Student Volunteers Give Back, One Turkey Leg at a Time UCLA Luskin Food Mentorship program lets students explore interesting and relevant topics while coordinating a volunteer event at a local organization focused on food issues

As first-year Master of Urban and Regional Planning students, Bianca Juarros and Esteban Doyle wanted to find meaningful ways to get involved with the UCLA campus community. The Luskin Food Mentorship program provided a way for them to do just that, while also exploring interesting and relevant topics.

The program is a part of a 10-week series on food called “Off the Table,” which is a combination of inspiring lectures, movie screenings and hands-on activities centered around food issues. The program matches graduate students in the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs with undergraduate students pursuing the Food Studies minor. Pairs of students such as Juarros and Doyle are then tasked with coordinating a volunteer event at a local organization focused on food issues in Los Angeles. It offers a way to share knowledge, foster connections and make a meaningful impact on the greater community.

Here are the students’ impressions of the program and Juarros’ thoughts about its personal and educational benefits:

I had the opportunity to attend the “Off the Table” event called “Breaking Bread: Community Building with Veterans and Farming,” which delved into the often-unseen struggles faced by veterans after returning back home from a tour of duty — especially in terms of fostering social connections, finding newfound purpose and engaging in the healing process. The panel discussion opened my eyes to the vital importance that community gardens play in the reintegration process, especially among the UCLA community. I was moved by the stories shared by the panelists, many of whom were veterans themselves, and inspired by the efforts to re-create a veterans garden in Westwood. This was just one of many insightful “Off the Table” events.

In partnership with undergraduate students in the mentorship program, Esteban and I also coordinated a volunteer event at the L.A. Kitchen, which is an organization that employs formerly incarcerated individuals and emancipated foster youth to prepare food for community service organizations such as homeless shelters and senior centers. After promoting our event through our various networks, we were able to register a total of 15 people to volunteer. We recruited a mix of undergraduate and graduate students from various schools at UCLA.

On Saturday, Nov. 18, our volunteer group went to the L.A. Kitchen to volunteer with food preparation.

Because this was the Saturday before Thanksgiving, we had the special opportunity to help carve turkeys. One of the L.A. Kitchen staff members, a recent graduate of the culinary education program, demonstrated to all the volunteers how to properly break down a turkey, removing as much meat as possible. After the quick tutorial, we all set out to work at various stations. We handled hundreds of turkeys!

Working side-by-side with other students was a wonderful time. People shared their favorite Thanksgiving memories while de-boning turkey legs. With everyone talking, sharing and laughing, it hardly felt like work at all. Time flies when you’re having fun!

We finished all the turkeys in record time. It helped, of course, that another large group — volunteers from a local electrical union — was volunteering that morning as well.

Going forward, we hope to maintain a close relationship with L.A. Kitchen. All the students who volunteered said they had a great time and would love to do it again. The L.A. Kitchen staff members mentioned wanting to strengthen ties with the UCLA community too.

We hope to continue planning more volunteer experiences with the L.A. Kitchen and bring in more UCLA students to share the wonderful experience.

On Dec. 2, 2017, UCLA Luskin Master of Urban and Regional Planning students Alexander Salgado and Ana Kobara joined with UCLA undergraduate mentees Audree Hsu and Sophie Go as part of the UCLA Luskin Food Mentorship program to participate in a volunteer effort with Food Forward.

Food Forward is a nonprofit organization that works with multiple farmer’s markets in Los Angeles to collect donated food from vendors to pass along to organizations in need of fresh food. Throughout the day, the students walked a farmer’s market in Hollywood and delivered empty boxes to vendors that could fill them with produce.

For the day, the student volunteers collected and organized more than 1,700 pounds of food, which was then delivered or picked up by various organizations in need.

“The experience in itself was very rewarding,” Salgado said. “It was nice to see vendors so eager and willing to help others.” 

 

 

Examining an Issue from Every Side Urban Planning students enrolled in Community Scholars and Comprehensive Project efforts work together to tackle problems of significant scope and complexity

By Les Dunseith

As the curtain lifts on another academic year at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, second-year Master of Urban and Regional Planning (MURP) students enrolled in one of two group efforts begin to tackle a major planning issue from multiple angles.

Listening, learning, analyzing, synthesizing and debating, the students enrolled in the Community Scholars and Comprehensive Project options will unite by graduation time to produce a shared vision of how best to address a challenge of significant scope and scale.

Exactly how comprehensive are these projects? Here’s the tally from last year:

  • 29 Urban Planning students (now alumni)
  • 20-plus weeks of class instruction
  • 545 total pages (256 pages in one report, 289 in the other)
  • 172 charts, tables, illustrations, infographics and complex data maps
  • dozens of photographs (including a few shot by a drone camera high overhead)
  • hundreds of emails, texts, phone calls and face-to-face sessions

Both of these group efforts are popular among students despite the workload, said Alexis Oberlander, graduate adviser in Urban Planning. In fact, an application and acceptance process is necessary to limit enrollment to a manageable number of about 15 for each.

