Team from UCLA Luskin Social Welfare travels to immigrant detention center in Texas to counsel mothers and children seeking asylum in the U.S.
By Les Dunseith
Elected officials, scholars, civic leaders, and difference-makers in the nonprofit and philanthropic spheres came together April 24 to learn the results of the annual Quality of Life Index and discuss policy issues during a half-day conference put together by the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.
Congresswoman Karen Bass provided the morning’s keynote address for “Luskin Summit 2019: Livable L.A.,” an event that also kicked off the 25th anniversary celebration at the Luskin School.
Bass opened the conference by jokingly telling more than 300 people in attendance at the UCLA Luskin Conference Center that she “wanted to tell you about what we are doing in D.C. because, if you watch some TV news, you have no idea what we are doing in D.C.”
Bass has served in the U.S. House of Representatives since 2011. She said that “Democrats and Republicans actually do work together” in the nation’s capital.
“We don’t hate each other,” Bass said, smiling broadly. “Our accomplishments unfortunately don’t sustain media attention. So you might hear that we passed legislation on something like gun control … and then somebody tweets, and that’s all you hear about for the next several hours.”
The congresswoman’s remarks set a cooperative tone for the inaugural Luskin Summit, which focused on finding solutions through research and policy change. The conference emphasized a Los Angeles perspective during breakout sessions moderated by UCLA faculty members that focused on issues such as public mobility, climate change, housing and criminal justice.
Providing a framework for those discussions was the unveiling of the fourth Quality of Life Index, a project at UCLA Luskin that is supported by The California Endowment under the direction of longtime Los Angeles political stalwart Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative. The survey asks county residents to rate their quality of life in a range of categories and to answer questions about important issues facing them and the region.
“The cost of living, and particularly the cost of housing, is the single biggest drag on the rating that residents ultimately give to their quality of life in Los Angeles,” Yaroslavsky told Luskin Summit attendees. “The unmistakable takeaway from this project continues to be the crippling impact of the cost of living in Los Angeles County, punctuated by the extraordinary cost of housing.”
The housing affordability crisis was echoed throughout the event and in the days that followed as Yaroslavsky explained details of the survey in coverage by news outlets such as the Los Angeles Times, local radio news programs, and broadcast television reports by the local affiliates for NBC and ABC.
The coverage by KABC (also known as ABC7 Los Angeles) included segments on daily news broadcasts and a follow-up discussion with Yaroslavsky scheduled to air May 26 on the station’s weekly public affairs program, “Eyewitness Newsmakers.” That program is hosted by Adrienne Alpert, a general assignment reporter at ABC7 who served as the moderator for the Luskin Summit.
Alpert also hosted a panel discussion that closed the conference, during which mayors of four cities in Los Angeles County — Emily Gabel-Luddy of Burbank, Thomas Small of Culver City, James Butts of Inglewood and Tim Sandoval of Pomona — spoke frankly about the challenges their cities face in dealing with issues such as the rising cost of housing and its potential to lead to displacement of low-income residents.
California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, a former colleague of Yaroslavsky on the Los Angeles City Council, was also in attendance at the conference. Padilla engaged in a lively exchange about election security and voter registration efforts with UCLA Luskin Dean Gary Segura during a lunch meeting of panelists, faculty members and sponsors that took place immediately after the summit.
Segura also provided remarks during the morning session, introducing Bass and giving attendees a preview of the day to follow.
“Today you will hear from a series of dedicated public officials who understand that as great as our nation is, it can be better,” Segura said. “And they are taking action to make our country and our city more effective, more innovative, more fair and more inclusive.”
During her remarks, Bass offered her perspective on the recently released investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
“One thing that is a responsibility by the Constitution for Congress — we are supposed to provide oversight and investigation of the administration,” Bass said. “Most of the time it’s not that controversial, and you don’t really hear about it. But it’s made to be super-controversial now because we are in a hyper-partisan situation.”
The bitter partisanship prevalent in Washington today does have a positive aspect, she said, in that Americans seem to be paying closer attention to government and political issues.
“I am hoping that this trauma that we have collectively gone through will lead to a change in our American culture,” Bass said, “because as a culture we tend not to be involved politically.”
Bass said that more people seem to have a deeper understanding of political actions related to “immigration, the Muslim ban, the environment — all the kind of negative things that this administration has done,” said Bass, a Democrat who has been critical of many Trump administration policies. “I think he has sparked a new level of awareness and involvement, where we are working across our silos. I think, ultimately, we can take advantage of this period and bring about transformative change.”
The idea of initiating transformative change was a popular notion among many attendees at the Luskin Summit, as was the focus on making Los Angeles a more livable place.
“I can’t think of a better topic than how to make our city more livable and touch on all of these different aspects of life and the built environment and our environment in Los Angeles,” said Nurit Katz MPP/MBA ’08, the chief sustainability officer at UCLA.
