UCLA students gain cultural insight during annual study abroad trip that is organized by Japanese classmates
Video highlights from the two-day Luskin Lecture, “Black, Brown, and Powerful: Freedom Dreams in Unequal Cities.”
By Cristina Barrera and Les Dunseith
In Los Angeles during a time that is so rife with political conflict, it’s hard to find a topic upon which everyone seems to agree. But UCLA Luskin’s Ananya Roy quickly honed in on just such an issue during her opening remarks at a two-day event convened by the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.
“Rent is too damn high,” said Roy, a professor of urban planning, social welfare and geography who also serves as director of the Institute on Inequality and Democracy (II&D) at UCLA Luskin.
Her declaration generated rousing applause from the crowd of about 250 students, scholars, community organizers, local residents and other stakeholders who gathered on April 26-27, 2018, at L.A. Trade Technical College near downtown Los Angeles to ponder the lack of affordable housing and other issues that are of special importance to residents in lower-income areas such as South L.A.
Participants in the event, “Black, Brown, and Powerful: Freedom Dreams in Unequal Cities,” also learned of recent research and discussed solutions to problems such as urban displacement, racialized policing, criminal justice debt, forced labor, and the mass supervision and control of youth.
UCLA Luskin Dean Gary Segura welcomed the crowd, telling them that the event was part of the Luskin Lecture Series, which is intended to enhance public discourse for the betterment of society.
“The Luskin School is home to three public-facing departments. I want to emphasize that — public facing,” Segura said. “I like to say that the Luskin School of Public Affairs puts the public back in public higher education research institution.”
Roy said one of the goals of the institute she directs is to share “freedom dreams” through research and teaching. “We borrow this beautiful phrase, freedom dreams, from our rock at UCLA, Robin D.G. Kelley,” said Roy, referring to writings by the esteemed UCLA distinguished professor of U.S. history. “Freedom, Robin notes, is an integral part of the black radical tradition and its global imagination.”
The Institute on Inequality and Democracy is certain that “university-based theory and research has a role to play in transforming unequal cities,” Roy said. “But II&D is also certain that this role can only be meaningful when it is in humble partnership with social movements and community-based organizations that are on the frontlines of struggle.”
Photos from the event:
Holding the event at L.A Trade Tech rather than on the UCLA campus was about more than geography.
“Here in South L.A., there are fierce struggles for self-determination, for black and brown power, for resistance in defiance of banishment,” Roy said.
Over the course of one evening and almost a full day of programming that followed, attendees heard from a variety of speakers and engaged in discussions during workshops that included representatives not only from UCLA and L.A. Trade Tech, but also from the Los Angeles Black Worker Center, Urban Habitat, Right to the City Alliance, and a wide variety of community-based organizations such as the Watts Leadership Institute and Loving Hands Community Care.
Attendees also were treated to music and dance from “Lockdown Unplugged” by Bryonn Bain & the Lyrics Crew. Funmilola Fagbamila, a founding member of Black Lives Matter LA, also presented a stirring spoken-word performance derived from her recent play, “Woke Black Folk.”
In addition to Roy and Segura, speakers from UCLA included:
- Paul M. Ong, professor emeritus of urban planning, social welfare and Asian American students and the director of the Center for Neighborhood Knowledge, who spoke about recent research that found little progress in improving the lives of residents in South L.A since the Kerner Commission report in the 1960s.
- Manuel Criollo, activist-in-residence at II&D, who talked about his research into the so-called school-to-prison pipeline that often results when school police officers focus primarily on punishing youthful offenders rather than dealing with the underlying societal issues that lead many youth to commit antisocial acts.
- Jorja Leap, adjunct professor of social welfare and director of the Watts Leadership Institute, who was joined on-stage by Kathy Wooten of Loving Hands Community Care for a discussion of that nonprofit organization’s efforts to serve families of murder victims, specifically mothers who have lost a child to violence.
- Lola Smallwood Cuevas, project director at the UCLA Labor Center and director of the Los Angeles Black Worker Center, who noted that 50 percent of black workers in South L.A. are either unemployed or earning subminimum wage.
The second day of the event focused heavily on problem-solving strategies and advice for organizing to promote solutions. Three separate workshops took place, producing discussions about the shared vision of many attendees to use research and analysis as a foundation to build proposals that will result in meaningful societal change.
