V2 Fiat Lux: Katya Armistead & Richard Appelbaum

Fiat Lux: Katya Armistead & Richard Appelbaum

Katya and Rich have been pivotal to the University of California Santa Barbara campus. Their dedication to the campus and its community is further evidenced by their contributions to the UC Disaster Resilience Network, setting the foundations for a strong UC DRN-UCSB chapter that will simultaneously pave the way as a model for other DRN chapters while also learning from other the other campus chapters. 

Katya Armistead is a UC Santa Barbara Alum and the Assistant Vice Chancellor and Dean of Student Life at UCSB. This past academic year, she, alongside two other UCSB professors, developed and taught the inaugural UCSB Civic Scholars Program. This program was funded by a VOICE grant from the UC National Center for Free Speech. The program is a three-series, year-long course where students learn about the history of civic engagement and then are able to create or involve themselves in something meaningful to them, whilst building their leadership skills with the guidance of their professors. 

At around the same time as this program’s conception, UC DRN’s founder, Nico Pascal, reached out to Katya to form the UC DRN-UCSB Dean’s Fellows Program. Our inaugural Dean’s Fellows for the 2021-2022 academic year were students from the course

As she shares; 

“When Nico approached me about creating an opportunity for students to get involved in UC DRN I was more than happy to help him conceptualize the Dean Fellows Program. It was timely as I was launching a new class with colleagues, The Civic Engagement Scholars Program. Through this class, we were able to introduce the idea to students. Two students, Tiffany and Jack, took us up on the offer and are doing great things getting the project off the ground!”

The UC DRN-UCSB Dean’s Fellows Program is one that is open to all UCSB Undergraduate and Graduate students interested in key grassroots leadership positions within our innovative UC-wide organization that aims to apply the full range of deep talents and resources housed within our world-class system to address disasters – as they continue to grow in magnitude, complexity, and frequency.

It is an opportunity for students to;

– Participate in UCSB’s first Campus-based UC DRN Committee as a student representative 

– Assist in campus-based recruitment of students and faculty talent

– Assist in system-wide student recruitment and developing recruitment strategies

– Work closely with UC DRN Campus-based affiliates (faculty) in ongoing applied research”

Not a UCSB student?  Stay connected as our campus committees have expanded across the UC system. Interested in bringing UC DRN to your campus or getting involved? Contact us!

Katya is also a member of the UC DRN-UCSB campus-based committee which is led by UCSB Distinguished Professor Emeritus & former MacArthur Foundation Chair, Richard Appelbaum. 

Recently, Rich began serving as the Santa Barbara Campus Lead for the UC Disaster Resilience University-Wide Council. We thank him for his important work, helping build the organizational steps for UC DRN’s influence to be spread across all ten campuses. Rich’s experience and expertise in the community he calls home will help grow the DRN’s localized disaster preparedness efforts in Santa Barbara. One of our inaugural Dean’s Fellows sat down with Rich to discuss his passion and goals for UC DRN, especially with the UCSB chapter. 

Q_ How did you first get interested in UC DRN? 

Nico Pascal (the founder of UC DRN), was a student in Global Studies who founded the UC Haiti Initiative following the disastrous earthquake. At the time, he approached me many years later. From the very beginning, I saw his vision, one where the UC sees “far”. Serving as an advisor, I believed in his idea. Now that UC DRN has been actualized into reality, being the DRN-UCSB campus lead is an opportunity for me to reconnect with a campus I already love.

Qs_ How do you think your knowledge of UCSB and its university operations and attitude help prime you for the role as campus lead? What has the response been towards your research and academic efforts, and is there a connection that helps prime the pump for you to connect?

I co-founded the Global Studies program at UCSB. Part of this department formation included a  Graduate Scholars Program to become knowledge practitioners. A program where students could gain first-hand experience through their research and aid efforts. Recognizing the interests of UC DRN to match knowledge to actions by bringing the community in and helping shape the community, I found my past experiences like my engagement with the Graduates Scholars Program to be closely related. Guiding students whilst also providing beneficial service-work.

Q_ Santa Barbara has experienced multitudes of fires, hitting close to home at UCSB. Would you be willing to share your personal story with our readers and how it inspired you to get involved in supporting relevant disaster research and relief efforts, such as UC DRN’s work?

During the Montecito Tea Fire of 2008, both my wife, Karen Shapiro, and I were away from our home. Luckily that meant we were both physically okay, but within an hour — hundreds of homes — including our entire house – were gone. Our house was a repository of our family history and it was gone to ashes. Although we are a resilient couple and came out of it relatively okay with respect to the privileges we hold. It was a sobering reminder of the fragile environment we live in and how instantaneous disasters can be. 

Q_ What can we learn about ongoing UC campus operations in support of surrounding communities, and mutual well-being?

That everything is systemically connected. For example, natural disasters affect supply chains and the goods that we consume. While slow-moving disasters like housing can cause environmental consequences like traffic congestion and impact quality of life, The takeaway is that the more privileged you are, the more you are able to protect yourself from the consequences of unprecedented challenges. The people without the means have the greatest difficulties and the issue is to now bring in others, particularly the voices we haven’t for collective unity and action.

Q_ What are the main goals you are hoping the UCSB chapter achieves? 

The UCSB chapter will learn from what other universities are doing and they will learn from us. We as a system are well-positioned and I am hopeful that there will be a lot of collaborations across campuses. I would like to see continued partnerships between the universities and community stakeholders — brought together to make resources already available more accessible and to do new research together. This includes the role of students, whom I hope we will provide increased mentorship opportunities for so they can gain first-hand experience.