content from Luskin Forum magazine

A Time of Transition

By Les Dunseith

What’s new, you ask?

  • There’s a new dean.
  • Two new master’s degrees are  working their way through the  faculty approval process.
  • Next fall, three of four department chairs will be new in the role, and  one of them is new to UCLA.
  • One of our prestigious academic research centers has a new faculty director.
  • We have several new or almost-new  staff members, including two whose  jobs focus on alumni.
  • Newly renovated public areas are  now open in the Public Affairs  Building after the completion of   an 18-month seismic retrofit.
  • And, as you may have heard, a  historic 40-day strike ended with  a new labor agreement that will  boost the pay of graduate student workers and postdocs at all 10 University of California campuses.

In this story, we delve into these changes in detail, starting with a familiar face in a new role — Interim Dean Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris. (Note that each subhead below links to other, often-more-detailed content online, including some photos.)


On Jan. 1, Loukaitou-Sideris took over for Professor Gary Segura, who chose to step down as dean after six years to focus on his teaching and research. Loukaitou-Sideris is a longtime distinguished professor of urban planning who had served as associate dean for 12 years. She will lead the Luskin School for at least two-and-a-half years, while a permanent dean is being sought.

A widely published scholar who joined the UCLA faculty in 1990, Loukaitou-Sideris helped lead a strategic planning effort to redefine the future of the School after Meyer and Renee Luskin’s naming gift in 2004. She later drew on that experience to lead a campuswide task force to create UCLA’s strategic plan.

After 33 years at UCLA, Loukaitou-Sideris felt comfortable diving right in  as dean.

“I love the School,” she said shortly after moving into the dean’s office. “I know the School inside and out, and I have served the university in different capacities. I know the deans. I know the vice chancellors. There is an element of familiarity. And I feel that I’m giving something back to a School that has been extremely good to me all these years.”

Loukaitou-Sideris doesn’t plan to simply be a caretaker. “I’m going to continue some activities, and start new initiatives,” she said. “I feel I owe it to the School and its people.”

The foundation of the Luskin School with its unique integration of public policy, social welfare and urban planning remains strong, she said. “The common thread is social justice and a desire to make cities and society better — to improve things.”

She plans to build on the successes of her predecessor, who increased the footprint and reputation of the Luskin School. Segura also successfully advanced student and faculty diversity. Women and people of color now constitute roughly half of UCLA Luskin’s full-time and ladder faculty.

The number of research grants has also grown substantially, and the Luskin School expects to exceed last fiscal year’s record total of more than $20 million in extramural research grants and contracts.

“All of this is very, very good,” Loukaitou- Sideris said. “We have reached a level of stability now.”


Loukaitou-Sideris hopes to bring to fruition efforts initiated by previous deans to create two additional master’s degrees.

The UCLA Graduate Council gave a thumbs-up in mid-April for a Master of Real Estate Development, or MRED, degree. Pending further reviews, including approval by the University of California Office of the President and the UC Regents, the first cohort would likely  enroll in fall 2025.

Led by Vinit Mukhija, a professor and former chair of urban planning,  the program is envisioned as a one-year, full-time, self-supporting degree program in which enrollment is matched to costs.

Documentation for the new degree stresses instruction on the ethical underpinnings of a growing profession and the training of real estate developers to have a social conscience. Coursework would be led by faculty experts from UCLA Urban Planning, the Anderson School of Management and UCLA Law.

The second new degree, a Master of Global Public Affairs, is envisioned as an interdepartmental degree providing intellectual preparation to future experts who plan to work within the realm of global public affairs. The program description is being developed by Professor Michael Storper and lecturer  Steve Commins, members of  the urban planning faculty who  have led UCLA’s Global Public  Affairs certificate program since  its inception in 2015.

“We need to educate global citizens,” Loukaitou-Sideris said.

In the discussion stage of development is a third initiative — a new revenue-producing certificate program around e-governance and the impact  of emerging technologies.

Loukaitou-Sideris hopes to create an opportunity for working professionals, including alumni, to pursue coursework at UCLA that would help them stay current in an era of rapidly changing technology.


