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Students at graduation.

Conversations That Matter

John ’71 and Karen Jostes help Bren students make bold moves

Like many students who attended UC Santa Barbara during the 1969 oil spill, John Jostes ’71 felt compelled to help. Before the Coastal Act was even passed, John was working under a grant to place a dollar value on a trip to the beach. Thus began a career in urban planning and coastal management that spanned 46 years and brought him full circle — teaching UC Santa Barbara students and supporting their professional development through a legacy gift.

In 1975, John became the first environmental analyst for the City of Santa Barbara. John launched his second consulting business while working for the city. For 20 years, he solved environmental challenges aided by UC Santa Barbara students, estimating that he had hired 70 Gauchos as interns between 1975-2000. After a successful gig as a lecturer in 2004, John returned to the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management to teach negotiation, leadership, and project management from 2006-2019.

“Education has become engaging, testing, and doing,” said John. “I want to help students learn who they are by revealing themselves under stress. That’s how you develop intuitive confidence.”

John’s courses simulated tense real-life situations. Former students say that they use their negotiation skills weekly. As an instructor, John introduced students to his contacts around the country. The Jostes created the Bren School Special Opportunity Fund to enhance the experience of master’s students.

“It became apparent that students needed to get themselves out in the professional world as risk-takers. It’s a strategic approach to having conversations that matter,” said John. The Jostes’ legacy gift will help Master’s Group Project teams present their client solutions around the country.

“Through the Special Opportunities Fund, I attended a conference where I met the aquaculture team at Conservation International,” said Garrett Goto ’19. “One conversation led to an interview, and that interview led to a job offer.”

“Through these invaluable opportunities, students will expand their networks, showcase their work, and further Bren’s integrative approach to environmental problem-solving,” said Steve Gaines, dean of the Bren School. “Private support like John’s has a lasting impact on their future careers as leaders in the environmental field.”

John and his wife of 21 years, Karen, are longtime supporters of the Bren School as members of the Dean’s Council. Karen is a fifth-generation Santa Barbaran descended from a local fishing family that dates back to the late 1800s. Together, they nurture a strong connection to the Santa Barbara community.

“It is so empowering and so magical to know that I was able to nudge some people’s careers,” John said. “That’s been a value and a theme of my engagement with UC Santa Barbara.”