceptable option.
We have a community agreement in HIP that goes like this: We turn to wonder and curiosity when we think we know what others are talking about. It reminds us to open ourselves to the possibility that what someone is actually saying might be much more fascinating than what we think they are saying. These important words often resound in my head when I’m doing my part here at Oregon Humanities, managing programs and instructing courses that inspire understanding and collaborative change. Sometimes I hear them spoken in Sosan’s voice. I think about how she has surprised and inspired me, how she has turned me toward wonder and curiosity, and I get to work.
It takes time to nurture relationships that go beyond just knowing someone’s name or even their story—the only way for me to dedicate that time is with support from people like you. Your donations made the countless emails, meetings, classes, and conversations that led to Sosan’s phone call possible. Your support allows me to connect with people who want to change their minds, their communities, and the world.
Will you make a gift today to help expand the possibilities for Oregon—one person, one connection at a time?