An Outdoor Oasis Research spearheaded by Urban Planning's Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris contributes to a new public space designed with older adults in mind

At Golden Age Park in Los Angeles’ Westlake neighborhood, visitors can stroll along circular walkways, build strength and balance on low-impact exercise machines, practice their gardening skills, or rest in areas designed for socializing or solitude.

Spearheaded by Urban Planning Professor Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, pictured, a team from UCLA Luskin launched a study of senior-friendly open spaces based on a model from Taiwan where older adults enjoy the benefits of outdoor recreation.

Many parks in the United States are constructed with children in mind, leaving the over-65 population feeling unwelcome. The Westlake park incorporated aspects of urban planning, design and gerontology to turn a vacant lot into a small oasis with age-appropriate features.

Read more about the project.

Segura on Trump’s Support Among Voters of Color

UCLA Luskin Dean Gary Segura spoke to the New York Times about polls showing that President Trump has lost support among most major demographic groups — with the exception of Black and Latino voters. While polls indicate that Trump will lose both groups badly in November, their level of support has risen slightly: 10% of Black voters and 30% of Latinos support Trump, the article noted. Political analysts explain the numbers by noting that some voters are focused on issues such as abortion and immigration, and others feel that the Democrats have failed to make a compelling case. They also point out that Republican support among voters of color declined well before Trump entered politics. “Latino support for Trump was already at historic lows,” said Segura, co-founder of the polling firm Latino Decisions. “There’s just not that much room for them to move down.”


 

Dean’s Message For society to live up to its promise during this time of crisis, we need to seize the moment.

If you aren’t mad, you should be. If you aren’t furious, you’re not paying attention.

The Luskin School relies on three first principles in our teaching and research.

First, policy should rest on evidence and evaluation of efficacy. We are best served by social decisions in which science and analysis are brought to bear on human problems.

Second, a central tenet in the shaping of those policies must be human and community well-being. Think of this as a Hippocratic oath for public affairs. Do no harm, and try to do good. Historically, our disciplines have not always lived up to that prescription, but I think this is a fair characterization of the guiding beliefs at work in the School and in our respective fields today.

Finally, in times of crisis, government can and must be at the center of shaping our path out of harm’s way. Yes, government will rely on the support and cooperation of philanthropy and civil society. And, yes, a robust social fabric of interconnected communities and rich deposits of social capital will serve any society in its defense, recovery and restoration. But in the last analysis, the allocation of values and the ability to command resources, cooperation and coordinated response to societal peril, where large numbers of lives are at stake, rests with government.

We are witnessing a moment where, to some degree or another, the events in American society and the actions of our leadership fail to reflect any of those three guiding principles. While some levels of government and specific agencies are engaged in heroic efforts to tamp down the coronavirus and ameliorate its consequences, others are asleep at the wheel, absent from the effort, or are — and it is difficult to fathom this —making matters worse.

Considerations of politics and profit are far too often displacing considerations of human suffering and mortality. Personal responsibility for collective well-being appears to be failing. The near-term prognosis is poor. And the success of other nations in addressing the pandemic and its effects make it plain that our misfortune in the United States simply does not have to be so.

In the midst of this incredible pandemic, the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery reminded us that before the first case of COVID-19, this society already had tremendous challenges in living up to the promise of our rhetoric, and the emotional outpouring of anger and demands for action that were unleashed, at long last, hold the potential for meaningful change, if only we can seize the moment.

We have just completed a school year like no other, and, as I write this, we are busily preparing for yet another, largely displaced from Westwood and our bucolic campus, reliant on electronics and medical masks to interact, and working overtime to continue the delivery of our six degree programs and our important research. But even in this unusual time, the School and its faculty, staff and students continue our important work.

