Social Welfare Rises to Top 8 in U.S. News Rankings Luskin School also continues to rank among the nation’s top graduate schools overall in public affairs

UCLA Luskin’s overall ranking this year remains among the top public affairs graduate schools in the nation based on the latest U.S. News & World Report ratings released today, including a boost in ranking among social work programs to No. 8.

The School’s Social Welfare program moved up a notch nationwide, sharing its No. 8 position with Boston University, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Texas, Austin. Among public universities, the UCLA Luskin Social Welfare program is now one of the top 5 nationwide and remains among the top 2 in California.

“It is an honor to be rated so highly by our peer institutions for our master’s in social welfare program, and that our ranking continues to climb,” said UCLA Luskin Social Welfare Professor Laura Abrams, who has served as chair for the past seven years. “Our program’s mixture of pedagogy, cutting-edge research and opportunities for leadership continue to attract an amazing group of motivated MSW students. I am very proud to see our program acknowledged on the national stage.”

The School — with graduate departments in Public Policy, Social Welfare and Urban Planning, and a Public Affairs undergraduate program — also received high marks for subcategories that include urban policy (No. 7), social policy (No. 6) and public policy analysis (No. 14).

“Our rank among top Public Affairs schools in the nation is a reflection of our commitment to excellence in research, teaching, and service to the community,” said UCLA Luskin Interim Dean Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris.

These latest rankings are calculated from qualitative ratings on academic quality submitted by top officials at colleges and universities. U.S. News surveyed deans, directors and department chairs representing 271 master’s programs in public affairs and administration, and more than 300 social work programs accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of the Council on Social Work Education. The National Association of Deans and Directors of Schools of Social Work supplied U.S. News with the lists of accredited social work schools and programs, plus the respondents’ names.

See the full list of the 2024 U.S. News & World Report Best Graduate Schools. Read more about the public affairs ranking methodology.

Restoring Confidence in New York’s Subway System

UCLA Luskin Interim Dean Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris spoke to the New York Times about strategies to increase safety on New York’s subway system. A string of recent attacks, some involving firearms, have eroded many subway riders’ sense of security. To keep guns out of the subway system, officials should consider stepping up security screenings in ways that affect service as little as possible, said Loukaitou-Sideris, who co-authored a chapter of the 2015 book “Securing Transportation Systems.” In addition to conducting frequent and rigorous bag checks, transit officials could install metal detectors and X-ray machines — a more expensive option but one that the Shanghai Metro has implemented efficiently, Loukaitou-Sideris said. Transportation officials around the world have also been studying the addition of firearm-detecting sensors to fare-collection devices and ticketing machines. “You have to eliminate the opportunity to bring the gun on the train,” Loukaitou-Sideris said.


A New Era for Sidewalks, the Ultimate Public Space

A New York Times story on a project to repair and restore 108 blocks of sidewalk surrounding Central Park called on UCLA Luskin Interim Dean Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris to provide history and context. “Sidewalks are the ultimate public space. They exemplify openness and democracy,” Loukaitou-Sideris said. “They really have to be open and accessible to everyone, regardless of age, gender, disability, race, ethnicity.” The urban planning scholar and author of “Sidewalks: Conflict and Negotiation Over Public Space” said sidewalks first became widespread in the United States in the 19th century but have many more uses today. Electric scooters, delivery robots, people using Google Maps on foot, people waiting for Ubers and restaurants expanding outdoors have all found a place on the sidewalk. “There are all these new uses that have been brought about by digital technology and the pandemic,” Loukaitou-Sideris said. “Sidewalks are becoming more important than what they have been, and it might be a new era for sidewalks.”


School Travels to State Capital for Research Briefing and Alumni Gathering Back-to-back events in Sacramento provide networking opportunities and showcase scholarly works

In mid-February, a contingent of more than 30 people from UCLA Luskin made the trip to northern California in an effort to connect with alumni, government officials and policy experts involved in state government.

The two-day gathering in Sacramento was envisioned as the first of what will become an annual feature of the Luskin’s School’s outreach efforts, pairing an alumni get-together in the state capital with a research-focused briefing for elected officials and their staffs.

The UCLA Luskin Briefing at UC Center Sacramento took place during the time when new bills were being finalized for the next legislative session, and the hope is that the research of UCLA Luskin and its various research centers can put current and future legislative leaders in a better position to make data-informed decisions.