Wendy Greuel BA ’83 is a former Los Angeles city controller and past president of the Los Angeles City Council. She noted that the research presented during the Luskin Summit was timely and focused “on issues that matter to Los Angeles, but also to this country and this world.”
Greuel served as the chair of the UCLA Luskin Advisory Board committee that helped plan the Luskin Summit. “I think that UCLA Luskin is at the forefront of really focusing on issues that matter and being able to give us real-life solutions and address the challenges,” she said.
Another UCLA Luskin Advisory Board member is Stephen Cheung BA ’00 MSW ’07, who is president of the World Trade Center Los Angeles and executive vice president at the L.A. County Economic Development Corporation.
“I think anything that has to do with sustainability and the growth of Los Angeles as a whole is very important to the economic vitality of this region,” Cheung said as the event got underway. “So this summit and all the information that’s going to be provided will really set a roadmap in terms of what we need to do, addressing public policies in terms of creating new opportunities for our companies here.”
Jackie Guevarra, executive director of the Quality and Productivity Commission of the L.A. County Board of Supervisors, said she attended the Luskin Summit because of her interest in the issues under discussion, including housing affordability.
“Homelessness is a big issue that L.A. County is tackling right now,” Guevarra said. “That is an issue that touches all of us. … The more that we have that conversation, the more people we can get to the same way of thinking about how to address the need — so that maybe we can all say, ‘Yes, we need affordable housing, and it’s OK for it to be here in my community.’”
Misch Anderson is a community activist with the Pasadena Complete Streets Coalition, a volunteer organization created in 2013 after a series of fatal crashes involving cars, pedestrians and cyclists.
“I was feeling like my activism put me in touch with such a small, kind of silo-ized community mindset, and I really want to break out of that and connect with people on a larger level,” said Anderson about her reason for attending the summit. “I just wanted to get some inspiration.”
Her takeaway from the summit?
“The idea that we need cultural change, essentially. I think the realities of globalism should be forcing us as individuals to think more widely, more as a larger group, and not be so xenophobic,” Anderson said. “I keep hearing about cultural change [at the summit] and thinking about what can I do — what can each of us do.”
Among the UCLA students in attendance was Tam Guy, a second-year Urban Planning Ph.D. candidate who is studying equity in the city, which encompasses housing, transportation and environmental design.
“One thing that interested me about this summit in particular is that they’re bringing in people from outside academia to talk about the issues, people who are actually on the ground dealing with policy day-to-day,” Guy noted.
The Luskin Summit drew a large crowd to the UCLA campus, and several hundred people watched a live stream of selected presentations. It drew interest near and far. A prime example was a group seated together near the back of the vast ballroom during the opening session — high school students from New Zealand!
The youths had been traveling up and down the West Coast with Joanna Speed, international coordinator with Crimson Education, a college admissions consulting service that exposes teens to potential careers and educational opportunities abroad. Coincidentally, the group scheduled its campus tour of UCLA for April 24. When they saw that the summit was happening that day, they asked to attend.
“It’s been an incredible experience for them,” Speed said.
Mary Braswell and Stan Paul also contributed to this story.
View additional photos from the UCLA Luskin Summit
Watch videos recorded during the event:
- Opening remarks by U.S. Rep. Karen Bass, plus an overview of the Quality of Life Index by Zev Yaroslavsky and other presentations
- Breakout session titled “Dealing With Disruption: From Public Transit to Public Mobility”
- Breakout session titled “A Housing-Oriented Look at Understanding Rising L.A. Inequality”
- Closing discussion moderated by Adrienne Alpert of ABC7 and featuring Mayor Emily Gabel-Luddy of Burbank, Mayor Thomas Small or Culver City, Mayor James Butts of Inglewood and Mayor Tim Sandoval of Pomona
By Les Dunseith
Janet Murguía, president and CEO of the nation’s largest Latino civil rights and advocacy organization, has been named the 2019 Commencement speaker for the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.
Murguía has led UnidosUS since 2005. She will deliver the keynote address during the UCLA Luskin ceremony at 9 a.m. on June 14 at Royce Hall on the UCLA campus.
“Janet Murguía is an inspiration as a woman, a Latina, and a thoughtful and passionate advocate for social justice,” Luskin School Dean Gary Segura said. “In this very difficult time for the Latino population, I am excited to hear her share her insights and determination — developed and refined over decades of advocacy — with our graduating class.”
‘Janet Murguía is an inspiration as a woman, a Latina, and a thoughtful and passionate advocate for social justice.’
— Dean Gary Segura
During her tenure at the organization, which changed its name from the National Council of La Raza in 2017, Murguía has sought to strengthen the work of UnidosUS and enhance its record of impact as a vital American institution. Murguía has also sought to amplify the Latino voice on issues such as education, health care, immigration, civil rights and the economy.
A native of Kansas City, Kansas, Murguía earned bachelor’s degrees in journalism and Spanish, and a juris doctorate, from the University of Kansas. She has also received honorary degrees from Cal State Dominguez Hills, Wake Forest University and Williams College.
