Alumni Profile: Bianca Shulaker, class of 2010
‘The Intersection Between Urban Systems, Green living & Public Health Fascinates Me’
Between playing trombone as a member of the Solid Gold Sound — also known as the UCLA Bruin Marching Band — and volunteering as a mentor and tutor for middle school students through the university’s Bruin Partners program, Bianca spent those four years majoring in Environmental Science: learning Geographic Information Systems (GIS), conducting research on green labeling and sustainability practices in the wine industry, and much more.
“Best four years of my life (so far)” is how Bianca Shulaker describes her time as a student in the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability’s undergraduate degree program.
Now residing in the nation’s capital, Bianca’s days are spent creating green places for people to play with the Trust for Public Land (TPL), a conservation organization committed to ensuring that everyone has parks, gardens, playgrounds, trails, and other natural places within a ten-minute walk from home.
Her job: working with teams around the country that have an urban focus, pursuing and managing funds for research and projects that help people across the United States stay connected to nature and the outdoors — places that provide multiple environmental, human health, and community and economic benefits.
“I’m passionate about the built environment’s connection to individual health and wellbeing and the way placemaking can impact community resiliency,” says Bianca. “The intersection between urban systems, green living, and public health fascinates me.”
‘The Environmental Science Program Has Been Incredibly Helpful’
A nonprofit with about 30 offices nationwide, TPL focuses on making sure the 80 percent of Americans who live in or near a city have easy access to a safe, green place to play and don’t become disconnected from nature and the outdoors, missing out on the fun, fitness, and relaxation green places provide.
“Going through the Environmental Science program was the greatest experience and it’s been incredibly helpful in my life,” says Bianca.
“In a very direct way the major’s exposure to different topics — chemistry, math, biology, public policy – led to an exposure to different opportunities, to be involved in different kinds of research, different internships, a range of experiences that impacted where I am now.”
Starting as an intern in TPL’s conservation division, Bianca took on the role of federal grants program manager at the beginning of the year. Managing federal grants and awards for various programs, her work supports urban parks — places that can provide economic, ecological, and social value to users.
“I have broad interests in the way green places impact communities and I am fortunate that I have the opportunity to explore this topic through my work, in coordination with other staff and partners,” says Bianca.
As a member of TPL’s Federal Affairs team, Bianca helps advance the creation of parks, community gardens, and green alleys in cities by exploring funding opportunities, researching projects, and building relationships with other nonprofits and agencies. She says the Institute’s Environmental Science Practicum, a yearlong team research project, taught her how to work effectively in a group setting.
“The Practicum is one of the few times when you have flexibility and control on a real world project with significant implications,” she says. “The knowledge and skills gained from this experience — seeing a project from start to finish, formulating research questions, incorporating professional input, working in a team and seeing how your contribution fits into the larger project — are really valuable.”
In addition to the Practicum’s project management experience, Bianca praises the degree’s balance between providing instruction and training on a broad variety of issues and the concentration requirement that enables students to specialize in one area.
“The professors and classes really helped me learn how to effectively communicate about many issues and how to write and speak to biologists, engineers, and other professionals,” says Bianca, who recently served as a presenter for a webinar hosted by the American Planning Association on safe routes to park and was the lead author on an American Institute of Architects publication on park design and health.
“I really credit the IoES, and thank the professors and staff whose encouragement and guidance was so meaningful. I don’t think anywhere else has better teachers and role models. I’m still in touch with fellow classmates who feel the same way.”
She adds: “The program was great. Anytime I can I love to brag about UCLA.”