Nominations Being Accepted for Yamashita Prize


Thomas I. Yamashita

BERKELEY — The Foundations for Change: Thomas I. Yamashita Prize is awarded annually to an outstanding young social change activist/scholar in California.

The award of $2,500 honors a person whose work transforms the existing social landscape and serves as a bridge between the academy and the community. An awardee helps to build the capacity of community-based organizations and social movements to confront pressing issues by applying her/his academic expertise.

Simultaneously, she/he enriches academic scholarship by sharing the insights and knowledge produced from community engagement with the broader academic community.

The award is not limited to students or scholars, but an honoree’s work should reflect a commitment to strengthening ties between the academy and communities. There is no age limit, but the honoree should be in the early stages of his/her career as a social change activist/scholar.

Thomas Isao Yamashita was an undergraduate student in civil engineering at UC Berkeley and a member of the Class of 1942. He was one of the first Asian Americans elected to two of the University of California’s honor societies — Winged Helmet and the Order of the Golden Bear.

The internment of Americans of Japanese descent on the West Coast in 1942 made it impossible for him to graduate from Berkeley. He eventually received his engineering degree from the University of Nebraska. Even so, he supported and cherished Cal and was a life member of the Alumni Association.

As a civil engineer, Yamashita spent the majority of his career in Hong Kong. His work did not involve building the structures that typify its landscape. His work is unseen, focusing on foundations, on solving the complex engineering problems that enable steel and glass towers to be built. His work made possible the transportation corridors that allowed the city to become a regional economic hub.

Through his leadership, Yamashita developed new construction techniques that altered the practice of building.  His work changed the city’s landscape.  In this spirit of engineering the foundations of change, the prize that bears his name is housed at the Institute for the Study of Social Change.

The 2011 winner is Wanjiru Kamau-Rutenberg, assistant professor of politics at the University of San Francisco, where she teaches courses on the politics of international aid and development, African politics, and the politics of racial and ethnic identity. She is also the founder and executive director of Akili Dada, a non-profit organization dedicated to women’s empowerment by providing leadership training, mentorship and scholarships for poor Kenyan girls, and she serves on the board of the One World Children’s Fund.

The prize uses a nomination system, where someone other than the nominee identifies the nominee, his/her contributions, and the kinds of expertise he/she brings to understanding how change works.  To download a nomination form, go to

Nomination due date: Monday, Feb. 13, 2012, by 5 p.m. The awardee will be announced within four to six weeks thereafter. An award ceremony will be held in the spring.

Send nomination forms and supporting materials to:

Foundations for Change: The Thomas I. Yamashita Prize

Center for Research on Social Change

Institute for the Study of Societal Issues

University of California

2420 Bowditch St., MC 5670

Berkeley, CA  94720-5670

To make a contribution to the prize, go to

For more information about the prize and the nomination process, contact Dr. Christine Trost at (510) 643-7237 or [email protected]


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