As I write, Luskin faculty are working on reducing harm among Los Angeles’ most vulnerable, helping renters struggling to stay housed, providing mental health support to frontline L.A. County workers, examining the challenges of transportation in times of transmissible illness, thinking through the financial impacts on survival for small municipal utilities, examining the despair of citizens of some of Los Angeles’ poorest communities, and working overtime to reform policing practices that lead so often to injustice and violence against minority communities. Our work and our adherence to the first principles of evidence-based social policy, ethical practices to enhance human dignity, and of an efficient and effective government remain in place.

It is in the most difficult times that we come to know what people are made of. I am proud of this School, and you should be too.

Take action,

Gary

A Celebration of the Extraordinary Amid once-in-a-lifetime circumstances, UCLA Luskin honors the Class of 2020

By Les Dunseith

It was a UCLA Luskin commencement ceremony unlike any other — delivered remotely by keynote speaker John A. Pérez to honor 281 graduates scattered across the nation and around the world amid a pandemic. 

“Clearly, these are not ordinary times,” Pérez said in his remarks, which remain available online and had been seen by a total of 1,265 new graduates and their loved ones as of midday Monday after the ceremony. The impact of the COVID-19 health crisis was obvious in the virtual setting, but Pérez, chair of the University of California Board of Regents and former speaker of the California Assembly, also took note of the political upheaval that has led hundreds of thousands of protesters worldwide to march for racial justice in recent weeks.

“My message to you today is also going to be somewhat different than usual. It has to be,” Pérez said. “It has to be different for George Floyd, for Breonna Taylor, for Stephon Clark and Sandra Bland and Eric Garner. For Sean Monterrosa and Manuel Ellis. And for Emmett Till and James Chaney and countless others — known and unknown — whose lives have been taken by the systemic racism that is the original sin and ongoing shame of our great nation.”

The new social welfare, planning and policy graduates earned their graduate degrees in extraordinary circumstances at a time that UCLA Luskin Dean Gary Segura views as a pivotal moment in the country’s history. He congratulated the Class of 2020 and also noted the high expectations they carry into their futures.

“This celebration is partly about what you have accomplished, but it is also about what you have yet to do,” said Segura, thanking the new graduates “for all that we expect you to do with all that you’ve learned.”

The virtual platform incorporated several wrinkles that set the 2020 celebration apart from previous UCLA Luskin graduations. In addition to the recorded remarks by Segura and Pérez, video presentations from California Gov. Gavin Newsom and his wife, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, UC President Janet Napolitano and UCLA Chancellor Gene Block were woven into the online presentation that was made available to all graduates.

Other aspects of the ceremony were able to be customized for each of the three departments that awarded degrees. So, Chair Laura S. Abrams spoke to the Social Welfare graduates, Chair Vinit Mukhija addressed the Urban Planning Class of 2020, and Chair Martin Gilens offered advice and congratulations to the new Public Policy alumni.

Instead of the past tradition in which names of individual graduates were read as they walked across the stage at Royce Hall to be handed a diploma, this year’s graduating students got a few moments of dedicated screen time to themselves. Each graduate’s name appeared on screen as part of the departmental ceremony, often accompanied by a photo and a personal message of thanks or inspiration provided by the graduating student as a text message or a video clip — or both. And an online “Kudobard” allowed family and friends to offer messages of congratulations to the Class of 2020.

The presentations by the student speakers were also unique to each department this year. All three spoke of the memorable circumstances that they and their classmates experienced while wrapping up their graduate degrees during such an extraordinary time in history.

“No one wanted this. No one wants to live in this type of world,” said Social Welfare speaker Akinyi Shapiro, who views her graduation as a time for both celebration and reflection. “Listen to those who are being attacked for nothing other than the color of their skin. Decide who we want to be as social workers, how we’re going to change our communities and commit to anti-oppressive practices that will make this country better.”

Amy Zhou noted that the stay-at-home order in Los Angeles took place just as the winter quarter was winding up at UCLA. “We had no idea that the last time my classmates and I would see each other at the end of the winter quarter would be the last time that we would see each other in person as a graduating class.”

Zhou took advantage of the virtual platform to include a series of video clips that showed her and her classmates pledging solidarity in their dedication to practice planning in a manner that will uplift their communities. “When one falls, we all fall,” they conclude, their voices in unison. “When one rises, we all rise.”

