Leadership Project

To complete the Leaders in Sustainability Certificate Program, all students are required to demonstrate leadership on a project related to sustainability. Projects can be completed individually or with a group and can be related to one’s graduate studies or completely unrelated. LiS projects should have clear outcomes and impacts and go beyond research in one’s field.
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Have a Project Idea?

We invite organizations, agencies, and social enterprises to let UCLA graduate students know about potential opportunities to make a difference within your organization. Please complete this brief form to help graduate students connect with potential clients/project ideas for their self-initiated leadership project, per the guidelines of the UCLA Leaders in Sustainability (LiS) Graduate Certificate Program. Many students determine their leadership project in January of each year, as part of a class assignment. There is no set number of work hours required for the LiS leadership project, but the expectation is that students will spend at least one quarter, part-time, on their project before they graduate in the spring or the following spring.

Leadership Project Examples

Ariana Vita, class of 2016

Leadership project title: Energy Innovation Conference
Project summary: Ariana proactively worked with a team of students from the Anderson School of Management to co-organize the Energy Innovation Conference hosted at UCLA in the spring of 2016. Ariana took the lead in organizing a panel on Building Energy Efficiency: Policies Driving Change in Los Angeles. This panel informed key stakeholders, including planners, building owners, architects, and engineers.
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Andy Pasillas, class of 2016

Leadership project title: Creating a Complete Los Angeles River Greenway for All
Project summary: Andy had a leadership role on a project that is supporting the development of a complete and community-driven Los Angeles River greenway, especially in underserved neighborhoods. As a graduate student researcher at the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation, Andy helped organize two LA River workshops and was the lead researcher and author of 2 chapters in the guidebook “Creating a Complete Los Angeles River Greenway for All.”
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Osceola Ward, class of 2017

Leadership project title: Natural Justice
Project summary: For his leadership project, Osceola is volunteering with the outdoor education organization Outward Bound Adventures to design and implement an African-American history curriculum and use it to introduce black youth to outdoor activities. He is a wilderness instructor in training with Outward Bound’s Diverse Outdoor Leadership Initiative (DOLI) program. While not yet completed, his leadership project is already touching lives. His work was profiled by the IoE in a story picked up by media outlets.
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Katherine McNamara, Class of 2017

Project summary: Katy has been working on efforts to sustain the urban forest by working in the built environment group of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (DPH). LA County has lost thousands of trees to the combined effects of the drought, and invasive pests and disease. The PLACE Program in DPH has taken on a novel role in helping to reverse these losses, by highlighting the health benefits of the urban forest, improving public education around trees, and applying current research tools from social ecology to identify best practices for tree planting. Katy worked on two grant proposals for urban forestry funding, including completing all of the required greenhouse gas offset calculations for a $1.6M state Cal Fire grant. Katy collaborated on an evaluation methodology to assess the most successful model for outreach and community engagement around street tree planting projects. She also assisted in the development of several large scale tree planting projects in disadvantaged communities lacking green space, developing communication materials, designing outreach strategies, and forming partnerships with community organizations.

Victor Ansely & Alexandrer Linz, Class of 2017

Project summary: For their LiS project, Victor Ansely and Alexandrer Linz helped organize an international conference on Climate Vulnerabilities, Migration and Forests. They worked with faculty lead Susanna Hecht and facilitated through the UC-Mexico Initiative that brought together academics from UCLA, UC Berkeley, UC Davis, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México “UNAM” and El Instituto de Ecologia “INECOL” to share their work and discuss the future of research and policy around the social, environmental, and economic impacts of changing forests in tropical Mexico. 

