The Goal: Making Diversity Redundant UCLA Luskin alumni, faculty, students and staff gather for a daylong diversity recruitment fair showcasing programs and commitment to social justice

“You need diversity because it is excellence and its absence is a sign of intellectual weakness and organizational incapacity. So what we do here today and what we do at Luskin makes the country, Los Angeles and the world a better place.”

— UCLA Luskin Dean Gary Segura

By Stan Paul

Gary Segura, dean of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, was happy to host the second all-school diversity recruitment fair at UCLA. But, in truth, he would like to see it become redundant.

“I am hoping and believing that we are getting very close to the verge of making it redundant in what Luskin does,” said Segura, who has devoted his academic life to studying issues related to the issues highlighted by the fair.

“By your arrival next fall, Luskin will indisputably be the most diverse school of public affairs in the United States,” Segura said to an audience of students who have applied, or are thinking of applying, to one or more of the School’s three professional graduate programs in public policy, social welfare and urban planning.

In addition to UCLA Luskin’s outstanding faculty, Segura cited the School’s wide array of groups, caucuses and organizations — including the D3 Initiative (Diversity, Disparities and Difference) — and new programs, new hires and ongoing searches for new faculty focused on racial inequality, multicultural planning and immigration policy, among other areas of expertise.

The many UCLA Luskin student groups, along with their classmates, alumni, faculty and staff, came together again this year to organize the Dec. 2, 2017, event.

“At some point, the study of class and racial and sexuality differences as an understanding of public policy, social well-being and urban issues is not a niche, it is the discipline,” Segura said. “It’s 70 percent of the population.”

Joining the dean in welcoming fair attendees were faculty leaders in Public Policy, Social Welfare and Urban Planning, along with a panel of Luskin alumni representing all three graduate programs.

Making her pitch to candidates for the Master of Social Welfare professor and department chair Laura Abrams focused on recent tax legislation passed by the U.S. Senate.

“What does the tax bill have to do with social welfare at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs?” she asked. “Everything,” came a soft voice rising from the audience, stealing a bit of Abrams’ thunder.

“That was on my notes,” quipped Abrams, who explained that the bill would directly attack Social Security, Medicare and “all the public benefits that are the foundation of our social welfare system.”

She then asked who would deal with the costs of economic hardships on the front lines.

“Social workers!” she answered emphatically, adding, “We are going to have to be the ones who pick up the pieces of those who are displaced, who are homeless, who are pushed into the criminal justice system, who don’t have enough to eat and who don’t have housing.

“So,” Abrams added, “we need all of you, not just those entering social welfare, but the planners and the policy makers because you are the future that is going to have to fix what is happening today.”

Manisha Shah, associate professor and vice chair of Public Policy, highlighted the expertise of Luskin faculty in areas such as health policy, education, immigration, inequality, science and technology.

“We have a lot of flexibility in the department based on what your interests are and what you want to do, what type of policy arena you want to work in,” said Shah, who cited the department’s mixture of qualitative and quantitative approaches to evidence-based policymaking and analysis.

Vinit Mukhija, professor chair of Urban Planning, said that diversity and excellence are not trade-offs in outlining the holistic approach his department — which will soon celebrate 50 years at UCLA — takes in making admissions decisions. Urban Planning emphasizes not only grades but also a student’s personal statement, recommendations and the importance of relevant work experience.

Mukhija, who studies informal housing and slums in the global north and south, explained his own interest as a planner in finding ways to improve living conditions in slums, and his goal to “learn about them to change our ideas about cities and about our design ideas, our rules and to have more just cities.”

Also providing information and encouragement were recent graduates of the Luskin School’s programs who participated in a series of discussions with aspiring students.

Panelists were asked what motivated them to apply to Luskin in their chosen disciplines.

“Communities of color are not always exposed to urban planning although we’re often experiencing the negative effects of what actually happens,” said Carolyn Vera MURP ’17, who was born and raised in South Central Los Angeles. Vera, who now works at a transportation consulting firm, said that when she moved back to Los Angeles following her undergraduate years, she didn’t recognize the city she grew up in, citing the effects of gentrification. Vera said urban planning is such a diverse field and, “I knew I wanted to stay in L.A. and work with my community.”

It was homelessness that brought Cornell Williams MSW ’12 to UCLA Luskin Social Welfare.

“I was homeless for a year. I had a college degree and I was sleeping in the park,” said Williams, now a psychiatric social worker for Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health and clinical director of the Jeffrey Foundation in Los Angeles. “Like a lot of our clients and people we have the passion to serve, I was stuck in that position and I had no knowledge of resources and access.”

