Toasting Social Welfare’s Diamond Anniversary Alumni, faculty, students and friends gather to celebrate 75 years of advancing justice

The UCLA Luskin Social Welfare family came together May 6 for an evening of festivity and reflection to celebrate a memorable milestone: 75 years since the study of social work began at UCLA in 1947.

Alumni, faculty, staff and friends from across the decades joined current students at the gala event at the UCLA Luskin Conference Center, the culmination of a yearlong lineup of special events in honor of the anniversary:

  • A fall gathering of Social Welfare PhD students and doctoral alumni highlighted the research and scholarship aimed at advancing justice in both society and academia.
  • A reception in winter quarter honored the many community groups and agencies that have guided Social Welfare students in field placements over the decades.
  • And a special UCLA Luskin Lecture by Los Angeles County Supervisor Holly J. Mitchell put a spotlight on the alleviation of poverty, a key focus of the social welfare discipline.

The importance of field education was underscored at the spring gala with the presentation of the 2023 Joseph A. Nunn Social Welfare Alumnus of the Year award to Gerardo Laviña MSW ’86. Laviña, the longtime director of field education, is retiring at the end of the academic year. His award was presented by field faculty Larthia Dunham and Laura Alongi MSW ’92.

Adjunct Professor Jorja Leap MSW ’80 emceed the gala, which included a welcome from UCLA Luskin’s interim dean, Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, as well as perspectives shared by Laura Abrams, chair of Social Welfare; Rosina Becerra, professor emerita and former dean; current MSW student Elisse Howard; and alumni Stephen Cheung MSW ’07 and Diane Terry MSW ’04 PhD ’12. Adjunct Assistant Professor Khush Cooper MSW ’00 PhD ’10 raised a champagne toast to end the formal program and invite guests to the dance floor.

Read about 75 years of social welfare education at UCLA, including an account of the program’s “finest moment” during the Los Angeles riots.

Read profiles of key figures in UCLA Social Welfare’s history:

  • Rosina Becerra, former dean and professor emerita
  • Jack Rothman, professor emeritus
  • Joe Nunn, professor emeritus
  • Gerry Laviña, director of field education
  • Coming soon: Fernando Torres-Gil, retiring professor of social welfare and public policy

Watch a video celebrating the importance of field education at UCLA

View photos from the gala on Flickr

SW 75th Anniversary Gala

Robert Fairlie Appointed Chair of Public Policy at UCLA Luskin Distinguished scholar has nearly three decades of teaching and research in the University of California system

By Stan Paul

Robert Fairlie, longtime professor of economics at UC Santa Cruz and a distinguished senior scholar, has been recruited to serve as the next chair of UCLA Luskin Public Policy.

Fairlie, a member of the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), is a “prominent and prolific scholar who brings with him a strong portfolio of research interests, a record of policy-relevant and impactful research findings, and an overall commitment to social justice,” said Interim Dean Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris in announcing his appointment.

“Robert Fairlie is one of the most productive and most cited economists in the world,” said Mark A. Peterson, a past chair and current interim chair. “He personifies the ideal public policy faculty member, generating robust evidence on major issues of the day using sophisticated and innovative research and communicating directly with policymakers to inform their decision-making.” Peterson is a professor of public policy, political science and law.

Fairlie’s research has been published in leading economic and policy-related journals. Topics include public policy, entrepreneurship, education, information technology, labor economics, developing countries and immigration, typically with close attention to the implications for racial, ethnic and gender inequality.

He has strong ties to the state, arriving in California at age 2 and growing up in San Jose. He attended Stanford University, earning a bachelor’s in economics. He previously held visiting academic positions at Stanford and UC Berkeley. He also serves on the Faculty Council of the UC Sacramento Center.

Outside California, he has held visiting appointments at Yale and Australian National University. He earned his master’s and doctoral degrees from Northwestern University.

A new book on entrepreneurial job creation and survival — seven years in the making — will soon be published with MIT Press. Fairlie and his co-authors at the U.S. Census Bureau created a new dataset to track the universe of startups in the country — the Comprehensive Startup Panel, or CSP.

“We find that startups, on average, create fewer jobs and have lower survival rates than previously documented,” Fairlie said.

