We had a terrific conference here at Santa Clara University on environmental justice and university-community partnerships for research, learning and social change. There were some great keynote speakers, including Rachel Morello-Frosch of UC Berkeley, Patrice Simms of Earthjustice, Gustavo Aguirre of CRPE, and Fr. Pedro Walpole, S.J. of Ecojesuit. There were also many terrific panelists (all listed on the agenda that can be found on the conference website). Among the lawyers, it featured Veronica Eady, Assistant Executive Officer of the California Air Resources Board, Marianne Engelman-Lado of the Yale Law School Environmental Justice Clinic, and Helen Kang of the Golden Gate University Environmental Law and Justice Clinic discussing their experiences. Santa Clara University’s President Michael Engh, S.J., gave the welcome remarks to the conference. The second day included a discussion with Fr. Michael Garanzini, S.J., Secretary of Higher Education for the Society of Jesus, about a potential national and international network of Jesuit higher education institutions around environmental justice issues.
The conference took the participants through the arc of university-community partnership issues beginning with a panel describing the state of environmental justice. The following panels then discussed examples of what community-university partnerships on environmental justice have accomplished (“What have we done together”), followed by post-lunch panels on the lessons and best practices those collaborations teach us (“How can we work well together”) and on the opportunities for future collaboration (“What could we do together”). The panel on future collaboration opportunities allowed a number of speakers to make pitches for potential projects. The day concluded with a performance by Santa Clara’s Ballet Folclorico and a poster session and reception. The second day, the conference followed up on the project opportunity discussion as well as a more detailed session on the formation of potential national and international environmental justice-focused network within the context of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities as well as the International Association of Jesuit Universities.
The interest and enthusiasm about the conference resulted in more than a 200 participants as well as a great set of presentations on the success stories of community-engaged research for advancing environmental justice, especially concrete substantive accomplishment and improvements in public health, as well as the set-backs and many opportunities for further action. The event was an exciting culmination of three years of effort on the part of my colleagues Professors Chris Bacon (Environmental Science & Studies), Ed Maurer (Engineering), Chad Raphael (Communications), Iris Stewart-Frey (Environmental Science & Studies), and myself (Law), which will hopefully mark the starting point for new and strengthened relationships, joint projects, and networks related to environmental justice.