UCLA Luskin Graduate Students Named 2023-24 Bohnett Fellows
Three UCLA Luskin graduate students have been selected to participate in the prestigious Bohnett Fellowship Program for the 2023-24 academic year. The program, sponsored by the David Bohnett Foundation, provides UCLA Luskin students the opportunity to work in the L.A. Mayor’s Office while completing their graduate studies at UCLA. This year’s fellows — representing all three of the School’s graduate programs — are: India Woods, who is pursuing a joint public policy and social welfare degree, posted to the Mayor’s Office of Public Safety; urban planning student Jose Alvarez, who will be at the Mayor’s Office of Infrastructure (previously public works); and public policy student Nelowfar Ahmadi, who will work at the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs. “Every year we have three new Bohnett Mayoral Fellows with fresh ideas and innovative approaches who bring their Luskin training and passion for problem solving to City Hall,” said Michael Fleming, executive director of the David Bohnett Foundation. The Bohnett Fellows will travel to Washington, D.C., to attend the United States Conference of Mayor’s annual winter meeting to learn from and network with city leaders across the nation. They also have the opportunity to meet with Bohnett Fellows and staff from the University of Michigan and New York University. “The Bohnett Fellowship, well into its second decade, strengthens UCLA Luskin’s reputation as an exceptional school of public affairs, and it has become a model for fellowship programs that generate future public service leaders,” said Kevin Medina MPP/MSW ’16, director of the UCLA Luskin Office of Student Affairs and Alumni Relations. Since its inception, more than 50 UCLA Luskin students have completed the yearlong fellowship.
Strong Support in California for Black Reparations
A new UCLA report shows that a clear majority of Californians support reparations for Black residents harmed by the nation’s legacy of slavery. The analysis, based on a survey of more than 2,400 adults in California in the spring of 2022, is in contrast to a nationwide poll showing weak support for reparations. “This is a significant shift in public sentiment around reparations,” said Elliot Woods, one of the UCLA report’s authors. “Only two years ago, Americans recognized racial injustice in the U.S., but most did not support reparations. Now, most Californians are focused on how, not if, we enact reparations to address racial harms stemming from slavery and systemic issues of racial injustice and discrimination that continue to harm Black Americans.” UCLA Luskin Professor Michael Stoll, director of the Black Policy Project at the UCLA Bunche Center for African American Studies, co-authored the research with Master of Public Policy students Woods and Tyler Webb. Their survey measured support for 11 types of possible reparation measures, including cash payments, non-cash financial benefits such as business or education grants, and non-monetary remedies such as issuing a formal apology. The report highlights different levels of support among respondent groups sorted by age, gender, race and political affiliation. The survey is an outgrowth of a Black Policy Project research effort commissioned by the state-appointed California Reparations Task Force and published by the state Department of Justice. The new report will be shared with state legislators who will consider the task force’s recommendations about how to atone for the collective trauma caused by slavery.
Honors Project Takes a Deep Dive Into Pandemic Anxieties
Members of UCLA’s class of 2023 will be the first to graduate having spent most, if not all, of their academic years living through a pandemic — and all the uncertainties, anxieties, and physical and mental health challenges that has entailed. Among those graduates will be psychology major and public affairs minor Leah Likin, who mined these experiences for her highly original and deeply personal honors capstone project, which won a Dean’s Prize for Excellence in Research and Creativity as part of UCLA’s 10th annual Undergraduate Research Week. Likin’s struggles with mental health during the pandemic — which at their worst necessitated inpatient psychiatric treatment — served as a springboard for the ambitious project. In addition to more traditional research and data collection, Likin incorporated poetry, personal writing and an art installation created at UCLA’s high-tech MakerSpace workshop. Her project included interviews with 15 people, ranging in age from 20 to 86, about a number of topics, including COVID-19, mental health, climate change, perception of time and the use of smartphones. Likin said these conversations helped her unpack her own mental health burdens. “It was interesting to explore my sense of loss and my sense of belonging during that time, and also my growth and sense of identity,” she said. Her advisor was Ron Avi Astor, UCLA Luskin professor of social welfare. Likin said she was inspired by how Astor would often read his poetry about his family’s mental health struggles during the multidisciplinary undergraduate course “Creating Safe and Welcoming Schools.” — Madeline Adamo
Segura Elected to National Academy of Sciences
Gary M. Segura, professor of public policy, political science and Chicano and Chicana Studies at UCLA, has been elected a member of the prestigious National Academy of Sciences. Segura is one of four UCLA faculty members newly elected to the academy in recognition of their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research. The four UCLA scholars will be among 120 U.S. and 23 international members who will be inducted into the Washington, D.C.-based organization in April 2024. “The Luskin School is extremely proud of Gary’s election to the National Academy of Sciences,” said UCLA Luskin Interim Dean Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris. “This is a top honor! He is joining a very elite group of the best and the brightest in the United States and the world.” Segura’s work has focused on issues of political representation and social cleavages, the domestic politics of wartime public opinion and the politics of America’s growing Latino minority. During his tenure as dean of the Luskin School from 2017 to 2022, he co-founded the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative, which later became the Latino Policy & Politics Institute. Segura was recommended for inclusion in the social and political sciences section, one of the organization’s 31 disciplinary areas, said Susan R. Wessler, home secretary of the academy, which was established under a congressional charter signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863. Wessler said the new inductees will join in the work of the academy. “We are an active, working academy that addresses important matters in science and advises the nation on problems where scientific insights are critical,” she said.
