WHO ARE WE?
This site was created by Catalina Fernandez, Vianna Mabanag and Christopher Landeros for a multimedia writing class at UCSB led by Professor Trish Fancher.
As UCSB students of diverse backgrounds, we differ from one another with different majors, life experiences, and interests. But we share the common desire to understand. We seek to create, challenge, and celebrate conventions of Isla Vista and what it means to be a college student. We seek to explore how living in such a unique community acts as a catalyst for change and self-growth.
What follows are the stories of three different people; Casey Glasser, Lena Mallet, and Jordan D. Mitchell. Each bring vastly different life experiences and obstacles, but together, embody the complexities- both the digestible and the difficult- of change.
Third-year Sociology and Feminist Studies major from Santa Monica, CA.
Interviewed by Catalina.
What were you like when you graduated high school?
High school was kind of complicated for me. By the time I graduated, I’d been through a lot. I was really ready to move on into the next chapter of my life. I was just…. I was done.
"But I’m really grateful for a lot of things that happened in high school. I learned a lot about myself."
Casey Glasser singing the national anthem at Santa Monica High School's graduation ceremony, 2016.
Casey sings at a school assembly, 2016.
Tell me about your Freshman year.
It was kind of like being away at sleep-away camp again. But it was hard at times. I was definitely homesick. But being close to everyone on my floor and getting involved in a sorority and Naked Voices [on-campus acapella group] immediately, within the first weeks of school... I felt like I already had a community and a sense of belonging.
...I used to be really passive and just let people
treat me however they saw fit. And all of a sudden, I think I had this newfound confidence
because my surroundings were so different and there was no reputation or preexisting
relationships, I was just way more assertive and spoke up for myself so much more than I’d ever have. And I think that also came from strengthening my political views and having more things outside of myself that I cared about made it easier to stick up for myself. I’d always found it easier to advocate for others and somewhere along the lines, it crossed over into my personal development.
And at first it scared me.
Someone called me “aggressive” behind my back and that had stunned me because I had always been 'good Casey, quiet Casey.' So it made me really uncomfortable with the changes I had made within myself.
And it’s still something I’m grappling with.
But right now, it’s more applicable in terms of leadership.
How does this tie in to your current role as Music Director for Naked Voices?
You have to have authority over your peers which is weird because they’re some of my closest friends I’ve ever had. So to be like “everyone shut up and listen to me” is not something I enjoy doing, but it’s what needs to be done to get things done. So that for me is the hardest part. And also, feeling undervalued at times. I’m a words of affirmation type of person so getting feedback is really validating for me.
But being Music Director has been one of the greatest blessings of my life. That immense pride you feel when you write something, being there from the beginning, note by note… it takes hours and it's intense and frustrating…teaching everyone, it’s truly blood, sweat and tears. But when it’s done and it’s this beautiful piece at the end… I can’t explain the pride and joy. That’s the greatest feeling for me.
You don’t need a degree in music to be a singer but you need a degree in law to be a lawyer. So that was my mentality… I would get an education and pursue both simultaneously. But I’m seeing now as I get older, that it may not be a possibility because you really need to devote yourself wholly to both of those things.
Let's talk about your relationship with music.
It's simultaneously the best and scariest thing for me. It’s hard for me to admit what my long-term hopes are because it’s what I’ve wanted my entire life…when I was in diapers, singing Britney Spears. To have a career in music is what I’ve wanted my entire life and that is something that I try to not think about because I don't plan on being a starving artist...
As shallow as that can sound, it’s just that I’ve lived through that experience already in a way… my dad’s an actor and I know how stressful that has been for my family. I want to be self-sufficient. So that’s where law school comes into play. Social justice is my second greatest love to music.
I’m excited about pursuing law and public policy as a career but at the same time, the work I do with Naked Voices… that’s ideally what I want to do for the rest of my life.
"So at this point in my life it’s about trying to find balance… I don’t want to wake up one day, middle-aged and full of regret and feel like I’ve missed my window. I feel myself slipping down that path and that’s something I want to fight against obviously."
Can you talk about your journey for a personal music brand?
"The song is called “19” and about my life in Isla Vista."
Photoshoot in Isla Vista, 2018.
Casey on the set of her music video for "19,"in Isla Vista, 2018.
Casey promotes her sponsor, ILIA Beauty, 2018.
I had an experience recently, at my sisters’ choir performance. I went and was so overwhelmed with this feeling of knowing what I want to do with the rest of my life, but I’m not going to do it… I can’t do it.
Photoshoot at Knapp's Castle, Santa Barbara, 2018.
Casey Glasser recording "19" at Forewood Productions, 2018.
Sophomore year is when we decided to go ahead with the music video.
Because this was all so open-ended it was hard for me to be as productive. But once we met with Spencer Seas [video director] and set up a timeline and having phone calls and storyboarding- that’s when I feel I had the most growth as a musician on the business end. I would reach out personally to different small businesses and companies to create partnerships for product placement for the video.
So now the video is wrapped. That took a while, mostly because of re-shooting. When we started doing the story board for the music video, I didn’t really like this one plot point that became the major focus of it. And so I pushed against their idea initially but ultimately, we just went with it. I think maybe I wasn’t as strong as I could’ve been and maybe they weren’t as receptive as they could’ve been... we ended up reshooting months later. Now, we have this whole EPK [electronic packaging kit] put together of photos, video, the website.
Initially, I had the opportunity to work with a music producer who was a friend of my family. He was over for dinner one night and my dad made me sing a song I wrote for him. He said “yeah you have potential” and said he wanted to start working with me.
I took a long time before I reached out to him. I was going through a lot personally and health wise...,luckily, it was still there for me when I was ready for it. I’m glad that I took that time ultimately, because I just had a lot more to show, my music was stronger and I’d gained some life experience… I had a lot more to say.
But once I came to college it became a lot more difficult. First because I didn’t have a lot of space to do that. It was also much more difficult geographically because my producer lives in Santa Monica. So a lot of the time, I would just send him audio recordings of what I was working on, he would give me feedback and whenever I’d happen to be home, we’d work on it.
"As much as I’d love to release everything right now and show everybody, we have bigger plans. The idea is to show this EPK to our different connections in the industry and hopefully, someone will bite. If not, it’ll be independently released, but we’ll see."
How do you feel about where you are now in your life?
I’ve checked a lot of boxes for myself. I did think though that at this point of my life, I would have a clearer idea of what is I want to. And I feel in a very similar place to where I was senior year in terms of that. I also didn’t anticipate my first independent work of music to take this long. Starting this project my senior year of high school, I definitely expected that it would be out by now or at least done… it’s just taken a lot longer than I expected.
Do you feel IV has had a signifiant role in your life?
"But more than anything it’s about the people… the closeness, physically and emotionally. The bonds you make living in such close proximity to people, you can’t top that. You only make those kinds of connections with your family, but I feel like the level of friendship and intimacy you gain here is just unmatched. We learn and grow together and go through the joys and pains of life and all the joys and pains of growing… living on your own and navigating the exploration of yourself."
Who are you now?
I think I’m still figuring it out.
I’m definitely stronger, more assertive, have more faith in myself and in my abilities. I’m generally more independent, more self-sufficient. There’s just really a confidence that comes with knowing how capable you are completely on your own and this year, I’m experiencing true single-hood for the first time since I was 15. I don’t have that emotional crutch in a way.
But I’m still kind and empathetic and I don’t think that being strong and speaking my mind negates that sweetness that I’ve always had.
IV has been so much more than I ever imagined. It’s probably the number one reason why graduating college is terrifying to me… even more than just the unknown. It’s such a unique community… so many people my age, going through the same things I am.
Obviously the beauty aspect of it….there's something so centering and magical about just being able to walk down the stairs on DP and look at the ocean and think, “I’m small; the world is big; everything is going to be okay; my problems are not as big as they seem.”
I also just feel safer than I do in most other places and I know that may sound counterintuitive for some but there’s nowhere else where I would walk around at night by myself, especially as a woman… I just have those fears a lot less and so much faith in the community.
"… just because I’m growing doesn’t mean I’ve lost that essence of myself."
Casey in Isla Vista, 2018.
"I’m a musician in a way that I’ve never been before and taking it seriously. I’m happy and that’s a daily focus of mine…something I’ve tried to make the center of my life… how can I be my happiest self in this moment."
second-year global studies major
from Sonoma, Ca.
interviewed by vianna.
what’s something you think has changed after moving to Isla vista?
I think the biggest shift in who I am is the way I think about the world and my ability to impact it at all. Before coming to college I was going to all these trips trying to make a difference but the more I learned, the more sad and pessimistic I became about everything. That’s been something I had trouble coping with being here. Information and knowledge is just so heavy on the heart and on the mind. Dealing with that and learning to separate myself from my thoughts and realizing that I am not my thoughts.
Learning how fucked up the world is is getting really hard for me. I think I’m really pessimistic. But I also think that it’s a necessary pessimism.
"I want to help if I can and use the privilege that I have ."
Lena during her last year of high school. Sonoma, 2017.
has your approach to things you were passionate about beforehand changed?
I feel more lost about what I want to do. I want to open a nonprofit, but I want to do so many other things. Right now I'm really interested in working with refugees. But is that just part of the white savior complex? I feel like a lot of things I’ve learned discredited the things I want to do. Like why do I want to do this? But I genuinely feel like I owe them because we fucked them over so bad. I want to help if I can and use the privilege that I have.
Volunteering in Nicaragua, 2017.
What's your plan on prioritizing everything you're passionate about?
Prioritizing the things I want to do is difficult. Obviously nothing matters unless the climate is in an okay state. If it’s coming to an end, what's the point? So that makes me want to do environmental studies. But people right now need support. I’m constantly envisioning: there’s people already dedicating themselves to that. They don't need one more person that realistically won’t do anything. But then I'm interested in helping refugees and that’s why I’m learning Arabic. And I have this weird pull to the Middle East that I can't explain – but now I'm starting to think that it's just an orientalist obsession that’s been ingrained in our culture.
"I’m constantly envisioning: there’s people already dedicating themselves to that. They don't need one more person that realistically won’t do anything."
Collaging from abandoned journals and stationaries. Isla Vista, 2019.
give me an example of something that's changed.
I feel like I developed fresh eyes and all colors are bright. Like really bright and blinding sometimes. My emotions have gotten really intense, too. I had a boyfriend all of high school – 3 years – almost all of high school. He was a year above me and I just shut myself off and gave my entire being with him. I was constantly with him so I never had time to figure myself out in high school. Having that kind of release from that other person has been really good for me.
Why did you start thrifting?
I know when it started! Oh my god. It started with these JNCO jeans that I got at a thrift store in my hometown. I literally watched a guy bring them in. He was this fat guy and he wasn't wearing a shirt. I thought he was gonna come in to get a shirt but he just took his pants off and took a pair of shorts. I saw that they were JNCO’s so I took them.
so you fit in his pants?
One of my friends passed away in high school and one of the things he was passionate about was thrifting. So it turned into me trying to be back with him. I would go to all the thrift stores we would go to. And then it turned to like a “Woah – no one else is ever gonna have this, and ever love it again.” I always think about the people who had the clothes before me and attribute them. I create a vision of who they are.
And then I found IVTP here and made my best best best friends through it. It’s really exciting to see how big we’ve grown.
In an all-thrifted outfit. Isla Vista, 2019.
"I always think about the people who had the clothes before me and attribute them.
I create a vision of who they are."
"I feel like I developed fresh eyes and all colors are bright."
Lena's favorite flower shop and crafts store. Sonoma, 2019.
how has living in Isla vista affected your worldview?
I don’t know if it’s the classes I’m taking or living in I.V., but being here definitely gives me a lot of hope. I know we’re in a little bubble but I see people doing kind things for each other all the time. That and forming relationships and bonds that I know will last lifetimes. It gives me so much hope that a small place could emit so much passion, love, and empathy for each other. I know bad things happen here too, but I see mostly kindness and camaraderie.
When I entered college, I came in with a lot of pressure. Especially from my mom. I feel pressure to be the only one out of my siblings to do the “traditional route.” My older brother was a fuck up. My sister dropped out. My little brother wants to go to the military. And sometimes I think my mom’s trying to live through me. But I still want her to live through me. Living in Isla Vista is giving me that chance.
"It gives me so much hope that such a small place could emit so much passion, love, and empathy for each other."
Lena Mallet. Isla Vista, 2019.
Fourth-year music composition major from stockton, ca.
interviewed by Chris.
What was it like when you came to UCSB for the first time?
I was focused on the education, girls, music [stuff].
I was five hours away from home. I was used to girls getting pregnant, [people] getting killed. No one was getting out of [Stockton]. … Nobody moved out bro.
So if you went to community college, you got all the money you can, ripped off financial aid out and then never go back to school, buy hella weed, flip that [stuff], make hella money, [mess up] your credit score and then get locked up [...].
I applied to hella schools with scholarships. UCSB on a full ride. San Jose full ride and schools … but I didn’t want to be too close to home.
"I applied to hella schools with scholarships. UCSB on a full ride. San Jose full ride and schools … but I didn’t want to be too close to home."
Jordan with his family and friends after graduating high school, 2015.
With the IV music culture being predominantly a Jack Johnson kinda vibe do you think it paved the way for your creativity?
You’re gonna have a beachy vibe. [Forget that]. IV is full of ratchet[ness].” Mentioning how IV is a great or awful place depending on how you interact with the community.
IV is a mix of cultures. How white people view IV, this is a temporary college place for beaches and [people]. Like dumb stuff that nobody cares about. The poor people of color, this is a fantasy. You never think you would get this stuff. It was me and my single mom and we shared the same room. Me and my brother.
With that bro, when I thought about money, I had two jobs since I was 15 years old. I sent money to my family to people in prison. I got four different people close to me who are in prison. And I can’t get arrested I’m on a gang’s list, I go straight to prison.
Photo of Jordan posing with his guitar his Freshman year, 2015.
Probably only 5% of the people from the hood where I come from go to college. I remember being arrested and locked up and they were ready to beat my ass and lock me away.
Here I can smoke weed and walk down the street. I can go and communicate. Girls are on birth control. I can get my health checked out. I can apply for health care. When we got sick, we had to wait it out. I can be independent and get things like EBT.
Jordan riding a bird with Odanis in Isla Vista for his "Bird" music video, 2019.
"They talk about how IV is the richest slum. This isn’t a slum, it's paradise for people like us."
Financial aid is great. This is the first time we have seen this much money in our bank accounts in fucking forever.
This is more money than our parents get. Ever! And we blow it on things we don’t need. And if our parents had that money they would be living it up. This is the only time in our life we will get that opportunity of course we are going to take it.
IV is really interesting because I never thought I'd be here. The people I surround myself here are moving. They’re moving. At different paces but they are moving.
"With my music I really want to highlight that struggle, but we got here."
Jordan with his friends in Stockon, 2016.
"You’re gonna have a beachy vibe. Fuck that.
IV is full of ratchet shit.”
Mi Amor: one of Jordan's first music videos that he made as first year at UCSB, 2015.
What about being here... how has that influenced your album?
It was about freedom but it was also fear of commitment from responsibility. Back at home [in Stockton] there are hella rules. But I can walk around here at 3 am. [You can wear] all red or all blue.
And on top of that, it still isn’t the safest place for woman but woman in Stockton get taken into trafficking. I come from Conway Crips. I go to town homes. These niggas know my niggas. I had homies get killed by these [people]. I’ve had a girl I dated get stabbed out there. I’m becoming a teacher and an educator to get away and I’m realizing my past haunts me but my experiences in IV help me forget about all that.
When I first got on the gang list it was for something I said that I was affiliated with on an article. … Although LA repealed [this law], Stockton still lowkey doing it. When I think of IV I think of this as paradise because I don’t have to be afraid. At all.
And this is more so of being a black man and not a black woman or transwoman. They do have those fears out here still. As a black man, I don’t have to worrying about that shit. I wish niggas didn’t have to go through that. If I had a great ass music education and had access to becoming a musical classical performer I would have taken it. No hands down but there wasn’t money for that. … It wasn’t an option. My family made less than 22,000 dollars a year so I worked my ass off.
The album cover to Jordan's new album: Don't Touch My Danimals, 2019
Four of my closest friends had died while I was in college. … And as a musician you had to find a way to deal with that.
I'm mean, I’ve been shot at before.
Shits not fucking cool.
I started playing music as a basest in church. Started learning mariachi music. Black and Latino music was very intertwined in Stockton.
Using music and learning new ways on how to cope was the biggest thing.
"The transition to college allowed me to finish my material"- Jordan in a Her Campus interview
The album cover to Faux Paus, and album Jordan worked over 3 years witnessing police brutality, active absence from religion, racial profiling, and gang affiliation before he entered UCSB, 2015.
"As a teacher and as a musician there is a way out. You just got to be a star player."
Jordan posing for a shot during the photoshoot for his album Don't Touch My Danimals, 2019.
Don’t Touch My Danimales. It’s not about being a kid. It’s more about like a commitment. Don't touch my feelings or heart. It’s not that deep but I was channeling my anxieties from college. I don’t talk about the hood in the album. I wanted to take my mind off back home.
One of my best friend’s little brother. He got shot up in Conway for being in the wrong car. They mixed him up for a different person. It was the first time I cried all this shit built up. I just laid in bed.
That’s why I got outta Stockton.
I remember I was teaching kids and one of the kids told me, he was hella sad, third grade, this was the day my daddy got shot up. On Gilbert, on the East Side.
"These kids are dressed and showed all this trauma and they feel they need to repeat. As a teacher and as a musician there is a way out. You just got to be a star player."
Would you say you are setting the example?
"I want to set up the standard and I want them to break the standard."
Why do you think it is important to provide this standard and how does this tie into McNair?
I wanted to do something composition. I wanted show that anyone can do this shit. All research is is a fancy word for creative curiosity. I interested into how they made that cord in the song. How did they make that beat slap. And then you go into depth and you find the nuts and bolts of that question.
With that being said I wanted people to know they can do whatever they want as long as they put their minds to it.
McNair was an opportunity to do my masters, it’s allowing me to understand my curiosity. I was frustrated at first because I didn’t get a PhD but I realized a PhD was overqualified. I don’t want to teach college students.
Most black people that go to college are middle class. Those [people] grow up with good opportunity. I want to teach title 1 schools. Kids like me. When I was thinking about applying to graduate school I was thinking of doing a masters and I got into USC. Teach for like 30 years and get my PhD. Then I can teach ethical multicultural composition from black and brown students.
We’re too fucking smart to be taking these L’s.
Jordan in front of his of research poster on "The Modern Bolero," 2018.
So you mentioned USC.
Yeah I got accepted for a Masters in Compositional Music. It made me recognize that I’m a talented nigga who’s growing. I’m always willing to grow and I want to always be developing.
Jordan's tweet right after he got accepted into USC, 2019.
What do you think of the idea that IV and UCSB are what the faculty and students make of it?
I agree. UCSB is what you make it. But it’s also what is imposed on you. Things will happen that you will have no control of. And it’s up to you on how you make the most out of the experiences.
IV is so dope because it makes you find yourself. You meet so many people that it forces you to know yourself. It’s all complex.
"Life isn’t one or two answers. It’s all complex."
Jordan's Bird Music Video, 2019.
MORE THAN JUST A COLLEGE TOWN...
Although we didn't know what to expect going into this story, we all came out learning something new about the other people living within our own town.
Isla Vista exposes us to various different communities and cultures that inspire the average college resident to explore their thoughts and values. With every experience, everyone has their own ways of overcoming the challenges and circumstances they face.
Even though Isla Vista expects its residents to take responsibility of their own lives, these three stories show that in spite of our diversity, the town we live in still invites introspection, reaction, and reflection that challenge all of us to grow.