Three UC Santa Cruz affiliates named 'Community Heroes'

Shown with other Community Heroes at the United Way ceremony and press conference November 23 are UC Santa Cruz affiliates David Robles, third from left, Tamara Ball, second from right, and Steve Gliessman, right.

Three people with UC Santa Cruz affiliations are among 18 local residents honored as Community Heroes by United Way of Santa Cruz County as part of its annual Community Assessment Project.  

Tamara Ball, David Robles, and Steve Gliessman were nominated by their peers and exemplify the accomplishment of the assessment project’s goals for economy, education, environment, health, public safety, and social environment, according to United Way. This is the 21st year that the charitable organization has conducted its Community Assessment Project and chosen community heroes.

Tamara Ball

Tamara Ball, a project scientist in UCSC’s electrical engineering department, has worked relentlessly to train undergraduate students in real-world, high-tech sustainability projects through her Impact Designs: Engineering and Sustainability (IDEASS) program that she launched in 2010.

Co-directed by James Barsimantov, who earned his Ph.D. in environmental studies at UCSC in 2008, IDEASS provides a unique educational experience during a three-quarter program where  25-35 students each year, from a wide range of majors, gain skills in project planning and management, and technical expertise through their work with an industry, non-profit or civic mentor.

Ball has been resourceful in obtaining quality staff, advisers, mentors, and funding for the program during difficult periods, leveraging relationships within and outside the university.

David Robles

David Robles devotes most of his life to the Center of Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems (CASFS) at UC Santa Cruz. Robles first came to work at the CASFS farm in fall 2012 when he enrolled as an undergraduate. During his tenure at the farm, he has displayed a tireless nature and deep dedication to caring for a farm that serves undergraduates and aspiring farmers and the Santa Cruz community through education, research and building food access by donating thousands of pounds of produce to people in need. His contributions have been integral to the farm’s health and sustainability.

Steve Gliessman

Steve Gliessman, joined the UC Santa Cruz environmental studies faculty and founded the UC Santa Cruz Agroecology Program in 1981. The next year he became holder of the first endowed chair at UC Santa Cruz, the Ruth and Alfred E. Heller Chair in Agroecology.

Gliessman formally retired in 2010 but remains active in the field of agroecolgy and sustainable food. He continues as editor of the journal Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems.

Agroecology, as Gliessman defines it, is an approach to life based on treating the land in an ecologically sound way. It must also encompass a just system socially and economically that treats people, land, animals, and water in “a way that lasts forever,” he says.

“It’s about healthy food, healthy land, and healthy people,” Gliessman says. The goal “is to create transformative action and a whole new way of thinking about the entire food system.