As with any commencement, the virtual ceremony was also an opportunity for the graduating students to acknowledge their mentors — the faculty, friends and, especially, family members who have helped them along their journeys.

Muchisimas gracias,” said Kassandra Hernandez of Public Policy during her commencement remarks. “Thank you, mom and dad, for all that you’ve given me — all the sacrifices you have made for me.”

Hernandez then addressed her peers. “You are ready to take on the world and cause some change because we all know that that’s why we came to Luskin — to cause change.”

In his keynote address, Pérez also spoke of change. He talked about his time as a leader in California’s government, pointing to accomplishments such as health care reform and the creation of the state’s Rainy Day Fund. That financial reserve had grown to about $16 billion by the time of the pandemic, he noted, helping the current Legislature and governor lessen the economic damage from the COVID-19 downturn.

In Pérez’s view, making a meaningful difference to society requires not only a vision, but perseverance. 

“As graduates of one of the nation’s premier schools for progressive planning and policy, you need to be among the leaders. Make ripples. Make waves,” he said. “Push yourself. Push the system. And when you think you’ve pushed enough, take a step, take a pause, and then push some more.”

UC Regent and Former Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez Delivers Commencement Address The ‘lifelong advocate for the people of California’ honors UCLA Luskin graduates at a virtual celebration

John A. Pérez, a leader in California politics, labor and higher education, was the keynote speaker for UCLA Luskin’s 2020 virtual Commencement celebration.

Pérez, chair of the University of California Board of Regents and former speaker of the state Assembly, addressed graduates at the June 12 ceremony, moved online in light of health concerns related to COVID-19.

“John Pérez is a lifelong advocate for the people of California,” said Gary Segura, dean of the Luskin School. “From his days as a labor leader fighting for working families to his pathbreaking tenure in Sacramento, he has distinguished himself as a public servant who represents every member of this gloriously diverse state.

“John is now at the helm of the nation’s premier public university system at a time of unprecedented challenge,” Segura said. “I am eager to hear his insights on the path forward for higher education.”

The Luskin School’s virtual celebration invited graduates, families and friends to view Pérez’s address as well as remarks from student speakers, department chairs and Dean Segura.

Each graduate was celebrated individually with a slide, photograph and brief video greeting before the conferral of degrees. A separate “Kudoboard” featured congratulatory messages to the Class of 2020 from families, alumni and the rest of the UCLA Luskin community.

The virtual Commencement ceremony commenced at 9 a.m. and will remain available for viewing through May 2021.

Pérez’s priorities as a UC Regent include providing an elite education without elitist barriers that keep qualified students out, making sure the UC student body better reflects the people of California and keeping the cost of education affordable, equitable and predictable.

A native Angeleno, Pérez has long been active in the labor movement and Democratic politics. Elected to the state Assembly in 2008, he rose to the speaker’s post in 2010, becoming the state legislature’s first openly LGBTQ leader. He held the top post for more than four years.

In the Assembly, Pérez made affordability and accessibility of higher education a statewide priority. Among his legislative achievements was passage of the Middle Class Scholarship Act, which has provided tuition relief for nearly 100,000 UC and California State University students.

He also worked with legislative colleagues and then-Gov. Jerry Brown to end California’s era of chronic budget deficits. During his tenure, the legislature passed back-to-back balanced, on-time budgets that improved the state’s credit rating.

In 2014, Brown appointed Pérez to the UC Board of Regents; his one-year term as chair began in July 2019. In addition to exercising approval of university policies, financial affairs, and tuition and fees, the regents appoint the president of the university. In September 2019, Pérez named a special committee to lead a search for a successor to UC President Janet Napolitano, who plans to step down in August.

Pérez is an advocate for the LGBTQ community and in the fight against HIV/AIDS. In addition to leadership positions with AIDS Project Los Angeles and the Latino Coalition Against AIDS, he served on the President’s Commission on HIV/AIDS under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

The longtime member of the Democratic National Committee has also served as political director of the California Labor Federation. In 2012, fellow speakers from across the nation elected him president of the National Speakers Conference.

