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Elena Ortiz

Elena Ortiz graduated from Smith College with a degree in English Literature and Spanish (2011). In college, she was involved in recycling and water conservation initiatives on and off campus with the Smith Office of Environmental Sustainability and the City of Tucson. While living and teaching in Spain after graduation, Elena connected her love of the environment and food through urban gardening. Since then, she has worked at nonprofits to collaborate with community members to build healthy, resilient neighborhoods. This included coordinating Las Milpitas, a community garden in her hometown Tucson, Arizona operated by a food bank. At Las Milpitas, she provided education, guidance, and leadership development to gardeners on desert-adapted food production, food justice, and associated environmental impacts of the food system. Additionally, she co-led a racial equity initiative, which resulted in the food bank making significant investments in staff equity training and internal policy change. Most recently, she worked in pedestrian advocacy in Boston, Massachusetts to make walking a safer, more viable means of transportation across the state. At Bren, she specializes in Economics and Politics of the Environment, with a Strategic Environmental Communication focus. She plans to apply her studies to work at the intersection of climate policy and social justice. She is especially driven to make policy more community focused, and to shift decision-making power to people traditionally left out of the environmental management process. When she is not in class you can find her gardening, hiking, cooking, or plotting to dismantle structural racism.

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