Williams said the experience forced him to ask tough questions about himself and his future. “I came to one of these events and had an interest in all three programs,” but he said that Gerry Laviña, director of field education and associate director of D3, “was a big part of helping me conjure or stir the gifts inside of me to choose social welfare.”

Williams said UCLA Luskin’s Social Welfare gave him the flexibility to work in “every environment you can think of, and I’ve worked in a good number of them myself.”

The day’s events also included breakout sessions led by a number of the School’s sponsoring and organizing student groups: D3, Luskin Leadership Development, Social Welfare Diversity Caucus, Policy Professionals for Diversity & Equity, and Planners of Color for Social Equity.

Attending the event was recent UCLA graduate Vanessa Rodriguez, who said she hopes to enroll in the MSW program next fall. Rodriguez, who grew up in Boyle Heights and has worked with children with autism, said she has always had a passion for helping people. She said her reason for pursuing an MSW degree would be to work with women and victims of domestic abuse.

Among the staff and student volunteers who made the day a success was second-year MSW candidate Marisol Granillo Arce, who said she had attended a number of Luskin diversity related fairs before applying. Granillo Arce, who now also works as a graduate researcher for the UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, said it is exciting to meet future agents of change and tell them: “You’ve got what it takes to be a social worker, urban planner, and public policymaker.”

Granillo Arce added: “I think that individuals thinking of applying get the unique opportunity to know the staff, professors and students in the different departments. It is truly inspirational. You end up leaving the fair more confident and inspired.”

Daughter of Civil Rights Leader Speaks at Film Screening

Maria Elena Chávez’s presence at the screening of “Dolores,” a documentary depicting the life and legacy of civil rights activist Dolores Huerta, sent a powerful message about generational activism and fostering change within minority communities. The political landscape of Huerta’s generation, where there were fights for basic human rights of farm workers, is not so different from today, Chávez said about her mother’s efforts. As the film depicts, marginalized immigrant farmworkers living in poverty were able to organize and fight for their rights, benefitting generations to come. Huerta, now 87, was at the heart of this movement, demanding respect, fair wages and access to clean water on the job. Chávez described her mother as “unstoppable” and “passionate” as she has continued to make an impact in her community after leaving the Unified Farm Workers Movement organization and creating the Dolores Huerta Foundation. Chávez also discussed her mother’s impact on her life and professional choices as a political filmmaker and civil rights activist. “It’s in my blood,” said Chávez, who is the daughter of Huerta and Richard Chavez, the brother of César Chávez. She also spoke of the challenges of growing up in a politically active family and adversities she faced because of her mother’s dedication to the civil rights movement while raising 11 children. “Maria Elena Chavez’s visit to UCLA provided a direct appeal to join the movement for justice,” said Sonja Diaz, director of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative, which co-sponsored the event. “The political landscape that mobilized farmworkers to demand respect, fair wages and workplace access to restrooms and water is not too different from today’s crisis of inequality. As the film ‘Dolores’ makes clear, farmworkers and countless other U.S. workers living in poverty have the skills to organize, and those of us with means have the obligation to support.”

 

Guiding the Next Gen of Leaders UCLA Luskin welcomes new and returning Senior Fellows from the public, private and nonprofit sectors

By Stan Paul

For more than two decades the Senior Fellows Leadership Program at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs has matched the School’s students with professionals.

UCLA Luskin Public Policy, Social Welfare and Urban Planning students have enhanced their academic experience with real-world, practical applications by making direct connections with individuals working in their areas of interest.

This year is no exception. Now in its 21st run, the program has fielded an outstanding class of fellows representing a wide range of professional expertise. The 2017-18 class includes a former U.S. Congresswoman, a current U.S. Foreign Service officer, the president of a popular local news media and cultural outlet, and an advocate for children’s rights.

“We are particularly proud of this group of Senior Fellows in part because it’s one of the largest groups of new and returning fellows,” Dean Gary Segura said in his opening remarks at an Oct. 26, 2017, welcome breakfast marking the kickoff of the 2017-18 Senior Fellows. “We are overwhelmed by your generosity. More importantly, we are overwhelmed by your willingness to share some of your valuable time with the next generation of leaders in Los Angeles and beyond. And, I mean by that, the 575 young people that make up the student body of the Luskin School of Public Affairs.”

Among the returning Senior Fellows is David Carlisle, president and CEO of Charles Drew University of Medicine. Carlisle, who also is an adjunct professor at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, served as keynote speaker for the gathering at UCLA’s Faculty Center.

