content from Luskin Forum magazine

Seen & Heard

In June 2022, graduating students from the UCLA Luskin Ph.D., master’s and undergraduate degree programs were asked to complete this sentence: “My UCLA Luskin degree means to me …”

young man in cap and gown… a pathway to achieve social justice.” —Jason A. Plummer, PhD in Social Welfare

 

young woman in cap and gown… investing back into myself so that I can help support my community.” —Samantha Guerrero, Urban Planning

 

young woman in cap and gown… I can really go out in the community and make the change that I came to this degree to make.” Maureen Alam, Public Policy

 

young woman in cap and gown… that I will have the opportunity to help others in our community and be able to work in different settings and help various populations.” —Louisa Cascione, Social Welfare

 

young woman in cap and gown… an opportunity to change the world.” —Anette Ramirez Valenzuela, Public Policy

 

young woman in cap and gown… make a real impact on the world.” —Sarah Perez, Public Affairs

 

young woman in cap and gown

… that I have the tools to go out into communities in Los Angeles and learn from community members themselves in order to create change.” —Delaney Ivey, Public Affairs

 

young woman in cap and gown

… empowerment, for me and my family. I am a first-generation student, so it’s really valuable.” —Margarita Palafox, Social Welfare

 

young woman in cap and gown

… liberation, hope and freedom for my people.” —Taylor Reed, PhD in Social Welfare

 

young woman in cap and gown

… working together to tackle issues and, hopefully, solve them.” —Camille Schaefer, Public Affairs

 

young man in cap and gown

… a pathway to more opportunities.” —Noe Garcia, Public Affairs

 

young man in cap and gown

… being of service to others.” —Carlos Hollopeter, Social Welfare

 

young man in cap and gown… the ability to just help people. That’s the reason I got into public service in the first place.” —Rasik Hussain, Public Policy

 

All images derived from video recorded by Michael Troxell

Alumni Accolades

Chanell Lajoi Gore BA ’06 MPP ’11 is now senior operations manager at Possibility Labs, a social change platform that envisions an economy where historically marginalized communities have the wealth, power and resources to produce clean air, water and energy for everyone.

Ashley Mashian MURP ’15 is the new planning deputy at the city of Los Angeles. She is responsible for serving the greater Western San Fernando Valley.

Ricardo Ferreira MPP ’21 is now an associate sustainability advisor at ISS Corporate Solutions, which helps companies design and manage their environmental, social and governance programs to reduce risk and address the needs of diverse stakeholders.

Jonathan Kosaka MPP ’20 is the new controller at Robert Walters in Tokyo, Japan. Based in Great Britain, the company is a worldwide specialist in professional recruitment.

Samantha Brown Olivieri MPP ’09 is now the chief executive officer at Step Up Tutoring. Olivieri has extensive experience in education policy and is one of many MPP alums working in education management, services and policy.

McKenna Morgan Christensen MPP ’20 started a new position as a policy analyst at the Utah Department of Health and Human Services with the Tobacco Prevention and Control Program.

Caitlin Thompson BA’15 MPP ’20 is the new project director at UCLA Health.

Noreen Ahmed MPP ’20 is Imagine LA’s new family team manager. She serves as a clinical case manager for families who recently exited homelessness.

Dulce Vasquez MPP ’20 is now assistant vice president at Arizona State University. She oversees strategic advancement in the Los Angeles region and reports to the Office of the President.


portrait photos of six alumni

From left, Alex Michel, Nelson Guevara (top), Khanh Phu (below), Daniela Garcia Martinez (top), Kristen Gas (below), Samantha Joanna (Sam) Guerrero.

Fresh From Luskin

Ever wonder what kind of employment opportunities new UCLA Luskin alums secure post-graduation? Look no further. In this Alumni Accolades section, we highlight a handful of ’22 grads and their current positions.

Daniela Garcia Martinez MPP ’22 is a program manager at America On Tech, which creates pathways into degrees and careers in technology to decrease the economic and racial wealth gap in underserved communities.

Nelson Guevara MURP ’22 is a transportation planning associate in the city of Los Angeles’ Department of Transportation.