‘All of This Is Going to Change Us’: Two Deans on the State of COVID-19 Leaders of UCLA's Public Affairs and Public Health schools launch Luskin Summit 2020

By Mary Braswell

The opening session of the 2020 UCLA Luskin Summit drew a far-flung virtual audience seeking authoritative, research-based information about the questions on everyone’s mind: What are the prospects of containing COVID-19? When and how should social distancing restrictions be relaxed? What have we learned from this shared global ordeal?

Two UCLA deans, Gary Segura of the Luskin School of Public Affairs and Ron Brookmeyer of the Fielding School of Public Health, drew on their expertise about the pandemic’s health and policy implications at the April 22 event, the first of at least a dozen online sessions that will be offered by the Luskin School in April, May and June.

“COVID has done us one favor,” Segura said. “It’s allowed us to see things more clearly than we did before the crisis,” including the searing depths of inequality in the United States, the importance of a competent government and the discovery that a simpler life can be rewarding.

In terms of slowing the spread of coronavirus, Brookmeyer said, “The current lockdown has bought ourselves some time. The question is, are we making the best use of this time?”

The insights shared by Segura and Brookmeyer came as UCLA Luskin launched the Summit’s second year, wrapping up the School’s 25th anniversary celebration.

Moving from an on-campus location to an online platform in response to the coronavirus’ spread widened the audience for the opening session. More than 400 people watched via Zoom and Facebook Live, from Southern California to New York, Washington, Philadelphia, Houston and Myanmar.

Viewers were invited to pose questions to the deans, whose conversation was moderated by Adrienne Alpert, host of ABC7’s public affairs program Eyewitness Newsmakers. Some asked about prospects for lifting orders to limit social contact.

Brookmeyer called for caution. “If we don’t have the necessary public health infrastructure in place, this thing will just explode again,” said the dean, who has conducted extensive research into the arc of illness and epidemic around the world.

He explained that different models make starkly different predictions about the virus’ march and described the protracted process of testing, manufacturing and administering an effective vaccine — a process he said is bound to take longer than the 12 to 18 months some are estimating.

“Without a vaccine, we may need intermittent periods of physical distancing to avoid overloading the health care facilities,” he said. “If we suppress this first wave, do we have the public health infrastructure in place to contain future waves?”

The eventual relaxation of social distancing restrictions should be gradual, strategic and nuanced, he said, predicting that wearing masks, sanitizing surfaces and closely monitoring the most vulnerable populations will be necessary for some time.

“All of this is going to change us, and it’s not completely clear how,” Brookmeyer said.

“The challenges, and particularly the inequities, are going to be profound,” Segura concurred.

Latino households are particularly hard hit by the coronavirus’ economic impact, he said, citing a nationwide survey. While proposals to institute relief for those unable to pay their rent or mortgage are promising, the number of homeless is bound to rise by the end of the crisis. And the need for computers and broadband access in homes — where K-12 students are now learning remotely — has turned public education into a “luxury good,” Segura said.

Still, both deans found cause for optimism.

Brookmeyer cited the public’s new appreciation for the people and institutions that guard the nation’s health. “The public health infrastructure had been really underfunded, and I think calling attention to this will help us in preparing for future public health emergencies,” he said.

Segura pointed out that “COVID is changing our lives in a million ways,” and not all of them are bad.

One example: “Has anyone noticed the air in Los Angeles? It’s crystal clear,” he said. “Do we want to go back to sitting on the 405 [freeway] for an hour?”

By necessity, telecommuting has been tested across sectors in the past few months, Segura noted. Some employers have found new ways to measure productivity, and some workers have found valuable uses for time once spent commuting.

“These are things that we’ve become used to and that we’ve internalized into our COVID quarantine lives. And I’m not so sure we’re going to be all that happy to give them up,” he said.

