Graduates, students, faculty, and friends gathered on May 10th in Covel Commons to celebrate the graduation of our fourth class of the Leaders in Sustainability graduate certificate program. The Leaders in Sustainability program, offered through the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, aims to provide a mechanism for graduate students at UCLA to pursue their interests in sustainability and collaborate with students from different fields. In the award-winning certificate program’s fifth year, 19 bright students this year received their certificate.
Professor Magali Delmas and Professor Charles Corbett, co-directors of the Leaders in Sustainability program, opened the ceremony with a warm welcome and cheers to the graduates and thanks to Chloe Green and Kristin Yamada for coordinating the program. Professor Keith Stolzenbach, associate director of the Institute of Environment and Sustainability introduced the program with pride and excitement, and welcomed Gary Lawrence to deliver the keynote address.
Gary Lawrence, esteemed guest and keynote speaker, opened his remarks telling the audience, “I love my job. You should all want my job.” Mr. Lawrence is the Vice President and Chief Sustainability Officer for AECOM Technology Corporation (NYSE: ACM), an $8-billion global provider of professional technical and management support services.
Mr. Lawrence, who served as advisor to the Clinton administration’s council on Sustainable Development, as well as to other government bodies in Brazil, England, and others, shared with the gathered celebrants stories of his participation in key international conversations about sustainability. He has met with global leaders to discuss the energy water nexus, long-term food sustainability, and global climate change, and he urged the audience that to face these big questions, we must “embrace the complexity” of sustainability. We must understand sustainability as an interdisciplinary idea and that everything is connected to everything else. No concept or problem in the realm of sustainability can be simply understood or simply solved. In order to truly make change, we have to get comfortable with this level of intersectionality and complexity. In fact, he concluded his speech with this: “Whenever you look at a problem, take however complex you think it is or could be, then know that it is even more complex than that.”
Following Mr Lawrence’s speech, each graduate shared their aspirations for their post-graduate work, as well as highlights of the Leaders in Sustainability program. They spoke about Leaders in Sustainability’s impact on their academic careers and their ways of seeing the world, especially through seeing the issues from the perspective of their fellow students.
This year, graduates receiving a certificate hailed from architecture, urban planning, management, environmental health sciences, community health sciences, and environmental science and engineering. It is exactly this breadth and diversity of perspectives that are needed to do the good work of embracing complexity and finding solutions to our global sustainability challenges. We will miss our students from this year’s cohort, but we have such great hope for them in their work going out from here!
To view additional images from the LiS Graduation click here.