Growing to Meet the Challenge of a Changing World UCLA Luskin faculty additions bring new expertise to help keep pace with a rapidly evolving society

By Stan Paul

Retreating coastlines. An information revolution. The ever-evolving ethnic makeup of the United States. These are times of rapid change, presenting new challenges to how and where we live and work.

Meeting the challenges of this new normal and finding solutions to shifting problems and populations, the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs has undergone unprecedented growth. In fall 2018, nine new scholars joined Luskin’s faculty in positions that cross disciplinary lines within the School and across the campus. This follows the addition of six other new faculty members since 2016. Four more are being recruited.

This expansion is partly tied to the launch of a new undergraduate major in public affairs, but it’s about more than filling out a schedule of classes. The School has become one of the most diverse and interdisciplinary units in the University of California system, Dean Gary Segura said. The additions were designed to expand “expertise and social impact,” making the school “profoundly well-positioned to engage, educate, study, and contribute to California’s diverse and dynamic population.”

Among the new faculty, six are women and four are Latino.

Some already have strong interests in Los Angeles as well as ties to UCLA and the region, and others will have the opportunity to incorporate Los Angeles into their work.

“I’m extremely excited to be coming home, living on the Eastside and working on the Westside,” said Chris Zepeda-Millán, associate professor of public policy and Chicana/o studies. Zepeda-Millán, a political scientist who grew up in East Los Angeles, studies how mass protest impacts public opinion, policy preferences, identities and political participation. His book, “Latino Mass Mobilization, Immigration, Racialization, and Activism,” received awards this year from the American Political Science Association and the American Sociological Association.

Zepeda-Millán is thrilled to be at UCLA: “It’s truly a dream come true.”

Martin Gilens, professor of public policy, previously taught political science at UCLA. After a long stint at Princeton, he returned to UCLA, where he has multi-generational ties — his parents and grandfather are

Bruins. A native Angeleno, Gilens studies race, class, social inequality and their representational effects in the political system. He teaches courses to graduate and undergraduate students.

“I’m looking forward to the interdisciplinary environment of the Luskin School,” Gilens said. “My Ph.D. is in sociology, and I’ve taught in political science and public policy, so I’m a walking embodiment of interdisciplinarity.”

Natalie Bau adds global perspective and reach. She is an economist studying development and education, with a particular interest in the industrial organization of educational markets. She looks at cultural traditions — such as bride price and dowry practiced in some countries — and their role in determining parents’ human capital investments in their children, and how they evolve in response to the economic environment.

In Zambia, she and research colleagues are tracking the outcomes of 1,600 adolescent girls to evaluate the effects of an experiment that randomly taught negotiation skills.

“My research interests include understanding factors that impact police decision-making and public trust in police,” said Assistant Professor of Public Policy Emily Weisburst, who studies labor economics and public finance, including criminal justice and education. “I am also interested in how interactions with the criminal justice system affect individuals, families and communities.”

Amada Armenta earned her doctorate in sociology in 2011 from UCLA and returns as an assistant professor in UCLA Luskin Urban Planning.

“I am thrilled to be back, to contribute to a university that has played such a formative role in my education,” said the author of the award-winning book, “Protect, Serve and Deport: The Rise of Policing as Immigration Enforcement.” Most recently she has examined how undocumented Mexican immigrants navigate bureaucracies in Philadelphia.

“Put briefly, I study the social impacts of climate change and how cities are adapting,” says Assistant Professor of Urban Planning Liz Koslov. “My research specifically focuses on the adaptation strategy known as ‘managed retreat,’ the process of relocating people, un-building land, and restoring habitat in places exposed to flooding, sea level rise, and other effects of climate change.”

Koslov is working on a book aptly titled, “Retreat,” that follows residents of Staten Island in New York City whose houses were damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Sandy and who subsequently decided to relocate rather than rebuild in place.

Like Koslov, new Urban Planning colleague V. Kelly Turner conducts research with an environmental lens. Her work addresses the relationship among institutions, urban design and the environment through two interrelated questions: How does urban design relate to ecosystem services in cities? And to what extent do social institutions have the capacity to deliver those services?

Turner said her approach draws from social-ecological systems frameworks to address urban planning and design problem domains. She has used this approach to investigate microclimate regulation through New Urbanist design, water and biodiversity management through homeowners associations, and stormwater management through green infrastructure interventions.