Samantha Joanna (Sam) Guerrero MURP ’22 is an associate at Estolano Advisors, an award-winning and Latina-owned urban planning and public policy firm in downtown Los Angeles that currently employs several UCLA MURP alumni.

Alex Michel MSW ’22 MPP ’22 is the new senior policy analyst at the nonprofit Homebase/The Center for Common Concerns. 

Kristen Gast MSW ’22 is a youth advocate at First Place for Youth, an organization founded in 1998 to prevent poverty and homelessness among youth who age out of foster care.

Khanh Phu MSW ’22 is a clinical case manager at Angels Foster Family Network
in San Diego.

Alumni Notes Social Welfare Alumni Support Students; Cheung Takes on New Role

A group of MSW alumni who have sustained a close bond developed during their time at UCLA Luskin turned their camaraderie into a commitment to support current students.

Nine members of the class of 2011 launched the Together Crecemos Scholarship Fund to provide financial assistance to a first-year Social Welfare student who is committed to promoting equity, championing social justice and contributing to the community. The inspiration for the fund, whose name means “Together We Grow,” came during the COVID-19 pandemic, when the group met virtually each week for support and encouragement.

They inaugurated the scholarship program in 2021, and the first award was in the amount of $2,011, a nod to their graduation year.

That award was given to Julia Cocilion, who impressed the alumni with her moving personal story and vision to engage in equitable social work practices, said Bridgette Amador, one of the alumni organizers.

“It was a joy to learn more about the first-year students from their applications and to see the high caliber of students in the UCLA MSW program,” Amador said. “We hope to continue to grow the scholarship fund for years to come.”


portrait of man with water and a container ship in the background

Stephen Cheung. UCLA Luskin file photo

ALUMNUS STEPHEN CHEUNG TO LEAD L.A. COUNTY ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION

UCLA Luskin Board of Advisors member Stephen Cheung has been named the new president and CEO of the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation (LAEDC), succeeding longtime president Bill Allen when he retires in January.

Cheung, a double Bruin who earned his master’s in social welfare at UCLA in 2007, is currently the chief operating officer at the nonprofit organization, which focuses on equitable economic growth in the region. He also leads the LAEDC-affiliated World Trade Center Los Angeles and previously managed policies and programs related to the Port of Los Angeles.

“Our staff, board and I all agree that LAEDC will be in excellent hands under the leadership of our COO Stephen Cheung,” Allen said in a news release. “Stephen has been a tremendous partner to me in leading the LAEDC and WTCLA for the past seven years, and I’m genuinely excited to see where he will take the organization over the next decade.”

Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors chair Holly J. Mitchell said, “Stephen has been a steadfast champion to crush the digital divide and to ensure an economy that works for all county residents. We are indeed grateful for Bill Allen’s 17 years of service and look forward to working with Stephen Cheung in the years ahead.” 

An active alumnus who has been a member of the Board of Advisors at the Luskin School since 2018, Cheung helped conceive the School’s annual Luskin Summit event and continues to serve on its organizing committee.

In Support A look at longtime support from Liberty Hill Foundation, plus new initiatives and an overview of fundraising goals

LUSKIN FELLOWS AT LIBERTY HILL FOUNDATION TAKE ACTION

Thanks to the ongoing support of Stephanie ’81 and Harold Bronson ’72, Luskin Fellows have been interning with Liberty Hill Foundation since 2014, balancing their academic curricula with experiential work for a Los Angeles-based nonprofit that is “a laboratory for social change philanthropy.”

Luskin Fellows focus on building a just and equitable society, learning from and researching the efficacy of policies that are at the core of Liberty Hill Foundation’s progressive initiatives.

Luskin Fellows intern at Liberty Hill over the summer, focusing on coordinated projects that give practical application to their coursework while illuminating the grassroots efforts necessary to drive change.

Luskin Fellow Christian Lua, a second-year MPP student, had the opportunity to pivot from his work in the public sector to the Public-Private Partnerships team, exposing him to joint work.

The team has a diverse set of interdisciplinary duties with the Housing Justice team and Environmental Justice teams. “It is interesting to see how these duties and responsibilities dissect between each other,” Lua said.

Sonia Zamora, also a second-year MPP student, expressed gratitude for the opportunity to work on the foundation’s Youth Justice team.

