Osceola Ward, Current LiS
Ward wants to empower underserved L.A. communities to be their own advocates. A certified instructor with Outward Bound Adventures, he takes local high school students to places like Mono Lake in the Sierra Nevada to teach them about nature and environmental issues. Ward hopes they’ll take what they learn home to fight for better conditions in their neighborhoods. “If you’re never able to leave your community, you’re unable to envision something different,” he says. On trips, he listens to what the kids have to say. “You can’t be a leader without ingratiating yourself with the community. I want to see what the needs and demands are, and then mold my project around that.” His plan is to bring people together for a regional summit that focuses on how to get environmental justice.
Nicholas Nairn-Birch, LiS Class of 2009, E.S.E. 2012
Nairn-Birch heads California’s effort to get low-income residents out of older, high-polluting, gas-guzzling cars and into clean-air vehicles. Working for the Air Resources Board, he designs programs to modernize the state’s car fleet and meet ambitious greenhouse gas reduction goals. In LiS, Nairn-Birch quickly learned that environmental problems have to be addressed in their broader context—most environmental solutions require input from a variety of experts. Being able to speak to and facilitate dialogue with chemists, engineers, toxicologists, economists, business people and trade associations is key to sustainability leadership, he says. It’s a skill that was also instrumental in his earlier work on pollution prevention and chemical safety at the EPA.
Cassie Gardener-Manjikian, M.P.H., LiS Class of 2012
A passionate environmentalist and social justice organizer, Gardener-Manjikian says LiS broadened her views on what real sustainability looks like. “Interacting with students and faculty with diverse backgrounds and views about sustainability helped me value more mainstream and economically-framed solutions I hadn’t considered. I learned ‘going green’ isn’t just about reducing our eco-footprint, but partnering with businesses and governments to ‘green’ their products, chemicals, technologies and regulatory frameworks.” Gardener-Manjikian helped create UCLA’s first climate change and health class. Working for California Environmental Justice Alliance, she’s back on the frontlines of advancing policy to address environmental issues that affect mostly low-income and communities of color.