Joining UCLA Luskin Social Welfare is Amy Ritterbusch, who has led social justice-oriented participatory action research initiatives with street-connected communities in Colombia for the last decade, and also recently in Uganda. Her work documents human rights violations and forms of violence against the homeless, sex workers, drug users and street-connected children and youth, and subsequent community-driven mobilizations to catalyze social justice outcomes within these communities.

“My current research contemplates the dilemmas within our social movement in terms of how to create protective environments for social justice researchers and activists in the midst of working on and against acts of violence and injustice,” Ritterbusch said.

Assistant Professor of Social Welfare Carlos Santos draws on diverse disciplines, theories and methods to better understand how oppressions such as racism and heterosexism overlap to create unique conditions for individuals.

With a background in developmental psychology, Santos believes that developmental phenomena must be studied across diverse disciplines and perspectives. He draws on the largely interdisciplinary interpretive framework of intersectionality, which is a view “underscoring how systems of oppression overlap to create inequities.”

Marcus Anthony Hunter

A New Vision of Black America Launches Transdisciplinary Venture In first event of Schoolwide seminar series, 'Chocolate Cities' author calls for a fresh lens on culture and history

By Mary Braswell

To fully comprehend the experience of black Americans, start by throwing out conventional maps, tired vocabularies and old ways of thinking.

That is the core message of Marcus Anthony Hunter, chair of African American Studies at UCLA and co-author of a new book about the struggle and triumph of black culture over many generations.

Hunter drew on insights and anecdotes from the book, “Chocolate Cities: The Black Map of American Life,” to engage an audience of more than 50 students, faculty and guests at a Nov. 19, 2018, lecture at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.

“I believe that in order to move forward into a more productive world and more productive scientific conversation about space, place and people, we need new words,” he said. “And new words bring realities, bring frameworks, and so my agenda today is to give you some new words and bring it from the culture.”

Hunter’s takeaway — to seek out fresh vantage points for a clearer picture of truth — was a fitting launch for the Transdisciplinary Speaker Series at UCLA Luskin. A collaborative effort by Public Policy, Social Welfare and Urban Planning, the new series brings in lecturers from across the spectrum of social sciences to share messages that cross, even erase, disciplinary lines.

“We are talking about how to step out of our silos,” said Social Welfare Professor Mark Kaplan, who spearheaded the seminar series. “This is really an effort to get people to think beyond their immediate range of disciplinary interest.”

Faculty members including Mark Peterson of Public Policy, Laura Wray-Lake of Social Welfare and Amada Armenta and Kian Goh of Urban Planning worked together to nominate speakers “who perhaps we would not think of in our own fields,” Kaplan said.

The series aspires to do more than simply attract people curious about what’s happening outside their own disciplines. It aims to shatter old paradigms, overcome institutional resistance, encourage collaborative work and find solutions to the tough social problems that UCLA Luskin tackles daily, Kaplan said.

He envisions UCLA Luskin as a laboratory for the transdisciplinary approach, an idea that has been incubating at the School for years. The initiative got new life in spring 2018 when Dean Gary Segura met with Kaplan and endorsed the lecture series and its broader ambitions.

Hunter’s talk showed the potential of the cross-pollination approach, weaving urban geography together with demographic data, oral histories, news archives and a large dose of cultural touchpoints from poetry, fiction, film and music.

Parliament Funkadelic’s 1975 “Chocolate City” album inspired Hunter and co-author Zandria F. Robinson to adopt the term as a fitting description of black communities, replacing “slum,” “ghetto,” “Buttermilk Bottom,” “Cabrini Green,” “South Central” — and the stereotypes they invoke.

“Wherever two or more black people are gathered, there is a chocolate city,” Hunter told the Transdisciplinary Speaker Series audience. But he stressed that the black experience does not require a physical bond.

“There’s this idea of connectivity across black space that to me is deeply, deeply profound,” said Hunter, an associate professor of sociology. “Without meeting with each other, there’s a similar sentiment about all sorts of things related to trauma, struggle and accomplishment.”

To underscore his argument that conventional borders are misleading and outmoded, Hunter played audio of Malcolm X’s 1964 address at King Solomon Baptist Church in Detroit.

“If you black, you were born in jail, in the North as well as the South,” the racial justice advocate said. “Stop talking about the South. As long as you south of the Canadian border, you South.”