“As someone who considers themselves a generalist in the Master of Public Policy program, I was more than delighted to undertake this opportunity,” said Zamora, who had no prior experience in either the work of foundations or youth justice initiatives.

It was a “formative and illuminating experience. I am thankful to have had this opportunity and so grateful to everyone on the Youth Justice team and the Liberty Hill staff for allowing me to be part of their important work,” Zamora said.

The Luskin School expects to continue its partnership with Liberty Hill, enabling future students to continue working on causes at the core of our shared mission.


logo for chancellor's society

Dean’s Associates Giving Society

UCLA Luskin is relaunching the Dean’s Associates giving society, whose members support the School at a leadership level of $1,000 or more. Dean’s Associates receive special communications and an invitation to intimate gatherings. Members also qualify to be a part of the university-wide Chancellor’s Society, another unique opportunity to connect more deeply with fellow UCLA alumni, parents, students and friends, as well as with the university itself. Chancellor’s Society donors of all recognition levels are invited to a special event hosted by Chancellor Gene Block at the end of the academic year.

If you’re interested in learning more about how you can get involved, contact Assistant Director of Stewardship Tilly Oren at toren@luskin.ucla.edu.


GILBERT FOUNDATION FUNDS UCLA-HEBREW UNIVERSITY SCHOOL VIOLENCE COLLABORATION

A grant from the Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation will support a new partnership between UCLA and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem focused on developing school violence prevention strategies to turn campuses into safe and welcoming places for children worldwide.

The Collaboration for Safe Schools is a two-year pilot program connecting scholars and practitioners globally and across disciplines
to share research and insights related to the complex underlying causes of school violence. Read more on page 11.

The Gilbert Foundation grant, awarded to UCLA and American Friends of the Hebrew University, covers half of the pilot program’s expected budget of $1.3 million.

The foundation invites other funders to “join this important initiative to create a safer and more peaceable world.”


SCHOOL SETS FUNDRAISING PRIORITIES

Faculty recruitment and retention, equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) programs, internships and partnerships are among UCLA Luskin’s fundraising priorities.

Adding more doctoral fellowships to assist in recruiting PhD students is another priority. A strategic plan to further build fundraising at the Luskin School and increase support for student fellows throughout Los Angeles County also seeks to bolster professional internships for students pursuing an undergraduate public affairs degree.

Amid concern about threats to democracy, the School expects to expand programming, outreach and educational efforts relating to fostering good government. The vision looks beyond California, and a planned expansion of the Global Public Affairs program at UCLA Luskin is on the horizon.

UCLA Luskin’s efforts to enhance partnerships with local governments and policy experts will emphasize the role of civic society institutions in making governments responsible, pushing them ultimately to do more.

The School plans to improve the reach and efficacy of its initiatives in Los Angeles at all levels, from grassroots to governmental. Such programs are a launching pad for a deeper presence and future growth of the academic community, its current students and alumni.


people in business attire stand outside a home while a speaker is talking

Students, professionals, board members and faculty gather at a fireside chat focusing on homelessness, housing and government. Photo by Laura Scarano

THE MANY WAYS THAT EDI FUNDS SUPPORT STUDENTS

Equity, diversity and inclusion efforts have long been a priority at UCLA Luskin as departments seek to provide financial support to students from underrepresented backgrounds and diversify the fields related to the School’s degree programs in public policy, social welfare and urban planning.

Such funds provide various types of assistance:

  • internships with nonprofit community organizations that otherwise couldn’t afford to provide a paid internship. This is a double win: The student gets paid while gaining professional experience, and the community organization gets a funded temporary position.
  • fellowships, allowing students to devote more time to learning instead of having to hold down a job or being saddled with unsustainable debt. Eligible students receive $7,500 per quarter.
  • fireside chats at which students can meet in small groups with professionals in their fields of study. The goal is to discuss pressing social issues and policy implications in the professionals’ work within public affairs. Fundraising efforts so far have yielded $115,000 for these gatherings, and the primary goal is to center discussions around racial and social justice. In the 2022-23 academic year, fireside chats will look at homelessness and affordable housing in combination with another component.