Helping to guide the future of the Luskin School will be three new department chairs for the 2023-24 academic year:

  • Professor Michael Lens will become the new chair of the undergraduate major, succeeding Meredith Phillips, who since 2018 successfully built from scratch the Bachelor of Arts in Public Affairs.
  • Professor Michael Manville will become the new chair of Urban Planning, following a three-year term by Professor Chris Tilly.
  • Professor Laura Abrams will remain as a department chair for one additional year, extending to seven years a term as leader of Social Welfare that began in the summer of 2017.
  • After a year as interim department chair of Public Policy, Mark Peterson will step aside for a new chair, Robert Fairlie, who will move to UCLA this summer from the University of California Santa Cruz.

Fairlie was a professor of economics at UC Santa Cruz and is a member of the National Bureau of Economic Research. Areas of his research, published in leading economic and policy-related journals, include public policy, entrepreneurship, education, racial and gender inequality, information technology, labor economics, developing countries and immigration.

He has strong ties to the state, arriving in California at age 2 and growing up near San Jose. He attended Stanford University, earning a bachelor’s in economics. He previously held visiting academic positions at Stanford and UC Berkeley. He also serves on the  Faculty Council of the UC Sacramento Center.

A new book on entrepreneurial job creation and survival — seven years in the making — will soon be published with MIT Press. Fairlie and his co-authors at the U.S. Census Bureau created a new dataset to track the universe of startups in the country — the Comprehensive Startup Panel, or CSP.

“We find that startups, on average, create fewer jobs and have lower survival rates than previously documented,” Fairlie said.


Fairlie is the second professor recently hired into a leadership position in UCLA Luskin Public Policy.

Megan Mullin also joined UCLA Luskin, as both a professor and the new faculty director of the Luskin Center for Innovation. Formerly a professor at Duke University, Mullin has been getting to know the people and programs at UCLA since her arrival in January.

“I had an idea of what the center was doing. It impressed me, and everything I’ve learned in the last months has assured me that my impression was correct,” said Mullin about the center and the strength of its work. “The people doing it are so committed to the mission of bringing good research and good analytics to responsible environmental decision-making,” she said. “It’s really exciting to see.”

Mullin is a scholar of American political institutions and behavior, with a focus on environmental politics. In addition to her center appointment, she is also the Meyer and Renee Luskin Endowed Professor of Innovation and Sustainability in the department of Public Policy.

In spring quarter, Mullin taught an undergraduate course in U.S. environmental politics designed to help “students gain competency in identifying political opportunities for advancing environmental policy goals,” she said.

Her arrival happened to coincide with one of California’s rainiest seasons to date, and Mullin said the growing uncertainties surrounding the impact of climate change will persist as a concern in California and the country.

Mullin cited risks associated with overabundance, including rainfall, and cautioned about complacency and thinking that California’s drought is over thanks to winter rains, “because it’s not.” Managing water resources and water accessibility are problems during both severe storms and drought, she said, particularly as it relates to what happens to floodwater.

She wrote a recent article in Nature on why Americans have been slow to respond to the climate crisis. “It is time to bring political knowledge to bear on decisions about protecting people from its consequences,” Mullin wrote.

“And so that’s going to be part of the portfolio for the center going forward, too.”


This academic year started with Karina Mascorro, Ph.D. as the School’s new alumni engagement director. She works with the departments to manage and promote alumni-related activities such as the regional alumni receptions that have resumed after the pandemic.

“I am responsible for ensuring that we catch every opportunity to highlight the outstanding accomplishments of our alumni,” Mascorro wrote in an email to staff and faculty last fall.

In March, the Luskin School added another staff member with an alumni-related role, Vishal Hira, who will oversee the annual giving program as associate director of development for the School


After making the building safer in the event of a major earthquake, construction crews have departed the Public Affairs Building.

The project also involved refurbishing the notoriously unreliable elevators, and all four have been upgraded. Restrooms were modernized with an eye toward sustainability and inclusivity — non-gendered options are now available. And some shared-use areas, including a lounge on  the 5th floor with cooking appliances, have  been remodeled.


There’s been plenty of upbeat news, but the path ahead has also been complicated by what Loukaitou-Sideris refers to as a “triple whammy” — the aftereffects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the UC strike and the unexpected resignation of a dean.

“Morale is very important, as you know, in an organization,” Loukaitou-Sideris said.

She’s a believer in open communication and transparency, so she began her tenure by immediately hosting a town hall with faculty and staff, and another with students. Loukaitou-Sideris spoke frankly about some of the challenges ahead.

With inflation spiking in the wake of the pandemic and a continued decline in the percentage of operating costs in higher education being funded by the state, a time of budget austerity looms.

