You are here

Bobby Cochran wins Luce Fellowship to travel to China

USC graduate student Bobby Cochran wins the Luce Scholarship. He’ll spend 10 months in China, immersed in Chinese culture and exploring his passion for the environment.

April 22, 2003

By Steven Linan
This article was originally published by USC News.
Bobby Cochran, a USC graduate student with a passion for the environment, has won the Luce Scholarship.

Named after Henry R. Luce, the late co-founder of Time Inc., the Luce Scholars Program provides stipends and internships for 15 young Americans to live and work in Asia each year.

Established in 1974, the program seeks to increase awareness of Asia among future leaders in the United States.

Cochran, 25, who will graduate in May with a master’s degree in public policy from the School of Policy, Planning, and Development, described the prestigious honor as “the opportunity of a lifetime.”

“It’s mostly a cultural experience and an immersion in Asian culture,” said Cochran, who will leave in mid-August for southwest China, where he and his fiancée will spend 10 months in the city of Kunming.

Born and raised in La Cañada, Cochran earned his bachelor’s degree in biology and society at Cornell University, but eagerly returned to Los Angeles because of his concern for environmental restoration.

Bringing government and community groups together to achieve goals for future generations is a priority for Cochran, an idealist drawn to the interaction between science and society.

“I’m really interested in broader community development and quality-of-life issues,” he said.

Over the last three years, Cochran has been a project analyst for the Rivers & Mountains Conservancy, a state agency that attempts to restore the Los Angeles and San Gabriel rivers while acquiring open space and protecting habitat.

He also started Summit to the Sea, a Ventura County-based organization focusing on watershed education.

“Environmental education traditionally hasn’t been very strategic,” said Cochran, whose goal is to connect that field with public policy and strategic planning.

“Education is not just reaching out to youth,” he explained. “It’s building the capacity of communities to manage their own natural resources.”

As a youth, Cochran’s mentors were his great aunt and uncle, who showed him old Indian ruins during explorations in the Arizona desert.

At USC, his mentors have included Daniel Mazmanian, dean of the School of Policy, Planning, and Development.

“Bobby is deeply committed to equity, justice and the improvement of our natural environment for present and succeeding generations,” Mazmanian said.

“He brings an unusual maturity and creativity to his pursuits and has proven, once again, the value we share at USC of empowering students to map out imaginative academic programs for themselves.

“As Luce Scholar, he will serve as an ideal ambassador for the university and our nation,” Mazmanian said.

Joan Hartmann, who has taught the graduate Environmental Law and Policy seminar at USC, is another mentor with high praise for Cochran.

“It is extremely rare to find a student who embodies the intellect, character and integrative abilities that hold out hope that the world can be transformed,” said Hartmann.

“He is so wonderfully creative and unassuming,” she said. “Positive energy surrounds him and endows others with a sense of what they, too, can accomplish.”

The willingness to make a difference inspires Cochran, who is enthused by the possibility of one day working on local grass-roots projects or major environmental issues.

After his fellowship ends in July 2004, Cochran hopes to strike a balance between local and international projects.

“Everything I do is motivated by getting people excited about the environment,” he said.

“I’ve never done anything just for money or because I needed a job. The chips have fallen very nicely where I can get paid to do exactly what I love,” Cochran added.

“I’ve been really lucky in that sense.”