Poco Kernsmith Appointed New Chair of Social Welfare Alumna will return to her doctoral alma mater this summer as a professor

By Stan Paul

Poco Kernsmith, a social welfare scholar from the University of Texas at Arlington, has been appointed to serve as the next chair of UCLA Luskin Social Welfare.

Kernsmith, who earned her PhD in social welfare at UCLA Luskin in 2002, currently serves as the doctoral program director at UT Arlington’s School of Social Work. Previously, she was a longtime faculty member at Wayne State University in Michigan, where she recently finished a second master’s degree in public health focused on public health methods.

Originally from Minnesota, she graduated from UC Santa Barbara in 1994 with a bachelor’s in psychology and women’s studies, then earned a master’s in social work at the University of Michigan in 1995.

“We are excited to welcome Poco to Luskin this summer,” announced Interim Dean Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris. Kernsmith will officially join the UCLA Luskin Social Welfare faculty as professor and chair on July 1.

Kernsmith said in an interview that she is looking forward to coming back to the Westwood campus after more than two decades and getting reacquainted with the Luskin School.

“Really, I want to understand this whole experience and the people who are in the School and the students, so that I can get a big-picture understanding of what’s happening now.”

Loukaitou-Sideris noted Kernsmith’s expertise in violence prevention, school-based violence interventions and intimate partner violence. Her research has received substantial funding and recognition from federal sources, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In 2020, she received $2.25 million in federal funding to strengthen violence prevention and response efforts in Michigan schools. Other CDC support has included a $1-million grant for Supporting Healthy Adolescent Relationships and Environments (SHARE), which explored causes of intimate partner violence and identified school connectedness, parental engagement, hopefulness and community involvement as important protective factors for preventing violence perpetration among youth.

Kernsmith’s current work involves the analysis of school policy to create inclusive, trauma-informed environments to prevent and respond to violence or threats of violence in middle and high schools. Other areas of her research include sexual health education, hate-motivated violence and domestic terrorism.

“She will also bring her leadership experience in directing the PhD program at UT Arlington for the past two years and her experience for 20 years prior to this, as a scholar, teacher and faculty member at Wayne State University School of Social Work,” Loukaitou-Sideris wrote in a memo announcing the appointment.

Kernsmith said she is also interested in mentorship and best practices related to graduate and doctoral students — as well as faculty — over their careers, explaining that people who are just starting out or new to a position are generally the only ones considered for mentorship.

“Mentorship is something we need across our lifespan … any time you are making a change to the next step in your career and even into retirement,” she said. “Every transition brings new questions and new opportunities.”

For Kernsmith, one of the biggest challenges in education is promoting respectful dialogue and a free exchange of ideas from different perspectives.

“How do we engage in our intellectual curiosity to better understand separate perspectives when the issues are so heated and emotional? … It’s always a balance.”

Kernsmith will step into a leadership position held by Laura Abrams, professor of social welfare, for seven years. Under Abrams’ leadership, the program saw its reputation grow, achieving the No. 8 standing among social work programs nationally in the latest U.S. News & World Report rankings. During that time, UCLA Luskin Social Welfare also hired more than a dozen new faculty and graduated hundreds of skilled practitioners and scholars.

“It has been an honor to serve as the department chair in social welfare for the past seven years … and it is now time to pass the baton,” Abrams said. “I am thrilled that Dr. Kernsmith, an alumnus of our PhD program, will be joining us in the fall as our next chair.”

Social Welfare Rises to Top 8 in U.S. News Rankings Luskin School also continues to rank among the nation’s top graduate schools overall in public affairs

UCLA Luskin’s overall ranking this year remains among the top public affairs graduate schools in the nation based on the latest U.S. News & World Report ratings released today, including a boost in ranking among social work programs to No. 8.

The School’s Social Welfare program moved up a notch nationwide, sharing its No. 8 position with Boston University, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Texas, Austin. Among public universities, the UCLA Luskin Social Welfare program is now one of the top 5 nationwide and remains among the top 2 in California.

“It is an honor to be rated so highly by our peer institutions for our master’s in social welfare program, and that our ranking continues to climb,” said UCLA Luskin Social Welfare Professor Laura Abrams, who has served as chair for the past seven years. “Our program’s mixture of pedagogy, cutting-edge research and opportunities for leadership continue to attract an amazing group of motivated MSW students. I am very proud to see our program acknowledged on the national stage.”

