By Adeney Zo
UCLA Luskin Student Writer
Urban Planning student Jadie Wasilco’s passion for affordable housing issues has earned her a Howard and Irene Levine Distinguished Fellowship, a new program offered through the UCLA Ziman Center for Real Estate.
Prior to studying at UCLA Luskin, Wasilco began her work in affordable housing at a nonprofit legal firm in San Francisco called “Home Base,” which offered technical legal assistance to local counties working to combat homelessness. Her interest in urban planning and community development as well as the performing arts led her to move to New York, where she got a position at the renowned Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts as Coordinator of Government & Community Relations. “They were undergoing a large-scale redevelopment at the time, so there was tremendous involvement with community groups, art organizations and government agencies. I acted as the liaison between Lincoln Center and these particular stakeholders,” Wasilco relates. “That position kept me interested in redevelopment and working with the government, even though it wasn’t directly related to housing issues.”
After working in New York for a few years, Wasilco made the decision to enter graduate school to further her studies in the field of community development and housing. In her first year of graduate school, Wasilco also interned for the LA County Housing Department, which she describes as an experience that “really helped refuel my interest in affordable housing during my first year.”
Wasilco, now a second-year student, was recently selected as one of three students to become part of the first-ever Levine Distinguished Fellowship. The program is structured to support students interested in real estate and housing issues through an annual stipend, mentorship component with a UCLA Ziman Center board member, access to real estate events and professional networking opportunities.
Howard Levine, member of the founding board for the UCLA Ziman Center for Real Estate, and his wife, Irene, also sponsor an MBA real estate and social entrepreneurship course (meant to be taken in conjunction with the fellowship), along with a speaker series as part of their Howard and Irene Levine Program in Housing and Social Responsibility. Wasilco explains, “The Levines wanted this fellowship to be part of a broader initiative focused on the intersection of social responsibility and real estate.”
The fellowship is still in its beginning stages, but Wasilco looks forward to witnessing the fruits of the program in the form of a final project each fellow will present at the end of the year. “The program requires a deliverable at the end of the year of the fellowship, so it will be a interesting to see what projects will come out of it,” she explains. “Since this is a collaborative between students from the law, public affairs and business schools, the program will mean different things for people from different backgrounds. The goal is to see how you take advantage of this fellowship and run with it.”
Though her graduation is also fast approaching, Wasilco plans to to explore a variety of career options as she completes her year in the fellowship. “I’m definitely interested in going into housing - anything from nonprofit housing development to real estate consulting,” she says. “I’ve always been interested in urban planning, as it connects a variety of issues cities face and puts them together on common ground. These are the kind of issues that I’m interested in pursuing in the future.”