Overall Rating Platinum
Overall Score 88.59
Liaison Richard Demerjian
Submission Date Aug. 11, 2021

STARS v2.2

University of California, Irvine
AC-10: Support for Sustainability Research

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 4.00 / 4.00 Brenna Biggs
Sustainability Analyst
UCI Office of Sustainability
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Does the institution have an ongoing program to encourage students in multiple disciplines or academic programs to conduct sustainability research?:

A brief description of the student sustainability research program:

The following are ongoing programs to encourage students in multiple disciplines to conduct sustainability research:


For over five years, the UCI Sustainability Resource Center, UCI Student Housing, FRESH Basic Needs Hub, and Campus Physical & Environmental Planning have offered student fellowships (i.e., $4000 per student) to work on research projects or internships related to the systemwide UC Global Food Initiative and UC Carbon Neutrality Initiative. Undergraduate and graduate students from any academic background are encouraged to apply. The fellowships are on-campus internships that enable students to contribute significantly to a select group of projects, which reflect some of the many ways UCI is mobilizing to achieve the underlying goals of the UC Office of the President's Global Food and Carbon Neutrality Initiatives. The fellowships are a yearlong commitment.

During this reporting period, applicants have worked on projects across a range of sustainability-related topics including zero waste, energy justice, community resilience, food security, urban gardening, community-aligned carbon offsets, and campus sustainability engagement.

For more information about the Carbon Neutrality Initiative and related fellowships, please visit https://www.ucop.edu/carbon-neutrality-initiative/index.html.

For more information about the Global Food Initiative and related fellowships, please visit https://www.ucop.edu/global-food-initiative/index.html.

For more information about the application process for these fellowships during the most recent application round (2020 – 2021) please visit https://sustainability.uci.edu/2020-2021-cni-and-gfi-fellowships-application/.


Solutions that Scale (StS) is a new initiative at UCI which offers multiple graduate student fellowships in interdisciplinary research beginning in Summer 2021 to 1) discover, translate, and enable scalable, data-driven solutions to the global problems of climate change and environmental degradation; 2) to accelerate humanity’s understanding of our impact on the physical climate; and/or (3) implement scalable strategies for preventing climate change-induced damage to society. The fellowship provides one year of financial support with an opportunity for renewal for a second year. These fellowships are designed to support convergent research between at least two schools. This cohort of inaugural StS fellows will be engaged in several aspects of the StS initiative, including promoting the initiative, and participating in poster sessions and the organization of seminars and other events.

For more information, please visit https://sites.ps.uci.edu/solutions/.


UCI's Graduate Division administers Public Impact Fellowships that support graduate students whose research has the potential for substantial impact in the public sphere. Ideal candidates are engaged in research designed to significantly improve or enrich the lives of Californians and/or national and global communities. Selection criteria include conducting research that has critical public impact, e.g., studies that aim to improve economic opportunity and well-being, health care, social justice, political participation, cultural engagement, and scientific or technical solutions to pressing social issues. All schools are eligible to nominate students to compete for fellowships ranging from $1,000 to $12,000. A number of past Public Impact Fellows have been engaged in sustainability-related research.

Some examples of previous sustainability-focused projects within the last three years include researching the following: 1) how cities and corporations around the world reduce greenhouse gas emissions, 2) how civil servants make environmental policy through administrative and legal processes, 3) cultures of inclusion and the use of community knowledge to promote health equity, 4) how college and community cultures shape the upwardly-mobile experiences of Mexican-origin students, 5) how citizens are involved in decision-making about urban and neighborhood parks, 6) how international human trafficking law impacts disadvantaged populations in Cambodia and the United States, 7) developing a fast, portable, automated system for detecting bacterial contamination in water sources, and 8) the impact of climate change and disease on abalone across the Pacific Ocean.

More information is available at https://grad.uci.edu/funding/current-fellowhip-recipients/public-impact-fellowship.php.


