Campus program for Latine students expands to UC Riverside

Photo of student presenting on environmental racism
Gladys Perez/Courtesy
A UC Berkeley environmental program supporting Latine students is expanding to UC Riverside with a $342,000 grant.

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A UC Berkeley program focusing on Latine students in environmental fields is expanding to UC Riverside with a $342,000 grant from the UC-Hispanic Serving Institutions Doctoral Diversity Initiative.

Named “Latinxs and the Environment: Partnerships to Pave Pathways to the Professoriate,” the program emerged from collaboration between the UC Berkeley program’s founders, Federico Castillo and Lupe Gallegos-Diaz, and the grant’s principal investigators at UC Riverside, Samantha Ying, Emma Wilson, Laura McGeehan and Peter Homyak, according to a UC Riverside press release.

According to McGeehan, who is also the director of academic preparation, recruitment and outreach in UC Riverside’s graduate division, the program aims to provide environmental research opportunities to Latine students, create pipelines for these students to continue into graduate school and eventually diversify the professoriate. The program supports individuals from the undergraduate to faculty levels and is available to students of all majors, as environmental research spans many fields, McGeehan added.

“Environmental research can be anything. It could be Latinx students who are interested in political science, ethnic studies, sociology, anthropology, as well as the STEM fields,” McGeehan said. “We’re really casting a very large net and pulling in Latinx students who are in many different fields in order to really laser focus their energies on solving some of the big environmental problems.”

The program hosts a universitywide summit for students to showcase their work and provides grants to UC Berkeley and UC Riverside faculty members collaborating on research, according to Wilson, who is also a biomedical sciences professor and associate dean for the graduate division at UC Riverside.

According to McGeehan, students from both campuses can get involved with the program through a seminar available this fall, where they can connect with each other using Zoom. From there, they can access opportunities such as mentorship, professional development workshops and summer programs, she added.

“Communication between students across campuses enriches the dialectic, enriches the research, enriches dialogue and experiences,” Castillo, who is also a campus lecturer, said.

The program was expanded to UC Riverside because of the campus’s high proportion of Latine students and subsequent status as a Latine-serving institution, Wilson said.

While the Latine community is disproportionately exposed to negative environmental effects, not as many Latine students are involved in research that could counter these effects, according to McGeehan. The program seeks to involve Latine students with work that can directly impact their communities, she said.

“Our grant is really there to recruit more people from the Latinx community who are invested in these communities and will help really solve some of these problems,” McGeehan said. “We really want to empower the Latinx community to help address some of the crucial environmental problems that we’re having right now.”

Contact Tiffany Lieu at [email protected], and follow her on Twitter at @tiffanyplieu.