Peter Joseph Bell, Class of 2017

Project summary: Packrafts are lightweight but sturdy inflatable boats that can be carried in a backpack. They offer a unique and intimate way to access remote river corridors, from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to the Amazon jungle. For his leadership project, Joseph Bell is establishing a conservation outings program for the American Packrafting Association. Packrafts will be used to enable conservation efforts, community engagement, and media coverage of places in urgent need of protection. The program’s first outing, a four-day trip to the San Juan River in Utah’s contested Bears Ears National Monument, was successfully completed in April 2017. A second outing, focused on citizen science and witnessing the dramatic effects of climate change on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula, is planned for Summer 2017.

Anthony Castelletto, Class of 2017

Project summary: Anothony oganized the sustainabile transportation track of a ach year, the Luskin School of Public Affairs and Terasaki Foundation organize a study trip to Japan for students of Public Policy, Urban Planning, and Social Welfare. The trip offers students a unique opportunity to meet with senior government officials to learn how governance and planning works in Japan. The trip organizes students into study groups which focus on a particular area of interest. Serving as a trip organizer, I helped run the Transportation Study Group. My duties included organizing student teaching sessions in which I brought my fellow students up to speed on Sustainable Transportation in Los Angeles. I then organized a student presentation on Sustainable Transportation in LA for the Japanese Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transportation, and Tourism (MLIT). The audience included the Deputy Ministers for Sustainability, Urban Policy, Transportation, and the Minister of the Environment. The lecture presented an overview of Los Angeles’ transportation sustainability challenges, its governance, and new Sustainability plans. Topics include Climate Change, Environmental Justice, and Land Use.

Sharon Chan, Class of 2017

Project summary: Sharon’s project focused on reconnecting the dense, urban Seattle neighborhoods near Downtown and Capitol Hill, which have rapidly grown and become denser, while becoming more disconnected. As her project she established Sustainable Capitol Hill, a tool library to promote sustainable consumption and reduce waste. A tool library, similar to a book library, is a collection of tools – anything from woodworking to cooking even to special events equipment – available to borrow. We also organize fixer events and workshops, fruit gleaning to reduce food waste and provide food for food banks, as well as opening our doors as a community gathering space. Neightborhood members come together to share tools, time, and skills that foster sustainable patterns of consumption.

Therese Chen & Amanda Wagner, Class of 2017

Project summary: Therese Chen and Amanda Wagner, graduate students from the Environmental Health Sciences Department, developed curriculum for a sustainability-themed educational program for students ages 4-12 at the UCLA Lab School. This collaborative effort was inspired by the UCLA Lab School’s focus on innovative teaching that encourages learning that is active, collaborative, and embraces diversity. The goal of this project was to create hands-on activities focused on sustainability, pollution, and healthy communities. Amanda and Therese hope these interactive lesson plans inspire the students to become our future leaders in sustainability.

Amy Frame, Class of 2017: 

Project summary: Amy worked to raise awareness of precious biodiversity to be found in within cities, and here on the UCLA campus. She served for two years as the graduate student representative on the Chancellor’s Task Force for Sage Hill, where she conducted a faculty survey of educational, research, and recreational aspirations on the site. Amy created draft policy recommendations based on the committee’s work. She then helped to start a native plant nursery on the site, from which vegetation has been partially restored this spring. She then brought together a planning team from departments across campus to lead a BioBlitz, a biological survey of Sage Hill and other areas of campus. Next, she worked with UCLA’s UniCamp to train staff and undergraduate volunteer counselors on techniques for identifying local flora and fauna, as well as connecting with nature here on campus and in our local mountains through experiential learning and emerging social media citizen science platforms. Her leadership work on biodiversity culminated in the use of a promising sustainable solution, one which has already reached city-level decision-makers. Overall, she directly reached about 220 people to spread awareness of the biodiversity on campus and our ability to document and protect it. Her works exemplified successful collaboration, engagement, and awareness building.  

