Segura to Co-Chair Project for Better L.A. Governance

UCLA Luskin Professor Gary Segura has been named co-chair of a coalition of Los Angeles-based scholars and researchers who will develop proposals for bringing better governance to L.A.’s halls of power. The L.A. Governance Reform Project was launched amid recent controversies at Los Angeles City Hall that have underscored the need for a transparent, accountable and community-driven system of government in the diverse and dynamic region. The group’s first task will be to produce recommendations for an independent redistricting process to be presented to policymakers in the coming months. The team will then turn to other areas, including but not limited to City Council expansion, ethics and land use reform. As they conduct their analysis, the scholars will consult with several members of the governmental, civic, activist and academic communities. “This is an all-hands-on-deck moment in Los Angeles. Interest in reform is high throughout the community, and the best reforms will generate the widest and broadest community support,” said Segura, whose academic work focuses on political representation and social cleavages. Segura serves as co-chair with Professor Ange-Marie Hancock of the University of Southern California, and the project will be administered by the Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs at Cal State Los Angeles. The L.A. Governance Reform Project team also includes scholars from Cal State Northridge, Loyola Marymount University and Pomona College. The project has received funding from philanthropic organizations including the California Community Foundation, The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation and the Weingart Foundation.


Message From the Dean

As you may have heard by the time this issue reaches you, I have stepped down as dean of the Luskin School of Public Affairs, effective at the end of 2022. [Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris has been appointed as interim dean, beginning Jan. 1.]

Serving as dean these last six years has been a profound privilege and, without exception, the best experience of my career. And part of what made that experience so wonderful was getting to meet and learn about the incredibly important and impactful work being done by UCLA Luskin alumni across Los Angeles, the state of California and beyond. The Luskin School has many things of which it can be justly proud, but none so exceptional as its more than 9,000 alumni doing good work for good purposes every day.

The last six years have been transformative.

Together, and with the magnificent foundation provided by Renee and Meyer Luskin’s amazing gift, we have expanded and deepened the impact and scope of the School. In six years, we enlarged the ladder faculty to 59 and have hired more than half our current faculty. Today, that faculty is evenly divided by gender, and a majority of UCLA Luskin ladder faculty are scholars of color.

The founding and growth of the undergraduate major in public affairs has more than doubled the student population, from 525 to more than 1,100.

We have dramatically enlarged our overall levels of extramural research and grant support. UCLA Luskin faculty garnered a record $38.3 million just last year.

The Latino Policy and Politics Institute and the Hub for Health Intervention Policy and Practice were both established and flourished. The UCLA Voting Rights Project waged judicial battle across the country to protect fair and equal voting rights. Social workers traveled to asylee detention camps at the southern border to provide support, counselling and assistance. And Luskin School faculty stepped up in a big way to help mitigate the effects of COVID-19 on Los Angeles’ most vulnerable populations.

Since my appointment, our philanthropic efforts together fundraised $39.03 million on 4,522 gifts, both big and small, ranging from 10 dollars to $3.2 million, all to enhance and deepen the teaching and research efforts of the School and its fine faculty.   

With the great times came the hard ones. We said goodbye to our friends, mourning VC Powe, Zeke Hasenfeld, Martin Wachs, Mark Kleiman and Leo Estrada, as well as earlier retirees such as Karen Lee, Leland Burns and Joel Handler.

We spent four quarters, two summers and a few additional weeks running five university graduate programs and an undergraduate major from our couches and dining tables, hoping to spare faculty, staff and students from the ravages of a global pandemic. The class of 2020 had graduation online. The class of 2021 had a distanced ceremony in the tennis stadium, without their families present.

But through it all, the Luskin School of Public Affairs persevered, stuck firmly to its mission, trained a generation of change-makers, and had an impact. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

Events at UCLA have been, frankly, turbulent in the last months, as you have no doubt read. The Luskin School needs leadership that is fresh and energetic to face the challenges and opportunities to come. I look forward to supporting my successor and I hope you will too. I know you will embrace the new dean with the same warmth, help and enthusiasm from which I so richly benefitted. For my part, I look forward to returning to my first love, classroom teaching.

In the coming years, it’s my sincere hope that the Luskin School continues to make change in Los Angeles and beyond. I know that it will. Thank you for being part of that journey and allowing me to join you.

