Alumni Update: Déjà Thomas '16
2019 Switzer Fellowship Awardee
Déjà Thomas '16 (Environmental Studies and Communication) was recently awarded a prestigious Swtizer Fellowship in recognition of her environmental leadership and action-oriented research on food justice, race, and transformative climate adaptation in Southern California. Déjà is pursuing a Master of Urban and Regional Planning, as well as a Food Studies Certificate, at UCLA’s Luskin School of Public Affairs. Prior to starting her Master’s program, she obtained her B.S. with a double major in Environmental Studies and Communication at Santa Clara University. During her time at SCU, she organized for racial justice, worked as a research assistant on the Nicaragua project with Chris Bacon (ESS and Switzer Fellow in 2001) and on an environmental justice project with Chad Raphael (Communications), served as the Community Development Coordinator at the Multicultural Center, and was a Global Social Benefit Fellow with the Miller Center.
Déjà plans on using her education and experience to design and implement policy and programming that create functional, equitable, and sustainable food systems by specifically centering and uplifting women of color. Her work is firmly rooted in the belief that food systems can be the nexus for a paradigm shift in how we value people, land, and women of color.
At UCLA, Déjà works at the Luskin Center for Innovation contributing to the evaluation process for the Transformative Climate Communities (TCC) pilot projects, specifically working with the Watts site. The Transformative Climate Communities project is one of the most innovative, comprehensive, and equitable experiments in climate action with the Strategic Growth Council investing approximately $140 million (+ leveraged funding from philanthropy, etc.) in three place-based, intersectional, community-led climate initiatives that will provide a wide array of local economic, environmental, and public health benefits in historically underserved communities. Déjà also works at UCLA’s Labor Center gaining skills and building on previous experience in community-engaged and action-oriented research. In that role, she has worked on a variety of projects pertaining to student workers, the California Workforce Development Board (CWDB) Higher Road Training Partnerships, and the LA Black Worker