Anna Fero, Class of 2017

Project summary: Anna recognizes that while the U.S. Federal government has been slow to take meaningful climate action, many local governments have taken the initiative. Cities account for three-quarters of the CO2 emissions resulting from energy use. With the Trump Administration pulling the plug on Federal energy regulations, it is more important than ever to equip municipal governments with effective tools that can accelerate emissions reduction at the local level. In her capacity as an extern at NRDC, Anna spent a semester researching and developing a proposal for a “City Solar Project.” Modeled on NRDC’s existing City Energy Project, a City Solar Project would work with cities around the country to establish replicable policies and programs that will help promote the adoption of distributed solar. I produced a project concept with program and policy recommendations that were presented at NRDC’s Renewables Retreat.

Chika Fukugama, Class of 2017

Project summary: Chika organized a free screening event at UCLA in June. Chika raised a controversial issue on whaling, originally brought up by the Oscar-awarded documentary The Cove. With screening a counter documentary movie, “Behind ‘The Cove’”, the UCLA community has an opportunity to think about sustainability, culture, and media literacy. For this event, Chika is collaborating with with UCLA Japan Study department and the director of the film, Ms. Yagi. 

Jon Okada, Class of 2017

Project summary: Like many in the energy industry, Jon believes that energy storage will play a critical role in sustainable electricity grid development. Thus, it is critical that we discuss and debate the opportunities and challenges that exist with increasing energy storage deployment in a cost-effective and sustainable manner. For his LiS project, Jon chose to spearhead a thought-provoking panel at the 2016 Energy Innovation Conference, the largest, student-led energy conference in California. He successfully planned and executed the panel, which featured experts from across the energy storage industry, and the panel received high attendance levels at a conference that draws over 200 attendees annually. He hopes that his panel will have lasting positive impact for the storage industry as well as the energy industry as a whole.

Falgun Patel, Class of 2017

Project summary: Falgun recognizes that many old buildings are energy hogs and water sieves. It can take up to 80 years to make up for the environmental impacts of demolishing an old building and constructing a new one, even if the resulting building is extremely energy efficient. However, changes in the operations and maintenance of buildings can drastically reduce their environmental impact. Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) is a third party certification program for greener and more resource-efficient buildings. The Renewable Energy Association (REA) at UCLA is working on a project – Building Assessments for Sustainability and Efficiency (BASE) – dedicated towards certifying UCLA buildings through LEED. As project lead, Falgun is auditing existing infrastructure and obtaining EBOM (Existing Building: Operations & Maintenance) certification for Rieber Hall, an undergraduate residence facility. Completion of this project will be an incremental step towards a more sustainable campus, setting an example for similar projects on other buildings.

Lindsey Perry, Class of 2017

Project summary: For her LiS project, Lindsey collaborated with another UCLA student to create a white paper focused on water policy for the IoES Corporate Partners Program. The Program bridges communication between companies and UCLA students and faculty to develop, discuss and disseminate best practices that enhance sustainability. This year, a common interest among the companies was how to best adapt to the changing landscape of water policy and resources in California, especially in Los Angeles. Lindsey contributed by researching current and upcoming water policies and reaching out to local stakeholders to learn what various agencies are planning to do to continue making water conservation a way of life. 

Destiny Preston, Class of 2017

Project summary: Destiny is working wtih the County of Marin to organize a community workshop on sea level rise. She will present the framework she is compiling about the critical issues in sea level rise planning, possible solutions and constraints, and opportunities for more participatory planning with the county.

Robert Young, Class of 2017

Project summary: Robert’s project brought up an interesting statistic: while there are over 11,000 public charities and private foundations in Los Angeles, few of them have a mission even tangentially related to their own environmental sustainability. Yet Ignoring environmental inefficiencies may lead to the long-term detriment of an organization’s budget and mission. For his LiS project, Robert helped an independent school, Willows in Culver City, improve their environmental performance. He designed an analysis of the energy and waste inefficiencies at this school and and created a cost-benefit analysis of removing those inefficiencies. The project’s recommended improvements will be first implemented in an upcoming capital campaign, with later campaigns designed to expand on those improvements.