FOUNDATIONS FOR CHANGE: Thomas I. Yamashita Prize

About the FOUNDATIONS FOR CHANGE: Thomas I. Yamashita Prize

The FOUNDATIONS FOR CHANGE: Thomas I. Yamashita Prize is awarded annually to an outstanding emerging social change activist in California.  The award of $2,500 honors a person whose work transforms the existing social landscape - often in subtle and previously unappreciated ways - 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 their academic expertise. Simultaneously, the awardee enriches academic scholarship by sharing the insights and knowledge produced from community engagement with the broader academic community.  We rely on a nomination process to identify and select Prize winners. (See below.)  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 the community. There is no age limit for this award, but the honoree should be in the early stages of their career as a social change activist/scholar (for those in faculty positions, associate and full professors are not considered to be in the early stages).

Nomination Process

The FOUNDATIONS FOR CHANGE: Thomas I. Yamashita Prize uses a nomination system, where someone other than the nominee identifies the nominee, their contributions, and the kinds of expertise they bring to understanding how change works. Access the nomination form here. 

2023-24 nominations are due Monday, February 5th, 2024 by 5pm. 

The Prize will be announced within six weeks after the deadline date.

Build the Foundations for Change

To make a gift in support of the prize, please visit the online giving site and in the "In Honor of:" section list "Yamashita Prize".

photo of Sepehr Vakil, 2015 Yamashita Prize recipient, with a group of people

Sepehr Vakil, second from left, was awarded the Yamashita Prize in 2015

photo of Thomas Yamashita

Thomas Yamashita

About Thomas I. Yamashita

Thomas Isao Yamashita was an undergraduate student in civil engineering at the University of California at 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 of the United States in 1942 made it impossible for him to graduate from Berkeley. He eventually received his engineering degree from the University of Nebraska. Even so, Tom supported and cherished the University of California at Berkeley and was a life member of the Alumni Association.

As a civil engineer, Tom spent the majority of his career in Hong Kong. His work did not involve building the structures that typify its landscape. His work was 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, Tom 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, this award of $2,500 supports transformative work that alters the social landscape, often in subtle and previously unappreciated ways.