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A Multiplier Effect

The Dehlsen family helps Bren School master’s students find their inner entrepreneurs

Rows of graduates in caps and gowns

Until his senior year in college, Bobby Miyashiro (MESM '21) had never seen a river. Growing up next to oil refineries in his Los Angeles neighborhood, there were days when the air pollution was so bad that school cancelled recess. That experience compelled him to explore clean energy. Now, as a Brent and Dagny Dehlsen Recruiting Fellow, Bobby prepares for his future career as master’s student at the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management.

Bobby Miyashiro
Bobby Miyashiro, MESM '21

“I found out I received the Dehlsen Recruiting Fellowship when I got my acceptance letter,” said Bobby. “I received support from other schools, too, but because this fellowship was for recruitment, it was enticing. It meant that the Bren School had trust that I would belong and succeed.”

The Dehlsen family has a long and generous history helping students succeed at UC Santa Barbara. Brent Dehlsen’s mother, Deanna, has served on the UC Santa Barbara Board of Trustees since 1999. Brent’s father, James, is a pioneer in renewable energy. Both father and son have lent their expertise to the Bren School Dean’s Council over the years.

Brent began his career climbing wind turbines and spending his days hundreds of feet off the ground turning wrenches and struggling with harnesses. He has since founded and co-founded several businesses that support the clean technology industry. Brent is currently CEO of Ecomerit Technologies, which he founded with his father in 2009.

“The Dehlsen family has been part of the Bren community nearly since our school’s founding,” said Dean Steve Gaines. “Jim is an amazing example of an early pioneer in eco-entrepreneurship for our students. Brent, who carries that torch, is a valued and accessible resource to our students and to me personally. Through their philanthropy, they have supported some of the Bren School’s highest-priority initiatives. Student support is always top of the list and through Dehlsen Fellowships alone, there are Bren graduates pursuing meaningful careers as environmental leaders in the energy, transportation, information technology, infrastructure, government, and real estate sectors because of their generous support.”

“We try to work on projects that have a multiplier effect,” said Brent. “Over time, we’ve developed a process for technology development and successful metrics. How do you commercialize it? How do you raise money for it?”

The multiplier effect also drives the family’s investment in Bren School graduate students. Since 2010, the Brent and Dagny Dehlsen Recruiting Fellowships have generously supported the academic pursuits of nine exceptional master’s students from the Bren School. Dehlsen Fellows now pursue meaningful careers as environmental leaders around the world.

Brent Dehlsen
Brent Dehlsen

“It’s been interesting because the students are focused on areas that we are not necessarily familiar with. We’re always learning,” said Brent, whose companies often hire Bren School graduates.

Bobby’s master’s group project focused on reducing impacts from agricultural plastic waste for his client, the berry company Driscoll’s. He’s also worked two internships to train for his career. As an energy economics data intern and energy analyst for Environmental Market Solutions Lab, he examined and reconciled 24 years of power plant data from the EPA and EIA. He’s also working with UC Santa Barbara and UC Davis (his alma mater) on developing engagement strategies for a UCSB app that sustainably and comfortably controls temperature in campus buildings.

“Brent is very entrepreneurial, which is a skill I’m developing, and you can tell he’s very passionate about what he does,” said Bobby.

Through Ecomerit Technologies and Dehlsen Associates’ Corporate Partners, the Dehlsen family supports the Bren School’s highest-priority initiatives. Brent and his wife, Dagny, co-founded the clothing company Purnell with Dagny's sister. Through Purnell, the Dehlsens support microfiber research at the Bren School.

“It’s very direct, causal engagement that you can have with the Bren School,” said Brent. “Supporting the whole program in a general sense is great, but through fellowships, you have a direct connection with students. You can see a student carry on in their field and have a positive impact.”

Thank you to the UC Santa Barbara Office of Development for their contributions to this story. Learn more at

Want to get involved? Reach out to the Bren School for more information about partnership opportunities.

Lotus Vermeer

Assistant Dean of Partnerships & Development
(805) 893-3712

Beth Pitton-August

Director of Development
(805) 893-5047


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