Vasconcellos Institute for Democracy in Action

History of VIDA

In 2015, the Vasconcellos Institute for Democracy in Action (VIDA), formerly the Institute for Community and Civic Engagement, was renamed in memory of late California State Senator John Vasconcellos. Throughout his career, Senator Vasconcellos was a tireless advocate for public education and student involvement in the democratic process. 

The original ICCE began with a task force of faculty and staff in fall 2005. It was initiated by then new president, Brian Murphy and was led by faculty members Jackie Reza and Cynthia Kaufman.

divestment group

The purpose of the task force was to research what kinds of engagement work were being done at other institutions and to analyze what work would be appropriate for De Anza. The task force completed its work in March of 2006, and delivered to the president a “Plan for De Anza’s Institute for Community and Civic Engagement.”

As a way to begin the work, some faculty and staff organized the first “Youth Voices United for Change” high school empowerment conference in spring 2006. In fall of that year, Rowena Tomaneng and Mayra Cruz were appointed directors and led the institute for the next three years. They built the institute onto a powerhouse of engagement. Presently, the institute is directed by Cynthia Kaufman.


De Anza College & A History Of Social Justice

De Anza has a long history of students engaged in both academic success, meeting educational goals and such, as well as students engaged in the campus community and extracurricular activities.

Before VIDA even existed, students have been involved in social justice education by sharing with each other through word of mouth certain instructors and courses with content that challenged the status quo and taught about systems of oppression. Back in 2000, instructors like Cynthia Kaufman from philosophy, Nicky Gonzalez Yuen from Political Science, Rich Wood from Sociology, Carolyn Wilkins Greene from Intercultural Studies, were instructors that helped to provide a lens to think critically about the world.

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Students also found ways to get deeply involved in on- and off-campus politics and social justice activities. Back in 2000, clubs like Students for Justice, Muslim Student Association, MEChA, APASL, Earth Renaissance were each strong social justice places with different focuses and ideologies where students worked with each other to determine projects and campaigns that met their needs but also challenged the campus. These clubs also linked up to collaborate on bigger projects.  

During the 2000-2004 time period, there were student demands to look more critically at the spending and layoffs due to budget cuts, a plea to stop the proposal to take off the intercultural studies requirement for fear of killing the department, and a focus on ensuring the bookstore was affordable and used non-sweatshop sources: Wherever there were changes being made at De Anza, students were ready to work with staff, faculty, administrators, board members and their peers to make sure the changes were for the good of students, and if their voices weren’t being heard, they were ready to attend meetings, protest and march, petition, organize a tent city, rent buses to bring multiple campuses to the capitol, or even dream up a new world with a multicultural festival.

De Anza’s mission statement now has language in it that speaks to providing a space for students to continue to make a stamp on the world. In 2013, Cynthia Kaufman worked with others to ensure “Civic capacity for global, cultural, social and environmental justice” was one of the core competencies written into the mission statement.  Additionally the college values and is committed to:

Civic Engagement for Social JusticeDe Anza Value Wheel



We provide students with opportunities to enhance their potential for purposeful and productive lives. As a public institution, we contribute to the development of our local, state, national and global communities. We view our students and ourselves as agents of change, responsible for building the world in which all people are able to realize their dreams in ways that are environmentally sustainable and in alignment with the United Nations' Declaration of Human Rights**




Building: East Cottage

Director: Cynthia Kaufman
Phone: 408.864.8739

Program Coordinator: Angelica Esquivel
Phone: 408.864.8993

Student Staff:


Last Updated: 1/5/18