“Comprehensive projects are more realistic to what it’s like in a professional setting,” Oberlander said of the difference between the group efforts and individual client projects pursued by other MURP students. In the professional world, “You don’t really do anything alone most of the time.”

The group efforts are similar in scope, complexity and instructional approach, but Community Scholars and the Comprehensive Project have key differences.

Community Scholars is a joint initiative of UCLA Luskin and the UCLA Center for Labor Research and Education that has been tackling issues related to jobs, wages and worker rights since 1991. UCLA’s Department of African American Studies was involved in 2016-17 too, joining an effort on behalf of the Los Angeles Black Worker Center to produce a report that reflects broad social concerns: “Black Liberation in Los Angeles: Building Power Through Women’s Wellness, Cooperative Work, and Transit Equity.”

“The idea is that students actually get to take the class with activists from the communities who are trying to accomplish the same things but need the guidance of an academic program,” Oberlander said. “And the students need the guidance of activists. So they learn from each other.”

Conversely, the annual Comprehensive Project is managed solely within Urban Planning. The 2016-17 team prepared a report for the Urban Waters Federal Partnership, which was titled, “Lower LA River Revitalization: An Inclusive Approach to Planning, Implementation, and Community Engagement.”

From concept to completion, a typical Comprehensive Project can stretch over a year or more. Oberlander pointed out that students entering the Luskin School in the fall will decide just six months later whether to register for the next Comprehensive Project, which won’t wrap up until more than a year later.

Thus, now is the time for potential client partners to step forward. “You can come to Luskin and you can get really great research for a third of the cost to hire somebody,” she noted.

The end of an academic year is often a hectic time for Comprehensive Project students. For example, the final presentation to the Community Economics, Health, and Equity Committee of the Lower LA River Working Group was on June 8, 2017. A final (more comprehensive) on-campus presentation took place June 13, 2017, just two days before Commencement.

Public presentations are also typical of Community Scholars. On June 17, 2017, the students gathered at Holman United Methodist Church in South Los Angeles for a rousing public review and reflection on what they had accomplished together.

“It is phenomenal to have the privilege to spend 20 weeks in a room with other organizers and thought leaders who are every day experimenting and making change on the front lines for black workers and black working class families,” said the UCLA Labor Center’s Lola Smallwood Cuevas, the 2016-17 project director.

“We didn’t solve the black jobs crisis in this 20 weeks,” she continued. “But what we did do was create the opportunity for us to get closer, to build the relationships, to build an analysis that will help us shape and continue to hone those definitions and our work together moving forward.”

Their report, which like other student research from UCLA Luskin Urban Planning students can be viewed online, focused on three aspects directly related to African American workers in Los Angeles:

  • a curriculum on trauma-informed self-care for women served by the Black Workers Center;
  • a feasibility study for a cooperatively owned jobs services center;
  • a mobility study of the Slauson Corridor that paid particular attention to the intersection of Slauson and Western avenues, which a collision analysis found to be among L.A.’s most dangerous traffic locations.

Marque Vestal, a PhD student in history who served as a teaching assistant for Community Scholars, noted that the effort was about more than simply doing great research. While studying under Smallwood Cuevas, UCLA Luskin’s Gilda Haas and Gaye Theresa Johnson of UCLA African American Studies, the students examined issues of race, equality and empowerment through the black radical tradition.

“We suspected that something special would be crafted in that room because every week the laughter amid the planning got louder,” Vestal recalled during the presentation. “So we are here today to share that harvest of laughter and planning.”

“And there’s always the people who rise to the top with any group project who end up being the leaders,” Oberlander said. “They are usually the ones who are still working till August after they have graduated, making sure the client has exactly what they need.”

The instructor of the L.A. River project was Diana Varat JD/MA UP ’08, a planner and attorney who was part of the Luskin School’s adjunct faculty for the year. A rotating instructor approach is used for Community Scholars too. In 2015-16, UCLA Luskin’s Goetz Wolff led an analysis of the distribution of goods in Southern California that went on to win a national applied research award.

For the L.A. River project, students looked at gentrification, access and community impacts as part of their detailed analysis of the potential pitfalls of redeveloping the Lower Los Angeles River that runs through 14 cities from Vernon to Long Beach.

“As the potential of the Lower L.A. River becomes more clear, communities along the river are at a critical juncture,” said Alex Linz MURP ’17 during concluding remarks. “By committing to sustained community engagement and empowerment, river-adjacent cities have an excellent opportunity to showcase the Lower L.A. River both as a local and regional reflection of community pride.”

For 2017-18, the Comprehensive Project team will work with Distinguished Professor Emeritus Martin Wachs on the issue of transit-oriented development. Community Scholars will tackle homelessness and housing.

