Energizing the Environmental Justice Movement

MAS Climate Science and Policy alum Tyler Valdes advocates for progressive environmental policy in California

As a graduate of the Master of Advanced Studies in Climate Science and Policy (MAS CSP) program at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, Tyler Valdes (‘20) found his stride in the field. His current role as energy justice manager with the California Environmental Justice Alliance (CEJA) allows him to work with teams of policy advocates, community organizers, and storytellers to expand the development and access of renewable energy.

Why did you choose to study at Scripps?

I chose Scripps because I was drawn to the way that the Climate Science and Policy program centers multidisciplinary solutions to the climate crisis. I had a science background from my undergraduate studies and wanted to pursue policy work so I saw the MAS CSP program as the perfect way to pivot!

 What was your most memorable experience during your time at Scripps?

Tyler (second from right) and the CEJA team at a fall retreat.
Tyler (second from right) and the CEJA team at a fall retreat.

Although my time on campus was cut short due to stay-at-home orders, there were so many great memories I shared with my cohort and the Scripps community. The happy hour events known as “TGs” were always a blast, but if I had to choose one experience, it would be the holiday party at Birch Aquarium. It was after finals so my friends and I felt accomplished and relieved as we explored the aquarium at night—it didn’t hurt that I won a raffle prize for the Marine Room, too!

What was your first job after graduating from Scripps?

My first job was with a sustainability education and workforce development nonprofit. I developed and delivered project-based environmental curricula that educated tens of thousands of students across California. I also supported the recruitment and training of hundreds of fellows who led climate action projects throughout the state.

 What is your current role?

I am an energy justice manager with the California Environmental Justice Alliance (CEJA), a community-led alliance of 10 grassroots environmental justice organizations from Richmond to San Diego with membership in the tens of thousands, advocating for progressive environmental justice policy at the state level.

 What is your favorite thing about your current role?

I love that I get to do meaningful work that seeks to address California’s legacy of environmental racism and institutional neglect by advancing energy solutions that put the communities who have borne the burden of pollution first in line to benefit from a clean energy economy. It’s an honor to work with a compassionate and talented team to uplift environmental justice community voices and ensure they have agency in state policy and program decisions. As someone who grew up with energy insecurity, I am grateful to be in a role where I can advance energy justice for the communities that nurtured me and shaped my values.

Tyler Valdes and Sarah Salem, director of community engagement and partnerships with GRID Alternatives, co-facilitated tenant education workshops for the Solar on Multifamily Affordable Housing Program.
Tyler Valdes and Sarah Salem, director of community engagement and partnerships with GRID Alternatives, co-facilitated tenant education workshops for the Solar on Multifamily Affordable Housing Program.

What was most helpful in transitioning to your career?

Knowing my purpose and telling my story was powerful for transitioning into my career. When you have a North Star or personal mission, it guides you when you become unsure of yourself and helps you know when to pivot.

What advice do you have for current students?

Don’t worry if you don’t know what you want to do yet, just do something! Read a book on your field of interest, join a student organization, volunteer in your community, reach out to a professional for an informational interview, and apply for that internship—you'll progress toward your goals by taking action now, not by getting lost in analysis paralysis or over-planning.

What do you like to do for fun?

In my free time, you can catch me practicing yoga, on a local trail, sunbathing at the beach with a book, or trying new foods!

You can connect with Tyler on LinkedIn.

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