Steve Kerr Has More on His Mind Than Winning The NBA head coach speaks with UCLA Luskin about life, justice and important lessons Americans still need to learn

By Les Dunseith

One of NBA coach Steve Kerr’s oldest memories occurred in the early 1970s when he attended his first NCAA basketball game at Pauley Pavilion with his father, then a UCLA professor. It was the heyday of UCLA men’s basketball, when the Bruins rolled through season after unbeaten season on the way to 10 championships in 12 years. The opponent was highly ranked Maryland.

“I was 6 or 7 years old, and UCLA wins the game by one point. The place is electric. Every seat is sold, and it’s an incredible game,” Kerr remembered, telling the story Oct. 7 during a webinar hosted by UCLA Luskin.  “There’s all these All-American players on the court, and I’m thinking, you know, that was amazing!”

As he exited the arena with his father, Malcolm Kerr, they overheard Bruin fans complaining about UCLA’s performance. “What’s wrong with the team?” the fans said. “We only won by one point.”

Young Steve stopped suddenly. “‘But dad, we won?’ And my dad had to say, ‘Well, son, I’m going to have to teach you about context.’”

When a team wins championships, “fans are not just interested in winning, they’re interested in how they win and how dominant they look,” Kerr told an online audience of about 200 students, alumni, faculty, staff and other invited guests while helping the Luskin School celebrate a new academic year. Dean Gary Segura moderated the talk, which touched on Kerr’s role as a player, coach and outspoken advocate for social justice.

Understanding expectations has meaning for Kerr in his role as head coach of the Golden State Warriors, a team that went to the NBA finals five years in a row, winning three championships, before finishing the most recent season with the worst record in the league amid injuries and player departures.

Moving forward, Kerr can draw inspiration from his interactions with a who’s who of coaching role models from college and professional basketball, starting with John Wooden. During his father’s 20 years as a political science professor at UCLA, Steve got to know Wooden, and even served as a ball boy for the Bruins when he was 13 and 14 years old.

“I have [Wooden’s] photo hanging on the wall at my office in San Francisco,” Kerr said during the audience Q&A portion of the webinar. “He is one of the people I really admire and look up to as much as anybody — not only in the basketball world, but just in terms of people who have impacted me and the way I try to coach.”

Kerr’s Bruin connections run deep. So why didn’t he play for UCLA?

“I would have if they had wanted me,” Kerr said, laughing. “I’ll just say I was a late bloomer” — a statement borne out during his days as an NBA player when he earned five championship rings and set a still-unmatched record for career 3-point shooting success.

Kerr ended up playing college ball at the University of Arizona, where he learned from another great coach, Lute Olson.

“Coach Olson really kind of set the stage for my entire career,” Kerr said. “You’re so impressionable at that age, and to learn from one of the great coaches and to feel that presence — in that structure and with that wisdom — every day was incredible.”

This was in the 1980s, a couple of years after Malcolm Kerr had left UCLA to become the president of American University in Beirut. Then, during Steve’s freshman year at Arizona in 1984, Malcolm Kerr was killed on the Beirut campus by two gunmen. “He was one of the early victims of Middle East terrorism,” Kerr said. “And, obviously, it was a devastating time for our family.”

Steve Kerr is active today in efforts to prevent gun violence and provide guidance to troubled youth. But he doesn’t see the tragedy as the defining moment in shaping his worldview and that of his siblings.

“It was the way we were raised,” Kerr said, reflecting on his upbringing on and around the UCLA campus. “My mom and dad always exposed us to a lot of people from all over the world.”

His mother, Ann Kerr, has worked at UCLA since 1991 and still coordinates the Visiting Fulbright Scholar Enrichment Program for the International Institute. His siblings include John, who teaches at Michigan State University; Susan, an author and an elected county councillor in Great Britain; and Andrew, a businessman working in Washington, D.C.

Steve Kerr played pro basketball, then became a sportscaster and later a coach.

“I was definitely kind of the black sheep of the family. My siblings have all pretty much gone on to various educational endeavors. My mom likes to say that she has two Ph.D.s, an M.B.A. and an NBA,” Kerr joked.

Then again, Kerr’s job involves helping a group of people to learn and work together to achieve a goal. “Coaching is just teaching,” Kerr said. “It dawned on me after a while that I actually wasn’t as big of a black sheep as I thought I was.”

Few athletes have careers as varied or successful as Kerr, an eight-time NBA champion — five as a player on the Chicago Bulls and San Antonio Spurs, and three as coach of the Warriors.

In Chicago, he played for another legendary coach, one known for then-unusual tactics like meditating before games. “Phil Jackson taught me that you can be totally unique — and even weird — and be an incredible basketball coach.”

In San Antonio, he played for Gregg Popovich, who remains a close friend and mentor and is “just an incredible human being.”

“He’s the one who taught me … not to be afraid to speak out,” said Kerr in reference to his own reputation as an outspoken advocate for progressive political viewpoints.

During the webinar, Kerr answered questions about basketball:

  • Could he beat Steph Curry in a game of H-O-R-S-E? “In theory, yes, but probably not.”

And he answered questions about his life:

  • Would he ever consider a run for public office? “No. I’m a basketball coach and that’s what I love to do.”

But Kerr and the dean spent a good portion of their hour together talking about societal issues, the sorts of things that are on the minds of the faculty, students and alumni of a school that educates future social workers, urban planners and policy experts.

So, what’s getting him hot under the collar lately?

“Well, voter suppression is probably the thing that makes me the angriest right now,” Kerr responded. “We have this country that we all want to believe in. And we want to believe in the words that were written in the Constitution, and the words that were uttered by our founding fathers.”

But, to Kerr, people need to recognize the “parallel universe” that was often hidden beneath the surface of the American ideal.