“COVID has actually revealed some things that we can do better to improve our quality of life.”

Visit the UCLA Luskin Summit page for a lineup of upcoming sessions, as well as recordings of past sessions as they become available.

Another Win for the UCLA Voting Rights Project

The UCLA Voting Rights Project, a research, advocacy and clinical program within the Latino Policy & Politics Initiative of the Luskin School of Public Affairs, celebrated its role in defeating a challenge to the California Motor Voter law. The case is the third legal win for the Voting Rights Project this academic year, making it undefeated thus far in the courts. A 2015 state law created California’s motor voter system, designed to make it easier for citizens to register to vote by automatically adding eligible DMV customers to the voter rolls unless they opt out. In September, plaintiffs sued in an attempt to put an end to the law and force motor voter customers to prove citizenship by showing their papers. The Voting Rights Project intervened on behalf of affected individuals and presented strong papers, leading the plaintiffs to dismiss the case, said Chad Dunn, the project’s director of litigation. The project is now assessing cases around the country, including in Kansas, New Mexico and rural Washington, as well as in Orange, Ventura and other California counties.


 

Seeking Unity in a Time of Dissension Panelists discuss issues of class, race and exclusion during a Luskin Lecture event that focuses on the rise of divisiveness in America 

By Les Dunseith

As writer and journalist Jeff Chang sees it, today’s political divisiveness is leading America to revert to a time when society was more starkly divided along intellectual, cultural and racial lines. It’s a social erosion he refers to as resegregation.

“We had a consensus 50 years ago — as fragile as it was — that segregation was an issue that we needed to work on as a nation,” Chang said during a Jan. 15 Luskin Lecture at the James Bridges Theater on the UCLA campus. His remarks followed the screening of a series of short documentary-style videos based on “We Gon’ Be Alright,” Chang’s critically acclaimed collection of essays about the rise and fall of the idea of diversity.

Event attendees also had an opportunity to hear from the filmmakers — producer and director Bao Nguyen and showrunner Kimmie Kim. The evening’s moderator was Dean Gary Segura of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.

The docuseries was produced for PBS’ Indie Lens Storycast, and a YouTube collection where the 8-10 minute segments can be viewed describes the docuseries as follows: “From Silicon Valley gentrification and resegregation to new Hollywood attempts to overcome typecasting by diversifying, from college admission debates to the flawed U.S. census’ way of categorizing race, the series asks the questions: How did we become so divided, and what can we do now to be alright?”

Segura asked a tongue-in-cheek but pointed first question of the panelists after the last of the four serious-minded documentaries: “‘We are gonna be all right?’ Are you sure? This is not an optimistic piece.”

Chang acknowledged that the oft-foreboding tone of the videos was a reflection of his book, saying that “if it were up to me, the series would have been really much more depressing.” He credited his collaborators with helping him find a positive perspective where possible.

“Bao was very much like, from the very beginning: ‘We’ve got to be able to find the hope in all of this,’” Chang recalled.

“Culture, art, film and music can help fill a void,” Nguyen said. “That’s how I kind of see my role. Filmmakers make stories that have some sort of inspiration — because we don’t see that on the news or in our public leaders today.”

Kim, a Korean-born filmmaker who has been working in the U.S. entertainment industry for about 20 years, noted that lack of diversity in Hollywood is a longstanding problem. When she first started in New York City, working with MTV, “there were only two Asians in pretty much the entire building.”

Diversity of ethnicity and gender remains an industry shortcoming, she said. “I want to remain optimistic,” she said of her experience as an Asian woman working in the U.S. entertainment industry. “But it is definitely a struggle.”

One positive sign for Kim is the nomination of the South Korean film “Parasite” as a Best Picture contender at this year’s Academy Awards. “It’s the first time,” she said, “but that doesn’t mean that there weren’t any other great Korean films — or Japanese or Chinese films — before.”

The intersection of entertainment and political activism has long been important to Nguyen, whose career history includes a stint as a field director and field organizer for Obama for America.

