Hecht Awarded Medal by American Geographical Society

Susanna Hecht, professor of urban planning at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, was recently awarded the prestigious David Livingstone Centenary Medal by the American Geographical Society. Hecht is a geographer who also holds appointments in UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, and the UCLA Department of Geography. She was honored by the institution, established in 1851, for her nearly three decades of pioneering research focused on land use change in the tropics, primarily in the Amazon rain forest. “Dr. Hecht is widely recognized as a preeminent authority on forest transitions and sustainable agriculture,” according to an AGS press release. “She is one of the founding thinkers of the field of political ecology, which integrates humanities, policy and social justice in its approach to issues.” The organization also noted Hecht’s “sophisticated comprehension of deforestation” and how it interacts with migration, the ecosystem and the possibilities of alternative economies. Hecht, who is also professor of international history at the Graduate Institute of International and Developmental Studies in Geneva, is the author of a number of books on the Amazon. Her 2013 work, “The Scramble for the Amazon and the Lost Paradise of Euclides da Cunha,” won the 2015 American Historical Association’s Best Book in Environmental History Award. “Susanna’s work on the Amazon exemplifies geography’s contributions to changing tropical conditions. She understands how economics, culture and land use operate in a society to reflect and change the environment,” said Deborah Popper, AGS vice president and chair of the Honors and Exploration Committee, which bestowed the award.


UCLA Luskin Master of Social Welfare Receives Top Ranking

The Master of Social Welfare (MSW) at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs has been named the No. 1 program of its kind in California for 2019-20 by HumanServicesEdu.org, an online resource for information on education, practice and employment in the human service fields. The organization describes the MSW as a comprehensive two-year program, selected from among California schools accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), that offers the highest level of training, designed to produce the next generation of well-equipped leaders in social work and to help advance the overall knowledge base of social work policy and practice. In a news release announcing the designation, HumanServicesEdu.org noted, “When we got to the UCLA Luskin Master of Social Welfare, it was clear we had a winner. With a decided focus on experiential learning, valuable opportunities to study abroad, and a world-class faculty with lots of front-line experience, UCLA Luskin offers students something they just won’t find anywhere else.” UCLA Luskin’s MSW program was among hundreds of schools across the United States assessed by the organization in compiling a list of the best programs for each state, according to Kelly Simpson, senior editor for HumanServicesEdu.org. UCLA Luskin also was recognized for offering hands-on experience in field work placements, as well as opportunities to participate in advanced research and projects, along with concurrent degrees available with other top UCLA programs including Asian American Studies, Law, Public Health and the Master of Public Policy program at UCLA Luskin.


Minority Health Improves in Positive School Environment, Study Finds

Low-income minority boys’ health improves when they are in high-performing school environments, according to a recent study by UCLA Luskin Associate Professor of Public Policy Sarah Reber and co-authors from the David Geffen School of Medicine. The study, published in JAMA Pediatrics, used admission lotteries for high-performing public charter schools in Los Angeles and surveyed 1,270 students who applied. Over a four-year period, their behavior was tracked. Among boys, the study found less marijuana use, less truancy, more time spent studying, greater teacher support for college and less school mobility. The study did not find any significant health improvements among girls. “Future studies targeting school-based social networks and school culture … can begin to identify the pathways through which to build healthier schools,” the researchers said. They concluded that investing in higher-quality public education will reflect positively on the students’ health. The study, titled “Assessment of Exposure to High-Performing Schools and Risk of Adolescent Substance Use: A Natural Experiment,” was co-authored by the School of Medicine’s Rebecca Dudovitz and Paul Chung. News coverage of the report appeared in U.S. News and World Report, Business Insider and other publications.


UCLA Luskin Assistant Professor Darin Christensen at a PRG workshop in Accra, Ghana.

Project on Resources and Governance Receives $1.4-Million Grant

The Project on Resources and Governance (PRG), launched in 2017 by three UCLA scholars, has received a three-year $1.4-million grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. PRG seeks to address the “resource curse,” in which countries with abundant natural resources that can be drivers of growth and prosperity nonetheless struggle with poverty, conflict and corruption. The project seeks to apply cutting-edge social science research methods to test and discover policies that promote welfare, peace and accountability in resource-rich countries. PRG is the brainchild of UCLA faculty members — Professor Michael Ross and Assistant Professor Graeme Blair of Political Science and Assistant Professor Darin Christensen of UCLA Luskin Public Policy, who holds a joint appointment with Political Science. The grant will be used to initiate new research projects in natural resource governance; to build capacity of decision makers to generate, interpret and apply rigorous evidence; and to grow the knowledge base on what works to help countries maximize benefits from their natural resource endowments.

View photos from the recent PRG workshop in Accra, Ghana.

Read about the origins of the Project on Resources and Governance.


