Meet Ariana Hernandez and Elena Hernandez, our newest team members

Join us in welcoming them to the Luskin Center for Innovation team!

This summer, we are excited to welcome two new staff members to the Luskin Center for Innovation, Ariana Hernandez and Elena Hernandez. Both have been working with the center for several years as graduate student researchers — we are pleased they are continuing as full-time associate project managers!

Get to know Ariana

In her new role, Ariana is working on a variety of water, urban greening and energy equity projects. Many of these projects build our collaboration with other UCLA Luskin research centers, like the Latino Policy and Politics Institute and the Center for Neighborhood Knowledge. 

Ariana recently earned a master’s degree from UCLA in urban and regional planning, with a concentration in environmental analysis and policy. Her capstone research, which she’ll be continuing in her new role, focuses on park access and equity. 

Hear more from Ariana: 

What does environmental policy mean to you?

A big part of environmental policy is protecting those who are most vulnerable in our society. Researchers must constantly evaluate policies to ensure that they are serving this purpose and not further perpetuating inequities. Importantly, impacted communities must inform the environmental policies to be meaningful and just. 

What are a few things people should know about you?

I’m a first-generation college student and I feel very strongly about supporting other first-gen students, especially women of color, in academic and professional spaces. 

What do you like to do in your free time?

Outside of work, I like to garden, embroider, watch scary movies and go to outdoor markets. Whenever I have time, I enjoy roller skating (poorly) and visiting botanical gardens. I also have two cats, Noah and Pepper, who love to join me during my zoom calls. They’re also passionate about environmental planning!

To get in touch with Ariana, contact her at or connect on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Ariana Hernandez headshot

Get to know Elena:

Elena Hernandez’s work on local climate action focuses on the Transformative Climate Communities (TCC) program, which empowers communities affected by systemic poverty and pollution to implement their visions for healthier, more equitable and prosperous places to live. Elena conducts qualitative and quantitative research to measure the outcomes of TCC projects.

This spring, Elena graduated with master’s degrees from UCLA in urban and regional planning and public health, with a concentration in environmental health sciences. She mentioned her own lived experience growing up in the Inland Empire has influenced her to lead environmental equity work for vulnerable communities.

Hear more from Elena: 

What are you most looking forward to in this role?

I look forward to continuing to work on the TCC program. When I first started this work as a graduate student researcher, I was immediately interested in TCC because of its focus on disadvantaged communities throughout California. It’s great the program amplifies the work of community organizations that are already leading solutions to the climate crisis. Hopefully, our work can help expand this kind of climate action.

What types of research do you enjoy?

My favorite type of data is spatial. I have been using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) since I was an undergraduate student. I love how maps can convey so much important information and help address health and environmental challenges. 

What do you like to do in your free time?

I adopted a Yorkie Poo named Furnie earlier this year so most of my free time has been learning how to take care of an energetic puppy. Aside from being a dog mom, I like to adventure the city with my sister and look for our next favorite coffee shop. 

To get in touch with Elena, contact her at or connect on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Elena Hernandez headshot