Student Honors 2011-12


Student Honors 2011-12

Congratulations to John Scott-Railton and Miriam Torres recipients of prestigious Switzer Foundation FellowshipsThe goal of the Switzer Environmental Fellowship Program is to support highly talented graduate students in New England and California whose studies are directed toward improving environmental quality and who demonstrate the potential for leadership in their field.

  John Scott-Railton is pursuing doctoral studies at UCLA, where his research engages a vexing question: what happens when ‘climate change adaptation’ isn’t adaptive? His current research builds a case study on the outskirts of Dakar, Senegal, where intense rains after decades of drought have led to widespread flooding. He documents the ensuing local action and politics that, his fieldwork suggests, may have compounded the human and ecological impact of the changed climate, not reduced them. John engages how climate adaptation is shaped and constrained by context, whether as individual incentives or policies. His work attempts to encourage practitioners and academics to keep the concept of climate change adaptation productive by making sure maladaptation is equally well understood. Previously, while completing a master’s degree at the University of Michigan, John helped develop “participatory mapping” projects aimed at protecting the fragile property rights of poor families living in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. He has also gained international recognition for his work carrying the voices of Egyptians and Libyans from behind internet and media blackouts.

  Miriam Torres is a master’s candidate in Urban and Regional Planning. She recently founded Alcanza, a planning practice with the mission to develop sustainable projects that promote resilient, healthy and vibrant communities. Alcanza aims to serve low-income communities in South and South East Los Angeles. Currently, Miriam is planning projects that create open space and improve water quality before discharging into the Compton Creek and Los Angeles River. Prior to graduate school, Miriam worked six years for a statewide organization, The Environmental Justice Coalition for Water. In her capacity as the Southern California Program Director, she worked on local campaigns and statewide policy to address water quality concerns in low-income communities of color. Miriam is getting appointed to the City of Los Angeles Green Building Retrofit and Workforce Program Advisory Council and is a Disadvantaged Committee member of the Greater Los Angeles Integrated Regional Water Management Plan. She holds a Bachelor’s of Science from the College of Natural Resources at the University of California, Berkeley. Miriam emigrated from Mexico in her teens and is now rooted in Los Angeles where she lives with her four-year old son Louka.

The Lewis Center has announced the winners of this year's annual GIS contest. The three winning projects successfully applied research methods and spatial analysis to produce descriptive and analytical insights into distinct policy questions. 

Urban Planning student Clarine Ovando-Lacroux was the 3rd place winner for her project Addressing Rising Family Homelessness in the City of Los Angeles.  She will receive a prize of $200.

The winning projects will be posted on the Lewis Center website when the posters have been completed.


  MURP student Eric Agar has received the 2012 Graduate Students Association Jeffrey L. Hanson Distinguished Service Award.

Eric served as the GSA Director of the Sustainable Resource Center for the 2011-2012 academic year. His commitment to sustainability has been unparalleled. He has helped provide bicycles that graduate and professional students can rent; helped expand the Community Supported Agriculture program; provided support for the Leaders in Sustainability Graduate Certificate Program; helped pilot a composting program at Weyburn Terrace; and encouraged graduate and professional students interested in sustainability to meet and collaborate through organizing mixers.

The purpose of the GSA Jeffrey L. Hanson Distinguished Service Award is to acknowledge those individuals who have served the Graduate Students Association and represented the interests and concerns of graduate and professional students at UCLA during each academic year. The Award is named after Jeffrey L. Hanson, GSA Vice President-Internal Affairs 1989-90, as a memorial for his service and dedication to the GSA.


2012 End of Year Awards


Continuing Student Awards

  • Leon Hoffman Award: Drew Bandwin and Jaemi Jackson
  • Mimi Perloff Award:  Hilary Wilson and Osvaldo Garcia
  • Katherine Gouvias Fellowship: Susan Nakaoka
  • Julie Roque Fellowship for Environmental Justice:  Tisha Holmes and Eric Agar
  •  Vanessa Dingley Fellowship: Wenchong Lai
  • James Ortner Memorial Fellowship: Heather Jones
  • California Planning Foundation Continuing Student Merit Award:  Robert Rich
  • Harvey S. Perloff Scholarship: Chloe Green