“This is one of the most wonderful activities that I do every year … and I look forward to coming back because of the interaction with young people that this program provides,” Carlisle said to Luskin student mentees, faculty, staff and guests.

In his presentation, Carlisle, who has served as a Senior Fellow since 2007, stressed the continued importance of the mentor program. In an economic sense California is experiencing a “golden age,” Carlisle said. But “we are still challenged by meeting demands cultivating personal capital in the state of California and the United States … human capital. And, there are too many places in our state where people are still challenged to participate fully in the economic engine that is the state of California.”

For second-year Master of Urban and Regional Planning student Sonia Suresh, an interest in affordable housing development and working with homeless populations led to her choice of Anita Nelson as a Senior Fellow mentor. Nelson is the CEO of SFO Housing Corporation, a Los Angeles-based organization committed to providing housing and support services for homeless and low-income people.

“We had a great conversation on our backgrounds and interests, as well as the type of affordable housing her organization builds,” said Suresh, who is also a member of Planners of Color for Social Equity at UCLA Luskin. “We have set up a day for me to shadow her and her development team.”

Second-year Master of Public Policy student Bei Zhao and first-year urban planning student Alexander Salgado were partnered with returning fellow Steven Nissen, senior vice president, legal and governmental Affairs, for NBC Universal.

Zhao, a native of China who has worked in investment banking in Beijing, said that the breakfast and mentor program provided the opportunity to talk about participants’ backgrounds and professional experience. She said she was amazed by Nissen’s experience bridging the private, public and nonprofit sectors, “which is also the direction I want to build for my own career.” Zhao said she hopes to apply her public policy and finance experience in the public sector of a nonprofit organization.

Nissen and his mentees have already planned on continuing their conversation. “At the end of the breakfast, he invited us to visit NBC Universal for further meetings … which shows his generosity for the future generation,” Zhao said.

The Senior Fellows Leadership Program is part of the Luskin School’s Leadership Development Program which is led and organized each year by VC Powe, director of career services and leadership development.

In addition to Nelson, new members of the Senior Fellows are:

  • Elizabeth Calvin, senior advocate, Children’s Rights Division, Human Rights Watch
  • Rick Cole, city manager, city of Santa Monica
  • Efrain Escobedo, vice president, civic engagement & policy, California Community Foundation
  • Christine Essel, president and CEO, Southern California Grantmakers
  • Jennifer Ferro, president, KCRW
  • Anne Miskey, chief executive officer, Downtown Women’s Center
  • Erica Murray, president and CEO, California Association of Public Hospitals
  • Rick Nahmias, founder/executive director, Food Forward
  • Seleta Reynolds, general manager, Los Angeles Department of Transportation
  • Michelle Rhone-Collins, executive director, LIFT-Los Angeles
  • Lynn Schenk, former Congresswoman, California 39th Congressional District
  • Dan Schnur, director, American Jewish Committee; former director, USC Unruh Institute of Politics
  • Heather Joy Thompson, diplomat-in-residence based at UCLA Luskin; Foreign Service Officer, U.S. State Department
  • David Wright, CEO, Los Angeles Department of Water and Power

More information on the Senior Fellows Leadership Program, Senior Fellow bios and a full list of returning Senior Fellows are available online.

Inside Look at State Politics

Cristina Garcia’s day at UCLA began with a meeting with Ramona Cortés Garza, executive director of UCLA State Relations, and LPPI’s leadership — Political Science and Chicana/o Studies Professor Matt A. Barreto, Luskin Dean Gary M. Segura and LPPI Director Sonja Diaz. They discussed how to leverage research to inform evidence-based policy solutions that are tailored to meet the needs of diverse Californians. Photo by Bryce Carrington

Cristina Garcia of the California State Assembly spoke about her efforts to make government more transparent during an Oct. 16, 2017, gathering at UCLA hosted by the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative. Garcia talked about the grassroots battle against political corruption in the 58th Assembly District in Southeast Los Angeles that eventually led her to seek office. “I’m an idealist at heart, and I do believe that we can have a democracy that works for us all.” Garcia talked about her three policy pillars: government transparency, women’s issues and environmental justice. She believes in standing up for the majority-Latino district she was elected to represent, but she envisions California as a place where every group of voters has equal input and access to the political system. She advocates for a more diverse and representative political system in which all Californians have an equal seat at the table. “For me, when I talk about where I want to see my society, we can’t shy away from race,” she said during a Q&A with students, staff and faculty from UCLA Luskin, the Division of Social Science, Grad Division, UCLA’s Early Academic Outreach Program, the Institute of Environmental Studies, and UCLA’s Government and Community Relations. “We can’t shy away from things that are real systemic barriers.” Although she faces hurdles when pushing many issues of importance to her constituents, she said that time and changing demographics are on her side. “Latino power is growing. We have had some losses and some steps back, but sooner or later we are going to be a majority,” Garcia said of California’s evolving population. “And we are also going to be a majority in those demographics in the State Legislature.”