“This parallel universe has existed from Day 1 in this country — where slavery existed and Black people were considered to be three-fifths of a human being in the Constitution,” Kerr told Segura. “What this social movement is about right now is trying to reconcile these parallel universes. How can we be so proud of our country and so thankful, and yet at the same time really be staring at some of the things that are still going on like … voter suppression? It’s really disheartening.”

The 2019-20 NBA season was suspended for months because of COVID-19, then restarted amid protests about anti-Black violence by police. When play resumed, coaches and players let their views be known, such as wearing slogans in support of racial justice on their uniforms.

“I’m very proud that the NBA has taken a leadership role with this issue,” Kerr said.

During a 15-year playing career that spanned all of the 1990s, Kerr was on teams with some of the most famous basketball players of all time. Circumstances, he noted, have changed.

“Social media didn’t exist. And so somebody like Michael Jordan, for example, rarely spoke out about politics or social issues. But at the same time, he wasn’t really asked, and that’s the biggest difference,” Kerr noted.

Kerr singled out Andre Iguodala, a former Warrior who is now with the Miami Heat, as a current player whose activism has been influential for him.

“I had one of the most meaningful conversations I’ve ever had on race with Andre,” Kerr said, recalling a chat at the team’s practice facility about how white America can be oblivious about reconciling with the nation’s past.

“Andre, he just said, very matter of factly, ‘Coach, have you ever heard about Black Wall Street?’”

Kerr had not, so he went online to learn the horrific story of the 1921 massacre of Black residents by a white mob in the Tulsa, Oklahoma, suburb of Greenwood, known as the Black Wall Street because of the relative wealth of many of its residents.

The tragic nature of the story isn’t the only reason this incident is significant to Kerr, who “has read a lot of books about history and thoroughly enjoyed American history classes in high school and college, and was a history minor in college. Not one person ever taught me about the Tulsa race riots.”

For Kerr, the son of educators and the recipient of wisdom from legendary coaches known not just for winning games but for shaping young lives, the path ahead is clear.

The tragedy of Black Wall Street “should be an entire chapter in every high school student’s textbook,” Kerr said. “We have to face what we’ve done, and the evils and the awfulness that has existed.”

Watch the webinar.

4 Faculty Additions Join UCLA Luskin Social Welfare and Urban Planning Incoming academic experts focus on environmental, racial and health disparities in real and virtual environments — from social media to soil

By Stan Paul

Faculty hires in UCLA Luskin Social Welfare and Urban Planning for the new academic year bring a wealth of new research and teaching, reinforcing the School’s commitment to the health and well-being of individuals and communities.

Assistant Professor Brian Keum has joined Social Welfare. His general research emphasizes the reduction of health and mental health disparities among marginalized identities and communities. In particular, Keum studies the impact of online racism – and online racial violence – on psychosocial outcomes and health disparities. Drawing on his clinical experience, he looks at mental health issues, offline attitudinal and behavioral changes, and risky health behaviors that include substance abuse. A second area of his research is Asian American mental health, as well as multicultural and social justice issues that relate to how mental health counseling is provided.

“As a scientist-practitioner, I am excited to teach both practice and research courses,” said Keum, who will be offering graduate instruction in advanced social work practice and applied statistics in social work.

Judith Perrigo, an infant and early childhood mental health specialist, is also an assistant professor of social welfare. Amid the unusual circumstances of this academic year, Perrigo looks forward to exploring innovative teaching methods while providing meaningful learning experiences in both foundational and advanced social welfare practice courses. This includes sharing some of her recent research on how parents of low socioeconomic status with children in grades 3 to 6 are coping with the unexpected educational demands during the pandemic.

“Our findings suggest that the closure of schools and stay-at-home orders initiated by the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated pre-existing parental involvement challenges,“ Perrigo explained, noting that families of lower socioeconomic status were more negatively impacted because they “had fewer affordances to buffer the new stressors.”

Perrigo draws from her personal background as a Salvadoran immigrant and 15 years of applied clinical work with children and families to inform her scholarship. Specifically, her research focuses on the well-being of young children — birth to 5 years old — with emphasis on holistic and transdisciplinary prevention and early intervention initiatives with underserved, vulnerable and marginalized populations.

José Loya joins Urban Planning as an assistant professor after recently completing his Ph.D. in sociology at the University of Pennsylvania. At UCLA Luskin he will teach quantitative analysis in urban planning and a seminar on Latino urban issues in the spring.

“My research focuses on ethno-racial disparities in the mortgage market, before, during and after the Great Recession. More generally, I am interested in the barriers minorities face in the homeownership market,” said Loya, who is also a faculty associate at the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center.

“I am excited to join UCLA’s Luskin School of Public Affairs and working and engaging our students in the community,” added Loya, who worked for several years in positions related to community development and affordable housing in South Florida. He then earned a master’s in statistics from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. “I’ve already moved to Los Angeles, so I’ll be here locally even if courses are online,” Loya said.

Kirsten Schwarz, who holds a joint appointment as an associate professor of urban planning and environmental health sciences, started at UCLA by co-teaching policy analysis for environmental health science in the spring 2020 quarter.

“Virtually teaching my first class during a global pandemic and social uprising was not how I expected to kick off my career at UCLA,” Schwarz said. “But I was so impressed, and encouraged by, the flexibility, compassion and integrity that the students brought to the experience. It was certainly memorable.”

Schwarz is an urban ecologist working at the interface of environment, equity and health. Her research focuses on environmental hazards and amenities in cities and how their distribution impacts minoritized communities. She recently led an interdisciplinary team through a community-engaged green infrastructure design that integrated participatory design and place-based solutions to achieve desired ecosystem services.

