Dean’s Message

As some of you know, the Luskin School is a bit unusual compared with other institutions. 

The juxtaposition of Social Welfare, Urban Planning and Public Policy sets us apart from most other universities where schools of Social Work and schools of Public Policy are often standalone units, while Urban Planning rests in Design, Architecture or Environmental colleges. Policy and planning can occasionally be found together, but to have the three disciplines together makes the Luskin School something of a unicorn.

This is to our benefit, I believe. When I share our vision with donors, scholars and prospective students, I talk about our unique capacity to examine human well-being from different levels and units of analysis. At UCLA Luskin, we are interested in individuals, families and organizations; municipalities, metros and regions; states, nations and the globe. This is a strength. But to make use of this variety of perspectives, we require places — real and virtual — for faculty with these perspectives to share, cooperate and collaborate. This is the key virtue of our centers and institutes — to serve as a locus of dialogue and collaboration across the entire School.

The Luskin School is blessed to have sizable clusters of faculty interested in housing and homelessness, transportation, the environment, health and mental health, youth and child development, criminal justice and policing, international policymaking and its impacts, race, class and inequality, and so much more. What these various foci have in common is that each has faculty and student researchers in more than one department and, in some instances, all three. In order for the School to have its greatest impact, as a locus for pathbreaking research and to provide the best possible training for our students at every level, breaking down the organizational silos is critical.

In addition, nearly all UCLA Luskin centers/institutes have active participation from faculty outside of the School, within which the research unit provides a mechanism of collaboration and interdisciplinary dialogue. Today, faculty from dozens of departments and programs across nearly every division/school on the campus participate in one or more UCLA Luskin research center.

In this issue of Luskin Forum, we highlight some of the excellent work being done by these centers and institutes, and the ways in which that work advances the mission of the Luskin School. 

And there is much, much more to come.

Forward!

Gary

The Young and Mighty LPPI

Research centers are born for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, it’s just the right thing for a public research institution like UCLA to do. In the case of the Latino Policy and Politics Institute (formerly Initiative), “it was the single-biggest missing element in the School,” said Gary Segura, who co-founded LPPI soon after he became dean at UCLA Luskin in 2017. “We were a school of public affairs in a state that is 43-44% Latino, and we didn’t have any faculty expertise focused on that area.” Learn more about LPPI, which has attained funding of $13.5 million in just five years of existence,  from its founding director, a current student fellow and an alumna whose time with LPPI has proven crucial to her career.

Sonja Diaz MPP ’10, founding director of LPPI

What are you working on now?

A U.S. Latino data hub will create a portal for the first time of taking government data and disaggregating it by Latino subgroups. So, you’ll get a sense of the differences between Cubans in Florida and Puerto Ricans in Florida. And that, frankly, hasn’t been done across a number of indicators, from housing to the environment to voter registration. The second big project is a summit, and we’re trying to create a programmatic nexus between our scholars, our staff and our different policymaking audiences, lawmakers and researchers who need the support to have a Latino lens. We’re hoping to convene people in Washington, D.C., and establish a national presence for LPPI.

How did your directorship at LPPI come about and what has it meant for you personally?

I was leaving a position with a statewide constitutional officer at a time when we expected a different outcome from our 2016 U.S. presidential election. And it made sense for me to look at UCLA, which is personal to me and my family. My father received a Ph.D. in urban planning here when I was a toddler. Some of his faculty are my colleagues today. And in that way, it’s been one continuous line. What I didn’t expect was to be given the opportunity to marry policy and research. 

Now, after being on this job for a number of years, I am recognizing the impact that we’ve had, not only in the students that have walked through our doors, and even our staff colleagues, but to our community members. It has been mind-blowing. 

Recent successes of note?

Two things happened in ’20-21 that I think were so important for LPPI, but also for the Latino community writ large. The first was our work to advance full representation of Latino politicians to an important body, which is the U.S. Senate. And that was cemented with Gov. [Gavin] Newsom’s appointment of now-Sen. Alex Padilla, the first Latino in over 170 years to occupy that office.

The second thing, and this was happening at the same time, was providing a data lens to the COVID vaccine policy in the state of California that, in many ways, had disenfranchised youthful racial minorities, including Latinos, in the face of the evisceration of Latino households during COVID-19. And our work with over 40 community organizations, based on our data analysis, really changed course for the state and made it so it wasn’t just wealthy and older Californians who had access to the vaccine, but the hardest-hit communities that were working on the front lines.