“It was very well attended by elected and appointed officials,” noted Interim Dean Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, who made the effort a priority for this academic year and actively participated in the planning process. “The elected officials I talked to afterward were very appreciative for the event and told me that they hope to see more such events from our School.”

Two briefing sessions were held. A session on water management highlighted research by Adjunct Associate Professor Gregory Pierce MURP ’11 PhD UP ’15, co-executive director of the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation. A session on affordable housing was led by Associate Professor Michael Lens, associate faculty director of the Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies.

The briefing and the Alumni Regional Reception, which took place the evening before, brought together faculty, staff or alumni from all four departments — Public Policy, Social Welfare, Urban Planning and the Undergraduate Program — as well as members of the Luskin School’s Board of Advisors.

A group of about 20 current Master of Public Policy students also made the trip, getting an opportunity to connect directly with alumni whose footsteps they may hope to follow, including Assemblyman Isaac Bryan MPP ’18, a member of the affordable housing panel.

Find out more about the briefing and view the bios of the 12 people who participated as speakers or panelists.

View photos from the alumni reception

Sacramento Alumni Regional Reception 2024

View photos from the research briefing

Sacramento Briefing 2024


Resisting the ‘New McCarthyism’ on College Campuses and Beyond In a UCLA lecture, historian Barbara Ransby warns of a 'war over ideas, over facts, over how we see and understand the world'

By Mary Braswell

As a leading scholar of the social and political struggles that have shaped the American experience, Barbara Ransby could easily identify the troubling signs around her.

A climate of fear, intimidation and guilt by association is on the rise today, hallmarks of what she called a new McCarthyism — not just in the halls of power but on college campuses that have historically prided themselves on freedom of expression.

“There is a war right on our campuses, a war over ideas, over facts, over how we see and understand the world, over what we can publish and what we can teach, over how we can protest and whether we can protest,” Ransby told a UCLA audience on Feb. 8.

“Our campuses are central battlegrounds and, overall, on the spectrum of liberalism to authoritarianism, we unfortunately see a steady and frightening move toward authoritarianism.”

But Ransby also pointed to important work being done on campuses around the country, “sites of resistance that inspire me and make me optimistic and hopeful in this moment.”

Ransby, an award-winning historian, author and activist, has a long record of building bridges between scholars and grassroots organizers in their common fight for equal rights and opportunities.

She is a founding member of Scholars for Social Justice, was named to the inaugural class of Freedom Scholars by the Marguerite Casey Foundation, and directs the Social Justice Initiative at the University of Illinois, Chicago, where she is a distinguished professor of African American studies, gender and women’s studies, and history.

Ransby spoke to a capacity crowd in the Grand Salon at UCLA’s Kerckhoff Hall as part of the Luskin Lecture Series and the 2nd Annual Distinguished Lecture in Ideas and Organizing presented by the UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy (II&D).

The event was preceded by a reception and exhibit of photos from Aetna Street in Van Nuys, an encampment where people sheltered in tents and vehicles until the site was cleared by Los Angeles city officials last August. Aetna Street residents, local activists and UCLA scholars are part of a research collective formed to study the struggle for justice for the unhoused, and the photos on display offered glimpses of the community’s experiments in living and public grieving.

During the lecture and panel discussion, several UCLA scholars whose work centers on social justice shared the stage with Ransby: UCLA Luskin professors Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, interim dean of the Luskin School, and Ananya Roy, director of II&D; Robin D.G. Kelley, distinguished professor of history; Sherene H. Razack, distinguished professor of gender studies; and David C. Turner III, assistant professor of Black life and racial justice at UCLA Luskin Social Welfare.

The dialogue touched on causes for alarm on many fronts: This November’s high-stakes U.S. presidential election. Repressive police tactics. The Israel-Gaza war, with its terrible humanitarian toll and fallout for free speech on college campuses.

Ransby issued a call to action, again turning to the lessons of history. During the anti-war and Black freedom movements of the 1960s, she said, campuses were “epicenters of struggle and resistance. Out of this struggle, real victories were won, even though fraught and fragile.”

Today’s scholar-activists, faculty and students alike, all have a stake in the struggle and must resist efforts to silence dissent, she said. For inspiration, she pointed to several thriving university programs that are on the front lines of the fight for racial and gender equity, police reform, climate justice and housing for all.