Hover over the image below to access a Flickr gallery of photos.

Assembly member Cristina Garcia

Dean’s Message on DACA Decision 'You are not alone in this,' Segura writes in support of any undocumented Luskin students 

Friends, Colleagues, Alumni and Students:

I am heartsick to hear the announcement from the Trump administration that DACA will be ending unless there is some congressional action in the coming months. This decision flies in the face of good policy, the best interests of the United States, our moral obligations to one another, and simple human decency.  In the long run, my sincere hope and expectation is that this decision will not stand, that our society will move forward toward a more reasonable and just outcome for these young people and, indeed, all members of our society whose status is an obstacle to a fuller and more complete participation in our economy and institutions. In the interim, we face a period of uncertainty, and for this I am deeply sorry.

For now, I want to make several things perfectly clear. First, to every undocumented Luskin student, you have my support. You are not alone in this, and I will continue my work (within the University and elsewhere) to push back on this odious turn in federal policy.  Second, every Luskin student has my personal commitment to protect your privacy and educational records, consistent with U.S. law and the principles outlined by the UC-system in response to these events. Third, all of us have a special duty, in these circumstances, to redouble our efforts toward helping families and communities cope with the challenges presented by these and other events. And finally, know that your work and training are not in vain. Rather, it is in these moments that the tools of social science and a commitment to human well-being are in greatest demand.

I hope, in the near future, I will be able to address you with better news on this critical issue. Until then, to the ‘Dreamers’ among us — I will continue to admire your strength, your resilience, and your immense capacity to make change in this society.

In hopeful determination,

 

 

 

Gary M. Segura
Professor and Dean

Dean Gary Segura Named Vice President of American Political Science Association APSA is the largest association of political scientists, with more than 12,000 members. It promotes scholarly research and teaching in politics and government.

By Stan Paul

Gary Segura, dean of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, has been named vice president of the American Political Science Association (APSA), the leading professional organization for the study of political science.

Segura assumed the one-year leadership post at the annual meeting of APSA held Aug. 31–Sept. 3 in San Francisco. Previously, he served on the Executive Council of APSA – the organization’s governing body – and also was past president of the Midwest Political Science Association and Western Political Science Association.

“It has been my privilege to serve on the Executive Council in the past, and I have great affection for the association and the work it does,” said Segura, who also holds academic appointments in public policy and Chicana/o studies at UCLA.

ASPA, founded in 1903, has more than 12,000 members representing more than 80 countries and promotes scholarly research and teaching in politics and government. The organization is the largest association of political scientists and publishes a number of peer-reviewed political science journals, including American Political Science Review.

“I am honored to have been elected vice president and am looking forward to helping guide the association in the coming year,” said Segura, who joined the Luskin School as dean in January 2017.

Prior to coming to Luskin, Segura was the Morris M. Doyle Centennial Professor of Public Policy, professor of political science, and professor and former chair of Chicana/o–Latina/o studies at Stanford University, where he also served as director of the Center for American Democracy and director of the Institute on the Politics of Inequality, Race and Ethnicity.

 

A Message to the UCLA Luskin Community Dean Gary Segura's statement on the tragic events in Charlottesville — 'we remain deeply committed to engaging in the kind of work that creates a better future'

My friends in the Luskin community,

For the kind of work that we do here at Luskin, the tragic and horrific events in Charlottesville last weekend cut very close to home. The forces of division are strong and, for the first time in a generation, they are being legitimized, and endorsed by the highest powers in the country. Our nation is in mourning, as adherents of the abhorrent ideology of white supremacy murdered a woman (and injured dozens) in broad daylight in a university town. Heather Heyer is among the most recent and visible casualties of racism, but she is not the first and I am sadly certain she will not be the last.

That racism, sexism, homophobia, islamophobia, anti-Semitism and white supremacy kill is hardly news. Their effects are everywhere, if only you are willing to look. Racial disparities in political representation, educational opportunity, net wealth, access to affordable health care, home ownership, and contact with the carceral state are manifest and written into institutional arrangements that preserve social inequalities rather than disrupt them.

