World Cities Serving as Learning Laboratories

By Mary Braswell

Powerful experiences on some of the world’s great rivers deepened Jinglan Lin’s desire to shape the policies that affect the planet.

Two weeks rafting on the Colorado during high school led to summers volunteering on China’s Mekong. Now, she’s in the city on the Seine — Paris, where Lin is spending the year as part of the first group of students accepted to a unique dual-degree program pairing UCLA Luskin Urban Planning with the top European research university Sciences Po.

At the end of the two-year program, Lin will emerge with a master of regional and urban planning from UCLA and a master of governing the large metropolis from Sciences Po’s Urban School. Her concentration is environmental analysis and policy.

“The rafting trip was 14 days on the river without the internet, and it really changed me,” Lin recalled.

With her eyes opened to the beauty of the wild rivers and the environmental perils they face, she planned a course of study that led to the field of urban planning because, she said, “It’s the human activities in cities that are creating all these environmental problems.”

Lin is one of six students completing the dual-degree coursework in Paris after spending a year on the UCLA campus.

The selective program is just one of the study-abroad opportunities available at UCLA Luskin:

  • This year, public policy students can be found at the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin and the Graduate School of Public Policy at the University of Tokyo.
  • Seven student fellows traveled to low- or middle-income countries or worked with international agencies in the summer of 2022 in association with Global Public Affairs, which is open to students from all of the School’s graduate programs. Founded in 2014, the Global Public Affairs program typically awards about 20 certificates to graduating master’s degree recipients each year. (Plans are in the works to expand the number of international-focused course offerings, with an associated increase in faculty who focus on global issues.)
  • And the Public Affairs undergraduate program encourages majors, pre-majors and minors to broaden their perspectives through the UCLA International Education Office. Over the summer, 15 UCLA Luskin undergrads completed internships in Argentina, Colombia, Great Britain, South Africa and Vietnam.

The new partnership between the Luskin School and Sciences Po — the UC system’s first graduate dual-degree program with a foreign university — grew out of a longstanding quarter-long exchange program that is still available to urban planning students.

“Students are able to experience two world-class programs, which are complementary and different, as well as two world cities, which are similar in their economic and world importance but totally different in terms of their ways of life,” said Michael Storper, a distinguished professor of urban planning who has appointments at both campuses.

“Over time, we will build deeper ties of teaching and research, and this will strengthen both of our universities.”

While Lin initially had qualms about joining the dual-degree program in its very first year, she could not pass up such a rare opportunity to immerse herself in two great metropolises.

Lin, whose hometown is Guangzhou, China, is no stranger to study abroad. She attended high school in Northern California and earned her bachelor’s in environmental analysis at Pitzer, one of the Claremont Colleges. As an undergrad, she completed an exchange program at Sciences Po and knew she wanted to return.

The Los Angeles and Paris experiences have been markedly different, Lin said. UCLA’s campus is largely self-contained, whereas attending Sciences Po’s Urban School takes her all around the city. The first-year course load is foundational and rigorous — students must satisfy MURP requirements in a single year. Her classes in Paris are emphatically global in scope, taught by professors with experience on several continents.

All instruction is conducted in English, but Lin is also studying French to fulfill a language requirement and better navigate the streets of Paris.

“I didn’t know what to expect coming into this program. But I did know that Sciences Po and UCLA already had robust planning programs,” Lin said. “I knew that, regardless, I would learn a lot.”

Michael Storper Receives International Geography Prize The prestigious Vautrin Lud Award honors a scholar whose contributions are globally recognized

By Stan Paul

Michael Storper, distinguished professor of regional and international development in urban planning and director of Global Public Affairs at UCLA Luskin, was selected by an international jury to receive the prestigious 2022 Vautrin Lud International Award for Geography.

Storper traveled to Saint-Dié-des-Vosges in northeastern France to accept the award at an Oct. 2 ceremony, part of the annual three-day International Festival of Geography founded in 1990.

The Vautrin Lud Award is typically given to a person who has made outstanding contributions to the field of geography and has achieved a wide international reputation as an outstanding scholar.

“It is always an honor to be elected by one’s peers around the world,” said Storper, who joins a select group of UCLA Luskin faculty who have earned the accolade. The late Edward Soja received the honor in 2015 and emeritus professor Allen J. Scott won in 2003.

Woman and man holding prize check

Associate Professor Celine Vacchiani-Marcuzzo of the University of Reims Champagne-Ardenne, left, presents the Vautrin Lud Award to Michael Storper. Photo by Andrés Rodríguez-Pose

“Michael Storper’s contributions have been transformative and, in the spirit of urban planning, provide practical guidance on developing metropolitan regions around the globe,” said Chris Tilly, professor and chair of Urban Planning at UCLA Luskin.