A wrap-up session was moderated by Roy and Pete White of the Los Angeles Community Action Network.
The event was an opportunity “to be and think together,” Roy said, “in what is often a divided city with dispersed urban life. Now at II&D we take up some new mandates of research and action that emerged from this convening.”
Additional participants at the event included T.R.U.S.T. South LA, Union de Vecinos, Time for Change, Anti-Eviction Mapping Project, Los Angeles Center for Community Law and Action, L.A. Coop Lab, Long Beach Residents Empowered, THRIVE Santa Ana, Right to the City Alliance, CD Tech, A New Way of Life Re-entry Project, Back on the Road Coalition, East Bay Community Law Center, Debt Collective, Million Dollar Hoods, Journey House, Social Justice Advocate, Urban Youth Collaborative, #cut50, Underground Scholars Initiative, Black Organizing Project and InsideOut Writers.
Visit the II&D website for workshop reports.
Recordings of the live streaming that took place each day:
Undergraduate Celina Avalos (center, wearing glasses) during a meeting of the student staff with LPPI Executive Director Sonja Diaz. Photo by Les Dunseith
By Les Dunseith
The new think tank at UCLA known as the Latino Policy & Politics Initiative (LPPI) has moved quickly to bring together scholars and policymakers to share information that can help political leaders make informed decisions about issues of interest to Latinos.
One of the goals of LPPI, which received its startup funding from the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and the Division of Social Sciences, is to provide better access to information to help leaders nationwide craft new policies.
“It is impossible to understand America today without understanding the Latino community and the power that it wields. And this institute is going to do that,” Scott Waugh, UCLA executive vice chancellor and provost, told the crowd at the official launch of LPPI in December 2017.
Representatives of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and throughout UCLA were among a crowd of about 175 people that also included elected officials, community activists and other stakeholders who gathered in downtown Los Angeles. The co-founders of LPPI — Professor of Political Science and Chicana/o Studies Matt Barreto, UCLA Luskin Dean Gary Segura and LPPI Executive Director Sonja Diaz MPP ’10 — “have a vision that reaches not just inside the School of Public Affairs but reaches out across the campus in areas like health, education, science, the arts — wherever Latinos have made a difference and continue to effect change in a profound way,” Waugh said at the launch event.
LPPI works with UCLA faculty to produce research and analyze policy issues from a Latino perspective — aided by an enthusiastic and dedicated team of students from UCLA Luskin and other schools. For example, students associated with LPPI were involved in the production of two recently released reports:
- An empirical analysis of Fruitvale Village in Oakland, California, that assessed aggregate census tract socioeconomic outcomes to evaluate changes for those living there compared to those living in similar communities in the Bay Area.
- A state-by-state analysis of Latino homeownership, plus data research on national disasters and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program for the 2017 Hispanic Homeownership Report issued by the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals (NAHREP).
Gabriela Solis, a UCLA Luskin MPP and MSW student whose focus at LPPI is on housing and displacement, provided some of the information in the NAHREP report, working from raw Census data.
“My background is in homelessness in L.A. County and extreme poverty,” said Solis, a policy fellow at LPPI. “With this research and learning about homeownership rates, and who gets to buy homes and who gets loans, it’s something that I had really never thought about too much. It’s been really interesting.”
Several students also traveled to Sacramento in February, during which LPPI visited legislators and their staffs, and presented applied policy research before the California Latino Legislative Caucus.
LPPI’s inaugural Sacramento legislative briefing included research on three policy areas: the Latino Gross Domestic Product; Criminal Justice and Bail Reform; and the impact of Social Science Research on DACA litigation.
Sofia Espinoza MPP ’18 was also a Monica Salinas fellow during her time as a student. She focused on criminal justice in her schoolwork, so joining the effort in Sacramento dovetailed nicely with her interests.
“Being on our Sacramento trip and meeting with all Latino legislators and aides, that’s really important,” Espinoza said. “The higher up you go in academia, to see people who look like you doing amazing work, I think that is really a value add for LPPI.”
LPPI Director Diaz said her student team includes a mix of graduate students like Solis and Espinoza and undergrads with an interest in public affairs and
Celina Avalos, wan undergraduate student in political science, served as special projects associate for LPPI during the 2017-18 academic year.