    • A fall quarter session dealt with homelessness, housing and government. In winter quarter, real estate developers will be the focus. Finally, in spring quarter, the discussion will turn to the role of nonprofits in working with the unhoused.
  • bolstering a newly reorganized department of student services within UCLA Luskin.
  • supporting the Diversity, Disparities and Differences (D3) group and its activities.
  • funding new efforts such as an initiative within the department of Urban Planning that identified seven students involved with the Racial Justice Action Plan to be fellowship recipients.

The UCLA Luskin Development team continues to seek additional EDI funds to support even more students whose academic promise and career goals embody the mission of the Luskin School. An anonymous donor generously contributed $50,000 in honor of the department of Urban Planning’s 50th anniversary — the largest gift for the fund to date. We are grateful for this transformative gift that directly impacts the lives of students.

Are you interested in learning more or contributing? Contact Nicole Payton at npayton@luskin.ucla.edu.

 

Message From the Dean

As you may have heard by the time this issue reaches you, I have stepped down as dean of the Luskin School of Public Affairs, effective at the end of 2022. [Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris has been appointed as interim dean, beginning Jan. 1.]

Serving as dean these last six years has been a profound privilege and, without exception, the best experience of my career. And part of what made that experience so wonderful was getting to meet and learn about the incredibly important and impactful work being done by UCLA Luskin alumni across Los Angeles, the state of California and beyond. The Luskin School has many things of which it can be justly proud, but none so exceptional as its more than 9,000 alumni doing good work for good purposes every day.

The last six years have been transformative.

Together, and with the magnificent foundation provided by Renee and Meyer Luskin’s amazing gift, we have expanded and deepened the impact and scope of the School. In six years, we enlarged the ladder faculty to 59 and have hired more than half our current faculty. Today, that faculty is evenly divided by gender, and a majority of UCLA Luskin ladder faculty are scholars of color.

The founding and growth of the undergraduate major in public affairs has more than doubled the student population, from 525 to more than 1,100.

We have dramatically enlarged our overall levels of extramural research and grant support. UCLA Luskin faculty garnered a record $38.3 million just last year.

The Latino Policy and Politics Institute and the Hub for Health Intervention Policy and Practice were both established and flourished. The UCLA Voting Rights Project waged judicial battle across the country to protect fair and equal voting rights. Social workers traveled to asylee detention camps at the southern border to provide support, counselling and assistance. And Luskin School faculty stepped up in a big way to help mitigate the effects of COVID-19 on Los Angeles’ most vulnerable populations.

Since my appointment, our philanthropic efforts together fundraised $39.03 million on 4,522 gifts, both big and small, ranging from 10 dollars to $3.2 million, all to enhance and deepen the teaching and research efforts of the School and its fine faculty.   

With the great times came the hard ones. We said goodbye to our friends, mourning VC Powe, Zeke Hasenfeld, Martin Wachs, Mark Kleiman and Leo Estrada, as well as earlier retirees such as Karen Lee, Leland Burns and Joel Handler.

We spent four quarters, two summers and a few additional weeks running five university graduate programs and an undergraduate major from our couches and dining tables, hoping to spare faculty, staff and students from the ravages of a global pandemic. The class of 2020 had graduation online. The class of 2021 had a distanced ceremony in the tennis stadium, without their families present.

But through it all, the Luskin School of Public Affairs persevered, stuck firmly to its mission, trained a generation of change-makers, and had an impact. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

Events at UCLA have been, frankly, turbulent in the last months, as you have no doubt read. The Luskin School needs leadership that is fresh and energetic to face the challenges and opportunities to come. I look forward to supporting my successor and I hope you will too. I know you will embrace the new dean with the same warmth, help and enthusiasm from which I so richly benefitted. For my part, I look forward to returning to my first love, classroom teaching.

In the coming years, it’s my sincere hope that the Luskin School continues to make change in Los Angeles and beyond. I know that it will. Thank you for being part of that journey and allowing me to join you.