 

Dean’s Message on DACA Decision 'You are not alone in this,' Segura writes in support of any undocumented Luskin students 

Friends, Colleagues, Alumni and Students:

I am heartsick to hear the announcement from the Trump administration that DACA will be ending unless there is some congressional action in the coming months. This decision flies in the face of good policy, the best interests of the United States, our moral obligations to one another, and simple human decency.  In the long run, my sincere hope and expectation is that this decision will not stand, that our society will move forward toward a more reasonable and just outcome for these young people and, indeed, all members of our society whose status is an obstacle to a fuller and more complete participation in our economy and institutions. In the interim, we face a period of uncertainty, and for this I am deeply sorry.

For now, I want to make several things perfectly clear. First, to every undocumented Luskin student, you have my support. You are not alone in this, and I will continue my work (within the University and elsewhere) to push back on this odious turn in federal policy.  Second, every Luskin student has my personal commitment to protect your privacy and educational records, consistent with U.S. law and the principles outlined by the UC-system in response to these events. Third, all of us have a special duty, in these circumstances, to redouble our efforts toward helping families and communities cope with the challenges presented by these and other events. And finally, know that your work and training are not in vain. Rather, it is in these moments that the tools of social science and a commitment to human well-being are in greatest demand.

I hope, in the near future, I will be able to address you with better news on this critical issue. Until then, to the ‘Dreamers’ among us — I will continue to admire your strength, your resilience, and your immense capacity to make change in this society.

In hopeful determination,

 

 

 

Gary M. Segura
Professor and Dean

Conference at UCLA Luskin Slices Into Post-Election Data UCLA faculty members guide scholars from across the nation during a face-to-face dissection of a collective survey effort that showcases research on race, ethnicity and politics

By Stan Paul

The assembled scholars listened intently, readying their critiques as a stream of researchers from universities large and small took the podium. Over two days, findings from a landmark shared survey effort focusing on the 2016 U.S. elections were presented, and then colleagues from across the nation congratulated and cajoled, concurred and challenged — sometimes forcefully.

And that was the point of it.

The spirited gathering on Aug. 3-4, 2017, in a large lecture hall at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs brought together academic peers from across the United States whose findings were all derived from the same innovative and singular data set.

The 2016 Collaborative Multi-Racial Post-Election Survey (CMPS) was produced by a nationwide research collaborative co-led by faculty from UCLA. The survey’s nearly 400 questions focused primarily on issues and attitudes related to the 2016 election, including immigration, policing, racial equality, health care, federal spending and climate change.

“Questions were user-generated via a team of 86 social scientists from 55 different universities across 18 disciplines,” said Lorrie Frasure-Yokley, a UCLA associate professor of political science who was one of the event’s organizers as well as co-principal investigator for the survey.

The survey’s creators describe the 2016 CMPS as “the first cooperative, 100 percent user-content-driven, multiracial, multiethnic, multilingual, post-election online survey in race, ethnicity and politics (REP) in the United States.”

“We queried more than 10,000 people in five languages — English, Spanish, Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese,” said Frasure-Yokley, who was joined by conference co-organizer Matt Barreto, professor of political science and Chicana/o studies at UCLA, as well as their co-principal investigators, Janelle Wong from the University of Maryland and Edward Vargas from Arizona State University.

Also serving as the annual summer meeting of a group known as the Politics of Race, Immigration and Ethnicity Consortium (PRIEC), the conference is part of an ongoing series of meetings at which faculty scholars and graduate student researchers showcase works in progress related to racial and ethnic politics. Immigration, political behavior, institutions, processes and public policy also receive research attention.

“We have never seen this much diversity in the research being presented, in the presenters themselves, and in the audience members,” Barreto said. “It was a great experience.”

In spring 2016, U.S. scholars were invited to join a cooperative and self-fund the 2016 CMPS through the purchase of question content by contributors, Frasure-Yokley explained. The treasure trove of results is being incorporated into numerous ongoing academic studies and reports. Of those, 16 research projects derived from the data were presented, discussed and critiqued in open forums by other researchers attending the conference at UCLA.

“Our goal was to provide CMPS contributors with an outlet to present their research, obtain feedback for revisions toward publication, including book projects and academic articles,” Frasure-Yokley noted.

The gathering also served as a professional development and networking opportunity for scholars who study race, ethnicity and immigration in the United States, she said. And the conference provided what Frasure-Yokley described as a “lively and interactive platform” for graduate students to present their research and obtain feedback via a poster session.

Organizers also encouraged and further cultivated the development of a number of co-authored research projects among CMPS contributors, she said.

One of the presentations focused on research conducted by UCLA Luskin Dean Gary Segura and colleagues titled, “From Prop. 187 to Trump: New Evidence That Group Threat Mobilizes Latino Voters.”