Women face wage and health care discrimination, mosques burned as Muslims are banned, Jews denounced by white men wearing swastikas, gays and lesbians beaten and murdered, transsexual persons demonized and legislated against, and undocumented immigrants who do some of the hardest jobs in the society described as rapists and drug mules by the President of the United States and deported at an accelerating pace.

All of these things were true on the day before the Charlottesville marches and murder last weekend. These affronts to human dignity and well-being are what makes our work so important. At Luskin we train scholars, policymakers and community leaders who work hard—together—every day to alleviate and transform these social injustices. We must continue to produce state of the art research in the service of all of our communities. In Los Angeles, we know that our diversity is not a weakness; in fact, it is our strength.

It is my fervent hope that these tragic events become a tipping point. We should be more motivated than we have ever been. We should be more fully mobilized than we have ever been. And we should work even harder to bring the tools of our professions, our training as applied social scientists, our insights, our skills at distilling fact from propaganda to this struggle.

In a spirit of hope and action, we remain deeply committed to engaging in the kind of work that creates a better future for all communities. And we must fight like hell to achieve that goal.

Best wishes to you all,

 

 

 

Gary Segura
Dean

Conference at UCLA Luskin Slices Into Post-Election Data UCLA faculty members guide scholars from across the nation during a face-to-face dissection of a collective survey effort that showcases research on race, ethnicity and politics

By Stan Paul

The assembled scholars listened intently, readying their critiques as a stream of researchers from universities large and small took the podium. Over two days, findings from a landmark shared survey effort focusing on the 2016 U.S. elections were presented, and then colleagues from across the nation congratulated and cajoled, concurred and challenged — sometimes forcefully.

And that was the point of it.

The spirited gathering on Aug. 3-4, 2017, in a large lecture hall at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs brought together academic peers from across the United States whose findings were all derived from the same innovative and singular data set.

The 2016 Collaborative Multi-Racial Post-Election Survey (CMPS) was produced by a nationwide research collaborative co-led by faculty from UCLA. The survey’s nearly 400 questions focused primarily on issues and attitudes related to the 2016 election, including immigration, policing, racial equality, health care, federal spending and climate change.

“Questions were user-generated via a team of 86 social scientists from 55 different universities across 18 disciplines,” said Lorrie Frasure-Yokley, a UCLA associate professor of political science who was one of the event’s organizers as well as co-principal investigator for the survey.

The survey’s creators describe the 2016 CMPS as “the first cooperative, 100 percent user-content-driven, multiracial, multiethnic, multilingual, post-election online survey in race, ethnicity and politics (REP) in the United States.”

“We queried more than 10,000 people in five languages — English, Spanish, Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese,” said Frasure-Yokley, who was joined by conference co-organizer Matt Barreto, professor of political science and Chicana/o studies at UCLA, as well as their co-principal investigators, Janelle Wong from the University of Maryland and Edward Vargas from Arizona State University.

Also serving as the annual summer meeting of a group known as the Politics of Race, Immigration and Ethnicity Consortium (PRIEC), the conference is part of an ongoing series of meetings at which faculty scholars and graduate student researchers showcase works in progress related to racial and ethnic politics. Immigration, political behavior, institutions, processes and public policy also receive research attention.

“We have never seen this much diversity in the research being presented, in the presenters themselves, and in the audience members,” Barreto said. “It was a great experience.”

In spring 2016, U.S. scholars were invited to join a cooperative and self-fund the 2016 CMPS through the purchase of question content by contributors, Frasure-Yokley explained. The treasure trove of results is being incorporated into numerous ongoing academic studies and reports. Of those, 16 research projects derived from the data were presented, discussed and critiqued in open forums by other researchers attending the conference at UCLA.

“Our goal was to provide CMPS contributors with an outlet to present their research, obtain feedback for revisions toward publication, including book projects and academic articles,” Frasure-Yokley noted.

The gathering also served as a professional development and networking opportunity for scholars who study race, ethnicity and immigration in the United States, she said. And the conference provided what Frasure-Yokley described as a “lively and interactive platform” for graduate students to present their research and obtain feedback via a poster session.

Organizers also encouraged and further cultivated the development of a number of co-authored research projects among CMPS contributors, she said.

One of the presentations focused on research conducted by UCLA Luskin Dean Gary Segura and colleagues titled, “From Prop. 187 to Trump: New Evidence That Group Threat Mobilizes Latino Voters.”

