The year 2023 arrived finding me, suddenly and unexpectedly, at the helm of our School. But as the sentiments of surprise and overwhelmingness subside, I feel excitement, optimism and joy for the future of the Luskin School.
Yes, it is true that our School emerged in the new year having been hit by a triple tsunami — a global pandemic that emptied our building’s corridors and classrooms and forced us to become a “Zoom university”; a stressful labor strike that brought disagreement and tensions; and a sudden loss in leadership with the resignation of our previous dean, Gary Segura.
But it is also true that our School has been blessed throughout its 29-year history with effective, forward-looking deans, who have helped us witness a consistently upward trajectory.
Today, we have the largest and most diverse faculty in our history. We have research centers that produce and disseminate knowledge locally and globally. We have bright graduate and undergraduate students who want to improve the world around them. We have a very able and supportive staff and a well-networked advisory board, both with the good of the School as their focus. And we have alumni and other donors believing in our School and supporting it materially and otherwise, with the Luskin family at the top of this list.
The research undertaken in our School aligns extremely well with UCLA’s vision of becoming “the most impactful university
in the world.”
Our city, our region and indeed the nation and the globe are confronted with critical and, at times, interrelated challenges: deepening social inequality, housing insecurity and climate change, to name some of the most important ones. United by our mission to promote social justice in communities and cities, a lot of the work that our faculty is involved in concentrates on improving the position of vulnerable and marginalized social groups (racial/ethnic and gender minorities, older adults, immigrants, children, unhoused and disabled individuals, etc.) through sound and progressive policy and planning.
Faced with disasters such as drought and wildfires in our state, brought upon us by human action and causing uneven and adverse effects on communities, some of our faculty are also involved in studies about the sustainability and resilience of our ecosystems, our air and water, and the intersection of environmental policies with justice.
The fiscalization of land and market-driven urbanism in our cities have led to dispossession, residential and commercial displacement, housing unaffordability and homelessness, which
are particularly acute in our region. Some of our faculty and research centers are at the forefront of studying and developing policy recommendations to address these menaces.
And there are other very important issues and challenges requiring policy attention involving police brutality, mass shootings, inferior access to education or health services, voting rights — to name just a few — that my colleagues are working
on and helping to develop responses.
The portfolio of our School’s work is indeed impressive, but there is room for more. At the time of this writing, a proposal for a Master of Real Estate Development (MRED) is passing through the last round of reviews from the UCLA Academic Senate. It aspires to educate a new type of real estate professional: people who are not only technical experts in the field but also experts in the ethical and political underpinnings of development. Additionally, driven by our conviction that we should educate global citizens, and that global issues are also experienced locally, we are developing a new master’s degree in Global Public Affairs. Lastly, a faculty committee is examining the opportunity to develop a certificate program for our alumni and others who wish to learn about new technologies and digital tools for public policy — skills that we currently offer to our students, but which have changed significantly from previous decades.
So, the coming years will be busy and exciting. There is a lot to be done, but the future is bright.
Thank you very much for your support and for staying close to our School!