Segura, who also served as a presentation moderator, is a longtime participant in PRIEC, having previously hosted a meeting when he was at Stanford. In fact, Barreto noted that Segura was one of the original members of PRIEC, presenting at the very first meeting at UC Riverside.

Holding this year’s conference at UCLA was a perfect fit. “Luskin was a great venue to host this conference because so many of the research presentations were directly engaging public policy and public affairs — from health policy, policing, immigration reform, LGBT rights, and race relations,” Barreto said.

“The partnership between Luskin and Social Sciences to bring the PRIEC conference to UCLA was truly outstanding. This conference was groundbreaking in bringing together scholars who study comparative racial politics from a Latino, African American and Asian American perspective,” he said.

Here are some of the other presentation titles:

  • “Immigration Enforcement Scares People from Police and Doctors”
  • “Pivotal Identity: When Competitive Elections Politicize Latino Ethnicity”
  • “Using the 2016 CMPS to Understand Race and Racism in Evangelical Politics”
  • “Generations Divided: Age Cohort Differences in Black Political Attitudes and Behavior in the Post-Obama Era.”

Frasure-Yokley said the CMPS provides a high-quality online survey data source, and it also builds a multidisciplinary academic pipeline of inclusive excellence among researchers who study race, ethnicity and politics. Plans to conduct 2018 and 2020 surveys are already underway, and an annual CMPS contributor conference will continue each summer.

“The 2016 CMPS brought together a multidisciplinary group of researchers at varying stages of their academic careers,” she said, noting that participating cooperative scholars and conference attendees included junior and senior faculty from large research institutions, scholars from historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and researchers from Hispanic serving institutions (HSIs). Also on hand were postdoctoral fellows, graduate students and some undergraduates.

“We need to go all in because this is the future of our discipline. To ensure that we are creating a strong pipeline and have access to quality data for various racial and ethnic groups, our model of data collection inspires innovation and fresh ideas through collaboration,” Frasure-Yokley said.

In addition to support from Segura and the Luskin School, co-sponsors included UCLA’s Department of Political Science; the American Political Science Association (APSA) Centennial Center Artinian Fund; the UCLA Division of Social Sciences and its dean, Darnell Hunt, professor of sociology and African American studies; the Department of African American Studies; the César E. Chávez Department of Chicana/o Studies; and the Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity and Politics (CSREP).

Additional information on PRIEC.

More information about the survey.

 

Amplifying the Voice of Latinos on Policy Issues Latino Policy & Politics Initiative at UCLA Luskin School will fill a critical research gap and provide a think tank around political, social and economic issues

By Les Dunseith

A new initiative underway at the Luskin School of Public Affairs will take advantage of the immense research expertise at UCLA to fill a critical gap in research and policy analysis related to issues that impact Latinos and other communities of color in California and across the country.

The Latino Policy & Politics Initiative (LPPI) will be “a comprehensive think tank around political, social and economic issues faced by California’s plurality population,” said UCLA Luskin Dean Gary Segura about the new effort, which also received startup funding from the Division of Social Sciences. Matt Barreto, professor of political science and Chicana/o Studies, co-founded the project with Segura in February 2017.

Founding Director Sonja Diaz came aboard in March and has spearheaded meetings with scholars, community organizations, public officials, staff members from governmental agencies, and potential funding partners to formalize the initiative and secure its place among the various research centers at UCLA.

“People on this campus are supportive and willing to partner.”
—Sonja Diaz

“One of the things that I have personally been so impressed with is that people on this campus are supportive and willing to partner,” said Diaz, who earned a Master of Public Policy degree at UCLA Luskin in 2010 before going on to receive her law degree from UC Berkeley. “They see the value of supporting LPPI as a meeting place, as an organization and as a foundation to build upon.”

Scholars from across campus have already come aboard, including professors from schools and departments such as Medicine, Business, Health Policy and Management, History and Law.

“We stand here on the shoulders of individual researchers, scholars, students and their centers to actually start having a convergence and a meeting place,” Diaz said about the role of LPPI in uniting Latino-focused research efforts so that studies can be found and shared more easily among interested parties. “We have more than 16 people already in place to produce rapid-response and evidence-tested research on domestic policy issue areas.”

Segura, himself a professor of public policy and Chicana/o studies, said that the University of California — particularly UCLA — is an ideal home for the enterprise. LPPI will develop new research, as well as assist existing faculty research projects and provide direct support for the community, centered around policy issues of vital importance to Latinos.

“The city of Los Angeles is the second-largest Spanish speaking city on the planet — after Mexico City, and significantly ahead of Buenos Aires and Madrid,” Segura explained. “If you are going to study what is happening to Latinos in the United States, you begin in Los Angeles, and your next stop is California.”

Barreto noted that Latinos have been the largest minority group in the U.S. since 2001, and the Latino percentage of the population continues to grow, particularly in California. “Yet, there is a significant gap between the diversity of our state and the institutional representation of Latinos in Sacramento, as well as in the UC system,” he said. “Through this initiative, we hope to increase policy-relevant research on Latinos in California and the country as a whole.”