All the best,

Gary

Recalling Social Welfare’s ‘Finest Moment’ After Los Angeles erupted in racially charged violence 30 years ago, UCLA faculty and students gave people in a city under siege the chance to talk

By Les Dunseith and Stan Paul

In 1992, four police officers were acquitted in the beating of a Black man, Rodney King, whose brutal arrest had been caught on camera. Pent-up fury from years of racial and economic inequality in Los Angeles spilled onto the streets in waves of burning, looting and violence that lasted three days and left 45 people dead.

woman rests her head on her hand while sitting outside on a bench

Distinguished Professor Emerita Rosina Becerra was dean of the School of Social Work at UCLA in 1992. Photo by Les Dunseith

Rosina Becerra was dean of UCLA Social Welfare at the time. Joe Nunn and Alfreda Iglehart were on the faculty. Laura Alongi was in her early 20s and a second-year master’s student studying to be a social worker.

What they and others did next was “perhaps our finest moment,” said Nunn, who like Becerra and Iglehart is now a professor emeritus at the Luskin School of Public Affairs.

“There were people who were afraid to leave their houses,” Becerra remembered. “A lot of people were unable to figure out where to get services. They didn’t know who to call.”

Within days of the uprising, officials at Los Angeles’ public television station, KCET, reached out seeking advice through Mitch Maki, a field faculty member at the time whose wife was a station employee. Becerra recalls sitting at a conference table with Maki and station employees eager to assist but unsure how to respond to people’s emotional turmoil. What did people need?

“Mostly, they need a chance to talk,” Becerra told them.

Three days later, UCLA Social Welfare and KCET-TV launched a crisis line during which faculty, students and other volunteers recruited by UCLA answered calls from distressed citizens via the telephones normally used during the station’s pledge drives. They called it, “A Chance to Talk: Emotional Support in Times of Crisis.”

woman sits in chair in her office

Field faculty member Laura Alongi was a student in 1992. UCLA Luskin file photo

Alongi was one of the student volunteers, helping to fill weekday shifts that ran for four hours each morning and four more in the evenings, plus 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. on weekends. While the crisis line was in operation, KCET viewers were encouraged by news anchor Val Zavala to call a number shown on their screens if they needed to talk to one of the people working the phones behind her.

Because of the urgency of the situation, volunteers like Alongi only had time for a brief orientation. She had never worked a crisis hotline. Moving about the city to get to the TV studio still felt dangerous. And racial tensions remained high, especially between Black residents and the Korean shop owners whose properties had been a frequent target of rioters.

Alongi remembers being filled with anxiety.

“Is this something I should be doing?” she worried. “Do I even have the right to do this, given that I’m, you know, a young white woman and not impacted in the same way?”

Her anxiety was replaced by a sense of fulfillment once she began taking calls.

“It was fantastic,” said Alongi, now a member of UCLA Social Welfare’s field faculty herself. “The people I spoke to were all just afraid and hurt and sad. They wanted to be able to talk about that with another human being.”

Alongi recalled speaking with an older woman who lived in South Los Angeles near where the unrest began.

“She was crying. And she said, ‘How did it get to this? How did we end up being these people that fight each other in this way?’”

Some calls involved directing people to services. One caller said her market had burned down and she didn’t know where to go now for food. But mostly, Alongi said, she was there just to listen.

woman smiles as she faces the camera

Professor Emerita Alfreda Iglehart helped organize the crisis hotline after the civil unrest.

“We didn’t know what to expect,” said Iglehart, who helped organize the effort and later contributed to an academic paper about it. “And you did have some angry callers.”

Volunteers were instructed to remain calm, Becerra said. “No matter what anyone ever said to you, you’re not to get mad.”

Later analysis showed the initial reason for most calls were feelings of anger and frustration (22%), followed by fear or anxiety (19%) and a desire to discuss the current situation (11%).

About 4% of the calls were racist and hateful in nature. Although relatively small in number, these calls were powerful and ended up occupying a disproportionate amount of debriefing time afterward, researchers noted.

The academic report details an incident in which a Black female volunteer received a call from an angry white male who made racist and disparaging remarks regarding African Americans.

“Both caller and listener were aware of each other’s ethnicity, and the call proceeded to last about half an hour,” according to the report, which was written by Iglehart, Nunn and Maki, with contributions from Cayleen Nakamura at KCET. “The listener validated the caller’s underlying personal feelings and carefully challenged him to reframe his thinking. The caller ended the call by stating that he realized that he had said some hurtful things, acknowledged that the listener had stuck with him, and thanked her.”

