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Diversifying the Field of Environmental Science & Management

How the Bren School mobilized its community through crowdfunding

Recognizing the need for greater diversity, equity and inclusion, the UC Santa Barbara Bren School of Environmental Science & Management is prioritizing a more inclusive academic community and one that advances environmental justice. The OneBren Endowed Graduate Student Fellowship for Diversity was established through support from the Bren School community, who came together to lead a collective crowdfunding movement.

Although Black, Indigenous, and people of color in the United States are more likely to suffer from the effects of climate change as a result of systemic injustice, they are severely underrepresented in the environmental field. People of color comprise about 38% of the U.S. population, but they hold fewer than 12% of leadership positions in environmental organizations.

“We at the Bren School have a growing awareness of our part in perpetuating racism and exclusion, both in our own institution and in the environmental field at large, and we are determined to rectify it,” said Dean Steve Gaines. “We know that one of the most significant barriers to attending graduate school is lack of adequate funding.”

To address this, the OneBren Endowed Graduate Fellowship for Diversity will provide support for Bren School master’s and doctoral candidates from underrepresented backgrounds who are committed to making a difference in the field of environmental science and management. Selection of OneBren Diversity Fellows will be based on academic merit and need as well as on a student’s academic and personal commitment to issues surrounding equity and inclusion.

Faculty, staff, and students rose to the crowdfunding challenge. Their outpouring of collective generosity demonstrates the Bren School’s dedication to this initiative. Elliott Matthews ’21 and Alicia Fennell ’21 chaired the fundraising committee for their Master’s in Environmental Science & Management cohort. Through their leadership, their class raised significant support for their classmates and future colleagues.

“We initially ran for class co-chairs because we were inspired by the incredible people in our cohort and the passion of the wider Bren School community,” said Elliott and Alicia. “The OneBren Endowed Graduate Fellowship for Diversity channels Bren School values into addressing the critical challenge of systemic inequity in academia and the environmental field.”

Providing more resources and support for graduate students from diverse and underrepresented backgrounds is an important step in making the Bren School as well as the environmental field more inclusive and equitable. The immense support for this fellowship from students, faculty, staff, friends and alumni also is a perfect example of how Brennies tackle problems: together, as a community.”

As a result of the contributions of faculty, staff, students, and friends, the OneBren Diversity Fund exceeded the threshold to qualify for the UCSB Graduate Division’s Student Fellowship Accelerator Program.

“The Graduate Division is delighted to partner with the Bren School to amplify gifts in support of the OneBren Endowed Graduate Fellowship for Diversity Fund through the Fellowship Accelerator program,” said Dean Leila Rupp. “The Fellowship Accelerator provides the full expected annual fellowship payout for five years, thus enabling the fund principal to grow substantially by reinvesting the investment gains over those five years. As a result, we are helping to facilitate the enrollment of underrepresented minority and first-generation students, who might otherwise not be able to consider graduate school. Given the importance of environmental justice, especially for marginalized communities, supporting diverse incoming and current students is essential.”

Three master’s students have received OneBren Fellowships for the 2021-2022 academic year: Samantha Rozal, Anusha Sridhara, and Anna Zauner. The students come to the Bren School from UC Santa Cruz, the University of Bangalore, India, and The College of New Jersey, respectively.

At the Bren School, Sam is interested in studying ways to mitigate the effects of climate change and how to make mitigation resources available to underserved and underrepresented communities. With a decade’s experience in education, brand strategy, and political consulting, Anusha is specializing in Economics and Politics of Environment with a focus on communication. A Peace Corps and AmeriCorps alumna, Anna is specializing in Corporate Environmental Management to bridge the disconnect between economic growth and environmentalism.

Sam, Anusha, and Anna have the collective support of the Bren School community. The OneBren Fellowships demonstrate the power of crowdfunding.

“In a challenging year, donors have really stepped up to support future students, and I am deeply proud and grateful,” said Gaines. “Thank you to everyone — faculty, staff, alumni, students, the Dean’s Council, and other friends — who contributed to create this enduring fund to support students from historically excluded groups. The success of this campaign is a testament to the strength of our Bren School community.”