UCLA Luskin Faculty Among Top 100 Social Work Scholars

UCLA Luskin Professor David Cohen and Professors Emeritus Yeheskel “Zeke” Hasenfeld and Robert Schilling were recognized in the Journal of Social Service Research’s list of the “100 Most Influential Contemporary Social Work Faculty as Assessed by the H-Index.” The report uses a new method called the H-Index to measure the impact and influence of social work scholarship, taking into account not only the number of publications an individual has authored, but also the number of times that his or her work has been cited by others. “It feels great to be included in a list of highly cited scholars in my field — especially when some were my teachers,” said Cohen, who is also associate dean for research and faculty development at UCLA Luskin. “But creativity and quality mean more than citations — so I plan to keep on trucking, hoping that my best work is still ahead of me.” Cohen, whose research focuses on the effects of psychoactive drugs, treatment-induced harms and mental health trends, has authored and co-authored more than 100 book chapters and articles. Distinguished Research Professor Emeritus Hasenfeld, who passed away Feb. 28, 2019, was cited for his insightful investigation of the relationship between social welfare policies, the organizations that implement them and the people who use their services. Schilling’s research focuses on developmental disabilities, HIV risk and prevention, and substance abuse. Also on the list is Ron Avi Astor, who will join the UCLA Luskin faculty in the 2019-2020 school year. Astor is an internationally recognized expert on school safety. — Zoe Day


In Memoriam: Yeheskel ‘Zeke’ Hasenfeld The emeritus professor of social welfare was a pioneer in the study of human service organizations, an influential author and a trusted mentor of UCLA Luskin students for more than three decades

By Stan Paul

Yeheskel “Zeke” Hasenfeld, a member of UCLA’s Social Welfare faculty for more than three decades, passed away Feb. 28, 2019, after a battle with cancer. He was 81.

Hasenfeld joined the faculty in 1987 following a post as professor and associate dean at the University of Michigan’s School of Social Work. Upon retirement in 2014, Hasenfeld was appointed as a Distinguished Research Professor Emeritus “to reflect his ongoing and continued engagement with his students and with our department,” said Laura Abrams, chair of UCLA Luskin Social Welfare.

“Zeke was a true friend, colleague and mentor to our faculty and students, which is how he will be remembered. I know I speak for all of us in expressing deep sorrow about his passing,” Abrams said in a message to the UCLA Luskin community.

Hasenfeld was a pioneer in the study of human service organizations, earning the Society for Social Work and Research Distinguished Career Achievement Award in 2011. In 2013 he was inducted as a fellow in the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare. In February 2019, Hasenfeld was included on a list of the 100 most influential contemporary social work faculty by the Journal of Social Service Research.

“Zeke published many influential books and award-winning articles and was recently noted as one of the top 100 scholars of our time in the social work field,” Abrams said.

During his long research and teaching career, Hasenfeld focused on the dynamic relations between social welfare policies, organizations that implement policies and the people who use their social services. His research also looked at the implementation of welfare reform, as well as changes in the organization of welfare departments, and how those changes have affected the relations between workers and recipients. Recent work focused on the role of nonprofit organizations in the provision of social services.

Following his retirement, Hasenfeld volunteered with the American Civil Liberties Union, working on issues related to homelessness and advocating for the rights of people with disabilities.

Among his publications was the classic and best-selling text, “Human Services as Complex Organizations,” which was updated and republished in a second edition in 2018.

In 2017, Hasenfeld received the Frank R. Breul Memorial Prize from the University of Chicago’s publication Social Service Review for research on professional power relations in social work. Hasenfeld shared the prize with co-author Eve Garrow MSW ’03 Ph.D. ’08. Hasenfeld and Garrow married in 2018.

Hasenfeld, who was born in Israel, earned his undergraduate degree in sociology and economics in 1960 from Hebrew University at Jerusalem. He went to Rutgers University School of Social Work on a Fulbright Scholarship and received his MSW in 1962. In 1970, Hasenfeld earned his Ph.D. in social work and sociology from the University of Michigan and joined the faculty of the School of Social Work there following a yearlong teaching stint at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He also held an appointment in the University of Michigan’s Department of Sociology.

“Zeke was a dear colleague and a good friend,” said Fernando Torres-Gil, UCLA Luskin professor of social welfare and public policy. “He and I had much in common — our interest in organizational behavior and community theory, commitment to doctoral students and, in a most personal manner, being polio survivors,” added Torres-Gil, who also serves as director of the Center for Policy Research on Aging at UCLA Luskin.