“I’m interested in connecting those areas right between urban planning and environmental health sciences,” said Schwarz, whose work on lead-contaminated soils has helped document how bio-geophysical and social variables relate to the spatial patterning of lead in soils.

Most recently she received a transdisciplinary research acceleration grant from UCLA’s Office of Research and Creative Activities in conjunction with Jennifer Jay, a professor in UCLA’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Their proposal, “Multimedia Assessment of Children’s Lead Exposure in Los Angeles,” will involve work with graduate students in Civil and Environmental Engineering.

Schwarz also has expertise in science communication and in engaging communities in the co-production of science. She has been recognized by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), which named her a 2018-2019 Fellow in the Leshner Leadership Institute in the Center for Public Engagement with Science and Technology. Prior to

joining UCLA, she was an associate professor of environmental science at Northern Kentucky University, where she directed the Ecological Stewardship Institute.

Several other faculty searches have been completed, with four additional faculty members set to join Social Welfare and Urban Planning in the coming year. Those new additions include Adam Millard-Ball, who will arrive in January as an associate professor of urban planning, coming from the University of California, Santa Cruz. Millard-Ball holds a doctorate from Stanford University’s School of Earth Sciences and was selected in the urban data science search. He studies environmental economics and transportation, “adding to our strengths in those fields,” said Dean Gary Segura in a memo announcing his appointment.

Mark Vestal, also starting in January, was selected as an assistant professor by UCLA Luskin Urban Planning in a search on critical Black urbanism, Segura announced. A historian by training, Vestal’s work looks at the history of discriminatory planning and housing policy in Los Angeles and beyond.

Fall 2021 newcomers will include Margaret “Maggie” Thomas in Social Welfare and Veronica Terriquez in Urban Planning.

Thomas is a scholar of family and child well-being and is completing her Ph.D. in social work at Boston University this year. She previously earned an MSW degree from the University of Illinois. Her work focuses on young children in families facing serious economic hardship, as well as children and youth from minority communities and with LGBTQ identities.

Terriquez has been jointly appointed to Urban Planning and UCLA’s Department of Chicano Studies where she will take on the leadership of the Chicano Studies Research Center at UCLA. Terriquez, who earned a Ph.D. in sociology at UCLA, returns to the Westwood campus from UC Santa Cruz. Her work is principally focused on youth and young adult social development, leadership and intergroup relations, and how they are affected by various public policies.

In Memoriam: VC Powe A pivotal figure for decades at the Luskin School, Powe oversaw career counseling and programs in which public officials, community leaders and alumni mentor students

By Les Dunseith and Stan Paul

Longtime UCLA Luskin staff member VC Powe, executive director of external programs and career services, died Sept. 16 following complications from a serious illness. She was 66.

Powe BA ’75, MBA ’77 joined the School in 1998 and served in a variety of roles over the years, including director of alumni and government relations. From 1990-97, she worked for the UCLA Alumni Association. Powe also was an adjunct faculty member at Los Angeles City College, where she taught marketing and management.

At the time of her death, Powe, a longtime Culver City resident who was born in Los Angeles, oversaw counseling, internships and fellowships, plus the Bohnett Fellows and Senior Fellows programs, at the Luskin School. Powe, who was widely known on campus simply as VC, was instrumental in developing deep ties to civic leaders. 

“VC Powe was a powerful advocate for the Luskin School, its students and alumni,” Dean Gary Segura said. “She worked tirelessly to draw attention to our excellent students, and she never stopped trying to expand opportunities for them to partner with leading members of the Los Angeles community.”

Segura noted that her work with the Luskin Senior Fellows program connected UCLA Luskin students with elected officials, CEOs and the leaders of nonprofit, educational and philanthropic organizations.

“She paved the pathways for more careers in public affairs than we can count. The Luskin School of Public Affairs lost a bit of its heart this week,” Segura said. “VC will be deeply missed.”

Powe’s death was unrelated to COVID-19. Angelus Funeral Home in Los Angeles made arrangements amid the ongoing pandemic for an Oct. 6 viewing, where friends and family paid their respects.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that any gifts in VC’s honor be made to the VC Powe Memorial Fund, which will support UCLA Luskin-wide fellowships, Career Services and the Senior Fellows program. Gifts can also be made by check payable to the UCLA Foundation. Please include “Fund #14300” in the memo field and mail to the UCLA Foundation, PO Box 7145, Pasadena, CA 91109-9903.

Anyone wishing to send cards and other non-perishable items in her memory can address them to VC Powe’s family in care of the Luskin School of Public Affairs, 337 Charles E. Young Drive East, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1656. Please note that on-campus mail delivery is only available via the U.S. Post Office at this time.

A Luskin School memorial will be announced at a later date.

In recognition of her role strengthening civic life in the region, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors announced that it will adjourn in her honor on Sept. 29. The Los Angeles City Council will also adjourn in her honor that day.

Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, who has longstanding ties to the Luskin School’s leadership programs, called Powe the “perfect combination of supreme competence, kindness and empathy.” 

“VC advocated tirelessly for students and worked to help so many individually,” Kuehl said. “When I was lucky enough to serve as a Regents’ professor, I would have been completely lost without her generous time. She will be deeply missed.”

Associate Dean Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, distinguished professor of urban planning, noted Powe’s contributions to vital programs such as Senior Fellows and Luskin City Hall Day and her guidance in helping students start their careers.

“It is so hard to imagine our Luskin School without VC. She was the nicest, kindest person, and utterly committed to our school and its alums,” Loukaitou-Sideris said. “She did her work with tremendous professionalism and grace, and always with a smile on her face.”

Loukaitou-Sideris added that Powe’s longtime role at the annual commencement was especially memorable.