One hurdle relates to the increased labor costs resulting from the strike settlement agreement. Unless the state and University of California Office of the President unexpectedly shift money to individual units, it appears that it will be up to the faculty and staff leaders to find the necessary dollars to pay the higher wages of student workers and other union-represented employees at the Luskin School.

Some trims in budget areas controlled by the dean have been made, with more likely to follow. And staff who leave UCLA for another job or retire may not be replaced, with remaining staffers’ duties likely changing as a result.

Already, two associate dean positions have been combined into one, with Professor David Cohen adding responsibilities that he formerly shared with Loukaitou-Sideris. Her other former duties have been parceled out to staff members in the dean’s office or the departments.

Loukaitou-Sideris said departments have been asked to share more of their funds with the dean’s office for one year, “and then we will reevaluate once we have a better sense of the overall budget situation at UCLA and [the University of California].”

So far, she said, everyone has been responsive, understanding that reducing the budget is a collective effort.

Their Luskin Connection Extends to Sacramento


For three 2018 alumni, a friendship that started at UCLA Luskin has led to legislation under consideration by the California Legislature.

Parshan Khosravi is a policy advocate. Isaac Bryan is an assemblyman. Caleb Rabinowitz is Bryan’s chief of staff. They’ve known each other since the 2016 new student orientation for their public policy master’s cohort at UCLA. Now, they are working to pass Assembly Bill 274 and benefit lower income graduate students.

Because MPP cohorts are relatively small, classmates get to know each other even if they take different paths through graduate school. Bryan has always been politically astute, Khosravi said, and he was already influencing policy change at the local level while at UCLA.

“And then we have somebody like Caleb … who was  both a genius and genuinely kind person, one of the most exemplary students in our class,” Khosravi said. “Meanwhile, I would probably say I was one of the worst students,” Khosravi joked.

A self-described student government junkie, Khosravi’s world at the time revolved around the UCLA Graduate Student Association and advancing campus-related issues.

“So, each of us took a different route. One was a scholar who worked on developing policies, one went on to do grassroots and civil rights organizing and ultimately getting elected to office, and one went on to become a lobbyist and education advocate. And it all ended up coming back and working in collaboration,” he said.

A bonding experience, Khosravi said, was the 2016 presidential election. Like most classmates, they opposed Donald Trump, and the election result was a shock.

“We all realized that the expectations we came in with were not going to be our experience,” Khosravi said. Their bond was strengthened by “the collective need to do something about it.”

After graduation, Khosravi stayed in touch as Bryan won a seat in the California Assembly in 2021 with Rabinowitz as his campaign manager and then chief of staff. Meanwhile, Khosravi’s student government experience had led to work that included lobbying in Sacramento. Today, he is California policy director for uAspire, a nonprofit that focuses on removing financial barriers to higher education.

He is often among the first to hear about policy issues in higher education, including a situation involving the eligibility determination for student recipients of two assistance programs — CalFresh, which provides healthy, nutritious food for qualified households, and CalWORKS, which provides cash aid and services for low-income families with a child in the home.

If student recipients get a scholarship, grant or other financial award, it counts as income when determining future eligibility.

“You would think that we shouldn’t tax folks who are low income for going out of their way and getting an award or a scholarship of merit,” Khosravi said.

He knew of an effort in Massachusetts to address this situation, so he raised the issue over coffee with Rabinowitz in Sacramento. Soon, Bryan was sponsoring similar legislation for California.

At press time, AB-274 was still going through the legislative process, but Khosravi said its prospects for passage are strong.

“We expect the bill to be heard in committee soon, and we have a broad coalition of education, welfare and basic needs organizations supporting it. This may be a wonky and technical bill, but its impact will be deeply felt for a lot of grad students who don’t have a big income stream,” Khosravi said. “And we would have never been able to work on this if it wasn’t for Luskin bringing us together.”



In Support New initiatives and other fundraising highlights at the Luskin School


In March, donors who contributed $1,000 or more to the Luskin School over the previous year assembled for our first post-pandemic, in-person Dean’s Associates gathering.

The event is expected to become an annual gathering to underscore the importance and impact of donations, from attracting top-tier students to funding internships at nonprofits that help the communities that have been most damaged by injustice.

Our donors span a wide range of work done at the Luskin School, and we were able to acknowledge donors to all disciplinary areas for their essential roles in investing in communities of need. We cannot emphasize the significance of those gifts enough. They help fight for social justice at the academic, professional and policy level across a range of topic areas. Our donors’ generosity is an integral part of social change through investing in the next generation of leadership.