Torres-Gil recalled Hasenfeld’s “steadfastness and courage that inspired me to stay involved,” adding that Hasenfeld used his adversity to enlighten others about important policy and intellectual issues. “His iconic humor gave one pause, no matter how serious or how funny. I will miss Zeke for all this and for his dedication to the academic enterprise and to aging gracefully with a disability,” Torres-Gil said.

Hasenfeld is survived by Garrow, his wife; daughters Rena Garland and Rachel White from his first marriage to Helen Hasenfeld; and granddaughters Cassie White, Allie White and Summer Garland.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations in his name may be made to the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, 1313 W. 8th St., Los Angeles, CA 90017.

A Grassroots Mission in Watts UCLA Luskin’s Watts Leadership Institute launches a 10-year program to build a legacy of leaders and empowerment

By George Foulsham

WATTS — If you’re searching for the heartbeat of the UCLA Watts Leadership Institute, look no further than 10360 Wilmington Ave. in Los Angeles. What was once a liquor store is now the home of the multi-faceted Watts Century Latino Organization.

On a recent Saturday, more than 70 volunteers gathered here to help with a grassroots task: assemble and plant a community garden. The event was part of the citywide Sharefest Community Workday, but it represented much more for Jorja Leap, an adjunct professor of social welfare in the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, and for the Watts Leadership Institute’s first cohort — community members who hold the key to deepening the indigenous leadership of Watts.

“This is the beginning,” Leap said as the volunteers spread mulch around four large planter boxes. “We’re going to be bringing in youth from the various middle and high schools throughout the area. They’re going to be learning about gardening, they’re going to be learning about healthy eating, and they’re going to be developing strategies for contributing to their community.”

It’s just one example of what the Watts Leadership Institute hopes to bring to a part of L.A. that Leap has been engaged in since she was a social welfare graduate student at UCLA in the 1970s. Leap and project partner Karrah Lompa MSW ’13 have launched an institute that’s making a 10-year commitment to Watts.

The Watts Leadership Institute received its key initial funding through a two-year, $200,000 grant from the California Wellness Foundation. In turn, the WLI GRoW Community Garden is supported by a two-year, $100,000 grant from GRoW @ Annenberg, a philanthropic initiative led by Gregory Annenberg Weingarten, dedicated to supporting humanitarian efforts across the globe as well as innovative projects in health, education, the arts and civic & cultural life. The Sharefest Community Workday provided additional support for the community garden from Sharefest, the Mars Corporation and Our Foods.

“This kind of a public-private partnership, along with the research attached to it — and the building of the Watts community — really represent the best of how all of these different factors can come together,” Leap said. “It represents part of UCLA’s continuing and growing commitment to communities like Watts that need our involvement, our engagement, our organizing, our research. We’re also learning from them and being taught by them.”

The garden project marked the first time that the institute’s cohort was able to engage Watts residents — and many other volunteers — in the community garden, according to Lompa. “The community was able to get their hands dirty, to help make the garden a reality and to take ownership,” she said. “The volunteers included cohort members, institute fellows, UCLA students and alumni, community members, corporate volunteers and representatives from the Annenberg Foundation. It was everybody coming together to launch the community garden.”

Among the community members in the institute’s first cohort are Pahola Ybarra and her father, Arturo Ybarra. Pahola is program manager and Arturo is the founder and executive director of the Watts Century Latino Organization, which has galvanized the growing Latino population in Watts. The center’s programs are credited with helping to build significant bridges between Latinos and African-Americans. To accomplish this, Pahola and Arturo are among the community leaders recruited by Leap as part of the initial leadership cohort in the institute.

When she approached the Ybarras about becoming part of the institute, Leap asked for guidance about the best way to bring Latinos in the community aboard. Pahola suggested teaching Latino leaders how to start a 501(c)3 nonprofit as a way to “teach them how to do bigger things in the community,” Ybarra said.

It’s only 2.1 square miles, but Watts has more than 190 nonprofits. The problem, according to Ybarra, is that there has always been overlap in the services offered by the various nonprofits.

“What Watts Leadership did was to help us come together, to put our resources together, and be an example for the rest of the nonprofit and leadership community in Watts,” Ybarra said. “It’s been an amazing effort to help us grow, and to help us get out of our own way. It encourages us to reach for as much as we can and do as much as we can in the community.”

Leap often draws upon social welfare professor Zeke Hasenfeld’s Luskin research, which initially characterized Watts as a “nonprofit desert,” but she’s hoping the institute can change that perception by training the first cohort of leaders who will then share their knowledge with a second and a third generation. One of the institute’s goals is to build a comprehensive infrastructure of nonprofits in Watts and use it as a model to build indigenous leadership. That was part of the strategy of the WLI GRoW Community Garden and it was kicked off on this volunteer day.