Bryanna Ruiz Fernandez, an LPPI student fellow who majored in political science and minored in public affairs and Chicano/a studies and who will join the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as a policy fellow after graduation

Talk about yourself, your role at LPPI and your future plans.

I am a proud product of immigrants. I come from a mixed-status household. We are from a border town, El Centro, California. I actually grew up in Mexico for part of my childhood, until I was around 8 years old. And then we immigrated to the United States. Spanish is actually my language of birth. And my mom, just recently, I was able to sponsor her for residency, for her green card.

She just became a U.S. resident, and it was a huge deal for the family because of the laws that can be discriminatory and negatively impact one’s life. 

And my dad is in the process. 

I understand immigration policy firsthand, and when it’s not properly researched by people with firsthand experience or who are culturally competent, what kind of impact it can have on communities of color, like my family.

I feel very fortunate to have been a fellow for LPPI for, basically, my entire undergraduate career.

In the classroom, I was learning methods and these broad concepts, but I didn’t really understand, especially as a first-generation college student, how that applies to the real world.

As a fellow, I was able to work with UCLA faculty. I was able to see firsthand how they conduct research, how they write reports. And on the other hand, I was also able to see how that research needs to be amplified. Because if we’re doing research and no one knows about it, then what impact is it actually having?

woman with short hair smiles broadly

MPP and MSW alumna Gabriela Solis Torres

Gabriela Solis Torres, MPP and MSW ’19, a founding student fellow at LPPI who now works as a project leader for the Harvard Kennedy School’s Government Performance Lab in Houston, Texas

Please explain your work.

We’re a research and technical assistance organization that provides support to governments who are pursuing ways to combat some of the most complex social challenges. That’s things like trying to reform the criminal justice system or the child welfare system, or trying to address homelessness.

A lot of things have changed because of the pandemic. But a big change in my work came after the murder of George Floyd. Harris County, where Houston is, and a lot of other jurisdictions across the United States started thinking about what their policing looks like and really started exploring, I think, more seriously the alternatives to their emergency response approach.

And now I’m leading our portfolio for alternatives. I provide technical assistance to five jurisdictions across the United States that are implementing alternatives such as sending unarmed teams to 9-1-1 calls. 

Did your experience with LPPI have a direct relationship to what you do now?

For me, I think it really opened my worldview. I came into the Luskin School from a direct service background. I was a case manager doing outreach with folks who were homeless in Venice and Venice Beach, and I thought I wanted to be a clinician. I was going to school to study social work and learn to do therapy.

But I was thinking too much of the macro, always complaining about the rules and the limitations. And I was advised to get a public policy degree. And I didn’t really know anything about public policy. I think being at Luskin and then participating in LPPI really changed my worldview and my whole career track completely.

I like working directly with governments. I grew up in East Los Angeles. I’m first in my family to go to college and have a professional job. My dad used to work in a factory. My mom was a stay-at-home mother. And I had no access to professional spaces. 

Another thing has to do with access. I had never really talked to anyone who was an official, and LPPI was my first exposure to people who had a lot of power or influence. 

I remember when I first came to UCLA Luskin and received the Monica Salinas Fellowship, which was created by a successful marriage and family therapist, and I got to have dinner at their house. And that was, like, so fancy! It was the first time I’d ever been in a space like that. And it was very cool because she was also a Latina and was very supportive of the work. 

Then, with LPPI, I would help organize panels or events, which meant having to manage details with elected officials or work with very high-level stakeholders. It helped me develop confidence that is applied to my job.

Every day now, I work with mayors, city managers, the director of an emergency communications center. Those experiences at UCLA were very pivotal in assuring me,
“I know how to communicate. I know how to write. I know what I’m talking about.”

How did you get involved with LPPI?

I found out that Sonja was opening the shop, and I just went to talk to her in her office. There was no formality. This thing is happening, let’s go. And I think I was the first or second person she hired. 

What I really appreciated from working with her was the true openness to being collaborators, making me feel like my opinion was important, that she actually cared about it. 

Myself, and Sonja, and the other student fellows were a team. And we got real. It was a growth environment where everyone was expected to step up. If you didn’t know something, your mentality was: “I’ll learn how to do it.” 

We understood that we were in a startup environment. … I have very fond memories of that time and just feeling like I was helping to set up something that was big. And I take pride that LPPI is where it is now.