Murguía began her career in Washington, D.C., as legislative counsel to former U.S. Rep. Jim Slattery from her home state. She worked with the congressman for seven years before joining the Clinton administration, where she served for six years as a deputy assistant to President Bill Clinton, including deputy director of legislative affairs.
Murguía went on to serve as deputy campaign manager and director of constituency outreach for the 2000 presidential campaign of Democrat Al Gore, during which she was the primary liaison between former Vice President Gore and national constituency groups.
In 2001, Murguía returned to the University of Kansas as executive vice chancellor for university relations, where she oversaw KU’s internal and external relations with the public. She is credited with coordinating the university’s strategic planning and marketing efforts at KU’s four campuses.
Over the course of her career, Murguía has been featured in various magazines and newspapers for her work and leadership. This includes being highlighted on Hispanic Business Magazine’s “100 Top Latinas” and “100 Most Influential Hispanics” lists, Washingtonian magazine’s “100 Most Powerful Women in Washington,” the NonProfit Times’ list of top 50 leaders of “Power and Influence,” People En Español’s “100 Most Influential Hispanics,” Newsweek’s third annual women and leadership issue, Poder magazine’s “The Poderosos 100,” Latino Leaders magazine’s “101 Top Leaders of the Hispanic Community” and Hispanic magazine’s “Powerful Latinos.”
Murguía was the first Latino to give the keynote speech at the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Unity Breakfast in Birmingham, Alabama. And she received Alpha Phi’s Frances E. Willard Award in 2018.
Murguía is currently a board member of Achieve, an independent and nonpartisan education reform nonprofit organization, and the Hispanic Association for Corporate Responsibility. She also serves as a member of diversity advisory councils for Bank of America, Charter Communications, Comcast/NBC Universal and Wells Fargo.
UPDATE, Sept. 5, 2019: The venue for the Oct. 10 presidential candidate forum has been changed to the Novo, an entertainment venue in downtown Los Angeles, in order to accommodate broadcast coverage. For further information, please contact Lucas Acosta of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation at firstname.lastname@example.org or 347-834-5063. The foundation will be the forum’s sole sponsor.
The UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, the educational arm of the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer civil rights organization, will co-host a forum for 2020 Democratic presidential candidates this fall.
The conversation will take place on Oct. 10, 2019, — the eve of National Coming Out Day — at UCLA, and it will give candidates an opportunity to speak about their policy platforms and plans to move LGBTQ equality forward.
The forum will be part of UCLA’s Luskin Lecture Series, which enhances public discourse on topics relevant to the betterment of society. The series demonstrates UCLA Luskin’s commitment to encouraging innovative breakthroughs and creative solutions to formidable public policy challenges. Details regarding the RSVP process will be made available later on the UCLA Luskin website.
As in other presidential candidate forums, Democratic candidates can qualify for the event by receiving 1 percent or more of the vote in three separate national polls or by receiving donations from 65,000 different people in 20 different states.
Today, in 30 states, LGBTQ people remain at risk of being fired, evicted or denied services because of who they are. Thirty-five states have yet to outlaw the dangerous and debunked practice known as “conversion therapy.” LGBTQ youth continue to face elevated levels of bullying and rejection, and many associated physical and mental health challenges. According to FBI hate crimes statistics from 2017, the most recently available data, the bureau reported a surge in hate crimes disproportionately affecting LGBTQ people, black people and religious minorities, especially those living at the intersection of multiple identities. And at least 100 transgender people — most of whom are transgender women of color — have been murdered in the United States since the beginning of 2015.
“If any LGBTQ person were to take a cross-country drive from HRC headquarters in Washington, D.C., to UCLA’s campus, their rights and protections under the law would change dozens of times at every city line and state border,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “That’s why we’ve fought to elect a pro-equality majority in Congress that would pass the Equality Act — and it’s why we’ve got to make sure the next president will fight for our community and establish full federal equality once and for all. HRC’s 3 million members and millions of LGBTQ voters across America will be key to victory in the 2020 election, and we’re excited to create an opportunity to hear candidates’ agendas for moving equality forward.”
The forum will be held in the midst of UCLA’s centennial year, when the campus will recognize its many contributions to Los Angeles, the nation and the world since its founding in 1919, as well as looking ahead to another century of discovery and achievement.
“The Luskin School of Public Affairs is dedicated to enhancing the well-being of all Americans through an informed electorate and educated social leaders,” said Gary Segura, dean of UCLA Luskin. “We are beyond excited to partner with the Human Rights Campaign in raising LBGTQ issues and the policy stances of candidates to greater public attention in this cycle. UCLA is the perfect host for this conversation.”