The COVID-19 pandemic also has determined the direction of some of his research, which has had substantial academic and policy influence.

“At the start of the pandemic I realized that, from all the work that I had done in the past, I was in a good position to compile and analyze data on the first impacts of COVID-19 on racial and gender inequality in business ownership, unemployment and work effort,” he said.

As the pandemic progressed, Fairlie said he also became interested in the $800 billion Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), examining whether PPP funds were distributed proportionately to communities of color and finding delays in equitable distribution.

Fairlie said he recently has been routinely contacted by both the U.S. President’s Office and Vice President’s Office for an update on his research findings amid the pandemic’s continued impact on racial inequality in entrepreneurship.

“My latest research that goes through December 2022 shows promising improvement in the number of Black, Latinx and Asian business owners,” he said. “For all three groups, business owner levels are higher now than where they were at before the pandemic started. In contrast, the number of white business owners is down from pre-pandemic levels.”

Fairlie’s award-winning research and efforts to inform policymakers in California have also garnered recognition. He has provided testimony before the California State Legislature on several occasions. A joint resolution from the State Assembly and State Senate commended his “innumerable achievements and meritorious service to the State of California and beyond.”

On the national stage, Fairlie has testified before the U.S. Senate, U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Department of the Treasury. He has received funding from the National Science Foundation, National Academies and Russell Sage Foundation, as well as numerous government agencies and foundations. Most recently, his work was cited in the 2023 edition of the “Economic Report of the President.”

Fairlie is regularly interviewed by print and online media about economic, education, small business, inequality and policy issues.

Fairlie’s scholarly work will continue when he takes his new post this summer.

“Luskin is an amazing place with so much timely and important research going on. I look forward to contributing to those efforts as part of the team,” he said. “I am also looking forward to working at one of best and most exciting universities in the world.”

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.

Read the full story.


 

Luskin School Reaches Top 10 Among Public Affairs Schools Nationwide Subcategory rankings include seventh in urban policy and ninth in social policy

By Stan Paul

UCLA Luskin has achieved Top 10 recognition among public affairs graduate schools in the nation based on newly released U.S. News & World Report ratings.

The School is in good company, sharing the spot with prestigious programs including Princeton, NYU, Georgetown and the University of Texas, Austin.

“I am very proud of our School’s rapid and continuing rise in the rankings, reaching now the Top 10 Public Affairs Schools in the U.S.,” said Interim Dean Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris. “The recent rankings represent only one indication of the excellence that characterizes the Luskin School and its faculty, staff and students.”

In congratulating the School, Gary Segura, who served as dean from 2017 until the end of 2022, said that it is particularly gratifying that the academic community is taking notice.

“The improvement in our rankings is a reflection of the efforts of faculty and staff across the School and the unique constellation of expertise here at UCLA Luskin,” Segura said.

Mark Peterson, interim chair of UCLA Luskin Public Policy, also pointed out that the achievement is particularly notable for the Luskin School, which is significantly younger — and smaller — than the schools that ranked higher and thus have larger faculties and longer histories from which to develop reputations.

“With our national standing, one might say that we are the proverbial little engine that could,” Peterson said.

Among public institutions, UCLA Luskin was among the top eight nationwide, second among public colleges and universities in California, and third among all public affairs programs in the state.

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. 9), environmental policy and management (No. 14) and public policy analysis (No. 14).

The latest rankings of public affairs programs, released this month, are based on peer assessment survey results from fall 2022 and early 2023, according to U.S. News & World Report, which surveyed deans, directors and department chairs representing 269 master’s programs in public affairs and administration.

The lists of all the schools, all the individuals surveyed and all the names of the specialty areas evaluated were provided to the news organization by the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration, known as NASPAA, and the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management.

See the full list of the 2023 U.S. News & World Report Best Graduate Schools.

‘We’re Beginning the Work of Rewriting the Next Chapter of Los Angeles History’ Top officials join scholars and advocates to tackle the region's most pressing problems at the fifth annual UCLA Luskin Summit

By Mary Braswell

A search for solutions to Southern California’s most urgent problems brought top researchers together with government and civic leaders at the fifth annual UCLA Luskin Summit.

