Pacific alumna helps launch United Nations initiative to create a more sustainable future

Zephanii Smith-Eisenstat

Zephanii Smith-Eisenstat '15 earned her Master of Arts in Educational Administration from University of the Pacific

A longtime civil rights advocate, University of the Pacific alumna Zephanii Smith-Eisenstat '15 has helped launch a global campaign to engage the public in advocacy for a more equitable and sustainable future.

Earlier this year the United Nations Association announced their #MySDGDream initiative. Inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic “I Have a Dream” speech, the campaign encourages global citizens to envision a more peaceful, harmonious world that works for everyone, while remembering the power of a dream. 

"Each of us has a role to play in creating the world we want to leave behind for our children," said Eisenstat. "And it is up to us to create opportunities for positive change through our daily actions and conversations.

The #MySDGDream initiative was created to support the U.N.'s Sustainable Development Goals, which are a blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. They address the global challenges the world faces, including poverty, inequality, climate change, environmental degradation, peace and justice.

Eisenstat, who has devoted her career to doing work that brings about social change, is currently working with several committees to the United Nations Association and was recently elected to the United Nations Major Group on Children and Youth Executive Board.

“I was introduced to the work of groups like the NAACP and People to People International at a very early age,” explained Eisenstat. “My experiences within those organizations shaped my identity and ingrained a deep passion and sense of conviction about the opportunity and responsibility that we all have to do something about the challenges facing our families, communities, and countries."

Because of her passion for public service, Eisenstat's career posts have spanned every branch of government and included roles in local, county, state, and federal government. As early as high school, she served in appointed roles as a Youth Advisory Commissioner to the City of Stockton and a Student Trustee to Stockton Unified School District.  Her professional work includes working for a member of congress, working on joint committees to two state legislatures, a brief stint in the Obama White House, and work with the San Joaquin County District Attorney.

“I am deeply appreciative of the training, experience and exposure I received through a broad range of outreach programs and leadership/development trainings targeting youth," said Eisenstat. “The mentorship, relationships, and experiences that I developed both on and off campus have fueled my passion, vision, and the commitments that are driving my work today.

One of the places that cultivated Eisenstat's passion for service was Pacific, where she earned her Master of Arts in Educational Administration. She was attracted to the program because it was rooted in practical application.

“My classes introduced me to frameworks that I continue to think about—such as ‘action research’,” explained Eisenstat. “The program created a platform for me to more effectively align my community-based advocacy and engagement work with each of my professional roles." 

Eisenstat was also proud to attend Pacific because it brought her back to her family roots. As a fourth-generation Stocktonian, she had been introduced to the campus as a high school student when she participated in university programs.

“Pacific made it possible for me to continue to advance my education and career, while also maintaining a strong presence and connection to home,” said Eisenstat. “And as I have expanded my brand and mission globally, I have been proud to have the university be represented in my personal and professional history.”

Although Eisenstat's current work is focused on global issues, she believes that the Pacific community can get involved on a local level. Inspired by Eleanor Roosevelt’s iconic speech to the United Nations during the 10th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, she encourages everyone everywhere to think critically about the small steps they can take to shape the future.

"Where, after all, do universal human rights begin?" Eisenstat quotes. "In small places, close to home - so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person - Your home, your dorm, your class, your communities are all grounds for action --   where opportunities can be created."

To participate in the #MySDGDream initiative, everyone is encouraged to share their story about why the Sustainable Development Goals are important to them and their community.

You can learn more by watching Zephanii’s interview with the leadership of the NAACP and the United Nations Association here, and by visiting the UNA’s website.