HRC worked to mobilize the powerful LGBTQ voting bloc in the 2018 midterms, endorsing more than 480 pro-equality candidates nationwide, and deploying 150 staff to organize and mobilize voters in more than 70 congressional, targeted U.S. Senate and other key races across 23 states. On Election Day, exit polling showed that more than 7 million LGBTQ voters — 6 percent of total turnout — cast ballots, making the difference in key races from coast to coast. Electing a pro-equality majority in the U.S. House of Representatives has already made a huge impact; Speaker Nancy Pelosi has made it a top priority to pass the Equality Act, a federal LGBTQ civil rights bill that will provide consistent and explicit non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people from coast to coast. This legislation is expected to be introduced soon amid an unprecedented level of support from members of Congress, national advocacy organizations and leading U.S. companies.
HRC last hosted presidential forums in 2004 and 2007. In 2004, HRC’s forum included Sen. John Kerry, Rep. Dennis Kucinich, Sen. Carol Moseley Braun, Gov. Howard Dean, Sen. Joe Lieberman, Rev. Al Sharpton and Rep. Richard Gephardt. In 2007, HRC’s forum included then-Senator Hillary Clinton, then-Senator Barack Obama, Sen. Mike Gravel, Rep. Dennis Kucinich, former Sen. John Edwards and Gov. Bill Richardson.
By Mary Braswell
LGBTQ youth in the foster care system often grapple with rejection, harassment, violence — and their own mistrust of the individuals and institutions charged with protecting them.
Restoring that trust requires taking a hard look at what these youth really need, not just to navigate the child welfare system but to lead rewarding lives.
This was the message shared by Cris Beam — author, educator and herself the foster mom to a transgender young woman — at a UCLA Luskin Lecture on March 5, 2019.
Beam’s talk included many moments of insight and encouragement, even as she described a foster care system that is woefully broken.
“How can we be spending upwards of $22 billion nationally and nobody — not the kids, not the foster parents, not the bio parents, not the administrators, not the policymakers, not the lawyers — nobody thinks this is working?” she asked.
That question sent Beam in pursuit of answers. Her extensive research into the U.S. child welfare system, LGBTQ issues and the power of empathy, as well as her personal experience becoming a foster parent at age 28, led her to a solution that is both simple and daunting.
What kids in foster care need, she said, is what all kids need: lasting human relationships, whether biological, adoptive or built from scratch with “teachers, babysitters, bus drivers” — people who are willing to step up, learn parenting skills and stick around, Beam said.
“The only way a child can succeed is to connect to a family, or even an individual person, for a lifetime. Whether they are gay or straight or bi or trans or otherwise,” she said.
Beam has published several acclaimed fiction and nonfiction books, including “To the End of June: The Intimate Life of American Foster Care” and “I am J,” the first book with a transgender character to make the state of California’s high school reading list. She is also an assistant professor of English at William Paterson University in New Jersey.
Prior to her lecture on “Queer Care: LGBTQ Youth in Child Welfare,” UCLA Luskin Dean Gary Segura noted that Beam’s work is in line with the School’s mission to “provide a voice for the unheard and change society in ways that help those most in need, including and especially families and children.”
Beam’s appearance at the UCLA Faculty Center fittingly coincided with Social Work Month and the National Day of Empathy, said Laura Abrams, chair of Social Welfare, which organized the Luskin Lecture.
More than 50 people came to hear Beam’s insights, including students, faculty, lawyers, child psychologists, and current and aspiring social workers. Their questions for Beam revealed frustration at wanting to serve foster youth within a system that often fails them.
“I feel for you because you’ve got so many people,” Beam said of the heavy caseloads many social workers carry. “But if you can stick by somebody and be constant, sometimes you can be that person that is around for someone for years and years. That’s what they need. It’s that human connection.”
LGBTQ youth are overrepresented in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems. To illustrate the cycle that many of them enter, Beam shared the experiences of her daughter, Christina, who was 16 when they met at a group home where Beam taught. Christina had been in and out of foster care since age 7, was jumped into a gang as a 12-year-old boy, survived on the streets by doing sex work, then entered the criminal justice system — all as she transitioned into a girl.
The probation officer who approached Beam about fostering Christina said, “‘Don’t worry. She’s already 16. She only has another year until she ages out.’” But Beam quickly learned that Christina needed much more, including “time to heal, to be stable and to trust.” No adoption papers were needed to form a lifelong mother-daughter relationship, she said.
Building this kind of support network should be a priority of child welfare agencies, Beam said. Instead, the system often labels children who suffer complex traumas as difficult, equates foster children with juvenile delinquents, and squanders resources training teens to get a job, write a rent check, survive on their own.
“Really what queer kids need are not more resources, more things, but human beings to rock with them all the way,” Beam said.
View more photos from the lecture on Flickr.
By Gabriela Solis
A recent UCLA conference sought to fill a knowledge gap about how Latinos interact with the criminal justice system.
With themes such as policing of Latinx communities, community organizing, adjudication and norms, ethics and constitutional culture, the Feb. 8, 2019, conference held at the UCLA School of Law combined the resources of the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative (LPPI), UCLA Law Review and the Bruin X Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. Community advocates, scholars, staff, undergraduates and graduate students heard from a variety of experts, including several UCLA faculty members associated with LPPI.