Small Change, Better World (SCBW) grants are offered by the Blum Center to students who have completed an online course on Global Poverty and Inequality, an immersive field study experience, or the Global Scholars Program. SCBW seed grants give students an opportunity to meet tangible needs in their own communities with the goal that the experience gained through these projects will inspire students to continue to take actions to address 21st century challenges in ways that are sustainable. SCBW provides students with seed grants for one-time, limited scope projects that address a specific need. Funded projects must require less than $3,000 and be achievable within a short period of time, such as a quarter or semester. Projects vary, but are often sustainability-focused. For example, note the following projects completed during the reporting period:

1) In Fall 2018, students supported Finca Siempre Verde, an educational center focusing on sustainable practices in Mastatal, with a new covered nursery for native tree seedlings. Their project increased the amount of native tree seedlings in one of the most heavily deforested regions in Costa Rica to not only help protect ecosystem services and biodiversity but also eliminate threats of erosion and waterway pollution.

2) In Fall 2018, a student created “Empowerment Soaps,” a project which made zero-waste, all-natural, vegan, and handmade soap and toothpaste. The soap and toothpaste was distributed in hygiene packages to the homeless community in Orange County.

3) In Fall 2019, SCBW funded a student to install a crusher machine at the CBTA 233 school in Michoacán, Mexico, which enabled the crushing of various types of waste and subsequently created material to be used as an alternative type of building material.

4) In Fall 2020, a student supported the indigenous community of Sitio Nilasin in Castillejos, Zambales, Philippines by creating a project that provided access to clean water and nutritious food for about 65 families.

For more information about Small Change, Better World, please visit https://blumcenter.uci.edu/smallchange/.


The Newkirk Center for Science and Society offers graduate students one year of training and experience in community-based research with the goal of spanning boundaries between the University and community organizations to collaboratively address urgent social and environmental problems including air and water quality, racial and ethnic inequality and exclusion, and their intersections. Students are selected from a wide variety of disciplines, including Chemistry, Anthropology, Urban Planning and Public Policy, Education, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Public Health, Anatomy and Neurobiology, and Criminology, Law and Society. Co-directors of the Newkirk Center guide the work, but the overall process, planning, and outcomes are student-driven.

In addition to their projects, all participants participate in the Newkirk Center’s Research Justice workshop series, which is comprised of 9 workshops. In each workshop, students participate in experiential learning activities to gain exposure to and abilities in Community-based Research methods. Participants also build community, develop research practice commitments, and experiment with meta-principles for Community-based Research and pedagogy.

Examples of sustainability-focused fellowships that have been offered with the Newkirk Center’s “Research Justice Shop” within the last three years (AY 2018-2021):

1) Community-campus collaborative for Community Air Monitoring Project: Students support a local community-based organization (CBO) in a 3-year state-funded project focused on community-based air monitoring. The CBO and multidisciplinary UCI researchers meet quarterly as a collaborative that the fellows help to coordinate and facilitate. Students work together to generate newsletters for the collaborative, submit grand reports to the California Air Resources Board, and write blog posts for the Newkirk Center.

2) Environmental Justice Water Quality Photovoice Project: Students support process evaluation for a local Environmental Justice Organization’s PhotoVoice project. As part of the community-based organization’s Communities Organizing for Better Water campaign, Orange County residents document water quality problems in their lives and in their communities. Students will observe PhotoVoice workshops, develop evaluation tools and metrics in conversation with the organization’s staff, and write a report summarizing the findings. Students also support the development of training tools to codify the PhotoVoice method as it is used by the organization so that they can systematize and potentially replicate its implementation around Orange County.

3) Community Science Organizing Case Study Project: Students partner with a local Environmental Justice Organization to support the development of a Community Science Organizing model based on work that the organization has done on the topics of water and soil lead contamination. Students produce two case profiles of the two campaigns and make recommendations to the organization about how to develop a model and training modules to support community science as an Environmental Justice Organizing strategy. Students develop the methodology and details of the deliverable with the organization in the fall quarter. Activities include writing a literature review, conducting interviews, focus groups, or archival research, writing a brief to share with the organization's membership, and producing a proposal for funders for the development of a curriculum for a community science organizing model.