The School — with graduate departments in Public Policy, Social Welfare and Urban Planning, and a Public Affairs undergraduate program — also received high marks for subcategories that include urban policy (No. 7), social policy (No. 6) and public policy analysis (No. 14).

“Our rank among top Public Affairs schools in the nation is a reflection of our commitment to excellence in research, teaching, and service to the community,” said UCLA Luskin Interim Dean Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris.

These latest rankings are calculated from qualitative ratings on academic quality submitted by top officials at colleges and universities. U.S. News surveyed deans, directors and department chairs representing 271 master’s programs in public affairs and administration, and more than 300 social work programs accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of the Council on Social Work Education. The National Association of Deans and Directors of Schools of Social Work supplied U.S. News with the lists of accredited social work schools and programs, plus the respondents’ names.

See the full list of the 2024 U.S. News & World Report Best Graduate Schools. Read more about the public affairs ranking methodology.

A Push to Plant Trees in L.A.’s Hottest Places

Edith de Guzman of the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation authored a blog post on a new step-by-step framework to help residents, advocates, city leaders and planners work together on real cooling solutions in the hottest neighborhoods. “Beneath the reputation of Los Angeles as a land of cars, palms and sunshine lies a reality of stark inequalities — including access to trees and shade,” de Guzman wrote for The Equation, the blog of the Union of Concerned Scientists. “Nearly 20% of L.A.’s urban forest is concentrated where only 1% of the city’s population lives, endangering lower-income communities and people of color with hotter-feeling summers and poor environmental quality.” de Guzman, a University of California Cooperative Extension specialist on water equity and adaptation policy, stressed the importance of partnering with community members to cool their neighborhoods and combat shade inequity.


Abrams, 2 Emeriti Professors on List of Top 100 Social Work Scholars

Three current and former UCLA Luskin professors are among the 100 most influential social work scholars, according to an updated ranking published in the journal Research on Social Work Practice. The list, based on citations in peer-reviewed journals that have been analyzed using several metrics, identifies “those individuals who have made substantial contributions to social work discourse over the course of their academic careers,” according to the study’s authors, David R. Hodge and Patricia R. Turner of Arizona State University. Laura Abrams, chair of UCLA Luskin Social Welfare, is ranked No. 30 on the global list of scholars. Abrams’ research focuses on improving the well-being of youth and adults with histories of incarceration. She is joined by Professors Emeriti Duncan Lindsey (No. 68), who taught at UCLA from 1996 to 2009, and the late Yeheskel “Zeke” Hasenfeld (No. 90), who taught from 1987 to 2014. “We are deeply honored by this recognition of UCLA scholars and change makers whose research and robust discourse have helped shape the field of social welfare,” said Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, interim dean of the Luskin School. Social work periodicals are “a crucial repository of the profession’s knowledge … [where] ideas are proposed, interrogated, tested and refined,” Hodge and Turner wrote. “In this update, we identify the top 100 scholars whose efforts across their careers have singled them out as leading contributors to the social work profession’s knowledge base.”


Financial Support Advances Timely, Problem-Solving Research Amid rising costs and declining state support, grants and gifts are more important than ever

By Stan Paul

In the most recent fiscal year, UCLA Luskin received more than $32 million in extramural funding, which includes research grants and contracts, gifts from individuals, foundation funding and endowments. The School’s fundraising efforts contributed to almost $11.5 million of that total.

Amid rising costs and declining state funding for the University of California system, this type of support is more important than ever. External funding sources large and small allow individual scholars and UCLA Luskin-affiliated research centers to continue to pursue important and timely research on numerous policy issues, including such pressing topics as the environment, labor, crime and social justice. Here are just a few examples:


The devastation of wildfires is well-known in California — loss of life, displacement of people from their homes, and high rebuilding costs to individuals, governments and the private sector.

Liz Koslov, assistant professor of urban planning, studies social dimensions of climate change, environmental and climate justice, and how cities are adapting to effects such as extreme weather and sea-level rise as a scholar at UCLA Luskin and in association with the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability at UCLA.

This research on wildfires and “managed retreat” has received support from the National Science Foundation, or NSF. The concept, in general, involves moving people and infrastructure out of harm’s way well before disaster strikes and is part a growing debate about managed retreat in high-risk coastal areas and fire-prone zones.

The grant resulted from the NSF’s 2022 call for proposals, which recognized wildland fire as “becoming an increasingly prevalent and pressing phenomenon nationally and globally.”