Los Angeles City Council President Paul Krekorian gave the keynote address at the April 19 gathering, attended by more than 200 scholars, students and community members seeking to learn more about how the region is responding to homelessness, climate change, racial disparities, voting rights violations and more.

Krekorian spoke about the state of governance at L.A. City Hall, acknowledging that citizens’ faith has been shaken by corruption cases, politicized redistricting and the release of a racist recording that led to high-profile resignations. But he added that the upheaval has opened the door to a period of change.

“The kind of city hall that the people of Los Angeles deserve [is] a city hall that’s more ethical, more transparent, more trustworthy, more urgent, more collaborative and hopefully much more effective,” Krekorian said.

He laid out a roadmap that includes a top-to-bottom charter review that could add more seats on the City Council, change who decides land-use issues to reduce incentives for corruption, and take the power of setting district boundaries away from elected officials.

“Together, we’re turning the page on a very dark time and we’re beginning the work of rewriting the next chapter of Los Angeles history,” Krekorian said.

Zev Yaroslavsky, who oversees the annual UCLA Quality of Life Index, reports on this year’s findings. Photo by Les Dunseith

The Luskin Summit, held in person at the UCLA Faculty Club after three years of remote and hybrid convenings, continued its tradition of spotlighting the UCLA Quality of Life Index (QLI), a wide-ranging survey of Los Angeles County residents.

This year’s QLI revealed deep dissatisfaction with many aspects of life in L.A., a sign of the region’s slow emergence from the dual shocks of the COVID-19 pandemic and soaring inflation, said Zev Yaroslavsky, who oversees the survey as director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin.

In conversation with ABC7 News reporter Josh Haskell, the emcee of this year’s Luskin Summit, Yaroslavsky said the high cost of housing continues to sow anxiety, with 28% of respondents saying they worry about losing their home and becoming homeless as a result.

“Now, let me put this in more stark terms than just percentages,” Yaroslavsky said. “The county’s population is a little over 10 million people, so 28% means that there are 2.8 million people in this county who are going to bed every night worried about whether they’re going to lose their home. Think about it that way. That’s a lot of people. That’s a lot of stress.”

The region’s housing emergency also took center stage at a plenary session that illustrated a hallmark of the Luskin Summit: the participation of key elected and appointed officials in a position to turn social science research into policies for change.

Lourdes Castro Ramírez, secretary of California’s Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency, moderated the dialogue with L.A. County Supervisor Lindsey Horvath, L.A. City Council member Marqueece Harris-Dawson and the city’s chief of housing and homelessness solutions, Mercedes Márquez.

The conversation emphasized a new push to coordinate efforts by a multitude of agencies to relieve California’s housing emergency.

“A challenge of this magnitude requires all levels of government to work together, and that’s exactly what we have been doing over the last two years, working very closely with our federal partners, working very closely across the state agency and department, and working in a unified and coordinated manner with local cities, counties, continuums of care and folks on the ground that are doing this work every single day,” said Castro Ramírez, a UCLA Luskin Urban Planning alumna who oversees 11 state departments and boards.

With the end of pandemic-era eviction moratoriums, Horvath said her office is working with cities to implement new protections for both renters and mom-and-pop landlords, with the aim of keeping residents in their homes.

“We have no time to waste,” she said. “We’re not going to wait until every detail is perfect. People are dying on our streets and we have to do something.”

The panelists credited newly elected Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass for jumpstarting efforts to shelter the homeless, including the appointment of Márquez to cut the red tape that has delayed the construction and acquisition of desperately needed housing.

“We have identified 360 projects that are 100% affordable. That’s over 8,000 units that are now on a fast track,” Márquez said, adding that her team is also reviewing government-owned land including Metropolitan Transit Authority car lots that could be converted to residential development.

Harris-Dawson, whose district includes South Los Angeles, said housing strategies must be guided by a sense of equity to prevent poverty from becoming concentrated in pockets of the city.

“The commitment has to be both to build and build fast, but also to build where it’s difficult to build,” he said. That includes parts of the city where the prevailing attitude is “ ‘send all the poor people over there, build housing over there and build it as dense as you need to, but keep them over there’ — as if poverty is a communicable disease and living near it damages your quality of life somehow.”