“A lot of it does have to do with political science, what I hope to do in the future,” she said. “My main focus was never on policy. But being here in LPPI and working with [Diaz], I have gotten more passionate about it — how impactful public policy actually is.”
Diaz said the LPPI students work as a team. “For the undergrads, what is great is that they have a seat at the table,” she said. “There is integration. There is cohesive learning. We are learning from each other. The students are on the calls with the external stakeholders. They are going on these trips. They are supporting our events.”
The undergrads also see first-hand what it is like to be a graduate student involved in impactful research efforts.
“Working with the graduate students, I get to hear from them and see the work that they are doing,” Avalos said. “I have found it really inspiring seeing these Latino women — honestly, I look up to them. I see them doing their research work and think, ‘Wow, look at them.’ It has definitely changed my perspective on what I hope to do in the future.”
The inspirational potential of LPPI was an important motivation for Segura in getting the new research center underway and finding a home for it at UCLA.
Segura, who secured approval to hire additional UCLA Luskin faculty members with expertise in Latino policy, said the day-to-day work being done by LPPI helps bolster UCLA’s capacity to provide role models for its Latino students.
“I genuinely care about every research opportunity that I have with LPPI,” Espinoza said. “And it really hits close to home. It gives you an added desire to do well and a drive to succeed.”
Segura said of the LPPI students: “I have been at events with them. I have seen them present on our behalf. I have seen the product of their work. And they are doing great.”
The students fully embraced LPPI’s goal to advance knowledge about Latinos through work that actually involves Latinos themselves.
“It’s why we do what we do,” Espinoza said. “It’s motivating.”
For more information about how to support LPPI, contact Ricardo Quintero at (310) 206-7949 or by email at email@example.com.
A version of this story also appeared in the Summer 2018 edition of Luskin Forum magazine.
From left, 2017-18 D3 student program managers Jordan Hallman, Estefanía Zavala and Michelle Lin listen to Gerry Laviña, director of field education at UCLA Luskin. Photo by Stan Paul
By Stan Paul
Estefanía Zavala, Michelle Lin and Jordan Hallman are all up early on a Sunday morning. They meet at a favorite coffee shop in Hollywood. This is when the trio of busy UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs students can break from their fast-paced two-year professional programs to discuss a topic central to their lives, studies and future careers.
It’s important at UCLA Luskin, especially to the numerous student groups working to make their programs, the School and the campus more inclusive. At the time, Zavala, Lin and Hallman were student program managers for the UCLA Luskin initiative known as D3 – Diversity, Disparities and Difference. Launched in 2014 by former Dean Franklin D. Gilliam, Jr., D3 aims to “create a cohesive strategy to bridge differences, understand our diverse society and confront disparities in the field of public affairs.”
“I was really interested from the get-go, and the mission of D3 really aligns with Social Welfare’s mission, our core values of social justice and equity. And that’s always been a topic of interest to me and trying to improve the way things are and make sure that the campus is inclusive for all people,” Lin said.
The D3 Initiative is one of many UCLA Luskin student groups focused on issues of equity and social justice. Among the others are Urban Planning Women of Color Collective, Planners of Color for Social Equity, Policy Professionals for Diversity & Equity, Luskin Pride, Black Caucus, Asian Pacific Islander Student Caucus (API), Latinx Student Caucus and Diversity Caucus.
Working independently or in collaboration with D3, the groups host Schoolwide and campus events designed to promote collaboration, bridge gaps and encourage understanding. These include an Equity in Public Affairs research conference and group dialogues with incoming UCLA Luskin students.
“My favorite experience thus far has been the Equity in Public Affairs training that we do in the beginning of the year, where students share their unique identities and receive training on operating professionally in a diverse environment,” said Zavala, who recently earned her MPP degree after also serving as a leader of Policy Professionals for Diversity & Equity. “I got to meet so many people and really got to understand them.”
The D3 Initiative has three priorities:
- Enhance student admissions and faculty searches by championing more diverse applicant pools;
- Institutionalize programming that offers a critical understanding of social inequity while establishing connections with the greater community;
- Strengthen student collaboration for a more inclusive school climate.
That mission is supported by the office of Dean Gary Segura as part of efforts to build an equitable environment on campus that has hired new faculty whose research and areas of interest include a social justice focus.