All the best,


Segura to Step Down as Dean, Remain on Faculty His six years leading the Luskin School has been marked by a deep commitment to equity, diversity and academic excellence

Gary Segura has decided to end his time as dean of the Luskin School for personal reasons. Here is a message sent to the UCLA Luskin staff and faculty by UCLA Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Darnell Hunt:

Dear Colleagues:

I write to share the news that Dean Gary Segura, who has led the Luskin School of Public Affairs since January of 2017, has informed me of his decision to step down as dean and return to the faculty. His last day will be Dec. 31, 2022. We will share plans for interim leadership of the school as soon as they are in place.

In his nearly six years as dean, Dean Segura has fostered within the Luskin School a deep commitment to academic excellence and to equity, diversity and inclusion. Under his leadership, the school has enrolled an accomplished and highly diverse group of students in its programs and appointed renowned scholars in areas such as poverty and inequality, immigration, criminal justice, education policy and more.

Dean Segura has helped to cement the Luskin School’s status as a leader in research, teaching and practice across the areas of social welfare, urban planning and public policy. Recognizing growing demand for the Luskin School’s programs, in 2018 he led the development of the undergraduate major in public affairs, which provides a multidisciplinary foundation in social science theories, data collection and analysis. Additionally, the school launched a certificate program in data analytics in fall 2021 and added a new dual master’s degree program offered jointly by our Urban Planning Department and the Urban School of Sciences Po in Paris.

Dean Segura also co-founded the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Institute in 2017 to address inequities and spread awareness of the most critical domestic policy challenges facing Latinos and other communities of color.

Chancellor Block and I are grateful to Dean Segura for advancing the public affairs disciplines at UCLA and for his work to deepen the Luskin School’s impact on communities near and far. Please join me in thanking Dean Segura for his leadership and wishing him well on his next chapter.

Segura on Misguided Assumptions About Latino Voters

UCLA Luskin Dean Gary Segura spoke to the Los Angeles Times about shifts in Democratic campaign strategies to win the Latino vote. After the reversal of Roe v. Wade, many Democratic candidates are emphasizing abortion rights, discarding the conventional wisdom that the Latino electorate is too socially conservative to be receptive to the platform. “These incorrect assumptions have lasted for a long time, and they have been incorrect for a long time,” said Segura, who has conducted extensive polling research. Political strategists who previously concluded that predominantly Catholic Latino voters would remain staunchly opposed to abortion rights missed nuances among the electorate. While individual voters may have personal convictions against abortion, many draw the line at government intervention that curbs the rights of the people.


Message From the Dean: Recent Events in the L.A. City Council All of us — not just prominent people and elected officials but especially them — must do more to make the world a safer, saner place.

Oct. 11, 2022

Friends, Colleagues, Students:

I am once again called upon to communicate to you in a moment where I find myself almost speechless. The wildly offensive racist, anti-Black, anti-indigenous, antisemitic and homophobic conversation among three members of the City Council and a local labor leader deserves all the condemnation it’s receiving and then some. That one party of the conversation was, until two years ago, a member of this academic community is personally painful and deeply disappointing.

We are called upon in moments like this to remember that the cause of human equality and a commitment to decency, equity, and inclusiveness is an ongoing project, one requiring self-examination and vigilance. Let us use this moment to once again repudiate anti-Blackness, repudiate derision directed toward indigenous communities, repudiate antisemitism, repudiate homophobia and demand that all of us — not just prominent people and elected officials but especially them — do better and do more to make the world a safer, saner place in which we all might flourish.

The School is not permitted to take public political positions. However, I wanted you to hear from me that today, in my personal capacity, I signed onto a letter from community and civic leaders across academic, philanthropic and political organizations. The letter calls for the resignation of all three officials, an important first step toward rectifying this injustice and allowing healing to begin.

Our times remain vexed. Emotions remain high. Let’s work to make our better selves the authors of the future.

In solidarity,

Gary M. Segura

Professor and Dean

Making Connections at UCLA Luskin

The UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs kicked off the 2022-23 academic year with a series of opportunities to connect with students, alumni, faculty and staff. Welcome Week included a graduate student orientation that brought public policy, social welfare and urban planning students together and an undergraduate open house that shared information about the public affairs major during an outdoor luncheon. And on Sept. 22, the 11th annual UCLA Luskin Block Party drew a record crowd, including the School’s benefactors, Meyer and Renee Luskin.

View UCLA Luskin photo galleries from:

Graduate Student Orientation

Undergraduate Open House

11th Annual UCLA Luskin Block Party

Photo booth images from Block Party

Rover images from Block Party

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.



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