“I will always remember VC, hidden from the large crowds, steadily guiding us toward one more commencement, orchestrated to perfection,” Loukaitou-Sideris said. 

Powe’s involvement in commencement was also a fond memory for Bill Parent, who recently retired from the Luskin School after serving as an instructor and member of the staff, where he worked alongside Powe for many years.

“My favorite mental image of VC Powe will forever be her standing front and center on the Royce Hall stage at the very end of commencement, smiling radiantly, her arms raised to signal the graduates to rise and go take on the world,” Parent recalled.

Powe’s enthusiastic guidance of UCLA Luskin students and alumni is well-known, but she was equally supportive of staff members such as Caroline Lee, who joined the Luskin School in July 2019 as a career counselor. 

“VC was the most amazing mentor and boss,” said Lee, the assistant director of career services. “She is the reason that I felt so comfortable moving across the country to begin a new chapter in my life. She had the unique quality to make people feel at ease and always welcome.”

Lee continued: “I have never seen someone more dedicated to the success of students.” 

Her contributions were many, but Powe’s success with the Senior Fellows program stands out to many as a signature accomplishment. Before she took over, Parent recalled, the fledgling Senior Fellows program was “pretty weak tea,” but that did not deter Powe.

“Year-by-year, fellow-by-fellow, student-by-student, event-by-event, VC nurtured the program into a rewarding honor for scores of fellows and hundreds of students, a centerpiece of engagement for the Luskin School and UCLA in the world of public leadership,” Parent said. 

Past and present fellows include elected officials, corporate CEOs, government leaders, entrepreneurs, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists, prominent educators and numerous public servants with ties to the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors. 

Powe was adept at matching the expectations of students to what fellows could reasonably offer as mentors, then maintaining contact and paying attention to the details to make things work, Parent said. This approach led to similar success with the Bohnett Fellows program and a wide range of internship programs under Powe’s guidance. 

“Near as I could tell, VC’s strongest faith was in the power of education — as a teacher, an administrator, and as a lifelong student of management and leadership,” Parent said. “She believed in UCLA. She believed in the Luskin School and the missions of our three graduate departments. In other words, she believed deeply in us. She dedicated her career, as a vocation, to helping every one of us succeed.”

Powe was also known as someone who went out of her way to welcome new additions to the Luskin School.

“When I first came back to UCLA in 2015, one of the first people who took me under her wing was VC,” recalled longtime elected official Zev Yaroslavsky, a UCLA alumnus who is now director of the Los Angeles Initiative at the Luskin School. “Her engaging smile, understated demeanor, intense commitment to our students, soothing voice, and total embrace of me let me know that I was back home.”

Yaroslavsky recalled that during his time as a public official he came to know Powe as UCLA Luskin’s emissary. 

“She came to meetings in my office, asked for advice on how to place more students in jobs, and proselytized me on the great work being done at Luskin,” Yaroslavsky said of Powe’s relentless efforts to advance the School and its students. “She was preaching to the converted.”

Former colleagues across the UCLA campus recalled some of Powe’s other contributions. Keith Parker, a former assistant vice chancellor of government and community relations, said Powe was a friend and colleague for more than 25 years.

“She was someone that always offered a smile, extended a helping hand and took a moment to let you know that she cared about you,” Parker said. “I always told her VC stood for ‘Very Caring.’”

In the 1990s, when Powe was working for the UCLA Alumni Association, outreach to alumni of African American descent was a key focus. “She developed a number of successful outreach programs that brought alums back to UCLA as engaged, supportive alumni,” Parker said. “She worked on the initial Summer Youth Employment Program that brought low-income high school students to UCLA for not only employment experiences, but also exposure to the benefits of higher education.” 

After she moved over to the Luskin School, Powe was the principal partner with UCLA Government and Community Relations in the annual School of Public Affairs Day at City Hall during which UCLA Luskin graduate students visit with the mayor, council members and department heads for the City of Los Angeles. 

Those meetings focus on an important issue facing the city each year, and the students subsequently produce a white paper with well-researched recommendations, Parker said. “The City Hall Day programs could not have happened without VC.”

Powe’s career history in the late 1970s and 1980s includes employment at May Co., as well as positions in advertising and marketing at the Los Angeles Times. She worked for five years with Inroads, helping to produce business seminars, and she taught business economics at the junior high school level for two years.

She was a former United Way/Kellogg Training Center certified volunteer trainer, a member of the Southern California Leadership Network and a volunteer for the UCLA Alumni Association’s scholarship selection programs. 

She held professional certifications in Organization and Human Resource Development (sponsored by the American Society for Training and Development) and Online Teaching from UCLA Extension. 

Powe was preceded in death by her mother, Vivian Carrell (Burbridge) Hines. She is survived by her father, Bolden Eugene Hines; her husband, Keith Powe; and three sisters, Brenda Kelly, Roberta Lecour and La Lita Green.

Friends and former colleagues of VC Powe are encouraged to contribute their reminiscences for an online tribute page by commenting on the UCLA Luskin Facebook page or by emailing news@luskin.ucla.edu.

Bruins Play Key Roles in Report Calling for Sweeping Reforms in L.A. Dean Gary Segura and Luskin School students are among the many UCLA contributors to ambitious effort to reimagine life in the region from a racial justice perspective

By Les Dunseith

A new report that lays out a road map for the transformation of the Los Angeles region built on racial equity is rooted in research from the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. The report’s co-authors are Gary Segura, dean of the Luskin School, and Manuel Pastor, director of the University of Southern California’s Equity Research Institute.

The paper, “No Going Back: Together for an Equitable and Inclusive Los Angeles,” was issued Sept. 9 and shared with a UCLA audience Sept. 15 at a virtual salon. At more than 250 pages, the report is a comprehensive examination of the hidden barriers to success that limited many of the city’s residents even before COVID-19, but have been exacerbated since the pandemic began.

A wide swath of the Bruin community contributed to the paper. Numerous faculty and staff members provided new research, offered historical context and analyzed existing data. UCLA alumni serve on the Committee for Greater LA, which developed the report. And a handful of current UCLA students conducted research that fed the recommendations.

 

Those students, Antonio Elizondo, Dan Flynn, Mariesa Samba and Ellen Schwartz, share a passion for building a new Los Angeles grounded in social justice and racial equity.

Flynn, a second-year graduate student, contributed to the report’s sections on health and homelessness. His experience working with nonprofit agencies has made him acutely aware of the need to think differently about the region’s homelessness crisis.

“You’re looking at 70,000 unhoused people in Los Angeles at any given point,” Flynn said. “There’s no way to look at that issue and describe it as anything other than a failure — and a catastrophic one, with immense human cost. There has been a failure to build systems of accountability and to hold people responsible and accountable.”

Setting forth a strategy to create accountability to end homelessness is among 10 guiding principles (PDF) that underlie the report, which also tackles economic justice, mental and physical health, child and family well-being and other topics.

Samba is pursuing a master’s in social welfare and is a graduate student researcher at the Black Policy Project at UCLA. She contributed to sections of the report that related to children, families, mental health and justice.

“A lot of the work that I do is within the community with folks who are directly impacted by the pandemic,” she said. “Especially with this project, my top-line goal was to uplift those voices and experiences into the research.”

The report builds on the personal insights of the researchers and the people they interviewed to identify social problems, pairing those lived experiences with data to point toward solutions. For example, research findings about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on education highlighted the region’s racial disparities. Under Los Angeles’ safer-at-home orders, Black and Latino schoolchildren have been far less likely to be able to engage successfully in remote learning because of a lack of computers and access to high-speed internet connections.

As Segura noted during a Sept. 9 webinar to unveil the report to the general public, public officials are expected to ensure that residents have access to electricity, trash collection and a sewer system — so why not something as vital as the internet?

“The time has come for us to think about the internet as what it has become,” he said. “It is a civil right.”

The opportunity to think about such issues in new ways appealed to the UCLA Luskin students who played a role. Plus, there were practical benefits. For example, Schwartz was happy to work on the transportation section of the report because that’s her area of concentration as an urban planning master’s student. But her biggest takeaway from the experience was the mindset of the project’s leaders.

“What I loved seeing is how the community leaders on the committee really focused on empowerment. That’s something that I want to take with me into my own career,” she said.

“… work remains to be done to prevent those long-term effects from being catastrophic.”

—Antonio Elizondo

Elizondo, a master’s student in urban planning, said during the virtual salon that the most impactful aspect of his involvement in the project came during his review of interviews with people impacted by the health crisis and thinking about the repercussions.

“At the moment, it’s an unfolding crisis, so every policy response is a short-term response,” Elizondo said. “This project helped me realize that there will be long-term effects, and how much work remains to be done to prevent those long-term effects from being catastrophic.”

The Committee for Greater LA comprises a diverse group of civic and community leaders and a joint research team from UCLA Luskin and the USC Equity Research Institute. Initially, the committee intended primarily to address the racial disparities exposed by the pandemic, but in the wake of the recent police-involved killings of Black people and the nationwide protests that followed, its focus expanded to encompass a broader understanding of systemic racism.

The UCLA students helped Segura with the policy-related aspects of the report, which cover issues like housing affordability, immigrant rights, alternatives to incarceration, transportation and equitable access to health care, among others. Because of the pandemic, the work had to be coordinated via phone, email and Zoom sessions.

Flynn, who is pursuing a master’s in public policy, said he appreciated the chance to work directly with the dean on a project of such ambition and scope.

“What makes UCLA such a special place is that you have world-class academics and practitioners who are not just interested in generating work but are interested in mentorship and teaching and in giving opportunities to the next generation of policymakers,” he said.

As gratifying as the work was, the students realize the real work is still to come. Schwartz said she’s hopeful that society is ready to adopt the meaningful change advocated in the report.

“We live in a world where people are really isolated and don’t always know what’s going on in the community,” she said. “I hope that this report will just shed some light on issues that people are facing and that it will inspire elected officials to take action and make real, lasting changes to the system.”

Samba said her participation offered a unique opportunity to process her emotions about the extraordinary impact of the COVID-19 crisis, particularly because of how it coincided with the growing racial justice movement — and she sees cause for hope.

“We’re at a point in time where we are trying new things,” Samba said. “We’re able to experiment with our justice system, with our foster care system, with what social services look like, with what community care looks like. I would like to see some of those social experiments — some of those new ideas and visions — become real, and for us not to revert to the status quo. I would love to see us really, actually reimagine what a more racially equitable future looks like for the people of Los Angeles.”

Among the other UCLA connections to the effort: The Committee for Greater LA is chaired by Miguel Santana, a member of the Luskin School’s advisory board, and the project is funded in part by philanthropists who have also supported UCLA.

The Committee for Greater LA has invited interested parties, including policymakers and candidates for elected office, to join in making the #NoGoingBackLA promise, a commitment to build a more equitable and inclusive Los Angeles. Sign up at nogoingback.la.

Brown Bag Talks With Latino Leaders Show Students ‘Where Purpose Meets Passion’ Summer sessions focus on the importance of choosing career paths that make an impact

On Aug. 26, Paul Luna of HELIOS Foundation wrapped up a summer series of brown bag talks that provided guidance to the undergraduate and graduate fellows of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative at UCLA Luskin.

The sessions, which took place over Zoom this year, continued a tradition in which community leaders connect with the policy initiative’s students to discuss career paths and the importance of making an impact.

“I learned that career trajectories are not often a linear progression but instead a culmination of unexpected turns where purpose meets passion,” said policy fellow Diana Garcia, who is studying for her master of public policy at UCLA Luskin.

The brown bag series “allowed me to expose myself to the plethora of career paths available, which will allow me to give back to my Latino community,” said policy fellow Bryanna Ruiz, a political science and Chicana and Chicano Studies major at UCLA.

Each conversation ended with the same question. Here’s that question and how some of the summer speakers chose to answer:

Q: The fellows are an essential part of UCLA LPPI’s strategy to invest in leaders dedicated to making an impact. Returning to the normalcy we remember is no longer an option. We must reimagine a world that centers the needs of the most vulnerable communities and advocates opportunity for all. In a time that asks that we invest in new leadership, what does leadership look like amid COVID-19 and in a world after COVID-19?

Luis Perez, legal services director, Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA): We’re not talking about helping out individuals anymore, but systemic change. That’s the framing that people need to start adopting. Helping one person at a time has not changed the systems of oppression that we experience. This is the right time to start reframing the model of systemic change. Systemic change, in many ways, reflects policy change. The Supreme Court looks to society’s expectations of one another as much as they are looking into laws. Laws need to reflect what people think, and they change with society. What are the ways in which we can change the system?

Francela Chi de Chinchilla, vice president of partnerships at Equis Labs: There has been a reframing on what work can be and what to value because of this pandemic. There is a lot of writing already on what leadership in a workplace should look like because of COVID-19. I am grateful that the companies I have worked for have recognized the importance of valuing the whole person and work-life balance, but now I have a baby and I can’t work all day long. I have to stop working and take care of her. This time has allowed me to be more patient and forgiving with myself.

Noerena Limón, senior vice president of public policy and industry relations at the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals: The bolder you are, the farther you’ll get. This is the time where you form coalitions. I have found that the COVID-19 pandemic has allowed me and housing experts to forge some of the best coalition work that I have ever seen happen, because we don’t have to travel to meetings, we are constantly checking in with each other, constantly giving each other the latest information. I would say that we need to ensure that we are working in coalitions and to be bold.

Juan Cartagena, president and general counsel of LatinoJustice PRLDEF: The good news is that there are multiple examples of excellent leadership happening on the ground. I have seen it in a lot of my criminal justice work with LatinoJustice. I have seen people of all age groups create intersectional conversation about the systems. I see incredible promise about immigration enforcement and criminal justice enforcement in the same breath. I encourage it. I promote it. I have a lot of hope because I have always been an optimistic person. I am not going to let the same barriers that challenged who I was when I was young, when I was picked up for no reason by police, challenge my identity. I refuse to let all of those obstacles get in the way of: I know exactly why I’m here. I’m here to help gente. My optimism extends to today. My optimism took a hit with the outrageousness of body after body being killed on tape. But then again, I talk to people, listen to people and promote people that have better ways of analyzing and connecting with others than I do. They give me a lot of hope. Keep doing what you’re doing. Be honest with yourself about your hard work.

Paul J. Luna, president and CEO of HELIOS Foundation: A great leader has a vision for the future and brings a new or clearer vision or understanding, especially during a time when we need one. In times of change and in times that we are living through today, we look to our leaders to bring that vision, to provide that guidance and, with their knowledge and understanding, to help us make the right decisions. Secondly, a great leader understands the present. We cannot have decisions that are being made for political reasons, and not for the general welfare and health for our community and citizens — especially during this pandemic when we know that communities of color and low-income communities are more directly impacted. Thirdly, a great leader has an appreciation for the history and the past and can acknowledge who came before them. For any leader to think that they are uniquely in the position to lead because of who and what they are or how uniquely bright and talented they are — and don’t appreciate that there are people who came before them and who paid dues and made sacrifices so that they can have the opportunity to lead — if they don’t appreciate that, they will never truly be able to lead successfully and into the future. Honor the past and those who came before you, acknowledge their contributions. I would not have gotten to Stanford University if my dad was not willing to work at a copper mine for 45 years. Leadership will look different than it did before, and the people who are given the opportunity to lead will hopefully involve more women and people of color and from different backgrounds. You all reflect and represent the great future.

Dukakis on Public Leadership in a Time of Crisis The former governor of Massachusetts and Democratic nominee for president shares his insights on leadership

By Stan Paul

As the former governor of Massachusetts and a onetime Democratic nominee for president, UCLA Luskin faculty member Michael Dukakis knows a lot about leading during a crisis.

“The only thing that I had that, from a state standpoint, came even close to [the coronavirus crisis] was the famous blizzard of ’78,” said Dukakis, recalling a catastrophic storm that struck New England states and shut down air, rail and highways. Some commuters were trapped in their cars, and the storm destroyed homes and forced people to evacuate, and find food and shelter.

Thankfully, Dukakis’ secretary of public safety, Charles Barry, “just was obsessive on emergency planning,” he said.  “We had a detailed plan for dealing with emergencies and I said, ‘You run it, and you tell me what to say every afternoon at 3 o’clock,’ because I had shut down all traffic and all these other things and, fortunately, came out of it in great shape.”

Dukakis teaches a policy course on institutional leadership at UCLA Luskin each winter quarter, and it focuses on case studies that include his own experiences in government and public service. He stressed the importance of preparing public managers well, noting that graduate students should be serious about learning how to run an agency and deliver the goods during a crisis.

“If you are not organized for this, and you don’t have really superb people, look out,” Dukakis said. “Whoever is in charge should be someone who knows what he’s doing.”

The interview with Dukakis took place shortly after the stunning reversal of fortune of presidential candidate Joe Biden.

“This is an extraordinary year. What’s happened over the last 10 days is beyond extraordinary,” Dukakis said a few days after Biden swept to victory in 10 of 15 Democratic primary contests on Super Tuesday, March 3. “Nobody would have predicted it, including yours truly, and somebody smarter than me is going to have to try to figure out how it happened.”

Normally, at the end of the winter quarter, Dukakis meets with faculty and staff at the Luskin School to share advice and make political observations. This year, that meeting had to be canceled because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, which also temporarily delayed the return of Dukakis and his wife, Kitty, to their home in Massachusetts.

“What I would say to the faculty is that what Joe needs now — and you’ve heard this rant of mine before — is a first-class, 50-state, 200,000-precinct organization … and no more reds, blues and purples, firewalls and all that nonsense,” Dukakis said about what Biden would have to do to defeat Republican incumbent Donald Trump.

A presidential candidate has to be competitive in every single state, “if only to keep the opposition busy in those states,” reiterated Dukakis, who has guided a number of UCLA Luskin alumni to careers in public office and public service over the years.

“It’s all grass roots,” he continued. “They can raise enough money to run a campaign like this, but it’s a precinct captain in every precinct, six block captains” that win an election. “It’s so dependent on the quality and caliber of the people you have working for you. I can’t emphasize that enough. I don’t think people understand just how important that is.”

An Outdoor Oasis Research spearheaded by Urban Planning's Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris contributes to a new public space designed with older adults in mind

At Golden Age Park in Los Angeles’ Westlake neighborhood, visitors can stroll along circular walkways, build strength and balance on low-impact exercise machines, practice their gardening skills, or rest in areas designed for socializing or solitude.

Spearheaded by Urban Planning Professor Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, pictured, a team from UCLA Luskin launched a study of senior-friendly open spaces based on a model from Taiwan where older adults enjoy the benefits of outdoor recreation.

Many parks in the United States are constructed with children in mind, leaving the over-65 population feeling unwelcome. The Westlake park incorporated aspects of urban planning, design and gerontology to turn a vacant lot into a small oasis with age-appropriate features.

Read more about the project.

Social Workers Identify Dire Needs as Schools Prepare to Resume Classes Research brief recommends a nationwide rapid-response initiative to coordinate guidance for education in the COVID-19 era

By Mary Braswell

As school districts nationwide grapple with how and when to safely reopen in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, a survey of 1,275 social workers across the United States shows the immensity of the challenge ahead.

The results of the survey, conducted by UCLA and research partners from Loyola University Chicago, Cal State Fullerton and Hebrew University, were published today in a research brief that calls on elected officials and other leaders to act quickly and invest heavily to bolster the nation’s schools.

In addition to concerns about online learning platforms and physical distancing protocols, the school social workers reported that many students and their families are struggling with their most basic needs during the COVID-19 era.

“They’re reporting overwhelming numbers of students who don’t have food, who don’t have stable housing or health services, whose families are suffering,” said the study’s co-author, Ron Avi Astor, a professor of social welfare at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs who also has a faculty appointment at the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies.

“The national dialogue on reopening schools is not focused on this right now, but the social workers are telling us loud and clear that meeting basic human needs for a large number of students is the big issue schools face in the fall.”

“Every school district is reinventing the wheel over and over and over again, and we think it would be wise to have a clear national strategy,” says Social Welfare Professor Ron Avi Astor.

The social workers who responded to the survey work with students from preschool to 12th grade, mostly in low-income and minority communities. Serving on the front lines in the most underserved schools, the social workers are uniquely equipped to identify the students’ social, mental health and physical needs — and to help address them once states and schools enter into a recovery phase, he said.

As one social worker who participated in the study noted, “Creating equitable education isn’t about checking off to-do lists. It’s about getting into the work of getting to know the needs of the community and meeting them where they are.”

The brief calls for the creation of a national rapid-response team including teachers, administrators, medical professionals, counselors, psychologists and social workers to provide guidance for schools as they weigh in-person, online or hybrid learning models.

“Every school district is reinventing the wheel over and over and over again, and we think it would be wise to have a clear national strategy,” Astor said.

The report also recommends that a national technical assistance center be created to help any school adjust its procedures, if needed.

“The reality around this virus is changing day to day,” Astor said. “We can’t just have one plan at the beginning of the year and wait until the end of the next year to find out it didn’t work.”

The policy recommendations call for the hiring of a massive number of social workers, nurses, psychologists and other professionals in the hardest-hit schools, many of which serve low-income and minority students.

That’s going to cost money. But the teacher can’t do it alone,” said Astor, who added that state and federal investment is needed to expand support staff in schools that have historically been underfunded.

“If our country has trillions of dollars to bail out large wealthy corporations, we also have enough to create a Marshall Plan-like program to rebuild and provide basic supports to the nation’s students, schools and communities,” he said.

The report’s authors noted that their findings come amid calls for systemic change spurred by the Black Lives Matter movement. “The question of how to reopen and reinvest in schools that serve under-resourced communities and students of color has gained prominence and urgency,” they wrote.

In addition to providing resources and support for mental health, food, housing, transportation and medical services, a team of professionals is needed to locate and reengage the large number of students — up to 30%, according to some reports — who rarely showed up once classrooms went virtual this spring, the report found.

The recommendations are aimed at avoiding a “lost generation” of students, Astor said.

“That would be the epitome of social injustice,” he said. “We need a campaign to bring students who dropped out or disengaged due to systemic inaction back into the fold. We need to show that our schools are not just about sitting in the classroom and learning math or other academic subjects — that we care about their well-being as a whole.

“That’s a very important message for our country to send this generation of students and their families.”

Read the policy brief and technical report authored by Michael S. Kelly of Loyola University Chicago, Ron Avi Astor of UCLA, Rami Benbenishty of Hebrew University, Gordon Capp of Cal State Fullerton and Kate R. Watson of UCLA.

 

Study Aims to Bolster California’s Safe-Water Efforts at Child Care Facilities Luskin Center for Innovation analysis offers wide-ranging guidance on state mandate to test drinking water for lead

By Michelle Einstein

Efforts to ensure safe drinking water for children need further support to reach their intended audience, according to an analysis of California’s mandate requiring child care facilities to test their water for lead, known as AB 2370.

The finding from the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation is part of a new report and policy brief that examine strategies for developing and implementing the state’s testing and remediation program for those sites. Among its recommendations, the report stresses the need for a dedicated funding stream to ensure the program’s success.

“We’ve learned from a similar program in California’s schools that if robust monitoring and funding doesn’t exist, much of the needed testing and remediation won’t be implemented,” said Gregory Pierce, associate director of the center and lead author of the study.

In order to be successful, Pierce predicts, the program will require five to 10 times more funding than the $5 million currently budgeted by the state.

To determine how to best implement the program, the researchers synthesized feedback from a variety of stakeholders, including child care providers, environmental justice advocates and water utilities. They found several current shortcomings, including the fact that many child care providers have not received directives to test their water and that the program’s messaging is only available in English and Spanish.

The study recommends that stakeholders at all levels have a voice in helping to design the program to correct problems. A co-design process that includes parents, day care centers, utilities and state agencies will result in higher compliance rates and confirm that all centers have their facilities tested in a timely manner, the researchers say.

It is also important that the program not increase mistrust of tap water in settings where such concern is unmerited, according to the report. For instance, after hearing about the lead testing program, some day care centers and parents began using bottled beverages, even though their drinking water was clean. Bottled water can be expensive and has a negative environmental impact.

Lead exposure poses an acute threat to young children and their families. Even low-level exposure has been connected to loss in IQ, hearing impairments and learning disabilities. Recognizing this threat, California passed Assembly Bill 2370 in 2018, which mandates the testing of drinking water for lead at licensed child care facilities built before 2010. These sites must complete the tests before 2023 and, if elevated levels are found, remedy the problem or find alternative sources of water.

AB 2370 represents a meaningful step toward further protecting children’s health, the researchers say, but implementing the law remains a huge feat. Thousands of day care centers must test and clean up their plumbing systems, and many of these facilities are experiencing funding and staffing shortages, especially during the coronavirus pandemic.

Overall, the researchers view the program as an important step toward ensuring the human right to clean water for all Californians. A more streamlined and supported implementation process, they say, would help officials better deliver on-the-ground results statewide.

The study was funded by First 5 LA, an independent public agency working to strengthen systems, parents and communities so that by 2028, all children in Los Angeles County will enter kindergarten ready to succeed in school and life.

New Scholarship Offers Support to Emerging Latino Leaders Partnership with Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute aims to bolster student diversity

By Mary Braswell

UCLA Luskin and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute have entered a partnership to support underrepresented students in the School’s graduate programs.

Beginning this fall, alumni of the institute’s programs — aimed at developing the next generation of Latino leaders — will receive a $7,500 scholarship if they go on to pursue a master’s degree at UCLA Luskin. The scholarship is renewable in the second year of study.

“We are thrilled to start building our partnership with CHCI” to further the School’s goal of diversifying its student body, said Kevin Franco, recruitment and advising officer for UCLA Luskin Public Policy.

Franco credited MPP student Michael Rios with bringing the alliance from idea to reality.

“I kept hearing about some of the initiatives we were discussing for recruiting students of color, but I felt that there was a huge missing link, that there was a solution that we weren’t really pursuing,” Rios said. That solution, he concluded, was funding.

MPP student Michael Rios initiated the partnership between the Luskin School and CHCI.

“The pool of students of color who go into a graduate program is small, and the pool who go into a policy program is even smaller,” he said. Top candidates may be weighing handsome offers of financial assistance from private universities. Students considering UCLA must also consider the cost of living on L.A.’s Westside.

“As a student of color, you often have financial hardships, so you’re going to do what makes the most sense financially,” Rios said.

To tip the balance in UCLA’s favor, Rios researched potential partners who might work with the Luskin School to attract and support a diverse student body. Late one night in the spring of 2019, he decided to act.

Impressed by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, which creates opportunities for leadership and civic engagement for young Latinos, Rios sent an inquiry via the Contact Us tab on the group’s website. It was the first modest step of a yearlong rollercoaster ride.

Along the way, Rios worked to keep both sides engaged in what often seemed like a long shot. But his patience paid off in February when CHCI and the Luskin School finalized the agreement.

In the end, Rios said, “it was a match made in heaven,” one that would benefit students of color, advance the Luskin School’s recruitment goals and support the institute’s efforts to expand its reach.

The scholarships, awarded by UCLA Luskin to students who complete CHCI’s leadership program, are renewable for a second year for those with top grades, making them worth a total of $15,000. Rios’ efforts will benefit students entering all of the School’s master’s programs: public policy, social welfare, and urban and regional planning.

With the CHCI scholarship as a model, Franco said he is interested in pursuing similar partnerships with student leadership institutes representing the black and Asian communities.

Rios anticipated that future agreements would be easier to complete.

“We have the foundation, we’ve gone through the formalities, we know what the agreements look like, and we now know that we have the backing of the faculty and staff,” he said.

Rios hopes his efforts, spurred by his own sense of isolation when he first arrived at UCLA, will resonate with ethnically diverse students considering a graduate education at the Luskin School.

“For prospective students, I think it would be cool to see that there are students in the program who are doing things to benefit other students of color,” he said.