UCI’s Michael Méndez is named a 2022 Andrew Carnegie Fellow

Published on April 27, 2022


University of California, Irvine’s Michael Méndez has been named to the 2022 class of Andrew Carnegie Fellows. The assistant professor of urban planning and public policy joins an exclusive cohort of 28 distinguished individuals nationwide selected from nearly 300 nominees. Each will receive $200,000 for a research sabbatical focused on their study in the social sciences or humanities – the most generous stipend of its type.

“I am pleased to congratulate Professor Méndez on being named a 2022 Andrew Carnegie Fellow,” said Hal Stern, UCI provost and executive vice-chancellor. “This recognition will support his groundbreaking research on environmental policy and protection, as well as justice for underrepresented communities during natural disasters.”

The selection criteria for the so-called Brainy Award prioritize the originality and potential impact of the research proposal, along with the scholar’s capacity to communicate the findings to a broad audience. Méndez will use the funding for a sabbatical to complete his next book, titled Undocumented Disasters: (In)visible Communities Confronting Climate Change and Environmental Injustice, to be published by Yale University Press.

“We are delighted for Professor Méndez with this remarkable and well-deserved honor. He will be conducting important research with the fellowship’s support,” said Jon B. Gould, dean of the School of Social Ecology. “We’re proud to have him as a colleague.”

In his first book, Climate Change From the Streets: How Conflict and Collaboration Strengthen the Environmental Justice Movement, Méndez argues that “critical attention must be placed on the cultural and human dimensions of climate policy” if society is to successfully navigate the rapidly progressing phenomenon of climate change. The work received the Harold and Margaret Sprout Award from the International Studies Association and the Betty and Alfred McClung Lee Book Award from the Association for Humanist Sociology.

In 2021, Méndez became the first Latino scholar to win the National Academies’ Henry and Bryna David Endowment award for his wildfire and migrant research. The endowment annually recognizes one “leading researcher who has drawn insights from the behavioral and social sciences to inform public policy.”

Méndez’s new research focuses on climate change-related natural disasters and social vulnerability. Supported by a National Science Foundation early-career faculty award and in conjunction with the National Center for Atmospheric Research, the project explores the disparate treatment of undocumented Latino/Latina and Indigenous migrant farmworkers during extreme wildfire events in Sonoma County.

“This is one of the most prestigious fellowships bestowed in academia; it’s a great honor,” Méndez said. “I am grateful to have the full support and credibility of the Carnegie Corp. of New York to advance research on some of the most disempowered and voiceless populations who are confronting the challenges of climate-induced disasters. I look forward to being part of a network of innovative scholars, artists, journalists and national thought leaders. This will help me further uplift the stories of the impacts climate change creates for migrant communities to broader audiences.”

The Carnegie Corp. of New York launched the Andrew Carnegie Fellows Program in 2015, and it has, to date, named 244 fellows, representing a philanthropic investment of $48.8 million. Méndez joins scholars, journalists and authors from the nation’s most prominent educational institutions, foundations and scholarly societies selected by the corporation, a philanthropic entity that has supported the advancement of education and knowledge for more than a century. Additional details about the Andrew Carnegie Fellows Program and the class of 2022 are available here.

University of California, Irvine is a platinum-level Leaders Circle partner of the Greater Irvine Chamber.