The report also mentions other callers:

  • a man who was despondent over the destruction of his business said he contemplated suicide;
  • a 10-year-old boy found it unfair that he could not go out and play because of the unrest;
  • an elderly woman spoke of her fear of waiting at bus stops;
  • a 7-year-old girl called to say that she was having problems sleeping because of thoughts that “the riots will happen again.”

“We validated people feelings if they were fearful. If they felt alone, we validated that,” Iglehart said. “We wanted people to feel that what you are going through and what you’re experiencing is not unique to you. Other people around you are feeling this way.”

Given the cultural diversity of Los Angeles and the randomness of calls, listeners fluent in Spanish, Korean
and several other languages were  always present.

man in center listens as younger people talk in a classroom setting

Professor Emeritus Joe Nunn participated in the crisis hotline and says it exemplified the ideals of social work education at UCLA.

“When people would call in, if they spoke Spanish or they spoke Tagalog or whatever language, you’d hold up a sign that said you needed someone with that language skill to come over,” Nunn said.

The crisis line started with UCLA faculty and students, but it soon expanded.

“There is a great deal of credibility that goes with the UCLA name,” Iglehart said. “With that kind of credibility and legitimacy, people say, ‘Oh, this must be a good idea. I want to be involved.’”

Soon, organizers had mobilized their contacts and recruited local professionals in the helping professions and additional student volunteers from other L.A.-area universities. In all, more than 300 volunteers took calls from about 2,000 individuals. By the 10th day of the project, the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health had established its own telephone hotline, and the UCLA-KCET project was terminated.

For those involved, the effort remains a treasured memory that exemplifies UCLA Social Welfare’s long history and tradition of providing service to Southern California.

“We’re in a university where we talk about teaching, our research and service,” said Iglehart, noting that in academia that tends to mean service to the profession, such as reviewing articles for an academic journal. “This was direct hands-on service to the community of Southern California, and I think that’s really important.”

“People from my student cohort went out onto the streets and were doing cleanup after the fires and the looting,” Alongi said. “Just literally sweeping up broken glass.”

They had listened and they had acted, doing whatever they could to help a fractured city begin to piece itself  back together.

Social Welfare at 75 Field Training Is the Heart of the Program

By Stan Paul

Since 1947, Social Welfare at UCLA has been a leader in enhancing human well-being and promoting social and economic justice for disadvantaged populations.

Social Welfare has much to celebrate after 75 years. Under the direction of Professor Laura Abrams, the current department chair, the department will be hosting celebratory events throughout the academic year, culminating with an on-campus gala May 6. Fittingly, the theme of the 75th anniversary celebration focuses on community engagement.

“That’s why I became a social worker, that’s why I came to UCLA, that’s why I stayed at UCLA, that’s what’s shaped me is the community engagement,” said Gerry Laviña, longtime director of the field faculty at UCLA Luskin.

Laviña, who plans to retire in 2023, reflected on his experience as a student, instructor, leader, mentor and social worker over 30 years.

“One of the things that I learned as an MSW student from the first year throughout my career and is what I told my first- and second-year students, you cannot do this work alone,” Laviña said. “That’s what field education is.”

Laviña said the department has survived and thrived because it has long emphasized field education through deep ties to community service agencies and an emphasis on community engagement.

“I was here for the 50th anniversary, which was really significant, and now I’m going to end at the 75th anniversary,” he said. “There’s been a lot of positive changes in our program, which is due to the hard work of a lot of us who’ve been committed to making it a better place.”

Professor Fernando Torres-Gil concurs.

“In just over 75 years, this program really moved up in terms of respect, recognition and visibility,” said Torres-Gil, who has filled a number of leadership roles over his three decades at UCLA.

Social Welfare is the oldest and largest of UCLA Luskin’s graduate degree programs in terms of student enrollment and number of faculty. Thousands of students have received their educations and training over the years.

“Our Social Welfare program is embedded in the multidisciplinary Luskin School that’s part of a university that truly believes in cross-disciplinary collaboration,” said Torres-Gil, referring to the decision in the 1990s to join Social Welfare, Urban Planning and Public Policy in a School of Public Affairs. “It’s stronger, more influential, more impactful precisely because it collaborates with its sister/brother departments.”