Nancy Pelosi and George Takei Deliver Calls to Action to Class of 2022 The House speaker and the actor-activist appear at UCLA Luskin's dual commencement ceremonies

UCLA Luskin celebrated its Class of 2022 with two commencement ceremonies on June 10, one for public policy, social welfare and urban planning scholars earning advanced degrees and a second honoring students awarded the bachelor’s in public affairs.

U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi spoke to undergraduates on the patio of UCLA’s Kerckhoff Hall, and actor and social justice activist George Takei addressed students earning master’s and Ph.D. degrees in UCLA’s Royce Hall.

Each of the speakers issued a call to action to graduates who are entering a troubled world. They shared a message of empowerment, encouraging students to look within themselves, identify their unique gifts and use them to make a difference.

“Recognize who you are, what your strengths are, because our nation needs you, you, you, you,” Pelosi said, pointing to individual graduates.

Takei, too, called on his audience to tap into the primal urges that move them to action.

“Let us seek out our own human essence,” he said. ‘You are all infinite in diversity, working together in infinite combinations. And yet you are one, all aligned to contribute to making this a better society.”

The speakers were introduced by UCLA Luskin Dean Gary Segura, who had his own charge to the Class of 2022.

“We are in a critical moment in the history of this nation and of this society,” Segura said. “We’re deciding who we are as a people, what values matter to us as Americans, what is our role in human history. …

“So beyond merely congratulating you, I want to thank you, perhaps prematurely, for all that we expect you to do with what you have learned.”

Segura acknowledged that the graduates’ time at UCLA was upended by the COVID-19 pandemic, a theme echoed in speeches from students selected to represent their programs: Anahi Cruz of Public Policy, Vanessa Rochelle Warri of Social Welfare, Paola Tirado Escareño of Urban Planning and  Samantha Danielle Schwartz of the undergraduate Public Affairs program.

Following each ceremony, graduates and guests gathered at outdoor receptions to take photos and offer congratulations before entering the ranks of UCLA Luskin alumni.

The two Class of 2022 commencement speakers are known for blazing trails in their fields.

Pelosi, a member of Congress for more than three decades, made history in 2007 as the first woman elected to serve as speaker of the House. She has championed legislation that has helped to lower health care costs, increase workers’ pay and promote the nation’s economic growth. In 2013, Pelosi was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame at a ceremony in Seneca Falls, New York, the birthplace of the American women’s rights movement. 

Takei is best known for his role as Lt. Hikaru Sulu in “Star Trek,” the groundbreaking sci-fi series that featured a multiethnic cast and a plot centered on peace among all peoples. He is also a bestselling author with an immense social media following, which he has used as platform to advocate for the LGBTQ and Asian American communities and educate his audience about U.S. internment camps for Japanese Americans, where he and his family were held during World War II.

Both speakers described the tumultuous era awaiting the Class of 2022, one of political division, racial hatred, gun violence, housing injustice, a climate emergency and a battle to defend democracy at home and abroad.

“When people ask me, ‘What gives you hope for the future?’ I always say the same thing: young people,” Pelosi said.

Since the nation’s founding, “It has been young people who have refused to remain silent, led the civil rights movement, taking to the streets, casting ballots, making change happen. …

“So right now, you and your peers, you’ve seized the torch in so many ways, marching for our lives, your lives, sounding the alarm on climate, demanding justice, justice, justice for all.”

Pelosi had a special message for the women in the audience: “I want you to know your power. … And I want you to be ready.

“You don’t know what’s around the next corner, and that applies to all of you but especially to the women. Because nothing is more wholesome to the politics and the government and any other subject you can name than the increased participation of women.”

To those considering entering public office, she advised. “You have to be able to take a punch, and you have to be able to throw a punch. For the children, always for the children.”

Takei called on the graduates to use 21st Century tools to “create a new version of our future.

“You today live in an incredibly complicated universe, empowered by technology that can extend to the outer reaches of space as well as penetrate down to the very core of this planet,” he said. “Perhaps, just perhaps, might we have developed an overabundance of tools and know-how?”

He recalled the unexpected silver lining of the devastating COVID-19 pandemic: the blue sky, crystal-clear air and restoration of nature as cars, trucks, trains and planes were stilled.

“Our planet was new again. And this was not virtual, it was breathtakingly real,” Takei said.

“Can we reprioritize our goals to reclaim our planet? We look to you, the high-tech generation, the urban planners, the policymakers, those who work to better the welfare of our society, to seize this moment.”

A double Bruin who earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees at UCLA in the 1960s, Takei reminded his audience of the long line of dignitaries from science, politics and the arts who had taken the Royce Hall stage: Albert Einstein, John F. Kennedy, Ralph Bunche, Marian Anderson, George Gershwin and many more.

