Learn More About Our Program

Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University has teamed up with Environmental Health News to form Agents of Change in Environmental Justice.

We’re amplifying the voices of those who have been historically excluded from science and academia—people who are already pushing our planet forward in a healthy, more just direction. They’re inspiring the next generation of scientists, and they’re capable of so much more.


Our mission is to empower emerging leaders from historically excluded backgrounds in science and academia to reimagine solutions for a just and healthy planet.


Our vision is to foster a new cadre of diverse and inclusive leaders in environmental justice who can help create systemic change by integrating the best available science and technology with the intergenerational knowledge of communities who have been disproportionately harmed by environmental degradation and historically excluded from decision-making because of racism, classism, and other systems of oppression.


  1. Advance the careers and social impact of emerging environmental justice leaders
  2. Inject new ideas in environmental/climate sciences and advocacy
  3. Increase environmental and social justice literacy of students being trained in STEM fields such as epidemiology, earth sciences, and medicine
  4. Make scientific information more accessible to communities historically excluded from decision making.

Our institutional home

The program is administered through the Environmental Health Sciences department at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health.

Our MEDIA Partner

The program is in partnership with Environmental Health News, a publication of Environmental Health Sciences, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to driving science into public discussion and policy on environmental health issues.

our staff

Ami Zota, ScD, MS
Program Director
Ami Zota is the founder and director of Agents of Change initiative. Dr. Zota is an Associate Professor in the Environmental Health Sciences department at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. Dr. Zota’s work seeks to secure environmental justice and improve health equity through advancements in science, policy, and clinical practice.
Brian Bienkowski, MA
Brian Bienkowski is the editor of the Agents of Change program. Bienkowski holds a master’s degree in environmental journalism from Michigan State University and is the senior editor of Environmental Health News. He brings more than a decade of environmental reporting and editing experience. His work—focused on toxic exposures, climate change, and environmental justice—seeks to hold those in power accountable and address systemic injustice.
Veena Singla, PhD
Associate Director
Dr. Veena Singla is a Senior Scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Healthy People, Thriving Communities Program. Her work seeks to address health disparities linked to harmful environmental exposures using an interdisciplinary approach incorporating environmental health, exposure science, public health and policy expertise.
Yoshira Ornelas Van Horne, PhD
Assistant Director
Dr. Yoshira “Yoshi” Ornelas Van Horne is an exposure scientist and environmental justice scholar. She is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. Her research focuses on addressing unequal exposures to harmful contaminants that affect structurally marginalized communities.
Max Aung, PhD, MPH
Assistant Director
Dr. Max Aung is an Assistant Professor in the Division of Environmental Health at the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine. Max’s research focuses on applying data science frameworks to understand potential mechanisms linking chemical mixtures to health across the life course.
Lariah Edwards, PhD
Assistant Director
Dr. Lariah Edwards is currently an Associate Research Scientist in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. Her research focuses on understanding the health effects of and addressing exposure disparities to hormone-altering chemicals commonly found in consumer products.
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Emily Weaver, MA
Program Associate
Emily Weaver is a Staff Research Scientist at Columbia University in the department of Environmental Health Sciences. She is a first generation graduate and holds a master’s degree from the Columbia Climate School, where she was a Dimenstein-Spielvogel fellow.
Samar Ahmad, MPH
Program Manager
Samar Ahmad is Program Manager for the Agents of Change in Environmental Justice program at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. She previously served as a Research Associate at The George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health.
María Paula Rubiano A.
Assistant Editor
María Paula Rubiano A. is a journalist, editor and translator based in Medellín, Colombia. She’s written about climate change, biodiversity, food sovereignty and environmental justice for publications like Grist, Science, El Espectador, Audubon, Atlas Obscura, and more.

our funders

Beautycounter   |   Forsythia Foundation   |   Rachel’s Network   |    Broad Reach  |    Marisla Foundation   |    Passport  Foundation   |   The JPB Foundation   |   Natural Resources Defense Council  (in kind support)  |  Lerner Center for Public Health Promotion (Mailman School of Public Health)   |  Center for Environmental Health and Justice in Northern Manhattan (NIEHS ES009089)   | 


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