Alexia Daoussis

daoussis-400x600-keeley.jpgName:  Alexia (Lexi) Daoussis

Department:  Environmental Studies

What Award/ Scholarship did you receive?  I am the recipient of a 2020 Keeley Coastal Scholars Award.

What year do you expect to graduate?  I anticipate graduating in June of 2020.

Where do you call home?  Santa Cruz is my home now, though I grew up in Orange County, California. Prior to coming to UCSC I lived in South Africa with my aunt and uncle, and I’ve also found home in Chile as well as Australia. I suppose I create “home” anywhere, but between the redwoods and the ocean is where I feel the most at home now.

With all of the choices for college, what made UC Santa Cruz stand out?  I had committed to Boulder, and when I got into to UCSC I wasn’t even sure I wanted to go. I had never been to Santa Cruz and I knew little of the campus or the area. A single conversation with my mom later and I was a slug-to-be, and at first I was surprisingly unhappy about it. I had a shift of heart, however, when we visited for orientation and I realized how special this next chapter of my life would be. There was no place better for me than UC Santa Cruz, and no major better geared towards my interests than Environmental Studies. I’m thankful everyday that I have the privilege of being a Banana Slug and thankful to have had a radical perspective shape my undergraduate experience.

What is your field of focus?  My major is Environmental Studies with a concentration in Geographic Information Systems. My interests are in climate related migration and displacement. I’ve approached thinking about climate related mobility from several lenses relative to the geographies and contexts I’ve worked in. I received a Keeley Coastal Scholars Award for my work with the Resilient Coast Initiative in the City of Santa Cruz, which has helped me think about climate migration as it relates to urban coastal climate adaptation.

What do you hope to do once you graduate from UC Santa Cruz?  This seems to be my most frequently asked question these days! I just applied for a CivicSpark Fellowship, which is a Local Governors Initiative funded by AmeriCorps that places recent college graduates in municipalities throughout California to work on projects related to community resilience. Within the next year or two I plan on moving back to South Africa to pursue a master’s degree in sustainability at the Sustainability Institute at Stellenbosch University. I am also planning on pursuing a legal degree in environmental law, human rights law, or immigration law at some point in the future. Right now, however, I am waiting to see how the situation with COVID-19 pans out and will adjust my plans based on that.

What is one memorable moment that stands out for you as a student here?  There are so many that it is hard to choose a single one. In true “Fighting Banana Slug” fashion, I have fond memories of organizing and working with the fossil fuel divestment campaign Fossil Free UC. 

What is your one piece of advice for incoming students about life at UC Santa Cruz?  I think my one piece of advice for incoming students is to say “yes” to new opportunities. I’m realizing this more and more now that I’m about to graduate but there really are infinite opportunities to get involved with campus and each come with an incredible community of people. Community is something that I feel our campus values and there are so many groups that you can find or create community in. The UCSC Farm and CASFS program and UCSC Recreation are just a few that come to mind!

How will this scholarship impact your academic life /research?  The Keeley Coastal Scholars Award will allow me to continue working closely with the City of Santa Cruz Climate Action Program focused on the Resilient Coast Santa Cruz Initiative. I have been working with the Climate Action Program since September of 2019 and I am happy to continue working with them into the summer of 2020. The Climate Action Program has been a healthy step for me as I transition from a student to a professional and I am really thankful for the foundation it has given me. Additionally, though my work on the Resilient Coast Initiative does not explicitly address climate migration, I am exposed to thinking about the problem as it relates to urban climate adaptation including managed retreat and community re-development. Finally, many students graduating in 2020, myself included, are experiencing an increased amount of uncertainty and limited opportunity due to the outbreak of novel coronavirus. It is a scary time to be graduating college and entering the job market during a global recession. Though short-term, I don’t think I can emphasize enough how extra thankful I am to be the recipient of a Keeley Coastal Scholars Award right now. This award will give me a foundation for my career and professional development immediately upon graduating that I otherwise may not have been able to build on my own.

Comments from Alexia Daoussis' faculty mentor:

Alexia (Lexi) Daoussis received the Keeley Coastal Award for her proposal Resilient Coast Santa Cruz. The Resilient Coast Santa Cruz (RCSC or “Resilient Coast” for short) Initiative consists of two coastal resilience projects led by the City of Santa Cruz Climate Action Program. They include the West Cliff Drive Adaptation and Management Plan, funded by CalTrans, and the Development of Sea Level Rise Strategies and Policies to Support Beach and Public Access Protection (also known as the “Beaches Project”), funded by the California Coastal Commission. These ultimately will be integrated into a Local Coastal Plan (LCP) update which is what gives the City of Santa Cruz authority to issue coastal development permits. Lexi’s involvement with Resilient Coast to date has primarily been with the Beaches Project and focuses on addressing social vulnerability in climate justice through climate change research, adaptation, and policy. Going forward, her role will be to support the Climate Action Program with the finalization of field work, data analysis, and ensuring that the first phase of conceptual integration (of data) into policy is adequately addressing the needs of the community. Her faculty mentor describes her as “a serious and capable student and employee. In the few months that I’ve interacted with her, she has proven herself as one of the most inquisitive, communicative, and mature interns that I’ve had the privilege of supervising at UCSC.”

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