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Make Waves for a Better Tomorrow at Upcoming Triton Leaders Conference

Two-day hybrid event hosted by UC San Diego Alumni will spark discussion of environmental justice

Two people shake hands in auditorium with international flags hanging from ceiling
Alumni, students, staff, faculty, parents, community leaders and friends of UC San Diego will have the opportunity to network and connect during this year's Triton Leaders Conference as they explore the theme "Embracing Equity: Perspectives on Environmental Justice." (Photos by Lan Yao/University Communications)

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With a shared focus on sustainability and climate justice, Tritons from around the globe will come together to engage, learn and share insights both virtually and in person during the upcoming Triton Leaders Conference 2024.

Centered on the theme “Embracing Equity: Perspectives on Environmental Justice,” the two-day conference, scheduled for Feb. 2-3, will feature leading experts and academics in a thoughtfully curated lineup of dynamic breakout sessions, illuminating group discussions, networking opportunities and more. Together, attendees will explore energy, pollution and health, climate science and renewable energy solutions through the lens of equity and diversity.

Alumni, students, staff, faculty, parents, community leaders and friends of UC San Diego are invited to join the discussion during this jam-packed weekend of impact and education, working together to harness their diverse perspectives, talents and commitment as part of a concerted effort to drive positive change.

“With the strength of our collective voice as Tritons, we can make a global impact,” said Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla. “As a leading university in climate science, with a strong commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion, UC San Diego is uniquely positioned to host this forum of experts and academics on the topic of environmental justice. Take the opportunity to engage, learn and share insights with fellow Tritons—all to shape a better future for our planet.”

Audience members laugh and clap
This year's Triton Leaders Conference features a dynamic lineup of breakout sessions, group discussions and more. 

Now in its seventh year, the Triton Leaders Conference, which is hosted by UC San Diego Alumni, will again take on a hybrid format. Conference events will be held virtually on Friday, Feb. 2, allowing Tritons to tune in from their homes and workplaces for compelling speakers and sessions with subtopics that range from global supply chains to how to convey climate change to the public. On Saturday, Feb. 3, attendees have the opportunity to tune in virtually or gather in person at Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography to continue the conversation, learn about existing inequities within the energy and climate science landscape and discuss potential solutions.

Vice Chancellor Margaret Leinen
Vice Chancellor Margaret Leinen

“Get ready for a very exciting Triton Leaders Conference this year,” said Margaret Leinen, Director of Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Vice Chancellor for Marine Sciences and Dean of the School of Marine Sciences. “UC San Diego has put together an amazing lineup of voices on every aspect of equity and environmental justice. It’s no surprise that many of the leading voices that will appear over the two days of the conference are UC San Diego alums. The university has recognized the importance of equity in all aspects of research, policy and action for years and has looked deeply at the intersection between equity and environmental justice.”

Approximately 40 leading thought experts and academics from a variety of fields, many of whom are UC San Diego faculty members or alumni, will share their expertise and offer new perspectives through an array of breakout sessions that attendees can choose from based on their individual fields or interests.

Rosa León Zayas
Rosa León Zayas

Friday’s virtual event will kick off with a keynote address by Rosa León Zayas, an environmental microbiologist, program director at the National Science Foundation and associate professor at Willamette University. An alumna of Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, Zayas has explored some of the most remote places on the planet and is deeply committed to the advancement of groups traditionally underrepresented in STEM—particularly the Puerto Rican, Hispanic and queer communities.

Directly following the Friday keynote, virtual attendees can choose from various topics during three successive breakout sessions. Among the day’s offerings is “A Mayor’s Response to Environmental Crisis,” led by UC San Diego alumni Paloma Aguirre, MAS ’15, mayor of the City of Imperial Beach, and Serge Dedina ’87, former Mayor of Imperial Beach and executive director of coastal conservation nonprofit WILDCOAST. During their session, Aguirre and Dedina will discuss how to build political and community support to address cross-border environmental justice issues in two countries, two states and two major metropolitan regions.

“One of the main takeaways from our session is that solving problems either as a small-town mayor or nongovernmental organization director requires diplomatic and advocacy skills as well as the ability to see the border as one region, independent of international boundaries, with its own set of formal and informal rules,” said Dedina. “Knowing those rules and how to push the levers of power to advocate for our communities and constituents is key to making a difference.”

Panelists speak at conference table
Panel discussions during this year's Triton Leaders Conference have been thoughtfully curated to align with this year's theme of equity and environmental justice. 

During another virtual breakout session offered Feb. 2, entitled “Environmental Justice: From Protecting Our Natural Resources to the Just Transition,” Jessica Graham, MPIA ’09 will join climate economist Jamal Russell Black, MIA ’16, to focus on the importance of environmental justice from an international environmental security perspective and the need for an equitable green transition within the U.S. and beyond.

“It’s an honor to be back virtually to participate in the annual Triton Leaders Conference,” said Graham, who serves as the president of Washington, D.C.-based JG Global Advisory, LLL, a minority, woman-owned small business consultancy that provides integrated solutions responding to the challenges of environmental security. “I was thrilled to hear about this year’s theme and to support raising awareness—at a critical moment in time on environmental justice—of how we can all play a role in better supporting the environment that will have lasting impact for biodiversity, communities and citizens around the globe.”

During the Feb. 3 event at Birch Aquarium, Vice Chancellor Leinen will top the day’s agenda with an impactful keynote speech. An award-winning oceanographer and distinguished national and international leader in ocean science, global climate and environmental issues, Leinen leads the university’s ocean, earth, atmospheric and climate science research and education programs.

True Triton etched glass award
The True Triton Award will be presented to three outstanding alumni at the close of this year's Triton Leaders Conference. 

Day two’s lineup of breakout sessions, which will take place at the conclusion of Leinen’s keynote, includes topics such as “Environmental Justice in Local Communities” and “Climate and Air Pollution: Local and Global Health Impacts.”

To close the conference, UC San Diego will present the True Triton Award to three outstanding alumni who have shown an extraordinary commitment to the university and who have gone above and beyond to enhance UC San Diego’s mission on campus, in the community and around the world. The 2024 recipients of the True Triton Award are Dominique Cano-Stocco ’94, MAS ’11, Jeff Fenton ’80 and Carl Tsang ’05.

Register now to participate in this year’s Triton Leaders Conference, where you’ll have the opportunity to connect with the campus community and network with like-minded Tritons who can help accelerate your causes and ideas.

"The Triton Leaders Conference is an excellent opportunity to re-engage with the university and learn more about the exciting research our students, faculty and alumni are working on,” said Omar Abu-Hantash ’21, president of the San Diego Regional Alumni Club. “It's also a great chance to network and meet new people from different parts of our UC San Diego community as we award members of our community for their excellent achievements."

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