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Alliance Leadership

Alice Agogino, PI of the Native FEWS Alliance, as well as Roscoe and Elizabeth Hughes Chair in Mechanical Engineering, Product Design Concentration Founder and Head Advisor, MEng Program, Professor of the Graduate School, University of California Berkeley

Alice M. Agogino is the Roscoe and Elizabeth Hughes Professor of Mechanical Engineering. She directs the BEST Lab: Berkeley Energy and Sustainable Technologies | Berkeley Expert Systems Technology | Berkeley Emergent Space Tensegrities. She currently serves as Chair of the Development Engineering Graduate Group and Education Director of the Blum Center for Emerging Economies.

Alice Agogino served as Chair of the Berkeley Division of the Academic Senate in 2005-06, having served as Vice Chair during the 2004-05 academic year. She has served in a number of other administrative positions at UC Berkeley including Associate Dean of Engineering and Faculty Assistant to the Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost in Educational Development and Technology. She also served as Director for Synthesis, an NSF-sponsored coalition of eight universities with the goal of reforming undergraduate engineering education, and continues as Founding Director for the Engineering Pathway digital library of engineering courseware. She is currently serving as Chair of the Development Engineering Graduate Group and Education Director of the Blum Center for Developing Economies. She has supervised 196 MS projects/theses, 60 doctoral dissertations and numerous undergraduate researchers.

Prior to joining the faculty at UC Berkeley, Dr. Agogino worked in industry for Dow Chemical, General Electric and SRI International. Her research interests include: soft robotics; community-based design; development engineering; sustainable engineering; internet of things; intelligent learning systems; information retrieval and data mining; multiobjective and strategic product design; nonlinear optimization; probabilistic modeling; intelligent control and manufacturing; sensor validation, fusion and diagnostics; wireless sensor networks; multimedia and computer-aided design; design databases; design theory and methods; MEMS synthesis and computer-aided design; artificial intelligence and decision and expert systems; and gender/ethnic equity. Dr. Agogino has authored over three hundred peer-reviewed publications in these subject areas. She is a member of AAAI, AAAS, ASEE, ASME, AWIS, IEEE, NAE and SWE and served as Chair of the AAAS section on Engineering (2001-2002). She serves on the editorial board of three professional journals and has provided service on a number of governmental, professional, and industry advisory committees, including the NSF Advisory Committee for Engineering, Engineering Directorate, (1991-96, Chair 1996-97); Guidance Committee of the “Removing Barriers to Collaborative Research” project of the National Research Council (NRC) Government-University-Industry Roundtable (1997-98); NRC Committee on “Standards for Technology Education,” (1997-98); National Academy of Engineering (NAE) Academic Advisory Board (1998-2002); NAE “Engineering of the Year 2020” Planning/Steering Committee (Co-Chair of Planning, 1999-2000; Member of Steering; 2002-2005) and Executive Committeee, Digital Media Innovation Initiative, University of California System (2000-2001), Manufacturing Engineering Laboratory of the National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST; 2004-2005), JPL/Cal Tech Engineering Advisory Board (2003-2005), National Academies Board on Science Education (BOSE, 2005-2007) and the Women in Academic Science Engineering Committee of the National Academies Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy (COSEPUP; 2005-2010). She is or has served on a number of university advisory boards: CMU CIT, KAUST, Harvard/Radcliffe, MIT and SUTD.

Dr. Agogino received a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of New Mexico (1975), M.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering (1978) from the University of California at Berkeley and Ph.D. from the Department of Engineering-Economic Systems at Stanford University (1984).

Karletta Chief (Diné), PI of the Native FEWS Alliance, as well as Assistant Professor and Assistant Specialist in the Department of Soil, Water and Environmental Sciences, University of Arizona

