A Warm Welcome to UCLA Luskin

The Luskin School welcomed students and alumni back to campus with a series of celebrations and orientations to launch the new academic year. The 10th annual UCLA Luskin Block Party on Sept. 23 drew a record crowd as students, alumni, faculty, staff and supporters such as Meyer and Renee Luskin gathered on Dickson Plaza to connect with one another after an 18-month stretch of remote learning brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Health protocols remained in force during Welcome Week, which included graduate student informational and networking sessions and an open house for undergraduates focusing on the public affairs major. The week wrapped up with an exclusive reception for Class of 2020 graduates in the School’s public policy, social welfare and urban planning programs.

View UCLA Luskin photo galleries from:

10th Annual Block Party

Graduate Student Orientation

Undergraduate Open House

Class of 2020 Celebration

New Book by Segura Measures the True Cost of War

A new book co-authored by UCLA Luskin Dean Gary Segura measures the full cost of war by examining the consequences of foreign combat on domestic politics. In “Costly Calculations: A Theory of War, Casualties, and Politics,” published by Cambridge University Press, the authors employ a variety of empirical methods to examine multiple wars from the last 100 years. The human toll – the military dead and injured – is generally the most salient measure of war costs and the primary instrument through which war affects the social, economic and political fabric of a nation, according to Segura and co-author Scott Sigmund Gartner, provost of the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School. Their work provides a framework for understanding war initiation, war policy and war termination in democratic polities, as well as the forces that shape public opinion. “War-making is not just strategic but also represents a political action of some consequence filtered through a societal lens,” the authors write. “Leaders embark upon a course of conflict with an eye on the level of public support, work hard to win that support if it’s missing, actively attempt to manage public beliefs about the conflict and its costs and benefits, and may suffer the political consequences when the people viewing a conflict through the eyes of their communities believe that they miscalculated.” 


 

Dean’s Message

Renewal and resilience.

It would be trite to offer metaphors of springtime and cherry blossoms to mark the (maybe) tail end of a global pandemic and ongoing national political crisis. For starters, we are not out of the woods. New variants, lagging vaccination rates in some places, anti-scientific vaccine resistance and global poverty are all enormous barriers to putting a definitive end to the COVID-19 pandemic. Plus, the persistent separation between part of our body politic and un-spun facts, coupled with widescale efforts at disenfranchisement and a governing system designed for inaction, means that the peril to American democracy remains real and present. Indeed, my last message to you dated Jan. 4 celebrated a well-run election that was free of violence — then two days later, an insurrectionist mob occupied the U.S. Capitol attempting to use violence to overthrow a 7-million-vote presidential victory by Joe Biden.

Still, it is worth taking a moment to at least acknowledge where we are and what has happened to get us here. The new administration has facilitated an astounding vaccination campaign. Just shy of half of all Americans were fully vaccinated as of July 1, and almost 60% are on their way with at least one shot. California is among the leading states in successful vaccine distribution. To be certain, disturbing gaps by race, ethnicity and income remain, as do infuriating gaps by political identity and state. But progress has been made. When we return in September for the next academic year, classes will be taught in person because all faculty, staff and students who can be vaccinated will have fulfilled their obligation to do so. 

Amid the turmoil, the Luskin School has continued to pursue our core mission of teaching, training and research in the interest of the public good. Moreover, we have advanced our ongoing process of renewal, regeneration, reinvestment and reinvention. The School and its faculty are determined to adapt to new conditions, new challenges and new opportunities. We have been quite busy. 

Student recruitment for fall was one challenge successfully met, and we anticipate welcoming the largest class of incoming professional students (MPP, MSW, MURP) in our history. The undergraduate major — which just graduated its first class to receive a Bachelor of Arts in Public Affairs — will have approximately 450 students across four classes this year thanks to the amazing leadership of Professor Meredith Phillips, the department chair,
and Jocelyn Guihama, director of undergraduate administration
and experiential learning.

Fall also will bring our first dual-degree program when Urban Planning joins with an international partner in Sciences Po, the leading social science university in France. Professor Michael Storper, Associate Dean Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris and the current and former UP chairs, Chris Tilly and Vinit Mukhija, worked hard to develop this proposal and shepherd it through the complex UC approval process.  

And a new certificate program, Data Analytics in Public Affairs, will also be available starting this year to students in all professional programs thanks to the leadership of Zachary Steinert-Threlkeld, an assistant professor of public policy, and a schoolwide committee. 

Five new faculty will join us this year — three hired a year ago and two new additions — bringing to 60 the number of tenure-stream faculty in the Luskin School. They include specialists in transportation equity, housing discrimination, Black social mobility, child welfare and LGBTQ equity, and Latino youth empowerment. The range of expertise represented in the UCLA Luskin faculty continues to be enriched and expanded by such scholars.