Basing LPPI at UCLA not only makes sense geographically, it makes sense organizationally, Segura said.

“UCLA has a very strong Department of Chicano/a Studies. It has a very strong Chicano Studies Research Center. And the Luskin School of Public Affairs is UCLA’s — and I would argue the University of California’s — best voice on questions of human service and human need,” Segura said. “The concentration of Latino academics here makes UCLA the right place for LPPI. It’s where it should exist.”

“The concentration of Latino academics here makes UCLA the right place for LPPI.”
—Gary Segura

Although LPPI is still in the organizational phase of its evolution, Diaz noted that its leaders have “already connected with, met with, and partnered with more than 50 community-based organizations, both nationally and at the state level.”

Segura, Barreto and Diaz continue to meet with potential funding partners, including a host of state and federal foundations, and recently completed a trip to Sacramento to engage with members of the California Legislature. The visit served a dual purpose, simultaneously letting elected officials know about LPPI and giving the leadership team an opportunity to ascertain the needs of elected officials in terms of the policymaking demands of the populations that they represent.

“One of the things that we learned is that state government does no demographic research as a matter of form,” Diaz said. “It means that policy is not always best-tailored to the needs of communities of color. We know there is an opportunity there — a need for this type of research.”

To fill that need, LPPI will be launching new research projects to be completed by internal staff members, often working with postdoctoral candidates and graduate assistants. Those projects will afford students an opportunity to get hands-on training and will forge partnerships that Diaz sees continuing beyond graduation as former UCLA students take their places in government life.

“One of the things that is unique about LPPI is that it’s action-oriented,” she explained. “It’s not enough to just produce the research and produce the evidence, but we will actually put it into the hands of people who can go ahead and integrate it into their own proposals.”

The ability to respond quickly to issues of concern among Latinos is a vital aspect of the new initiative. “It’s no secret that a majority of Latinos felt disrespected and under attack by Donald Trump during the presidential campaign,” Barreto said. “It is more important now than ever before to have an objective, research-based approach to policy and politics, to understand the Latino experience in this country, and to make sure that policymakers at all levels of government — from president of the school board to president of the United States — understand that Latinos contribute equally to our communities and expect to have equal input into, and equal outputs, from the political system.”

Diaz sees LPPI becoming a go-to source of information on Latino policy issues at City Hall, in Sacramento and for people nationwide. Segura concurs, noting that he has launched an effort to hire additional faculty members at UCLA Luskin who will add new areas of expertise to the cadre of faculty members across the campus who are already actively pursuing important policy or social issue research.

Segura’s ultimate goal for the Latino Policy & Politics Initiative?

“We will be doing something in the world to improve the lives of the people that we study,” he said, “which, really, is why we do it.”

 

Public Policy Professor Is Honored by UCLA Randall Akee receives C. Doris and Toshio Hoshide Distinguished Teaching Prize in Asian American Studies

By Asian American Studies Center Staff

Assistant Professor Randall Akee of the Department of Public Policy and American Indian Studies is the 2016-17 recipient of the C. Doris and Toshio Hoshide Distinguished Teaching Prize in Asian American Studies at UCLA.

Akee is emerging as one of the most important and influential scholars studying the socioeconomic conditions of indigenous people and formulating strategies to address their marginalization. He is a former economic development specialist for the state of Hawaii, Office of Hawaiian Affairs. Since 2013, he has served on the U.S. Census Bureau’s National Advisory Committee on Racial, Ethnic and Other Populations. Akee has conducted extensive research on several American Indian reservations, Canadian First Nations, and Pacific Island nations in addition to working in various Native Hawaiian communities. His main research interests are labor economics, economic development and migration.

Colleagues and students expressed that Akee is deserving of the Hoshide Award honor. He has taught key courses that benefit Asian American Studies, incorporating Pacific Islanders, an understudied racial group in the United States. One colleague stated, “He epitomizes a faculty who bridges disciplinary silos — American Indian Studies, Asian American Studies and Public Policy — not an easy task at UCLA.”

In his “Economic Principles and Economic Development in Indigenous Communities” course, Akee uses Micronesian migration to Guam and the U.S. and Tongan migration to New Zealand as examples of diaspora of indigenous peoples. The significant international movement of Pacific Islanders makes this group unique among indigenous populations, creating challenges to how students understand the indigenous experience. It is the only course offered at UCLA focusing on the prosperity of indigenous nations and communities globally through economic subsistence.

“I learned first-hand of the high expectations he has for his students. Dr. Akee challenges his students intellectually. As one of a few Pacific Islander students, it made me think about what it meant to be a Pacific Islander scholar,” said one student.

