Part of the attraction of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs is the ability to take classes that cross three continuums – public policy, social welfare and urban planning.
Being able to put into practice what was learned spanning those focuses is part of the idea behind the School's vision.
But being able to put that into practice in bringing one of the biggest attractions to Los Angeles is exactly what Maria Mehranian did.
Mehranian is the managing partner and chief financial officer for the Cordoba Corporation, which helped engineer the space shuttle Endeavour’s arrival in Los Angeles and its eventual move to Exposition Park.
A Luskin School board member and a master’s of urban and regional planning graduate, Mehranian was a large part of planning the Endeavour’s path through the streets of LA. Along with Steve Soboroff's help in bringing the space shuttle to LA, the UCLA Luskin School had two of its board members heavily involved in this, well, endeavour.
And that’s how she put into practice what she learned in urban planning and also in public policy.
“It’s how you bring together policy makers and collaborate,” she said. “Everybody watches and learns from it.”
From transit planning and working with different governmental agencies, Mehranian crossed the borders, much the same way she did as a student.
“I think the process that was interesting for me was working with the inter-governmental organizations,” Mehranian said. “What I learned in policy studies is how do you coordinate them and bring them all together?”
Then she ticked off about a half-dozen groups she had to work with – the Department of Water and Power, the cities of Inglewood and Los Angeles, the Mayor’s Office, etc. – because “they all have to come together.”
Then there was the urban planning portion of her role: getting a ship that’s been to the most extreme parts of space through the city’s streets.
Initially the idea was to cut down upwards of 400 trees to make more room for the 78-foot wingspan, but Mehranian’s work made it so only about a quarter of that number were chopped.
“I’m very proud of that,” she said. “That was one of the reasons it was delayed. We made it zig-zag (in the streets) so we wouldn’t cut down as many trees.”
For the trees that did get cut down, Mehranian and Cordoba made sure to replace the trees on a four-to-one basis and create programs for kids about tree planting.
Working on this project has only helped Mehranian and her corporation for their next big venture: bringing a high-speed rail line that stretches from Sacramento to San Diego.
“It’s a project nobody has done in the United States yet, so how do you learn from it?” she said. “You stay local. That’s another thing I learned at UCLA – think globally and act locally.”