Dr. Karletta Chief is an Associate Professor and Extension Specialist in the Department of Environmental Science at the University of Arizona in Tucson, AZ. The goal of her research is to improve our understanding, tools, and predictions of watershed hydrology, unsaturated flow in arid environments, and how natural and human disturbances affect soil hydrology through the use of physically based methods. Dr. Chief research also focuses on how Indigenous communities will be affected by climate change to identify and mitigate risks to these vulnerable populations. As an Extension Specialist, she works to bring relevant science to Native American communities in a culturally sensitive manner by providing hydrology expertise, transferring knowledge, assessing information needs, and developing applied science projects. Dr. Chief is a member of a national network of Indigenous and non-Indigenous scientists focusing on climate change impacts to Indigenous peoples and co-authored several publications in the Special Issue of Climatic Change entitled “Climate Change and Indigenous Peoples in the United States: Impacts, Experiences, and Actions” and Forest Conservation in the Anthroprocene. Dr. Chief is a member of the Rising Voices, and Climate and Traditional Knowledges Workgroup with a focus on climate impacts to tribal waters. She co-authored a tribes chapter in the Southwest Climate Assessment Report and provisional guidelines for considering traditional knowledges in climate change initiatives. Two of her primary tribal projects are The Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe Climate Adaptation and Traditional Knowledge and The Navajo Nation Gold King Mine Spill Impacts. Dr. Chief supervises and advises the research of 11 students, 10 of which are Native American working on topics related to tribal environmental issues. Dr. Chief is Diné originally from Black Mesa, AZ and received a B.S. and M.S. in Civil and Environmental Engineering from Stanford University in 1998 and 2000. Dr. Chief received her Ph.D. in Hydrology and Water Resources in the School of Engineering at the University of Arizona (UA) in 2007. She completed her post-doctorate at Desert Research Institute in the Division of Hydrologic Sciences in Las Vegas, NV where she worked on large weighing lysimeters at the Scaling Environmental Processes in Heterogeneous Arid Soils (SEPHAS) Project in Boulder City. In 2011, Dr. Chief was named American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) Most Promising Scientist/Scholar, 2013 Stanford University Distinguished Alumni Scholar, 2015 Native American 40 under 40, 2016 AISES Professional of the Year, 2016 Phoenix Indian Center Woman of the Year, and 2020 American Geophysical Union Ambassador.

Carrie Billy, (Diné), Co-PI of the Native FEWS Alliance, as well as President and CEO of the American Indian Higher Education Consortium

Carrie Billy, an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation and attorney from Arizona, was appointed President & CEO of AIHEC June 2008. Carrie is a graduate of the University of Arizona and the Georgetown University Law Center. Her career reflects a commitment to public service and to protecting and promoting the cultures, rights and wellbeing of American Indians and improving the quality of life and educational status of all Americans.

Kathy Isaacson, Backbone Director, American Indian Higher Education Consortium

Kathy Isaacson serves as the Director of the Backbone for the Native FEWS Alliance representing the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC). Kathy ensures that the Alliance continues to have a central hub for communication and planning, continuous interaction with NSF INCLUDES, and web-based dissemination of wise practices from the Alliance partners. She has over 20 years experience working with tribal colleges and universities in strategic planning and project management. Kathy has served on the White House Initiative on Tribal Colleges and Universities, was chair of the board for the Institute for Higher Education Policy, faculty member at the University of New Mexico, and president of Strategic Engagement, a consulting business. Her research and writing interests include a focus on sustainable system change and innovative methods for multi-stakeholder engagement. Kathy is the author of Communication, Conflict, and the Management of Difference; Facework: Bridging Theory and Practice; Engaging Communication in Conflict: Systemic Practice; and Mediation: Empowerment in Conflict Resolution. She received her MA from the University of New Mexico, and her PhD from Tilburg University in the Netherlands.

Yael Perez, Development Engineering (DevEng) Program Director at UC Berkeley’s Blum Center for Developing Economies, and Program Director for Native FEWS Alliance

​​Yael Perez is the Development Engineering (DevEng) Program Director at UC Berkeley’s Blum Center for Developing Economies, managing the DevEng Masters and the DevEng PhD Designated Emphasis. Yael holds a PhD in Architecture from UC Berkeley with a scholarship on co-design methodologies and technologies to support and empower communities and design practitioners in fostering sustainable development. For over a decade, she has been collaboratively leading CARES—Community Assessment of Renewable Energy and Sustainability—a team of UC Berkeley faculty and students working with Native American Citizens in their pursuit of sustainable development. Recently, this initiative grew into the Native FEWS Alliance, a cross-institutional collaboration working to significantly broaden the participation of Native American students in Food, Energy, and Water Systems (FEWS) education and careers to address critical challenges facing their communities. Before joining the Blum Center, Yael was a visiting scholar at IIT Mandi (India).