Her proposal received a one-year planning grant to develop a research agenda on the intersection of wildfire and managed retreat. The award is funded through the NSF’s Humans, Disasters, and the Built Environment Program and the independent federal agency’s Human-Environment and Geographical Sciences Program.

“While there have been recent calls in the media, and by some policymakers and academics, to consider relocating people and infrastructure away from places facing high wildfire risk, little research examines whether retreat is an effective or equitable response in wildfire contexts,” Koslov said. The existing understanding of managed retreat is based almost exclusively on studies by herself and others that focused on flooding and sea-level rise.

Koslov and her co-principal investigator Kathryn McConnell, a postdoctoral research associate at Brown University’s Population Studies and Training Center, argue that the dynamics of wildfire require attention in their own right.


Exposure to crime is among the factors that impact police decision-making and public trust in police, and that topic is part of a new study by Emily Weisburst, an assistant professor of public policy.

Thanks to a two-year grant from the Russell Sage Foundation, Weisburst and a UCLA colleague, Felipe Gonçalves of economics, plan to shed light on how and why the experience of crime and police enforcement of crime may differ in the United States for individuals from different races and income groups. The project uses descriptive mapping to look at disparities using high-frequency policing data — information that Weisburst said has not previously been available on a large scale.

Data from 911 calls, crimes and arrests across U.S. cities will be used to measure how Americans of different races and income levels are exposed to criminal activity. The researchers intend to document variations in exposure to crime and policing at a granular level in order to estimate the causal impact of residential segregation on racial gaps in neighborhood crime and arrest exposure.

“The analysis is really exciting, but it’s almost secondary to cleaning the data because the data collection is so ambitious. We’re getting these individual records of 911 calls, crimes and arrests from hundreds of cities around the country,” Weisburst said.

The data will come in different forms from different cities, and it all must be validated. Most of the data is now there to be verified, she said, “which allows UCLA graduate students and undergraduate students to get involved.”

Once disparities are mapped, the researchers will try to understand a primary causal factor: “We’re going to look at how these gaps vary across cities depending on their degree of segregation,” Weisburst said.

Guaranteed Income in L.A.

Assistant Professor of Social Welfare Judith Perrigo is more than two years into a five-year study to evaluate an experiment whereby some Los Angeles residents negatively affected by the pandemic have been receiving a guaranteed income of $1,000 a month.

Perrigo’s work, funded in conjunction with Los Angeles County and the University of Pennsylvania, is part of a larger effort to evaluate similar programs in cities across the nation.

Perrigo is currently looking at L.A.’s version, a pilot program called Breathe in which 1,000 individuals received $1,000 a month for 36 months. She is working with a team that includes co-principal investigator Margaret Thomas, formerly of UCLA and now an assistant professor at the University of Chicago, as well as PhD students.

“We designed a randomized controlled trial following those 1,000 people that are receiving guaranteed income,” Perrigo said. In addition, researchers are contacting about 2,000 people who are not receiving guaranteed income, but applied for the program.

“We’re examining the differences between those two groups on overall health and well-being,” Perrigo said.

A digital dashboard shows in real time how people are using the funds. It includes demographic data on participants, and the economic context for pilot participants in terms of unemployment and inflation.

The spending breakdown shows that food, transportation and housing are among the top expenditures, whereas health care/medical expenses and education are closer to the bottom. “Not surprisingly, the majority are using [the money] for basic needs like rent and utilities,” Perrigo said.

More broadly, she is also interested in understanding the program’s impact on health, mental health, overall well-being and child development. The researchers are looking at a subset of families that have young children under age 5.

“We want to know if this program, or a program like this, can help disrupt intergenerational poverty,” said Perrigo, who specializes in advancing holistic well-being for young children.

A Second Chance for Incarcerated Youths

Laura Abrams, professor and chair of Social Welfare, is among a team of researchers from across the country awarded support by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation to lead an extensive national study of young people sentenced to life in prison who are ultimately given a chance at freedom.

The team’s three-year project is building a base of knowledge that supports safe and equitable sentencing and “second-look” policies for people sentenced to life in prison for offenses committed before they were age 18. Some have spent years behind bars.

“This research seeks to answer critical policy questions,” Abrams said. “Can we develop a set of evidence-informed policies that provide second chances for people serving long sentences for violent crimes? Can we reduce our overreliance on long sentences in the future without compromising public safety?”