Graduating Student Awards

  • Dean's Award for Overall Excellence:  Jessica Durrum
  • Urban Planning Faculty Awards for Outstanding Achievement: Linda Samuels, Yumiko Ota, Eric Morris
  • Outstanding Graduating Doctoral Student:  Michael Smart
  • Service to the Department: Ryan Johnson, Pamela Stephens, Brenda Perez, Dao Doan 
  • Service to the Community:Lincoln Dominie, Ben Palmquist, Laura Pryor, Antonio Sanchez 
  • American Institute of Certified Planners Outstanding Student Award:  Madeline Wander
  • California Planning Foundation Graduating Student Scholarship:  Cristin Kenyon

Other Awards

  • Most Valued Alumnus: Amber Hawkes and Georgia Sheridan

Ph.D. Student Lee Mackey has been awarded a Long-Term Fieldwork Fellowship by the UCLA International Institute.  The award will support his project titled, “The Rise of Brazilian Technology Transfer Foreign Aid and Agroindustrial Development in Bolivia and El Salvador.”


  Letter to a Conservative Nation is the title of a new book published by Urban Planning Ph.D. student  Adam Dorr.  The book explains why selfishness is the organizing principle of the conservative worldview. 

The focus of Adam's doctoral research is on the ecological and social sustainability of urban landscapes, with particular emphasis upon urban agriculture and food systems and their potential to benefit environmental justice communities.

  Carter Rubin has been named as a 2012-13 David Bohnett Fellow in recognition of his academic preparation, analytical skills and enthusiasm for public service.  The Los Angeles Mayor's Fellowship Program was created to train the next generation of public servants in Los Angeles by bringing graduate-level policy research fellows onto the mayor's staff.  As a  Bohnett Fellow Carter will receive valuable hands-on work experience as well as provide high level research to the Mayor's office.  He willl be matched to a senior member of the mayoral staff to work on project-based work which may include policy research, and/or design and implementation of a program.

  Leah Murphy has received an Ann C. Rosenfield Public Affairs Fellowship.  The UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs established this fellowhip program as a high-level internship opportunity for exceptional public policy, social welfare and urban planning graduate students.  Fellows are assigned to work for senior executives at government agencies or well-established nonprofit and civic organizations on research, policy advocacy or applied projects tailored to their tracks of study.  Leah will work with the Southern California Association of Governments.

Social Justice Student Fellowships,  made possible by the generous support of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, are given to students for their outstanding research projects (capstone, client, dissertation) that address social justice and racial equity issues. The following Urban Planning Students are among this year's award recipients:

  • Will Dominie, MURP '12, “Is Equitable Growth Smarter Growth?”
  • Jessica Durrum and Kate Mayerson, MURP '12, “Envisioning an Equitable Future: Rights and Collective Action for Los Angeles’ Street Vendors"
  • Susan Nakaoka UP PhD and Yumiko Ota, MURP ’12, "Asserting Claims to Space in a Time of Cultural and Economic Displacement : The Little Tokyo Commmunity Asset Mapping Project”

The Social Justice Initiative advances the argument that a social justice perspective , a lens on the systemmic, institutional and structural conditions that constrain individual and community development , is a necessaryy and underdeveloped analytical tool in public affairs education. Questions of equity and justice ought to be treated as a core element of public affairs pedagogy. Not only does democratic theory require it, but the changing demographic patterns across the globe make it imperative that new cadres of public managers are properly trained and equipped to deal with the realities of program design and management, service delivery, and policy implementation in a diverse, globalized workforce.  Social justice includes issues of economic, social, racial or ethnic inequities or disparities, or barriers to equal opportunities or outcomes affecting disadvantaged groups.


Congratulations to 2012 MURP candidate Madeline Wander on being selected by the Board of Regents of the Eno Center for Transportation to participate in the 20th annual Eno Leadership Development Conference in Washington, DC, June 3-7, 2012.

The Leadership Development Conference provides a first-hand look at how transportation policy is developed and implemented.  Participants  meet with top government officials, leaders of associations, and members of Congress and their staff to see how the nation's transportation policies are debated, shaped, formed, and ultimately adopted and applied.   Upon completion of this intensive program, particpants will be better equipped to understand the policy-making process that will become increasingly more important as they pursue careers in transportation.

Ph.D. student Lee Mackey received an international fieldwork grant from the Land Deal Politics Initiative (LDPI) for his research on the rise of Brazilian technology, foreign aid and agroindustrial development in Latin America.  LDPI seeks to examine the recent wave of global large-scale land acquisitions for food and fuels and is a joint project of the Future Agricultures Consortium at the Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex, UK; the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies of the University of the Western Cape, South Africa; The Resources, Environments and Livelihoods cluster at the International Institute of Social Studies in the Hague, Netherlands; and the Polson Institute of Global Development of Cornell University. 

