UCLA Professor Creates New Course on Engineering and Environmental Justice

Prof. Patterson's class

UCLA Samueli
Final presentations by the students for the class on engineering and environmental justice.

In the 2022-23 academic year, an exciting new course titled “CEE 188: Engineering and Environmental Justice” was created by Regan Patterson, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering.

Regan Patterson
Regan Patterson created and teaches CEE 188.

The CEE 188 course, which was first offered this past spring, introduces students to the concept of environmental justice and examines methods for assessing disparities in exposure to environmental hazards. It explores how engineers can partner with communities to address local environmental issues. Along with case study analyses, CEE 188 offers students  an opportunity to collaborate with community-based organizations on real-world projects throughout the course. Topics include, but are not limited to: water quality, air quality, energy justice, climate justice, community resilience, race, ethnicity and class. Ultimately, the goal of this community-engaged course is to help students learn approaches to addressing environmental hazards and inequities that go beyond traditional engineering methods in order to ensure community needs are met.

Patterson, whose research and teaching are driven by an interest in environmental justice, was inspired to create the course from her time as a doctoral student at UC Berkeley. As a graduate student instructor for the “Engineering, The Environment and Society” course, Patterson worked with lecturer Khalid Khadir designing and managing community projects. From this experience, Patterson decided to create a new community-engaged learning course at UCLA.

Final presentations by the students for the class on engineering and environmental justice

A key component to building the CEE 188 course was finding the community-based organizations with which to partner. Patterson hired graduate student researcher, Zanobia Ibrahim-Watkins, to identify, organize and manage seven community partners and co-create each environmental justice project with them. In collaboration with each organization, Ibrahim-Watkins produced a partner agreement form that detailed the project description, deliverables, timeline and expectations. At the conclusion of the course, each community partner was compensated for the time and resources they spent on supporting the students.

Moving forward, Patterson’s goal is to continue to build on the success of the course and expand its positive impact for students and community-based organizations. While Patterson recently received a prestigious Chancellor’s Award for Community Engaged Scholars to help fund future iterations of the course, additional private funding would be instrumental to the overall growth of the course. Additional funding would help Patterson increase the number of community partners and establish long-term community-university partnerships. It would also enable her to provide stipends to students who are interested in continuing their work with their community partners during the summer. In the short-term, Patterson is seeking $20,000 in funding and says she hopes that the 2023 spring pilot course serves as a proof-of-concept to encourage new partnerships. Long-term, $250,000 in funding would fully support sustained collaboration with the community partners as well as summer learning opportunities for students.

If you are interested in learning more about the CEE 188 course and/or philanthropically supporting the course, please contact Raya Choi, Director of Annual Giving at rchoi@support.ucla.edu.