For more information about the Newkirk Center, please visit https://newkirkcenter.uci.edu/researchjustice/


UCI sponsors the ongoing Energize Colleges program, which includes energy internships that provide students with applied learning opportunities through meaningful roles on campus and community projects. These internships seek to align with the eight career pathways across the arc of the program: 1) Energy Engineering: energy efficiency, energy storage, the smart grid, and the energy -water nexus, 2) Environmental Controls Technology: HVAC, Building Commissioning, Operations, and Building Controls, 3) Solar Design, Sales, and Estimation, 4) Installation & Maintenance: EE retrofitting, HVAC, lighting, solar & retro-commissioning, 5) Energy Auditing, 6) Energy Storage, 7) Energy & Environmental Management: utility bill analysis and monitoring, policy, utility program management, and government, and 8) Building Construction & Architecture. For more information about the Energize Colleges program, please visit https://sustainability.uci.edu/energize-colleges/

Through the Energize Colleges program, students received funding for a variety of sustainability-focused projects. Examples within this reporting period include 1) analyzing prime locations for commercial solar panel installations, 2) energy efficiency programming in both undergraduate and graduate family housing, 3) studying the effects of climate change on the availability of hydroelectric power in the future, and 4) educate young students about how we can be more sustainable in using non-renewable energy, while also exploring other viable options of cleaner energy source.

To view projects from the 2019 Academic Year, please visit https://sustainability.uci.edu/encospring2019interns/

Does the institution have a program to encourage academic staff from multiple disciplines or academic programs to conduct sustainability research?:

A brief description of the faculty sustainability research program:


In 2014, a new campus program under the direction of the Vice Provost was created to identify and support areas of interschool excellence. Sponsored by the Office of the Provost & Executive Vice Chancellor, the Academic Initiatives program provides funding for three years to interschool faculty teams in identified areas. Funding may be used for specialized research partnerships, workshops or conferences, collaboration with academic units on new graduate concentrations and/or undergraduate minors, coordination of grant applications, outreach, and community engagement. The goal of these programs is to transcend traditional academic boundaries to work productively together on projects of national significance. The Academic Initiatives program not only promotes interdisciplinary partnership, but also encourages research, educational programs, inclusive excellence, outreach and community engagement – all key elements in addressing the world’s grand challenges.

Initiatives are chosen based on the possibility of achieving leadership in the proposed area, diversity of faculty participation, commitment of the leadership team, effectiveness of the plan, and likelihood of evolving into a self-sustaining activity after three years. For more information about the UCI Academic Initiatives, please visit http://initiatives.provost.uci.edu.

Currently, the UCI Education Research Initiative is an on-going interschool initiative that is focused on sustainability-related issues. The UCI Education Research Initiative looks at understanding and solving inequities in education, particularly for underserved and disadvantaged communities. It is a multidisciplinary community of people who care about improving the educational experiences of students, particularly underrepresented minorities, first-generation, and low income students. The initiative has two main missions:

-- A research mission that aims at identifying and disseminating cause-and-effect interventions, instructional practices, and policies that have the potential to increase postsecondary success and reduce educational inequality.

-- An implementation mission that aims at supporting and facilitating the application of evidence-based interventions, instructional practices, and policies across a variety of postsecondary education settings.

Within the past three years, the UCI Education Research Initiative created the Enhanced Academic Success Experience (EASE) program for at-risk students in the Biological Sciences program at UCI. Each cohort takes the same first-year biology and chemistry courses together, meets weekly with a senior peer mentor, and has access to EASE-specific student counselors. Assessment of the first year of the program identified improved first-year GPAs for EASE students as well as gains in sense of belonging and academic and social integration. The plan is to continue assessing the impact of the program longitudinally on academic outcomes, non-cognitive outcomes, and retention. Additionally, discussions are underway with other programs on campus to establish similar cohorts for their at-risk students.

For more information about the UCI Education Research Initiative, please visit https://educationresearch.uci.edu/.


Investigators from UCI’s Henry Samueli School of Engineering, Donald Bren School of Information & Computer Science, and School of Physical Sciences are working together in a new initiative, funded by the National Science Foundation, to perfect the use of data science in climate studies. The initiative, named the UCI Data Science and Climate initiative, began in 2018 and funds the research team to jointly pursue the creation of new methodologies in machine learning and network estimation to develop a better understanding of the Earth’s climate system and its regional hydrologic impacts.

