Alexis Sutterman ’19

Chapman graduate Alexis Sutterman established herself as a prominent force on campus during her undergraduate years. Having served as the president of Chapman Democrats, an executive board member for the Olive Tree Initiative, and the recipient of the 2019 Political Science Citizen-Scholar Award, it comes as no surprise that she was awarded the Shinnyo Fellowship. 

The Shinnyo Fellowship is a paid, 10-month fellowship granted to a recent or graduating senior. The Center for Undergraduate Excellence is partnering with the Shinnyo-en Foundation to give fellows the opportunity to develop critical leadership and reflective skills and to initiate the Foundations’ philosophy of peacebuilding through service at Chapman University and local community organizations.

Inspired by the Shinnyo-En Foundation’s “Infinite Paths to Peace” initiative, Sutterman explained that her course work and engagement with social justice issues motivated her to apply. 

“Peace is not a destination, but a mindset that one should adopt in their everyday life,” Sutterman said. “This is why the ‘peacebuilding’ field is porous and plural. Anyone can be a peace-builder as long as they are carrying its virtues into practice.” 

CEJA staff posing on the steps of the Capitol during the annual CEJA Congreso event in Sacramento, CA.

Alexis has been working for the California Environmental Justice Alliance, or CEJA, which organizes local communities who are most affected by climate change to push for comprehensive solutions at the state-level.

Now more than half-way through her fellowship, Alexis says it has greatly changed how she sees the issue of climate change.

“It used to seem huge and terrifying,” she said. “But now I see this problem as an exciting opportunity to get things right. We can galvanize a community-led transformation of our political, economic, and social institutions so that they are in line with nature, and we are in line with each other.”

At CEJA, Alexis does research on clean energy, storage, and community resilience. She also supports with organizing events and facilitating workshops for community members.

Alexis presenting in front of community members

Sutterman presenting about the dangers of gas plants at a community workshop in LA

In addition to her work at CEJA, Sutterman is working with faculty mentor Dr. Crystal Murphy and conducting research on decolonial environmentalism, deep ecology, and revolutionary social movements.

She says she appreciates the holistic make-up of the fellowship, and how flexible it is to one’s personal and academic interests.

“It’s rare to see a paid fellowship that is willing to adapt to all the issues you want to pursue and study,” Sutterman said. “I think anyone from any discipline could thrive in it. Plus, it encourages you to process your growth, and think about how your experiences will support you after.”

Sutterman with other Shinnyo members during the Shinnyo annual retreat in Marshall, CA.

Sutterman recommends all graduating seniors to apply for the fellowship, and especially those with the drive to make their community – and world – a more liberating and joyful place.

“There are so many ways you can take what makes you feel confident and empowered, and channel it into making the world better for everyone else, too. This fellowship is a great kick-start into seeing the interconnected nature of society, and finding your place in it.”

Are you a senior at Chapman and interested in the Shinnyo-en Fellowship? Check out the fellowship guidelines and deadlines on our website, or contact for more information!