He said it’s been gratifying to see the department and School’s academic and professional reputation grow in recent years. “It has finally come of age, recognized nationally, even internationally, however you measure it.”

World Cities Serving as Learning Laboratories

By Mary Braswell

Powerful experiences on some of the world’s great rivers deepened Jinglan Lin’s desire to shape the policies that affect the planet.

Two weeks rafting on the Colorado during high school led to summers volunteering on China’s Mekong. Now, she’s in the city on the Seine — Paris, where Lin is spending the year as part of the first group of students accepted to a unique dual-degree program pairing UCLA Luskin Urban Planning with the top European research university Sciences Po.

At the end of the two-year program, Lin will emerge with a master of regional and urban planning from UCLA and a master of governing the large metropolis from Sciences Po’s Urban School. Her concentration is environmental analysis and policy.

“The rafting trip was 14 days on the river without the internet, and it really changed me,” Lin recalled.

With her eyes opened to the beauty of the wild rivers and the environmental perils they face, she planned a course of study that led to the field of urban planning because, she said, “It’s the human activities in cities that are creating all these environmental problems.”

Lin is one of six students completing the dual-degree coursework in Paris after spending a year on the UCLA campus.

The selective program is just one of the study-abroad opportunities available at UCLA Luskin:

  • This year, public policy students can be found at the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin and the Graduate School of Public Policy at the University of Tokyo.
  • Seven student fellows traveled to low- or middle-income countries or worked with international agencies in the summer of 2022 in association with Global Public Affairs, which is open to students from all of the School’s graduate programs. Founded in 2014, the Global Public Affairs program typically awards about 20 certificates to graduating master’s degree recipients each year. (Plans are in the works to expand the number of international-focused course offerings, with an associated increase in faculty who focus on global issues.)
  • And the Public Affairs undergraduate program encourages majors, pre-majors and minors to broaden their perspectives through the UCLA International Education Office. Over the summer, 15 UCLA Luskin undergrads completed internships in Argentina, Colombia, Great Britain, South Africa and Vietnam.

The new partnership between the Luskin School and Sciences Po — the UC system’s first graduate dual-degree program with a foreign university — grew out of a longstanding quarter-long exchange program that is still available to urban planning students.

“Students are able to experience two world-class programs, which are complementary and different, as well as two world cities, which are similar in their economic and world importance but totally different in terms of their ways of life,” said Michael Storper, a distinguished professor of urban planning who has appointments at both campuses.

“Over time, we will build deeper ties of teaching and research, and this will strengthen both of our universities.”

While Lin initially had qualms about joining the dual-degree program in its very first year, she could not pass up such a rare opportunity to immerse herself in two great metropolises.

Lin, whose hometown is Guangzhou, China, is no stranger to study abroad. She attended high school in Northern California and earned her bachelor’s in environmental analysis at Pitzer, one of the Claremont Colleges. As an undergrad, she completed an exchange program at Sciences Po and knew she wanted to return.

The Los Angeles and Paris experiences have been markedly different, Lin said. UCLA’s campus is largely self-contained, whereas attending Sciences Po’s Urban School takes her all around the city. The first-year course load is foundational and rigorous — students must satisfy MURP requirements in a single year. Her classes in Paris are emphatically global in scope, taught by professors with experience on several continents.

All instruction is conducted in English, but Lin is also studying French to fulfill a language requirement and better navigate the streets of Paris.

“I didn’t know what to expect coming into this program. But I did know that Sciences Po and UCLA already had robust planning programs,” Lin said. “I knew that, regardless, I would learn a lot.”

Seeing the Forest and Filling in the Blanks

By Stan Paul

For Susanna Hecht, the story of Amazonia is just that — mostly a story.

The popular notion of Amazonia as a void, or blank spot, on the map contrasts starkly with what has been the real story of the region unfolding over several centuries: extraction, depletion and destruction of its natural resources with very real global consequences from external and internal forces, according to the urban planning professor.

Hecht, who is director of UCLA’s Center for Brazilian Studies, has been working to fill that blank for more than five decades. Her efforts are being recognized this year as “one of the most influential figures in the disciplines of geography” by the American Association of Geographers.

