Making Connections at Fall Internship Fair

Fifty-five employers from the public, private and nonprofit sectors gathered at the UCLA Faculty Center on Nov. 5 to meet Luskin School graduate students seeking real-world experience through internships. More than 30 UCLA Luskin alumni were among the employers who came to the Fall Internship Fair to recruit student interns for positions beginning in January. From the public sector, local municipalities were well-represented, along with agencies at the county, state and federal levels. Planners, consultants and communications experts from the private sector were joined by nonprofits engaged in health, housing, immigration, families and racial equity, among other issues. The Fall Internship Fair focused on the Luskin School’s public policy and urban planning students; social welfare students are placed in yearlong internships at the beginning of the academic year. The fair is one of several programs organized by UCLA Luskin Career Services to prepare graduate students for a competitive job market. In April, a Career Fair and Alumni Networking Event will bring employers together with students from all three graduate programs who are pursuing job opportunities.

View more photos from the Fall Internship Fair on Flickr.

Making the Most of the Student-Mentor Connection Annual Senior Fellows Leadership breakfast puts spotlight on a successful partnership

By Mary Braswell

A student and mentor brought together by UCLA Luskin’s Senior Fellows Leadership Program shared stories of their rewarding yearlong partnership at an Oct. 24 breakfast launching the initiative’s 23rd year.

The gathering at the UCLA Faculty Center gave this year’s class of 45 Senior Fellows a chance to meet the graduate students they were matched with and hear insights from Tom Epstein, president of the California Community Colleges board of governors, and Irma Castañeda, a second-year master of public policy student.

“The best thing about being a fellow here is you get to work with so many smart, conscientious and diverse students,” said Epstein, a UCLA Luskin Senior Fellow since 2015.

Castañeda said she applied for the program last year to broaden her understanding of career options in the public policy field.  She accomplished that and much more, she said.

“I’m a first-generation college student and a first-generation professional, and I was navigating this space as a new student,” she said. By the end of the year, Epstein had helped her to build a professional network in Los Angeles and Sacramento and land a summer internship tailored to her interests in higher education.

At their monthly check-ins, Epstein and Castañeda talked about classes, career goals, internships and job prospects. Epstein also provided email introductions to key figures in his field and invited Castañeda to a meeting and dinner of California Community Colleges governors.

The life of a graduate student can be filled with coursework, campus activities and outside jobs, Castañeda said, but “it’s really important to prioritize this experience.” The Senior Fellows Program offers a rare gift — sustained one-on-one access to a leader in the public, private or nonprofit sector — and students should make the most of it, she said.

She also encouraged her classmates to take full advantage of the resources offered by UCLA Luskin’s Career Services team, led by Executive Director VC Powe.

View more photos from the Senior Fellows breakfast on Flickr.

The first step, Castañeda said, is to ask questions — lots of them.

She learned this during her search for a summer internship that would help her learn more about the community college system. Finding none, she consulted career counselor Donna Lee Oda, who helped her edit her resume, craft a cover letter and pitch herself as a summer intern candidate.

Epstein connected her with the deputy chancellor of California Community Colleges, who created a research internship just for Castañeda. She spent the summer conducting analysis for the governmental relations division and presenting her findings at a legislative briefing at the state Capitol.

“It was something that I wouldn’t have imagined, and I wouldn’t have had the opportunity if I hadn’t asked,” she said.

Epstein said he is grateful for the chance to serve as a Senior Fellow, recalling that an internship while he was at UCLA Law launched a rewarding career. He thanked his own mentor, Zev Yaroslavsky — then a young city councilman and now director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin — who was present at the breakfast.

Epstein’s career journey took him through politics, healthcare, insurance, media and the environment, in addition to higher education. He has worked in the White House, state government and the private and nonprofit sectors.

Students mentored by Epstein through the Senior Fellows program are now working at the California Endowment, Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, the California Department of Finance, Green Dot Schools and L.A. Care. One is a doctor with Kaiser Permanente and another is a teaching assistant at UCLA, he said.

Epstein addressed the public policy, social welfare and urban planning students gathered at the breakfast. “I’m grateful for your commitment to public service,” he said, “because our country needs you.”

This year, 37 returning Senior Fellows were joined by eight new mentors:

Warren T. Allen MPP ’03, founding member and attorney with WTAII PLLC

Nahtahna Cabanes MSW ’13, vice president of strategic partnerships with L.A. Works

Ken Chawkins BA ’85, business policy manager with the Southern California Gas Company

Elizabeth Forer CEO, Venice Family Clinic

Louise McCarthy MPP ’04, president and CEO at Community Clinic Association of Los Angeles County

Aurea Montes-Rodriguez MSW ’99, BA ’97, executive vice president of Community Coalition

Sarah Smith, senior director of education for the International Rescue Committee

Nancy Sutley, chief development officer with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power

Graduate Students Recruited for Their Drive and Passion Employers from a wide variety of industries seek candidates for jobs and internships at the 2019 Career Fair

By Myrka Vega

More than 200 UCLA Luskin students and graduates got a chance to connect with potential employers at the annual Job and Internship Career Fair on Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2019.