“All these notables made history,” Takei said. “They transformed their times. They confronted the world they found and made it better with their brilliance, their vision, their talent and their humanity. …

“You, the graduating class of 2022 of the Luskin School of Public Affairs, are the heirs to their legacy. Take their accomplishments as your inspiration.”

View a video of the UCLA Luskin undergraduate commencement ceremony featuring House speaker Nancy Pelosi.

View pictures from the UCLA Luskin undergraduate commencement celebration.

View pictures from the UCLA Luskin graduate commencement celebration.

 

UCLA Luskin Scholars on Strengthening Democracy in the Americas

A June 8 conference on how to strengthen the collective defense of democracy in the Americas featured several scholars from the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. The hybrid in-person discussion and webinar was a companion event to the Ninth Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles. The webinar focused on strengthening the Inter-American Democratic Charter, adopted in 2001 by 34 countries of the Organization of American States. The goal is to generate and advance realistic policy recommendations to improve the charter’s application by OAS member states. President Gabriel Boric of Chile offered the keynote address . In addition to Dean Gary Segura, participating UCLA Luskin faculty included Adjunct Professor of Social Welfare Helmut Anheier, Professor of Urban Planning Susanna Hecht, Associate Professor of Urban Planning Veronica Herrera and Associate Professor of Public Policy and Urban Planning Paavo Monkkonen. The webinar is sponsored by the UCLA Burkle Center for International RelationsUCLA Latin American Institute and UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and co-sponsored by the Latin American Program at the Wilson CenterThe Carter Center and the Community of Democracies

View photos from the event on Flickr:

Defense of Democracy


 

Nancy Pelosi Addresses Undergraduates at UCLA Luskin Commencement Speaker of the House offers keynote remarks during School’s in-person ceremony

Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and a member of Congress for more than three decades, gave the keynote address at the 2022 undergraduate commencement ceremony at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. 

Now in her fourth term as speaker, Pelosi made history in 2007 when she was the first woman elected to serve in that role. After serving as speaker for four years, she was House minority leader for eight years beginning in 2011. She returned to the position of speaker in 2019, when Democrats regained the House majority.  

Pelosi spoke during the UCLA Luskin ceremony that started at 3 p.m. on June 10 on the patio outside of UCLA’s Kerckhoff Hall. A crowd of up to 1,000 graduating students, family members and other invited guests had been anticipated.  

“Nancy Pelosi is a renowned leader who has skillfully guided California and the nation through some trials and tribulations — and many triumphs — during her long career as a public servant,” said Gary Segura, dean of the Luskin School. “She has also been a trailblazer in Congress and a role model for those who, like many of our students, may aspire to hold public office someday.  

“I know she will inspire our graduates to continue their quest to make a meaningful difference in the world.”  

As House speaker, Pelosi has championed legislation that has helped to lower health care costs, increase workers’ pay and promote the nation’s economic growth.  

She has represented California’s 12th District in San Francisco as a member of Congress since 1987. She has led House Democrats for 19 years and previously served as House Democratic whip. 

In 2013, Pelosi was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame at a ceremony in Seneca Falls, New York, the birthplace of the American women’s rights movement. 

Working with then-President Barack Obama, who called Pelosi “an extraordinary leader for the American people,” she led the House’s passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in early 2009 to create and save millions of American jobs in the wake of a worldwide recession. Pelosi also led the passage through Congress of the landmark Affordable Care Act.  

She has promoted legislation related to banking reform, consumer protection and funding for students. She has fought for women’s rights and sought to end pay discrimination. Pelosi’s many legislative accomplishments also include efforts to promote better nutrition for children and food safety. 

Many of her efforts align with UCLA Luskin’s mission to promote social justice, including her efforts to repeal discriminatory policies such as the “don’t ask, don’t tell” prohibition against gay and lesbian people serving openly in the military. 

The Luskin School is known for turning research into action, conducting academic studies that often lead to policy solutions. Many faculty, for example, are engaged in seeking ways to mitigate the growing effects of climate change. Pelosi has long been active in environmental causes, and she is known for 1989’s “Pelosi amendment,” which has become a tool to assess the potential environmental effects of development globally.  

Pelosi graduated from Trinity College in Washington, D.C. She and her husband, Paul Pelosi, a native of San Francisco, have five children and nine grandchildren. 

