Kristen Figueira graduated from UC Irvine in Winter 2010 with a Bachelor’s in Urban Studies, and it was her passion for social justice and belief in the Invisible Children movement that helped guide key components of her sustainability-related career. While at UC Irvine, Kristen worked with Beth Karlin as a research assistant, eventually a research associate, and was one of the first Transformational Media Lab (TML) members.
Recently, Kristen was a UCLA representative for the UC Graduate Researcher Advocacy day in Sacramento and ran into TML Director Beth Karlin, representing UC Irvine. Both presented their respective research to Ken Alex, the Director of the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research, and besides from it being an unexpected pleasure running into Karlin as post-UCI researchers, the current Master in Urban and Regional Planning and Project Manager at UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability (IoES) allotted some time to describe her time at CUSA and what she’s been up to since then.
Q: Describe your involvement with CUSA. What project(s) did you work on?
A: While at UC Irvine, I worked with Beth Karlin as a Research Assistant on the UCI @Home project, where I studied early adoption of energy feedback devices. After graduating from UCI, I became a Research Associate and member of the first Transformational Media Lab (TML) research team at CUSA. I assisted with the formation of the initial Invisible Children survey based on her experience interning in Business Operations Department of Invisible Children. I believe that my research expertise, combined with my passion for social justice and belief in the Invisible Children movement, helped inform key components of the study.
Q: What was a highlight of your time working at CUSA, and how did your experience(s) at CUSA influence your future endeavors?
A: One of the highlights was presenting at conferences in Las Vegas and Chicago. A fellow undergraduate research assistant and I got to network with graduate students and leading researchers, which further encouraged us to go to graduate school.
Q: What have you been up to since you left CUSA?
A: I earned a Master’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning from UCLA and a Leaders in Sustainability Certification from UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability. As a graduate student, my work primarily focused on sustainable transportation policy and planning. My thesis evaluated LA County Metro’s transportation network and developed countywide sustainability indicators for the agency.
I am now a Project Manager at UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability (IoES) where I work with two organizations. At the California Center for Sustainable Communities (CCSC), I assist in the Center’s communications and distribution of research to stakeholders, policymakers and other research centers. I also work for the Los Angeles Regional Collaborative for Climate Action and Sustainability (LARC) and direct work with a Strategic Growth Council grant developing a LA County framework for climate action.
Q: If there was one piece of advice you could give to current and future CUSA researchers about your educational or career path, what would you say?
A: Pursue your passion, and don’t burn any bridges along the way! You never know where you will end up or whom you will work with.