Storper, who received his Ph.D. in geography from the University of California, Berkeley, and who has been affiliated with UCLA for four decades, is an international scholar who focuses his research and teaching on the closely linked areas of economic geography, globalization, technology, city regions and economic development.

He holds concurrent appointments in Europe, at the Institute of Political Studies (“Sciences Po”) in Paris, where he is professor of economic sociology and a member of its Center for the Sociology of Organizations; and at the London School of Economics, where he is professor of economic geography.

The Vautrin Lud Prize, created in 1991, rewards the work and research of a single distinguished geographer, identified after consultation with hundreds of researchers around the world. The prize, sometimes referred to as the “Nobel Prize in Geography,” is considered the highest international award in the field.

The annual award is named after the French scholar who was instrumental in naming America for the Florentine navigator Amerigo Vespucci, whose account of landing on the North American continent found its way to the group of Saint-Dié-des-Vosges scholars directed by Lud. In 1507, the group used Vespucci’s accounts to publish one of the earliest geographical treatises regarding the New World.

The honor adds to awards Storper has received for his decades of work and research.

The American Association of Geographers awarded Storper its Distinguished Scholarship Honors for 2017, and he received the 2016 Gold Founder’s Medal from the Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers).

Storper, co-author of the 2015 book, “The Rise and Decline of Urban Economies: Lessons from Los Angeles and San Francisco,” was previously named to the Thomson Reuters list of the World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds of 2014. In 2012, he was elected to the British Academy and received the Regional Studies Association’s award for overall achievement as well as the Sir Peter Hall Award in the House of Commons. He also holds an honorary doctorate from the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands.

Faculty Reported Among Top 2% in Scholarly Citations

Eighteen faculty members affiliated with UCLA Luskin are included in a listing of the top 2% for scholarly citations worldwide in their respective fields as determined by an annual study co-produced by Stanford University researchers. The 2021 report is a publicly available database that identifies more than 100,000 top researchers and includes updates through citation year 2020. The lists and explanations of study methodology can be found on Elsevier BV, and an article about the study was published by PLOS Biology. Separate data sets are available for career-long and single-year impact. The researchers are classified into 22 scientific fields and 176 subfields, with field- and subfield-specific percentiles provided for all researchers who have published at least five papers. The following current and past scholars with a UCLA Luskin connection met the study’s criteria to be included among the most-cited scholars:

Laura Abrams

Ron Avi Astor

Evelyn Blumenberg

Randall Crane

Dana Cuff

Yeheskel Hasenfeld (deceased)

Aurora P. Jackson

Duncan Lindsey

Susanne Lohmann

Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris

Thomas Rice

Ananya Roy

Robert Schilling

Donald Shoup

Michael Storper

Brian Taylor

John Villasenor

Martin Wachs (deceased)


Storper on the Evolution of Cities After COVID-19

UCLA Chancellor Gene Block shared Distinguished Professor of Urban Planning Michael Storper’s research on the evolution of cities at the Milken Institute’s recent Global Conference, which convened thousands of leaders from government, health care, finance, technology, philanthropy, media and higher education to tackle urgent global economic and social issues. Building on the conference’s theme of “Charting a New Course,” Block joined several discussions with the aim of sharing lessons learned from recent social movements and the global pandemic to reimagine a more prosperous future for all. “Cities keep growing and they keep thriving, but they’re changing. We’re seeing from the pandemic something that we refer to as ‘social scarring,’ or deep psychological impact that’s not going away quickly,” Block said, pointing to Storper’s research. “It’s changing people’s behavior and how they feel about density.” The 24th edition of the Global Conference was held in Beverly Hills from Oct. 17-20.

Storper on the Pandemic’s Lasting Impact on Cities

Urban Planning Distinguished Professor Michael Storper co-authored a paper assessing COVID-19’s anticipated impact on the economic, political and social fabric of cities for the journal Urban Studies. As the world continues to adapt to the pandemic, “we remain in a period of extended social experimentation, with households, business, the professions and the public sector all in the game,” wrote Storper and co-authors Richard Florida of the University of Toronto and Andrés Rodríguez-Pose of the London School of Economics. Throughout history, major metropolitan areas have proved resilient to epidemics and other crises and catastrophes, they wrote. “Nonetheless, even if large cities are unlikely to lose their prominent role, they will be transformed and changed — in the short term and even well after mass immunity.” The authors predict that “social scarring” based on the continued fear of coronavirus infection will continue to influence residence choice, travel and commute patterns, and the economic viability of certain businesses and social gathering spaces. The future of downtowns hangs in the balance as remote work is normalized and online shopping grows even more common. “Cities might increasingly become cultural and civic places rather than shopping destinations or office hubs,” they wrote. Despite its horrific toll, the pandemic offers a window of opportunity where cities can reset, re-energize and call old practices into question, the authors conclude. “As cities rebuild and recover, …  they can pilot efforts to confront the widening chasms between classes and neighborhoods and prepare for the many threats of climate change.”


