I am Stephanie Hughes and I am a registered chemical engineer, working as an independent consultant as well as a university lecturer. My consulting is in regards to water quality – supporting local wastewater and stormwater agencies in their quest for clean waters for our urban creeks and San Francisco Bay. Current issues at hand are urban (mis)uses of pesticides as well as specific chemicals in consumer products such as triclosan and nanoparticles. As a lecturer at Santa Clara University’s Department of Environmental Studies and Sciences, I enjoy discussing the ecological footprint of the developed world along with the potential for technologies, policies, and individual decisions to both minimize such a footprint and enhance the lives of those in the developing world. Perhaps it is fitting, then, that my favorite book is The Grapes of Wrath.

I married my college sweetheart during spring break of our senior year of college. That was more than two decades ago in St. Paul, Minnesota. Right after graduation, we moved to California, and we have no plans to move back. My husband, Ben, remains my very best friend to this day. We so enjoy spending time together, with our pets, in our garden, and at our cabin in the Santa Cruz mountains. We also love to travel and are heading to Peru in June.

I was raised by an atheist father and a “non-committal” mother. My mom had been raised Jehovah’s Witness and left it and therefore also had to leave her family at the age of 18. Some years later, after I was born, my maternal grandmother spent years trying to go around my mother’s back to teach me the JW way of thinking (or rather, of not thinking). I went to many JW meetings over the years… very eye-opening.

I think it is a sad state of affairs when atheists are so poorly thought of when all we seek to do is to see the world using reason, science, clarity, and curiosity. I appreciate groups like American Atheists for being willing to be a face on FOX news and the Freedom from Religion Foundation for challenging biased laws and institutions. I also love the fact that the executive director of the group Americans United for the Separation of Church and State is an ordained minister – Rev. Barry Lynn. He was on of my favorite ACSJ speakers, along with Jerry DeWitt and Matt Dillahunty. I know it costs money and time to bring these speakers to us and I thank you for doing so.

I think that ACSJ serves a valuable role – providing a sense of community for atheists and other free thinkers while seeking to improve awareness – and our collective image – in the larger community. I have enjoyed working on philanthropic projects with ACSJ and plan to continue to do so. In particular, I am proud of the volunteering of time and donations thata ACSJ members have provided to the Downtown Streets Team.


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