And there have been other joys to celebrate. Professors Paul Ong and Don Shoup both won distinguished emeriti awards for their extensive research and teaching contributions to the School and to UCLA that have continued amid retirement. Other faculty and researchers have won awards and research grants too numerous to recount here. Alumnus Bill Coggins, a distinguished social worker and social service professional, was recognized by UCLA with the Alumni Public Service Award. And our most-worthy benefactors, Renee and Meyer Luskin, were chosen as UCLA’s Alumni of the Year. 

So, onward!  We have work to do and more challenges to meet. Be well.

Gary

Commencement Events Bring Class of ’21 Together

UCLA Luskin honored its Class of 2021 with two days of celebrations, including an on-campus ceremony that brought classmates together after more than a year of remaining apart. The June 10 stage-crossing event felt like a class reunion for many students who completed their coursework remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic. Although some health protocols remained in place, students from the School’s public policy, social welfare, urban planning and undergraduate programs were able to gather at UCLA’s Los Angeles Tennis Center to hear their names read aloud and take photographs with Dean Gary Segura, department chairs and fellow graduates. “Today, we have so much to celebrate,” Segura told the assembled graduates. “You have accomplished, against all odds, completing your UCLA degree during a global pandemic, and we could not be prouder of you.” Formal commencement ceremonies and speeches were posted online June 11 as the Luskin School bestowed master’s and doctoral degrees — and, for the first time, the new Bachelor of Arts in Public Affairs.

View a livestream of the on-campus event on Vimeo and additional images on Flickr.

 

UCLA Luskin Commencement 2021


 

Spring Quarter Town Halls With Dean Segura

Dean Gary Segura will host three town halls for UCLA Luskin students. The dean will share updates and answer questions at these virtual gatherings.

FOR DOCTORAL STUDENTS: Wednesday, May 12, 4-5:30 p.m.

FOR UNDERGRADUATES: Thursday, May 13, 12:30 – 2 p.m.

FOR MASTER’S STUDENTS: Thursday, May 20, 12:30 – 2 p.m.

Link to submit questions and join the town halls will be sent via email.

Black Lives Matter Pioneer Named 2021 Commencement Speaker Patrisse Cullors, co-founder of the global movement, is an author, educator and artist who has dedicated her life to racial justice

By Zoe Day

Patrisse Cullors, co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement, delivered a prerecorded address as part of the 2021 virtual commencement ceremony at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.

Cullors, an educator, artist and best-selling author who has been on the front lines of community organizing for 20 years, participated via on an online platform due to COVID-19 health concerns.

In 2013, the UCLA alumna created the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag on Twitter, which grew into an international movement for racial justice and reform. Last year, Time magazine named her one of the 100 most influential people in 2020.

“Patrisse Cullors is at the heart — and the foundation — of a movement for human rights, social change and genuine equality under the law,” UCLA Luskin Dean Gary Segura said in March when Cullors was announced as a speaker. “Her work and the work of those who follow is way past due.

“The time has long since come for our society to come to a reckoning regarding the violence and abuse we visit on Black Americans,” Segura said. 

As a teenager, Cullors became interested in activism and joined the Bus Riders Union, an advocacy group that fought for increased funding for bus systems in Los Angeles. She later started Dignity and Power Now, a coalition formed to shed light on brutality by sheriff’s deputies in county jails.

She has also led the JusticeLA and Reform L.A. Jails coalitions, helping them to win progressive ballot measures, fight against a $3.5 billion jail expansion plan in Los Angeles County, and implement the first Civilian Oversight Commission of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department.

Her activism has been informed by her studies of revolutionaries, critical theory and social movements around the world. She earned a bachelor’s degree in religion and philosophy from UCLA in 2012 and received her master’s in fine arts from USC.

In 2013, Cullors co-founded the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation with Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi in response to an acquittal in the killing of unarmed Florida teenager Trayvon Martin by a neighborhood watch volunteer. Today, the organization supports Black-led movements in the United States, United Kingdom and Canada and has been nominated for the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize.

In 2018, Cullors and co-author Asha Bandele published “When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir,” which became a New York Times best-seller.

In 2020, Cullors co-produced the 12-part YouTube series “Resist,” which chronicles the fight against Los Angeles County’s jail expansion plan. She also signed a multi-year production deal with Warner Bros. and has said she intends to use the contract to continue to uplift Black stories, talent and creators.

Cullors serves as the faculty director of Arizona’s Prescott College, where she designed the curriculum for a new master’s of fine arts program focusing on the intersection of art, social justice and community organizing.

Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon Opens UCLA Luskin Summit Legislative priorities relating to police reform and climate change are topics of focus in the keynote webinar to begin the third annual conference

By Les Dunseith

California Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon spoke about California’s policy priorities during remarks Jan. 28 when the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs opened its third annual Luskin Summit.

