Two students awarded inaugural Climate Studies IBPOC Student Support Fund

We are pleased to announce the 2023 recipients of the inaugural Climate Studies IBPOC Student Support Fund, undergraduate students Sebastian Patton and Zhenyi Tsai. Launched in 2023 jointly by UBC’s Departments of Geography and Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences (EOAS), this fund aims to support Indigenous, Black, and other racialized students studying climate change and working on climate change initiatives. Providing funds to these students enlivens Geography’s Climate Action Plan and aims to centre the experience of IBPOC communities who are underrepresented in climate research within Canada yet are disproportionately impacted by the climate emergency.  

Zhenyi Tsai, currently in his fourth year, is pursuing a double major in Environment & Sustainability and Political Science. His commitment to environmental preservation and climate action is rooted in his upbringing spanning two distinct cultural settings: Coquitlam (skʷƛ̓əma:ɬ stál̕əw̓), British Columbia, Canada and China. 

“I was blessed to grow up with a mixture of Buddhist and Indigenous principles. One of the core principles that resonates deeply with me is the belief that all things have the right to grow, for the blossom is sister to the weed. This insight teaches the importance of moving beyond the Anthropocene, acknowledging the inseparable bond between humanity, the earthly, the cosmic, and the spiritual. Ineffable wisdom such as this serves as an enduring spark that continuously rekindles my commitment to creating a more equitable and kinder world,” reflects Zhenyi. 

Professionally, Zhenyi  has held several pivotal roles such as a Sustainability Consultant for Climate Justice at UBC, UBC Climate Emergency Engagement Coordinator and Vice President of Sustainability in the Geography Student Association. His expertise encompasses consulting in sustainable resource extraction, equitable development in sustainability and analytics in climate policy. His profound engagement in these activities is underpinned by values of cooperation, effective communication and active participation in justice initiatives. 

“Receiving the inaugural IBPOC Student Fund award is both an honour and a profound affirmation of my journey so far. With this award as a catalyst, I envision a future ensuring that the fight against climate change is also a fight for equity and inclusion. I aim to deepen my involvement in climate mitigation initiatives and sustainable development goals, focusing on creating strategies that are not only effective but also equitable and inclusive. I intend to leverage my expertise to advocate for and implement policies that center the experiences and voices of IBPOC communities in climate action dialogues,” Zhenyi explains. 

Sebastian Patton is a third-year undergraduate student pursuing Environment & Sustainability studies here at UBC Vancouver. His extensive experience in climate related research includes climate change induced impacts on human health with UBC and the Aga Khan University in Pakistan. He has also been involved in environmental consulting for the City of Vancouver and Lush Canada. Additionally, Sebastian serves as the team lead for his housing co-op’s Climate Action Team, focusing on creating methods to reduce negative environmental impact, promote sustainable living practices, and helping his community become more resilient to climate change. 

“Graduating from high school, I knew I wanted to dedicate my future career to helping solve a major world problem. This desire led me to UBC where I am able to study a diverse range of disciplines that all align with finding and implementing solutions to the environmental problems the world is facing today. I am proud to be at the forefront of one of the fastest moving fields in academia and the broader world. I am optimistic that, with collaborative efforts and a sense of urgency, there is no problem too formidable for us to overcome as a global community,” says Sebastian. 

At the intersection of academia and private industry, Sebatian is working at entrepreneurship@UBC in the Climate Venture Studio. He is helping to leverage the practical problem-solving ability of startups to address real world problems. 

“Receiving this award as a Métis student is not just a personal achievement but a powerful acknowledgment of the importance of diverse voices in addressing climate change. It fuels my passion to continue contributing to sustainability and underscores the value of integrating indigenous knowledge into environmental discourse. I hope this recognition inspires others to work towards a better future and further contribute to sustainability research and its practical application. Embracing our unique perspectives is key to driving positive change, and I am committed to playing a part in shaping a more inclusive future,” explains Sebastian. 

The fund was created by Geography’s Climate Action Committee (Nina Hewitt, Chair) in partnership with EOAS’s Climate Emergency Committee (Rachel White, Chair), with support from the UBC Certificate of Climate Studies and Action team including faculty Jessica Dempsey, Tara Ivanochko, Sara Harris, and Graduate Assistant Hanno Southam.  

“We are very excited to award funds to the first recipients this year and hope to see the fund continue to grow and benefit students into the future. Our dream is that this and similar initiatives are widely supported, helping to build accessibility in academia,” reflects Hewitt. 

We wholeheartedly congratulate these two inaugural recipients and look forward to seeing where their pursuits will take them.