“These programs, courses and content areas matter, not just because students have a greater breadth of knowledge, which is true and good,” Ransby said. “But these ideas and theories are also tools for liberation and freedom making. …

“As problematic and complicated and contradictory as they are, as much harm as they do, colleges and universities are places where we build trenches, where we carve out oases, where we create spaces to think, collaborate, inspire, and ask critical and courageous questions about freedom and justice.”


Watch the lecture and panel discussion on Vimeo.

View photos of Barbara Ransby’s visit and the Aetna Street photo exhibit on Flickr.

Barbara Ransby Luskin Lecture

Inequality and California Freeways: A Visual Journey Story map opens a window into the disproportionate impact on people of color of freeway routing near the Rose Bowl

By Mary Braswell

The research project was ambitious in scope, chronicling the history of racism in freeway development in California and assessing the damaging impacts that endure today.

More than 300 pages long, with 16 authors from UCLA and UC Davis, the final product is rich with data and insights about how to atone for past harms and ensure that future policies have equity at their center.

Once it was published in March 2023, the team at the UCLA Institute of Transportation Studies faced the next challenge: How best to convey the report’s findings to an audience both inside and outside academia?

To meet this goal, ITS researchers, communications specialists and graduate students tapped into storytelling tools powered by data science, opening a window into the expansive report by zeroing in on a single, illustrative case study: the decision to route the 210 freeway through a thriving Black neighborhood in Pasadena.

Using ArcGIS StoryMaps technology, the team wove together census data, charts, maps and historic photos to create an absorbing visual narrative of the planning decisions of the 1950s and ’60s that led to the displacement of nearly 3,000 predominantly Black residents.

The full report explores the siting of freeway projects in Pasadena, Pacoima, Sacramento and San José, said Claudia Bustamante, ITS communications manager, but “of all the cities that the researchers looked at, it was really Pasadena that had such a stark contrast showing what the freeway did because of its chosen route and what communities were impacted the most.”

Bustamante set out to brainstorm with ITS graduate student researcher and communications fellow Michael Rosen, whose interest in mastering the tools of data science led him to UCLA Luskin.

“A story map allows for the integration of visuals in a really cool way, and we wanted to use that specific tool to tell the Pasadena part of the story,” said Rosen, who earned his master’s in urban and regional planning in 2023. “No regular person is going to read hundreds of pages on the history of freeways, so the idea was to produce a more accessible version, looking at one slice of the report.”

Rosen distilled the 50-page Pasadena chapter into an outline for the project and worked with Bustamante to develop visual aids to tell the story. UCLA Luskin staff and students, including a team from the Center for Neighborhood Knowledge, did the heavy lifting on data analysis. Principal investigator Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, a professor of urban planning and now interim dean of the Luskin School, and an ITS research project manager, Jacob L. Wasserman, reviewed the work to ensure that the study’s overarching message was conveyed.

The story map recalls a time when people of color were drawn to Pasadena’s northwestern neighborhoods for the area’s lively commercial district, Victorian- and Craftsman-influenced architecture, and an air of possibility. After World War II, however, the neighborhood’s fortunes began to change. Disinvestment, redlining and demolition projects euphemistically cast as “urban renewal” all set the stage for deliberations over which route the Foothill Freeway/Interstate 210 would take.

One option, known as the “Blue Route,” would have gone through a largely uninhabited but wealthier area near the Rose Bowl. Instead, state and city officials selected the “Green Route,” which displaced eight times as many homes, mostly occupied by people of color.

The decision prioritized protection of the natural surroundings near the venerated stadium’s parking lot. As a result, a community was cut in two by the 210 Freeway, with thousands of homes and businesses demolished. Those who remained were exposed to the known health hazards of freeways such as noise and auto emissions. Home values were significantly depressed relative to other parts of Pasadena.

“It is hard to interpret this series of events as anything other than a coordinated effort by local officials over decades to displace Black residents,” the researchers concluded.

Rosen said he was grateful for the opportunity to use the skills learned through his urban planning coursework to share an important piece of research. With a background in journalism, he came to the program with an interest in finding compelling ways to convey fact-based information. He gravitated toward courses such as Urban Data Science, taught by Professor Adam Millard-Ball, and GIS and Spatial Data Science, taught by Yoh Kawano, who earned his doctorate in urban planning at the Luskin School in 2020.

That skillset helped ITS achieve its overriding goal.