Making Sense of School Safety News, Good and Bad
Students from across UCLA gathered at the Luskin School on April 27 to hear school safety expert Ron Avi Astor’s insights on a complex question: If the overall level of violence on California campuses is in steep decline, why do we continue to see mass shootings that take young lives and terrorize communities? After decades of research, Astor has concluded that the two realities should be considered separate phenomena. The shootings, perpetrated by troubled individuals seeking lasting fame, dominate headlines, and Astor shared that he, too, had feared for the safety of his grandchildren when they started preschool. Yet his newly published research analyzing survey responses of more than 6 million California middle and high school students from 2001 to 2019 showed dramatic declines in physical fights and weapons-related behaviors, as well as non-physical types of victimization such as harassment and bullying. Astor pointed to stepped-up investment in improving campus climate over the last two decades, including the placement of more social workers, psychologists, counselors and other service providers on school campuses. These professionals have had a great impact on creating safe and welcoming schools but don’t get credit for all the work they have done to protect children, Astor told the students from UCLA’s social welfare, education, public health, law and other programs. Still, firearms remain in our midst, and Astor suggested that gun safety education, including licensing requirements, is one step communities can take to protect residents. “Let’s not let the school shootings take over the whole story and militarize our schools, which is really my greatest concern,” he said.
Paul Ong Inducted Into UCLA Faculty Mentoring Honor Society
Paul Ong, research professor and director of the Center for Neighborhood Knowledge at UCLA Luskin, was among 10 UCLA ladder faculty honored this year for excellence in mentoring and for contributions to the professional development of early-to-mid-career faculty at UCLA. Ong, who retired in 2017, was inducted into the UCLA Faculty Mentoring Honor Society’s 2023 cohort during an April 27 celebration at UCLA’s Faculty Club. Ong was nominated by Karen Umemoto, professor of urban planning and Asian American studies and director of the UCLA Asian American Studies Center, and Gilbert Gee, chair and professor of the Department of Community Health Sciences. “We cannot think of anyone more deserving than Professor Ong, who has dedicated over 35 years to mentoring students, young professionals and junior faculty,” wrote Gee and Umemoto. “There are few people blessed to have a lifetime mentor,” said Umemoto, a graduate student of Ong’s in the 1980s when he was a relatively new assistant professor in urban planning and Asian American studies. “Mentoring is a two-way street,” said Ong, explaining that younger faculty bring new perspectives that challenge old ideas, prodding senior faculty to rethink their own research. “The benefits of mentoring go beyond individuals because advising new scholars of color is essential to creating a diverse, equitable and inclusive community at UCLA and other universities,” added Ong, who remains active in research. The society, now in its second year, is supported through a University of California Office of the President (UCOP) grant to UCLA Faculty Development within UCLA’s Academic Personnel Office and co-sponsored by UCLA Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.
Santos Co-Chairs Workshop to Help Gender-Diverse Youth
On April 25, Carlos Santos, associate professor of social welfare, co-chaired an event by the National Academies of Sciences regarding oppressive policies that have affected the livelihoods of gender-diverse youth. The workshop, part of the Forum for Children’s Well-Being, focused on steps needed to ensure that queer people of color are supported and valued in all environments. “We hope to spotlight gender-diverse scholars, practitioners and those doing work directly with these populations,” Santos said. “We also want to underscore the need for an intersectional lens in doing this work as gender-diverse youth live at the intersection of various forces that can impact their lives, be it racism, heterosexism, ableism, classism and nativism.” The workshop highlighted research surrounding the health and well-being of gender-diverse youth as well as evidence-based guidance on the most effective ways to support them. Organizers also shared the voices of gender-diverse individuals, their parents and community leaders who are working to create a more inclusive community. They spoke about the challenges that youth deal with and what they need most to improve their health and well-being. Federal and state policies on health care for gender-diverse youth were reviewed at the workshop, which also emphasized the importance of breaking binary classroom structures that place students into male and female categories. Moving past these binary conventions will create a more inclusive environment for gender-diverse youth and will promote trans liberation, participants said. — Aminah Khan