Shoup Book Makes Planetizen’s Top 10

Donald Shoup’s latest book, “Parking and the City,” is among Planetizen’s Top 10 books of 2018. Planetizen says, “Donald Shoup has already written one of the most influential and consequential books in planning history, ‘The High Cost of Free Parking.’ Feeding the momentum of Shoup’s ongoing influence is a legion of devoted acolytes, known as Shoupistas . . . Shoup writes with unparalleled wit and style on the formerly technocratic matter of parking regulations.” The book’s 50 contributors include 11 former UCLA Luskin Urban Planning master’s and doctoral students.  The list of best titles published in 2018 features the work of distinguished authors writing on topics that also examine natural and environmental disasters, including earthquakes and the ongoing water crisis in Flint, Michigan, as well as poverty, public housing and sustainability. Shoup’s place in planning history was marked in 2018 with a spot on the American Planning Association’s timeline of key events in American city planning since 1900. “So long as it seemed impossible to reform parking policies, most planners didn’t think about trying,” Shoup said. “But attitudes toward parking policies are beginning to shift, and many planners now agree that parking reforms are both sane and practical.” — Stan Paul


Alumni Inducted Into California Social Work Hall of Distinction

Four UCLA Luskin alumni were among six individuals inducted into the California Social Work Hall of Distinction in fall 2018. Bill Coggins MSW ’55, Kathleen Kubota MSW ’82,  John Oliver MSW ’64 and Yasuko Sakamoto MSW ’83 were honored at a ceremony on Oct. 7, 2018. They were joined by inductees June Simmons, who received an MSW from USC in 1970, and Diane Takvorian, who earned an MSW from San Diego State University in 1976. The California Social Welfare Archives launched the Hall of Distinction in 2002 to ensure that the contributions of today’s social work leaders, innovators and pioneers will be recognized and preserved for the future. The archives plans to post oral history interviews with each of the six inductees. This year’s honorees leave a remarkable legacy.

A leader in counseling and educational services: Bill Coggins founded the Kaiser Permanente Watts Counseling and Learning Center, which offers a wide range of mental health and educational resources for free or at minimal cost for the children and families of Watts. Coggins served as the center’s executive director for more than 30 years. In May 2018, Coggins was honored as the first recipient of the UCLA Luskin Social Welfare Lifetime Achievement Award.

A dedicated child welfare advocate: As chief of Los Angeles County’s adoption division, project director of the Runaway Adolescent Pilot Project and L.A. County DCFS director of governmental relations, Kathleen Kubota has been instrumental in the advancement of social welfare programs directed toward improving the situations of children across Los Angeles. Kubota has been a trailblazer in bringing together diverse and even competing organizations to work toward shared social work goals.

A champion of equality and social justice: John Oliver’s research and leadership in professional organizations have focused on oppressed and underserved communities. He has been involved in the Council on Social Work Education, the California Social Work Education Center, the California Association of Deans and Directors of Social Work Programs and the California chapter of the National Association of Social Workers. Oliver, who holds a Ph.D. from Brandeis University, has received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the NASW California chapter, the UCLA Outstanding Alumni Award and election to the Black Administrators in Child Welfare Hall of Fame.

A pioneer of culturally sensitive services: Yasuko Sakamoto spearheaded the creation of bilingual and bicultural social work programs for Japanese and Japanese-American communities in Los Angeles. Sakamoto founded the Nikkei Family Counseling Program and was involved in the development of the Nikkei Tomodachi Program, Nikkei Helpline and other support groups that cater to the unique cultural needs of the Japanese and Nikkei populations. As an author and mental health advocate, Sakamoto has worked to improve the lives of the underserved.

Advocates for health, welfare and the environment: June Simmons is an innovator in senior healthcare programs who is dedicated to achieving better healthcare at lower cost for high-risk populations. Environmental justice and healthcare advocate Diane Takvorian strives to achieve public policies that improve the health of children, families and neighborhoods, as well as of the natural environment.


Torres-Gil Examines Nexus of Aging and Immigration

UCLA Luskin Professor Fernando Torres-Gil has co-authored a book on the shifting demographics of the U.S. titled “The Politics of a Majority-Minority Nation: Aging, Diversity, and Immigration.” In the next 30 years, the older population of the United States is expected to double and the country will become a majority-minority society. Torres-Gil and co-author Jacqueline Angel of the University of Texas, Austin, provide an in-depth examination of these demographic trends, which will undoubtedly affect the politics of aging, health, retirement security and immigration reform. The authors identify three forces that must be understood: “a politics of aging that includes generational tensions; conflicts over diversity and the need for immigrants; and the class divisions emanating from an economics of aging that may see greater poverty among the elderly.” Torres-Gil and Angel offer guidance for politicians and policymakers seeking to address these changes to ensure prosperity and security for generations to come. Torres-Gil is a professor of social welfare and public policy at UCLA Luskin and director of the Center for Policy Research on Aging. His career spans the academic, professional and policy arenas, and he is a nationally recognized authority on health care, entitlement reform and the politics of aging.