As one of the state’s top political leaders, Rendon outlined his legislative priorities for 2021 — police reform, climate change and broadband internet access —  as the first presenter in a virtual series of discussions set to continue in February, March and April.

Dean Gary Segura said Rendon was invited to open the Summit in part because his background and political views are of interest to UCLA students, faculty and alumni. “In his career as educator, child well-being advocate and policy innovator, Rendon represents the best values of the Luskin School and our mission.”

Addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, Rendon, a Democrat, said Californians are already seeing benefits from the election of Joe Biden as president.

“One thing we can be sure about is the importance of having a plan. Throughout 2020, when COVID first appeared on our radar, we did not have a national plan,” Rendon said. “Biden came in, and he released a plan in his first week.”

He noted the tension that existed on many issues between the Trump administration and California officials, which led state leaders to work independently of the federal government on issues such as immigration and climate change.

“With Biden in the White House … I think we’re going to have a little bit more help and more opportunities to work with this administration instead of against it,” Rendon said.

As a legislative leader, Rendon has stressed inclusion and diversity, and he noted that more women hold committee chairs today in the state assembly than at any time in the past. He also pointed to his appointment of the first Muslim, Imam Mohammad Yasir Khan, to serve as assembly chaplain.

His leadership style emphasizes sharing of responsibility, Rendon told the online audience of more than 100 scholars, social services advocates, philanthropic and public leaders, and other interested parties. 

“I believe that the assembly works best when the individual members of the assembly, particularly the chairs, are able to utilize their skills, to utilize their life experiences,” he said. For example, Rendon said he has sought to embolden the chairs of legislative committees related to health and education whose expertise exceeds his own. “That’s been my philosophy, that I can be the best leader if I’m enabling others to do their jobs.”

In terms of legislative priorities, Rendon acknowledged that California lawmakers “fell short” on police reform in 2020, including failing to pass a bill that would have changed the disciplinary processes for police officers.

“We need to change those processes so that public safety is not just about officer protection,” he said. “Of course, we want to make sure that we’re not endangering the people we trust with patrolling our streets and neighborhoods, but we also have to make sure that they are careful.”

Rendon said California is already a national and international leader in dealing with climate change, but more work can be done.

“We need to ask if our climate change actions benefit disadvantaged communities,” he said, noting that his assembly district includes some of the most densely populated areas in the nation. “Southeast L.A. communities have around 17,000 people per square mile, but we have severe park shortages.”

Parts of his district were once farmland, but when they were developed for housing, the emphasis was placed on building high-density apartment dwellings without retaining open spaces. “Parks and vegetation are really important ways to reduce the heat island effect that drives warming in urban communities,” Rendon said.

His third legislative priority for 2021 also focuses on disadvantaged communities. In the past, discussions about a lack of broadband internet access centered around rural communities in the extreme north and south of the state.

“When COVID happened and when folks started having to go online for schooling, we discovered that there was a lack of broadband access all over the place,” Rendon said. “And those problems really started to manifest themselves, particularly in disadvantaged communities.”

He views the internet today as a critical public utility. “It’s not just a rich and poor issue; not just an urban and rural issue,” Rendon said. “It’s an issue that affects every single part of the state.”

In answer to a question posed by Segura about housing affordability, Rendon talked about visiting a neighborhood where he had once lived and noticing a flurry of housing construction. He reached out to a local official to praise the effort, only to be told to take a closer look at the upper floors of the newly occupied buildings.

“Those are all dark, right? Nobody lives there.”

In Rendon’s view, this example illustrates an ongoing problem in a state in which high-end housing continues to be built without enough pressure being brought on developers to balance their projects with affordable units.

When he first got to Sacramento, Rendon said, he noticed a disconnect in people’s minds between housing and homelessness. Over time, this misconception has slowly changed, in part because of “incredible data that show the number of people who would become homeless if they missed one month of pay, if they missed two months of pay.”

To further illustrate his point, Rendon noted that as assembly speaker he serves on the UC Board of Regents and the Cal State Board of Trustees. The statistics on housing scarcity among university students are staggering, he said, noting that many students can be found sleeping in their cars or couch surfing with friends from one night to the next.

“We know that housing and homelessness are linked,” said Rendon, whose 20 years of work in the nonprofit sphere often leads him to look for solutions in service delivery mechanisms. “I think if we’re going to solve the housing crisis, we need to address homelessness. And if we’re going to address homelessness, we really need to think about comprehensive services for homeless folks and for near-homeless folks.”

Additional information about the Luskin Summit, including previews of other sessions and a registration link, can be found online. Sponsors include the Los Angeles Rams, Gensler, the Weingart Foundation and the California Wellness Foundation. The media partner is ABC7 in Los Angeles.