The first panel, moderated by UCLA Law Professor Laura Gómez, sought to establish the context for discussion of Latinos and the criminal justice system.
“Latino-ness is very contingent,” said Victoria Plaut, professor of law and social science at UC Berkeley, referring to common generalizations about their characteristics. “Latinos are hardworking but lazy; family-oriented but not warm.”
Plaut, a clinical psychologist, shared findings from her research of the psychological processes relevant to diversity and inclusion in legal, educational and workplace settings to highlight the beliefs that often frame Latino experiences.
The panel included Matt Barreto, professor of political science and Chicana/o studies, and Kelly Lytle Hernández, professor of history and African American studies. They spoke about the importance of collecting both qualitative and quantitative data, especially because data from criminal justice entities can be unreliable and inconsistent.
Another panel, moderated by Law Professor Jennifer Chacón, focused on the policing of Latinx communities. During this panel, Amada Armenta, assistant professor of urban planning, shared her expertise on this issue, the subject of her award-winning book “Protect, Serve and Deport: The Rise of Policing as Immigration Enforcement.” Armenta’s ethnographic research in Nashville, Tennessee, studied the role of local law enforcement agencies in immigration enforcement. She described how the logic and culture of policing negatively affected Latino immigrant neighborhoods. Police were incentivized to make as many stops as possible and pull over as many people as possible, Armenta said.
Sonja Diaz, executive director of LPPI, moderated a panel that explored successful methods of organizing communities to change laws, with a focus on direct democracy as a vehicle for criminal justice reform.
Panelist Juan Cartagena, president and general counsel of LatinoJustice PRLDEF, shared his successful experiences with Florida’s Proposition 4, the Voting Rights Restoration for Felons Initiative. Passage of the initiative restored the right to vote for people in Florida with prior felony convictions.
Cartagena stressed that it is important for individuals with personal experience to participate as leaders in a movement. He also urged organizers to think strategically about how to frame the problem, which he said was essential in the Florida campaign’s victory. The campaign’s focus on second chances resonated well with Florida voters, Cartagena said.
All panels provided a unique perspective on how Latinos fare in the criminal justice system — a sorely under-researched topic, especially by legal scholars.
Learn more about Latinos and the criminal justice system.
By Gabriela Solis
Although Latinos comprise the largest ethnic group in California, Latino doctors in the state are in short supply, according to recent research from the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative (LPPI).
On Jan. 15, 2019, the UCLA Luskin-based think tank co-hosted a discussion in Oakland that brought together doctors, medical practitioners, academics and advocates to discuss California’s Latino physician shortage.
“California has an alarmingly low rate of Latino doctors. There are 46 Latino doctors for every 100,000 Latino Californians,” said LPPI Executive Director Sonja Diaz, citing data derived from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2015 American Community Survey. “In contrast, there are 405.7 non-Hispanic white physicians for every 100,000 non-Hispanic white Californians.”
“We graduate about 110 Latino medical doctors every year. If we continue forward, it will take almost five centuries to close the gap,” noted Diaz. That data from the Association of American Medical Colleges is included in the LPPI report, “5 Centuries to Reach Parity: An Analysis of How Long It Will Take to Address California’s Latino Physician Shortage,” which was produced under the guidance of LPPI faculty expert David Hayes Bautista, a distinguished professor at the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine.
Joining Diaz in debate and discussion were Jeffrey Reynoso, executive director, Latino Coalition for a Healthy California; Arturo Vargas Bustamante, associate professor of health policy and management at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health and public policy at UCLA Luskin; Carmela Castellano-Garcia, president and chief executive officer, California Primary Care Association; Berenice Núñez Constant, vice president, government relations, AltaMed Health Services Corporation; and Carmen Estrada, MD candidate at the UC Davis School of Medicine.
The wide-reaching conversation focused on the shortage’s effects on California’s economy, the needs of medical providers and the shortcomings within higher education that contribute to the shortfall.
Estrada spoke about her personal experience of being one of the limited number of Latinos currently pursuing a medical degree. Estrada’s first-hand experiences traced her personal journey to medical school from a California State University and the lack of outreach that she said created unnecessary challenges in her career choice.
Núñez Constant shared that although her organization, AltaMed, is constantly looking for Latino physicians, “The supply is just not there.” She also highlighted the difficulty of retaining a Latino physician in such a competitive job market.
Vargas Bustamante’s research supported Núñez Constant’s comments on workforce recruitment. Bustamante said he has found a substantial pipeline problem for Latinos in their transition from high school to college and their transition from college to medical school. Based on his interviews with Latino pre-med students, medical school applicants, Latino medical students and recently graduated Latino physicians, Vargas Bustamante said students who may have an interest in the field often feel discouraged by the lack of investment to recruit and retain Latino students. Many then choose another career.
The panel agreed that this complex issue requires a strategic collaboration of California policymakers, medical providers and academia to form solutions.