Hunter’s reimagining of U.S. territory is made up of many different “Souths.”

“When we think about the South, we’re talking about surveillance, Jim Crow, racial segregation, residential segregation. We know from the research that these practices exist all across the United States, but we usually attribute bad behavior to the South,” Hunter said.

“Everywhere is the South if you are black. The South follows black people as they leave.”

Some of these geographies exist below the surface, as in the case of black transgender women, Hunter argued. He aired video clips of “the two Ms. Johnsons”: Gay rights activist Marsha P. Johnson was killed in suspicious circumstances in New York City in 1992. Duanna Johnson was shot to death on a Memphis street in 2008, months after her videotaped beating by two police officers drew wide condemnation. The killers of these two black transgender women have never been found.

“Your status as trans puts you at this really interesting and dangerous intersection and you often come up missing,” said Hunter, who devoted a chapter in his book to the two Ms. Johnsons and the little-known worlds they traversed.

“Our goal here was to recover those maps and to also honor the lives of these people who tried to navigate the chocolate city in all of its dangers and wonders.”

View a Flickr album from the Transdisciplinary Speaker Series event.

Amada Armenta

Amada Armenta’s research examines the connections between the immigration enforcement system and the criminal justice system, and the implications of this connection for immigrants, bureaucracies, and cities.

Her award-winning book, “Protect Serve and Deport: The Rise of Policing as Immigration Enforcement” (University of California Press, 2017), analyzes the role of local law enforcement agencies in immigration enforcement in Nashville, Tennessee. Currently, she is working on her second book project, an examination of the legal attitudes of unauthorized Mexican immigrants in Philadelphia.

Dr. Armenta’s research has been published in journals of sociology, law and society, and policy. She has received research funding from the American Sociological Association, the National Science Foundation, the American Society of Criminology, and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Prior to joining Luskin as a faculty member, she was an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Pennsylvania.

Policy Academy Offers Tools to Take On Challenges in Latino Communities Three days of workshops at UCLA Luskin teach elected officials from Connecticut to California how to support their constituencies

By Stan Paul

When elected leaders from across the country gathered at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs for three days of workshops on housing, transit, criminal justice, education, public safety and immigration, a recurring theme ran through each conversation.

“Every issue, every single issue, is a Latino issue,” said Sonja Diaz, founding director of the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative and a 2010 graduate of UCLA Luskin who got a master’s degree in public policy.

Diaz was speaking to about 60 state legislators, county and municipal officials, school board members and higher education trustees at the first-ever National Education Leadership and Public Policy Academy, held Aug. 3–5.

Organized by LPPI and the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund, the event was a “master’s course of our policy work … in the hopes that you will take this information and apply it in your communities,” Diaz told participants, who traveled from as far away as Florida, Connecticut and Hawaii.

Discussions led by expert panelists, she said, would be informed by two things: data and facts.

“By shaping policy and making sure this policy is tailored for kids, for immigrants, communities of color and, frankly, all Americans, we’re all better off,” Diaz said. “And we’re going to do it together.”

For Arturo Vargas, chief executive officer of NALEO Educational Fund, one major goal was how to get to the “great unengaged.” Many Latinos have little or no faith in the political system, he said, and “there isn’t any significant investment in Latino voter engagement in the United States.”

Citing the 2016 elections, Vargas continued, “Half of the Latino electorate was not part of the national conversation with the campaigns, and it happens consistently.” He urged officeholders to take up some of this responsibility in their districts.

UCLA Luskin graduate student Gabriela Solis helps lead a real-world policy practicum during the conference. Photo by Tessa McFarland

The weekend series of presentations and workshops was supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and by State Farm. It included opportunities to network with peers and while participating in group sessions, attendees developed tools and information to craft policy reforms on issues such as public safety.

Marisa Perez, a member of the board of trustees at Cerritos College, said many Latino students get their start in higher education at a community college.

“Whatever I can take back to my college to better support our students, that’s what I’m looking forward to learning about,” Perez said as the conference got underway.

Citing an achievement gap in his home state, Jon Koznick, a member of the Minnesota House of Representatives, said he wanted more hard data on issues related to Latino youth, especially boys.

“I’m excited to learn a little bit more about how we can have some stronger impact” in economic development and employment, he said.

Speakers and panelists at the academy included researchers from UCLA and other universities, as well as from policy institutes, foundations and associations.

