Aerial view of UCSB from the ocean



In 1991, the Regents of the University of California approved a new graduate school of Environmental Science & Management at UC Santa Barbara. Santa Barbara is considered by many as the birthplace of modern environmentalism, which emerged in response to a devastating oil spill in 1969. Following the spill, UCSB opened a new Environmental Studies undergraduate degree program, now with over 800 undergraduate students. With growing public awareness of environmental issues and increased public understanding of the multifaceted nature of environmental problems, a transition to an interdisciplinary approach to soling these issues was adopted.

In 1994, Jeff Dozier, professor of Earth systems science, became the first dean of the new graduate school of Environmental Science & Management. The school's focus is to solve environmental problems through interdisciplinary collaboration. The faculty consists of natural and social scientists who are distinguished in their fields and collaborate across disciplines to find solutions to environmental challenges. The school is a crossroads where prominent leaders, thinkers, practitioners, and innovators convene to present and discuss new findings in critical disciplines related to environmental science and management. The school offers graduate training for a new kind of solution-oriented environmental professional. Graduates are highly trained in quantitative, multidisciplinary analysis of environmental problems and have a solid understanding of the political, economic, and social dimensions of environmental decision-making.

The graduate school appointed its first faculty members in 1995, accepted the first 20 students in the Master of Environmental Science and Management (MESM) program in 1996 and the first PhD student enrolled in 1998. The student body has grown to 160 MESM students and 50 PhD students. The alumni network has grown to over 1,228 students in 2017, working to solve environmental problems across the US and in over 30 countries.

In 1997, Donald Bren invested in the graduate school of Environmental Science & Management to fund a new building, student fellowships, and faculty chair positions. The school was renamed as the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management. Bren Hall, the nation's first LEED Platinum certified laboratory building, was completed in 2002. Bren Hall was recertified at the Platinum level for Operations and Maintenance in 2009 and 2017. In 2010, the Bren School received a significant gift from the Michael J. Connell Memorial Trust, providing support in perpetuity for student fellowships and activities, instruction for courses and workshops, and seed funding for innovative research, among other initiatives.

The Deans

Jeff DozierJeff Dozier - In 1994, Henry Yang made his first academic appointment as UCSB chancellor, naming Jeff Dozier founding dean of the graduate school of Environmental Science & Management (now the Bren School). A longtime Earth Science faculty member, Dozier began by writing proposals for the Master's and PhD programs and then hiring faculty. He hired Tom Dunne, a hydrology colleague with a world-class reputation. Dozier also embarked on the campaign that would lead to the significant gift from Donald Bren in 1997.

Dennis Aigner Dennis Aigner- Dennis Aigner served as associate dean in 1998-2001, acting dean in 2000-2001, and dean of the Bren School in 2001-2005. Having been the dean of the UC Irvine business school, Aigner helped to build the corporate and business components of the Bren Master's curriculum. He engaged with UCSB College of Engineering's Technology Management Program (TMP), the eventual partner in the Bren Eco-Entrepreneurship focus. He was also heavily invovled in raising the LEED certification goal for Bren Hall from Silver to Platinum.

John MelackJohn Melack- Bren professor John Melack played a unique role in the progression of Bren School deans. His first tenure as acting dean ensured a smoother transition between Aigner and the next dean, Ernst von Weizsäcker. Melack was then appointed associate dean to support von Weizsäcker in 2006. He became acting dean again in 2009 to smooth the way for the arrival of Steve Gaines in 2010. Having co-authored the initial school proposal, Melack had the understanding, administrative savvy, and network to effectively run the school. He played a key role in landing the Michael J. Connell gift, the largest ever at Bren. He also spent time on university-wide activities and faculty recuitment, school budgeting, and operations.

Ernst von WeizsäckerErnst von Weizsäcker- The Bren School's third dean, Ernst von Weizsacker, is a former member of the German parliament. He had a vision of expanding the school's prsence in industrial ecology and taught a course on that subject. A new master's specialization on Energy and Climate was added under von Weizsacker's leadership. He continued to work with the College of Engineering's Technology Management Program, resulting in the Eco-Entrepreneurship focus. After three years at Bren, von Weizsacker moved to work on energy and resource issues at the Club of Rome.

Steve GainesSteve Gaines- Steve Gaines became the the fourth Bren School dean in 2010. Gaines, former director of UCSB's Marine Science Institute, was already collaborating with Bren faculty through interdisciplinary research. Gaines has focused on building networks for graduates and developing communication training for students. With Gaines' leadership, the Latin American Fisheries Fellowship and Sustainable Water Markets Fellowship programs were launched, the Strategic Environmental Communication and Media focus was created in 2013, the Eco-Entrepreneurship focus has expanded, Master's Projects have grown in impact and visibility, PhD students began presenting their work at an annual symposium, and advisory councils were formed to support the entrepreneurial and legal curricula. Looking forward, the dean sees opportunity to expand training in environmental data science and build new collaborations in China and India.

Read the story behind the Bren School logo.