The D3 group has coordinated gatherings known as “Difficult Dinner Dialogues,” which invite classmates and others with diverse backgrounds and different life experiences to share and learn from one another.
“I think it’s a space, call it a brave space. It’s a brave space for everyone to come and not feel judged for what they think because it’s about being open to learning, so that will hopefully change the political climate,” said Lin, who has since earned her social welfare degree.
One Dinner Dialogue focused on sexual assault and “the role of men and women of color who don’t have the means to quit their job or speak out against their employer, the power dynamics of that,” Lin said.
“People really felt like this was the beginning of the conversation and they wanted even more,” she added.
In addition to their Sunday meetings, the student leaders stayed connected throughout the year with D3 faculty director Gerry Laviña MSW ’88, Social Welfare’s director of field education, along with the dean’s office staff. During the 2017-18 academic year, D3 added office hours to collect feedback, questions and concerns directly, and in confidence, from students at UCLA Luskin.
Hallman, who has since earned her urban planning degree, said her professional focus is “the intersection of transportation and land use and the responsibilities that come with approaching that point of intersection justly and equitably, which is a relatively new conversation within planning. I think participating in D3 has also led me to a role where I try to shed light on other points of intersection that aren’t talked about.”
For Zavala, connecting with peers from UCLA Luskin’s other two departments was important.
“The D3 position has empowered me to create a community across all three departments. I hope that in any future career that I have, I work actively to form bridges across silos and uplift the work of diversity. I also want to center my professional career on empowering traditionally marginalized communities. Starting at Luskin has been a wonderful experience,” Zavala said.
The D3 Initiative also supports students with awards, grants and funding for their work, including the Franklin D. Gilliam, Jr. Social Justice Awards, which were created to recognize student scholarship in social justice and inequality. The award was made possible by contributions from the School’s board of advisers, UCLA faculty, staff and alumni.
“We are not yet where we need to be and there is still much to do, but D3 has been a guiding force for progress,” said Isaac Bryan MPP ’18. With the help of a Gilliam Award, Bryan’s Applied Policy research group studied the dynamic needs of the city’s formerly incarcerated reentry population for Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.
“D3 empowers us all to continue placing diversity, equity and inclusiveness at the forefront of the work we do here in Luskin,” said Bryan, who is also a member of Policy Professionals for Diversity & Equity.
As a PhD student in urban planning, Aujean Lee also received funding through the D3 Initiative, including the Gilliam Award.
“These resources are important because urban planners, and planning research, still need to engage with and grapple with its historical legacies of racism, classism, sexism, homophobia, ableism, etc., that continue to shape our cities and communities,” Lee said.
A version of this story also appeared in the Summer 2018 edition of Luskin Forum magazine.
Three in the Class of 2018 who are already changing the landscape of public affairs
Annual conference at UCLA Luskin increases awareness and shares information about working with the Latinx community
Participants view responses to the question, "What is Resistance" at the April 20, 2018 "Resistance Through Research" conference hosted by UCLA Luskin School doctoral students. Photo by George Foulsham
By Stan Paul
For urban planning, social welfare and education doctoral students at UCLA, the results of the 2016 election added a new urgency to their role as researchers and to their research agendas.
In response to the rhetoric and policies of the Trump administration following the inauguration, a working group was formed to discuss questions of concern for upcoming scholars in UCLA’s academic and professional programs who are — and will be — working directly with individuals and groups in diverse communities.
This year, the group’s efforts culminated in “Resistance through Research: Social Justice Research and Activism in the Trump Era,” a conference held April 20, 2018, at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.
“As Ph.D. students in the professional schools, we conduct research on issues of race, gender and class-based discrimination, and we critically examine the opportunities that people have to participate in the institutions that shape their lives,” said Rebecca Crane, an Urban Planning doctoral student and one of the event organizers. “We decided to start a working group to discuss these issues which we hope will create dialogue around the notion of a politically engaged research agenda and its potential to challenge inequality now in this political moment.”
“Urgency for resistance is not new, but rather persistent,” said Roy, a professor of urban planning, social welfare and geography. “The phenomenon of Trumpism is not unique to the United States.” Rather, it is something that must be treated “as a rupture in the fabric of the world.”
But, she added: “The question is whether we, scholars rooted in academia, have stepped up … whether the global university, a command and control node of knowledge production, can be committed to such forms of research.”
