Dean’s Message Announcing final approval and launch of the new Bachelor of Arts in Public Affairs at the Luskin School

Friends,

The UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs has, in recent years, more finely honed our mission — to one that creates positive changes for individuals, communities, polities, ecosystems and the world through improved governance, equitable policies, sustainable planning and the facilitation of healthy individuals and families. As you will read in this issue, a big part of that mission is to address the needs and aspirations for a better quality of life among people of color and other marginalized populations who, collectively, comprise a majority of Angelenos and Californians.

The time has come for UCLA Luskin to take the next step in our efforts to create change-makers. As part of that effort, I am happy to announce the final approval and launch of the Bachelor of Arts in Public Affairs at the Luskin School. By a vote of 58-1 on February 15, the Academic Senate authorized the School to launch our major, which, at full enrollment, will provide training to 600 total majors across the four years.

The Public Affairs major is an interdisciplinary social science degree that combines rigorous analytical and research methods training with deep theoretical immersion in social, psychological, economic and political theories of social change. Students will be trained to ask and answer tough questions regarding how society copes with socioeconomic inequality, democratic access, economic development, and infrastructure, capped off with a yearlong immersion in a field placement and research project, applying these insights in a real-world environment.

We envision a curriculum built around the same guiding principles that inform our graduate and professional programs: that the tools of social science, properly applied, can help us identify and address some of society’s most vexing problems. Students will be able to take these degrees straight to the job market in civic and governmental organizations, business and nonprofit sectors, or go on to graduate and professional training in a cognate field.

Associate Professor Meredith Phillips of the Department of Public Policy will serve as the inaugural Chair of the program, the development of which is owed to all three departments and a core of thoughtful faculty committed to new and socially relevant undergraduate social science.

In the coming years, we will keep you informed as to the progress and growth of the degree program, which should graduate its first seniors in June of 2021!

In the meantime, rest assured that the nationally ranked professional and doctoral programs will extend their tradition of excellence, diversity and impact.

— Gary M. Segura
Professor and Dean
UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs

The Dean’s Message also appeared in the Summer 2018 edition of Luskin Forum magazine.

 

 

Amplifying the Voice of Latinos Latino Policy & Politics Initiative at UCLA Luskin fills a critical research gap and provides a think tank around political, social and economic issues

By Les Dunseith

The new think tank at UCLA known as the Latino Policy & Politics Initiative (LPPI) has moved quickly to bring together scholars and policymakers to share information that can help political leaders make informed decisions about issues of interest to Latinos.

One of the goals of LPPI, which received its startup funding from the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and the Division of Social Sciences, is to provide better access to information to help leaders nationwide craft new policies.

“It is impossible to understand America today without understanding the Latino community and the power that it wields. And this institute is going to do that,” Scott Waugh, UCLA executive vice chancellor and provost, told the crowd at the official launch of LPPI in December 2017.

Representatives of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and throughout UCLA were among a crowd of about 175 people that also included elected officials, community activists and other stakeholders who gathered in downtown Los Angeles. The co-founders of LPPI — Professor of Political Science and Chicana/o Studies Matt Barreto, UCLA Luskin Dean Gary Segura and LPPI Executive Director Sonja Diaz MPP ’10 — “have a vision that reaches not just inside the School of Public Affairs but reaches out across the campus in areas like health, education, science, the arts — wherever Latinos have made a difference and continue to effect change in a profound way,” Waugh said at the launch event.

LPPI founders Matt Barreto, Gary Segura and Sonja Diaz, front row, joined with their 2017-18 student assistants for a formal portrait in March. Also on hand was Director of Development Ricardo Quintero, far left. Photo by Les Dunseith

LPPI works with UCLA faculty to produce research and analyze policy issues from a Latino perspective — aided by an enthusiastic and dedicated team of students from UCLA Luskin and other schools. For example, students associated with LPPI were involved in the production of two recently released reports:

  • An empirical analysis of Fruitvale Village in Oakland, California, that assessed aggregate census tract socioeconomic outcomes to evaluate changes for those living there compared to those living in similar communities in the Bay Area.
  • A state-by-state analysis of Latino homeownership, plus data research on national disasters and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program for the 2017 Hispanic Homeownership Report issued by the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals (NAHREP).

Gabriela Solis, a UCLA Luskin MPP and MSW student whose focus at LPPI is on housing and displacement, provided some of the information in the NAHREP report, working from raw Census data.

“My background is in homelessness in L.A. County and extreme poverty,” said Solis, a policy fellow at LPPI. “With this research and learning about homeownership rates, and who gets to buy homes and who gets loans, it’s something that I had really never thought about too much. It’s been really interesting.”

Several students also traveled to Sacramento in February, during which LPPI visited legislators and their staffs, and presented applied policy research before the California Latino Legislative Caucus.

LPPI’s inaugural Sacramento legislative briefing included research on three policy areas: the Latino Gross Domestic Product; Criminal Justice and Bail Reform; and the impact of Social Science Research on DACA litigation.

Sofia Espinoza MPP ’18 was also a Monica Salinas fellow during her time as a student. She focused on criminal justice in her schoolwork, so joining the effort in Sacramento dovetailed nicely with her interests.

“Being on our Sacramento trip and meeting with all Latino legislators and aides, that’s really important,” Espinoza said. “The higher up you go in academia, to see people who look like you doing amazing work, I think that is really a value add for LPPI.”

LPPI Director Diaz said her student team includes a mix of graduate students like Solis and Espinoza and undergrads with an interest in public affairs and
Latino issues.

Celina Avalos, wan undergraduate student in political science, served as special projects associate for LPPI during the 2017-18 academic year.

“A lot of it does have to do with political science, what I hope to do in the future,” she said. “My main focus was never on policy. But being here in LPPI and working with [Diaz], I have gotten more passionate about it — how impactful public policy actually is.”

Diaz said the LPPI students work as a team. “For the undergrads, what is great is that they have a seat at the table,” she said. “There is integration. There is cohesive learning. We are learning from each other. The students are on the calls with the external stakeholders. They are going on these trips. They are supporting our events.”

The undergrads also see first-hand what it is like to be a graduate student involved in impactful research efforts.

“Working with the graduate students, I get to hear from them and see the work that they are doing,” Avalos said. “I have found it really inspiring seeing these Latino women — honestly, I look up to them. I see them doing their research work and think, ‘Wow, look at them.’ It has definitely changed my perspective on what I hope to do in the future.”

The inspirational potential of LPPI was an important motivation for Segura in getting the new research center underway and finding a home for it at UCLA.

Segura, who secured approval to hire additional UCLA Luskin faculty members with expertise in Latino policy, said the day-to-day work being done by LPPI helps bolster UCLA’s capacity to provide role models for its Latino students.

“I genuinely care about every research opportunity that I have with LPPI,” Espinoza said. “And it really hits close to home. It gives you an added desire to do well and a drive to succeed.”

Segura said of the LPPI students: “I have been at events with them. I have seen them present on our behalf. I have seen the product of their work. And they are doing great.”

The students fully embraced LPPI’s goal to advance knowledge about Latinos through work that actually involves Latinos themselves.

“It’s why we do what we do,” Espinoza said. “It’s motivating.”

For more information about how to support LPPI, contact Ricardo Quintero at (310) 206-7949 or by email at rquintero@luskin.ucla.edu.

A version of this story also appeared in the Summer 2018 edition of Luskin Forum magazine.

Diversity Is Excellence at UCLA Luskin The Diversity, Disparities and Difference (D3) Initiative connects students and groups across UCLA

By Stan Paul

Estefanía Zavala, Michelle Lin and Jordan Hallman are all up early on a Sunday morning. They meet at a favorite coffee shop in Hollywood. This is when the trio of busy UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs students can break from their fast-paced two-year professional programs to discuss a topic central to their lives, studies and future careers.

Diversity.

It’s important at UCLA Luskin, especially to the numerous student groups working to make their programs, the School and the campus more inclusive. At the time, Zavala, Lin and Hallman were student program managers for the UCLA Luskin initiative known as D3 – Diversity, Disparities and Difference. Launched in 2014 by former Dean Franklin D. Gilliam, Jr., D3 aims to “create a cohesive strategy to bridge differences, understand our diverse society and confront disparities in the field of public affairs.”

“I was really interested from the get-go, and the mission of D3 really aligns with Social Welfare’s mission, our core values of social justice and equity. And that’s always been a topic of interest to me and trying to improve the way things are and make sure that the campus is inclusive for all people,” Lin said.

The D3 Initiative is one of many UCLA Luskin student groups focused on issues of equity and social justice. Among the others are Urban Planning Women of Color Collective, Planners of Color for Social Equity, Policy Professionals for Diversity & Equity, Luskin Pride, Black Caucus, Asian Pacific Islander Student Caucus (API), Latinx Student Caucus and Diversity Caucus.

Working independently or in collaboration with D3, the groups host Schoolwide and campus events designed to promote collaboration, bridge gaps and encourage understanding. These include an Equity in Public Affairs research conference and group dialogues with incoming UCLA Luskin students.

“My favorite experience thus far has been the Equity in Public Affairs training that we do in the beginning of the year, where students share their unique identities and receive training on operating professionally in a diverse environment,” said Zavala, who recently earned her MPP degree after also serving as a leader of Policy Professionals for Diversity & Equity. “I got to meet so many people and really got to understand them.”

The D3 Initiative has three priorities:

  • Enhance student admissions and faculty searches by championing more diverse applicant pools;
  • Institutionalize programming that offers a critical understanding of social inequity while establishing connections with the greater community;
  • Strengthen student collaboration for a more inclusive school climate.

That mission is supported by the office of Dean Gary Segura as part of efforts to build an equitable environment on campus that has hired new faculty whose research and areas of interest include a social justice focus.

The D3 group has coordinated gatherings known as “Difficult Dinner Dialogues,” which invite classmates and others with diverse backgrounds and different life experiences to share and learn from one another.

“I think it’s a space, call it a brave space. It’s a brave space for everyone to come and not feel judged for what they think because it’s about being open to learning, so that will hopefully change the political climate,” said Lin, who has since earned her social welfare degree.

One Dinner Dialogue focused on sexual assault and “the role of men and women of color who don’t have the means to quit their job or speak out against their employer, the power dynamics of that,” Lin said.

“People really felt like this was the beginning of the conversation and they wanted even more,” she added.

In addition to their Sunday meetings, the student leaders stayed connected throughout the year with D3 faculty director Gerry Laviña MSW ’88, Social Welfare’s director of field education, along with the dean’s office staff. During the 2017-18 academic year, D3 added office hours to collect feedback, questions and concerns directly, and in confidence, from students at UCLA Luskin.

Hallman, who has since earned her urban planning degree, said her professional focus is “the intersection of transportation and land use and the responsibilities that come with approaching that point of intersection justly and equitably, which is a relatively new conversation within planning. I think participating in D3 has also led me to a role where I try to shed light on other points of intersection that aren’t talked about.”

For Zavala, connecting with peers from UCLA Luskin’s other two departments was important.

“The D3 position has empowered me to create a community across all three departments. I hope that in any future career that I have, I work actively to form bridges across silos and uplift the work of diversity. I also want to center my professional career on empowering traditionally marginalized communities. Starting at Luskin has been a wonderful experience,” Zavala said.

The D3 Initiative also supports students with awards, grants and funding for their work, including the Franklin D. Gilliam, Jr. Social Justice Awards, which were created to recognize student scholarship in social justice and inequality. The award was made possible by contributions from the School’s board of advisers, UCLA faculty, staff and alumni.

“We are not yet where we need to be and there is still much to do, but D3 has been a guiding force for progress,” said Isaac Bryan MPP ’18. With the help of a Gilliam Award, Bryan’s Applied Policy research group studied the dynamic needs of the city’s formerly incarcerated reentry population for Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.

“D3 empowers us all to continue placing diversity, equity and inclusiveness at the forefront of the work we do here in Luskin,” said Bryan, who is also a member of Policy Professionals for Diversity & Equity.

As a PhD student in urban planning, Aujean Lee also received funding through the D3 Initiative, including the Gilliam Award.

“These resources are important because urban planners, and planning research, still need to engage with and grapple with its historical legacies of racism, classism, sexism, homophobia, ableism, etc., that continue to shape our cities and communities,” Lee said.

A version of this story also appeared in the Summer 2018 edition of Luskin Forum magazine.

The Art of Shaping Opinion: Lessons From Three Experts Visiting Public Policy faculty draw on rich life experiences to share their wisdom about influence, advocacy and persuasion with UCLA Luskin’s future leaders

 By Stan Paul

The U.S. Constitution, by design, sets up a weak and limited government. In short, “it is set up to fail,” says William Schneider, a visiting lecturer this spring at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.

“The wonder is that it actually does work. What makes it work is public opinion,” says Schneider, a leading U.S. political analyst and professor at George Mason University’s Schar School of Policy and Government, who is teaching the undergraduate course “Public Opinion and Public Policy.”

Schneider, who has covered every U.S. presidential and midterm election since 1976 for numerous news outlets and publications, is among a group of top scholars from across the nation adding depth and breadth to the world-class faculty at the Luskin School.

Schneider’s class follows offerings from visiting professors Steven Nemerovski from Columbia University and Gary Orren from Harvard, who taught during winter quarter. All three visitors from the East Coast explored influence, advocacy and opinion-making as tools to effect policy change.

For Schneider, the Constitution works when there is “a strong sense of public urgency. In other words, a crisis.”

He explores this thesis — “and why the U.S. is more bitterly divided than at any time since the Civil War” — by looking at policy battles over civil rights, the financial crisis and terrorism. The course also focuses on the way public opinion has shaped policy on issues such as abortion, immigration, same-sex marriage, gun control, health care and military intervention.

A core element of American populism is the belief that politics is the enemy of problem-solving, he says. “That’s why we often elect political outsiders,” says Schneider, whose new book, “Standoff: How America Became Ungovernable,” will be published in May 2018. Schneider hopes his students will learn that “there is a reason why you can’t run government like a business. Business is not a democracy.”

When Orren, the V.O. Key, Jr., Professor of Politics and Leadership at Harvard, arrived at the Luskin School this winter, he made a convincing case for taking his graduate-level class, “Persuasion: The Science and Art of Effective Influence.”

“Persuasion lies at the heart of our personal and professional lives, whether the goal is to convince one person in a face-to-face encounter, influence a small group in a meeting, sway an entire organization or win over the public,” his course description said.

“It is challenging enough to lead those who agree with us,” says Orren, who has taught at Harvard for nearly half a century and also worked as a political advisor in local, state, national and international election campaigns. “But inducing others to willingly follow us when they are initially skeptical or opposed to our goals — persuading them — is the greatest challenge facing aspiring leaders.”

That pitch, and a recommendation from a Harvard alum she knows, convinced second-year MPP student Farah Setyawati to take Orren’s course.

“I like the course because it has a unique exposure to psychology. It got me thinking a lot about human behavior,” Setyawati says.

She now pays attention to body language and “reading the room,” and recognizes the importance of knowing the client. She also likes the required “three-minute pitch” exercise that allowed her to practice her presentation skills.

When Nemerovski brought his popular undergraduate course, “Advocacy and the Legislative Process,” from Columbia to the Luskin School, he immediately brought up the dreaded “L word” — “how society feels about lobbyists and are they the scourge of the earth or something. We talk about that up front and get past that immediately,” Nemerovski says. “Then the whole class is about strategy, … the role of advocacy and the tools needed to navigate successful outcomes.”

In addition to a career as an academic, the Columbia professor has worked as a political lobbyist, TV program host and author of “Third Party,” a series of political novels. He drew on that vast experience to bring in a number of guests with first-hand experience in advocating for legislation:  a state representative from Illinois; two former California Assembly members; and Dan Glickman, a former member of Congress from Kansas, U.S. secretary of agriculture in the Clinton administration, and former head of the Motion Picture Association of America.

When students have “heard four or five people in this industry say it’s all about trust, your word is your bond, when they leave the class … they’re going to understand what this is about — trust and word and bond,” Nemerovski says.

“One of my guest speakers actually commented that my class asks better questions than the more sophisticated groups he speaks to. That really speaks for the class and their enthusiasm for the speakers,” he says.

UCLA undergraduate student Axel Sarkissian says the course has been among the most interesting he has taken and has given him a better understanding of “how lobbying is done, an important lesson for those of us interested in government and for anyone interested in public engagement.”

“I have particularly appreciated Professor Nemerovski’s efforts to integrate practitioners — politicians, lobbyists and others — into the course. Hearing their perspective on how they interact with each other and what effect this has on policy has been fascinating,” says Sarkissian, who is completing the Luskin School’s undergraduate minor in Public Affairs.

Nemerovski challenges his students to become “citizen lobbyists.” During winter quarter, they were asked to lobby their congressperson on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), also known as the Dream Act.

“I can’t tell them what to think — whatever side they may be on — so they have to decide what they think and they have to act on it,” says Nemerovski, who notes that part of the exercise is to wrangle not only with the issue but what actions they need to take. “I’ve been watching them struggle with it — ‘how am I really going to do this?’”

Nemerovski also places students on each side of a bill. Some must develop strategies to pass it, others to defeat it.

“They will walk in with a strategy and I will poke holes in it,” Nemerovski says.

But he adds: “I always tell my kids the first day of class they’re going to have fun.”

Connecting With Those Who Once Traveled the Same Path During annual career event, UCLA Luskin Alumni Career Leaders share employment insights and offer career advice to current students preparing to enter the job market

More than 60 alumni returned to UCLA Luskin on April 26, 2018, to provide informational interviews to students during the second annual Alumni Career Connections event.

The meetings gave Urban Planning, Public Policy and Social Welfare students an opportunity to meet graduates of the School who serve as Luskin Alumni Career Leaders and receive career advice, learn about job opportunities and connect with practitioners in their fields of career interest.

The number of alumni volunteers grew by 30 percent this year, giving UCLA Luskin students additional opportunities to gain invaluable information.

“A 2017 Career Services survey ranked alumni networking as one of the graduates’ top two sources of job leads, so it’s essential to provide these opportunities to students,” said VC Powe, director of Career Services and the Leadership Development Program.

“We were very excited to be able to put on this event for a second year in a row,” said Emily Le, career counselor at UCLA Luskin. “It gives students an opportunity to connect with many alumni in their related fields that they wouldn’t normally get an opportunity to meet with. Some of the first-year students have already said that they’re looking forward to next year’s event.”

Alumni also appreciated the opportunity to meet current students. Sheena Innocente MSW ’15 said, “The students I met with were very interested in learning about research consulting and how it can serve to shift policy at nonprofit agencies and in political ways.”

This year’s Career Connections event was expanded to include a resume station and a free photo booth for LinkedIn and other website headshots.

Many students, such as first-year public policy student Sarah Rubinstein, seized the opportunity to improve their professional profiles by getting photos taken. Others worked with Social Welfare alumnae Christina Hernandez and Juliane Nguyen and Public Policy alumna Emily Williams to review their resumes. The three also coached students on how best to formally present their information for interviews.

The meetings did not end once the doors were shut in the Ackerman Grand Ballroom; some alumni joined students for dinner or coffee and many exchanged business cards to stay in contact with their newfound UCLA Luskin connections.

Ruby Ramirez, who is in her second year as a dual MPP and MSW student, and C.J. Horvath, who is in his first year of the MURP degree, were two of the attendees who said they gained important connections with new alumni, while reinforcing their current networks. “I thought the whole event was done really well,” Horvath said.

As the lights were dimmed and a crew began to clear furniture, Williams MPP ’98, was spotted in the corner with a student. “I can’t leave now,” she called out, “I want to finish with this student before I go.”

— UCLA Luskin staff

Click or swipe to view additional photos from the event on Flickr:

Alumni Career Connections Event

9 New Faculty Hired by UCLA Luskin An extraordinary recruitment effort that included visits by 40 candidates will soon enlarge the size of the full-time faculty by almost 20 percent, adding new expertise and greater diversity

By Les Dunseith

Nine new faculty members will be joining the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs on July 1 as part of a hiring binge that will soon enlarge the size of the full-time faculty by almost 20 percent and further diversify its demographic makeup.

The additions will help UCLA Luskin expand it course offerings, in part to support the new undergraduate major in public affairs set to launch in fall of 2018. A few positions will fill openings that had become vacant because of faculty retirements and other departures.

Dean Gary Segura said the new hires expand the Luskin School’s range of knowledge and evolve its faculty to better match the country’s rapidly changing demographics.

“These additions to the Luskin School faculty represent an outstanding growth and expansion of our expertise and social impact,” Segura said. “With these additions and those last year, we are among the most diverse and interdisciplinary units in the entire UC system and profoundly well-positioned to engage, educate, study, and contribute to California’s diverse and dynamic population.”

Six of the new hires are women and four are Latino. They include two new assistant professors in Social Welfare and three new assistant professors in Urban Planning, plus two assistant professors, one associate professor and one full professor who will join Public Policy.

The new faculty represent additional expertise for the School in international human and women’s rights; survey research; environmental planning, adaptation, and justice; criminal justice and bias in policing; immigration; gentrification; social and political inequality; poverty; and social identity among youth.

Among the additions are three political scientists, two economists, a developmental psychologist, a sociologist and a geographer. All of the positions have multidisciplinary aspects, crossing department lines not only within the Luskin School but also, in some cases, with academic units elsewhere on campus.

In all, 40 candidates were interviewed, coming from across the United States and around the world. The new faculty range from people just finishing graduate school to a full professor.

Here are the nine new faculty members:

  • The full professor is Martin Gilens, who previously taught political science at UCLA and has also worked at Yale and, most recently, Princeton. Gilens, who will join the Public Policy faculty, grew up in Los Angeles and has strong ties to the university.

 Read our previous story about Martin Gilens

 


  • Amada Armenta: She is returning to UCLA where she completed her PhD in sociology, and will join Urban Planning in the fall. Armenta comes to UCLA from the University of Pennsylvania where she is an Assistant Professor of Sociology. Her work looks at immigration enforcement and its impact on the lives and communities affected. She is particularly interested in the intervention of the criminal justice system in immigration enforcement. She has been published in Social Problems and the Annual Review of Sociology, in addition to her University of California Press book, “Protect, Serve, and Deport: The Rise of Policing as Immigration Enforcement.”

 


  • Natalie Bau: She is an international economist currently at the University of Toronto and will be joining Public Policy. Bau’s work examines several different aspects of the economics of education and educational policies and their downstream implications, including the effects on marriage patterns, teacher pay, student achievement and motivation, and others. She has projects in the works including “The Misallocation of Pay and Productivity in the Public Sector: Evidence from the Labor Market for Teachers” as well as “Labour Coercion and Economic Growth: Evidence from the Harrying of the North.”

 


  • Liz Koslov: She will assume a joint post in Urban Planning and the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability as an assistant professor. Koslov is a scholar of environmental justice and specifically examines the urban socio-cultural impacts of climate change. She is currently a Mellon Post-Doctoral Fellow at MIT, and holds a PhD in Media, Culture, and Communication from New York University. She is in the process of completing her first book, “Retreat: Moving to Higher Ground in a Climate-Changed City,” under contract to the University of Chicago Press.

 


  • Amy Ritterbusch: She will be joining Social Welfare. Ritterbusch is a human and urban geographer and currently an associate professor of government at the Universidad de los Andes in Bogotá, Colombia. Her work is focused on urban social justice movements, marginalized youth, substance abuse, prostitution and other downstream effects of child poverty. She also brings extensive expertise in field work, ethnographic methods and Latin American populations across the hemisphere. She has written several journal articles, which have been featured in Child, Abuse & Neglect, Global Public Health, Annals of the American Association of Geographers and other peer-reviewed journals.

  • Carlos Santos: Currently an assistant professor in counseling psychology at ASU, Santos is coming to UCLA Luskin Social Welfare. His work is principally on gender and ethnic identities, stereotypes, and their impacts on social adjustment, educational performance and outcomes among adolescents in communities of color. He received his PhD from NYU and his work has been funded by NSF and NIH. In addition to his monograph “Studying Ethnic Identity” for the American Psychological Association, his work has been published in many outlets, including the Journal of Youth and Adolescence and the Journal of Counseling Psychology.

  • V. Kelly Turner: Turner is currently an assistant professor of geography at Kent State and her focus is human-environmental interaction and urban management.  She will join Luskin Urban Planning in the fall. Her focus has been on how institutional arrangements and good metrics for resource consumption can help us build toward a more sustainable ecosystem, and she has applied this work to water resources, sustainable urbanism, and green infrastructure. She is the author of more than a dozen journal articles in publications such as Applied Geography, Ecology and Society, Urban Geography, and others.

  • Emily Weisburst: She is finishing a PhD in economics at UT-Austin and will be joining Public Policy. Her work focuses on bias in policing, officer discretion in arrest behavior, police reform, and the effects of police presence in public schools. Weisburst previously served as a staff economist at the Council of Economic Advisors in the Executive Office of the President, and has done collaborative research for RAND and the State of Texas. Her work has been published in the Journal of Higher Education and Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis.

  • Chris Zepeda-Millan: He joins Luskin Public Policy. Zepeda-Millan is a political scientist and current professor of ethnic studies at UC Berkeley. His research focuses on social movements, immigration and communities of color, and has been published in American Journal of Political Science, Political Research Quarterly, Social Science Quarterly, and Politics, Groups and Identities. His book, “Latino Mass Mobilization: Immigration, Racialization and Activism,” was recently published by Cambridge University Press. Zepeda-Millan will be jointly appointed in the Department of Chicana/o Studies and will be working with the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative.

 

Wildfires Don’t Have to be ‘Bad,’ Author Says During UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation talk and panel discussion, experts discuss how policy changes can reduce the risk of tragedy in fire-prone areas such as Southern California

By Aaron Julian

Last December, Los Angeles and the greater Southern California area faced many major fire events, including the Skirball and Thomas fires, that caused tens of millions of dollars of damage to hundreds of thousands of acres and hundreds of buildings. Severe fire incidents such as these leave an impression on some people that all wildfires can be nothing but catastrophic.

But the rich history of benefits, losses, debates, policy initiatives and research demonstrate that wildfires are so much more than what meets the eye.

Wildfire was the topic of discussion on April 19, 2018, at UCLA Luskin. Fronting this event was Edward Struzik, a fellow at the Institute for Energy and Environmental Policy at Queen’s University in Kingston, Canada, and author of the book, “Firestorm: How Wildfire Will Shape Our Future.” Struzik detailed the history, science and approaches taken to control wildfires over the past couple of centuries. He also pressed for a hybrid approach to wildfires that moves us away from the longstanding policy of fire suppression toward fire management.

“Fire rejuvenates forests by removing disease-ridden plants and harmful insects from forest ecosystems, and yet fire continues to be demonized. … The big problem is that we have not been able to figure out how to live with fire,” Struzik said.

Wildfire incidents have become increasingly powerful and widespread, he said, and in turn have become increasingly difficult to contain. This amplifying issue can be attributed to factors such as global climate change, invasive trees and shrubs, arctic sea ice changes, and, especially, human behavior. As the human population increases, communities grow and spread. As more people spend more time in forests, fire risks increase dramatically.

“Human-started wildfires have accounted for 84 percent of total wildfires, and tripled the length of the fire season,” Struzik asserted. “The problem we can say is not fire, but people.”

He added that preparation is crucial in communities that are at risk of wildfire, so that people understand that we are unable to stop all fires. He argued for improved early warning processes and clearer evacuation protocols. Struzik also proposed doing more controlled burns and allowing remote wildfires to run their course to safely deplete the fuel for these fires and enhance forest ecosystems.

The future is projected to become increasingly dangerous if fire suppression remains dominant. As arctic sea ice continues to diminish, Santa Ana winds will become dryer. Struzik says that our best option is to adapt and embrace “good fire”; otherwise, the “bad and the ugly fires” will prevail.

Following the lecture, a panel of experts expanded on the subject matter.

Doug Bevington, director of the Environment Now Forest Program at the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation and moderator of the panel, said, “The central challenge we face is to find policies that simultaneously take climate change seriously and take the natural role of large wildfires seriously … while enabling Californians to safely coexist with wildfire as an inevitable part of life in our state.”

Chief Ralph Terrazas of the Los Angeles Fire Department detailed the hard work and strain that California fire departments have experienced in recent years, including last December when multiple fires raged at once. Terrazas emphasized the importance of larger policy reforms to reduce fire incidents and stretch fire combat resources when homes and lives are endangered.

“It is about changing the way we think when we live in these environments,” said Beth Burnham, a founder and current member of the North Topanga Safe Fire Council. Burnham argued that when people live in fire-risk areas like many parts of Southern California, they must make fire readiness and preparation a priority.

Alex Hall, a professor in the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences and director of the Center for Climate Science at UCLA, drew on his work in climate science in adding his perspective. “In California, there is this tremendous sensitivity of fire to climate and weather. Because climate and weather are changing, that means fire is also changing,” he said.

When the conversation was opened to the crowd, topics included technical inquiries from workers in water management as well as personal anecdotes about safety in communities that have previously been impacted by fire incidents. The panel reiterated the need to be prepared and have a plan for fire incidents, but attendees were also urged to work at the community level to promote change on a wider scale.

The event was organized by the Luskin Center for Innovation as part of the UCLA Luskin Innovator Series.

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How Wildfire Will Shape Our Future

Resistance Through Research in the Trump Era Luskin School Ph.D. students host conference on challenging inequality through research in the 'new reality'

By Stan Paul

For urban planning, social welfare and education doctoral students at UCLA, the results of the 2016 election added a new urgency to their role as researchers and to their research agendas.

In response to the rhetoric and policies of the Trump administration following the inauguration, a working group was formed to discuss questions of concern for upcoming scholars in UCLA’s academic and professional programs who are — and will be — working directly with individuals and groups in diverse communities.

This year, the group’s efforts culminated in “Resistance through Research: Social Justice Research and Activism in the Trump Era,” a conference held April 20, 2018, at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.

“As Ph.D. students in the professional schools, we conduct research on issues of race, gender and class-based discrimination, and we critically examine the opportunities that people have to participate in the institutions that shape their lives,” said Rebecca Crane, an Urban Planning doctoral student and one of the event organizers. “We decided to start a working group to discuss these issues which we hope will create dialogue around the notion of a politically engaged research agenda and its potential to challenge inequality now in this political moment.”

Ananya Roy, director of the Institute on Inequality and Democracy at UCLA Luskin, provided opening remarks.

“Urgency for resistance is not new, but rather persistent,” said Roy, a professor of urban planning, social welfare and geography. “The phenomenon of Trumpism is not unique to the United States.” Rather, it is something that must be treated “as a rupture in the fabric of the world.”

But, she added: “The question is whether we, scholars rooted in academia, have stepped up … whether the global university, a command and control node of knowledge production, can be committed to such forms of research.”

And, Roy pointed out, academic fields and institutions that produce knowledge are not exempt from examination or resistance.

“For me, resistance within, against and from the university has meant a politics of alliance, solidarity and collectivism. It has meant taking and exercising academic freedom through a very visible politics of building collectivity, of building a commons.”

However, she cautioned the room full of students and researchers, “There’s a hell of a lot of risk ahead of you.”

The conference also included a panel focused on research methods illustrating theoretical and political points of departure and avenues in academic research. Panelists represented different career stages from new Ph.D.s to veteran scholars and educators.

Daniel Solórzano, a longtime professor of Education and Chicano/a Studies at UCLA, recalled early in his academic career his decision to go against the grain — and against the advice of senior scholars — to “challenge the dominant frames.” Solórzano whose teaching and research interests include critical race theory, agreed that “the issues are something that are not new,” crediting his students with helping him advance important work and fields of inquiry. “I need a diverse student population to move this work forward.”

Also on the methods panel was Nina Flores, who completed her doctorate in urban planning at UCLA Luskin in 2016. Flores, now an assistant professor of Social and Cultural Analysis at California State University Long Beach, also discussed the challenge and benefits of “push-back.”

“Find your people,” she said, citing her work and collaboration with longtime UCLA Luskin Urban Planning faculty members Leo Estrada and the late Jacqueline Leavitt. By finding the right people to work with, Flores said, “the push-back can be creative,” as well as affirming.

Also making up the methods panel were Kristina Lovato-Hermann  SW Ph.D. ’17, now assistant professor of social work at Cal State University Long Beach, and Karen Umemoto, professor of Urban Planning and Asian American Studies. Umemoto also serves as the inaugural holder of the Helen and Morgan Chu Endowed Director’s Chair in the UCLA Asian American Studies Center.

A second panel, devoted to research justice, included Saba Waheed, research director at the UCLA Labor Center; Yvonne Yen Liu, research director of the Solidarity Research Center in Los Angeles; and Lolita Andrada Lledo, associate director of the Los Angeles-based Pilipino Workers Center.

“We wanted today to be an opportunity to connect with people outside our departments who might be working on similar topics … as well as community-based researchers working on these topics,” Crane said.

In fact, a class of UCLA undergrads was able to take advantage of the knowledge shared at the conference. Diya Bose, a Ph.D. candidate in Sociology, brought students from her UCLA freshman cluster course on Interracial Dynamics in American Culture and Society.

“It was important for them to witness how the UCLA students are continuing to fight for justice and liberation through education, research and working with communities of color,” said Bose. “Following the Luskin event, my students shared with me that they felt inspired and empowered to participate in the UCLA community, not as passive consumers of knowledge, but as producers of knowledge.”

The conference also featured research workshops in three subgroups: Racial and Gender Justice, Public Services and Spaces, and Migration and Displacement.

“In my internship we do a lot of research and we partner with a lot of community organizations,” said Evelyn Larios, a second-year MSW student at UCLA. “So this is really nice because it really reinforces the idea that as we move forward in collective research we need to partner with communities to build that relationship.”

Larios added: “At some point it take compromise. That’s important to society and democracy in general.”

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Resistance Through Research