“I think everything’s kind of intertwined,” he said. “Culture doesn’t exist without politics, without learning about history and context, and so I bring that into the work that I do.”

The first segment in the docuseries deals with the issue of displacement by focusing on East Palo Alto, a California Bay Area community where longtime minority residents are being displaced because real estate speculators are buying houses in hopes of future profits. In some cases, the houses are being left vacant until enough well-to-do residents move onto a block to drive up home prices throughout the neighborhood.

“This is the last quote-unquote affordable neighborhood in Silicon Valley,” said Chang, noting that affordability means something very different to someone making more than $170,000 a year than it does to most of the people of modest means who had historically lived and worked in East Palo Alto. “Those people are being displaced, and that’s resegregation in a nutshell.”

Chang noted that the word gentrification is literally derived from the word gentry — the class of rich people just below the nobility in the United Kingdom. Likewise, in places like East Palo Alto, “the wealthy are moving in, and it ‘disappears’ the people who are forced to move out.”

Another segment in the docuseries focuses on inter-ethnic tensions, particularly from the point of view of Asian Americans.

Many Asian Americans are “self-conscious of both our oppression and our privilege,” Chang said.

Chang was studying toward a master’s degree in Asian American Studies at UCLA during the time of the 1992 Los Angeles uprising. At the time, there was a notion that Asian American Studies should focus solely on the experiences of Asian Americans, he recalled.

“And I think, for those of us who came of age during that particular period, our reality was much different,” Chang told the audience. “It became a reflection on the position that Asian Americans can take against racial injustice — Asian American empowerment or … empowerment for everyone.”

“To me, it’s like trying to figure out this whole labeling system,” Kim said. “It’s great to embrace who we are. But if the labeling works against who we are and separates people, then that’s where I think we need to have an in-depth conversation to find a better balance and live together.”

As a filmmaker, Nguyen said he looks for opportunities to attack racial problems at the systemic level by helping to bridge communities.

People of all races should be encouraged to tell their stories, he said. “The truest enactment of the American Dream is being able to tell your own story. I think that’s what I’m trying to do as a filmmaker. I think that’s what we’re all trying to do — to tell our own story, because we think once our voices are heard, then we can be seen.”

In addition to the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, the event was co-sponsored by UCLA Asian American Studies and its Center for Ethno Communications. Other co-sponsors were the Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA, UCLA Chicana and Chicano Studies, the UCLA Luskin Undergraduate Program and Visual Communications.

View photos from the event on Flickr:

'We Gon' Be Alright' LLS

Watch highlights from the live stream of the event:

Our Year of Anniversaries The Luskin School marks its 25th year poised to expand, innovate and extend its reach into the community, nation and world

By Mary Braswell 

In a landmark year for UCLA, the celebration may be loudest in the northwest corner of campus, home to the Luskin School of Public Affairs.

This year marks both the university’s centennial and the Luskin School’s silver anniversary — a quarter-century dedicated to advancing the public good through teaching, research, advocacy and innovation.

It’s clearly a time to party, and a record 620 students, alumni, faculty, staff and friends answered the call in September, gathering at the annual Block Party to raise a toast to UCLA Luskin. But it’s also a time to reflect on lessons from an initially rocky union and, most importantly, to create a roadmap for the future.

As 2020 dawns, Dean Gary Segura is confident that a collaborative spirit among the three pillars of planning, policymaking and social welfare will invigorate UCLA Luskin and extend its reach into the community, nation and world.

“What ties us together as a School is our focus on human well-being, broadly conceived,” Segura said. “The Luskin faculty have received Ph.D.s from 14 different fields of study. Our disciplines may encourage us to focus on well-being at the individual, family, community, metropolitan, polity or even global levels of analysis. But what we share in common is the conviction that social fabrics and social institutions are best when they facilitate human security, dignity and opportunity.”

In the three years since Segura’s arrival, the School has seen remarkable growth. A signature achievement is the creation of an undergraduate major in public affairs, which melds critical thinking, experiential learning, research methodology and a public service ethos. More than 250 students have already come on board.