And, Roy pointed out, academic fields and institutions that produce knowledge are not exempt from examination or resistance.
“For me, resistance within, against and from the university has meant a politics of alliance, solidarity and collectivism. It has meant taking and exercising academic freedom through a very visible politics of building collectivity, of building a commons.”
However, she cautioned the room full of students and researchers, “There’s a hell of a lot of risk ahead of you.”
The conference also included a panel focused on research methods illustrating theoretical and political points of departure and avenues in academic research. Panelists represented different career stages from new Ph.D.s to veteran scholars and educators.
Daniel Solórzano, a longtime professor of Education and Chicano/a Studies at UCLA, recalled early in his academic career his decision to go against the grain — and against the advice of senior scholars — to “challenge the dominant frames.” Solórzano whose teaching and research interests include critical race theory, agreed that “the issues are something that are not new,” crediting his students with helping him advance important work and fields of inquiry. “I need a diverse student population to move this work forward.”
Also on the methods panel was Nina Flores, who completed her doctorate in urban planning at UCLA Luskin in 2016. Flores, now an assistant professor of Social and Cultural Analysis at California State University Long Beach, also discussed the challenge and benefits of “push-back.”
“Find your people,” she said, citing her work and collaboration with longtime UCLA Luskin Urban Planning faculty members Leo Estrada and the late Jacqueline Leavitt. By finding the right people to work with, Flores said, “the push-back can be creative,” as well as affirming.
Also making up the methods panel were Kristina Lovato-Hermann SW Ph.D. ’17, now assistant professor of social work at Cal State University Long Beach, and Karen Umemoto, professor of Urban Planning and Asian American Studies. Umemoto also serves as the inaugural holder of the Helen and Morgan Chu Endowed Director’s Chair in the UCLA Asian American Studies Center.
A second panel, devoted to research justice, included Saba Waheed, research director at the UCLA Labor Center; Yvonne Yen Liu, research director of the Solidarity Research Center in Los Angeles; and Lolita Andrada Lledo, associate director of the Los Angeles-based Pilipino Workers Center.
“We wanted today to be an opportunity to connect with people outside our departments who might be working on similar topics … as well as community-based researchers working on these topics,” Crane said.
In fact, a class of UCLA undergrads was able to take advantage of the knowledge shared at the conference. Diya Bose, a Ph.D. candidate in Sociology, brought students from her UCLA freshman cluster course on Interracial Dynamics in American Culture and Society.
“It was important for them to witness how the UCLA students are continuing to fight for justice and liberation through education, research and working with communities of color,” said Bose. “Following the Luskin event, my students shared with me that they felt inspired and empowered to participate in the UCLA community, not as passive consumers of knowledge, but as producers of knowledge.”
The conference also featured research workshops in three subgroups: Racial and Gender Justice, Public Services and Spaces, and Migration and Displacement.
“In my internship we do a lot of research and we partner with a lot of community organizations,” said Evelyn Larios, a second-year MSW student at UCLA. “So this is really nice because it really reinforces the idea that as we move forward in collective research we need to partner with communities to build that relationship.”
Larios added: “At some point it take compromise. That’s important to society and democracy in general.”
Click or swipe below to view more photos from this event on Flickr:
By George Foulsham
More than half of Los Angeles County residents — especially those under the age of 50 —are worried that they might have to move because of the rising costs of housing in the region. This is one of the key findings in the 2018 Quality of Life Index (QLI), a project of the UCLA Luskin Los Angeles Initiative and The California Endowment.
The QLI is an annual survey that asks Los Angeles County residents to rate their quality of life in nine different categories and to answer specific standalone questions on important issues facing them and the Los Angeles region.
Housing-related concerns are among the major findings in this year’s survey. When respondents were asked whether they, a close friend or family member has considered moving from their neighborhood in the last few years because of rising housing costs, 55 percent answered in the affirmative — a percentage increase of 8 over last year’s survey.
Among younger respondents, that number soars. Sixty-eight percent of 18-29-year-olds, 73 percent of 30-39-year-olds, and 65 percent of 40-49-year-olds say that they or someone close to them has considered moving out of their neighborhoods due to housing costs.
“It is troubling that younger county residents are less hopeful and less positive about their quality of life in Los Angeles,” said Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. “Historically, young people, especially in Los Angeles, could look forward to a great future, but today they have the highest level of negativity and anxiety, especially between the ages of 18-29. This should be a matter of concern to all of us.”