For more information, please visit: https://engineering.uci.edu/news/2018/9/uci-joins-launch-new-nsf-funded-data-science-and-climate-initiative.

Has the institution published written policies and procedures that give positive recognition to interdisciplinary, transdisciplinary, and multidisciplinary research during faculty promotion and/or tenure decisions?:

A copy of the promotion or tenure guidelines or policies:
The promotion or tenure guidelines or policies:

UC Irvine has instituted various personnel and budgetary policies to support interdisciplinary research, including (1) formal joint appointments of faculty in two or more disciplinary units with participation of both units in personnel reviews and promotions; (2) enrollment policies that share credit among different departments for students enrolled in courses that cross departmental and school lines; (3) creation of interdisciplinary graduate degree programs that report centrally to Graduate Division rather than to one department or school; (4) accounting changes that allow faculty to credit extramural funding partially or wholly to interdisciplinary research centers rather than to a single home department. These policy changes have been implemented in conjunction with the more general commitment to innovative interdisciplinary organizations.

UC Irvine also supports the development and maintenance of Organized Research Units (ORUs), academic units established to provide a focused and supportive infrastructure for inter-, cross-, and multi-disciplinary research complementary to the academic goals of departments and schools. The functions of an ORU are to facilitate research and research collaborations; disseminate research results through research conferences, meetings and other activities; strengthen graduate and undergraduate education by providing students with training opportunities and access to facilities; and carry out university and public service programs related to the ORU's research expertise. In accordance with the “2014 UC Compendium: Universitywide Review Processes for Academic Programs, Academic Units, & Research Units," ORUs are established on single campuses, whereas Multi-campus Research Units (MRUs) exist on two or more campuses. An ORU must be complementary to the academic goals of the university, but does not have jurisdiction over courses or curricula and cannot offer formal courses or make faculty appointments.

More information on the purpose and policies regarding ORUs can be found here:

A list of sustainability-related ORUs at UC Irvine:
-- Air UCI (http://airuci.uci.edu/)
-- Center for Population, Inequality and Policy (CPIP) (https://www.socsci.uci.edu/newsevents/news/2019/2019-08-06-cpip.php)
-- Health Policy Research Institute (https://healthpolicy.uci.edu/)
-- Connected Learning Lab (CLL) (https://connectedlearning.uci.edu/)
-- Center for Embedded and Cyber-physical Systems (CECS) (http://www.cecs.uci.edu/)
-- Institute for Future Health (IFH) (https://futurehealth.uci.edu/)
-- Institute of Transportation Studies (ITS) (http://www.its.uci.edu/)

Additionally, UC Irvine follows policies proposed by the systemwide UC Office of the President (UCOP) to consider and promote interdisciplinary research. When faculty members are up for promotion and/or tenure, UCOP instructs the review committees to use "flexibility" in evaluating work that "departs markedly from established academic patterns."

The APM-210 (Appointment and Promotion: Review and Appraisal Committees) policy states: "The review committee shall judge the candidate with respect to the proposed rank and duties, considering the record of the candidate’s performance in (1) teaching, (2) research and other creative work, (3) professional activity, and (4) University and public service. In evaluating the candidate’s qualifications within these areas, the review committee shall exercise reasonable flexibility, balancing when the case requires, heavier commitments and responsibilities in one area against lighter commitments and responsibilities in another. The review committee must judge whether the candidate is engaging in a program of work that is both sound and productive. As the University enters new fields of endeavor and refocuses its ongoing activities, cases will arise in which the proper work of faculty members departs markedly from established academic patterns. In such cases, the review committees must take exceptional care to apply the criteria with sufficient flexibility. However, flexibility does not entail a relaxation of high standards. Superior intellectual attainment, as evidenced both in teaching and in research or other creative achievement, is an indispensable qualification for appointment or promotion to tenure positions."

