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Professor Karina Garbesi is the director of the Environmental Studies Program at Cal State East Bay, where she is the Vice Chair of the Academic Senate, Chair of the Senate Sustainability Committee, and Chair of the Climate Action Taskforce. She is also a founding member of the Board of Directions of We Care Solar , a Bay Area Non-profit which, in 2015, won the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Award.
Garbesi hold’s a Master’s (1988) and PhD (1993) in Energy and Resources from UC Berkeley, where she was the advisee of Prof. John Holdren (President Obama’s Science Advisor). Her work of three decades has focused on issues at the nexus of energy, sustainability, and social justice. During the course of her career she has served on the faculty of San Jose State University and Cal State East Bay, as affiliated faculty at the University of California, Berkeley, as an independent consultant, and as a visiting scientist and program manager at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory from 2010 - 2014, where she managed millions of dollars of energy research in areas of energy efficiency, appliance standards, and renewable energy.
Garbesi founded and co-leads Cal State East Bay’s Social Impact Solar Program, a hands-on solar-education and social justice educational initiative, now replicated at five CSU campuses. Also known as the Solar Suitcase Partnership, the Cal State East Bay pilot program won the 2016 California Higher Education Sustainability Conference (CHESC) Award for Sustainability in STEM Academics. The program engages university students in creating a more sustainable and socially just world through hands-on classes centered on building rugged off-grid solar power and lighting systems (We Share Solar Suitcases). The university students then mentor middle and high school students in Solar Suitcase-building workshops in local low-income schools. A subset of the completed Suitcases are then quality assured and installed by partners in energy-deficient schools, orphanages, and refuge centers in the developing world, with beneficiaries now expanding to California’s tribal and homeless populations.
With an interdisciplinary background in physics, environmental engineering, energy, economics, and policy, and a passion for social justice, Garbesi takes a broad and applied approach to environmental problem solving. During her career Garbesi has consulted extensively on public interest energy issues, she has produced technical reports for local and federal governments, and she has performed as an expert witness at public hearings. She loves to involve students in her work through research-oriented course work, projects, and masters’ theses. Examples of such work include research that resulted in the installation of utility scale wind turbines in Eritrea, micro-hydro projects in India, significant expansion of solar power in San Francisco, improved environmental justice in SE San Francisco through intervention in power plant citing and transmission line expansion cases. Garbesi also involves students actively in sustainability work on campus. Under her guidance her students participated in the development of the campus’s greenhouse gas emissions inventory, and its Climate Action Plan.
Energy, Environment, Society, and Social Justice. Environmental and social impacts of energy technology choices. Sustainable cities. Quantitative and interdisciplinary research methods in energy and resource analysis.