The Summit also featured a series of breakout sessions where scholars, officials and advocates zeroed in on critical issues. They included representatives from UCLA Luskin research centers, including the Luskin Center for Innovation and its Human Rights to Water Solutions Lab, the Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies, the UCLA Institute of Transportation Studies  and the UCLA Voting Rights Project. The sessions explored:

  • vehicular homelessness, the unique circumstances of those who must shelter in their cars;
  • persistent disparities based on race and ethnicity in the mortgage industry;
  • how to build popular support and political momentum for investments in climate infrastructure;
  • whether California’s plan to transition to zero-emission vehicles is sufficient to meet climate goals;
  • the uncertain future of voting rights pending decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court;
  • and the activation of far-reaching programs to bolster the region’s water supply.

Following the Summit, several participants gathered for a lunch presentation on equity and clean energy that included UCLA experts and representatives from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, the lead sponsor of this year’s Luskin Summit. Other sponsors include Bank of America, the Weingart Foundation, David Bohnett Foundation, California Community Foundation and California Wellness Foundation. The media partner is ABC7.

View photos from the 2023 UCLA Luskin Summit on Flickr.

Luskin Summit 2023

Advocate for Ending Poverty Named UCLA Luskin Commencement Speaker Former Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs, first elected at age 26, now champions reforms to battle income inequality

Michael D. Tubbs, who made history in 2016 when he was elected the first Black mayor of Stockton, California, at age 26, then used the platform to plant the seeds of a nationwide campaign to end poverty, has been named 2023 Commencement speaker for the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.

Tubbs is a champion of social and economic reforms that have earned him a reputation as a rising star in progressive politics. On Friday, June 16, he will deliver two Commencement addresses: At 9 a.m., he will speak to students graduating with master’s and doctoral degrees in public policy, social welfare and urban planning at UCLA’s Royce Hall. At 3 p.m., he will address students earning the bachelor’s in public affairs on the Kerckhoff Hall patio.

“Michael Tubbs has shown us all that a clear vision and strong resolve can uplift the lives of people across our state and nation,” said UCLA Luskin Interim Dean Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris. “His leadership, innovative spirit and ability to turn bold concepts into real action are exceptional, and as a School committed to improving the human condition at all levels, we look forward to hearing his inspiring message.” 

Tubbs is widely known for his work advocating for a guaranteed basic income to provide stability to American households. As mayor, he created a pilot program providing direct, recurring cash payments to Stockton residents and founded the nonprofit Mayors for a Guaranteed Income to support similar efforts across the country. He also raised more than $20 million to launch the Stockton Scholars, a universal scholarship and mentorship program for the city’s students.

Under Tubbs’ leadership, Stockton was recognized as one of California’s most fiscally healthy cities; saw a 40% drop in homicides in 2018 and 2019; and led the state in the decline of officer-involved shootings in 2019. The National Civic League named Stockton an “All-America City” in 2017 and 2018.

After he left office in 2021, Tubbs joined the administration of Gov. Gavin Newsom as special advisor for economic mobility and opportunity. Last year, he founded End Poverty in California, a nonprofit devoted to breaking the cycle of income inequality.

Tubbs’ 2021 autobiography, “The Deeper The Roots: A Memoir of Hope and Home,” relates how hardship in his early years shaped his vision for leadership and policies that are responsive to those who are struggling. Tubbs writes about his father’s incarceration, the strong women who raised him, his scholarship to attend Stanford University, the opportunity to intern in the Obama White House, and his calling to return to his hometown to improve the quality of life. 

Tubbs served as a high school educator and city council member before running for mayor. His experiences advocating for reform in the city’s top job are chronicled in the 2020 HBO documentary “Stockton on My Mind.”

Tubbs is a fellow at the Harvard Institute of Politics and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab. He was named to Fortune magazine’s 40 under 40 list and Forbes’ 30 Under 30 All-Star Alumni, as well as The Nation’s Progressive Honor Roll, which recognized him as the “Most Valuable Mayor” of 2018. He earned the 2019 New Frontier Award from the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and the 2021 Civic Leadership Award from The King Center.

Learn more about UCLA Luskin’s 2023 Commencement.