Gary Segura, dean of UCLA Luskin, presented a case study on transit-oriented development in Oakland’s Fruitvale Village, that city’s largest Latino community. With co-panelist Chris Iglesias, chief executive officer of the nonprofit Unity Council, he discussed how the city used transit as a means for economic development and how that affected residents’ socioeconomic well-being.

Segura, a faculty co-director of Latino Policy and Politics Initiative, pointed to the initiative’s empirical study comparing Fruitvale residents to those living in similar communities over a 15-year period in the Bay Area and throughout California. The study found that, although the Latino population in Fruitvale changed by only 1 percent, homeownership increased by 8 percent, the bachelor’s degree completion rate climbed by 13 percent, and household income increased by 47 percent.

“So you can change a place without changing a people if you provide a set of economic structures and opportunities and services,” Segura said.

The dean encouraged participants to seek partnerships with local policy schools. “Oftentimes, communities of color think of universities as not invested in their issues, and, by the way, that frequently is true,” Segura said. “But there are places where that is not true and I would encourage you to look.”

Matt Barreto, UCLA professor of political science and Chicana and Chicano studies, presented demographic data to explain the growth in the country’s Latino population.

“Why is the Latino population growing so quickly? Because we have an extremely young population,” said Barreto, pointing out that the largest population distribution is under age 5; for whites, the largest group is adults in their 50s.

“The population is growing at a rate faster now than most demographers 10 years ago were anticipating or estimating. And it’s almost entirely driven by U.S. births,” said Barreto, also a faculty co-director of LPPI.

Amada Armenta, who joined the UCLA Luskin Urban Planning faculty in July, spoke about the intersections between criminal justice and immigration enforcement systems.

Even in so-called sanctuary cities, contact with the police can have consequences for immigrants because of Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s practice of using criminal justice databases to find immigrants and staking out jails and courthouses to take people into custody.

“Interactions with police have important ramifications for the way people feel about local government, democracy and their place in society more generally,” Armenta said. “I want local leaders to understand that … true community policing requires changing police practices so that they align with priorities of neighborhood residents.”

In a keynote lunchtime address, Vargas of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, focused on the U.S. Census.

“The census is really only about two things: It’s about power and money: who gets it, who keeps it, and who’s denied it,” he said. “When the numbers are wrong, the allocation of political power is uneven.”

Legal battles over a proposed citizenship question are being waged in court, he said, but the public also must be heard. The U.S. Census Bureau is seeking public input on the 2020 headcount.

“We need your help, people,” Vargas said. “We need to fight this.”

View more photos from the conference in an album on Flickr.

LPPI NALEO conference

9 New Faculty Hired by UCLA Luskin An extraordinary recruitment effort that included visits by 40 candidates will soon enlarge the size of the full-time faculty by almost 20 percent, adding new expertise and greater diversity

By Les Dunseith

Nine new faculty members will be joining the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs on July 1 as part of a hiring binge that will soon enlarge the size of the full-time faculty by almost 20 percent and further diversify its demographic makeup.

The additions will help UCLA Luskin expand it course offerings, in part to support the new undergraduate major in public affairs set to launch in fall of 2018. A few positions will fill openings that had become vacant because of faculty retirements and other departures.

Dean Gary Segura said the new hires expand the Luskin School’s range of knowledge and evolve its faculty to better match the country’s rapidly changing demographics.

“These additions to the Luskin School faculty represent an outstanding growth and expansion of our expertise and social impact,” Segura said. “With these additions and those last year, we are among the most diverse and interdisciplinary units in the entire UC system and profoundly well-positioned to engage, educate, study, and contribute to California’s diverse and dynamic population.”

Six of the new hires are women and four are Latino. They include two new assistant professors in Social Welfare and three new assistant professors in Urban Planning, plus two assistant professors, one associate professor and one full professor who will join Public Policy.

The new faculty represent additional expertise for the School in international human and women’s rights; survey research; environmental planning, adaptation, and justice; criminal justice and bias in policing; immigration; gentrification; social and political inequality; poverty; and social identity among youth.

Among the additions are three political scientists, two economists, a developmental psychologist, a sociologist and a geographer. All of the positions have multidisciplinary aspects, crossing department lines not only within the Luskin School but also, in some cases, with academic units elsewhere on campus.