“This probably doesn’t look like an economic development project now,” said John Jones III, field deputy for Los Angeles City Councilman Joe Buscaino, who represents Watts. “But in the future, when things are growing from here, different businesses might come and buy the fruits and vegetables from here that will help this nonprofit thrive.”

Jones credits Leap and Lompa with teaching community members how to build a better community. “When the Watts Institute grows, this organization will be stronger, it will be better, and the Watts community will be better because of the lessons they learned,” Jones said.

That legacy approach is key to the success of the institute, Leap said.

“We will serve those within the community who will lead and will teach,” she said. “This way, we not only build capacity, we build a continuum of leadership that is cross-generational. Luskin is not going to leave, but we ultimately want Watts in the lead.”

Cohort member Kathryn Wooten, the founder and executive director of Loving Hands Community Care, is a lifelong resident of Watts whose organization was struggling until she was recruited by Leap to be a part of the institute. As part of the cohort training, Wooten and others were provided with computers and trained in how to use them.

“It’s almost too good to be true,” Wooten said. “Since I’ve been a part of it, my organization is more professional. I have all the things I need to run a business because of the cohort and their guidance. I now know how to use a computer.”

Leap’s approach to this project is motivated by a powerful sense of duty.

“This is my way of paying back,” she said. “I did come here in 1978 as a very callow MSW student, and the Watts community took me under its wing and taught me. UCLA afforded me the opportunity to learn here. This community has given a great deal to me, and it is my responsibility and my honor to pay that back, to listen and to really serve in the most meaningful way that I can.”

Power and Powerlessness in Social Work UCLA Luskin professor and alumna receive Social Science Review’s 2017 Frank R. Breul Memorial Prize for social welfare research on professional power relations

By Stan Paul

Knowledge may be power, but professional power for those in fields such as social work can be jeopardized by organizational settings.

For their research on this topic, Luskin alumna Eve Garrow MSW ’03, Ph.D. ’08 and social welfare distinguished research professor Yeheskel “Zeke” Hasenfeld have been named winners of the 2017 Frank R. Breul Memorial Prize by Social Service Review (SSR), a publication of the University of Chicago Press.

In their 2016 case study, “When Professional Power Fails: A Power Relations Perspective,” Garrow and Hasenfeld explain how social workers, when making important decisions for chronically homeless individuals in permanent supportive housing, can find their professional expertise undermined by the interests of external stakeholders who give priority to property management over social services.

“The study exposes the powerlessness of homeless people and their social workers in the homeless services field,” said Hasenfeld, who studies homelessness, poverty and welfare as well as nonprofits and nongovernmental organizations.

In their study, Garrow, currently the homeless policy analyst and advocate for the ACLU of Southern California’s Dignity for All Project, and Hasenfeld find that conflicts arose at “critical clinical decision junctures” for residents whose housing needs involved participation of social workers and property managers.

“Decisions such as those that deny acceptance to the program, sanction clients for behavior related to their disabilities, or initiate eviction proceedings, are critical because they influence the well-being of the clients; they either provide them with or deprive them of scarce and valued organizational resources,” the researchers wrote. Yet, the interests of the property managers prevailed over the professional judgment of the social workers.

Garrow and Hasenfeld said that their findings led them to ask questions such as how property managers, who lack educational professional credentials, could overrule social workers and their professional judgment. They added that a power relations perspective was overlooked in research in human service organizations and that a power relations perspective can provide a strong explanatory model to understanding of organizational that affect the ability of social workers to exercise their ethics-bound professional expertise.

The study found that a power relations perspective:

  • Offers a valuable lens through which to understand the periodic and yet systematic disempowerment of professional social workers
  • Can be generalized when applied to human service organizations to provide a better understanding of the structural conditions that influence the distribution and exercise of power among different occupational groups within the organization and how these influence organizational practices.
  • Reveals the structural conditions that lead vulnerable groups, such as homeless persons, to become powerless clients in organizations.

The authors, who conducted their research over a two-year period, conclude that in order to exercise their professional power, social workers need to forge alliances with stakeholders who share their values and have the power to influence social policy and programs that promote the interest and well-being of vulnerable clients who are powerless within organizations.

“This is part of a larger project to provide the empirical basis for the advancement of human rights for vulnerable and marginalized populations,” Hasenfeld said.

The Frank R. Breul Memorial Prize, established by the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago, honors the career of its namesake, including his service as editor of SSR. The prize, awarded annually, is for the best article published in SSR within a given year and comes with a $1,000 stipend and announcement in the March 2017 issue of SSR, according to Mark Courtney, the current editor.