Dean’s Associates Luncheon

This private gathering of the Dean’s Associates recognizes the importance and impact of UCLA Luskin’s generous donors, from attracting top-tier students to funding internships at nonprofits tackling injustice. Donors support a broad range of work across all the School’s disciplines, and this event acknowledges their crucial investment in change-makers and communities in need. Through their gifts, these supporters join the fight for social justice at the academic, professional and policy level. 

Housing Inequality Is So Entrenched It Could Spark a Movement Scholar Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor says establishing a human right to shelter may seem utopian but is long overdue

By Mary Braswell

At the outset of her appearance before a UCLA audience, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor made one thing clear: The United States is not in the midst of a housing crisis.

“ ‘Crises’ are interruptions in the status quo, and housing precarity is a permanent feature of U.S. society,” said Taylor, a leading scholar of social movements and racial justice.

It was a semantic distinction that pointed to a formidable challenge: What can be done to dismantle a housing system that Taylor said has been hijacked by corporate interests, turning the family home into a hedge-fund commodity traded on the international stage?

“What we’re seeing is the deep marginalization of the socially useful purpose of housing as a dwelling … turned into an asset to be bought and sold, an asset that is mostly valued as a thing, not as a place to live,” Taylor said.

But she assured the audience that the arc of history that led to this harsh 21st-century reality also holds lessons on how to establish a human right to decent shelter.

Taylor shared insights from her 2019 book “Race for Profit: How Banks and the Real Estate Industry Undermined Black Homeownership,” a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in History. The professor of African American Studies at Northwestern University has also received accolades that include a Guggenheim Foundation fellowship and a “genius grant” from the MacArthur Foundation.

Her newest enterprise, as co-founder of Hammer & Hope, a magazine exploring Black politics and culture, launched just hours before her standing-room-only appearance on Feb. 15 as part of the UCLA Luskin Lecture Series, in partnership with the UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy.

Taylor warned against oversimplifying the solution to housing insecurity. Raising wages just to make sure people can afford exorbitant mortgages and rents, for example, only perpetuates a corrupt system.

While the racial wealth gap is real, she said, “it is often used as a smokescreen to blot out the larger dimensions of extraordinary housing inequality and insecurity.”

Today’s housing system takes a toll not just on the Black community, which has endured generations of racist policies in the real estate industry, and not just on the nation’s poorest, those living outdoors or struggling to pay rent for substandard shelter.

“We’re talking about half of the United States living with rent burden, paying 30% of their income toward rent, and more than a quarter paying half of their income toward rent,” Taylor said. “This housing economy is like roller skates with no stops on a steep hill on the top of a mountain. … There are no brakes on any of this, and every year, it’s getting worse and worse and worse.

“And so I think it becomes the basis upon which to build a different kind of a movement.”

Taylor recalled pivot points in U.S. history when tenants rose up to demand change and governments enacted tough regulations to curb “the worst impulses of capitalism.”

She spoke about the promise of current efforts, including the Green New Deal for Public Housing and alternative solutions such as co-ops and community land trusts.

“Such proposals might have once seemed utterly utopian,” she said. “They now feel long overdue.”

Following her lecture, Taylor shared the stage with scholars Cheryl I. Harris of UCLA Law, Marques Vestal of UCLA Luskin Urban Planning and Ananya Roy, founding director of the Institute on Inequality and Democracy. The dialogue continued the following day when Taylor met with grassroots organizers at the Los Angeles Community Action Network in downtown’s Skid Row.

“We see an economic system that is incompatible with housing security and housing justice,” Taylor said at the lecture. “And so that raises another question about what kind of world we want to live in and the struggle that is necessary to produce it.”

View photos from the lecture on Flickr.

Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor LLS

Watch a recording of the lecture on Vimeo.