The undergraduate curriculum draws in faculty from every UCLA Luskin program, all with the common goal of providing a holistic, transdisciplinary public affairs education. As part of that effort, explorations are underway for an additional degree: the executive master’s in public affairs, designed to equip professionals and public servants to step into leadership positions.

Expanding knowledge is at the core, fueled by the scholarship of faculty and a wide range of research centers. In just over two years, UCLA Luskin has launched several new ventures:

Latino Policy and Politics Initiative combines policy analysis with civic engagement, and recently received $2.5 million in support from the California Legislature.

International Development and Policy Outreach focuses on research aimed at empowering women and children around the world.

Latin American Cities Initiative, commonly known as Ciudades, builds ties among planners and policymakers across the Americas.

This year, they will be joined by the Hub for Health Innovation, Policy and Practice, which conducts research to improve community health, particularly among the LGBTQ population and other marginalized groups. In addition, the School expects to launch a global policy initiative to foster safe and welcoming schools and communities to demonstrate that good science can be used to better the lives of students around the world.

The schools initiative will be directed by Professor Ron Avi Astor, an internationally recognized expert on school safety and violence, who joined the faculty in Social Welfare this academic year. His appointment is part of an effort by Segura to broaden the faculty’s expertise and diversity. Of the 19 faculty appointments Segura has made, 14 are women and 12 are people of color.

“Our School is now one of the most diverse and interdisciplinary units in the University of California system,” Segura said. “We are growing in a way that reflects the state’s diverse and dynamic population, and this makes us profoundly well-positioned to engage, educate and contribute to the world around us.”

That commitment to reach beyond the campus was underscored in April 2019 at the first Luskin Summit, a cross-sector conference bringing public officials, civic leaders, philanthropists and other advocates together with UCLA Luskin’s faculty — all in pursuit of a “Livable L.A.”

The summit, which officially launched the School’s 25th anniversary celebration, will return to campus April 22 under the unifying theme “A Call to Action.” Participants will search for solutions to problems centering on housing, immigration, health, education and — fittingly, as the summit will take place on Earth Day — sustainability.

The legacy of doing good reaches far past the quarter-century mark, of course. Social Welfare’s graduate program dates to 1947. Urban planning at UCLA launched in 1969 in conjunction with architecture. A newly created public policy program was added in 1994, in what many viewed at the time as a shotgun marriage.

The new School of Public Policy and Social Research emerged in an era of reckoning triggered by post-recession budget cutbacks. Among other belt-tightening measures to contend with a loss of tens of millions of dollars in state support, UCLA decided to reconfigure all of its professional schools.

The early years were unsettled, as three disparate entities forged their identity under one roof. Many people believed the merger damaged the stature of respected programs and UCLA overall. Some questioned the motives of university leadership, and others were determined to preserve their departments as singular entities rather than seeking a cohesive whole.

“It wasn’t a happy transition,” said Allan Heskin, an urban planning professor at the time. “They didn’t take a vote and ask us.”

Longtime staff member Marsha Brown B.A. ’70 said that the late professor John Friedmann was the urban planning department chair at the time. He asked Brown to take a walk with him. “And he said, ‘They are going to be splitting urban planning and architecture and forming a new school.’ It was shocking.”

The move was very controversial. “People were really very upset about it and writing letters of protest,” she said.

“Quite frankly, a lot of us were really fairly strongly alienated by the decision,” alumnus Jeffry Carpenter recalled. “There was a superficial presumption on the part of university administration that there was some sort of linkage or relationship there that they imagined should exist. It is not so much of a relationship because the actual practice tends to be very, very different.”

Gerry Laviña, director of social welfare field education at UCLA Luskin, also had a front-row seat for the School’s difficult birth.

“There was a lot of anger among both faculty and students,” recalled Laviña, who earned his master’s in social welfare in 1988, then joined the field faculty in 1993. “What would this mean for our MSW? Would we be seen as lesser than?”