Abrams Co-Edits Book on Social Work’s Reckoning With a Racist History

A new book co-edited by Laura Abrams, chair of Social Welfare at UCLA Luskin, considers the complex history of social work in the United States, including ways the profession has perpetuated white supremacy even as it works toward an anti-racist future. “Social Work, White Supremacy, and Racial Justice: Reckoning With Our History, Interrogating Our Present, Reimagining Our Future” is a collection of 40 chapters reflecting diverse voices, theories and methods. Published by Oxford University Press, the book challenges readers to acknowledge the field’s history of exclusion, moral superiority and oppression, then work to upend the status quo. “For social work to have a serious and substantive role in contributing to an anti-racist future, we must first commit to ending the practices that maintain our racist present,” including complicity with systems of policing, incarceration and child services that disproportionately punish Black, Indigenous and Latinx families, the editors write. They add, “It is challenging to imagine a future without racism, and yet still, many of the authors of these chapters are thinking outside the box and are working to build such a future. Collectively, this volume provides a foundation for what can become our next steps — to consider ideas, voices and platforms for concrete action that exist outside of mainstream discourse.” The book grew out of a four-part virtual conference on racial justice during the 2020-21 academic year that was organized by the four co-editors: Abrams, Sandra Edmonds Crewe of Howard University, Alan Dettlaff of the University of Houston and James Herbert Williams of Arizona State University.

two men and two women with book

Book co-editors, from left, James Herbert Williams, Sandra Edmonds Crewe, Alan Dettlaff and Laura Abrams.


Toasting Social Welfare’s Diamond Anniversary Alumni, faculty, students and friends gather to celebrate 75 years of advancing justice

The UCLA Luskin Social Welfare family came together May 6 for an evening of festivity and reflection to celebrate a memorable milestone: 75 years since the study of social work began at UCLA in 1947.

Alumni, faculty, staff and friends from across the decades joined current students at the gala event at the UCLA Luskin Conference Center, the culmination of a yearlong lineup of special events in honor of the anniversary:

  • A fall gathering of Social Welfare PhD students and doctoral alumni highlighted the research and scholarship aimed at advancing justice in both society and academia.
  • A reception in winter quarter honored the many community groups and agencies that have guided Social Welfare students in field placements over the decades.
  • And a special UCLA Luskin Lecture by Los Angeles County Supervisor Holly J. Mitchell put a spotlight on the alleviation of poverty, a key focus of the social welfare discipline.

The importance of field education was underscored at the spring gala with the presentation of the 2023 Joseph A. Nunn Social Welfare Alumnus of the Year award to Gerardo Laviña MSW ’86. Laviña, the longtime director of field education, is retiring at the end of the academic year. His award was presented by field faculty Larthia Dunham and Laura Alongi MSW ’92.

Adjunct Professor Jorja Leap MSW ’80 emceed the gala, which included a welcome from UCLA Luskin’s interim dean, Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, as well as perspectives shared by Laura Abrams, chair of Social Welfare; Rosina Becerra, professor emerita and former dean; current MSW student Elisse Howard; and alumni Stephen Cheung MSW ’07 and Diane Terry MSW ’04 PhD ’12. Adjunct Assistant Professor Khush Cooper MSW ’00 PhD ’10 raised a champagne toast to end the formal program and invite guests to the dance floor.

Read about 75 years of social welfare education at UCLA, including an account of the program’s “finest moment” during the Los Angeles riots.

Read profiles of key figures in UCLA Social Welfare’s history:

  • Rosina Becerra, former dean and professor emerita
  • Jack Rothman, professor emeritus
  • Joe Nunn, professor emeritus
  • Gerry Laviña, director of field education
  • Coming soon: Fernando Torres-Gil, retiring professor of social welfare and public policy

Watch a video celebrating the importance of field education at UCLA

View photos from the gala on Flickr

SW 75th Anniversary Gala

L.A. County Supervisor Advocates ‘Poverty Disruption’ at Luskin Lecture Holly Mitchell wants to reweave the social safety net with an equity focus in the wake of COVID-19 and the stark inequalities it exposed 

By Les Dunseith

Poverty has been a cornerstone of the professional life of Los Angeles County Supervisor Holly Mitchell as an elected official and in her prior work within child and family welfare organizations. Today, she is at the forefront of next-generation approaches that she thinks could fundamentally dismantle poverty in our society.

Speaking on the UCLA campus during a May 3 Luskin Lecture organized by the Luskin School of Public Affairs, Mitchell urged a crowd of faculty, staff, alumni and students to rally behind a current movement that goes beyond simply strengthening the social safety net.