 

Exploring Impact of COVID-19 on Urban Mobility

In her introduction to a new book, Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris writes, “The COVID-19 pandemic brought urban life all over the world to a standstill, it dramatically affected mobility and had ripple effects on the economy, environment and safety of urban areas. But not all residents were affected equally.” Loukaitou-Sideris, distinguished professor of urban planning and interim dean of the Luskin School, served as co-editor of “Pandemic in the Metropolis: Transportation Impacts and Recovery.” Published by Springer Nature, the book is a collection of original research articles by authors from UCLA and other University of California Institute of Transportation Studies programs. It explores various impacts of the pandemic on vulnerable populations, on the transportation industry and on other sections of the economy that rely on transportation. It also looks at the health crisis’ ongoing impacts on alternative forms of work, shopping and travel. Positive changes in urban transport, telecommuting, e-retail, walking and cycling are also explored, and authors discuss whether these altered patterns are likely to persist. The collection is dedicated to the late Martin Wachs, a leading scholar in the field of transportation planning.


 

‘I Love the School’ As interim dean at UCLA Luskin, Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris is giving back to a university that has been ‘extremely good to me’ for 33 years

By Les Dunseith

On Jan. 1, Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris became interim dean of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, filling a role that is expected to continue for at least two-and-a-half years until a permanent dean is named.

Loukaitou-Sideris, a distinguished professor of urban planning, had previously served as associate dean. A widely published scholar who joined the UCLA faculty in 1990, Loukaitou-Sideris helped lead a strategic planning effort to redefine the future of the School in the wake of the naming gift from Meyer and Renee Luskin in 2004. She drew on that experience a decade later to lead a campuswide effort that created a strategic plan for UCLA.

In a Q&A conducted during her second week as interim dean, Loukaitou-Sideris talked about taking on new responsibilities, how she is approaching the challenge and what she sees as the Luskin School’s immediate priorities.

What was your reaction when you found out you would be the interim dean?

Loukaitou-Sideris: Well, it was a mixture of excitement — because I love the School — and a little bit of being overwhelmed. I’ve had a very good life, heading all kinds of research-related activities, as well as being an associate dean for 12 years. This role brings with it a whole new area of work that is much more intensive, but also exciting.

At the same time, I know the School inside and out, and I have served the university in different capacities. I know the deans. I know the vice chancellors. There is an element of familiarity. And I feel that I’m giving something back to a School that has been extremely good to me all these years. 

Have you witnessed a lot of change in your time as a UCLA Luskin professor?

Loukaitou-Sideris: Absolutely. I pre-date the formation of this School in 1994. I was in the Graduate School of Architecture and Urban Planning, and at the time everybody in that program was very much opposed to moving urban planning to this new entity. In retrospect, we were wrong, as the new school opened up new and exciting opportunities.

The common thread is social justice and a desire to make cities and society better — to improve things. What is unique from the early days is the recognition that by bringing together our individual disciplines and finding common initiatives, we can attract more people who are interested in tackling complex issues and do so in a much more comprehensive way.

The Luskin School added an undergraduate degree program and new academic research centers in recent years. Growth is generally a good thing, but it also can be challenging. What needs to happen next?

Loukaitou-Sideris: We have reached a level of stability now. I anticipate leading new initiatives relating to global public affairs, real estate development and e-governance and the introduction of digital technology tools  — and we have been assured by the provost that such efforts will be supported — but compared to the last few years, growth is going to be more moderate.

What are your top priorities as interim dean?

Loukaitou-Sideris: It is very crucial to reassure people that the School is not only doing well but is going forward.

We’ve faced what I call a “triple whammy.” We had COVID. We had the UC strike. And we had the unexpected resignation of a dean. One of the very first things I’m doing is meeting with people and reassuring them. I have spoken with the Board of Advisors, the department chairs and many individuals, including the Luskins. I plan to meet with our students. I am holding a town hall for faculty and staff.

Both groups at once?

Loukaitou-Sideris: Yes, I insisted on that. I don’t believe in treating the two groups differently. We all work for the good of the School, and we all have a very important role to play. We don’t have first-class and second-class citizens here.

Morale is very important, as you know, in an organization. My door is open, and it will remain open.

Another priority is to tackle the economic realities brought about by the pandemic and the strike settlement agreement, which will increase labor costs, without diminishing pedagogic excellence. It is not the best thing for a new dean, you know, to start during an environment where you have to cut budgets. But I think that people understand.

And I have to say that people have been so far very responsive and very understanding.

As you know, research is a great love of mine. So yet another priority is that I want to see the School continue to increase our grants and ensure that tighter budgets do not reduce opportunities for research. I will be working closely with the research centers on that.