The Luskin School also hosted commencement for students earning graduate degrees at 9 a.m. on June 10. Actor, activist and UCLA alumnus George Takei was the keynote speaker. 

Learn more about the 2022 Commencements at UCLA Luskin.

George Takei Delivers Keynote Address at Commencement for UCLA Luskin Graduate Students The pioneering actor, bestselling author and advocate for human rights spoke at a June 10 ceremony for the School’s master’s and doctoral students

Actor, social justice activist and bestselling author George Takei gave the keynote address at the 2022 commencement ceremony for graduate students at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.

With decades of success on screen and stage, along with a natural eloquence and sharp wit, Takei has used his platform to advocate for civil rights and LGBTQ equality, and to educate his audience about U.S. internment camps for Japanese Americans, where he and his family were held during World War II.

Takei’s commencement address took place inside UCLA’s Royce Hall at a ceremony beginning at 9 a.m. on Friday, June 10. Master’s and doctoral degrees were conferred on the Luskin School’s public policy, social welfare and urban planning graduates.

“George Takei is a pioneer,” said Gary Segura, dean of the Luskin School. “His life story is one of perseverance amid the darkest forces of discrimination. Not only did he prevail, he used his voice to speak out on behalf of others facing deep injustices.”

Takei, who earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in theater at UCLA in the 1960s, has appeared in more than 40 feature films and hundreds of television roles. He is best known for his role as Lt. Hikaru Sulu in “Star Trek,” the groundbreaking sci-fi series that featured a multiethnic cast and a plot centered on peace among all peoples.

Takei is also the author of several books, including the New York Times bestselling graphic memoir “They Called Us Enemy,” released in 2019. The book gives a wrenching account of the thousands of Japanese American families, including his own, who were uprooted from their lives and forced into internment camps after the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941. Takei also inspired and starred in the Broadway musical “Allegiance” about his family’s experience under internment.

Long an activist in the Asian American community, Takei is chairman emeritus and a trustee of the Japanese American National Museum, and has served as cultural affairs chairman of the Japanese American Citizens League. Former President Bill Clinton appointed him to the Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission, and the government of Japan awarded him the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette, for his contribution to U.S.-Japanese relations.

A leading advocate for LGBTQ rights and marriage equality, Takei has served as the spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign’s Coming Out Project. Takei and his husband, Brad Altman, made television history in 2009 when they became the first gay couple to appear on “The Newlywed Game.”

Takei has an enormous following on social media, which he uses as a platform to share his humor, weigh in on current events, and advocate for civil and human rights.

Among his current media enterprises is the web series “It Takeis Two,” which takes viewers into the personal lives of Takei and his husband. He also hosts the AARP-produced YouTube series “Takei’s Take,” exploring the world of technology, trends and pop culture, and is the subject of the documentary “To Be Takei.”

Learn more about the 2022 Commencements at UCLA Luskin.

Insights From an Environmental Pioneer Mary Nichols, longtime champion of emission regulation in California, offers a roadmap toward a cleaner transportation future

By Les Dunseith

What comes to mind for Mary Nichols after 50 years as a leader of California’s environmental policy?

“As a lawyer, what I know is how to take laws … and actually make them do something for people,” she said. “If there’s a principle that I have tried to conduct my work by, it is that you don’t get appointed to one of these government jobs to fill the seat. You get appointed to actually do something with the job.”

After four terms as California Air Resources Board chair, Nichols told an in-person crowd of about 75 people and others watching online during the April 4 UCLA Luskin Lecture that getting things done requires dedication, persistence and, perhaps most importantly, good science.

Nichols pointed to her experience in leading the agency to set gasoline efficiency and anti-pollution standards in the automotive area. 

“We had our own engineers who knew just as well as the people inside the car companies that we were regulating what could be made available and what could be made affordable — like the catalytic converter — if you could just get the companies over their reluctance to change and overcome their constant desire to hold onto what they have until they can figure out how to make a profit on it.” 

If policymakers know what needs to be done and have the data to support it, Nichols said, “then you have a pretty good chance of bringing people along with you and moving forward.”

Nichols is an attorney who began working as an environmental regulator in response to the federal Clean Air Act of 1970. She first joined the state’s top environmental agency in 1975 and served as chair between 1979 and 1983, then from 1999 to 2003, and again from 2007 to 2020. She is also a distinguished counsel for the Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at UCLA Law and has associations with the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability and with the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation. 

In his introductory remarks, Dean Gary Segura of the Luskin School of Public Affairs said, “If you’re interested in the environment and you’re a longtime resident of California, the first name that would come to your mind in shaping the environmental policy of this state is Mary Nichols.”