Another student noted, “With the purpose of using data to show how Native people have successfully approached economic development, Dr. Akee effectively engaged our class in a way that felt both very thorough and intimate.”

Akee’s “Pacific Island Economic Development” course focuses on the Anglophone former colonies and countries in the Pacific. The class examines the economic and political development of the Hawaiian Islands, Fiji, the islands of Micronesia, Samoa and Tahiti.

A student commented, “I enjoyed every minute of Dr. Akee’s class because it challenged me to look beyond the scope of my field and bridge western-indigenous methodologies to critique economically sustainable programs in the South Pacific.”

Akee also worked with Pacific Islander graduate students to establish the Graduate Student Association for Pasifika. It was created to support graduate students from Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander descent or areas.

As one student expressed, “Dr. Akee is a role model, but a mentor to countless Pacific Islander students. He offers unencumbered and relentless support to any student seeking his guidance, which, I believe, reflects his love for teaching, research, but more so his community.”

The late C. Doris Hoshide, class of 1934, of Rockville, Maryland, established the teaching prize to annually recognize an outstanding professor in Asian American Studies. She was a longtime supporter of Asian American Studies at her alma mater. The Hoshide Prize includes a $1000 award.

Akee received his Ph.D. from Harvard University in political economy, his M.A. from Yale University in international and development economics, and his bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth College in economics. The award was announced by the Asian American Studies Center’s Interim Director Marjorie Kagawa Singer and Assistant Director Melany De La Cruz-Viesca.

Proud to be Part of the Luskin Community International students share their experiences, dreams and awareness of anxiety in an uncertain world

By George Foulsham

Eri Suzuki, a Public Policy master’s student from Japan; JianChao Lai, a Social Welfare PhD student from China; and Jorge Loor, an Urban Planning master’s student from Ecuador — described the challenges faced by international students and their families in a world filled with anxiety.

What led you as an international scholar to choose California and the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs?

Suzuki: I worked at the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology in Japan. The Japanese government has a program that provides for government officials who have several years of work experience to study abroad. I was in charge of the Japanese National University division and my job was mainly to interpret the law of Japanese National Universities. And through working at the Higher Education Bureau in Japan I realized that there are so many problems in Japanese higher education policy, like tuition, scholarships, finance and budget at universities, especially since the Japanese economy is shrinking right now. So I started getting interested in studying in the U.S. because there are so many world-famous universities here. And I thought maybe as being a grad student I can learn hints or key factors that can be applied to Japanese universities. So I decided to apply to this program through the Japanese government.

Lai: I did my undergrad in social work in China. Social work is a newly developed major — we did not have it 30 years ago. It is fairly new and it’s not complete. So I went to America to study social work. I went to Wisconsin for my MSW. I love to come to large cities like New York and L.A., a more vibrant city feel, and also because of the reputation of UCLA. And I did some stalking online for professors and I found my adviser, Todd Franke. He really matches with my interests, and he is such a great mentor. So I decided to come here, and it’s been a great decision so far.

Loor: I was at a grad school fair when I was at the University of Texas — this was back in 2008 or 2009 — and this school (Luskin) was there. I was toying with this idea to go into urban studies at Texas. My degree is in civil engineering and I wanted something else so I added on history. While I was fulfilling the major I got into an urban studies class and I liked it. I always wanted to come back to L.A. and since I knew this school existed and this program existed, and I knew I wanted to come back to L.A., so I only applied to UCLA. I didn’t apply anywhere else because I know there is a certain prestige to the name. This was just a really good program.

There’s been a lot of talk about travel bans being instituted by our new president. Has that impacted your life in any way? What kinds of things are you hearing from family, friends and other international students about this issue?

Suzuki: As a government official at Japan’s Ministry of Education, I am really concerned about the ban’s effect in the near future on the interaction between Japanese and American students or researchers, or the number of Japanese people who want to study abroad here. They may decide not to come here because they realize maybe that the ban will affect getting a visa to come here.

Lai: The travel ban hasn’t impacted me or my family that much, but the new president’s attitude and actions toward women — cutting funding for Planned Parenthood and Violence Against Women Act, and science education and the EPA — some of my friends are directly influenced by those actions. As a female and a student researcher, that concerns me a lot — together with the travel ban. The globalization process is inevitable, and only through cooperation between countries can we make win-win situations. These actions may only cause hatred and discrimination, but can’t bring the good side of humankind.

Loor: Just tangentially because my mom went to Jordan a few weeks ago for a vacation with her sister. I was just worried about it, though there was no real problem. It is a bummer that you have to think about this. The ICE (Immigrant and Customs Enforcement) crackdowns are a big deal here in L.A. I haven’t been directly affected by it, but still I am just hyper aware because of the nature of what I am studying and the nature of the social consciousness of the cohort as a whole.

How has Luskin prepared you to deal with the challenges you may face upon graduation?

