UEPI’s faculty and professional staff represent fields of environmental and public health, housing, urban planning, law, public policy, non-profit management, and more.
Staff work closely with the four professors in the UEP Academic Department, and also collaborate with other college departments including the Center for Community Based Learning and the Office of Community Engagement. Staff are housed at two different locations on campus, 1541 and 1882 Campus Road.
Robert Gottlieb is the author and co-author of twelve books and numerous other publications, including Food Justice (MIT Press, 2013), Reinventing Los Angeles: Nature and Community in the Global City (MIT Press, 2007), and Forcing the Spring: The Transformation of the American Environmental Movement (Island Press, 1993). Bob is the editor of two MIT Press series, "Urban and Industrial Environments" and “Food, Health, and Environment” which include more than 60 publications, and has been recognized for his contributions to the fields of environmental studies, environmental history, food studies, and urban policy, including the Carey McWilliams Lifetime Achievement Award from the California Studies Association. As the founder and Executive Director of the Urban & Environmental Policy Institute at Occidental College since 1997, Bob has inspired and helped develop several groundbreaking programs, research studies and events in the environmental, transportation, ports, and food systems areas. A long time environmental and social justice activist, Bob has been engaged in researching and participating in social movements for more than 50 years.
Martha Matsuoka '83 focuses her teaching and research on environmental justice, community-based regionalism, sustainable community development, and social movements. Her current research focuses on policy, planning, organizing, and advocacy related to ports and goods movement. She is co-author with Manuel Pastor, Jr. and Chris Benner of “This Could Be The Start Of Something Big: Regional Equity Organizing And The Future Of Metropolitan America” published by Cornell University. She currently serves on the Board of the Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation (currently serving as Chair) and the Human Impact Partners and is a member of the Switzer Foundation’s Fellowship Network. Martha received her Ph.D. in Urban Planning from UCLA, a Masters in City Planning from UC Berkeley, and an A.B. from Occidental College.
Peter Dreier has been involved in urban policy as a scholar, government official, reporter, and advocate for over 30 years. He writes widely on American politics and public policy, specializing in urban politics and policy, housing policy, community development, and community organizing. He is also a frequent speaker on these topics and a regular contributor to The Nation, American Prospect, Huffington Post, New Labor Forum, Dissent, and the Los Angeles Times, and writes occasionally for the New York Times and the Washington Post. Peter is co-author of three books about cities and urban policy, including The Next Los Angeles: The Struggle for a Livable City (2005) and Place Matters: Metropolitics for the 21st Century (3rd edition, 2014). He is also the author of The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century: A Social Justice Hall of Fame (2012). He is also engaged in civic and political efforts at the national and local levels. Peter joined Occidental in 1993 after serving as housing director at the Boston Redevelopment Authority and senior policy advisor to Boston Mayor Ray Flynn. He received his B.A. at Syracuse University and his M.A. & Ph.D. at the University of Chicago.
Bhavna Shamasunder teaches and conducts research on issues related to environmental health and justice. She is interested in how community-based organizations can leverage science to advance their health and policy goals. Her previous research investigated how chemical biomonitoring has been leveraged by social movements to challenge widespread chemical exposures. Currently, she is working on the health impacts from unconventional oil drilling in the Los Angeles Basin. Bhavna teaches courses on environmental health, research methods in urban and environmental policy, environment & society, and the senior comprehensive research seminar.
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Mark Vallianatos is co-author of The Next Los Angeles: The Struggle for a Livable City and has written widely on transportation, land use, food and globalization. He serves on the steering committees of Los Angeles Walks, CICLE, Take Back the Boulevard and NELA Bicycle Friendly Business District. He is a graduate of the University of Virginia and University of Virginia School of Law.
Elizabeth Medrano’s active community involvement began in 1997. Since, she has worked with low-income immigrants and other communities of color to address issues such as public transportation, the environment, working conditions for farmworker women, and the lack of health care through education and organizing efforts. Her work as the Manager and Organizer for the Healthy School Food Coalition, a Program of the Urban & Environmental Policy Institute at Occidental College, focuses on working directly with parents, students and other community allies. Elizabeth engages, trains and organizes these school communities with the goal of improving access to quality meals through the implementation of all the food and nutrition policies approved by the Board of Education in the Los Angeles Unified School District.
Elizabeth has also provided technical assistance on school food policy in districts such as Long Beach Unified, Compton Unified and Whittier School District. In 2012, she authored a School Food Policy & Organizing Toolkit and has trained dozens of agencies to use this manual and help share knowledge of school nutrition policies and expand the enforcement of these. Elizabeth is also collaborating with staff and other advocates on public water access through a research, education and policy initiative called "Water Works." Currently, Elizabeth along with California Food Policy Advocates are about to release a School Food, Lessons Learned Report about the work in LAUSD.
Megan is the Initiative Coordinator for the Choose Health LA Kids program at UEPI. Her work and interests involve community-focused initiatives for better nutrition, health, and economic opportunity. She holds an M.S. degree in International Agricultural Development from UC Davis, and a BA in Environmental Studies from Oberlin College. She has also worked as an account manager for small food business and farmers at Good Eggs, and as a landscape designer and owner of Heart Beet Gardening.
Sharon Cech leads the CA Farm to School, Farm to WIC, and Regional Food Systems programs at UEPI. Her project work revolves around building a more equitable and sustainable food system that both supports small-scale producers and improves access to quality affordable foods in underserved communities. Sharon also represents UEPI as a member of the CA Small Farm Conference Board of Directors, the Northeast Los Angeles Riverfront Collaborative, the National Advisory Board for the Food Hub Management Program, the National Farm to School Network as a State Lead, Los Angeles Food Policy Council’s Good Food Economy Working Group, and Oxy’s Campus Dining Working Group. Sharon holds a B.A. in Environmental Studies from Bard College and an M.A. in Urban Planning from UCLA.
Rosa Romero is the Farm to Preschool Program Director at the Urban & Environmental Policy Institute (UEPI) at Occidental College. Rosa has been a social justice activist in LA for many years, working on issues such a hunger & homelessness, indigenous rights, arts & activism, HIV awareness and diversity in college admissions and is currently organizes for healthy & local food access in Los Angeles. She is the Board Co-President of the South Central Farmers Health and Education and co-founder of SOL Catering Cooperative, Guerrilla Food Not Bombs and LA Childcare Collective. She is a certified Master Gardener and received her B.A. from UCLA in Urban Education and her MEd in Early Childhood Education from the University of Hawaii, Manoa.
Karla R. Torres
Karla Torres came to UEPI from the Network For A Healthy California where she worked with parents, community members, and kids throughout Pasadena, Sierra Madre, and Altadena communities promoting nutrition and physical education. Currently, Karla is in charge of parent educational outreach, conducting parent workshops, cooking demonstrations, and restaurant engagement. She received an Associates of Occupational Studies in Culinary Arts at Le Cordon Bleu in Pasadena. She is a certified Master Gardener and Master Food Preserver through the University of California Cooperative Extension.
Sylvia Chico joined Occidental College in 1992 working in the Facilities Management Department and then transitioned to the UEP Academic Department as the senior program coordinator in 2000. She provides primary support for the UEP faculty, students and alums, and general office support for UEP/I. She also serves as a commencement usher since 2001 and enjoys seeing the graduates move on to bigger and better endeavors. Sylvia received the Oxy Ambassador of Service Excellence Award in 2001, and several years later, she received the Sarah A. Gilman Memorial Award in recognition for her outstanding and dedicated service to Occidental. Outside of work, you will find Sylvia alongside with her husband and Oxy's Postal Operations Center supervisor Victor Chico teach students the art of Karate (PHAC 149) throughout the academic year in the Alumni Dance Studio. They have two sons, Christian and Lee, and a rescued boxer/pb mix Nakita.
Tracy Prinz joined the Occidental College community in 2014 as the UEPI Grants Manager. Previously, she worked for 15 years at the UCLA School of Medicine in several capacities, including department administrator, grants manager, fundraising proposal writer and website content editor. During her free time, she can often be found on a soccer field watching her two daughters play for their club teams.
Angelo Logan is the Moving Forward Network, Policy Director out of UEPI. Angelo grew up in the City of Commerce and lives in Long Beach CA. Angelo is the co-founder of East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice and has worked with a wide variety of coalitions to achieve health protective policies specifically regarding goods movement and Green Zones. CurrentlyAngelo serves on several committees, such as: SCAQMD's Environmental Justice Advisory Group, I-710 Corridor Advisory Committees, Southern California Association of Governments Goods Movement Task Force and City of Commerce’s Environmental Justice Task Force and Green Zones-Policy Working Group.
Daryl Bergman joined Occidental College in 2015 as Research and Administrative Assistant. Previously, she worked as Administrative Coordinator at the Education Development Center in Chicago and as Office Manager for the Philadelphia Film Festival. Daryl also teaches art in after school programs and holds an MFA in Printmaking from Temple University.
Skye is a Biology major, Studio Art minor at Occidental College. She is currently interning with Farm to Preschool and is separately responsible for designing and updating web content and social media outlets for UEP/I. She aims to combine her interests in the arts and the natural environment. Skye also manages the F.E.A.S.T. (Food, Energy, and Sustainability Team) student-run organic garden at UEP/I.
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