Nichols’ appearance was the first Meyer and Renee Luskin Lecture Series event to occur in person in more than two years because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It took place in the Charles E. Young Grand Salon at Kerckhoff Hall on the UCLA campus. 

Nichols was joined in a discussion about the past and future of clean transportation by Tierra Bills, assistant professor of public policy and civil and environmental engineering at UCLA, and Colleen Callahan MA UP ’10, co-executive director of the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation.

They touched on issues that included air pollution, the future of clean energy and how to overcome resistance from businesses, government officials and the public to new, cleaner technology, including fostering wider acceptance of electric cars.

“We start with the fact that electric vehicles are expensive. There’s no question that they are more expensive than gasoline cars,” Nichols acknowledged. “And new gasoline-powered cars are expensive to begin with.”

She noted that electric vehicles are a growing segment of the used car market, but the reality is that many people are never going to purchase an electric car unless manufacturers — many of which see electric vehicles as their future — receive government incentives to bring costs down. 

“Otherwise, we’ll be looking at nothing but a luxury market,” Nichols said.

In California, a related need is starting to get more attention — making charging stations readily available. 

“If people find a way to afford to buy an electric vehicle, but they don’t have a place to charge it, then it’s not doing any good,” Nichols said. “We still have a long way to go in terms of … providing charging in public places and charging at workplaces.”

Bills pointed out that technological innovation has historically bypassed disadvantaged communities. 

Nichols said greater recognition of the need for equity now exists among decision-makers, but challenges remain. “I think there are ways of attacking the problem,” she said, “but it is going to require much bigger thinking than most of what has been going on up to now.”

Plus, dealing with environmental problems requires widespread buy-in.

Nichols joked, “Just saying that the Air Resources Board thinks you should do something isn’t going to be a winning argument, right?” 

Regulation and innovation are important, she said, but federal and state agencies also must look to build partnerships at the municipal level, enlisting assistance from local businesses and community-based organizations. 

She recalled an instance in which funding became available to advance air pollution goals by replacing old buses. To their surprise, government officials soon found themselves working not so much with school districts and large transit agencies as with religious organizations. 

“That’s who had old buses that they wanted to turn in and get new, clean buses so they could take kids on field trips,” Nichols recalled. “So, sometimes it requires a new way of delivering services.”

Callahan spoke about the increasing alarm among scientists that more must be done — and soon — if humankind is going to persevere in the face of climate change. How does one remain grounded and optimistic when faced with so many dire predictions?

You just have to keep working at it,” Nichols said. “It requires you to stay flexible in the sense that you look for new allies. You look for new resources. You look for new energy, which is one of the reasons why I like hanging around universities.”

Gesturing toward the crowd of environmental advocates, faculty, staff and students, Nichols continued.

“You get to know some of the people who, hopefully, are not just going to do what I did, but who are going to do it more and better.”

The Meyer and Renee Luskin Lecture Series enhances public discourse on topics relevant to the betterment of society, bringing together scholars as well as national and local leaders to address society’s most pressing problems. The event with Mary Nichols was co-hosted by the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation, along with several campus partners: the UCLA Center for Healthy Climate Solutions, UCLA Center for Impact@Anderson, UCLA Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, UCLA Institute of Transportation Studies, UCLA Samueli Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and the UCLA Sustainable LA Grand Challenge.

View photos from the event on Flickr.

Watch the lecture on Vimeo.

 

School Rises to Top 12 — and Top 10 for Social Work — in U.S. News Graduate Ranking Enhanced reputation is an indicator of ongoing work to meet and exceed high expectations for Luskin School and its Social Welfare programs.

UCLA Luskin’s overall ranking is in the top dozen among public affairs graduate schools in the nation based on the latest U.S. News & World Report ratings released today, including a Top 10 ranking in the social work category.

The School tied with other prestigious programs — Princeton, NYU, Georgetown and Carnegie Mellon at No. 12 and at No. 9 in social work with Case Western Reserve University.

“I am proud of the work that the Luskin School has done and continues to do. This ranking among national public affairs schools is just one indicator of the Luskin School’s continued growth and ongoing work to maintain and exceed our high expectations,” Dean Gary Segura said. “And the leap into the Top 10 for Social Welfare is a gigantic achievement! These reputational enhancements reflection the hard work and the continuing commitment of, and to, our UCLA and UCLA Luskin community, faculty, students, staff and all those that support and contribute to our mission,” he said.