But, said California State Assemblyman Robert “Rob” Bonta, expressing his support, “I think we have some wonderful opportunities.” Bonta, a Democrat whose California District 18 includes Oakland, Alameda and San Leandro, serves on a number of legislative committees, including the Health Committee. “Your timing couldn’t be better in terms of uplifting and raising the issue. This is something I’d be proud to work on, and I think it needs to be worked on.”
To learn about California’s Latino physician shortage, visit latino.ucla.edu/health.
View additional photos on Flickr.
By Cristina Barrera and Les Dunseith
The 2019 UCLA Activists-in-Residence were introduced Jan. 16 to about 100 students, faculty, staff and community supporters who did not let a steady rain deter them from welcoming activists Micah White, Yusef Omowale and UCLA Luskin alumna Tanzila “Taz” Ahmed MPP ’07.
During their residency at UCLA, each of the three activists will pursue a project designed to advance their commitments to social justice. They will also engage with UCLA faculty and students to share their methodologies for social change.
The Activist-in-Residence Program was launched in 2016 by the Institute on Inequality and Democracy at UCLA Luskin and the UCLA Asian American Studies Center to advance core research themes concerned with “building power to expose and tackle various forms of dispossession in unequal cities,” said Institute Director Ananya Roy, professor of urban planning, social welfare and geography. “We have insisted on turning the public university inside out.”
Micah White, Ph.D., is an author, public speaker and lifelong activist who co-created Occupy Wall Street, a global social movement that spread to 82 countries. His first book, “The End of Protest: A New Playbook for Revolution,” was published in 2016.
“This kind of opportunity for the critical pedagogy of activism is as rare as it is needed,” White said prior to the reception. “Activism and the ways we protest must change if it is to regain its effectiveness. And the best way to do that, I believe, is to bring the rigorous thinking of academia to bear against the deep strategic and theoretical challenges facing practicing activists.”
White’s time at UCLA is focused on whether activism can be taught — and how to do it. He and Roy are exploring that issue by co-teaching a course on housing justice activism and protest as part of an effort known as Activist Graduate School.
During her opening remarks, Roy said, “Micah has brought to UCLA Luskin his latest project, Activist Graduate School, which I see as an urgently necessary effort to build pedagogy an infrastructure in these troubled times.”
As archivist at the Southern California Library, Yusef Omowale has been a participant in collective memory work to document the impacts of policing, incarceration, displacement and poverty. He has been involved in political education workshops, campaign support, and the offering of spaces for healing and material support to ease the day-to-day sufferings of individuals in need.
Founded over 50 years ago, the Southern California Library holds extensive collections related to the history of community resistance.
“I am thankful to receive this Activist-in-Residence position for the respite and resources it offers,” Omowale said. “Coming from a struggling nonprofit, having access to all the university affords is no small thing.”
Even so, Omowale said his acceptance of the fellowship carries with it a measure of trepidation.
“The university, consorting as it is with racial capitalism and its progeny, neoliberalism, is not a safe place for most of us,” he explained.
Working in South Central Los Angeles, Omowale is regularly confronted “with dominant imaginings of the violence that we must have to contend with in our work. And certainly, we encounter the violence of poverty, environmental toxins, policing and the interpersonal kind. From this reality, the university is meant to represent a safe haven — a north star.”
Yet, he said, the geography of the university is bounded and sustained in part by the “violence it enacts on communities like the one I work in.”
He continued: “Whether intended or not, this residency has a discursive role in legitimizing the university, erasing its violence, through appropriation of ‘activism.’ I cannot ignore this function, nor my participation in it.”
On the other hand, “there are so many people laboring in the university that I love, and I am thankful for the opportunity to join them in their collective projects for freedom. I will take the advice of Harney and Moten that ‘in the face of these conditions one can only sneak into the university and steal what one can,’” Omowale said, referring to the book, “The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning and Black Study,” by Stefano Harney and Fred Moten.
During his residency, Omowale will extend his work on building an archival practice that can document displacement and dispossession in Los Angeles.
The UCLA Asian American Studies Center (AASC) selected Tanzila “Taz” Ahmed as its 2019 UCLA Activist-in-Residence because of her “creative use of storytelling, art, social media and digital technology to advance Asian American social justice movements that is path-breaking and fits perfectly with our center’s digital initiatives ” said AASC Director Karen Umemoto, professor of urban planning at UCLA Luskin. She further noted that while pursuing her Master of Public Policy degree at UCLA Luskin, Ahmed was part of a student-led initiative to bring critical race theory into public policy.
Ahmed said that “digital tools have become one of the most democratizing ways to access movement knowledge, history and analysis to inspire this community forward.”
She continued, “As a community, we have to tell our own counter-narratives and contemporary histories that keep getting sidelined — and what better way to do that than a digital storytelling project rooted at UCLA?”
Ahmed will explore the intersection of digital storytelling with the building of political movements by developing an audio advice column for new Asian American activists.