But he added, “What started out as a forced venture became a beautiful outcome.”

Over the years, resentments have faded, faculty from different disciplines have increasingly sought to learn from one another, and students have benefited from a wider array of cross-departmental resources.

“We know relationships, organizations, people need time to grow and come together as one,” Laviña said. “I don’t know if we’re fully there yet, but we’re so much better than we were even five years ago. I look forward to the next five years and beyond.”

Throughout the early years, there was one consensus: Very few cared for the new school’s name or awkward acronym, SPPSR. They lived with it until being rechristened in September 2004 as the UCLA School of Public Affairs. In 2011, the current name — the Meyer and Renee Luskin School of Public Affairs — came along with a transformative gift of $50 million that brought the resources and ambition to launch a period of expansion and innovation.

At the Block Party, benefactor Renee Luskin reflected on the journey.

“I want to express how much it means to Meyer and myself to be connected to such an outstanding school here at UCLA,” she said, thanking the faculty, staff, students and advisors for their unflagging passion and dedication. “As they say,” she concluded, “we’ve come a long way, baby.”

 

Dean’s Message Path-breaking interdisciplinary scholarship and a tradition of public service are the hallmarks of UCLA Luskin at 25 years

25, 50, 75, 100 and 2 …

In 2019, we celebrated two milestones—the centennial of UCLA and the 25th anniversary of the Luskin School.

What does 100 years of UCLA mean? Is it merely a milestone signified by a round number? When the University of California, Los Angeles, was created out of the Southern Branch of the California Normal School, few could have imagined that, today, UCLA would be counted among the finest institutions of higher learning in the world, and the nation’s finest taxpayer-supported institution. In its early years, it was considered the southern “branch” of our older sibling in Berkeley, and more than a few actors in California would have preferred it to stay as such. Today, it is the largest and most comprehensive campus in the system and, in the minds of several ranking agencies and in the hearts of countless Bruins, the finest in the land.

In 1994, the campus formed what would become UCLA Luskin by merging the School of Social Welfare with the program in Urban Planning. Like UCLA, the School we are today has aspects that date to our roots but reflects new, emergent properties of what we have become, including the addition of Public Policy. At 25, Luskin is a mature intellectual community in which dialogue between students and faculty focused on different units of analysis — the individual, the family, the community, the state — helps us learn and grow from the insights of one another and our respective disciplines. More than merely three departments, today Luskin’s core faculty hold doctorates in 14 different disciplinary traditions, representing a nearly endless variety of methodologies, perspectives and research questions about how best to improve the human condition. The School’s mission, defined and refined over these last 25 years, has become clear: to train change agents and generate new knowledge and insight in pursuit of social justice and human well-being.

It would be inaccurate — and do a disservice to our predecessors — if we did not acknowledge that much of the good work of UCLA Luskin started long prior to the School’s formation 25 years ago. In spring 2020, we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the founding of Urban Planning at UCLA. And in 2021-22, we will celebrate the 75th anniversary of Social Welfare at UCLA. Those two units have trained thousands of Bruin alums whose efforts on behalf of a better Los Angeles and a healthier California are long established. You’ll hear more about those celebrations in the near-term, but it is important at moments like these that we pay tribute to those whose hard work came long before us.

And finally… “2”? Yep, we are in the second year of our newest program, the Bachelor of Arts in Public Affairs. At the start of the 2018-19 academic year, no such major was declared by a UCLA undergraduate. Today, we have 270 majors and pre-majors enrolled in 42 courses this academic year, and whose instruction is supported by 89 graduate teaching assistants — Luskin professional and doctoral students — whose education is supported with those resources. And in June 2021, we will graduate our first class.

New programs, pedagogical innovation, path-breaking interdisciplinary scholarship in the interest of the social good and a tradition of public service — these are the hallmarks of UCLA Luskin at 25 years old, these are the values that separate a great public university like UCLA from its competitors, and these are the accomplishments we celebrate at milestones like these.

All the best,
Gary