2018-19 Food and Climate Student Fellows

The UCI Global Sustainability Resource Center has announced the 2018-19 Global Food and Carbon Neutrality Student Fellowships sponsored by the UC President’s Global Food and Carbon Neutrality Initiatives. The fellowships are designed as on-campus internships to enable graduate and undergraduate students to contribute significantly to a select group of projects. The projects reflect some of the many ways our campus mobilizes to achieve the underlying goals of the Global Food and Carbon Neutrality Initiatives.

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food and climate fellows

Global Food Initiative


Gracie Wong, Food Waste Fellow

Gracie will create and implement educational programming and conduct engaged research on food waste at UCI. Gracie will be a team member of the sustainability program of Student Housing and Hospitality & Dining Services.
Gracie is a fourth-year undergraduate student majoring in Earth System Science and minoring in Public Health. She believes it is crucial to bring together education in the sciences with social work to make lasting systemic changes. While at UCI, she has been engaged in multiple programs in sustainability, such as the Costa Rica Program, Student Institute for Sustainability Leadership, Student-Led Sustainability Congress, UCI Dining, and the Global Sustainability Resource Center. She believes in the interconnectedness of the natural environment and humans and hopes to reach out to as many people as possible to bridge the gap between a busy life and making conscious decisions. She enjoys cooking to maintain a connection between herself and her food and practicing yoga to remain mindful.

Cory Cunanan, GFI Student Engagement Fellow

Cory will identify and leverage the synergy among these various food-related efforts at UCI so as to maximize cross-disciplinary learning, elevate our campus dialog, and broaden impact. Actions include communications, Basic Needs website management and content development, marketing, outreach, research, writing, event planning, community organizing, and network building. While serving a campus-wide role, Cory will be based in the Basic Needs team through the FRESH Basic Needs Hub in Student Life & Leadership.
Cory is an incoming second-year Informatics major and a first-year GFI Student Engagement Fellow. He primarily works as a web developer and user interface designer, but has also managed social media accounts for Camp Kesem. His academic goal is discovering the best web practices for nonprofits, while his career goal is implementing those practices to ensure that important social causes can serve areas of the population previously thought to be unaccessible. Cory hopes to bring his understanding of technology, design, and content management to optimize the GFI digital media presence around UCI and its local community.

Ricardo Casillas, Food Recovery Fellow

Ricardo will launch and implement a recovery program for shelf-stable items and perishable items, as well as prepared foods. Ricardo will develop relationships with campus partners as well as off campus non-profit organizations and partners. Ricardo will implement operational guides with the Environmental Health and Safety and Risk Management stakeholders and launch a variety of food recovery efforts.
Ricardo is a fourth year Business Administration student with a minor in Global Sustainability at UCI. His passion for tackling food insecurity stems from the first-hand help his family received growing up from the Friendly Center, a non-profit in Orange County that helps families in need with education and food programs. With the rising global issue of food security, a solution requires the unity and help from individuals across the world and Ricardo is excited to take his part in Irvine and eventually onto a global scale. As a business administration student, he hopes to build bridges in the future between businesses and the community in order to foster the growth of a sustainable world. Ricardo looks forward to taking on the role as the Food Recovery Fellow and working with other fellows, staff, faculty, and students at UCI.

Erick Ballesteros, Garden Fellow

Erick will take lead on building a close relationship and produce donation program between the UCI Arroyo Vista garden and the pantry at the FRESH Basic Needs Hub. This is a hands-on, experiential learning internship engaging the range of skills essential to urban agriculture, both inside the garden and as a community organizer.
Erick is a fourth year Computer Science major whose interest in food sustainability and access was born out of an environmental science class he took in high school. Inspired by guerrilla gardening, he and his class formed a non-profit called Simple Future that focused on raising awareness of food insecurity and waste. together they held canned food drives, and worked with soup kitchens and food banks. In addition, they started a composting to fertilize the local community gardens. Erick wants to work on bettering the urban farming techniques used at the AV Garden while also working with the network to make food more accessible.

Carbon Neutrality Initiative

samer khan

Samer Khan, CNI Student Engagement Fellow

Samer will serve as the UCI CNI Student Engagement Fellow and will work with the UCI Global Sustainability Resource Center and Office of Environmental Planning and Sustainability to communicate about campus and UC-wide carbon neutrality goals and programs, to assess existing programs and efforts, and to engage undergraduate and graduate students in those efforts.
Samer Khan is a 2nd year student in the Master of Public Health program on the Sociocultural Diversity and Health track, and will graduate in June 2019. She completed her B.A. in Public Health Policy and minor in Biological Sciences at UCI in 2016. After completing her MPH, Samer plans to pursue a career in the sustainability and climate change field. With this fellowship, she hopes to learn how to develop and implement sustainable sources of energy, water, food and shelter in the U.S. She intends to mitigate the negative health impacts of climate change on low-resource communities by improving carbon neutrality and consequently slowing the effects climate change. Samer found that the sustainability and climate change field incorporates her long-term goals of providing relief to low-socioeconomic status populations and protecting the environment. These goals stemmed from visits to her family’s native country of Pakistan as well as other countries.

Navjyot Gill, Community Resilience Fellow

Navjyot will work with UCI Community Resilience Projects to integrate and align UCI’s sustainability and climate activities with UCI’s wide-ranging activities that forward understanding and progress on racial and social justice. This work will include coordination of and involvement in UCI’s Community Resilience Co-Lab. The selected fellow will work with supervisors from the Co-lab to plan AY 18-19 fellowship activities to continue to weave together students, faculty, and staff working at the intersection of these issues.
Navjyot Gill is a second-year PhD student in the Criminology, Law and Society department at UC Irvine and a Eugene Cota-Robles Fellow. She graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with Honors and received her B.A. in History and Ethnic Studies. Her research examines neighborhood change, social and economic inequalities in racially segregated neighborhoods, historical and racial violence. Navjyot is also interested in how environmental issues and neighborhood segregation intersect and how these issues are experienced by low-income communities and communities of color. Outside of academia, Navjyot enjoys working with middle and high school students and currently supports an organization called Leaders in Life in Kern County as an advisor.

Amos Zerah, Sustainability Culture and Outreach Fellow

Amos will work with the UCI Office of Environmental Planning and Sustainability and the UCI Environment Collaboration to conduct a sustainability culture assessment on UCI’s campus. This assessment will allow UCI to better understand the ways students connect to sustainability and identify areas for improvement or continued outreach.
Amos is a second-year master’s student in the new program of Conservation and Restoration Science. As an ecologist and environmental storyteller, he believes in the role of universities to develop creative and ambitious ways for sharing scientific developments with the public. In his studies, Amos is especially interested in the impact of climate and land-use change on habitats and biodiversity in alpine and arid ecosystems, with a particular emphasis on connectivity. Working on his capstone project with Native communities in southern Utah, he is very excited about the challenges and opportunities in the conservation-sustainable development nexus, something that he would like to continue to pursue after his graduation. Before arriving at UCI, Amos gained diverse international experience in project management, designing outdoor education training programs as well as community engagement activities. In his free time, Amos enjoys trail running, photography and volunteering as a UCI Bike Ambassador.