Survey respondents are asked to rate their quality of life on a scale of 10-100 in nine different categories and 40 subcategories. This year, the overall rating among all nine issues was 56, a drop from 59 in the first two years of the survey in 2016 and 2017. All nine categories experienced a more negative rating this year over last year, and most have continuously declined since 2016.
The lowest-ranked categories of cost of living, education, and transportation and traffic lost an average 7 points since 2016, and the highest-ranked categories of ethnic and race relations, your neighborhood and health care lost an average 3 points. In the middle tier, two of the three categories lost ground (public safety and the environment), while the ranking for jobs and the economy improved (see chart).
On the positive side, health care, race/ethnic relations and quality of respondents’ neighborhoods received the highest ranking — in all three cases a 67 on the scale, well above the midpoint. The most pronounced drops since 2016 were in cost of living, where the rating dropped from 50 to 43, education from 54 to 48, and transportation/traffic from 58 to 50.
Other key findings of the QLI include:
Twenty-seven percent of county residents have worried about becoming homeless, an increase of 4 percent over last year. Among residents with an annual household income of less than $30,000 that number jumps to 47 percent; among residents 18-29 years of age that number jumps to 38 percent; and among renters that number jumps to 41 percent.
Seventy-one percent of county residents favor rent stabilization legislation that would cap annual rent increases on all rental housing, including 78 percent of renters and 65 percent of homeowners.
Sixty-eight percent of county residents think new apartment buildings should only be built in neighborhoods already zoned for multi-family housing, and only 30 percent believe they should be built everywhere, including in single-family neighborhoods.
Nearly 60 percent of residents say that local police should refuse to help federal immigration authorities in the deportation of undocumented residents, even if cities could lose federal funds, while 38 percent believe local police should cooperate with federal authorities.
Residents continue to be split on the impacts of new development and growth in their community, with 44 percent saying it has a positive impact on their area and 52 percent saying it has a negative impact. However, the negative responses jump to 59 percent for those with annual household incomes below $30,000, and to 54 percent for those with annual household incomes of $30,000-$60,000, reflecting the challenges of gentrification in many low-income Los Angeles communities.
The number of residents who worry about themselves, a member of their family or a close friend being deported from the United States dropped to 23 percent this year from 37 percent last year. The drop in anxiety over deportation dropped nearly 50 percent among Latinos and Asian/Pacific Islanders. However, among those who are worried about deportation, 71 percent are worried that enrolling in a government program would increase their risk of deportation.
“While there is still a significant anxiety level over deportation in this survey, it is clear that in the last year that level has subsided,” Yaroslavsky said. “Court decisions and legislative efforts aimed at blocking the Trump administration’s immigration policies have clearly been reassuring, especially to our immigrant communities, but there is still an unhealthy level of fear in those same communities.”
The UCLA Luskin Quality of Life Index survey is based on interviews conducted with nearly 1,500 county residents from March 3-20, 2018. Interviews were conducted in both English and Spanish.
The QLI was prepared in partnership with the public opinion research firm Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates.
Download the 2018 QLI (PDF)
Review the data (PDF)
Summary Narrative (PDF)
Luskin Master of Urban and Regional Planning (MURP) students such as Ryan Shum presented their work at the annual Careers, Capstones & Conversation (CCC) networking event. Photo by Les Dunseith
By Stan Paul
Britta McOmber wants to know “What’s the Dam Problem?” in terms of flood risk in California. Shine Ling wants to know “How Fair is Fair-Share” when it comes to housing law in California. Sabrina Kim asks, “Still No to Transit?” looking at areas in Los Angeles County that do not meet their full transit commuting potential.
Questions like these launched 36 research projects that brought together Master of Urban and Regional Planning (MURP) students with clients to produce research projects that address a specific planning issue. The second-year students, completing their required capstones, showcased their work at the annual Careers, Capstones & Conversations (CCC) networking event held April 5, 2018, at UCLA’s Covel Commons.
The event followed a day of welcoming activities for newly admitted UCLA Luskin Urban Planning students, who had the opportunity to view the projects and interact with current students, as well as faculty and staff.
Newly admitted student Bradley Bounds II said his interest in urban planning is local.