Held at the UCLA Ackerman Grand Ballroom, the fair drew more than 60 employers, many represented by UCLA Luskin alumni who had returned to recruit graduates from all three departments — Social Welfare, Urban Planning and Public Policy.

Barbara Spyrou MPP ’17 of the Los Angeles County Office of Child Protection, who had attended career fairs during her years at the Luskin School, said it was different being on the other side of the table.

“It’s nice to see it from both perspectives,” Spyrou said. “I think the most exciting part is when you see someone really excited about this work and you’re like, ‘Yeah, let’s make a connection!’ ”

Recruiters from a wide swath of industries came to UCLA looking for talented, passionate employees and interns. Graduate students and alumni looking for full-time jobs, internships and fellowships gathered at the fair ready to network.

“I’m interested in transportation, and there are transportation firms here that I am specifically interested in working at when I graduate,” said Kidada Malloy, a second-year MURP student. “I got to talk with them, I got to make connections, I got some business cards, and I got to learn more about the actual projects that they’re working on.”  

 Krystal Sims of LA Family Housing, which provides homeless services and real estate development, came to the career fair to fill both full-time and internship positions. Within the first 30 minutes, she had already spoken to 10 to 15 candidates.

“We are looking for individuals that are really innovative and passionate about the work that we do,” Sims said. “Anyone that’s interested in working for homeless services, there’s an opportunity out there.”

The UCLA-based WORLD Policy Analysis Center was represented by Rachel Bleetman and Brianna Pierce. Bleetman said the enthusiasm level was high at the fair, and Pierce said she was impressed by the UCLA Luskin crowd.

“We’ve met some great students, and they seem really excited about the next steps in their careers,” Pierce said.

A series of workshops held before the fair prepared the students to clearly communicate their goals and make a strong first impression.

The fair’s 62 employers represented an increase over previous years, so the event had to be moved to a larger venue, said Executive Director of External Programs and Career Services VC Powe.

“It was bursting in there because there were so many people,” including a striking number of alumni representing employers, she said.

“Our alumni really turned out, and I am really excited about that. More than half of the employers were alumni,” Powe said. “Students can not only talk to them about jobs right now, but they felt more comfortable saying, ‘Can I call you later and have a cup of coffee?’ ”

 

View additional photos on Flickr.

2019 Job and Internship Career Fair

 

 

Diplomacy at Work Luskin School-based Diplomat in Residence Heather Joy Thompson speaks to students about the prospects and joys of working for the U.S. State Department.

By Zev Hurwitz

Students looking to pursue careers in diplomacy had a firsthand look at working in the field during a lunchtime talk with Diplomat in Residence Heather Joy Thompson.

In her talk, titled “Careers in Diplomacy: An Insider’s Perspective,” Thompson walked through her own journey to the diplomatic corps as well as what it takes to join the Foreign Service.

The first step is taking the Foreign Service Officers Test, which has both exam and essay components, Thompson said. Applicants with high enough scores are invited to Washington, D.C., for an in-person interview that can take an entire day.

“This was the toughest interview I ever had in my life,” Thompson told the crowd of about 40 undergraduate and graduate students at the May 24, 2018, talk.

Successful applicants are placed into a pool of prospective diplomatic officers. If selected for assignment, they spend six to eight weeks in what Thompson calls “Diplomacy University” in Arlington, Va., learning foreign languages and developing professional skills for their careers in the service—all the while receiving salary to do so.

“I have never heard of a job where you are in school full-time and don’t have to report to an office but still get paid,” Thompson said.

Prospective diplomatic officers choose a desired track, including economics, politics, management and media relations, Thompson said. They remain in the pool for up to 18 months, after which they must apply again.

Thompson said her path to the Foreign Service was “unique.” Originally a Peace Corps volunteer in Burkina Faso, Thompson’s experience working in a region with no plumbing or electricity forced her to do a “deep dive” into her education.

“In a lot of ways, it settled me in a way that other positions probably couldn’t,” she said.

Following the Peace Corps, Thompson earned her law degree but decided against pursuing a career at a firm. A mutual acquaintance introduced her to a diplomat who steered her toward the State Department.

Thompson also once worked for Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs after winning a YouTube competition to be the rapper’s assistant.