Segura, who also served as a presentation moderator, is a longtime participant in PRIEC, having previously hosted a meeting when he was at Stanford. In fact, Barreto noted that Segura was one of the original members of PRIEC, presenting at the very first meeting at UC Riverside.

Holding this year’s conference at UCLA was a perfect fit. “Luskin was a great venue to host this conference because so many of the research presentations were directly engaging public policy and public affairs — from health policy, policing, immigration reform, LGBT rights, and race relations,” Barreto said.

“The partnership between Luskin and Social Sciences to bring the PRIEC conference to UCLA was truly outstanding. This conference was groundbreaking in bringing together scholars who study comparative racial politics from a Latino, African American and Asian American perspective,” he said.

Here are some of the other presentation titles:

  • “Immigration Enforcement Scares People from Police and Doctors”
  • “Pivotal Identity: When Competitive Elections Politicize Latino Ethnicity”
  • “Using the 2016 CMPS to Understand Race and Racism in Evangelical Politics”
  • “Generations Divided: Age Cohort Differences in Black Political Attitudes and Behavior in the Post-Obama Era.”

Frasure-Yokley said the CMPS provides a high-quality online survey data source, and it also builds a multidisciplinary academic pipeline of inclusive excellence among researchers who study race, ethnicity and politics. Plans to conduct 2018 and 2020 surveys are already underway, and an annual CMPS contributor conference will continue each summer.

“The 2016 CMPS brought together a multidisciplinary group of researchers at varying stages of their academic careers,” she said, noting that participating cooperative scholars and conference attendees included junior and senior faculty from large research institutions, scholars from historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and researchers from Hispanic serving institutions (HSIs). Also on hand were postdoctoral fellows, graduate students and some undergraduates.

“We need to go all in because this is the future of our discipline. To ensure that we are creating a strong pipeline and have access to quality data for various racial and ethnic groups, our model of data collection inspires innovation and fresh ideas through collaboration,” Frasure-Yokley said.

In addition to support from Segura and the Luskin School, co-sponsors included UCLA’s Department of Political Science; the American Political Science Association (APSA) Centennial Center Artinian Fund; the UCLA Division of Social Sciences and its dean, Darnell Hunt, professor of sociology and African American studies; the Department of African American Studies; the César E. Chávez Department of Chicana/o Studies; and the Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity and Politics (CSREP).

Additional information on PRIEC.

More information about the survey.

 

Amplifying the Voice of Latinos on Policy Issues Latino Policy & Politics Initiative at UCLA Luskin School will fill a critical research gap and provide a think tank around political, social and economic issues

By Les Dunseith

A new initiative underway at the Luskin School of Public Affairs will take advantage of the immense research expertise at UCLA to fill a critical gap in research and policy analysis related to issues that impact Latinos and other communities of color in California and across the country.

The Latino Policy & Politics Initiative (LPPI) will be “a comprehensive think tank around political, social and economic issues faced by California’s plurality population,” said UCLA Luskin Dean Gary Segura about the new effort, which also received startup funding from the Division of Social Sciences. Matt Barreto, professor of political science and Chicana/o Studies, co-founded the project with Segura in February 2017.

Founding Director Sonja Diaz came aboard in March and has spearheaded meetings with scholars, community organizations, public officials, staff members from governmental agencies, and potential funding partners to formalize the initiative and secure its place among the various research centers at UCLA.

“People on this campus are supportive and willing to partner.”
—Sonja Diaz

“One of the things that I have personally been so impressed with is that people on this campus are supportive and willing to partner,” said Diaz, who earned a Master of Public Policy degree at UCLA Luskin in 2010 before going on to receive her law degree from UC Berkeley. “They see the value of supporting LPPI as a meeting place, as an organization and as a foundation to build upon.”

Scholars from across campus have already come aboard, including professors from schools and departments such as Medicine, Business, Health Policy and Management, History and Law.

“We stand here on the shoulders of individual researchers, scholars, students and their centers to actually start having a convergence and a meeting place,” Diaz said about the role of LPPI in uniting Latino-focused research efforts so that studies can be found and shared more easily among interested parties. “We have more than 16 people already in place to produce rapid-response and evidence-tested research on domestic policy issue areas.”

Segura, himself a professor of public policy and Chicana/o studies, said that the University of California — particularly UCLA — is an ideal home for the enterprise. LPPI will develop new research, as well as assist existing faculty research projects and provide direct support for the community, centered around policy issues of vital importance to Latinos.