In late April, the final event of Luskin Summit 2021 will be unveiling of the 6th annual Quality of Life Index, a project at UCLA Luskin that is supported by The California Endowment and Meyer and Renee Luskin under the direction of Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative. The survey asks county residents to rate their quality of life in a range of categories and to answer questions about important issues. Last year’s survey happened to coincide with the early stages of the pandemic.  

Watch a recording of the keynote session:

Dean’s Message

Well. That happened.

The year 2020 is etched in our memories forever. And we will be living with the consequences for a long time to come. For years, UCLA has built a brand around optimism, and there is no question that we needed some these last few months.

As things improve in 2021 — as I hope and expect they will — we will have a lot of people to thank. Some are visionaries, some are people of action, some do what they have always done but with more urgency and at greater risk, and some do what has never been done before.

Experiences, no matter how bitter, can be instructive. And this one is no exception. I have learned a great deal these last few months …

  1. Science is not the answer to every question. But the rejection of science, opposition to reason and evidence, is deadly.
  2. Pandemics are social scientific problems. Yes, they are public health and medical problems, and (laboratory) scientific problems, but genuine solutions require understanding why people think what they think and why people do what they do.
  3. The American people are, on average, undereducated in science and in civics. Every high school graduate should have a working knowledge of American government and a basic understanding of the scientific method. Without both, the ability to distinguish fact from fiction is severely undermined.
  4. Accurate information is essential to democracy and to prosperity. Misinformation intentionally flooded into the conversation is devastating and deadly. The crises of 2020 were fueled by media actors making statements they knew were false as they said them. Yelling “fire!” in a crowded theater is not free speech.
  5. Citizens of a democracy should hold strong commitment to core principles: belief in fundamental equality of all citizens; equality of justice under the law; freedom to speak one’s mind without threat of violence; commitment to the common good; the sanctity and universality of the right to vote, and an embrace of fully fair elections that includes a willingness to recognize the winner as legitimate. Unfortunately, these principles are far from universal.
  6. American political institutions are flawed and can be profoundly weak, but they have survived in part because of adherence to norms. Failing such adherence, our institutions may not be up to the task. We have seen entire clauses of the Constitution be made unenforceable and the “co-equal” nature of the elected branches swept away through judicial fiat. The power of the presidency has grown wildly beyond the intended constraints of the anti-monarchical framers.

So, yes, all that happened. But this happened too:

  1. There is still room for American exceptionalism. An astounding 154 million Americans cast votes in an election whose administration required unprecedented adaptation and courage. The 2020 election proceeded without violence or serious organizational breakdown.
  2. UCLA is an institution of startling capacity. Amid the pandemic, this institution has made critical contributions in health care and public health, crisis management and the relief of human misery, all while the entire campus was re-platformed to ensure continued delivery of a world-class education.
  3. These last 10 months included breathtaking acts of courage and kindness in all corners of society. The dedication to common good and genuine community that permeates our society remains, I believe, the best characteristic of our national character.
  4. The people of UCLA Luskin continue to pursue that common good. We have provided comfort to those in need of support, helped manage public agency responses, litigated to protect the right to vote, studied exhaustively the economic and human crises in the post-pandemic environment, and pushed for equitable treatment during this time of tremendous social stress. Luskin advocates passionately — based on good science — for positive change.

In recent months, our worst and best impulses have been evident simultaneously. At UCLA Luskin, we remain committed to minimizing the former, nurturing the latter, and making progress on the challenges that remain.

To a better year ahead.

Gary

Dean’s Town Halls Offer Forum for Questions and Concerns

Dean Gary Segura hosted a trio of virtual town hall-style discussions this month, inviting students to discuss issues of concern. In the past, Segura held one session per year, but he has stepped up the frequency and split into separate sessions for the undergraduate, master’s and doctoral programs because of the challenges of pursuing higher education amid COVID-19. Segura was joined by department chairs and staff, who fielded a broad range of inquiries about remote learning, university finances, racial reconciliation and support for international students. Segura said the School has set aside additional funds to support students in need and noted that a number of faculty hires are in the works. Plans for graduation are taking place on two tracks, in-person and remote, depending on health restrictions, he said. Students shared their experiences with virtual instruction, weighing in on what works and what does not. They also learned about a national campaign in support of paid internships and discussed departmental efforts to update training and curriculum on issues of equity. Although quarterly town halls are planned, the dean stressed that students can offer input at any time. The coronavirus pandemic has required flexibility and forbearance. “It’s a very difficult time, there’s no question about that. People’s patience is starting to wear a little thin — but don’t let impatience put your health at risk,” Segura cautioned. “There is a light at the end of the tunnel, but you’ve got to hang on.”