This follows on a previous LDPI grant that Lee received in 2011 for research on the politics of Brazilian landowning in Bolivian soybean frontiers that he recently presented at the first international academic conference to examine land deals, the International Conference on Global Land Grabbing at the Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex, England. 

His current research project, titled The Green and the Gold:  Brazil and the Regional Production of Ethanol Frontiers in Latin America, examines the Brazilian biofuels sector as a driver of land-based investments and land property change in Latin America based on fieldwork conducted in Brazil and Latin America, the results of which will be presented at the second International Conference on Global Land Grabbing at Cornell University in the autumn of 2012.

Urban Planning Ph.D. student Susan Nakaoka has been awarded the George and Sakaye Aratani Graduate Fellowship by the UCLA Asian American Studies Center.  Her research project is entitled "A Critical Race Theory Analysis of Japanese American Community Development: The Importance of Socio-spatial and Intersectional Forces in Honolulu, Los Angeles, and New York."


Congratulations to second year MURP students Shira Bergstein and Katie Lemmon who were awarded scholarships by the Orange County Women's Transportation Seminar (WTS).  The scholarships are competitive and based on the applicant's specific transportation involvement and goals, job skills and academic record.  The WTS Orange County graduate scholarships were presented at an Awards Gala in December.  The top winners may go on to compete nationally for the Leadership Legacy Scholarship (in the amount of $3,000) or the Helene M. Overly Memorial Scholarship (in the amount of $6,000). National awards will be presented on May 10, 2012.


The Women's Transportation Seminar (WTS) is a national organization of transportation professionals with more than 4,000 members who are committed to excellence in the transportation industry. The organization provides a neutral forum for the exchange of information, ideas and experiences; encourages the professional development of its members; and promotes industry recognition of women  in the field of transportation. 


  Lys Mendez is one of four students from the Luskin School who are participating in the 2011-12 Bohnett Fellows program.  Bohnett Fellows are selected to work with faculty and senior executives in the Mayor's Office on the real world issues that face the city of Los Angeles.   The program offers a great opportunity for students to gain first-hand experience in the highest levels of city government and provides senior executives in the Mayor’s office with an outstanding cohort of policy interns.

 Lys, a second year MURP student, is working with the Mayor's Office of Environment and Sustainability on transportation and climate adaptation issues.

Lys has worked as a reporter, covering city government and Latino affairs for the Press Enterprise in Riverside and as a  grant writer   Most recently, she worked in the public information office for the County of Riverside. Her interest in bike transportation, immigrant communities and economic development led her back to school at UCLA's graduate urban planning program. Her undergraduate degree is in Latin American Studies from UC Santa Cruz. Mendez enjoys discovering the city through its food and is glad to recommend some of LA's best taco trucks.  



Laura Pryor, second-year MURP, has been accepted into the Graduate Evaluation Diversity Internship (GEDI) program of the American Evaluation Association. Pryor, a Southern California native who received her  undergraduate degree from UC Berkeley, was awarded the fellowship through a national competition sponsored by the AEA.

The purpose of the year-long program is to engage graduate students from groups traditionally under-represented in the evaluation field and, through the program, expand and improve upon the evaluation work conducted in racially, ethnically, and culturally diverse settings.

The GEDI program interns each receive a $8,000 stipend and participate in an internship near their home institutions from Oct. 1 to July 1. Fellows also attend a four-day intensive seminar in Washington, D.C., as well the AEA annual conference, a winter seminar and the Evaluation Institute held in Atlanta each June, and participate in other activities related to AEA and its evaluation projects.

In addition to academics Laura excels in running!  She won the 35th annual Catalina Island Conservancy Marathon, one of the toughest in America with its hills and trails.  She  completed the 26-mile, 385-yard course in 3 hours, 51 minutes, 9 seconds



Second year MURP student Yumiko Ota has been awarded a scholarship from the Joint Japan/World Bank Graduate Scholarship Program (JJ/WBGSP) This competitive award includes tuition and fees and a monthly stipend. 


An article about the Advanced GIS course taught by Yoh Kawano in Spring 2011 was published in the Summer 2011 issue of the APA Planning & Technology Newsletter.  The authors, MURP candidates Erin Coleman, Dao Doan, Sarah Peters and Madeline Wander, talk about the value of the web-based GIS applications course which has provided opportunities for them as students and professionals.