The weekend-long 50th reunion began on the afternoon of Friday, February 28. Dozens of alumni, students, faculty and campus and community members gathered around the registration tables Loma Pelona to pick up their name badges before joining one of two concurrent Environmental Studies Alumni Panels. The panels included recent alumni and alumni from Environmental Studies' early years, such as Carla Frisk '75 of the Land Trust for Santa Barbara County, who spoke about the significance of the program's inception following the oil spill of 1969. Other panelists included Deb Callahan ‘81 who is the founder and president, North Star Strategy, consulting agency that offers strategic consulting services to the nonprofit and foundation sectors on environmental policy, politics, advocacy, communications and philanthropic initiatives, and former CA Assistant Secretary for Ocean & Coastal Policy, Brian Baird ’77.
Following two alumni panel sessions, Environmental Studies hosted a reception at the Loma Pelona green where current program chair, David Pellow showcased some accomplishments by alumni and eagerly introduced California Assemblywoman Monique Límon. After a few remarks about the inception of the Environmental Studies Program and Santa Barbara as the birthplace of the modern environmental movement, Assemblywoman Límon presented the program with a California Legislature Assembly Certificate of Recognition in honor of its contribution to environmental activism, education and research over the past 5 decades. Following Límon, Chancellor Henry Yang also gave remarks and the celebration continued into the evening.
The next morning, alumni gathered at Bren Hall for check-in and morning refreshments before deciding which themed break-out sessions they would attend. Environmental Studies hosted 7 break-out panels between two morning sessions, which included themes of Environmental Studies 50th Reunion: past, present, and future. The panels included:
- Pursuing Sustainability: Challenges at the Forefront of Business
- Food in the Anthropocene Our Energy: Past and Future
- Protecting America’s Public Lands: Challenges, Roles and Opportunities
- Environmental Planning: The Future is Now
- Water Resources for Santa Barbara’s South Coast: Present and Future
- The Future of Sustainable Oceans
Following the morning panel sessions, alumni and guests had the opportunity to reminisce walking around campus as they headed to the Rec Center Pavilion for lunch. Once seated, program chair David Pellow introduced Environmental Studies associate professor Simone Pulver. Pulver announced and awarded the Outstanding Alumnus Award. Granted to the alumni who have demonstrated environmental leadership and service in their careers, the award was presented to four alumni: Leila Salazar-López '98, Executive Director of Amazon Watch, Christopher Gavigan '97, Co-founder of The Honest Company and entrepreneur, Michael Reynolds '85, Regional National Park Director of the Department of Interior regions 6-8, and Will Shafroth '80, President and CEO of the National Park Foundation.
After lunch, alumni and guests headed to Campbell Hall, a familiarity among all Environmental Studies and UCSB alumni. Outside Campbell Hall dozens of environmental student groups and campus organizations such as UCSB Environmental Affairs Board, UCSB Sustainability, the Edible Campus Program and MAPAS awaited to engage with guests. With much eagerness, Environmental Studies professor Carla D’Antonio introduced filmmaker Isaac Hernández who directed and produced the program’s documentary, Building a Movement: 50 Years of Environmental Studies at UCSB. The film, who had its first premiere at the 50th Anniversary, shares the story of the formation of Environmental Studies and its history over the past 5 decades as recounted by professors, students and alumni. In a second plenary session, alumni Emily Williams '13 and Amanda Pantoja '19 led a discussion with environmentalist, author and founder of 350.org, Bill McKibben on building a climate movement of mass mobilization and alignment. During this time, the program introduced the Paul Wack Environmental Studies Alumni scholarship and the Mel Manalis Leadership Fund.
Following the discussion, the crowd gathered back at the Rec Center Pavilion for a reception dinner hosted by Executive Dean Pierre Wiltzius where Student Services Manager, Eric Zimmerman ’94 presented Associate Director of Arts and Lectures (an event partner), Roman Baratiak with the annual Environmental Studies Community Service Award. At the dinner’s conclusion, in a surprise visit, the office of Salud Carbajal presented program chair, David Pellow, with a certificate of special congressional recognition to Environmental Studies “in honor of celebrating 50 years of environmental activism, education, research and in recognition of outstanding and invaluable service to the community.” The night concluded in Campbell Hall with a lecture from Bill McKibben, “Our Changing Climate: A Global Movement Reform.”
On the final day, Environmental Studies alumni had the opportunity to spend time with each other and to enjoy Santa Barbara by signing up for 1 or more activities. Some alumni joined CCBER director, Lisa Stratton on a guided walk of the North Campus Open Space (NCOS) Restoration Project. Participants had the opportunity to see rare plant restoration, birds and learn about the multiple ecological functions the restoration project provides, including sea level rise adaptation. Other activities included a tour of San Ysidro Creek in Montecito, a deposit site of the 2018 Montecito debris flow and a campus tour for alumni to see how the UCSB campus has changed over the years. In another activity panelists, including alumni Michael Reynolds ’85 and Will Shafroth '80 and Environmental Studies faculty, Peter Alagona discussed the current state of America's National Parks and the challenges they will face in the future. The event wrapped up Sunday afternoon with a talk by award-winning filmmaker, photographer, explorer and Environmental Studies alumnus, Kip Evans '90, who shared stories of his more than sixty expeditions around the globe, including recent trips to Antarctica, Costa Rica, Chile, Mexico, and the Galapagos Islands.