University of California, Riverside

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Samantha Wilson

Alumni Profile

Alumni Profile

Samantha Lynne Gupta

Samantha GuptaSamantha is a seminarian in her final year at Claremont School of Theology, pursuing her Masters of Divinity. She joined Claremont in 2011 when she was awarded the University Scholars Award– the highest academic and merit-based scholarship at the university in her program.

Academic Background
Samantha is an alumna of the University of California, Riverside where she graduated Magna Cum Laude with a B.A. in Global Studies and a minor in Religious Studies in 2009. Serving as the student commencement speaker for her graduation ceremony, she also received several awards on behalf of her class, including the Humanitarian of the Year, Women’s Civic Engagement Leader of the Year, Individual Leader of the Year and Intercultural Leader of the Year. She graduated having completed both Lower and Upper Division Honors with the University Honors Program and having been inducted as a member of the prestigious national honor society Phi Beta Kappa and the religious studies honor society Theta Alpha Kappa.

Transnational/Local Activism
Samantha studied abroad in India in 2008 at the Central University of Hyderabad. She has since returned to India ten times to develop and collaborate on transnational youth and young-adult programming through her for-impact community organization, the Child Leader Project (CLP). Samantha founded CLP in 2008 with a proposal to create a holistic, social-justice focused leadership and scholarship program for rural youth at a school in South India. Since this inception, the non-profit organization now organizes children and young adult collectives in both Riverside, CA and across South India. CLP has also led trainings for a government-run organization in Leon, Mexico to assist the municipality’s office in creating social change-oriented components within their existing youth service programs. The initial project in India currently operates on its own by Indian young adults as a separate organization, the Trust for Youth and Child Leadership (TYCL).

CLP has been recognized and awarded grants by the Community Foundation and the Clinton Global Initiative for its “exemplary efforts” in the field of education and peace and justice in the USA and India. Samantha represented CLP at the Clinton Global Initiative meetings from 2008-2011 and also presented at the Global Health and Innovation Conference at Yale University in 2010. Locally, Samantha has received three awards for this work—in 2009 by the Riverside Juneteenth Committee as the “Gem of the Community, 2011 as a “Riverside Hero” for youth empowerment work in California, Mexico and India and in 2012 as the inaugural “Emerging Leader” for Riverside county YWCA.

Interfaith Community Organizing
Samantha has also served within several progressive interfaith community spaces. Raised as a Unitarian Universalist, she began giving sermons in Southern California churches at the age of 16. She has served on the Board of Directors for UU Legislative Ministries (UULMCA) from 2007-2010 and helped initiate their Young Leaders Project to develop a UU young adult, state-wide leadership training “SALT” (Spiritual Activist Leadership Training). She served as a consultant to the project, developing curriculum for youth and young adults and facilitating specific workshops for young adults across California on community organizing, ethical fundraising and dialogue in interfaith and intercultural contexts.

Community-Based Participatory Research
Upon graduation from her undergraduate degree in 2009, Samantha initiated and served as the founding coordinator of the “Office of Undergraduate Research in the Community” at the University of California, Riverside. Serving for two years, she was responsible for developing and coordinating a new campus-wide program/resource office for undergraduate students to facilitate their own community-based and participatory action research projects. She coordinated partnerships, taught seminars in community research and partnered with faculty in developing community-based components to existing courses. In two years under Samantha’s leadership, the research office hosted over 100 students in over 25 different community-based research projects and continues to this day.

Samantha’s current interests include practical theology, the process and practice of cultivating authentic relationships within non-profit and community organizations, and strengthening the connections between youth and young adult empowerment, justice, wholeness and ecological sustainability locally and globally. She is guided by the concept that “global change is expressed locally” and intends to pursue ordination and a PhD as a principle-based voice in both public and academic contexts.

She lives in Claremont, CA with her husband, Vijay Gupta, and their cat, Louie Gupta.

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