“I think we have to reweave it, reimagine it and remake it to serve with equality, inclusion and humanity,” Mitchell said. “We have got to be as intentional about equity as previous generations have been intentional about exclusion.”

Organized in conjunction with a yearlong 75th-anniversary celebration of social work education at UCLA,  Mitchell was invited to speak because her focus on poverty coincides with the Luskin School’s mission.   

Social work was born as a profession to respond to poverty and inequality in society, said Laura Abrams, professor of social welfare and department chair, in her introductory remarks. Yet, social services programs like welfare and food stamps “have too often been coercive and judgmental, [with] caste stigma and population stereotypes racialized and inflicting harm on communities.”

Since being elected as a supervisor in 2020, Mitchell has pushed help for disadvantaged communities as a countywide priority, and her office’s effort to ensure that equity is a centerpiece of the local COVID-19 recovery plan has been held up as a national model.

In the wake of the pandemic, public officials have access to what Mitchell described as a “once-in-a-generation onslaught of public funds called COVID-19 recovery dollars.” Past tradition in L.A. County would have meant simply splitting those dollars equally among the five supervisorial districts. That made no sense to Mitchell. 

“From my perspective, it’s really pretty simple math: Those who have been disenfranchised and hit the hardest deserve the disproportionate investment in their recovery,” she said. 

This led to the creation of the first-ever countywide equity formula and public dashboard to ensure that federal dollars reach those most impacted by the pandemic. The L.A. County formula incorporates economic, social and environmental factors to identify the communities with the highest need, so far allocating $1.9 billion to 120 projects from the Antelope Valley to East L.A. to South L.A. and beyond. 

“For many of these neighborhoods, it’s the first time that government puts them at the front of the line for investments,” said Mitchell, who led one of the largest private, nonprofit child care and development corportations in California, Crystal Stairs, before entering politics and going on to serve in the California Assembly and Senate.

‘The era of invasive and patronizing social welfare in L.A. County is over,’ says Holly Mitchell.

A centerpiece of her policy history has been fighting against so-called benefit cliffs — eligibility restrictions on social services benefits that can trap people into cycles of poverty just to remain eligible for public assistance.

During her time at Crystal Stairs, Mitchell said, “my most painful days” related to working mothers faced with the prospect of losing public assistance because a work promotion would put them “pennies, literally, over the eligibility limit. And they were having to decide whether to walk away. ‘Do I keep this $3,000-a-month childcare voucher? Or do I take this promotion at work?’” 

Eliminating such dilemmas requires radically new approaches, Mitchell said.

“The era of invasive and patronizing social welfare in L.A. County is over. I’ll put the final nail in that coffin right now,” she said, prompting supportive applause from the UCLA audience.

“Research has shown us that things like work requirements and impossible barriers to eligibility do nothing to truly address poverty. It just continues to criminalize poverty,” Mitchell said. “We’ve got to go beyond, in my humble opinion, poverty alleviation and focus on poverty disruption.”

Central to her poverty disruption agenda for L.A. County is a pilot program called Breathe L.A., which is one of the largest guaranteed income programs in the nation. Since March 2022, it has been providing 1,000 Angelenos with $1,000 a month. The payment will continue for three years, no strings attached, for randomly selected participants who are 18 years or older and have been negatively affected by the pandemic.

Assistant Professor Judith Perrigo is among the researchers at UCLA Luskin helping to evaluate Breathe L.A., joining scholars currently evaluating similar guaranteed income efforts across the nation and around the world. 

Mitchell said that early results of that research belie the misguided perception put forth by opponents attempting to cast doubt on whether recipients will spend the money wisely.

“What’s the No. 1 thing participants in Breathe L.A. have spent the money on?” Mitchell asked the crowd, pausing a moment to let her listeners think about an answer. “It’s food. Food and basic necessities to feed their families. And making sure one less child is going to bed hungry, I believe that’s a good thing.”

After her prepared remarks, Mitchell was joined on stage by Perrigo for a Q&A session. “You have fire inside of you,” Perrigo told Mitchell, then invited her to describe where she finds the courage to advocate for poverty approaches like guaranteed income that have a history as political lightning rods.

Mitchell stressed the public servant aspect of her role, saying she thinks about the new mothers among her constituency who dream of creating a better life for their children. 

“Everyone has the right to have that dream. And the role of our society is to not create barriers to lift those possibilities,” Mitchell said. “When I think about things like that, it gives me the courage to go against the grain and fight.”

