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Russell Vergara - USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work. Los Angeles, CA, US

Russell Vergara Russell Vergara

Adjunct Assistant Professor Dept. of Social Change & Innovation | USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work


R. BONG VERGARA focuses on tech-enabled solutions to food-energy-water nexus issues in smart sustainable development.





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R. Bong Vergara is an Adjunct Assistant Professor at USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work. He currently teaches courses in policy practice and research. As a current member of the Asia Low Emission Development Strategies Partnership, the Climate Leadership Corps, and a Health Equity Ambassador for the American Psychological Association, he uses social work to solve problems in the overlap between human and planetary health, particularly the nexus of food, energy, and water systems. Through his for-profit and nonprofit engagements he promotes the social equity interests of resource-poor communities in low emission development. He is passionate about a next-generation social work better equipped to lead change in the era of climate change and build wealth in the Information Age. He formerly taught at UCLA and The California Endowment Health Ex/Change Academy. He was the former co-chair of the California Mental Health Services Act Multicultural Coalition (CMMC), a component of the California Reducing Disparities Project (CRDP). He has published a number of policy briefs and agency reports on poverty, community health, and community engagement. He has provided testimony to a number of state-level mental health and public health meetings and committee hearings, and also presented briefings before a number of national convenings, hearings and conferences, including the Subcommittee on Populations of the National Committee on Vital and Health Statistics. He earned his undergraduate and graduate degrees in Social Welfare and Asian American Studies from UCLA. He is currently a doctoral student at University of Southern California Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work.

Education (3)

University of California, Los Angeles: MSW, Social Welfare 2001

University of California, Los Angeles: MA, Asian American Studies 2001

University of California, Los Angeles: BA, Asian American Studies 1997

Activities and Societies: Student Liaison, UCLA Academic Senate-Undergraduate Council; Student Representative, Academic Affairs Office; Student Representative, National People of Color Student Caucus -- USSA; Coordinator, Committee for Pilipino Studies (1992-1996); Historian, Samahang Pilipino (1992)

Areas of Expertise (3)

Social Innovation and Resilience Global Health Smart sustainable urban development

Industry Expertise (3)

Cleantech Education/Learning Health and Wellness

Affiliations (4)

  • Asia Low Emission Development Strategies Partnership (ALP)
  • Young Moon, LLC: Co-Founder
  • California Mental Health Services Act Multicultural Coalition : Co-Chair
  • Racial and Ethnic Mental Health Disparities Coalition : Member

Languages (2)

  • Tagalog
  • Ilocano


Grand Challenges (2)

Harnessing Technology for Social Good

I focus on integrating social equity in harnessing tech-enabled innovations at the nexus of food, energy, and water systems (INFEWS), particularly in coastal communities, Small Island Developing States, and Pacific Island Countries and Territories.

Creating Social Innovation in a Changing Environment

In the name of social equity, I focus on promoting the development, commercialization, and adoption of grass-root clean technology solutions to overlapping food, energy, and water problems in Small Island Developing States and Pacific Island Countries and Territories, and other coastal communities.

Media Appearances (4)

Redefining nature

Lateral Magazine  online


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Understanding Climate Change as a Social Issue: How Research Can Help

USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck  online

“We see it perhaps most importantly as a social justice issue,” said Lawrence Palinkas, the Albert G. and Frances Lomas Feldman Professor of Social Policy and Health at the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work. “Generally the people most affected by climate change tend to be the poor, older adults, children and families — populations that are typically the focus of social work practice.”

This inherent link between social work and climate change is at the heart of a new initiative Palinkas and other social work scholars, like Vergara, are leading as part of the Grand Challenges for Social Work.

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Professor’s Nonprofit Tackles Grand Challenges with Clean Technology

USC News  online


The Sustainable Earth Decathlon (SED), a showcase of clean technology innovations from youth ages 13 to 26, is the brainchild of USC School of Social Work Adjunct Assistant Professor R. Bong Vergara, who sees a clear link between human and planetary health.

Along the lines of the American Academy of Social Work & Social Welfare’s Grand Challenge of creating social responses to a changing environment, Vergara created SED as a project-based learning opportunity for youth, especially those from climate-vulnerable communities, to engage in science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) activities.

“I want to build young people’s sense of self belief so they can become innovators and produce solutions to wicked problems like climate change,” said Vergara, who recently was named one of Social Work Today’s 10 Dedicated and Deserving Social Workers.

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Paralyzed student turns adversity into self-help book

USC News  online


Russell Vergara, an adjunct lecturer at the school, said that Rhodes brought depth and perspective to class discussions that challenged everyone in the room.

“He’s very inspiring,” Vergara said. “You can tell that despite his disability and the emotional baggage that came with it, he never lost his fighting spirit to keep going to the next step.”

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Event Appearances (8)

3rd Annual Science, Technology, and Innovation (STI) Forum

Multi-stakeholder Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation for the Sustainable Development Goals  UN Headquarters, New York, NY


TACK TO TECH: Framing a ‘technology practice’ in city-level decarbonization

#NSWM29, Disruptive Leadership: Maximizing Inclusion, Invention and Innovation, Network of Social Work Management, San Diego State University  San Diego, CA

Stress, Racism, and Social Determinants of Health

Healthy Communities: Promoting Wellness and Achieving Health & Mental Health Equity, Ventura County Behavioral Health Department, Ventura County Health Care Agency  Camarillo, CA

Social equity in city-level decarbonization

Nexus 2018: Water, Food, Energy and Climate Conference, University of North Carolina  Chapel Hill, NC

Harnessing Technology for Social Good

Making a Difference Thru T2: 2017 FLC Far West & Mid-Continent Regional  Pasadena, CA

Small-scale Climate Resilience: Social Work Practice in the Age of Climate Change

25th Annual Management Conference, Management in the Age of Innovation  Simmons College, School of Social Work, Boston, MA


Political Voice in Beats & Rhymes: Aligning Un-Aligned Efforts in Community Building

Ninth NaFFAA Empowerment Conference “Building the Next Generation of Community Advocates”  Hyatt Regency San Francisco Airport, Burlingame, California


Earth Day Briefing

Federation of Filipino American Associations  Long Beach Water Treatment Plant, Long Beach, California




  • Keynote
  • Panelist
  • Workshop Leader
  • Host/MC
  • Corporate Training

Research Reports & Projects (1)

Photovoice Oxnard: Exploring racism as a social determinant of health

Exploratory study on how Oxnard communities experience racism as a social determinant to health


As a contract provider with Ventura County Behavioral Health, Alcohol and Drug Programs, Prevention Services, I provide prevention planning, training and research support for addressing racial and ethnic disparities related to substance use risk. I coordinate the launch of community-based research entitled “PhotovoiceOxnard” to document ‘race and place’ as factors of substance use risk and health status.

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