Febuary 2023 - Sustainability Champion: Sikina Jinnah

Sikina Jinnah, Environmental Studies professor and Co-Chair of the Chancellor’s Strategic Planning Committee for Climate Change, Sustainability & Resilience, is our February Sustainability Champion. Read on to learn more about Sikina and her amazing work.

February 01, 2023


1. Tell us a bit about yourself, your background, and how your path led to where you are today.

I grew up in LA and did my undergrad at UC Berkeley, majoring in Environmental Science and minored in Forestrysikina jinnah and Resource Management. While doing my MS in Environmental Studies at U of Montana I took my first class in political science. This completely changed my understanding of environmental politics and the levers of change. I decided to transition from my ecology-focused studies to the social sciences. I went back to Berkeley for my PhD in ESPM, where I studied how political actors aside from state governments influence international environmental politics and decision-making in the areas of climate change and biodiversity. I spent a year at Brown doing my postdoc, then on to American University in DC for my first 8 years of Assistant Professor-dom before my dream job came up at UCSC in 2015. 

2. What are some of the accomplishments you are mostly proud of and/or feel very grateful for through your teaching and research?

My most recent book project, which is about teaching environmental justice, has been an incredible experience. I worked with our amazing colleagues at CITL (Jody Green, Jessie Dubreuil, and Sam Foster) to co-led a project that brought together faculty across many disciplines to learn from one another about integrating equity in classroom practice and apply those lessons to teaching environmental justice. We assembled some incredible contributors, including many of our UCSC colleagues across camps, including Flora Lu (ENVS), Kristy Kroeker (EEB), Ravi Rajan (ENVS), Chessa Adsit Morris (HAVC), Enrico Ramirez-Ruiz (Astronomy), and Michael Tassio (online ed). The book, which is entitled “Teaching Environmental Justice: Co-creating a Faculty Development Model,” will be coming out in the spring of 2023. 

3. What does Sustainability mean to you? 

Sustainability and social justice are inextricable for me. We cannot have sustainability without rethinking the structures that mediate who wins and who losses in our society. It’s not just about polar bears, it’s about people, and it’s about centering the way we care for one another above all else. Without communities of care, recognition and support, we cannot thrive on this planet.

4. This year, you are co-chairing the Climate Change, Sustainability and Resilience committee for the development of the campus’ next 10-Year Strategic Plan. Could you share your vision for how this could help advance sustainability at UCSC?  

Our campus values demand that we center issues of social justice as we move towards greater sustainability. The Strategic Plan is an opportunity for us to take a critical look at our practices, evaluate how well they reflect those campus values, and think about what changes need to be made in order for us to continue being leaders in the sustainability space over the next decade. Our Committee’s mandate from Chancellor Larive centers climate justice, and our Committee is firmly committed to fulfilling that mandate with a set of ambitious recommendations to the Chancellor on how we can define justice-centered sustainability in higher education. 

5. Lastly, what do you do for fun outside of work?

I love to cook, hang out with 3 kids and my partner, and spend as much time as possible with the amazing human beings who make up my own community of care. I especially love watching my 11 year old play baseball. :)