A living learning lab for equity: Keesa V. Johnson (MDes ‘21) and the Campus Farm

Source: Stamps School of Art & Design

Keesa V. Johnson

“’Each generation must, out of relative obscurity, discover its mission, fulfill it, or betray it.’ Those are the words of Frantz Fanon,” says Keesa V. Johnson (MDes ’21). “And I’m not going to betray anything.”

Johnson’s declaration was made this past February, at the close of her presentation at the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Symposium: Building Community and Connecting Across Difference.

Finger-snapping and noises of approval from the audience echoed in Rackham’s assembly hall as Johnson walked back to the speakers’ table. There she rejoined a small group of dynamic University of Michigan DEI graduate student staff assistants and student DEI leaders. Their disciplines included education, engineering, and public health, to name a few.

For Johnson, listening to the speakers discuss the impacts of their research was inspiring. In addition to her MDes degree through the Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design, she’s pursuing a DEI certification through the Rackham Graduate School. Both are challenging programs — and both focus on delivering equity to the community. Johnson and her MDes cohort are working under the “wicked problems” umbrella of Equity and Access.

At the end of the symposium, Johnson left with some food for thought about the work she’s doing as the DEI manager at the Campus Farm at Matthaei Botanical Gardens.

“My theme is equity and access in food systems. It’s something that I’ve always wanted to study in an ecological space,” Johnson says. “I love that the Campus Farm was created and run by students who grow food for other students. It’s a 21st-century living, learning lab for equity.”

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