ESE Co-Chair Tom Gillespie discussing the importance of the ESE program and his vision for its future.
ESE Co-Chair Tom Gillespie discussing the importance of the ESE program and his vision for its future.

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2022 Environmental Science and Engineering reunion

By Amanda Wagner, D.Env. 2021

On October 22, the Environmental Science and Engineering (ESE) alumni society held a reunion event for the first time in several years. Alumni, current students, faculty and staff from the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability’s professional graduate program came together at the James West Alumni Center to reconnect, meet the new ESE co-chairs Thomas Gillespie and Travis Longcore, and enjoy some appetizers..

It was a great event where the alumni could get together and reconnect in addition to seeing what the current students and faculty are working on. As a recent alumnus, I was excited to meet older alumni and learn about their career paths and accomplishments. Alumni Felicia Federico is the current executive director for the California Center for Sustainable Communities.  Seeing current students and learning about the cutting-edge research they are doing was inspiring. Current student Oscar Neyra is not only working on his dissertation research, but he is also the co-founder of a clean-tech start up company. The work being done by current ESE students is truly on the forefront of environmental problem solving. Alumni have gone on to have profoundly impactful careers across many sectors in California, the United States and in countries around the world.

Although our ESE alumni group has had a quiet couple of years due to the pandemic and the dispersed nature of where we all live and work, we are back and ready to re-engage. The energy at the reunion event showed this — folks stayed for hours and there was no shortage of conversation.

Our next step will be a fundraising campaign. We are working with IoES director Marilyn Raphael to identify the program’s greatest needs, one of which is funding for the second year students.

In their second year, ESE students work on finding solutions to environmental problems with real-world companies, organizations and government entities over the course of 12-15 months. Availability of funding and the increasing  tuition cost should not hinder this critical part of the program. We are confident our targeted fundraising will be able to help support the current students in this crucial phase of the program and ensure that future generations of students will continue to have the same impactful education and opportunities that we did.

If you would like to contribute to the ESE fundraising campaign, please click here or contact Rachel Scott Foster, director of development, at

It was great to see everyone who attended, and I look forward to connecting with the rest of you soon! For now, please enjoy these photos – you may recognize a few familiar faces.