“In most of our work, we ask ourselves, ‘How do we tell this story in the best way?’” Bustamante said. “Researchers are going to read the research, but that’s not our only audience.”

View the “Freeways, Redlining and Racism” storymap.

UCLA School of Public Affairs Among Charles E. Young’s Lasting Legacies Former colleagues recall the late chancellor and his role in the 1994 consolidation of degree programs

By Stan Paul

Charles E. Young, the former UCLA chancellor who passed away Sunday at his home in Sonoma, California, at age 91, was instrumental in the creation of what later became the Luskin School of Public Affairs.

During a time of budgetary constraints, the long-established schools of Social Welfare and Urban Planning were combined in 1994 with a new graduate department — Public Policy — in one new school. In recognizing Young’s legacy and significance at UCLA Luskin, Interim Dean Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris said it was his vision that made today’s Luskin School possible.

And, as she wrote to the UCLA Luskin community, “placing his faculty appointment in our Public Policy department, he immediately elevated the visibility of our School in its very early days.” Loukaitou-Sideris noted that Young always kept a great interest in “his school” long after his official retirement. “As late as June 25, 2023, he emailed me to express his pleasure and congratulations for Urban Planning having been ranked as No. 1 in the nation.”

Several others who knew Young and his relationship with UCLA Luskin offered their remembrances.

Daniel J.B. Mitchell, professor emeritus of management and public policy, was on the faculty at UCLA at the time of the transition. He said Young supported the final result, but the original idea was different.

“Originally, the idea was to create an interdisciplinary research center — not a school — for faculty with a general interest in public policy,” recalled Mitchell, who served as chair of public policy from 1996 to 1997.

In the aftermath of the 1992 civil unrest in Los Angeles following the Rodney King verdict, and in response to budgetary pressures coming from the state that would require rethinking some programs at UCLA, Young appointed a committee to take on the task. It was headed by Archie Kleingartner, professor emeritus of management and public policy, who would become the School’s founding dean.

“Young expanded the task to include creation of a full school of public affairs. He felt that public policy, particularly aimed at state and local concerns, should have a distinct presence at UCLA, both for research and for the production of professionals in the field,” Mitchell said.

Kleingartner said Young had reached the conclusion in the early 1990s that UCLA could and should do much more in the field of public policy. As a premier university, UCLA had an obligation to provide research and teaching at a high level in public policy, said Kleingartner, noting that although Young’s master’s and doctoral degrees from UCLA were in political science, his personal academic research interest was in public policy.

Young with current Chancellor Gene Block and former Chancellor Al Carnesale.

After the decision on a new public affairs school was reached, top-level attention turned to how to go about creating a public policy entity and what it should look like, Kleingartner said. “The chancellor was interested in something big and impactful.”

A second strategic decision was based on the fact “that very little by way of new funding would be available, that the main resources would have to be found from within the university,” he said. “So, a really big issue was to reorganize in a way that generated savings.”

Kleingartner said the late Andrea Rich headed up the administrative and financial aspects of the restructuring, and he led the academic and faculty aspects.

“But many faculty and administrators got involved because it was quite a complex undertaking,” he said.

At that time, a number of schools and institutes were reorganized as part of the Professional School Restructuring Initiative, or PSRI, and it was done amid a great deal of internal opposition from existing schools, institutes and their faculties. But “the chancellor remained firm despite the extensive opposition.”

The School — with a different name but in essentially its current form — was officially launched on July 1, 1994. That wouldn’t have happened without Charles E. Young, and “I think at this point, most people are quite satisfied with what was created,” Kleingartner said.

Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at the Luskin School, has known Young since Yaroslavsky’s days as an undergraduate in the late 1960s. That association continued during his career as a Los Angeles City Council member and Los Angeles County supervisor representing districts including the Westwood campus.

At a time of declining state support for higher education, Yaroslavsky pointed out that Young “saw what was coming” and took steps to help UCLA remain competitive as a top public university, according to a story posted by UCLA Newsroom.

“Chuck was a bold and visionary leader who catapulted UCLA to one of the world’s great research universities,” Yaroslavsky commented. “Moreover, under his stewardship this university became a consequential player in its own backyard — Westwood and the greater Los Angeles community. As an elected official who represented UCLA for four decades, I never had a better partner.”

Stewardship and partnerships were a hallmark of his work and affiliations on campus.