“I am thrilled that our peers have rated us one of the top 10 social work programs in the nation,” said Laura Abrams, chair and professor of social welfare. “In the last five years, we have streamlined our Master of Social Welfare curriculum into three areas of concentration and incorporated several new elements, such as Intergroup Dialogue and the second-year capstone research projects.”

Abrams also noted the recruitment of new faculty members who are doing cutting-edge teaching, scholarship and community-based work.

“Dean Segura has been incredibly supportive of our expansion and increasing our visibility on the national stage. I couldn’t be more pleased to see our MSW program being honored in this way,” Abrams said.

Among public universities, the UCLA Luskin Social Welfare program is now one of the top six nationwide and the top two in California.

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. 7), public policy analysis (No. 13) and health policy and management (No. 12).

The 2023 rankings of public affairs programs are published in 2022 based on peer assessment survey results from fall 2021 and early 2022. U.S. News surveyed deans, directors and department chairs representing 270 master’s programs in public affairs and administration, and 298 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 2023 U.S. News & World Report Best Graduate Schools, published today.

Dean’s Message

And in the blink of an eye, five years has come and gone.

This is my 11th Forum column. I write after an extraordinary period of change in the world, and at UCLA Luskin. We do our work in the world, on real problems facing real people, families and communities. When I arrived five years ago, I made a commitment to embrace and enhance the School’s well-established mission of helping, of doing good in the world. I believe we have kept that promise, and each day I am stunned to see the astounding efforts of my colleagues in implementing that vision through research, training and action.

Five years ago, I could not have envisioned the pandemic, the insurrection and the myriad crises of these last two years. New challenges and new opportunities, daunting and exciting at the same time, have emerged from this upheaval. Out of the old will emerge new patterns, changed institutions, terrible losses and unanticipated opportunities. Exactly what those will look like is hard to foresee. But the Luskin School will certainly be trying.

What can UCLA Luskin do to enhance our understanding of COVID-19, of the political upheavals of the last years, of the social changes being set into motion by both? In this issue, we highlight ways in which Luskin research has immediate impact on the world around us.

Our work on inequality and displacement is never more needed than now, when the homelessness and affordable housing crises collide with large-scale economic struggle during the pandemic, and
a 40-year growth in income inequality.

Our work on housing and transportation can certainly inform our understanding of the “great resignation” or the withdrawal of substantial segments of the workforce from active participation. There is very little question that priorities have shifted for millions of Americans, less willing to work for minimum wage, less willing to take that second job (or, for couples, third job), less willing to

commute for hours a day. The death of hundreds of thousands of our countrymen, the 18 months of remote work, clearly reshaped choices.

Similarly, our expertise in these areas cannot help but inform the changing nature of work and workplaces after nearly two years of remote employment for many. Telecommuting pre-dates the pandemic, but these last two years have revolutionized our understanding of what tasks require in-person labor, and how supervisors can effectively monitor those working from home. Clearly some of this work was not ideal, but we discovered that some workers did just fine! In this context, hours of commuting and parking costs are hard to justify when they don’t improve productivity or enhance service.

Our expertise on health and health care disparities, disruptions in the insurance market, depression and mental health challenges, and lack of services to the poor, to marginalized communities and the homeless is made more urgent in the wake of clear and undeniable effects of this inequality on Los Angeles and beyond. We have witnessed wildly uneven mortality rates, testing and vaccination efforts, and untreated morbidities that have made a terrible situation worse for those who have the least.

Communities of color, among those most disadvantaged in the pandemic, have also seen their political voice weakened by vote dilution and voter suppression, and by a history of the use of the criminal justice system as social regulation. The UCLA Voting Rights Project at Luskin may be coming to a courtroom near you as we fight to protect the franchise and American democracy. When those most disadvantaged take to the streets in frustration, they are likely to face hostile law enforcement and attempts at suppression. Minority experiences in the U.S. justice system have historically been problematic under the best of circumstances and even more so in these times of social stress and the ongoing tragedy of unjustified killings. Thankfully, these events, too, are the subject of inquiry in all Luskin departments.

The distinction between the Luskin School and much of academia is reflected in words written by Marx 133 years ago in his 11th Thesis on Feuerbach: “The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it.”

Gary

The Dollars and Sense of Growth More faculty, more students, more research — yes, growth is good, but it does come with a price tag

By Les Dunseith

The Luskin School of Public Affairs has been growing — quickly.

