2021 Winner: Propelling UCSC Undergraduates of Color in Environmental Studies Through Mentorship

Project Information
Propelling UCSC Undergraduates of Color in Environmental Studies Through Mentorship
Social Sciences
ENVS 195 - Senior Thesis
The environmental field emerges from a history of racism, colonialism, and classism, centering whiteness and wilderness; this has undermined BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) communities, concerns, and collaborations. The Environmental Studies (ENVS) Department at UCSC is and has been dominated by mainstream environmental approaches, visible in the curricula, and the composition of faculty and students, who have been majority white over almost its five-decade history. How might this racial and cultural homogeneity impact ENVS undergraduates of color? What actions can be taken to foster a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable department, one that supports the well-being of BIPOC students? This thesis explores ENVS underrepresented students’ perceptions, experiences, and feelings on the departmental climate and racial inclusivity. It also provides probable reforms, with a specific focus on mentorship, for future implementation. I synthesized existing survey data from multiple units at UCSC and conducted 12 one-on-one semi-structured interviews with ENVS students and alumni of color to delve deeper into their lived experiences. Findings show that students of color display a less than moderate sense of belonging, experience discomfort from unfavorable racial dynamics, and are dissatisfied with the faculty and curricular representation. Furthermore, there is support for more socio-cultural classes, especially environmental justice; a decline in interest in the major; and a desire for more mentorship opportunities. To enhance underrepresented students’ sense of belonging and facilitate greater inclusivity in environmentalism more broadly, it is critical to engage in conversations pertinent to racial and cultural issues and take the necessary measures to achieve these goals.
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  • Kimberly Paige Dare (Nine)