“Chancellor Young welcomed me personally when I was recruited to UCLA,” said Fernando Torres-Gil, professor emeritus of social welfare and public policy. He recalled Young’s graciousness and interest in his career, which would include a number of leadership roles at UCLA Luskin.

“Since that time, I took great joy in calling him ‘Chuck’ and experiencing the great university he helped to create. Very few individuals have the good fortune to see a legacy grow and flower, and Chancellor Young could enjoy his creation on his many visits to campus post-retirement,” Torres-Gil said.

Read more about the life and career of the former chancellor on UCLA Newsroom.

Fighting Back Against Harassment on Public Transit

A Governing article about a Bay Area Rapid Transit campaign to deter sexual harassment on public transportation cited research by Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, professor of urban planning and interim dean of UCLA Luskin. The BART program was designed and developed by young people of color to encourage people who witness sexual harassment on trains and buses to discreetly intervene. Loukaitou-Sideris has led extensive studies of sexual harassment in public places, which she describes as an “omnipresent and consequential” phenomenon. Public transit environments can be uniquely conducive to harassers engaging in unwanted verbal and physical abuse, her research has found. Crowded vehicles provide both proximity and anonymity, while empty vehicles or stations can be unsafe for other reasons. The BART campaign includes circulating cards saying, “I got you” and “You got me?” It also encourages ways of showing support including standing with the person who is being harassed, texting BART Police or contacting the train conductor.


Loukaitou-Sideris on Transit-Oriented Development and Displacement

Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, interim dean of UCLA Luskin, appeared on the CitySCOPE podcast to discuss the benefits and unintended consequences of transit-oriented development. Denser development around transit hubs can help accommodate a city’s growth while meeting mobility and sustainability goals. Yet Loukaitou-Sideris’ research also shows that transforming these neighborhoods can have a negative impact on longtime residents. These risks “should be a red flag for planners and policymakers to be able to protect these neighborhoods from the risk of gentrification and displacement,” she said. Over two episodes of the podcast, Loukaitou-Sideris and research partner Karen Chapple of UC Berkeley shared findings from their book, “Transit Oriented Displacement or Community Dividends? Understanding the Effects of Smarter Growth on Communities.” They discussed topics including the heightened risk of displacement experienced by communities of color, the commercial and cultural gentrification that takes place when mom-and-pop stores lose their leases, and instances when grassroots local opposition has succeeded in holding back gentrifying forces.


UCLA Urban Planning Rises to No. 1 Latest ranking of top graduate planning programs by Planetizen puts UCLA Luskin in the top spot

UCLA Luskin Urban Planning has been ranked No. 1 in North America, according to the latest survey of the nation’s top graduate programs in urban planning by Planetizen.

“Urban Planning’s rise to the top spot in the nation is a clear reflection of the excellence of the faculty and staff,” said Interim Dean Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, distinguished professor of urban planning. “I am particularly proud that this is also one of the most diverse Urban Planning departments in both its students and faculty, and that the program is driven by the call for social justice.”

Planetizen, a planning and development network based in Los Angeles, is the only entity that ranks urban planning programs. This is the first time that UCLA Luskin Urban Planning has led the rankings.

“I am very happy to see us at the top of this list,” said Michael Manville, incoming department chair and professor of urban planning. “There’s always an arbitrary element to rankings like this — all of the top planning programs are excellent — but I view our No. 1 ranking as a clear sign of how high the quality in our program is, and that’s a testament to the great people we have here.”

The 2023 ranking for UCLA includes the top position in four categories — West Coast universities, largest programs, top big city programs and all public universities. UCLA Luskin Urban Planning is listed among the Top 10 in these other categories: ranking by educators (3), student body diversity (6), most alumni (2) and most selective (7).

The guidebook also lists 28 specialties in which at least three courses are offered in a subject area. These 18 specialties include UCLA: climate action, community development, economic development, environmental/natural resources/energy, equity/inclusion/social justice, food systems planning, housing, healthy cities/communities, infrastructure planning, land use/physical planning, land use/planning law, international/global development, real estate development, regional planning, rural/small town planning, sustainability planning, technology/GIS and transportation planning.

More information about the rankings and methodology is available online.

Other top planning programs are MIT (2), Rutgers (3), UC Berkeley (4), the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (5), University of Georgia (6), Harvard (7) and USC (8). The Planetizen guidebook, which comes out every five years, ranked UCLA at No. 4 in 2014 and 2019.