  • The faculty is far larger than it was just five years ago — 35 ladder faculty then, 59 now (with three more hires pending).
  • Half-a-dozen additional research centers have been added or fully funded during that time.
  • The undergraduate public affairs major has skyrocketed from zero to 428 majors and pre-majors since spring 2018. Another 167 undergraduates are working on a minor.

Make no mistake, numbers like these are very good news. But such growth comes with a price tag, and dealing with that financial reality didn’t get any easier amid the economic uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic.

How to pay for it all?

It helps that enrollment in UCLA Luskin’s graduate degree programs is up across the board. A total of 551 master’s students, a record number, are enrolled this academic year. Revenue from fees paid by these professional school students helps offset some of the associated costs of educating more people, such as hiring additional instructors and funding more graduate research fellowships. From a budget standpoint, such fees are also beneficial because they are not part of state appropriations and thus not impacted by any cuts from Sacramento.

It’s also true that adding undergraduate students brings in revenue from tuition. Generally speaking, tuition money flows to the university as a whole, not directly to the Luskin School, but additional funding tied to the undergraduate program has been put to good use at UCLA Luskin to support educational activities in undergraduate classrooms.

A portion has also been directed toward the graduate students who act as teaching assistants.

Rowena Barlow, chief financial officer, said total support received by the Luskin School’s students has risen 72.4% over four years. Teaching assistantships include a tuition waiver in addition to salary, meaning that many graduate students today are paying less for a master’s degree than they would have if the undergraduate degree did not exist.

On the negative side of the ledger, adding the undergraduate program also led to the hiring of many new faculty, which has increased salary costs. But many of the new additions have contributed to another growing source of funding — research contracts and grants.

“Grant proposals and research awards have grown exponentially,” Barlow said, increasing up to 60% since Gary Segura became dean. In the most-recent fiscal year, UCLA Luskin was awarded 124 grants totaling $23.2 million, nearly double the 66 grants totaling $11.2 million in 2017-18. And just three months into the current fiscal year, researchers at the Luskin School had already received contracts and grants totaling more than $13.1 million.

Grants are especially important to faculty and their associated research centers, and as the number of such entities has grown, so has their funding. In the last fiscal year, academic research and advocacy entities, along with related training programs, brought in 72 awards — 58% of the School’s total. Barlow said those grants totaled more than $18.5 million — 80% of all contract and grant funding at UCLA Luskin.

“The numbers are stunning,” said Segura, who credited the dedication of Barlow’s team in Financial Services with coping with a steadily increasing workload as new research centers have come aboard.

“There’s no handbook,” Segura said. “There’s no campus resource center for new center startups.”

Another vital funding source not tied to taxpayer support is private donations, particularly endowments like the gift from Meyer and Renee Luskin in 2011 that led to the renaming of the School. The Luskins recently fulfilled the remainder of that gift and subsequent endowments totaling $54 million, and the full amount is now earning the interest that funds ongoing educational activities such as student fellowships and scholarships, some faculty research efforts and the Luskin Lecture series. A portion of the Luskin endowment is also earmarked specifically to faculty recruitment and retention, Barlow noted.

“Competing for faculty is our biggest budget challenge,” Segura said. “Our faculty are successful. And the more successful they are, the more other schools come knocking.”

Even the generosity of the Luskins extends only so far, however. Several priority needs remain.

Jocelyn Guihama, director of administration and experiential learning for the undergraduate program, mentioned that many students reported working multiple jobs to support their families amid the economic turmoil of the pandemic.

“Since most of the internships that we provide are unpaid, removing the necessity to hold down a job or jobs — by funding more scholarships so that students can focus on their capstone and academics — would be the ideal,” she said.

Segura said gifts that benefit students are always welcomed, and he mentioned another ongoing need that potential donors might not think about — gifts that directly support doctoral students.

“Doctoral fellowships are hugely valuable,” said Segura, not only for the students themselves but indirectly for the entire School because those who earn Ph.D.s at UCLA typically go on to positions at other universities. Many refer potential students to UCLA. Some cooperate with their former professors on new research projects. And having alumni professors distributed widely within academia helps boost the School’s reputation, which drives academic rankings.

Growth at the Luskin School is ongoing, and Segura noted that two more research entities are now in the startup phase — one focusing on childhood bullying, and the other relating to the complexities of gay male sexuality. Both are looking for a benefactor.

Ultimately, today’s UCLA Luskin is a place where bold ambitions might occasionally outpace resources, and the financial challenges can seem daunting at times. Even so, managing the cost of success is a good problem to have.