“The city of Los Angeles is the second-largest Spanish speaking city on the planet — after Mexico City, and significantly ahead of Buenos Aires and Madrid,” Segura explained. “If you are going to study what is happening to Latinos in the United States, you begin in Los Angeles, and your next stop is California.”

Barreto noted that Latinos have been the largest minority group in the U.S. since 2001, and the Latino percentage of the population continues to grow, particularly in California. “Yet, there is a significant gap between the diversity of our state and the institutional representation of Latinos in Sacramento, as well as in the UC system,” he said. “Through this initiative, we hope to increase policy-relevant research on Latinos in California and the country as a whole.”

Basing LPPI at UCLA not only makes sense geographically, it makes sense organizationally, Segura said.

“UCLA has a very strong Department of Chicano/a Studies. It has a very strong Chicano Studies Research Center. And the Luskin School of Public Affairs is UCLA’s — and I would argue the University of California’s — best voice on questions of human service and human need,” Segura said. “The concentration of Latino academics here makes UCLA the right place for LPPI. It’s where it should exist.”

“The concentration of Latino academics here makes UCLA the right place for LPPI.”
—Gary Segura

Although LPPI is still in the organizational phase of its evolution, Diaz noted that its leaders have “already connected with, met with, and partnered with more than 50 community-based organizations, both nationally and at the state level.”

Segura, Barreto and Diaz continue to meet with potential funding partners, including a host of state and federal foundations, and recently completed a trip to Sacramento to engage with members of the California Legislature. The visit served a dual purpose, simultaneously letting elected officials know about LPPI and giving the leadership team an opportunity to ascertain the needs of elected officials in terms of the policymaking demands of the populations that they represent.

“One of the things that we learned is that state government does no demographic research as a matter of form,” Diaz said. “It means that policy is not always best-tailored to the needs of communities of color. We know there is an opportunity there — a need for this type of research.”

To fill that need, LPPI will be launching new research projects to be completed by internal staff members, often working with postdoctoral candidates and graduate assistants. Those projects will afford students an opportunity to get hands-on training and will forge partnerships that Diaz sees continuing beyond graduation as former UCLA students take their places in government life.

“One of the things that is unique about LPPI is that it’s action-oriented,” she explained. “It’s not enough to just produce the research and produce the evidence, but we will actually put it into the hands of people who can go ahead and integrate it into their own proposals.”

The ability to respond quickly to issues of concern among Latinos is a vital aspect of the new initiative. “It’s no secret that a majority of Latinos felt disrespected and under attack by Donald Trump during the presidential campaign,” Barreto said. “It is more important now than ever before to have an objective, research-based approach to policy and politics, to understand the Latino experience in this country, and to make sure that policymakers at all levels of government — from president of the school board to president of the United States — understand that Latinos contribute equally to our communities and expect to have equal input into, and equal outputs, from the political system.”

Diaz sees LPPI becoming a go-to source of information on Latino policy issues at City Hall, in Sacramento and for people nationwide. Segura concurs, noting that he has launched an effort to hire additional faculty members at UCLA Luskin who will add new areas of expertise to the cadre of faculty members across the campus who are already actively pursuing important policy or social issue research.

Segura’s ultimate goal for the Latino Policy & Politics Initiative?

“We will be doing something in the world to improve the lives of the people that we study,” he said, “which, really, is why we do it.”

 

A Reflection on 30+ Years at UCLA As he prepares to retire, Maciek Kolodziejczak looks back at a memorable 20 years as director of student services in the Department of Public Policy

By Maciek Kolodziejczak

“A reflection? Who has time to reflect? There are too many tasks at hand, emails to answer, pending projects, deadlines to meet, obligations to fulfill, really … who has time for reflection?”

This is just a snippet of my knee-jerk inner dialogue when I was asked to write something to coincide with my retirement.

I do not want to belittle diligence, persistence and initiative, but too often, in my case, reflection and appreciation are short-changed by the relentless pursuit of tasks, responsibilities, email replies and deadlines that voraciously consume my time.

I used to have a comic posted on my door, which stated “I email, therefore I am.” It may be funny, but it also contains more than a grain of truth. I am writing this post in an academic environment replete with intense endeavor to provide for the public good and to ensure justice and equity.

Nevertheless, I am always reminded of a mentor’s observation that “we are human beings not human doings.” Maintaining the former has been my professional challenge. “Doing” without reflection is just egotism — even if it is for a noble cause. Consequently, I appreciate this time to reflect on my years at the Luskin School.