“I want to work on building up my community,” said the Compton resident. “I’m looking more toward open space projects; I’m looking for transportation projects and economic development,” said Bounds, who enthusiastically affirmed his intent to join the new Urban Planning class in fall 2018.
Project clients include governmental organizations, local agencies and cities, as well as private planning and design firms and nonprofit organizations concerned with regional, state and national urban issues.
Video highlights of the students practicing for CCC. [full size]
In addition to engaging titles, the projects — produced individually or in teams — include solid research and data that has been analyzed and put into context by the students. Topics included transportation, housing and social justice issues, including foster care in the region and environmental, resource conservation and energy challenges. At CCC, the students pitch and support their approaches via posters that frame the issues and their proposed solutions.
UCLA Luskin Urban Planning faculty, alumni and Luskin Senior Fellows were on hand to evaluate the projects displayed in Covel’s Grand Horizon Room.
McOmber, who has studied coastal cities and flood risk resulting from rising sea levels, as well as designated flood plains, said her project was inspired by last year’s Oroville Dam overflow incident in Northern California.
“There are quite a number of dams and large reservoirs in L.A. County,” said McOmber, explaining that, from the perspective of Oroville’s near disaster, the state faces a broader problem of dam and water storage infrastructure that is aging, underfinanced and sometimes not well-maintained.
“I noticed that there really wasn’t any information on dam flood zones, so I thought that was an area that’s lacking in the academic field and also very relevant, not only for California, but I think more broadly for the country,” she said.
Her project also looked at who may be impacted based on factors such as income and education. For example, McOmber asked whether socially vulnerable households are more likely to live within dam flood zones in California. She found that almost 50 percent of households in these areas are Hispanic or Latino.
Presentation is an important aspect of the projects. Commenting on the eye-catching displays, Ananya Roy, professor of urban planning, social welfare and sociology, looked at how effectively information was conveyed, noting those that “made a very dramatic and legible point.”
In Public Policy and Social Welfare, newly accepted graduate students were welcomed at daylong events designed to introduce them to the School and provide information about topics such as program content and financial aid. They got a day-in-the-life experience at UCLA Luskin through lectures, breakout sessions, tours and informal social gatherings.
UCLA was the top choice for many of the students attending the April 3, 2018, Welcome Day for newly accepted students in UCLA Luskin Social Welfare who learned about topics such as public child welfare stipend programs and social welfare field education.
“I’ve already decided on UCLA,” said Nancy Salazar, who joined other admitted students for roundtable discussions with UCLA Luskin faculty. Salazar, who also has a master’s degree in public administration, said that in addition to a focus on social justice, she was attracted by the leadership aspect of the program.
For Guillermo Armenta Sanchez, UCLA was the only choice. “That’s the only one; that’s where I’m coming,” said the Long Beach resident who is interested in focusing on mental health.
At the Master of Public Policy (MPP) Welcome Day on April 9, 2018, J.R. DeShazo, department chair and professor of public policy, provided introductory comments and introduced faculty and staff to incoming students.
“At Luskin, you are making a commitment to mastering a very challenging set of policy tools,” said DeShazo, who also serves as director of the Luskin Center for Innovation, the state’s premier environmental policy research center.
DeShazo highlighted the outstanding faculty and research institutes across all three departments, then continued, “There are a tremendous number of extracurricular activities that we present to you. The challenge is a scheduling challenge: How do you take advantage of everything that we offer?”
The new cohort of policy students gathered at the School to participate in a number of informative activities that included an ice-breaking exercise and an inside look at student life and the strengths of the UCLA Luskin program as presented by a students-only panel.
An invitation to Professor Michael Stoll’s Methods of Policy Analysis course was included, as were a variety of student-led breakout sessions on policy areas such as education, criminal justice, the environment, international issues and transportation. The conversations continued into a lunch with members of the faculty.
DeShazo advised that the two-year graduate program goes quickly and that students are soon thinking about what’s next.
“One of the things we’re very committed to — alums are committed to, our office of career services is committed to — is providing you with the internship opportunities and the alumni connections that will help you get a great job coming out of our program,” DeShazo said. “You are invited to start to develop your CV, practice in your interviewing skills, your public speaking skills, honing and refining your networking skills.
DeShazo summed it up. “When it’s time to engage with prospective employers, you’re ready.”
