College of Arts & Sciences

Foster Fellows for Environmental Justice

Promoting Environmental Justice in Ventura County: Integrating Science into Civic Engagement

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This three-year research project started in summer 2010 under the directorship of Dr. Haco Hoang (Political Science) and Dr. Grady Hanrahan (Chemistry). The project is funded by a generous gift of Gladyce Foster. The project is taking the University into the community, encouraging Cal Lutheran students to collaborate with faculty on research and apply it for the public good.

The purposes of the project is to develop a model of civic engagement for environmental justice in a low-income community in Oxnard by assessing exposure to soil and water pollution and exploring the most effective avenues for community input and action. The long-term impact will be significant because Cal Lutheran students will acquire the capacity to contribute to their communities in leadership roles throughout their lives, particularly for the betterment of underserved groups.

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This project adopts a model of faculty and student collaboration on an applied interdisciplinary research project. Two chemistry students and two political science students are awarded to work with the faculty as Foster Fellows. The project exposes chemistry Foster Fellows to ways to successfully apply the results of their research, and it exposes political science Foster Fellows to the importance of activism based on sound scientific principles and findings, fostering leadership among both groups by equipping them with the skills, knowledge and opportunities to be agents of change.

This project is particularly timely, given that Oxnard is the location of an EPA Superfund site, Halaco, which for many years ran a smelter operation that polluted acres of marshland along the coast. The community of Oxnard has only recently become more environmentally aware as a result of the Superfund designation. The project seeks to develop a model of civic engagement. As such, it is expected to provide "best practices" and lessons in case of future Halaco0type events related to the concentration of agricultural business in the area.

Dr. Hoang and Dr. Hanrahan received a two-year, $150,000 grant from California Wellness Foundation for this project in 2011.