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Building the Next Generation of Diverse Environmental Leaders

Today’s environmental challenges can only be met effectively through a diversity of voices and unique perspectives

Dangermond coast

The environmental problems faced by today’s world are complex, wide-reaching, and nuanced in nature. If the past few years have taught us one thing, it is that all global challenges—social, political, and even environmental—are best approached through the empowerment of impacted communities. The Bren School recognizes that the diversity of today’s environmental challenges can only be met effectively through a diversity of voices, and the unique perspectives of those traditionally underrepresented within academia. Committed to ushering in a new era of environmental professionals, the Bren School has sought to equip a growing diversity of individuals with the interdisciplinary background, hands-on experiences, and network of world-class connections that underpins the success of its graduates. Through the generous support of both Bank of America and The Nature Conservancy, and bolstered by UCSB’s Graduate Division 1:1 Justice Fellowship Match Program, these efforts are soon to take root in a new summer internship program designed to accomplish just this. The Environmental Diversity Leaders program is an intensive, ten-week paid internship that will begin in Summer 2022. Three undergraduate students from underrepresented backgrounds will each be paired with a current Bren graduate student, working throughout the summer to support The Nature Conservancy in ongoing projects including complex challenges related to the science and policy of marine habitat restoration, invasive species control, and fisheries management.


“The Graduate Division’s Justice Fellowship Match Program partners with academic units to support environmental, racial, gender, and social justice work. The Bren School's innovative program accomplishes multiple goals on this front— supporting underrepresented undergraduates, facilitating graduate student mentorship, and, of course, working toward environmental justice.”
Dr. Leila J. Rupp Interim Anne and Michael Towbes
Graduate Dean Distinguished Professor of Feminist Studies

With professional development through weekly meetings with project supervisors, mentorship through weekly check-ins with the Director of UCSB’s Promise Scholars Program, and the support and insights offered through pairings with current Bren graduate students, this internship will offer unparalleled exposure to participants and will empower them as they continue their journeys as budding environmental professionals. Current graduate students engaged in this program will also benefit from the experience and will return to Bren with new ideas, broadened perspectives, and a personal connection to the school’s efforts towards greater diversification.

Programs like the Environmental Diversity Leaders simply would not be possible without the generous support of our strategic partners, Bank of America and The Nature Conservancy. Through an alignment of the vision, mission, and resources that each party brings to the table, the Bren School is able to continue its efforts to broaden diversity within the community of environmental professionals — and through them to effect diverse and meaningful environmental change in the world beyond.

“This new partnership reflects a shared vision that the future of environmental conservation is more diverse, more inclusive, and grounded in a wider range of skill sets. The Environmental Diversity Leaders program is aimed at meeting that need. And that’s why I’m so excited to be a part of this initiative— to bring new leaders to the table and advance a new frontier in environmental conservation.”
Dr. Jono Wilson
Lead Scientist, The Nature Conservancy
“The Bren School continues to be the source for students to become the next generation of environmental change-makers. Bank of America is proud to help fund the new Environmental Diversity Leaders program that provides paid summer internships for diverse undergrads with work in the environmental sciences fields. This investment not only aligns with our own sustainable finance goals but is also part of the bank’s multi-year, $1.25 billion commitment to advance racial equality and economic opportunity in communities of color and other marginalized populations. This exciting partnership with the Bren School will go a long way to empower diverse students for sustainable, professional success.”
Midge Campbell Thomas
Market President, Bank of America, Ventura–Santa Barbara
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