Overall Rating Platinum - expired
Overall Score 86.82
Liaison Richard Demerjian
Submission Date March 28, 2018
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.1

University of California, Irvine
AC-5: Immersive Experience

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 2.00 / 2.00 Jessica Debats Garrison
Administrating Director
UCI Environment Collaboration
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Does the institution offer at least one immersive, sustainability-focused educational study program that is one week or more in length?:

A brief description of the sustainability-focused immersive program(s) offered by the institution, including how each program addresses the social, economic, and environmental dimensions of sustainability:

UC Irvine provides many opportunities for students to participate in sustainability-focused immersive experiences as described in this section. Several of the highlighted programs include:


The UC Irvine Costa Rica Program is a 10-day alternative-break experience sponsored by Student Housing and the Division of Student Affairs in partnership with the Division of Undergraduate Education. The program allows 14-20 UC Irvine students to experience a global sustainability and cultural immersion program leading to increased cultural competence and global leadership development. The participants serve as diplomatic ambassadors for the university as they immerse themselves in the community and culture of Costa Rica.
The program includes a 2-unit course in Winter Quarter, which lays the groundwork for the immersion trip and covers topics including: Costa Rican culture, cultural competency skills, personal identity, trip logistics, expectations, academic study topic preparation, and team building. Students participate in a field trip to the UCI Arboretum where they experience local nature and wildlife in Irvine, creating a basis for comparison once in-country. Early in the quarter, students go on an overnight retreat, within Orange County, designed to continue preparation for the Costa Rica experience.

During spring break, students travel to Costa Rica where the in-country portion begins with a visit to the rural farm village of Mastatal and a stay at Siempre Verde, an environmental learning center specializing in organic farming and sustainable development. Students experience open-air living, farm-to-table organic meals, composting toilets, outdoor showers and rural daily life. They also have the opportunity to visit two other environmental learning centers, Rancho Mastatal and Villas Mastatal, that specialize in sustainable building, research and living and allow students to explore rural community structure, tropical ecology, medicinal plant use, Costa Rican education, sustainable chocolate farming, reforestation, ecotourism, sustainable development & building, indigenous issues and composting.

While in Mastatal, students also participate in service projects for the community. Every year the service project is different. For example, in 2015, participants worked on the Community Center in town and helped start a tree nursery. In 2016, participants worked on the construction for a concessions stand at a local fútbol field, cleaned and painted a primary school for an indigenous community, and aided in organic farm work such as harvesting and compost. And in 2017, participants conducted service in La Cangreja National Park.


UCI is a chapter of Global Public Health Brigades, an international movement of university students working to improve health conditions in the developing world. Through an evidence-based model, students participate in seven- to nine-day immersive experiences, working alongside local community members to build projects that tangibly improve lives in Honduras, Nicaragua, and Ghana. Volunteers work with local masons and families to build eco-stoves, latrines, concrete floors, showers, and/or water storage units. To ensure long-term sustainability and maintenance, the Public Health program team trains and empowers local community leaders in the formation of a Basic Sanitation Committee. The Basic Sanitation Committee is responsible for carrying out in-home assessments and monitoring the status of the projects. In conjunction with the Public Health Program, Global Brigades also supports communities with healthcare, economic development, and clean water projects, and uniquely implements these programs in a holistic model to meet a community's health and economic goals. This model systematically builds community ownership and collaboratively executes programs with the end goal of sustainably evolving to a relationship of impact monitoring.


UC Irvine's Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program administers the Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP), which provides students with the opportunity to become immersed in a research topic full-time over a 10-week period or the equivalent of 400 hours. Students define their own research objectives, which can be sustainability focused. SURP is open to all non-graduating UCI undergraduates who are in good academic standing and who have been involved in a faculty-mentored research project or creative activity for at least one quarter before the beginning of the Summer.


The Summer Institute for Sustainability Leadership (SISL) contains four separate programs tailored for students with different levels of experience. Level 1 is a 3-day residential sustainability leadership program. Select incoming first-year and transfer students will have a chance to meet fellow student leaders and start building leadership skills while learning about sustainability on the UCI campus and around the world. The program includes workshops on sustainability, personal leadership development, fun team-building activities, and a deep dive into the UCI Global Sustainability Resource Center's Sustainability Pathways. Level 2 is a 5.5-day residential experiential learning program for select current student and community leaders. It provides student and community sustainability leaders the skills for transformation, systems thinking, community visioning, and action planning.

The retreat allows participants to develop not just sustainability-related knowledge but also the values, skills, and attitudes to allow them to be effective facilitators of transformational change and leaders of youth-driven sustainability initiatives on campus and beyond. Level 3 is a 66-day residential immersion program held in Guatemala, in collaboration with our community partner SERES. The purpose of this program is to provide student sustainability leaders with an interest in international development with a unique south-north learning experience that helps to awaken and develop a critical lens on local-global solidarity. The program also provides tools for transformation to support student development into effective and impactful sustainability leaders. This program also offers a 99-day residential immersion program held in El Salvador, in collaboration with our community partner SERES. The program is delivered in Spanish and translated to English, with UCI students participating alongside their youth counterparts from El Salvador. Applicants must have proven involvement (minimum 1-year) with sustainability and food-related issues, education, and/or actions on or around campus.


This one-year program supports an interdisciplinary cohort of approximately ten graduate students who plan to pursue careers that address climate issues. The cohort reflects a diversity of perspectives, and is open to students from all academic programs, including those outside of climate science. Participants are trained in transferable quantitative, communication, and professional skills required for a broad range of career paths. Trainees participate in a two-unit, problem-based graduate seminar during spring and fall quarters, as well as a short course on climate data science. A key element of the program is a three-month paid internship experience. Internships are available in the public and private sectors on topics appropriate to each trainee's career path. Trainees convey lessons from the internship experience through presentations during a mini-conference during fall quarter.


In 2016, UCI students in the Public Health Program had the opportunity to earn UCI credit abroad from June 21 to July 25, 2016, in Guatemala. Five weeks of study and exploration illuminated how global climate change continues to cause disruption and impact population movements. In addition to the courses that students took for UCI course credit (International Public Health Practice and Foundations of Community Health), students participated in organized field trips to deepen their understanding of the complex interactions between sustainability, climate change, and community health, while practicing skills learned through the course material.

The website URL where information about the programs or initiatives is available:
Additional documentation to support the submission:

Additional website URLs containing information about the programs:

Global Public Health Brigades:

Summer Undergraduate Research Program:

Summer Institute for Sustainability Leadership:

Climate Action Training Program:

Community and Planetary Health and Sustainability Summer Session in Guatemala:

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