Does University-Based Climate Policy Engagement Meet Demand?

All localities experience climate changes, but challenges and resources vary. R1 universities’ research and engagement can play a critical role in supporting their local communities to plan for and adapt to climate change. However, where collaboration is absent or not meeting localities’ needs, impact may be limited. This interactive session provided an overview of in-depth interviews with local sustainability officers to investigate their needs for climate-related research and where adjacent TRUCEN universities might contribute (n=42, 68% response rate).
In short, we found substantial evidence of unmet desire for collaboration among local sustainability officers. During this presentation we presented an overview of our research approach and the inventory of unmet needs among localities that TRUCEN engagement and research can contribute to, and relational findings providing insights on why collaborations occur. Following a review of the findings, small groups discussions focused on takeaways for your campus’ local climate engagement and where Campus Compact and TRUCEN may support moving forward. 


Bemmy Maharramli
Bemmy is the Associate Director for Strategic Initiatives at UCLA’s Center for Community Engagement. She is responsible for advancing community-engaged scholarship institutionally. She provides leadership in removing structural barriers, creating incentives, and expanding resources for engaged teaching and research. This encompasses working closely with departments in engaged department building efforts, including community-engaged teaching and research and facilitating socially innovative ways to enable sustained and reciprocal partnerships. Bemmy also oversees the Center’s environmental, sustainability and international development efforts. She teaches an environmental justice course and a community-engaged research capstone course. She earned her Ph.D. in Urban and Environmental Planning and Policy at the University of California, Irvine (UCI), and before that worked in the environment and international development arena in Washington, D.C. and abroad.

Lia Kelinsky-Jones
Lia Kelinsky-Jones, (she/her/hers) is an interdisciplinary social scientist whose work focuses on sustainable, just, and climate resilient food systems. Within this area, she tends to focus on two primary domains: 1) university-based engagement efforts and their impacts on supporting food and climate social movements and 2) how collaborative and participatory policy making approaches impact food systems and climate resilience. As a Civic Science Fellow at Johns Hopkins University, Lia investigates university-based climate policy engagement in local communities. Prior to Johns Hopkins, she spent over a decade working in outreach and international affairs at Virginia Tech. She holds a Ph.D. and M.S. in Agricultural, Leadership, and Community Education from Virginia Tech. 

Relevant links


  • Adapting to Extreme Heat in LA: In August 2022, the Center for Community Engagement (CCE) and the Los Angeles Regional Collaborative for Climate Change and Sustainability (LARC) were awarded a UCLA Transdisciplinary Research Acceleration Grant (TRAG) for a project focused on utilizing community engagement as a strategy again thermal inequity in LA. Urban extreme heat events are a growing threat, encompassing a range of social and ecological issues and necessitating a collaborative approach across different areas of knowledge. There is a need for public communication and outreach strategies that are co-created with community members and community leaders to build awareness, resilience, and center equity more effectively. We seek to explore what lessons can be learned from a co-creative process to integrate the voices of residents in the development of a heat resilience communication campaign, including both content itself and strategies for outreach. To do this, we are assembling a Community Advisory Group made of community-based organizations and nonprofits that will guide the collaborative work across all project phases, including facilitating a series of focus groups that will inform content development and outreach strategies. The outputs of this community-engaged process include the launch of new heat resilience communications materials in the summer of 2023 as well as additional networking and relationship building of community-based organizations, residents, and nonprofits working to secure a more resilient LA to increasing extreme heat conditions.
  • UC Climate Action Initiative: The California State Budget Act of 2022–23 allocated $100 million to the University of California to invest in research that will have a swift and measurable impact on climate resilience. These funds are being used to fund action-oriented solutions to address California’s climate goals and needs, ensure that local communities are prepared and resilient, and prevent future disasters. This initiative has also represented an opportunity to uplift the importance of community engagement in proposed projects as well as cultivate more relationships and connections between climate-related and community engagement centers on campus.