Mike Dukakis Taught Here The renowned statesman has retired from teaching at UCLA Luskin, where his impact was immeasurable

By Stan Paul

For a quarter of a century, prospective Bruins, their parents and other visitors passing UCLA’s Public Affairs Building heard a familiar refrain that was an enduring highlight of any campus guided tour: “Mike Dukakis teaches here.”

Dukakis, now 88, has officially retired from his role as a visiting professor of public policy at UCLA. He is no longer making the annual cross-country trek with his wife, Kitty, from the East Coast to Westwood for each winter quarter. But his years of dedication and service remain a living legacy.

“Michael Dukakis is a foundational figure in the history of the Luskin School — a giant in the history of public policy leadership in the U.S.,” said Dean Gary Segura about the former three-term Massachusetts governor and 1988 Democratic presidential nominee.

“Mike has never stopped working to solve problems at the state and local level in Massachusetts and beyond,” Segura added. “All the while, Mike has been a dedicated teacher and mentor, particularly to our undergraduates. We will miss his sage wisdom and kindness in the halls of UCLA Luskin.”

And every winter quarter for more than two decades, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Dukakis could be found in those halls early, specifically in his sixth-floor office, before most people arrived on campus — already at work, his office door open, preparing for class, answering emails, engaging in a phone conversation with media or on behalf of a student, or already chatting with a colleague or student.

Dukakis recalled being surprised when he first came to UCLA that the public affairs school was brand new.

“I kind of assumed that a place like UCLA would be deeply into this stuff, and they obviously weren’t,” he said during a recent interview. “That happily changed and changed dramatically.”

When he first arrived, UCLA was entering into a period of growth and development. “It’s really been remarkable in so many ways, and it was great to be a part of that,” Dukakis said.

“My experience here was very special, no question about it,” he said. “And you know, we’ve made wonderful friendships and great colleagues, and I hear from my former students all the time.”

March 2018: UCLA Chancellor Emeritus Albert Carnesale comments during a lunch gathering with Michael and Kitty Dukakis.

“I’ve never seen anybody, any faculty member anywhere, spend more time out of class meeting with students.” —Albert Carnesale, speaking about Dukakis

UCLA Chancellor Emeritus Albert Carnesale has shared office space near Dukakis on the sixth floor of the building since stepping down from UCLA’s top leadership post in 2006.

“I’ve never seen anybody, any faculty member anywhere, spend more time out of class meeting with students.” Carnesale said. “When I came in in the morning, there were always one or more students meeting with him.”

Their longtime friendship and professional relationship go back to the 1970s when Dukakis was governor of Massachusetts and Carnesale was at Harvard.

“My friendship with Mike Dukakis long predates either of us coming to UCLA and then continued when we were at UCLA,” said Carnesale, who was appointed UCLA Chancellor in 1997, the year after Dukakis arrived on campus.

Dukakis’ most-lasting impact on students may have been his ability to show why it is important and satisfying to serve the public good.

“And the best way to do that was — not the only way, but the best way to do that, the most direct way — was through public service,” Carnesale said. “He really does exemplify that.”

March 2018: Michael and Kitty Dukakis pose with Zev Yaroslavsky, their longtime friend and faculty colleague.

“He’s a decent honorable man who never compromised his integrity as as a public official…” —Zev Yaroslavsky

Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA, also has been a sixth-floor hall mate of the former governor. The former five-term Los Angeles County supervisor said he visited Dukakis’ classes on a number of occasions while still in office and then later as a colleague at UCLA.

“He’s a decent honorable man who never compromised his integrity as a public official and he teaches the same way, and I think it’s a loss to us not to have him here,” Yaroslavsky said.

People who know Dukakis are quick to point out his honesty despite his political celebrity and his innate ability to connect with people. He possesses a down-to-earth, unassuming nature. Dukakis’ preferred modes of transportation are public transit and walking, and many staff, faculty and students recall seeing him traverse campus in his iconic khakis and flannel shirt, perhaps stopping to pick up some errant litter and deposit it in a recycling bin before resuming his determined pace.

1975: Former UCLA Luskin lecturer and staff member Bill Parent, standing, talks with then-governor Michael Dukakis, right, during a meeting with University of Massachusetts students in Dukakis’ first year as governor. Photo from the UMass Daily Collegian

“I’ve loved the experience. I’ve loved the fact that these kids were interested in getting deeply and actively involved in public affairs.” —Michael Dukakis

Bill Parent, former longtime staff member and lecturer at Luskin, recalled Dukakis’ preference for public transportation. He once offered to drive him downtown to the annual UCLA Luskin Day at City Hall event.

“ ‘Let’s take the bus,’ ” he said, which I thought was insane,” Parent said. “But there we were on the 720, headed for the Red Line, bouncing along in the very back seat.”

Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, distinguished professor of urban planning and former chair of Urban Planning, recalls her first encounter with Dukakis.

“The elections were over and he was a huge name and I had never met him personally. I remember going to make a Xerox copy, and I bumped into Mike, who was making his own copies. For me, this was amazing.”

Dukakis also is well-known for his ability to quickly find a common link and bond with anyone after asking just a few questions. Loukaitou-Sideris said their initial conversation quickly turned into a discussion of their common Greek origins followed by an invitation for the Dukakises to join her family and friends for dinner.

“His answer was immediately ‘yes,’” said Loukaitou-Sideris, adding, “the guests of honor” were the first to arrive. “There’s Mike and Kitty holding a bread that Mike had baked.” Loukaitou-Sideris describes him as the “most accessible person on Earth.”

“You know, the fame and what he has done— amazing things as governor — never went into his head. He connects to people and to anyone,” she said including undergraduate students clamoring to take his class because he has a unique ability to connect some of the larger theoretical ideas to things in practice.

“His contribution to a public policy school all these years has been immense because students wanted to come to study policy because Mike Dukakis was there.”

When not at UCLA, he also taught at Northeastern University, not far from his home in Brookline, Mass., for many years.

“People came often because of his reputation, but he was much more than that,” Loukaitou-Sideris said. “He is a person always trying to find ways to help. And he had a tremendous amount of contacts. And if he knew that you were trying to do something, he would always find the right person to connect you to as well.”

Students definitely made connections and launched careers, recalled Michael Stoll, professor of public policy and urban planning and also a former chair of UCLA Luskin Public Policy.

“The generosity of his support for students included writing more letters of recommendation and securing more internships for students than anyone could ever imagine.”

In addition, Dukakis spearheaded an internship program to provide UCLA Luskin master’s students with first-hand public service experience in government with a specific focus on California.

Michael Fleming, a longtime lecturer in Social Welfare at Luskin and executive director of the Los Angeles-based David Bohnett Foundation, recalls that Dukakis also was instrumental in making a direct connection for UCLA Luskin students to Los Angeles City Hall and the mayor’s office.

At a meeting at Bohnett’s home in the early 2000s that included Fleming, then-Dean Barbara Nelson and others, the idea for connecting UCLA Luskin students with Los Angeles City Hall and the mayor’s office was conceived. Dukakis astutely sized up the opportunity to bring students, and backing, together to address a need, Fleming said.

The David Bohnett Fellowship program was launched in 2007 as a hands-on working experience in the mayor’s office for exceptionally promising UCLA Luskin public policy, social welfare and urban planning graduate students.

April 2003: Michael Dukakis was a visiting professor at UCLA Luskin for over two decades.

“He was full of stories about his experiences and lessons learned and was never shy about sharing his wisdom.” —Nelson Esparza MPP ’15

Numerous former students were inspired by Dukakis to pursue public service or seek public office — from local city boards to state elected posts to the U.S. Congress. Among those alumni are Nanette Barragán ’00, who represents the 44th Congressional district in South Los Angeles, and Jimmy Gomez ’99, who represents the 34th Congressional district in Los Angeles.

Another former Dukakis student is Nelson Esparza MPP ’15, who has won elections to the Fresno County School Board and the Fresno City Council in his hometown.

“By the time I was in the MPP program, I was strongly considering returning home to represent my local community,” the former Dukakis internship fellow recalled. “Naturally, the governor and I engaged in many conversations about the practical side of leadership, policymaking and the sacred responsibility of representing a community at any level of government.”

Esparza continued: “He was full of stories about his experiences and lessons learned and was never shy about sharing his wisdom.”

Dukakis sometimes recited the names of elected officials who passed through his classroom over the years. “I’ve always thought it was kind of cool to have joined that group,” Esparza said. “In some ways, you might say that I learned more from the governor outside of the classroom.”

March 2018: Professor Emeritus Dan Mitchell co-taught a course at UCLA Luskin with Michael Dukakis for many years.

“As a professor, Mike was one of the most conscientious instructors our undergraduates were likely to encounter.” —Dan Mitchell

Co-teaching with Dukakis during his entire tenure at UCLA in the often-filled-to-capacity undergraduate course California Policy Issues was Dan Mitchell, emeritus professor of public policy and management.

“As a professor, Mike was one of the most conscientious instructors our undergraduates were likely to encounter. All student work was read and evaluated by the instructors, not the TA. Even in a large class, there were always separate meetings with small groups of students.”

Mitchell said Dukakis was a tough evaluator. “At the end of the day, either the final product met the standard, or it didn’t,” he said. Each year, Dukakis delivered a short lecture that came to be known as the excellent writer statement, emphasizing the need to develop that ability.

March 2017: Renee Luskin and Mark Peterson enjoy a laugh with Michael Dukakis

“He wasn’t just any experienced government official. We hit the jackpot.” —Mark Peterson

Longtime Luskin faculty and staff mirrored those comments.

“Mike, there from close to the beginning of the School, for many years was the only actual practitioner — real policymaker — on the faculty of a program whose mission is to train policymaking professionals,” said UCLA Professor of Public Policy, Political Science and Law Mark Peterson. “But he wasn’t just any experienced government official. We hit the jackpot,” said the former chair of UCLA Luskin Public Policy.

“Moreover, he dove into his teaching full bore, excelled at it, and added significantly to the curricula of both the MPP graduate program and the then-undergraduate minor, now a major at UCLA.”

January 2019: Visiting Professor Michael Dukakis speaks with a group of undergraduate students at UCLA.

“When we invited him to speak to the first students of the new public affairs B.A. in 2019, he told all of them to run for office or get involved in politics — it was a call to action.” —Jocelyn Guihama

Jocelyn Guihama, a 2003 MPP graduate and former student of Dukakis, agrees. She now serves as director of administration and experiential learning for the School’s public affairs major.

“Prof. Dukakis’ tireless advocacy for public service has inspired generations of Luskin students, Guihama said. “When I was an MPP student in the early days of the program, I told him that I was planning to work in the nonprofit sector, and he immediately told me that I needed to channel that energy into the public sector.

“That message hasn’t changed,” she said.

“When we invited him to speak to the first students of the new public affairs B.A. in 2019, he told all of them to run for office or get involved in politics — it was a call to action.”

Guihama said that Dukakis’ former students in the major are already getting involved and connecting with elected officials.

Longtime UCLA Luskin faculty colleague Fernando Torres-Gil said Dukakis has exemplified life after politics, building a memorable post-politician career as an educator.

Torres-Gil, professor of social welfare and public policy, is also director of the Center for Policy Research on Aging. He said he knew Dukakis from his time serving as his deputy issues director in the 1988 campaign.

“I saw first-hand his deep integrity and commitment to public service and a focus on doing so honorably, a term rarely seen among most political players,” Torres-Gil said. “It was such a thrill to know that he and I would be at UCLA and the Luskin School and to maintain our friendship and continued participation in civic life.

“Professor Dukakis, by all measures, has been a master teacher and one of the most popular and effective instructors,” Torres-Gil said.
He noted that Dukakis also represented UCLA to donors and stakeholders, connecting the Luskin School with the wider policy and political arenas.

“We will miss Professor Dukakis greatly, but he has set the gold standard for professional practice faculty and for honorable contributions after public service.”

March 2010: Michael Dukakis often spoke with community groups and UCLA supporters during his time on campus.

“We will miss Professor Dukakis greatly, but he has set the gold standard for professional practice faculty and for honorable contributions after public service.” —Fernando Torres-Gil

Outside of teaching, Dukakis was often a speaker at events in Southern California during the winter quarter. Some events were linked to UCLA and others not, Mitchell said, adding that he preferred not to say “no” when an invitation occurred, even the times and places were less than convenient.

Kitty Dukakis also traveled each year to Westwood, and she was involved and active in speaking engagements with the former governor, who said she “was no passive spectator … wouldn’t have been any other way.”

“And because of her interest in mental health and related kinds of things, she had an opportunity to do some good things herself,” Dukakis said.

Public Policy lecturer Jim Newton, an award-winning journalist and former editor of the editorial page of the LA Times, also shared the sixth floor of the Public Affairs Building with Dukakis for the past several years. Newton knows a bit about governors, having written historical books on two of them — Jerry Brown and Earl Warren.

“It’s sort of my stock in trade,” said Newton, now editor of UCLA Blueprint magazine, which has included profiles and interviews with Dukakis.

“I know we had a number of conversations about UCLA and its engagement in the community, and so my interest and the governor’s overlapped in a lot of ways,” which included a common interest in government and politics, Newton said.

“One of the things that has impressed me throughout my acquaintance or friendship with the governor is how available he is and how much of an integrated part of the overall UCLA community here.  There’s nothing aloof or unapproachable about him,” Newton said.

“I’ve spent my life with people in politics. There’s a lot of people I admire as a result of that. I got to know and admire and have respect for a lot of them who are not super-nice people. They’re ambitious, and they’re smart, and they’re interesting,” Newton said. But they sometimes can be “kind of difficult or prickly.”

“[Dukakis] is not that person. Not here, he is the opposite of that. Just as warm and as modest, and as humble and approachable as a person can be,” Newton said.

“So, I have a world of respect for him. Both in terms of his achievement, but also just in terms of the way he holds himself out and makes himself available and helps people to learn and understand.”

March 2015: Friends and family were on hand when UCLA Luskin celebrated the Michael S. Dukakis Internship program and his 20 years of teaching at UCLA.

“You know, the fame and what he has done— amazing things as governor — never went into his head. He connects to people and to anyone.” —Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris

Dukakis finished his 25th and final winter quarter at UCLA Luskin in 2020 by, what else, grading papers. His return home to Massachusetts was then delayed a few weeks by a bout of pneumonia, and his travel options then and now have been impacted by COVID-19 restrictions.

When asked what his impact has been, he responded in his typical way, humble and redirecting toward students: “I’m hoping it’s positive. I’ve loved the experience. I’ve loved the fact that these kids were interested in getting deeply and actively involved in public affairs.”

Dukakis said he can’t count how many students he convinced to take advantage of UCLA’s program in Washington, D.C., which he said could lead to internships at the municipal level, the state level and other career opportunities.

Any regrets about relocating from coast to coast every year for more than two decades?

“No, never regretted it for a minute. It’s really been remarkable in so many ways, and it was great to be a part of that.” He elaborated, “I’ve worked both with a great faculty and with a wonderful group of students, so you know, for me and for us — for Kitty and I — it was a great experience and I’m sorry it had to end.

“There’s nothing more satisfying than being in a position where you can introduce and convince young people to go into the public sector, surely, and then to see them thrive,” he said, reflecting on his decades-long experience at UCLA. “Luskin is doing it all the time.”

Dukakis on Public Leadership in a Time of Crisis The former governor of Massachusetts and Democratic nominee for president shares his insights on leadership

By Stan Paul

As the former governor of Massachusetts and a onetime Democratic nominee for president, UCLA Luskin faculty member Michael Dukakis knows a lot about leading during a crisis.

“The only thing that I had that, from a state standpoint, came even close to [the coronavirus crisis] was the famous blizzard of ’78,” said Dukakis, recalling a catastrophic storm that struck New England states and shut down air, rail and highways. Some commuters were trapped in their cars, and the storm destroyed homes and forced people to evacuate, and find food and shelter.

Thankfully, Dukakis’ secretary of public safety, Charles Barry, “just was obsessive on emergency planning,” he said.  “We had a detailed plan for dealing with emergencies and I said, ‘You run it, and you tell me what to say every afternoon at 3 o’clock,’ because I had shut down all traffic and all these other things and, fortunately, came out of it in great shape.”

Dukakis teaches a policy course on institutional leadership at UCLA Luskin each winter quarter, and it focuses on case studies that include his own experiences in government and public service. He stressed the importance of preparing public managers well, noting that graduate students should be serious about learning how to run an agency and deliver the goods during a crisis.

“If you are not organized for this, and you don’t have really superb people, look out,” Dukakis said. “Whoever is in charge should be someone who knows what he’s doing.”

The interview with Dukakis took place shortly after the stunning reversal of fortune of presidential candidate Joe Biden.

“This is an extraordinary year. What’s happened over the last 10 days is beyond extraordinary,” Dukakis said a few days after Biden swept to victory in 10 of 15 Democratic primary contests on Super Tuesday, March 3. “Nobody would have predicted it, including yours truly, and somebody smarter than me is going to have to try to figure out how it happened.”

Normally, at the end of the winter quarter, Dukakis meets with faculty and staff at the Luskin School to share advice and make political observations. This year, that meeting had to be canceled because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, which also temporarily delayed the return of Dukakis and his wife, Kitty, to their home in Massachusetts.

“What I would say to the faculty is that what Joe needs now — and you’ve heard this rant of mine before — is a first-class, 50-state, 200,000-precinct organization … and no more reds, blues and purples, firewalls and all that nonsense,” Dukakis said about what Biden would have to do to defeat Republican incumbent Donald Trump.

A presidential candidate has to be competitive in every single state, “if only to keep the opposition busy in those states,” reiterated Dukakis, who has guided a number of UCLA Luskin alumni to careers in public office and public service over the years.

“It’s all grass roots,” he continued. “They can raise enough money to run a campaign like this, but it’s a precinct captain in every precinct, six block captains” that win an election. “It’s so dependent on the quality and caliber of the people you have working for you. I can’t emphasize that enough. I don’t think people understand just how important that is.”

Dukakis on Strong Coronavirus Response in California

Michael Dukakis, former Massachusetts governor and visiting professor of public policy at UCLA Luskin, spoke with Politico about the strong COVID-19 response in place in California and Los Angeles. Dukakis praised Gov. Gavin Newsom and Mayor Eric Garcetti for their quick adoption of strict social distancing protocols. “You’ve got a tough governor, tough mayor — to their credit, in my opinion — and they’re not fooling around here,” he said. Dukakis added that he is concerned about President Trump’s push to reopen the economy while coronavirus cases continue to rise. “I don’t have a problem with gradually opening things up, but you better do it very, very carefully,” he said. Dukakis, who teaches at UCLA Luskin during the winter quarter, anticipates returning to Massachusetts soon. He remains at his Los Angeles home due to travel restrictions and to recover from a bout of pneumonia in March that was unrelated to the coronavirus.

Super Tuesday, Luskin-Style

As Super Tuesday drew to a close after 72 hours of campaign twists and turns, Public Policy students and faculty flocked to a watch party at the Luskin School for pizza and political talk. The contest for the Democratic presidential nomination as a two-man race came into focus as returns came in from across the country. In addition to weighing the merits of Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden, students talked about state and local races and the new voting centers rolled out by Los Angeles County for the March 3 primary. Many in the room wore “I Voted” stickers after casting their ballots at Ackerman Union. The crowd also included half a dozen international students who were fascinated by the political process unfolding before them. Professors Martin Gilens and Mark Peterson provided context and commentary as hosts of the event. They were joined by Associate Professor Wesley Yin and Visiting Professor Michael Dukakis, the former Massachusetts governor and 1988 Democratic nominee. Dukakis and his wife, Kitty, shared their own unique perspectives with students at the watch party.

View more photos on Flickr.


Super Tuesday Watch Party

Citizens United Ruling Was ‘Outrageous,’ Dukakis Says

Michael Dukakis, 1988 Democratic presidential candidate and visiting professor of public policy, spoke to the Los Angeles Times about the Citizens United v. Federal Election Committee ruling and its profound effects on American politics. It has been 10 years since the momentous Supreme Court ruling that declared corporations had the same rights as people under the First Amendment and therefore were exempt from restrictions on political spending. Dukakis said the concept of a corporation having First Amendment rights is “outrageous.” Since the ruling, campaign finance has changed and Dukakis believes it does not align with what the Founding Fathers envisioned for the country.  “The Founders who wrote the Constitution would be astonished,” he said. “The right has been peddling this idea for years, and it’s nonsense.”


Visiting Professors Encourage Careers in Government With a dysfunctional government and Election 2020 firing up interest in politics, faculty stress importance of getting involved

By Stan Paul

“If government is so dysfunctional, why should I work there?”

That question guided a noontime discussion hosted by Visiting Professor of Public Policy Steven Nemerovski on Feb. 20, 2019, at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.

One answer, Nemerovski said, is that when nothing is getting done — at the federal level in particular — “that’s the time when you need talented people the most.”

Nemerovski is one of three visiting professors — all with decades of experience — at UCLA Luskin in the winter quarter. Citing his own unique career path, which has spanned politics, government, business and law, the adjunct professor at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs encouraged the gathered students to consider government as a starting point for developing a successful and multifaceted career.

“There is no right way” into politics, said Nemerovski, who is teaching an undergraduate and graduate-level course in advocacy and legislation. He said government experience should be looked at as an extension of education, an early step in a student’s career process. “You have to go into it thinking that way,” he said.

Another teaching visitor this quarter is Gary Orren, the V.O. Key, Jr., Professor of Politics and Leadership at Harvard University, who is again teaching a graduate course “Persuasion: Science and Art of Effective Influence,” which he says “lies at the heart of our personal and professional lives.”

Orren, who has taught at the East Coast institution for nearly half a century, is also able to share his experience as a political advisor in local, state, national and international election campaigns.

Michael Dukakis, former Massachusetts governor and 1988 Democratic presidential nominee, has also returned to campus this winter, as he has for more than two decades. Dukakis is co-teaching a course on California policy issues in the School’s new undergraduate major as well as his graduate course on institutional leadership.

In January, Dukakis led a Learn-at-Lunch discussion with UCLA undergrad students on the 2020 campaign. He noted that, since the 2016 election, young people’s interest in politics has increased dramatically and current events have only fired them up.

“They are streaming into my office asking about public service,” he said.

That sentiment was heard at the lunchtime conversation with Nemerovski, who offered a number of career lessons and insider tips.

Nemerovski, who has served as an attorney in government service, a campaign manager and lobbyist, and now president of a consulting firm specializing in advocacy at the state and federal levels, explained that his own career path did not start in a straightforward way or as early as he recommends to students.

He highlighted the importance of “picking a team” and “finding a cause” — of connecting passion with expertise. Admittedly, he said, he did not have a particular calling from the start in his home state of Illinois, but by becoming involved in lobbying, he developed a true career-long passion for health care issues.

He cautioned that becoming an expert can only get a person so far and stressed the importance of establishing relationships. He said he still has important connections from more than four decades of work in his various roles, and he has invited many in his network to speak to his classes. This quarter, Nemerovski’s students had the opportunity to hear from several current and former legislators from Illinois and California.

One of the many benefits of maintaining relationships with people throughout a career, he said, is that “you will grow with them.”

Nemerovski also shared a few enduring political rules of thumb: “In the world of government and politics, you have to be from somewhere” and “We don’t want anybody that nobody sent.”

And in launching and nurturing a career involving work in and out of government, Nemerovski said, “There’s nothing wrong with a little luck.”

Undergrads Lunch and Learn With Gov. Dukakis

Former Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis sat down with 30 public affairs undergraduate students to talk about the 2020 election and the importance of politics at a Learn-at-Lunch gathering on Monday, Jan. 28, 2019. Dukakis, the 1988 Democratic presidential candidate, began the roundtable discussion by crediting his third-grade teacher for inspiring him to enter politics when he ran for class president. Ever since, Dukakis has been involved in politics at the local, state and national level. In the 2020 presidential campaign, Dukakis said, Democrats must adopt what he called the 50-state strategy. The system must be responsive to the people it is serving, he said, and candidates must engage with voters in every state. “If you neglect a place, if you disparage people, if you don’t spend time with them, don’t be surprised if they turn somewhere else,” he said. A visiting professor of public policy this quarter, Dukakis is teaching both graduate and undergraduate courses. His class on California policy issues is part of the coursework for the new undergraduate major in public affairs. At the lunch, Dukakis wholeheartedly encouraged every student in the room to run for office or become involved in politics. “There is nothing more fulfilling or satisfying than being a professional where you can make a difference in the lives of people,” he said. — Myrka Vega

View photos from the roundtable on Flickr.


Dukakis on Culture Clash Exposed by Super Bowl

A Los Angeles Times opinion piece on the cultural clashes exposed by Sunday’s Super Bowl confrontation between New England and Los Angeles quoted Michael Dukakis, former Massachusetts governor and visiting professor of public policy at UCLA Luskin. Despite the geographical and cultural divide, the article noted that there are connections between Massachusetts and California that defy surface stereotypes. “Yes, the places are totally different,” said Dukakis, who for the past 24 years has spent fall term at Boston’s Northeastern University before heading to UCLA for the winter term. But Dukakis added, “In recent years California and Massachusetts have come together politically for the Democrats.”


Dukakis Rides 1949 Hudson in Support of North-South Rail Link

Visiting Professor of Public Policy, 1988 Democratic nominee for president and three-term governor of Massachusetts Michael Dukakis traveled around Massachusetts in a 1949 Hudson in support of the North-South Rail Link, the Boston Globe reported. Dukakis said he hopes the journey will a send a message to lawmakers that the North-South Rail Link will alleviate traffic and improve the lives of those who use public transit. The project would build a tunnel between two stations to let trains travel through Boston. “We’ve got to get the folks in the State House to start getting serious about this,” Dukakis said, “and connecting these two stations is absolutely critical.” He is set to meet with legislative leadership to discuss the rail link and transportation in general. Dukakis also advocates a “first-class statewide regional rail system.” He emphasized, “These projects have got to start moving quickly and aggressively.”


UCLA Luskin Alumni Emerge as Local Leaders With Election Wins Former students credit policy lessons learned on campus with helping them garner votes during 2018 midterm races

By Stan Paul and Zoe Day

The November 2018 midterm elections provided an opportunity for several alumni to follow previous officeholders from the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and put their educational experience and training to the test in local California races, with three Master of Public Policy graduates winning election battles.

Nelson Esparza MPP ’15, an economics instructor at Fresno City College, won a grass-roots bid for Fresno’s city council. His latest win follows a successful campaign in 2016 for a spot on the Fresno County Board of Education in which he unseated a longtime incumbent.

“I attribute my success to the variety of different variables, but my experience at the Luskin School was just invaluable,” said Esparza, who will serve out his school board term until he takes the oath of office for his new role in January. “It wasn’t just the nitty-gritty of the public policy that we got into in the classroom. It was the leadership aspects that I was able to engage in with my peers inside and outside of the classroom and through the different supplemental programs that Luskin offered.”

Esparza said he is excited about the opportunity to impact public policy in Fresno. He cited independent study with Luskin Public Policy Professor Mark A. Peterson and “instrumental” advice from Michael Dukakis, visiting professor of public policy and the 1988 Democratic presidential nominee, as elements contributing to his win.

“And now we have a majority Democrat city council and a majority Latino city council, which is a lot more reflective of what our city looks like,” said Esparza, who has already started assembling his team and policy agenda. “We’re doing the best we possibly can to minimize the learning curve.”

Regina Wallace-Jones MPP ’99 was victorious in her run in East Palo Alto’s city council race.

“I cannot wait to get started with the policymaking. That’s where I am most enthusiastic,” said the chief of staff and head of product operations at eBay. She has also held posts at Yahoo and Facebook.

Wallace-Jones, who focused on technology policy as a student at Luskin, also said that classes such as Dukakis’ course were particularly “useful in sizing up the political opportunity.”

She is the founding board president of StreetCode Academy, a patron of Black Girls Code, a board member for Women Who Code and a partner of the Lean In Foundation.

Jacque Casillas MPP ’14, a nonprofit manager and healthcare advocate with Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest, also won a city council seat in her hometown of Corona.

“I feel like the hard work paid off. We knocked on 10,000 doors in our election and … we fundraised like crazy,” said Casillas, noting that a majority of contributions came from individual donors.

“It’s OK to be outspent but don’t be outworked. You’ve got to be able to do the work,” Casillas said. Early in her campaign, she posted a small number of signs compared to her competition. “Everyone thought it was all over, but, you know, yard signs don’t vote, people vote,” said Casillas, whose goal was to knock on every door twice.

“My Luskin family were among the first folks to donate to my campaign; they were the folks that I called that I didn’t have to explain why the heck I thought this was important or what the heck I thought I was doing,” said Casillas. She noted the generosity and time of local and some out-of-state Luskin alumni — “cohorts past and present”— who phone-banked for her remotely. “It’s Luskin, you know, it’s our network.”

Talking about her first run for office, “Luskin also showed me the value of really diving in to difficult policy questions, and that’s how I really outperformed the competitors,” Casillas said. “My candidate peers had a lot of platitudes to share about decisions that were being made. But during candidate forums, I had more substance and could provide a more thorough perspective on things.”

She also benefited from “the tools of the trade” like cost-benefit analysis and being able to speak in policy terms. “I acquired those skills at Luskin,” she said.

For Casillas, who previously served as a field deputy director for a congressional campaign, serving at the local level is important.

“That’s where decisions are made that impact your everyday life. I’m more of a practitioner. I wanted to make decisions, impact change and see it within five years in my community. That’s why I went back to school and got a master’s in public policy,” she said.

Like her colleagues were for her, Casillas said, “I’m always there for Luskin.”

Peterson, who also holds UCLA appointments in political science and law, congratulated the efforts of former policy students. “There are many valuable ways to be effective change agents, our coin of the realm,” he said. “Few, however, are as potent as becoming one of the actual decision-makers chosen by the voters.”

Two other MPP graduates who threw their hats in the ring this election season garnered second-place finishes in their respective races.

Shana Alex Charles MPP ’01, a professor in Cal State Fullerton’s Department of Public Health, ran for her local school board in Fullerton. Her research focuses on equal access to affordable healthcare in California, health insurance for low-income children and public health policies. At Luskin, she was a teaching assistant for Dukakis.

Mark Anthony Paredes MPP ’02 ran for a seat on Garden Grove’s city council. He is a teacher, health care advocate and former planning commissioner. He also serves as an associate board member for the Boys and Girls Club of Garden Grove.

About these candidates and others before them, Peterson said, “It takes guts, confidence, energy, optimism, hard work, a measure of luck and a thick skin, but there is no better way to become infused in one’s community and, if granted victory, to apply directly the MPP ethos and skills to improve policymaking.”

He continued, “Hats off to our dedicated MPP graduates who took the plunge in the past, in 2018, and who will in the future!”