Two UC Berkeley graduate students, Alicia Arrington and Aaron Maruzzo, were named 2021 Switzer fellows.
The Switzer Environmental Fellowship is a program that seeks to recognize and support graduate students who are leaders in social equity and environmental problem-solving, according to a press release from the Robert and Patricia Switzer Foundation. Out of 200 applicants, Maruzzo and Arrington are two of 20 to receive a cash award, as well as access to leadership and policy engagement training.
“Fellows are supported throughout their careers to pursue interdisciplinary and collaborative work, positioning them for leadership in the nonprofit, government, philanthropic, business and academic sectors,” said Cora Preston, the foundation’s network manager, in an email
Before coming to campus, Arrington said she worked as an organizer in New York City at the Red Hook Community Justice Center, where she focused on the advancement of neighborhood safety, which was complicated by the neighborhood’s continued recovery from Hurricane Sandy.
It was this work that began her interest in work in environmental justice, Arrington added.
Arrington, a graduate student at the UC Berkeley School of Law, said when she first learned about her reception of the award, she was surprised, adding that she felt that usually doesn’t “go out” for big things and is honored to have been selected.
“The fellowship will help me with funding,” Arrington said. “As a student mom, that is something that was very important to me, to have some support in that way. It provides me with a network of researchers and scientists that I can lean on and learn from throughout my JD and hopefully after a career in the intersections of law and environmental justice.”
Maruzzo, a second-year graduate environmental health sciences student at the UC Berkeley School of Public Health, said he is interested in exploring ways to confront the challenges of environmental health through an “interdisciplinary approach.”
Originally from the island of Saipan, an island within the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, or CNMI, Maruzzo said after his undergraduate studies, he returned to his home in 2017 to fulfill a promise he had kept to use what he learned in the classroom to better his community.
After taking on a job as the only water lab analyst for Saipan, Rota and Tinian, he said he learned firsthand the challenges of providing safe drinking water and its intersection with community injustices.
“The CNMI and Guam are U.S. territories with fewer political levers and fewer resources to effect changes that could ultimately make residents live happier, healthier lives,” Maruzzo said in an email. “My time at Cal so far has focused on elevating those stories, too: to make sure that everyone around me knows where these islands are on the map, and what’s happening on the ground.”