A link to the policy in its entirety can be found here: https://www.ucop.edu/academic-personnel-programs/_files/apm/apm-210.pdf

Does the institution have ongoing library support for sustainability research and learning?:

A brief description of the institution’s library support for sustainability research:

The UCI Libraries provide ongoing support for interdisciplinary sustainability research through research guides, collection development policies and practices, designated Subject Librarians (in areas such as Physical Sciences, Biological Sciences, Social Ecology, and Humanities), and in-depth reference consultation and assistance for researchers and students. Research guides are available for a number of subjects.

Examples of sustainability-related research guides are the following:
-- Civil and Environmental Engineering: https://guides.lib.uci.edu/engr_civil_env
-- Earth System Science: https://guides.lib.uci.edu/earth_system_science
-- Energy Research: Pathfinder for the Advanced Power & Energy Program (APEP): https://guides.lib.uci.edu/Energy-APEP2020
-- Urban Planning and Public Policy: https://guides.lib.uci.edu/c.php?g=333212
-- Global and International Studies: https://guides.lib.uci.edu/Internationalstudies
-- Environmental Sciences: https://guides.lib.uci.edu/env_sci

The complete list of all the guides is available at http://guides.lib.uci.edu.

Research librarians work with faculty and staff to prepare collection development policies for specific research areas. The Earth Systems Science Collection Development Policy is an example of a UCI sustainability-focused collection development guide that supports cross-disciplinary teaching and research at UCI as well as several Research Centers. The collection emphasizes student (undergraduate through doctoral) research as well as research at the faculty and postdoctoral levels. Selection of materials concentrates on the broad interest areas of earth and environmental science with emphasis on environmental policy and planning, air quality monitoring and assessment, scientific research, laboratory analysis, science education, natural resource management, wildlife management, conservation and environmental protection, and water resource management.

The primary URL for the UCI Libraries is http://www.lib.uci.edu/. Researchers can access library collections via two online catalogs: UCI libraries (http://lib.uci.edu/) and UCI, UC, and other libraries worldwide through Melvyl (http://uci.worldcat.org/). UCI Library collections can also be accessed via http://www.lib.uci.edu/collections.

Reference assistance is available via in-person consultation, real-time web reference chat, email, and appointments for research consultations, which are described online at http://www.lib.uci.edu/ask-librarian-reference-services and http://www.lib.uci.edu/instruction-request-form.

Website URL where information about the institution’s support for sustainability research is available:

Additional documentation to support the submission:

In addition to the programs listed above, UCI has an additional sustainability-focused opportunity for faculty available later this year:


The World Institute for Sustainable Development of Materials (WISDOM) was founded in 2020 with a $1 million gift from the Lincoln Dynamic Foundation. The new institute will advance interdisciplinary research, education and knowledge translation to innovate, evaluate and adopt technologies that utilize safer, nontoxic chemicals and materials, with the goal of mitigating environmental impacts. WISDOM’s potential research areas include the development of materials for advanced energy, transportation and other industrial processes that can mitigate environmental damages; and materials for geoengineering applications, such as solar reflection and greenhouse gas removal.

For more information, please visit https://news.uci.edu/2020/06/24/foundation-donates-1-million-to-ucis-henry-samueli-school-of-engineering/.

UCI also receives support for sustainability research from the Horiba Group:


Horiba Group, a leading global provider of analytical and measurement systems, has committed $9 million to the Advanced Power and Energy Program at the University of California, Irvine to establish the Horiba Institute for Mobility and Connectivity (HIMAC).

HIMAC focuses research and education efforts on combining formerly disparate energy and transportation sectors into an integrated and complementary system. Its faculty, staff and students will work to simultaneously address the environmental impacts of climate change and air quality, energy independence and security, and the affordability of fuel and electricity for consumers.

In addition to Horiba’s gift, UCI’s Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Office of the Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor provide funds for staffing and ongoing activities at the new institute.

For more information, please visit: https://news.uci.edu/2018/08/29/horiba-group-commits-9-million-to-uci-for-new-institute/ and http://www.apep.uci.edu/HIMaC2_Brochure.html

The information presented here is self-reported. While AASHE staff review portions of all STARS reports and institutions are welcome to seek additional forms of review, the data in STARS reports are not verified by AASHE. If you believe any of this information is erroneous or inconsistent with credit criteria, please review the process for inquiring about the information reported by an institution or simply email your inquiry to stars@aashe.org.