Profiles of Hispanics at EPA: Matthew Tejada
Matthew Tejada, Director,
Office of Environmental Justice
Question: Where were you born?
Matthew Tejada: Ft. Worth, Texas.
Question: Where did you go to college? What was your major?
Matthew Tejada: I have a bachelor’s in English from the University of Texas at Austin; a master’s degree in Russian and East European studies from St. Antony’s College, University of Oxford; and a doctorate in modern history from St. Antony’s College.
Question: What brought you to EPA?
Matthew Tejada: I spent the six years prior to my arrival at EPA running an environmental advocacy non-profit organization that focused on air quality, public health and environmental justice in the Houston region. That took me from policy and advocacy to an appreciation of the central importance of community engagement, outreach and education, as well as the need to approach communities from a holistic perspective.
Question: What kind of work do you do at EPA?
Matthew Tejada: I am the director of the Office of Environmental Justice, where I am responsible for all the aspects of work of the Office of Environmental Justice within EPA and the EJ Program more generally throughout the Agency and across the federal family. OEJ also has external aspects, such as direct community engagement, outreach and communication, and we manage the National Environmental Justice Advisory Committee (NEJAC), of which I serve as the Designated Federal Official. We also encourage external partnerships with other federal, state, local and tribal agencies in support of community initiatives. OEJ also supports and manages the work of the EJ Inter-Agency Working Group and is instrumental in the planning and implementation of EPA’s environmental justice strategy, the EJ 2020 Action Agenda. In essence, we support the efforts of communities to address environmental justice challenges across the country through direct support, intervention, partnering and elevation of the community voice.
Question: What message would you like to send young Latinos who are considering going to college?
Matthew Tejada: A college education is an incredibly important step in their lives, but it’s not the “end all, be all” of their life paths and should be enjoyed for all that it has to offer. College is not just about gaining an education that determines your career path. It also gives you a perspective on your country, the world, your friends and family and most of all yourself. Take full advantage of all the opportunities that college offers, such as traveling, meeting new people, and trying new things. But most of all, remember where you come from and that you can be a leader for your community. Stand up, speak out, care about your community and where you are from. A lot of caring and a little bit of action can go a LONG way in this world to make people’s lives and communities better. And don't forget to have fun!