Student Profile: Alex Li, Camarillo, CA

The BLC has provided an academic community that I haven't found elsewhere on campus.

By Alex Kekauoha


Alex Li, ’22, knows the American West pretty well. He grew up in Camarillo, a small city nestled in the foothills of the Santa Monica Mountains at the southern end of California’s Central Coast. The area, Li explained, is incredibly diverse.

“Within a 20-mile radius, you have California's most remote national park, dense urban cores, wide expanses of farmland, a condor sanctuary, classic SoCal beaches, some of L.A.'s wealthiest neighborhoods,” Li said. “And the suburbia I know as my hometown.”

In 2017, Li left Camarillo to enroll at Stanford where he is majoring in civil engineering and minoring in history with a concentration in urban history. Since arriving on the Farm, he’s come to learn about an entirely new side of the West through his participation in BLC programs, like the Sophomore College course Fighting Over Our Common Heritage: Public Lands in the West

“That, simply put, was a spectacular introduction to our public lands, one that I never had despite using the public lands for nearly my entire life,” Li said.

He also took the BLC class What is Public about Public Lands – Who and How to Manage.


“It was one of the most interestingly taught classes I took at Stanford, with lots of discussion and role-playing,” he said.

Although he hasn’t yet identified an exact career path he’d like to pursue after college, Li said the BLC has helped him develop a deep interest in resource management, which aligns with his interest in engineering.

“I think one of the principal goals of civil engineering is to develop natural resources sustainably for the beneficial use of the public,” he said. “And given our issues with food production, renewable energy, long-term water supply, raw materials and urbanization, the West will continue to influence American policy and standards of living for decades to come.”

Li is currently working on an independent research project on the limits of cohesive, regional urban identity. Western cities, he said, will provide an interesting case study, as they typically have much larger distances between them than their East Coast counterparts.

Li said that the BLC has given him a place to explore issues related to his studies and research, and what it means to come from the American West.

“More importantly though, it has provided an academic community that I haven't found elsewhere on campus,” he said.