California State University, Northridge alumna Nicole Walker ’06 (Urban Studies and Planning), M.P.P. ’12 (Public Policy) always had a passion for the environment as well as serving the community. Soon after graduating from CSUN with her bachelor’s degree, she realized that environmentalism, policy-making and serving communities in need are closely connected, so Walker decided to get more involved in politics.
In 2012, she earned her master’s degree from CSUN. Another four years later, she reached what she called one of the most memorable highlights of her career and became a California delegate for the 2016 Democratic National Convention (DNC) in late July in Philadelphia.
“It was a hailing experience,” she said.
Between jet lag, early mornings, speaker sessions and meetings, Walker said the DNC was one of the most intense experiences of her life. It was also historic, as Walker took part in the first U.S. convention where a woman was nominated as a major party’s candidate for president.
Witnessing the diversity within the California delegation was one of the highlights of the convention, Walker said.
“The amazing thing about our delegation as well as our representatives in Sacramento is that it is very diverse,” she said. “When I was looking around the room, I saw every imaginable group represented. That was a really wonderful moment.”
Walker’s first political involvement was her 2011 position as chamber president at the Southern California Black Chamber of Commerce in Riverside, where her main objective was to help disadvantaged communities.
“As I started exposing myself more to being a chamber president — going to different meetings with [county] supervisors and [city] council members in Riverside — I started to become more familiar with politics,” she said. “I thought, ‘Okay, maybe I can [do politics],’ especially environmental or economic policy, which are very close to my heart and go hand-in-hand [with serving] disadvantaged communities.”
After she completed her master’s degree in public policy at CSUN, Walker scored a job at the British Consulate General in Los Angeles as a business development associate. Her duties included assisting U.S. companies in setting up their European headquarters in the United Kingdom as well as assisting British companies in understanding and marketing their products and services to the Western U.S. market.
“[The British] had a policy called the Green Deal that I was directly working with, in terms of helping U.S. companies go to Britain and take advantage of providing their company’s green technology and products to help make houses and buildings more energy efficient,” she said.
Green technology was a defining factor in Walker’s job, and she supported the use of alternative renewable energies as well as other sustainable and environmental technologies, including solar power in Great Britain.
After gaining extensive experience in international business development at the British Consulate General, Walker went to work for the Los Angeles Unified School District in 2014 as an environmental health specialist in the district’s Office of Environmental Health and Safety Division.
For the past two years, Walker has demonstrated her political ambitions and motivations in numerous ways. In 2014, she became a fellow at the New Leaders Council in Orange County, which supports young, progressive political entrepreneurs to become elected officials. In 2015, she participated in the New American Leadership Project, which teaches first- and second-generation Americans how to run for office.
Walker said one of her primary inspirations has been her son, a first-generation U.S. citizen on his father’s side.
“I wanted to make sure that I would have the tricks of the trade and know the tools, in order to be effective and be a change-maker for him and kids that are like him,” Walker said.
In 2016, she graduated from the Emerge California program.
“Emerge California is an amazing program,” she said. “It teaches women of all races and sexual orientations how to run for office.”
After participating in all these projects, one of Walker’s friends encouraged her to run for DNC delegate to open doors for future elected positions. She took his advice.
“It was wonderful being a part of the DNC as a [Bernie] Sanders delegate because we were a part of history,” she said. “Although my candidate was not the nominee, it was amazing to see the first woman presidential nominee for a major party. Shirley Chisholm started the process in 1972, and Hillary Clinton brought it to the forefront.”
Before launching her busy career in the public arena, Walker said she developed fond memories at CSUN and values the knowledge and foundation she built at the university — particularly in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning.
“CSUN had a major positive impact on my career,” she said. “It gave me top-notch academic as well as real-world experience, [so] I am able to thrive in any career field that I have found myself in.”