Environmental health prof wins campus equity award

UC Berkeley professor Rachel Morello-Frosch is no stranger to the inequities of America. For years she’s researched how toxic pollution compounds the problems facing communities already struggling with racism, malnutrition and poverty.

Her findings have spurred government agencies like the California Department of Public Health and the federal EPA into action, and informed the work of foundations, nonprofits and the California legislature.

a portrait of the professor

Rachel Morello-Frosch was honored for her research and her work on issues of equity inside and outside the classroom.

But Morello-Frosch, the winner of this year’s prestigious Chancellor’s Award for Advancing Institutional Excellence and Equity, is not only a gifted researcher intent on making communities healthier; she is a dedicated mentor, teacher and campus leader.

Morello-Frosch is a professor in both the School of Public Health and the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management.

“Through Rachel’s research, teaching, and mentoring we see the full impact of this award,” said Oscar Dubón, the vice chancellor for equity and inclusion, who, along with Chancellor Carol Christ, issues the award each year. “Equity, inclusion and diversity are integral elements of everything that she does.”

In recommendation letters, colleagues of Morello-Frosch wrote again and again of her dedication to the campus community and commitment to public service.

“All of her accomplishments in research, teaching and service are oriented in some way toward equity and inclusion. There is no ‘by the way’ in anything she does,” wrote Nancy Lee Peluso, a fellow professor in ESPM.

Morello-Frosch graduated with a doctorate from UC Berkeley in 1998, writing a her dissertation on “Race and Class Determinants of Exposures to Environmental Hazards.” She joined the faculty as a lecturer a year later.

Read about last year’s winners

Focus on equity brings two professors top award

Over her 19 years at Berkeley, Morello-Frosch has explored how closing coal-fired power plants have improved the health of babies and tried to understand issues of equity with California’s cap-and-trade carbon credit system, among other topics.

She has also supported and guided students and researchers from underrepresented groups and built courses on ethnicity, race, culture and environmental health.

Students described her as “one of the best instructors at Berkeley” able to “bridge epidemiology and biological sciences with social science issues using social, historical and political context.”

Outside of the classroom, Morello-Frosch works with the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society and the Center for Latino Policy Research. She has also advised the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition as it addressed health concerns raised by semiconductor workers and helped the San Francisco Foundation develop environmental justice priorities.

The award carries a $10,000 prize, which Morello-Frosch said she planned to use to develop and test new strategies to recruit underrepresented minority students to scientific fields that emphasize environmental science and health.