“The Amazon is not for beginners. It’s complicated, it’s difficult, and it has a really rich history,” Hecht said about the region’s complex web of history and politics.

Currently completing her trilogy on Amazonia, Hecht’s next book has a foreboding working title, “This side of Paradise: From Arcadia to Apocalypse.”

The 1988 ratification of Brazil’s new constitution and the emergence and consolidation of a variety of new environmental laws and territorial rights in the region are a current focus. The constitution was developed with the active participation of Indigenous, afro-descendent and other traditional peoples. “It rewrote Amazonia’s conservation map through a complex of social movements (including rubber tappers and Indigenous populations) and the emergence of many new forms of tropical governance and allies at multiple levels,” she said.

“In many ways, it elaborated the idea of protected areas that could be inhabited by people,” said Hecht, noting that the so-called socio-environmental period produced a drop in deforestation by 80% in just over a decade.

But tragically, powerful counterforces were also on the move reflecting new market geopolitics, including foreign demand for soy, beef, timber and minerals. Amid economic decline and the rise of clandestine economies throughout the Amazon biome, “failed and flailing states lost interest in Amazon governance by political default, incompetence or corruption.”

Today, planetary scientists consider Amazonia as perhaps the only place where human action to protect forests could have a significant benefit.

“We know from past geoclimatic studies that Amazonia is one of the great planetary levers —that’s why it’s one of the five key tipping points in global climate,” she explained.

“An Amazonia that flips from a forest to a savanna would not only be devastating for the Amazon and its adjacent bioclimatic systems, but it would also be a carbon bomb, and dramatically affect teetering global climates.”

Hecht hopes that worst-case scenario never comes to pass, but “I am writing this book with a great sense of urgency. Euclides da Cunha called Amazonia ‘the last unfinished page of Genesis.’ I’m leaving the last page of the book intentionally blank.”

A Worldly Perspective

Thinking beyond borders is an integral part of a UCLA education.

The commitment to international scholarship is even spelled out in the Luskin School’s strategic plan. It recognizes UCLA’s unique position as a public university situated “in the ‘world city’ of Los Angeles, a living laboratory for the far-reaching issues facing communities across the United States and around the world.”

Roughly one in five current faculty members at UCLA Luskin conduct research primarily with an international focus. Their scholarly contributions frequently appear in journals with a global orientation or get recognized in other ways.

Two men in academic robes present a canister containing a document to a woman in the middle

Professor Ananya Roy receives the Doctorat Honoris Causa (honorary doctorate) at the University of Geneva from Rector Yves Flückiger and Social Sciences Dean Pascal Sciarni.

For example, Ananya Roy, professor of urban planning and social welfare, traveled to Switzerland in October to receive a Doctorat Honoris Causa at the University of Geneva. An honorary doctorate is one of the highest academic honors one can receive.

“I didn’t have any ties to the University of Geneva,” Roy said after the ceremony, which was televised. “But as the faculty there reminded me, it will now always be my university.”

Some faculty efforts involve a pooling of resources. The Latin American Cities Initiative draws on Los Angeles’ ties to countries across the Americas to share knowledge about managing urban spaces. Directed by Paavo Monkkonen, professor of urban planning and public policy, the initiative known as Ciudades hosts seminars and conferences and conducts an international planning studio in Latin America that immerses students in real-world case studies.

And the Global Lab for Research in Action focuses on hard-to-reach populations around the world through a social justice lens. Manisha Shah of public policy leads the research, which seeks remedies for the health, education and economic needs of women and children.

A global focus is also found in many L.A.-based efforts, both new and ongoing.

In summer 2022, social welfare students and scholars hosted the International Summer University in Social Work, during which colleagues from around the world explored theories and practices that promote justice. More than 20 participants from four continents came to campus for a two-week exploration of topics such as racism, the wealth gap, gender bias and homelessness.

Last spring, the Luskin School hosted a virtual Global Mini-Summit as part of its signature Luskin Summit policy dialogue series. Discussions are underway to expand this concept into an ongoing series focused on international concerns.

Plus, numerous alumni now hold positions in foreign governments or work in agencies or businesses with an international mindset.

Several stories in this edition of Luskin Forum take a closer look at the ways UCLA Luskin is bringing a global perspective to issues of public concern.