In all, 40 candidates were interviewed, coming from across the United States and around the world. The new faculty range from people just finishing graduate school to a full professor.

Here are the nine new faculty members:

  • The full professor is Martin Gilens, who previously taught political science at UCLA and has also worked at Yale and, most recently, Princeton. Gilens, who will join the Public Policy faculty, grew up in Los Angeles and has strong ties to the university.

 Read our previous story about Martin Gilens

 


  • Amada Armenta: She is returning to UCLA where she completed her PhD in sociology, and will join Urban Planning in the fall. Armenta comes to UCLA from the University of Pennsylvania where she is an Assistant Professor of Sociology. Her work looks at immigration enforcement and its impact on the lives and communities affected. She is particularly interested in the intervention of the criminal justice system in immigration enforcement. She has been published in Social Problems and the Annual Review of Sociology, in addition to her University of California Press book, “Protect, Serve, and Deport: The Rise of Policing as Immigration Enforcement.”

 


  • Natalie Bau: She is an international economist currently at the University of Toronto and will be joining Public Policy. Bau’s work examines several different aspects of the economics of education and educational policies and their downstream implications, including the effects on marriage patterns, teacher pay, student achievement and motivation, and others. She has projects in the works including “The Misallocation of Pay and Productivity in the Public Sector: Evidence from the Labor Market for Teachers” as well as “Labour Coercion and Economic Growth: Evidence from the Harrying of the North.”

 


  • Liz Koslov: She will assume a joint post in Urban Planning and the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability as an assistant professor. Koslov is a scholar of environmental justice and specifically examines the urban socio-cultural impacts of climate change. She is currently a Mellon Post-Doctoral Fellow at MIT, and holds a PhD in Media, Culture, and Communication from New York University. She is in the process of completing her first book, “Retreat: Moving to Higher Ground in a Climate-Changed City,” under contract to the University of Chicago Press.

 


  • Amy Ritterbusch: She will be joining Social Welfare. Ritterbusch is a human and urban geographer and currently an associate professor of government at the Universidad de los Andes in Bogotá, Colombia. Her work is focused on urban social justice movements, marginalized youth, substance abuse, prostitution and other downstream effects of child poverty. She also brings extensive expertise in field work, ethnographic methods and Latin American populations across the hemisphere. She has written several journal articles, which have been featured in Child, Abuse & Neglect, Global Public Health, Annals of the American Association of Geographers and other peer-reviewed journals.

  • Carlos Santos: Currently an assistant professor in counseling psychology at ASU, Santos is coming to UCLA Luskin Social Welfare. His work is principally on gender and ethnic identities, stereotypes, and their impacts on social adjustment, educational performance and outcomes among adolescents in communities of color. He received his PhD from NYU and his work has been funded by NSF and NIH. In addition to his monograph “Studying Ethnic Identity” for the American Psychological Association, his work has been published in many outlets, including the Journal of Youth and Adolescence and the Journal of Counseling Psychology.

  • V. Kelly Turner: Turner is currently an assistant professor of geography at Kent State and her focus is human-environmental interaction and urban management.  She will join Luskin Urban Planning in the fall. Her focus has been on how institutional arrangements and good metrics for resource consumption can help us build toward a more sustainable ecosystem, and she has applied this work to water resources, sustainable urbanism, and green infrastructure. She is the author of more than a dozen journal articles in publications such as Applied Geography, Ecology and Society, Urban Geography, and others.

  • Emily Weisburst: She is finishing a PhD in economics at UT-Austin and will be joining Public Policy. Her work focuses on bias in policing, officer discretion in arrest behavior, police reform, and the effects of police presence in public schools. Weisburst previously served as a staff economist at the Council of Economic Advisors in the Executive Office of the President, and has done collaborative research for RAND and the State of Texas. Her work has been published in the Journal of Higher Education and Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis.

  • Chris Zepeda-Millan: He joins Luskin Public Policy. Zepeda-Millan is a political scientist and current professor of ethnic studies at UC Berkeley. His research focuses on social movements, immigration and communities of color, and has been published in American Journal of Political Science, Political Research Quarterly, Social Science Quarterly, and Politics, Groups and Identities. His book, “Latino Mass Mobilization: Immigration, Racialization and Activism,” was recently published by Cambridge University Press. Zepeda-Millan will be jointly appointed in the Department of Chicana/o Studies and will be working with the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative.