Guiding the Next Gen of Leaders UCLA Luskin welcomes new and returning Senior Fellows from the public, private and nonprofit sectors

By Stan Paul

For more than two decades the Senior Fellows Leadership Program at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs has matched the School’s students with professionals.

UCLA Luskin Public Policy, Social Welfare and Urban Planning students have enhanced their academic experience with real-world, practical applications by making direct connections with individuals working in their areas of interest.

This year is no exception. Now in its 21st run, the program has fielded an outstanding class of fellows representing a wide range of professional expertise. The 2017-18 class includes a former U.S. Congresswoman, a current U.S. Foreign Service officer, the president of a popular local news media and cultural outlet, and an advocate for children’s rights.

“We are particularly proud of this group of Senior Fellows in part because it’s one of the largest groups of new and returning fellows,” Dean Gary Segura said in his opening remarks at an Oct. 26, 2017, welcome breakfast marking the kickoff of the 2017-18 Senior Fellows. “We are overwhelmed by your generosity. More importantly, we are overwhelmed by your willingness to share some of your valuable time with the next generation of leaders in Los Angeles and beyond. And, I mean by that, the 575 young people that make up the student body of the Luskin School of Public Affairs.”

Among the returning Senior Fellows is David Carlisle, president and CEO of Charles Drew University of Medicine. Carlisle, who also is an adjunct professor at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, served as keynote speaker for the gathering at UCLA’s Faculty Center.

“This is one of the most wonderful activities that I do every year … and I look forward to coming back because of the interaction with young people that this program provides,” Carlisle said to Luskin student mentees, faculty, staff and guests.

In his presentation, Carlisle, who has served as a Senior Fellow since 2007, stressed the continued importance of the mentor program. In an economic sense California is experiencing a “golden age,” Carlisle said. But “we are still challenged by meeting demands cultivating personal capital in the state of California and the United States … human capital. And, there are too many places in our state where people are still challenged to participate fully in the economic engine that is the state of California.”

For second-year Master of Urban and Regional Planning student Sonia Suresh, an interest in affordable housing development and working with homeless populations led to her choice of Anita Nelson as a Senior Fellow mentor. Nelson is the CEO of SFO Housing Corporation, a Los Angeles-based organization committed to providing housing and support services for homeless and low-income people.

“We had a great conversation on our backgrounds and interests, as well as the type of affordable housing her organization builds,” said Suresh, who is also a member of Planners of Color for Social Equity at UCLA Luskin. “We have set up a day for me to shadow her and her development team.”

Second-year Master of Public Policy student Bei Zhao and first-year urban planning student Alexander Salgado were partnered with returning fellow Steven Nissen, senior vice president, legal and governmental Affairs, for NBC Universal.

Zhao, a native of China who has worked in investment banking in Beijing, said that the breakfast and mentor program provided the opportunity to talk about participants’ backgrounds and professional experience. She said she was amazed by Nissen’s experience bridging the private, public and nonprofit sectors, “which is also the direction I want to build for my own career.” Zhao said she hopes to apply her public policy and finance experience in the public sector of a nonprofit organization.

Nissen and his mentees have already planned on continuing their conversation. “At the end of the breakfast, he invited us to visit NBC Universal for further meetings … which shows his generosity for the future generation,” Zhao said.

The Senior Fellows Leadership Program is part of the Luskin School’s Leadership Development Program which is led and organized each year by VC Powe, director of career services and leadership development.

In addition to Nelson, new members of the Senior Fellows are:

  • Elizabeth Calvin, senior advocate, Children’s Rights Division, Human Rights Watch
  • Rick Cole, city manager, city of Santa Monica
  • Efrain Escobedo, vice president, civic engagement & policy, California Community Foundation
  • Christine Essel, president and CEO, Southern California Grantmakers
  • Jennifer Ferro, president, KCRW
  • Anne Miskey, chief executive officer, Downtown Women’s Center
  • Erica Murray, president and CEO, California Association of Public Hospitals
  • Rick Nahmias, founder/executive director, Food Forward
  • Seleta Reynolds, general manager, Los Angeles Department of Transportation
  • Michelle Rhone-Collins, executive director, LIFT-Los Angeles
  • Lynn Schenk, former Congresswoman, California 39th Congressional District
  • Dan Schnur, director, American Jewish Committee; former director, USC Unruh Institute of Politics
  • Heather Joy Thompson, diplomat-in-residence based at UCLA Luskin; Foreign Service Officer, U.S. State Department
  • David Wright, CEO, Los Angeles Department of Water and Power

More information on the Senior Fellows Leadership Program, Senior Fellow bios and a full list of returning Senior Fellows are available online.

More Than We Can Chew UCLA Luskin's "Off the Table" series about food policy highlights leaders like Meyer Luskin who are working to turn 'excess into assets'

By Zev Hurwitz

If a batch of bread has too much flour when it makes its way to the factory assembly line, the dough is a no-go. But what is a profitable company to do when it’s left with unsellable food waste?

Recycle it, of course.

At an Oct. 18 lecture, Meyer Luskin explained the idea and logistics behind the successful national food recovery business for which he’s worked over 50 years. In conversation with Urban Planning lecturer Paula Daniels, founder of the LA Food Policy Council, Luskin said he began to think critically about food conservation early in life.

“I’ve always believed in recycling,” he said. “As a young man, I’d always worry about ‘what happens when we run out of this, or don’t have enough coal?’”

Luskin has made reducing food waste a centerpiece of his career. As chairman and chief executive officer of Scope Industries, a company he joined in 1961 that specializes in food recycling, Luskin led the expansion of an operation geared at turning food production waste into animal feed.

The concept is simple, Luskin explained to the 50-plus students, faculty and community members who attended the afternoon lecture. When a factory produces a batch of food that doesn’t meet its retail standards, assembly-line workers will place undesirable product into bins, provided by Luskin’s company.

The bins, which often contain complete products — including packaging and other inedible materials — are transported to processing plants where the grain-based food matter is separated, ground and dried to rid it of moisture, ensuring the food will survive the shipping process. The finished product is then sold to farmers to be used as livestock feed.

Luskin brought in a mason jar filled to the brim with a treated batch of animal feed to show the class. “This may have once been a huge mound of garbage,” he said, explaining that sometimes assembly-line workers treat collection bins as trash receptacles.

“This looks like something we could eat ourselves!” Daniels said, examining the jar.

Even though the finished product might actually be fit for human consumption, people are not actually allowed to eat it per Food and Drug Administration Standards, Luskin informed attendees.

“This product has been on the floor, most of the machinery is not stainless steel, but when it comes out of our dryer … we’ve killed every bug that you can imagine,” he said.

Luskin’s company began with a single processing facility in 1962, handling 100,000 pounds of food per year. Today, the company has 17 plants across the country and recycles 2.6 billion pounds of food annually. Each ton of feed sells for about $120, or six cents per pound — allowing farmers to affordably feed livestock with grain products that might have otherwise been thrown away.

Daniels is teaching an Urban Planning course titled, “Got Spam? Making of Good Food System” this quarter, focusing on “ways to build community-centric values into food system[s].”

“It’s important to hear from Meyer Luskin about the work that he’s been doing in Los Angeles and around the country for a long time and how it contributes to what we’re calling the ‘circular economy,’” Daniels said before the event. “It’s a great example for a direction that we need to go in as a society in terms of dealing with the excesses of what we produce. Meyer’s model takes that excess and makes it an asset.”

The lecture was the first speaker event of the Luskin School of Public Affairs’ ongoing “Off the Table” series of discussions, screenings and events aimed at educating the UCLA Luskin community about where our food comes from and how it can become more sustainable.

Among the themes addressed by “Off the Table” is the concept of food justice and responsibility to ensure the food that is produced does not end up in landfills — tying in neatly with the conversation about Luskin’s work and the challenge to prevent further food waste.  A full program of “Off the Table’ events can be found here.


“Harvesting Change: Fostering Partnerships for Food Security” took place Oct. 26 at the Luskin School and featured a festival held on the 3rd Floor Commons of the Public Affairs Building.

The event segued into a panel discussion hosted by Urban Planning alumna Jessica McBride MURP ’14, founder of Open Silo and project manager for three6ixty.

Fatinah Darwish, a program manager at the L.A. County Department of Public Health, Nutrition and Physical Activity, talked about county efforts to reduce food insecurity by increasing inter-agency coordination among government, healthcare and non-profit organizations.

Mental health expert Rhea Holler, Ph.D., spoke about the shame and feelings of failure often experienced by people who are unable to afford food for themselves and their families.

UCLA Luskin Senior Fellow Rick Nahmias, founder and executive director of Food Forward, talked about his organization’s history and its ongoing efforts to repurpose surplus food from fruit trees, farmers markets and other sources to provide hunger relief in Southern California.

Attendees also heard from Frank Tamborello of Hunger Action LA, which is working to end hunger and promote healthy eating through a variety of advocacy, direct service and organizing efforts that benefit Los Angeles residents.

Access a Flickr gallery from this event below.

'Harvesting Change' festival


On Nov. 7, 2017, a panel discussion titled, “Breaking Bread: Community Building with Veterans and Farming,” focused attention on the community and health benefits of urban farming for the veteran population.

The participants included moderator Kris Skinner, a retired Army captain and UCLA alumnus; physician Peter Capone-Newton MA ’09, PhD ’13 of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs; Mick Deluca, assistant vice chancellor, UCLA Campus Life; Jeremy Samson, a military veteran and urban farmer; and Julie Sardonia, program director for Veteran Farmers of America.

A reception at La Kretz Garden Pavilion in the UCLA Botanical Gardens preceded the panel discussion, which focused on efforts to revitalize a 14-acre garden on the U.S. Veteran Affairs campus in West Los Angeles. The event was timed to coincide with other university activities in advance of this year’s Veterans Day holiday.

Access a Flickr gallery from the event below.

'Breaking Bread: Community Building with Veterans and Farming'


On Nov. 13, Maria Elena Chávez’s presence at the screening of “Dolores,” a documentary depicting the life and legacy of civil rights activist Dolores Huerta, sent a powerful message about generational activism and fostering change within minority communities.

The political landscape of Huerta’s generation, where there were fights for basic human rights of farm workers, is not so different from today, Chávez said about her mother’s efforts. As the film depicts, marginalized immigrant farmworkers living in poverty were able to organize and fight for their rights, benefitting generations to come. Huerta, now 87, was at the heart of this movement, demanding respect, fair wages and access to clean water on the job.

Chávez described her mother as “unstoppable” and “passionate” as she has continued to make an impact in her community after leaving the Unified Farm Workers Movement organization and creating the Dolores Huerta Foundation.

Chávez also discussed her mother’s impact on her life and professional choices as a political filmmaker and civil rights activist. “It’s in my blood,” said Chávez, who is the daughter of Huerta and Richard Chavez, the brother of César Chávez.

She also spoke of the challenges of growing up in a politically active family and adversities she faced because of her mother’s dedication to the civil rights movement while raising 11 children.

“Maria Elena Chavez’s visit to UCLA provided a direct appeal to join the movement for justice,” said Sonja Diaz, director of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative, which co-sponsored the event. “The political landscape that mobilized farmworkers to demand respect, fair wages and workplace access to restrooms and water is not too different from today’s crisis of inequality. As the film ‘Dolores’ makes clear, farmworkers and countless other U.S. workers living in poverty have the skills to organize, and those of us with means have the obligation to support.”


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. Read about their experience coordinating a volunteer event that brought UCLA students together on the Saturday before Thanksgiving at the L.A. Kitchen to  prepare food for community service organizations such as homeless shelters and senior centers.

UCLA Luskin student volunteers gather at L.A. Kitchen, where they helped prepare Thanksgiving meals for distribution to community service organizations. Read more


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.” 


The UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and the UCLA Food Studies Graduate Certificate Program wrapped up its 10-week “Off the Table” series on urban agriculture, food security, and food policy with a moderated discussion on the sustainability of social enterprises within the food industry led by Evan Kleiman, chef and host of “Good Food” on KCRW. She was joined by panelists Anar Joshi of  Everytable, Kaitlin Mogentale of Pulp Pantry, Nick Panepinto of L.A. Kitchen and Karla T. Vasquez of SalviSoul during a gathering on Nov. 30 at the L.A. Kitchen facility in Lincoln Heights near downtown Los Angeles. Among other topics, the speakers talked about their efforts to promote healthy eating among young people. “One of our most successful programs was cooking lessons for kids,” Vasquez said during the panel discussion. “We told them, ‘You can like something, love something, or hate it. But you have to make it. There’s so much food in the world, and you get to try it all!’” Afterward, attendees had a chance to do some cooking themselves, making a vegetarian ricotta carpaccio from scratch under Kleiman’s direction. Download the recipe. View a video of the panel discussion. Browse a Flickr album of images from the event below.

“What's on the Plate? The Sustainability of Social Enterprises”

Donald Shoup Earns Highest Recognition from Planning Academy The esteemed Urban Planning professor is named Distinguished Educator by the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning

By Les Dunseith

Donald Shoup, distinguished research professor of urban planning at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, is the 2017 recipient of the Distinguished Educator Award — the highest honor bestowed by the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning (ACSP).

The award is conferred every two years to honor significant contributions to the field of planning, and it recognizes scholarly contributions, teaching excellence, public service, and contributions that have made a significant difference to planning scholarship, education, and practice. Shoup is the second current member of the UCLA Urban Planning faculty to win this award; Professor Emeritus Martin Wachs won in 2006 when he was at UC Berkeley. Two other UCLA faculty members also won the award: John Friedmann in 1987, and Harvey Perloff, the inaugural recipient in 1983.

Perloff and Shoup are two of only three people who have won both the ACSP’s Distinguished Educator Award, which is given to academics, and the American Planning Association’s National Excellence Award for a Planning Pioneer, which is given to planners who have made important innovations in planning practice. This unusual combination of both awards highlights UCLA’s commitment to both academic excellence and practical relevance in urban planning.

Shoup said the latest award is particularly gratifying because it’s for education. “Universities reward you mainly for research and publication. It’s why we say, ‘Publish or perish.’ And I think most academics believe their lasting contribution will be their research,” he said. “But I think that our most important contribution is through teaching. If we have any influence — if there is going to be anything to remember after we are gone — I think it will be through the successful careers of our students who will be changing the world for the better.”

Professor Vinit Mukhija, the current chair of Urban Planning, remembers coming to UCLA as a job candidate when Shoup was department chair. Shoup’s manner then became a model for Mukhija to follow years later. “Donald was one of the first people I met on campus. His philosophy is to help people feel comfortable so they can share and present their best ideas. He takes that philosophy into the classroom, where he likes to engage students in a deliberative, non-confrontational manner as they discuss ideas that challenge accepted policy practices.”

During his tenure of more than 40 years at UCLA, Shoup has built an impressive record of accomplishment and scholarship, producing insightful research that has been truly influential on public policy. According to Urban Planning Professor Brian Taylor, Shoup is an “internationally recognized authority on parking policies and their effect on urban development and transportation. Though largely overlooked by academics for years, parking policies significantly influence land use development and travel behavior in U.S. metropolitan areas and in rapidly developing urban areas across the globe.”

Distinguished Professor Donald Shoup talks about his research on parking policy with a delegation of planners who visited campus from China in September 2017.

“The High Cost of Free Parking,” Shoup’s widely acclaimed book (originally published in 2005, and revised and reprinted in 2011), was based on decades of research on parking policies. It also was based on years of listening.

“When I was younger, I focused much more on analysis and publication. As I began to see how policies got adopted, I became much more oriented toward the concerns of public officials,” Shoup said of how his approach has evolved over the years. “I have always tried to engage with practicing planners and city officials who will have to implement anything that I recommend — to hear their objections and concerns.”

The Distinguished Educator Award is selected from candidates nominated by faculty at ACSP member schools, which consist of universities with departments and programs offering planning degrees or programs that offer degrees affiliated with planning. Most are in the United States, but some member schools are located internationally.