Storper on the Counterintuitive Truth About Global Investment

Urban Planning Distinguished Professor Michael Storper co-authored an article about the impact of international investment on domestic employment levels for the London School of Economics’ Global Investments and Local Development blog. “The world over, public policies for recovery from COVID-19 have cherished the idea of curbing foreign activities of domestic firms in order to boost domestic employment and wages. This represents a fundamental misconception about outward foreign direct investment,” Storper wrote with scholars Riccardo Crescenzi and Roberto Ganau. The authors conducted an in-depth analysis of U.S. local labor markets, detailed in a paper recently published in the Journal of Economic Geography. They found that firms with direct investment in other countries create jobs at home, a counterintuitive fact in an era of populism and calls for curbing global economic integration. The authors noted, however, that there is a downside in the form of increasing intra-regional inequalities between high-skilled and low-skilled workers.

Storper on Post-COVID Life in Cities

An article in Econ Focus about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on life in cities mentioned a 2020 paper co-authored by Urban Planning Professor Michael Storper about the predicted short- and long-term effects of the pandemic. In their paper “Cities in a Post-COVID World,” Storper and co-authors Richard Florida and Andrés Rodríguez-Pose examined the pandemic and resulting lockdown as a forced experiment and made predictions about the social scarring and need to secure the urban built environment against future risks. They argued that despite opportunities for remote work, online shopping and other alternatives to face-to-face interactions, the demand for urban amenities will remain strong after the virus-induced lockdowns are lifted. “It is highly unlikely that COVID-19, despite its high levels of devastation in certain cities, will derail the long-standing process of urbanization and the economic role of cities,” they wrote. “Nonetheless, even if cities will not shrink or die from the COVID pandemic, they will certainly change.”

Results of Upzoning Are Limited, Storper Finds

Urban Planning Professor Michael Storper was cited in a Governing article about the affordable housing crisis in the United States. Experts disagree on the best strategy to meet the need for affordable housing. Two years ago, Minneapolis voted to make single-family zoning illegal; Oregon and cities in North Carolina and Northern California have adopted similar measures; and upzoning has been in place in Chicago for more than a decade. So far, these policy changes have had little effect on housing construction, the article noted. “What upzoning did not do in Chicago, and is not likely to do anywhere, is create incentives for housing construction in the areas where middle-class and lower-income people most need it at the prices for which they need it,” Storper said. Changing zoning laws doesn’t mean that developers will choose to build cheap housing, especially when they can build housing for the affluent and pay an alternative fee to an affordable housing fund.

Storper Research Points to Roots of L.A.’s Problems

A Zocalo Public Square column on the urgency of fixing Los Angeles’ longstanding economic and equity problems cited research by Michael Storper, distinguished professor of urban planning. Storper studied the different trajectories of the Bay Area and Los Angeles, two big regional economies that were at parity in 1970, with similar education levels and numbers of engineers. The Bay Area’s leading institutions in education, business and government became highly networked and planned collaboratively. The Los Angeles region remained a collection of separate, siloed communities that competed with one another. Today, the Bay Area is 30% richer than the L.A. region, Storper found. Noting that COVID-19 made the depths of Los Angeles’ problems undeniable, the column called on leaders to build real foundations that allow people to find stability and health in the short term, while reducing inequality to spread prosperity in the long term. 


Storper on Income Equality and the California Dream

Michael Storper, distinguished professor of regional and international development in urban planning, was featured in an ABC7 News video about the evolution of the California dream. After more than a century of rapid growth, population growth in California has slowed in recent decades. Americans are choosing where to go on the basis of jobs, housing, climate, family and other factors, and many are leaving the Golden State for places such as Texas, Nevada and Arizona. Storper explained that comparing population growth rates in California to other states is like comparing apples to oranges. “Big metropolitan areas like Los Angeles and San Francisco are still quite attractive to high-skilled, high-income people, so there is a net inflow of those groups,” he said. However, these areas are less attractive for low-income and low-education groups. Storper asked, “How can we deal with income inequality in ways that will enable people of all income levels to keep living in our state?”