Her fellowship is made possible through the Yuji Ichioka and Emma Gee Endowment in Social Justice and Immigration Studies, which honors the late UCLA scholar Yuji Ichioka and his wife, activist-scholar Emma Gee.
The Institute on Inequality and Democracy fellowship program is supported by a gift from the James Irvine Foundation.
View more photos from the reception on Flickr:
By Mary Braswell
The rising excitement over UCLA Luskin’s new undergraduate program increased by at least a hundredfold as the first prospective Public Affairs majors stepped onto campus this fall.
Just weeks into the fall quarter, more than 100 students had formally opted in and dozens more had reached out to hear about the ambitious program, which combines critical thinking, social science methodology and deep engagement in the community.
In a year when young people are leading the charge for gun reform, transgender rights, climate change and more, the new major provides an avenue for activism.
“There will certainly be an infusion of energy that only undergraduates can bring,” said Dean Gary Segura.
Freshman Callie Nance was immediately attracted to the public service ethos at the heart of the major.
“I was undecided and feeling a little anxious about that, so I looked through all the majors on the UCLA website. When I came across Public Affairs, I realized it hit all of my passions,” said Nance, who spent time in high school working to create educational and employment opportunities for young people.
“This major doesn’t just expand knowledge,” she said. “It shows us how to do something with that knowledge, to make an impact.”
That sentiment is reflected in the undergraduate program’s motto: Developing Leaders Engaged in Social Change.
“Our students are developing knowledge and skills in the service of solving society’s most pressing problems, which is really what distinguishes this major from others,” said Undergraduate Affairs Chair Meredith Phillips, who is also an associate professor of public policy and sociology.
No other campus in the UC system offers a Public Affairs bachelor’s degree that draws from the three fields UCLA Luskin is known for: public policy, social welfare and urban planning.
This partnership has created an infectious energy that was on display during an undergraduate open house during the first week of school. Phillips led the welcoming committee, along with more than 20 faculty from across the School and Dean Segura, who noted that he too will teach an undergrad course this year, Foundations and Debates in Public Thought.
The event offered a glimpse of the resources available to students pursuing the B.A. in Public Affairs. Freshmen and sophomores freely mingled with professors who teach graduate-level courses and conduct cutting-edge research. And the undergraduate staff, who came together this summer to ensure the major was launched without a hitch, was out in force to answer questions and offer encouragement.
The networking continued the following evening at the Schoolwide Block Party, where the entire UCLA Luskin family — students, faculty, staff and alumni — came out to celebrate the new academic year.
“It was a good chance to talk to some alumni, to see what they are currently doing,” said freshman Navkaran Gurm, whose interests lie in law, politics, economics and public service.
Over the summer, another alumni connection led Gurm to the new major. He had enrolled in a Fresno City College economics class taught by Nelson Esparza MPP ’15, and ended up volunteering for Esparza’s campaign for Fresno City Council.
In the classroom and on the trail, Gurm spent hours talking to Esparza, who urged him to take a look at the Luskin School’s new bachelor’s degree. Gurm was sold. He plans to double-major in Economics and Public Affairs, with an eye toward attending law school.
“What I saw in the Public Affairs major was a way to show us how to make the world a better place, and that was something that really appealed to me,” said Gurm, who is keenly interested in battling disparities that put youth in rural communities, like his hometown, at a disadvantage.
A poll ahead of the November 2018 midterm elections found a remarkable level of civic engagement among young Californians. They talk politics, volunteer and allow political values to guide their purchases, the survey of 16- to 24-year-olds found. A full 80 percent said they considered themselves part of a social movement, according to the poll funded by the California Endowment.
Rising student demand led to creation of the Public Affairs major, which UCLA Luskin faculty unanimously endorsed in 2017. The university’s Academic Senate gave final approval in April 2018, and the first cohort was recruited over the summer.
Ricardo Aguilera switched to the pre-major as soon as it was announced. “For me, it was right on, concentrating on social advocacy within the community and just giving back,” he said.
Aguilera is one of several dozen sophomores who are working closely with the undergraduate staff to complete pre-major requirements in a single year. The School also continues to offer undergraduate minors in Public Affairs, Gerontology and Urban and Regional Studies.
Aguilera, Nance and Gurm have been struck by the personalized attention they receive in the relatively small Public Affairs program. Weekly emails share information about jobs, internships and campuswide events, and keep the cohort connected, they said.
Gurm said he attended informational sessions for other majors where students clamored to get their questions answered. At the Public Affairs workshop, “there were four of us and Brent, and it was as if we were having a one-on-one conversation,” he said, referring to undergraduate advisor Brent Showerman, who explained both the vision and the requirements of the program.
“I really like that whole support system, the feeling that they are guiding us in the right direction,” he said.
By Stan Paul
Retreating coastlines. An information revolution. The ever-evolving ethnic makeup of the United States. These are times of rapid change, presenting new challenges to how and where we live and work.