“The conventional wisdom on good parking policy across the world is now defined by Donald’s research. Our students are fortunate to have been involved in the development of these ideas from the start.” — Professor Vinit Mukhija, chair of Urban Planning

The nomination letter included testimonials about Shoup from renowned scholars at UCLA and other universities:

  •  “… in recent years he has become one of the most widely cited urban planning scholars in the world. … [Shoup] is literally the world’s leading expert in the subject matter on which he specializes while admirably fulfilling all of the other responsibilities of a senior faculty member.” (Martin Wachs, UCLA and UC Berkeley)
  • “Don is probably the most creative, original planning scholar who has been at work during the past several decades, and this is certainly so within the field of transportation.” (Alan Altshuler, Harvard University)
  • “What impresses me most … is his willingness to take his ideas and writings and be fully engaged in public debate and action over them. It is not an exaggeration to say that he has been one of the most powerful forces in the nation for bringing sanity and good sense to our work with urban communities.” (Michael Dukakis, UCLA, former Massachusetts Governor and Democratic Presidential nominee)
  • “Over the years I watched him create literally many generations of students who went on to implement his ideas in cities throughout the U.S. and world. It would be difficult indeed to find another scholar who has had as much impact on the practice of urban planning.” (Genevieve Giuliano, University of Southern California)

Shoup’s most important scholarly contribution has been his research related to how parking policies affect land use and urban travel.

Said Taylor, “Through more than three dozen publications on the role of parking in cities, Professor Shoup has almost single-handedly convinced a previously skeptical audience of planners and elected officials about the critical importance of parking policy to urban planning, transforming planning practice to a degree unmatched by any of his contemporaries in the planning academy.”

“The conventional wisdom on good parking policy across the world is now defined by Donald’s research,” Mukhija said. “Our students are fortunate to have been involved in the development of these ideas from the start.”

Shoup said that his research approach tends toward finding solutions to practical problems. “My focus is to look at areas where the prices that people pay are substantially below the cost of what they consume. Traffic congestion is a good example. Drivers in peak hour traffic pay far less than the cost they impose on other drivers and in the process they aggravate traffic congestion.”

His forte — parking policy — is another example. “The price that drivers pay for parking is usually far below the cost of providing it,” Shoup said. “Drivers park free at the end of 99 percent of all automobile trips in the United States. But all this free parking costs a lot of money.”

As his research progressed, he was struck by the lack of equity in parking. People who are too poor to own a car, or who prefer not to own one, receive no benefit.

“If you ride the bus or ride a bike or walk to work, you get nothing. But if you drive to work, you get to park free in a very expensive parking place. It leads to overuse of automobiles, creating air pollution and traffic congestion.”

When cities charge fair market prices for on-street parking and spend the meter revenue to finance added public services, they can improve the lives of everyone. Shoup’s work has inspired cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Pasadena, Austin, Houston, Seattle, and many others to change their approach to parking.

Shoup has four degrees in electrical engineering and economics from Yale University. At UCLA he has served as chair of Urban Planning and as director of the Institute of Transportation Studies. And he practices what he preaches — walking or biking to campus every day, even after his “retirement” in 2015.

This dedication comes in part from his perception that he has been fortunate to have worked in Los Angeles, a city where his ideas about land use, traffic, and parking are particularly important and where civic leaders — some of whom count themselves among his legion of followers, known as Shoupistas — have been willing to listen to his advice.

Great city. Great university. Great professor. It all adds up to a career filled with great accomplishments.

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

New Sources, Innovative Applications of Big Data Explored at Conference UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation researchers demonstrate how digital technology is transforming humans into sensors that generate behavioral data on an unprecedented scale

By Stan Paul

If your 2016 Thanksgiving dinner was shorter than usual, the turkey on your dining table may not have been to blame.

Who you had dinner with and their political affiliations following last year’s divisive election may have shortened the holiday get-together by about 25 minutes — or up to an hour depending on how many campaign/political messages saturated your market area. It’s all in the data.

“It’s not that conservatives and [liberals] don’t like eating Thanksgiving dinner with each other;  they don’t like eating Thanksgiving dinner together after an incredibly polarizing period,” said Keith Chen, associate professor of economics at the UCLA Anderson School of Management. Chen was among a group of scholars and data researchers who presented recent findings on Aug. 25, 2017, at a daylong conference about computational social science and digital technology hosted by the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation.

Information gleaned from social media and from cellphone tracking data can reveal and confirm political polarization and other topics, such as poverty or protest, said researchers who gathered at the “The Future of Humans as Sensors” conference held at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.

The event brought together social scientists and data researchers to look for “ways to either extend what we can do with existing data sets or explore new sources of ‘big data,’” said Zachary Steinert-Threlkeld, assistant professor of public policy at UCLA Luskin and the leader of the program.

Steinert-Threlkeld presented his latest research, which was motivated by the Women’s March in the United States, as an example of measuring protest with new data sources that include geo-located Twitter accounts. While conducting research, Steinert-Threlkeld has observed that working with social media data has actually become more difficult of late.

“While Facebook lets you use data from profiles that are public, most people have private profiles,” Steinert-Threlkeld said. Seeing private data requires researchers to work directly with Facebook, which has become more cautious in the wake of a controversial 2014 paper, thus impacting what scholars can publish. In addition, Instagram previously provided much more data, but since 2016 it has followed the Facebook model and that data has been severely restricted despite Instagram’s norm of having public profiles, he said.

“This workshop will discuss how ‘humans as sensors’ can continue to yield productive research agendas,” Steinert-Threlkeld told conference attendees.

Talking about new and innovative ways to do this, Michael Macy, a sociologist and director of the Social Dynamics Laboratory at Cornell, began his presentation by pointing out the innate difficulties of observing human behavior and social interaction, as well as both the potential and the limitations of social media data.

“There are privacy concerns; the interactions are fleeting. You have to be right there at the time when it happens.” He added, “They’re usually behind closed doors, and the number of interactions increases exponentially with the size of the population.”

But, Macy said, new technologies in various scientific fields have opened up research opportunities that were previously inaccessible.

“We can see things that we could never see before. In fact, not only can we see things, the web sees everything and it forgets nothing.”

He tempered the potential of digital data with the fact that for the past several decades the main instrument of social science observation has been the survey, which comes with its own limitations, including unreliability when people recount their own behavior or rely on memories of past events. But, he said, “In some ways I see these social media data as being really nicely complementary with the survey. They have offsetting strengths and weaknesses.”

Macy provided examples of ways that tracking of political polarization can be done, not by looking at extreme positions on a single issue but by inferring positions on one issue by knowing the position that individuals hold on another. This can range from their choices of books on politics and science to their preferences for cars, fast food and music.

“The method seems to recover something real about political alignments … political alignment can be inferred from those purchases, and then we can look to see what else they’re purchasing,” Macy said.

“What I think we’re really looking at is not the era of explanation, at least for now … it’s the era of measurement, and what we are now able to do is to test theories that we could not test before because we can see things that we could not see before.”

The day’s presentations also included the ways in which data can be used to provide rapid policy evaluation with targeted crowds and how demographic sampling weights from Twitter data could be used to improve public opinion estimates. Data could also help fight poverty worldwide.

The world seems awash in information and data, but “most of world doesn’t live in a data-rich environment,” said presenter Joshua Blumemstock, an assistant professor at U.C. Berkeley’s School of Information and director of the school’s Data-Intensive Development Lab.

“You can use Twitter data to measure unemployment in Spain. The problem is that these methods don’t port very well in developing countries,” Blumenstock said. “There’s these big black holes in Africa for Twitter.”

Blumenstock discussed how data from billions of mobile phone calls in countries such as Rwanda could be used in conjunction with survey data to create a composite of where individuals fall on the socioeconomic spectrum. In turn, the information collected could be “aggregated up” to a much larger regional or national level.

“And when you aggregate up, you start to get things that might be conceivably useful to someone doing research or some policymaker,” such as being able to respond instantaneously to economic shocks, Blumenstock said. In addition, instead of costing millions of dollars and taking years, he said this methodology could potentially cost thousands of dollars and be conducted in weeks or months.

“For researchers like me who are interested in understanding the causes and consequences of poverty … just measuring the poverty is the first step. For people designing policy for these countries, their hands are tied if they don’t even know where poverty is,” Blumenstock explained. “It’s hard to think about how to fix it.”

 

 

 

Dean Gary Segura Named Vice President of American Political Science Association APSA is the largest association of political scientists, with more than 12,000 members. It promotes scholarly research and teaching in politics and government.

By Stan Paul

Gary Segura, dean of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, has been named vice president of the American Political Science Association (APSA), the leading professional organization for the study of political science.

Segura assumed the one-year leadership post at the annual meeting of APSA held Aug. 31–Sept. 3 in San Francisco. Previously, he served on the Executive Council of APSA – the organization’s governing body – and also was past president of the Midwest Political Science Association and Western Political Science Association.

“It has been my privilege to serve on the Executive Council in the past, and I have great affection for the association and the work it does,” said Segura, who also holds academic appointments in public policy and Chicana/o studies at UCLA.

ASPA, founded in 1903, has more than 12,000 members representing more than 80 countries and promotes scholarly research and teaching in politics and government. The organization is the largest association of political scientists and publishes a number of peer-reviewed political science journals, including American Political Science Review.

“I am honored to have been elected vice president and am looking forward to helping guide the association in the coming year,” said Segura, who joined the Luskin School as dean in January 2017.

Prior to coming to Luskin, Segura was the Morris M. Doyle Centennial Professor of Public Policy, professor of political science, and professor and former chair of Chicana/o–Latina/o studies at Stanford University, where he also served as director of the Center for American Democracy and director of the Institute on the Politics of Inequality, Race and Ethnicity.

 

A Message to the UCLA Luskin Community Dean Gary Segura's statement on the tragic events in Charlottesville — 'we remain deeply committed to engaging in the kind of work that creates a better future'

My friends in the Luskin community,

For the kind of work that we do here at Luskin, the tragic and horrific events in Charlottesville last weekend cut very close to home. The forces of division are strong and, for the first time in a generation, they are being legitimized, and endorsed by the highest powers in the country. Our nation is in mourning, as adherents of the abhorrent ideology of white supremacy murdered a woman (and injured dozens) in broad daylight in a university town. Heather Heyer is among the most recent and visible casualties of racism, but she is not the first and I am sadly certain she will not be the last.

That racism, sexism, homophobia, islamophobia, anti-Semitism and white supremacy kill is hardly news. Their effects are everywhere, if only you are willing to look. Racial disparities in political representation, educational opportunity, net wealth, access to affordable health care, home ownership, and contact with the carceral state are manifest and written into institutional arrangements that preserve social inequalities rather than disrupt them.

Women face wage and health care discrimination, mosques burned as Muslims are banned, Jews denounced by white men wearing swastikas, gays and lesbians beaten and murdered, transsexual persons demonized and legislated against, and undocumented immigrants who do some of the hardest jobs in the society described as rapists and drug mules by the President of the United States and deported at an accelerating pace.

All of these things were true on the day before the Charlottesville marches and murder last weekend. These affronts to human dignity and well-being are what makes our work so important. At Luskin we train scholars, policymakers and community leaders who work hard—together—every day to alleviate and transform these social injustices. We must continue to produce state of the art research in the service of all of our communities. In Los Angeles, we know that our diversity is not a weakness; in fact, it is our strength.

It is my fervent hope that these tragic events become a tipping point. We should be more motivated than we have ever been. We should be more fully mobilized than we have ever been. And we should work even harder to bring the tools of our professions, our training as applied social scientists, our insights, our skills at distilling fact from propaganda to this struggle.

In a spirit of hope and action, we remain deeply committed to engaging in the kind of work that creates a better future for all communities. And we must fight like hell to achieve that goal.

Best wishes to you all,

 

 

 

Gary Segura
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.”