Suzuki: I have to return to the ministry of education so I have to continue working. I still am interested in higher education policy. So I really want to work in the higher education policy division but also at the same time my ministry is in charge of sports policy. In 2020 the Olympics Games are coming to Japan and we have the sports agency in the education ministry. So I want to help the city of Tokyo host the Olympic games in 2020. One thing that I learned here is a lot of quantitative analysis skill that I never learned in Japan. It was a really great opportunity for me to learn that skill. I really want to emphasize the importance of data when making education policies once I return to Japan.

Lai: I’m thinking about being a professor or researcher. I used to focus on the clinical side, but then I thought that is really limited, doing just therapy and counseling. I hope one day, using my research, I can actually advocate for those people who have been ignored in research or in services.

I think the resources that Luskin has provided are great: mentorship, the classes, the connections with other schools and other researchers that are related to my interests. That also helped prepare for my research and just doing independent work. And my social skills. And the supportive platform is really important. I felt really welcome here.

Loor: I will more than likely have to go into the private sector. I’ve taken Joan Ling’s three housing courses. For me, at least with my background in engineering, I’m well-suited to go into real estate development, hopefully with some affordable housing development component. Luskin really prepares you a lot. I was looking at jobs earlier this week, and I realized that I am qualified for real estate financial analyst, and I’d never thought about doing this for a career.

Black Caucus Gathering Focuses on Empowerment Sanctuary Event continues a 10-year tradition of recognizing black culture and celebrating its importance at UCLA

By Aaron Julian

“Shadowed beneath thy hand, may we forever stand, True to our God, true to our native land.”

This closing couplet of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” often referred to as the Black American National Anthem,” rang out at the Luskin School of Public Affairs on May 16, 2017, marking the start of the 10th annual Sanctuary Event hosted by the Department of Social Welfare’s Black Caucus.

Inspired by the writing of Assata Shakur and themed “Nothing to Lose but Our Chains,” the Sanctuary Event is held each year at the time of Malcolm X’s birthday on May 17. It focuses on issues of importance to people of color, particularly the black community. Topics of discussion this year included the role of intersectional identities and communication among and between different communities, as well as empowering and informing UCLA Luskin students about how to proceed in the current social and political climate.

Larthia Dunham of the social welfare field education faculty described how the event’s inauguration was driven by a need to recognize black culture and its place at UCLA and in the greater Westwood area.

“We have to understand that being black is very important in identifying who we are, why we’re this way, and what our culture is all about,” Dunham said.

A traditional libation was then poured out as a way of honoring and remembering important past and present figures, as well as friends and family. Harambee, meaning, “let’s pull together,” was said in response following each of Dunham’s processions.

Continuing with the themes of traditions and culture, the Black Caucus members provided and served food described as fundamental for classic celebrations.

Dunham then detailed the historic role that food and sharing meals has had going back generations in the black community and in building relationships. “We bring food because food brings peace. If there is someone you don’t like, go have coffee, break bread and enjoy each other because you never really know what you have in common.”

Funmilola Fagbamila, activist-in-residence for the Institute on Inequality and Democracy at UCLA Luskin and the arts and culture director for Black Lives Matter Los Angeles, later joined the conversation as part of a panel to provide insights about her work as an author, activist and intellectual. Fagbamila encouraged a proactive engagement in social movements, but she cautioned that striking a balance between that work and other passions is crucial in maintaining effective long-term activism.

“People think if they engage thoroughly and if they try to become what they perceive as an activist or organizer or protestor that they would have to sacrifice their joy. You don’t need to sacrifice your joy, your wellness and your happiness to be effective,” Fagbamila said.
Fagbamila further explored the topic of identity by imparting her own experiences as a woman of Nigerian descent. “My family life is very much informed by being a Nigerian person, but when I walk around in the world you can’t tell I’m a Nigerian … you can just tell that I’m a black woman.”

A Super Celebration Students, staff, faculty and alumni gather for a fun-filled night of trivia and camaraderie during Super Quiz Bowl 2017

The fifth iteration of UCLA Luskin’s annual trivia competition took place June 1, 2017, inside a tent on the 3rd Floor Terrace of the Public Affairs Building.

Organized by Luskin Director of Events Tammy Borrero with assistance from students and numerous staff members, the structure of the event was changed this year, truly making it a Super Quiz Bowl. It was a competitive night, with more than 100 people in attendance and various teams of students, faculty, alumni and staff from all three Luskin departments still in contention until final tallies were made.

With a boisterous surge in the final rounds, Social Welfare’s Sergio [Serna] and the Bad Mama Jamas rallied to victory as the first-place team. Runners-up were the Masters of Trivia Policy, a last-minute entry helmed by Maciek Kolodziejczak of Public Policy. In his first Quiz Bowl, Michael Manville of Urban Planning and his No Free Parking team got off to a strong start and held on to take third-place honors.

