Jenny Shimizu Risk is a community volunteer and philanthropist in the Bay Area. She is an advisory council member at the Stanford Graduate School of Education and board member at KIPP: Public Schools, Northern California. She served as the co-chair of The Nueva School’s Innovative Learning Conference planning committee. She brings decades of experience, leadership and commitment to solving equity problems in education nationally and regionally.
In Conversation with Jenny Shimizu Risk
Greatest influences that shaped your career?
The biggest influence on my second career as an advocate for educational equity was my own children. When my oldest started school in Nashville, it was one of the first times as an adult that I was able to see clearly the disparities in education. I had grown up going to public schools and then to UCLA for college. I knew I was living a privileged life. My parents moved to Lafayette, CA so that my siblings and I could attend some of the best schools in the state. In Tennessee, the public schools near us were considered some of the best in the state, but still did not provide their students with a robust, excellent education. We chose to send him to an independent school, which felt like a big concession. So, I started to look into ways that I could be a part of change in public education.
Passions, joys, and causes that drive you?
Equity in education and access to an excellent education for all students inspire me to recommit to my work everyday. I love seeing teachers excel and their students experience the joy of learning while gaining the skills to create their own world. I’m incredibly curious about how students learn and how we can reach them all.
The relevance and role of arts education in today’s world?
Art exists in the fabric of our lives in every way, but the creation and valuing of it isn’t equitable, whether due to funding, representation, or access. Art brings joy, delivers unspeakable messages, expresses understanding. Without it, humanity loses emotion and feeling. It gives audiences, viewers, and listeners the opportunity to live someone else’s experience. The arts make an education whole.
What’s exciting to you about the vision and mission of UCSC’s Arts Division?
I appreciate the focus that the mission of UCSC’s Arts Division is bringing to representation – not only in the creation of art, but to the critique of art. If the juries responsible for selecting and valuing art continue to be monolithic, then the diversity of our artists will not be given a fair opportunity.