Maciek Slides Into Retirement

In recent months I have been asked about my accomplishments. I wince at the question because I really don’t think in these terms. This is not false modesty. Achievements are measurable and quantifiable. Our MPP students are taught rigorous analytic skills to formulate evidence-based policy. However, as I consider my “accomplishments,” I need to acknowledge that my professional successes have been built on the shoulders of those before me, and on the generous collaboration and support of colleagues around me. Consequently, I claim my effort and diligence but take more pride in my aspirations rather than achievements.

The collective mission and aspirations of the Luskin School’s three departments are what drew me here and what have made my tenure here so fulfilling and gratifying. Although I enjoyed my previous work at the UCLA Career Center, I particularly appreciated the undergrads that I was referring to urban planning and social welfare.

I facilitated workshops on careers in urban planning and participated in several career fairs host by the School of Social Welfare in the early 1990s. I first heard of a Master of Public Policy (MPP) when I met a UCLA alum who completed his MPP degree at the University of Chicago. Initially I thought that it was an applied political science degree. It wasn’t until I came to the Luskin School (then called the School of Public Policy and Social Research), that I came to fully appreciate the rigorous analytic curriculum taught in the MPP degree program and its talented and dedicated students.

Becoming familiar with their courses, assignments, Applied Policy Projects and absurdly busy schedules, I gained an unwavering respect for the valuable work they generate. Yet, even more so than their scholastic excellence, I came to appreciate their aspirations, which are reflected in their academics, but also in the various service and leadership activities they pursue.

I began my career at the Luskin School along with its then-new Dean Barbara Nelson, whose vision of the new school emphasized solving problems across boundaries, particularly at the growing intersection of the public, private and nonprofit sectors. She also framed this vision of working across boundaries of various types whether demographic, national or organizational.

Her successor, Dean Frank Gilliam, expanded this notion with an emphasis on social justice and diversity, which is reflected in his legacy, the D3 Initiative. D3 aims to create a cohesive strategy to bridge differences, understand our diverse society and confront disparities in the field of public affairs. I could not be prouder to be working in an environment in which students, faculty and staff embrace these ideals and aspirations. I am equally confident that Dean Gary Segura’s leadership and vision will continue to champion these values.

Beyond the visionary deans who led the School these past 20 plus years, I have been blessed with the dedicated and innovative leadership of three remarkable Department Chairs: Arleen Leibowitz, Mark Peterson and Michael Stoll. I appreciate their patience, wisdom and understanding.

I have been equally fortunate in having the most collaborative and supportive colleagues with Ken Roehrs and Ronke Epps in the beginning, succeeded by Kyna Williams, Nancy Jensen, Dan Oyenoki, Stacey Hirose and, most recently, Sean Campbell and Ervin Huang. You have been a pleasure to work with and made my days here not only productive but also fun and enjoyable. I will stop here because to name all my colleagues for whom I am grateful, this post will become my “One Hundred Years of Gratitude” novel. Suffice to say that the outcome of my reflection on these past 20 years has created a profound gratitude for all the individuals with whom I have worked, collaborated, assisted and who helped me in my endeavors.

Finally, I am so very grateful for the MPP students and alumni. It has truly been an honor to be their adviser. Their presence has given me more than they can imagine. Every year in my parting email to the graduating students I express a version of the following sentiment:

“Although your achievements and accomplishments are noteworthy, I admire you as individuals; the values you embrace, the hopes and dreams for which you strive, and the way you confront the challenges that you face. Your aspirations are a more genuine measure of your character than what you achieve, and for me a source of hope and encouragement about our future.”

As our students commence their professional careers, I am heartened by their determination to solve the many problems facing our world today and the many sacrifices they make in following these pursuits.

In conclusion, I would like to address a major financial sacrifice our students make in completing their degree. Since I began working here at the Luskin School, tuition has increased 460 percent from $4,366/$13,394 (CA Resident/Non-Resident) in 1996-97 to $24,439/$37,221 in 2016-17. I take every opportunity I have to draw attention to the spiraling cost of education and subsequent alarming student debt. So I am particularly honored in having a fellowship named in my honor. It will provide some vital financial relief to our MPP students.

I am humbled by the generosity of the MPP alumni, my friends and colleagues for their considerable donations to this fellowship fund and cannot think of a better way to reward the diligent work and to honor the aspirations of our students.

***

Maciek Kolodziejczak is retiring in June after serving as director of student services for the Department of Public Policy at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs for the past 20 years. To make a gift to the Maciek Kolodziejczak Fellowship Fund, go here.