Alex Benavides, Senior Coordinator of the Community Engagement Core at the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center (SWEHSC-CEC)

Alex Benavides is from Phoenix, AZ and is the Senior Coordinator of the Community Engagement Core at the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center (SWEHSC-CEC). Alex‘s work focuses on creating transfer pathways for tribal college students through the A Student’s Journey program with Tohono O’odham Community College to plan all phases of the year-round program. 

Alex earned his Bachelor of Science in Public Health with an emphasis in Environmental and Occupational Health in 2019 and is currently pursuing his MBA at the University of Arizona. 

Ben Richmond, Co-Director of the Community Engagement Core for the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center at The University of Arizona

Ben Richmond, MPH is the Co-Director of the Community Engagement Core for the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center at The University of Arizona. He earned his BS in Public Health and MPH from the University of Arizona and is currently pursuing a PhD in Higher Education. Ben’s work focuses on developing pathways into Environmental Health and STEM careers, understanding environmental health literacy, utilizing best practices to communicate complex science to the public, and being a resource to communities to answer their environmental health questions and concerns.
Ben’s research interest is in understanding the social and cultural barriers students face in pursuing higher education especially as it relates to Environmental Health and STEM related majors and careers. Using this research focus, Ben has devolved programs that aim to increase students’ STEM related knowledge and skills, improve students’ self-efficacy in pursuing STEM related majors and careers, and increase sense of belonging on a university campus.

Daniel R. Sestiaga Jr., MPH , Program Manager for the Indigenous Resilience Center (IRes) at the University of Arizona

Daniel Sestiaga Jr. is a member of the Ft. Yuma Quechan Indian Tribe of Arizona. Daniel is the son of Daniel Sr. and the late Rosie Sestiaga. His paternal grandparents are Carlotta and the late Julio Sestiaga. His maternal grandparents are Rosie Montoya and the late Tomas Montoya and the late Virgil Jack.

Daniel is currently the Program Manager for the Indigenous Resilience Center (IRes) at the University of Arizona. Within his role, he liaises with UArizona faculty and administrators to further IRes goals and objectives around strengthening teaching, research and outreach related to Indigenous resilience. He works closely with tribal leadership through principles of respectful tribal engagement, and collaborates with other external partners to execute successful and impactful outreach. In particular, he works effectively with University of Arizona Senior Leadership, the Native Nations institute, and other Indigenous Centers and programs.

He joins the Indigenous Resilience Center from Tohono O’odham Community College (TOCC) where he served for nine years in various roles. During his time at TOCC he managed the college’s Dual Enrollment Program, the Braiding Success Initiative funded by AT&T through the American Indian College Fund and served as a Co-Principal Investigator on the A Student’s Journey Program funded by the Agnese Nelms Haury Program. He served as the college’s representative to the Arizona Tribal College and Universities Dual Enrollment Council within the Office of Indian Education and has served as a member of the Arizona Indian Education Advisory Council to State Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman since 2020.
Daniel earned his Bachelor of Science in Public Management and Policy and Master of Public Health from the University of Arizona in Tucson, Arizona.

He is committed to advocacy, empowerment, and engagement with and for people of underserved and underrepresented populations in Higher Education He specializes in program implementation, development of strategic outreach, and initiating creative and collaborative guided professional networks through established practices. With a background in Public Health, he also examines health disparities and challenges surrounding individuals and communities, in particular Tribal Communities.
In his spare time, Daniel is an adjunct instructor teaching Community and Public Health courses at Tohono O’odham Community College. He also serves as the Vice-President of the American Indian Alumni Club at the University of Arizona and the Scholarship Chair for the Omega Delta Phi Alumni Association of Arizona.  He also serves as a member on the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center Community Advisory Board at the University of Arizona and the REACH COVID-19 Community Advisory Board for Pima County. He lives in Tucson with his wife Xyntrice, and their labs, Shuri and Rajah.

Co-PIs: University of California Berkeley

Elizabeth Hoover (Mohawk/Mi’kmaq), associate professor in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management at UC Berkeley.