Meeting the challenges of this new normal and finding solutions to shifting problems and populations, the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs has undergone unprecedented growth. In fall 2018, nine new scholars joined Luskin’s faculty in positions that cross disciplinary lines within the School and across the campus. This follows the addition of six other new faculty members since 2016. Four more are being recruited.
This expansion is partly tied to the launch of a new undergraduate major in public affairs, but it’s about more than filling out a schedule of classes. The School has become one of the most diverse and interdisciplinary units in the University of California system, Dean Gary Segura said. The additions were designed to expand “expertise and social impact,” making the school “profoundly well-positioned to engage, educate, study, and contribute to California’s diverse and dynamic population.”
Among the new faculty, six are women and four are Latino.
Some already have strong interests in Los Angeles as well as ties to UCLA and the region, and others will have the opportunity to incorporate Los Angeles into their work.
“I’m extremely excited to be coming home, living on the Eastside and working on the Westside,” said Chris Zepeda-Millán, associate professor of public policy and Chicana/o studies. Zepeda-Millán, a political scientist who grew up in East Los Angeles, studies how mass protest impacts public opinion, policy preferences, identities and political participation. His book, “Latino Mass Mobilization, Immigration, Racialization, and Activism,” received awards this year from the American Political Science Association and the American Sociological Association.
Zepeda-Millán is thrilled to be at UCLA: “It’s truly a dream come true.”
Martin Gilens, professor of public policy, previously taught political science at UCLA. After a long stint at Princeton, he returned to UCLA, where he has multi-generational ties — his parents and grandfather are
Bruins. A native Angeleno, Gilens studies race, class, social inequality and their representational effects in the political system. He teaches courses to graduate and undergraduate students.
“I’m looking forward to the interdisciplinary environment of the Luskin School,” Gilens said. “My Ph.D. is in sociology, and I’ve taught in political science and public policy, so I’m a walking embodiment of interdisciplinarity.”
Natalie Bau adds global perspective and reach. She is an economist studying development and education, with a particular interest in the industrial organization of educational markets. She looks at cultural traditions — such as bride price and dowry practiced in some countries — and their role in determining parents’ human capital investments in their children, and how they evolve in response to the economic environment.
In Zambia, she and research colleagues are tracking the outcomes of 1,600 adolescent girls to evaluate the effects of an experiment that randomly taught negotiation skills.
“My research interests include understanding factors that impact police decision-making and public trust in police,” said Assistant Professor of Public Policy Emily Weisburst, who studies labor economics and public finance, including criminal justice and education. “I am also interested in how interactions with the criminal justice system affect individuals, families and communities.”
Amada Armenta earned her doctorate in sociology in 2011 from UCLA and returns as an assistant professor in UCLA Luskin Urban Planning.
“I am thrilled to be back, to contribute to a university that has played such a formative role in my education,” said the author of the award-winning book, “Protect, Serve and Deport: The Rise of Policing as Immigration Enforcement.” Most recently she has examined how undocumented Mexican immigrants navigate bureaucracies in Philadelphia.
“Put briefly, I study the social impacts of climate change and how cities are adapting,” says Assistant Professor of Urban Planning Liz Koslov. “My research specifically focuses on the adaptation strategy known as ‘managed retreat,’ the process of relocating people, un-building land, and restoring habitat in places exposed to flooding, sea level rise, and other effects of climate change.”
Koslov is working on a book aptly titled, “Retreat,” that follows residents of Staten Island in New York City whose houses were damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Sandy and who subsequently decided to relocate rather than rebuild in place.
Like Koslov, new Urban Planning colleague V. Kelly Turner conducts research with an environmental lens. Her work addresses the relationship among institutions, urban design and the environment through two interrelated questions: How does urban design relate to ecosystem services in cities? And to what extent do social institutions have the capacity to deliver those services?
Turner said her approach draws from social-ecological systems frameworks to address urban planning and design problem domains. She has used this approach to investigate microclimate regulation through New Urbanist design, water and biodiversity management through homeowners associations, and stormwater management through green infrastructure interventions.
Joining UCLA Luskin Social Welfare is Amy Ritterbusch, who has led social justice-oriented participatory action research initiatives with street-connected communities in Colombia for the last decade, and also recently in Uganda. Her work documents human rights violations and forms of violence against the homeless, sex workers, drug users and street-connected children and youth, and subsequent community-driven mobilizations to catalyze social justice outcomes within these communities.
“My current research contemplates the dilemmas within our social movement in terms of how to create protective environments for social justice researchers and activists in the midst of working on and against acts of violence and injustice,” Ritterbusch said.
Assistant Professor of Social Welfare Carlos Santos draws on diverse disciplines, theories and methods to better understand how oppressions such as racism and heterosexism overlap to create unique conditions for individuals.
With a background in developmental psychology, Santos believes that developmental phenomena must be studied across diverse disciplines and perspectives. He draws on the largely interdisciplinary interpretive framework of intersectionality, which is a view “underscoring how systems of oppression overlap to create inequities.”