Moderator Jim Newton, left, and Chelsea Manning at the Luskin Lecture on March 5, 2018, at Royce Hall. Photo by Todd Cheney
By Zev Hurwitz
Chelsea Manning, a transgender activist and former U.S. Department of Defense intelligence analyst who was convicted of espionage, spoke at Royce Hall on March 5, 2018. Her Luskin Lecture, “A Conversation with Chelsea Manning,” focused on topics including ethics in public service, transgender rights activism and resistance in light of advancing technologies.
Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison for handing over to WikiLeaks sensitive documents that demonstrated human rights abuses related to American military action in Afghanistan and Iraq. While serving her sentence, Manning began her medical transition from male to female after having publicly announced her gender identity.
Her sentence was commuted by President Barack Obama in 2017, after she had served seven years of her sentence. Since her release, Manning has been an outspoken advocate for LGBTQ rights, as well as government transparency. In 2018, she announced her run for the U.S. Senate in Maryland.
Manning spoke with reporters at a press conference prior to the Luskin Lecture. Asked if she had any advice for UCLA students, Manning said: “Think on your own. Don’t read a book and think you know everything. Question yourself and debate other people.”
Manning noted the significance of speaking to a crowd largely made up of students. “I like to speak to students who are going to be in positions of making decisions, or being in media or working with technology,” she said.
Manning said that when she works with students she focuses on topics beyond technology — like civic engagement.
“Not just showing up to a ballot box and casting a vote, but being actually engaged,” she said. “Sometimes that means protesting; sometimes that means resisting, fighting institutional power and authority.”
Manning continued her student outreach the day after the lecture at a workshop sponsored by the Luskin Pride student group. She led about 60 Luskin School students in a wide-ranging dialogue about military tactics in law enforcement, communities abandoned by the left and whether universities are complicit in government surveillance.
“A system is legitimate because you give it legitimacy,” she cautioned the students.
UCLA Luskin Dean Gary Segura introduced Manning at the Royce Hall lecture and acknowledged the controversial nature of her appearance.
“There are some in this room who think Ms. Manning is a traitor,” Segura said. “A number of UCLA students asked me to rescind her invitation and reminded me that her actions may well have cost the lives of American servicemen and women. For the record, the Luskin School is opposed to treason.
“Others,” he added, “will argue that her actions, laying bare war crimes, acts of torture and the extent of civilian casualties, might well have saved the lives of some of those non-combatants. For the record, the Luskin School is opposed to war crimes.”
Moderator Jim Newton, UCLA Luskin Public Policy lecturer and Blueprint magazine editor, began with a conversation about Manning’s conviction. Manning said she feels her actions reflect her true self.
“I have the same values I’ve always had,” she said. “I acted on those values with the information I had.”
As an intelligence analyst deployed in Iraq, Manning took a data-based approach to the American presence in the country. Over time, she came to understand the humanity behind the data. “It was a slow realization that what I was working with is real,” she told the audience.
At one point, Newton asked Manning if she thought the government had a right to keep secrets.
“Ten years ago I would have said, ‘of course,’ ” Manning said. “But who even makes these classifications?”
Manning went on to discuss what she sees as the political nature of classified information. She spoke at length about the process for data classification and her skepticism about its role in protecting national security.
Newton asked Manning if she sees herself as a role model. Manning said no, and then described the role model she would like to have had, adding she has aspired to be that person, though it has been challenging.
“I went from being homeless to being in college to being in the military to being at war to being in prison,” she said. “I haven’t had the time to do the things people are expected to do.”
Following the lecture, Manning held a question and answer session with Ian Holloway, professor and assistant chair of UCLA Luskin Social Welfare. The fireside chat, which focused largely on Manning’s identity as a gay man and later a transgender woman in the military, was held in front of a small group of UCLA Luskin board members and friends of the School.
Holloway asked Manning about her being a whistleblower. Manning said she didn’t agree with the term.
“I’ve never used the word whistleblower to describe myself,” she said. “I’ve never really related to it because it’s hard to reconcile.”
She added that she felt her actions, regardless of their classification, were just.
“Institutions do fail, and when they do, you can’t rely on them, you have to go around them,” she said.
View a video recorded during Manning’s lecture:
View a video recorded during the fireside chat that followed Manning’s lecture: