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ACT Award Opens New Environmental Perspectives for Caltech Student

This past September was an exciting time of travel and networking as I met people from all over the world who are enthusiastic and passionate about climate change and sustainable development.

As part of my ACT Award, I attended The Global Climate Action Summit (GCAS) that took place in San Francisco, CA from September 12 to 14, 2018. Mayors and state leaders from hundreds of regions all over the world, business leaders, and policy makers all gathered in the city to discuss how to better address current climate issues and to reach the emission and temperature goals set by the Paris Agreement. I applied to be a volunteer for this event through California Volunteers, where I met people of different occupations and backgrounds who also care about climate issues. The plenary speeches and platform discussions that I attended mainly focused on current policies and efforts that are made to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to limit the global temperature rise to below 2°C.

Stephanie attending the Climate Innovation Showcase at the GCAS in New York

To further my knowledge of climate issues, I attended a second summit – The Climate Week NYC (CWNYC). This event was a week-long summit hosted by the Climate Group in NYC during the week of 24-30 September that coincided with the meeting of the United Nations General Assembly. The target audience for the CWNYC was more diverse compared to the GCAS. In addition to political and business leaders; participants such as NGOs, research institutes, and individual activists also took part in the many CWNYC programs.

During the week, organizations and businesses held hundreds of events covering a broad range of environmental topics. I attended panel discussions held by the Columbia Law School and Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment, discussions on environment litigation, exhibitions held by NGOs on the worldwide efforts to fight against climate problems, and an event hosted by Cornell Institute for Climate Smart Solutions. The Cornell event emphasized the involvement of the scientific and academic communities in addressing environmental concerns through a discussion panel hosted by J. P. Morgan Chase & CO. on sustainable development in big ventures and industries.

I wanted to attend these events with my ACT award because I often feel the resources and opportunities for students to get involved in decision-making and public advocacy for climate and environment issues are limited at Caltech, especially for international students and scholars. I feel there is a gap between scientific findings regarding these issues and public awareness. On these trips, I gained important insights from scientists and researchers on how to better communicate science and research to the general public, and how to carry research findings beyond journal publications. I’ve also made several connections with officials from the United Nations Development Programme and learned about more opportunities for Caltech to be involved in climate and environmental solutions from an international perspective. In the upcoming year, I will work closely with Caltech Y and other on or off campus resources to provide more opportunities for Caltech students who are interested in taking action on sustainability and climate issues.


The Caltech Y challenges students to grow into responsible citizens of the world. It is with this mission in mind that the Y created the Advocating Change Together (ACT) Award providing motivated Caltech students with a unique opportunity to learn about themselves and their place in society by seeking to impact the world through community engagement, activism and leadership. The ACT Award is generously funded by the Caltech Employees Federal Credit Union.


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