She recalled her effort in Sacramento to do away with a state provision that penalized low-income families receiving cash aid for having another child. After three frustrating defeats, she found success on the fourth try.

It will take similar perseverance to make guaranteed income a cornerstone of social services policy. 

“It’s a righteous fight,” said Mitchell, urging supporters in the audience to look at the gradual rollout of guaranteed income efforts as “an opportunity to expand your warrior base of people who will fight.”

She noted that the basic idea of guaranteed income is not new — Martin Luther King Jr. was a proponent, in fact. Decades later, it’s only now taking hold.

“It’s a movement,” said Mitchell, comparing Breathe L.A. to today’s bedrock public aid programs like Medicare and Social Security. 

“Those were, in their time, cutting-edge, innovative concepts around income security,” she said. “When I think about those game-changing, life-saving policy initiatives that I’m sure had a very rough start also, I believe we can get there.” 

The name, Breathe L.A., implies providing the means to weather a crisis — a little time to breathe — directly to people facing financial hardship.

Perrigo noted the popularity of the idea among lower-income, underserved communities and their advocates. But how will policymakers like Mitchell persuade skeptical taxpayers? 

 “If we are able to create healthier communities, safer communities, everybody benefits,” Mitchell said. 

Public education is also necessary. 

“It’s trying to acknowledge and help [skeptics] understand they started out 10 steps ahead, and this other community is trying to catch up. I think it’s important to have those kinds of conversations,” she said, “because that’s the honest truth.”

Mitchell is also a board member of LA Metro, and in response to a question from the audience, she said her priority for public transportation in the county is bus service “because that’s what a lot of our poor rely on.”

Eventually, she said, her goal is an entirely fareless bus system. For now, she takes heart in the success of Metro’s GoPass pilot program, which has provided more than 241,000 youths a free transit pass since it launched as a pandemic recovery measure in October 2021.

“The data … on school attendance is mind-blowing,” Mitchell said. “For some of us, it may be hard to imagine that $1.75 can stop a lot of people from going to school, but it can. Our K-12 ridership is double the pre-pandemic numbers.” 

Much of Mitchell’s presentation focused on touting accomplishments, but she acknowledged that L.A. County has no shortage of problems yet to be solved. Homelessness is a primary ongoing concern, “and we are 500,000 housing units short in L.A. County,” she said. “So, we have to build.”

Mitchell acknowledged that reality leads to difficult conversations. Want to stir up a political hornet’s nest? There’s no surer way in Los Angeles than going to a community homeowners association and talking about building more densely in neighborhoods zoned for single-family homes, she said.   

“People will roll up on me, and it’s, ‘What do you do about the homeless?’ And I say, ‘Well, as soon as you tell me how you are willing to have the composition of your own block change, I’ll tell you what I’ll do about the homeless,’” Mitchell said. 

“It is our moral dilemma,” she said. “And only when we have decided that we are sick and tired of being sick and tired — and that we’re not going to allow people to live like this anymore — can [developers, public agencies and governments] expand and build the diversity of housing that people need.”

View additional photos on Flickr:

UCLA Luskin Lecture With Holly Mitchell

$3 Million Grant Will Help Expand Social Welfare Workforce Award will enable UCLA Luskin to grow its master of social welfare program to help meet statewide needs for behavioral health care

A $3 million state grant will fund the expansion of social welfare education at UCLA, part of a broader effort to better serve Californians with behavioral health needs.

illustration of diamond with textThe grant from the California Department of Health Care Access and Information will allow the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs to add 25 additional students to its master of social welfare program each year, beginning in the fall of 2024.

Total enrollment in the program will eventually reach 250, and the funds will be used to provide stipends to students and hire faculty, lecturers and staff to accommodate the growing numbers, according to Laura Abrams, chair of Social Welfare.

“This grant will surely strengthen our program and, more importantly, our ability to better serve our communities,” Abrams said.

UCLA is one of 23 California campuses to receive an award through the $59.4 million program, which was launched to grow the ranks of social workers who play a crucial role in the emotional well-being of the state’s residents.

The program aims to increase access to services for mental health, substance abuse and other behavioral health concerns. Training social welfare students to serve children and youth is a priority, according to a statement from the Health Care Access and Information Department.

“Thanks to this new grant program, we are able to help grow this vitally important sector in the health workforce and get children, youth and adults the care they need, when they need it,” said department director Elizabeth Landsberg.