Elizabeth Hoover is an associate professor in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management.  Her research focuses on Native American environmental health and food sovereignty movements. Her first book The River is In Us; Fighting Toxins in a Mohawk Community, (University of Minnesota Press, 2017) is an ethnographic exploration of Akwesasne Mohawks’ response to Superfund contamination and environmental health research. Her second book project From ‘Garden Warriors’ to ‘Good Seeds;’ Indigenizing the Local Food Movement (University of Minnesota Press, forthcoming) explores Native American farming and gardening projects around the country: the successes and challenges faced by these organizations, the ways in which participants define and envision concepts like food sovereignty, the importance of heritage seeds, the role of Native chefs in the food sovereignty movement, and convergences between the food sovereignty and anti-pipeline and anti-mining movements. She also co-edited, with Devon Mihesuah, Indigenous Food Sovereignty in the United States: Restoring Cultural Knowledge, Protecting Environments, and Regaining Health (University of Oklahoma Press, 2019). She has published articles about food sovereignty, environmental reproductive justice in Native American communities, the cultural impact of fish advisories on Native communities, tribal citizen science, and health social movements.

Matthew Potts, Associate Professor Department of Environmental Science, Policy & Management,
UC Berkeley

Matthew Potts has a broad interdisciplinary background with training in mathematics, ecology and economics. He earned his B.S. in Mathematics from the University of Michigan and a PhD in Applied Mathematics from Harvard University. 

Potts has extensive international experience conducting field research in tropical forests throughout the world, addressing fundamental ecological questions while adding insight on how to sustainably manage tropical landscapes. His varied research interests include spatial aspects of forest management and land-use planning as well as how human actions, values, and ethics affect biodiversity conservation. Potts’ primary goal is building quantitative understanding on how to build optimal production and biodiversity conservation in multi-use landscapes.

Co-PIs: University of Arizona

Kelly Simmons-Potter, Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Optical Sciences, Materials Sciences and Engineering College of Engineering, College of Optical Sciences

​​Dr. Kelly Simmons-Potter is a Professor and Director of Graduate Studies of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and a Professor of Optical Sciences, and Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Arizona in Tucson, AZ.  Dr. Simmons-Potter received her B.S. in Physics in 1986 from Florida State University and her M.S. and Ph.D. in 1990 and 1994 respectively in Optical Sciences from the University of Arizona.  Dr. Simmons-Potter spent nearly 10 years at Sandia National Laboratories, from 1994 to 2003, ending in the position of Principal Member of Technical Staff and Project Manager for Advanced Optical Technologies.  In 2003, she left Sandia Labs to return to academia at the U.A.  Dr. Simmons-Potter is a Fellow of the American Ceramic Society, Director of the Arizona Research Initiative for Solar Energy (AzRISE), and is a member of the UArizona Indige-FEWSS team.  She is the co-author of four textbooks in the field of optics, has authored more than 125 peer-reviewed publications, has delivered more than 150 scholarly presentations, and holds several patents.  Dr. Simmons-Potter is the recipient of numerous awards, including six Outstanding Service Awards for her work in the field of radiation-hardened optics, the 2010 University of Arizona Science and Engineering Faculty Excellence Award, and the 2016 University of Arizona Mentor Award for her years of organization and mentorship of the Racing the Sun high school solar go-kart event.  In addition, Dr. Simmons-Potter was a featured speaker on KUAZ-FM Arizona Science Friday in November 2019.  Her research focuses on resiliency of renewable energy components and design of off-grid FEW systems.

Greg Barron-Gafford, Professor and Associate Director of the Community and School Garden Program

I’m a Biogeographer, which means my science sits at that exciting nexus of understanding how external forces (like environmental and human factors) and internal characteristics (like leaf biochemistry and plant functional type) act as determinants of where species can live and thrive. 

The Barron-Gafford research group studies the interactive effects of vegetation and climate change on plant & ecosystem function to inform forecasting and decision makers. We tackle questions related to fields of Biogeography, Plant Ecophysiology, Ecosystem Ecology, Ecohydrology, and Critical Zone Science. We study how semiarid plants and ecosystems respond to threats from drought, climate change, and human pressures like over grazing or clearing for renewable energy production.

For the last 8 years, I have been building the field of ‘agrivoltaics’ – the concept of colocating agriculture and photovoltaics (renewable energy from solar panels). We began this work in southern Arizona to study the benefits across the food-energy-water nexus, and over the years have developed a national and international program connecting with researchers in Colorado and Oregon (USA), and in Africa and the Middle East. Helping develop science-based solutions to help people adapt to the increasing pressures that come from a changing climate is a personal and professional goal.