Grad Night funding was based on participation this year, and 50 percent of the proceeds will be divided among all three UCLA Luskin departments because each department fielded at least one team.  The Department of Public Policy won the other categories related to attendance and total team participation. 

As the pictures posted to the UCLA Luskin Flickr feed show, it was a fun-filled night of friendly competition that brought the entire Luskin community together to wrap up the academic year. 

Quiz Bowl 2017

‘Unsung Hero,’ Leader in South L.A. Named 2017 Social Welfare Alumna of the Year Aurea Montes-Rodriguez MSW ’99 was inspired to develop a healthier generation by award namesake Joseph Nunn

By Stan Paul

Aurea Montes-Rodriguez, this year’s Social Welfare Alumna of the Year, has a lifelong personal and professional connection to South Los Angeles.

The 1999 Master of Social Welfare graduate of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs came to California from Mexico at the age of 3, grew up in South Los Angeles, witnessed firsthand the 1992 riots, and has gone on to be a leader and change agent in the community.

In recognition of her work and commitment to the community, Montes-Rodriguez was presented the Joseph A. Nunn Alumna of the Year Award on May 20, 2017. The award is bestowed annually in honor of Joseph A. Nunn, UCLA alumnus, former vice chair and longtime director of field education for the UCLA Department of Social Welfare.

“I am surprised and very humbled to be nominated and selected, especially for an award named after Dr. Nunn,” said Montes-Rodriguez. “When I was a student I looked up to him and admired the work he had done around juvenile criminal justice — thinking about ways we could do a better job eliminating the cradle-to-prison pipeline so we can develop a healthier generation.”

Montes-Rodriguez, who now serves as executive vice president of organizational growth at Community Coalition, a social justice nonprofit based in South Los Angeles, was honored at a social welfare alumni gathering in Los Angeles.

Toby Hur MSW ’93, a longtime member of the social welfare field faculty, nominated Montes-Rodriguez and shares some history with her.

“My history with Community Coalition goes back to 1992,” Hur said. “In the aftermath of the rioting that rocked a city marred by racial division and economic disparity, a small group of community leaders emerged, such as Karen Bass, a current congresswoman, of Community Coalition, and B.H. Kim of Koreatown Youth and Community Center and a Luskin Senior Fellow, in order to bring forth a constructive agenda for healing and rebuilding of L.A.”

Hur said that, as a graduate student during that time, he became very involved in those efforts. The experience has deeply impacted his professional career and teaching in the ensuing years.

“Community Coalition has stayed true to its roots and continues to develop community capacities and future leaders,” Hur said, adding that Luskin students continue to be trained at Community Coalition in grassroots organizing, advocacy and political action. “Aurea is one of the unsung heroes, the all-important and crucial glue, holding the organization and its causes together. I think she is well overdue for recognition as one of the best Bruin MSWs.”

Since joining Community Coalition, Montes-Rodriguez has made significant strides in helping the organization grow and she has led efforts to raise funds to purchase and renovate its current headquarters in South L.A. “To be nominated by someone who understands the importance of building multiracial coalitions is really special,” she said of Hur.

She credits her success and inspiration to lessons learned at UCLA Luskin. Among those were leadership seminars led by Nunn, who focused on social welfare beyond the individual treatment model to build organizations and change the systems that prevent people from reaching their potential, taking on leadership roles to change those situations. She cited courses on leadership by social welfare professor Zeke Hasenfeld, as well as courses on grant writing and fundraising — skills that she said “were critical in helping us build community coalitions, long-term fundraising strategy and growing the organization.”

“The late Mary Brent Wehrli really brought us out to communities and organizations who were doing great work, went out of her way to help us understand the theory with the practice in communities,” Montes-Rodriguez said. Wehrli, a former member of the field faculty, was “one person who really pushed us to see leadership opportunities and a contribution we could make to the social welfare field, providing us with concrete training.”

“Since I graduated, that’s exactly the work I have been doing … organizing everyday people about having a voice in addressing the most-pressing issues so they can be the drivers of change,” Montes-Rodriguez said.

Another of Montes-Rodriguez’s mentors is Gerry Laviña, director of field education at the Department of Social Welfare.

“Community Coalition has hosted MSW interns for decades, provided summer jobs for our MSW students through their youth programs, and has hired many of our graduates — some like Aurea who remain and create and build capacity,” Laviña said. “Whenever someone asks about an example of a successful grassroots organization or doubts the possibility of African-American and Latino communities effectively working together, I hold up Community Coalition as a shining example.”

Montes-Rodriguez is a big reason why Community Coalition has been successful, Laviña said. “Aurea has had a part in all of this, and has been steadfast and resolved in her commitment to giving back to the community where she was both personally and professionally raised,” he said. “I have always appreciated Aurea’s blend of strength and humility, her commitment to her family and community. Los Angeles needs leaders like Aurea, and we need to highlight her as someone to aspire to.”