In the Foreign Service since 2008, Thompson has been stationed in Johannesburg, South Africa, and Washington, D.C., and most recently worked as an economic officer in Mexico City’s U.S. Embassy.

At the UCLA Luskin talk, the final event of the 2017-2018 Senior Fellows Speaker Series, Thompson said the current political environment is somewhat challenging to the goals of her team. Nonetheless, she believes it is important to persevere.

“We are still here to do the work of the American people,” Thompson said. “Unless you are self-employed, it’s hard to find an employer with whom you agree 100 percent of the time.”

On the whole, Thompson said she very much enjoys her work as a diplomat.

“I think I have the best job on the planet,” she said. “The experience my colleagues in Foreign Service and I have are unparalleled in the private and public sector.”

Thompson is this year’s Diplomat in Residence for the State Department’s Southern California region, which includes Hawaii and Nevada. Diplomats in Residence are housed at UCLA Luskin, where they often engage with students through the Senior Fellows Program.

“Working for the U.S. State Department can be an outstanding career for the right person,” VC Powe, director of career services and leadership development at UCLA Luskin, said after Thompson’s talk. “UCLA Luskin is fortunate annually to host a Diplomat in Residence for the benefit of the greater UCLA community.”

 

Mentorship Program Gives Students Access to Practitioners

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By Angel Ibanez
UCLA Luskin student writer

For over 15 years, the Senior Fellows Leadership Program has been helping to prepare students for careers as change agents in the world by pairing them with leaders in the field as mentors.

Senior Fellows, who volunteer their time to meet with students across the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs’ three departments, work in diverse fields. Their backgrounds range from policy makers and business professionals to nonprofit executives and community leaders.

This year, the program welcomes six new senior fellows to the class. This includes: A. Barry Rand, CEO of the AARP; William Fujioka, Los Angeles County Chief Executive Officer; Mary McNeil, Senior Operations Officer and Team Lead of Global Governance Practice at the World Bank; Thomas Epstein, Vice President of Public Affairs, Blue Shield of California; Michael C. Camuñez, President and CEO of ManattJones Global Strategies; and Michelle G. Los Banos, Diplomat in Residence and foreign officer with the U.S. State Department.

For VC Powe, executive director of External Programs, the impressive resumes of the new senior fellows is a testament to the reputation of the program.

“We’re honored to have these new senior fellows in our program who will teach and guide our students,” she said. “But we’re also grateful to have a long list of returning fellows as well. Since 1998, we’ve had over 20 senior fellows return each year to participate again. It’s a tribute to how strongly they believe in it.”

Through year-long, one-on-one mentorships, students learn leadership and professional development skills, while learning about opportunities for internships and networking. Not to mention gaining solid career advice from people with highly successful careers.

City of Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell has been a senior fellow for two years. His choice to participate another year is in part because he says meeting students benefits the mentors as well. Students bring a “fresh set of eyes” that can help a “mentor tap into fresh approaches they haven’t thought of before,” he said. In addition, mentorship can help to train the next generation of professionals in various fields that are making an impact.

McDonnell highly encourages his peers to participate in the program, which he says is “a model for what can be done when you take some of the best and the brightest and ensure they are going in the right direction in the field you are in.” He was the keynote speaker at this year’s annual Senior Fellows Breakfast where students meet their mentors for the first time.

Public Policy student Rhianon Anderson is in her second year as a participant of the Senior Fellows porgram. This year she has been paired with Steve Soboroff, president of the Los Angeles Police Commission.

Anderson said she has hoped to be matched with Soboroff because he is successful in both public sector and private sector work – which is what she wants to do when she graduates.

“This program gives you absolutely unparalleled access to practitioners in the field. It’s the kind of access that you don’t get just in the classroom,” she said. “It’s ideal to have these complementary components: academic learning in the classroom and access to practitioners from whom you learn real life lessons.”

First year student Keren Mahgerefteh said she knew about the program prior to enrolling, and made it a point to attend the informational session once she got in. After seeing the name of her Senior Fellow, Thomas Epstein, on the list of possible mentors, Mahgerefteh decided to apply. Epstein’s experience matched up with what she hopes to do in the future.

“I’m looking to see how it is to have a day on the job in health policy, see what Mr. Epstein does day-to-day and how I can get to where he is in the future,” she said.

This is Epstein’s (JD ’76) first year serving as a Senior Fellow and he said he’s looking forward having meaningful conversations with students. He has experience both as a government affairs and communications leader for the Public Broadcasting Service and the Disney Channel, as well as experience working in politics as former special assistant to President Bill Clinton.

“I hope to be able to learn from the students and hear what they’re thinking about and also be able to give them some career guidance,” he said. “I have very broad interests from health and politics to philanthropy, so hopefully it’s a wide range of things that we all discuss and learn from each other.”