When people of all backgrounds approach any endeavor or discipline, they bring a vital variety of perspectives and approaches. Diversity and inclusion are salient needs in environmental science, where women, ethnic minorities, and other groups lack the representation, recognition, and resources of their peers.
A Past That Inspires Present Passions
Professor Aradhna Tripati understands the challenges these students face. The daughter of immigrants, she grew up facing financial hardship and feelings of isolation. But thanks to scholarships, study groups, and mentors who encouraged her to believe she belonged, she earned not only a PhD but also a Presidential Early Career Award.
Now a professor at UCLA, Tripati directs the new Center for Diverse Leadership in Science at the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability (IoES). Unique among universities worldwide, the center facilitates fellowships, mentorships, trainings, and student-led community outreach for underrepresented students — from a former foster youth working toward her PhD in environmental chemistry to two Dreamers pursuing their degrees despite immigration uncertainties.
“Stories of financial need, of overcoming adversity — they are reflected in the experience of so many of those who are here at UCLA and across the country,” says Tripati. “And we need all of them: We need their brilliance, especially in environmental science…. And what they need is our support so they can realize their full potential.”
Supporters Step Up
Answering Tripati’s call, attendees at the annual IoES gala raised $1.3 million to support the center’s students, along with IoES research, graduate programs, and community engagement. Themed “SeaCO2Change,” this year’s gala promoted diversity in ocean life and the workforce, resonating with the work of environmental advocates honored at the event. Keely Shaye and Pierce Brosnan have employed their media talents and platform to protect marine mammals and coastlines, while Van Jones has founded organizations that generate green jobs for underserved communities.
The March 22 event was held at the home of Tony and Jeanne Pritzker, who recently reinvested in several campus causes, including helping foster youth succeed.
From oceans to employment, UCLA is making waves in inclusion efforts. And as Tripati envisions, such work will transform lives and the world we inhabit.
Published June 2018