Interim Dean Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris emphasized to the audience that during this time of change, the School will continue to stress pedagogical excellence. She emphasized the need to protect vulnerable students, and to foster faculty and staff well-being in order for UCLA Luskin to continue its upward trajectory. To advance those academic priorities, she is prioritizing development of two new master’s degrees and a new certificate in e-governance. See details on page 10.

The luncheon highlighted a gift by Ralph, Shirley and Peter Shapiro to UCLA Social Welfare that funds field placements related to special care within dental and orthodontic clinics at UCLA. The gift also supports a clinical supervisor.

The fellowships provide critical social work services to otherwise underserved patients with special needs at the UCLA School of Dentistry, UCLA’s Center for Cerebral Palsy and UCLA’s Orthopedic Clinic, while also encouraging the next generation of social workers to pursue careers working with this patient population. The event allowed UCLA Luskin’s Development staff to thank the Shapiro family, and attendees had an opportunity to learn about the tremendous impact of their gift on our students, staff and patients. This celebratory presentation and luncheon were intended to illustrate the importance of giving and giving back.

Student presentations were given by Meagan Smith-Bocanegra and Mario Rivera, interns in the clinics. Smith-Bocanegra is pursuing her MSW and focusing on social work within medical settings, including biopsychosocial impacts of social work for individuals experiencing chronic health conditions and the implementation of psychosocial supports into medical and dental settings.

“By far the most impactful experience [at UCLA Luskin] is my current internship at the UCLA School of Dentistry’s Special Patient Care Clinic, made possible by your Shapiro Fellowship,” Smith-Bocanegra said. “I am already learning so much about medical social work and gaining so much valuable experience in working with special needs populations and their families.”

Rivera, a second-year MSW student, is focusing on medical social work and plans to become a licensed clinical social worker.

“The fellowship provided me with the opportunity to intern in a hospital setting,” he said. “My internship has been a great experience so far, one that I am learning so much from. I am getting essential tools and clinical skills that are making me a competitive candidate post-program.”

Those interested in supporting student fellowships may contact Nicole Payton, senior executive director of external affairs, at

Tilly Oren


man with beard

Financial support for first-year students at UCLA Luskin is made possible by a gift from Michael Mahdesian.


The International Practice Pathway opportunity in the Global Public Affairs program provides financial support for first-year students seeking summer placements  in low- and middle-income countries.

Such placements are made possible in  part by the generosity of Michael Mahdesian, chairman of the board at Servicon Systems and a member of the UCLA Luskin Board of Advisors.

Student recipients attest to the program’s far-reaching benefits. Writing in the GPA blog in 2020, Dan Flynn MPP ’21 credited the program for allowing him to “support the work of change agents around the world in combating corruption, gaining invaluable knowledge about the multifaceted nature of anti-corruption work, and gaining exposure to local, regional and global challenges. I am deeply grateful … for the opportunity to gain such meaningful experience and insight.”

The program is a global gatewayfor students to work with international communities whose lives are being negatively affected by political, economic  and environmental processes. The students learn through a cross-disciplinary orientation surrounding international issues in fields such as urban planning, social welfare, public policy, economics, administration, public health and environmental sciences. The goal is to prepare future practitioners for work in complex and diverse settings by providing hands-on experience in international environments.

Another aspect of the program supported by Mahdesian’s gift is an annual educational trip to Washington, D.C., during spring break. Students meet with a range of professionals working in global public affairs in and around the nation’s capital.

young woman smiles outdoors

Yaroslavsky fellow Nangha N. Cuadros is the chair and a co-founder of First-Gen Luskin Students.


This year’s Yaroslavsky fellow is Nangha N. Cuadros, who is one of the policy fellows for the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Institute, or UCLA LPPI, where she is developing a policy toolkit about past Medi-Cal expansions.

The fellowship was founded in honor of the late Barbara Edelston Yaroslavsky by her husband and UCLA faculty member, Zev Yaroslavsky BA ’71, MA ’72.

Zev Yaroslavsky is the director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA and a former public official who was at the forefront of Los Angeles County’s biggest issues for many years. After the death of his wife, Barbara, in 2018, he sought to memorialize her spirit of compassionate activism and her dedication to health care for all. The Barbara Edelston Yaroslavsky Memorial Fellowship Fund supports students who demonstrate leadership in their communities, with an emphasis on health and public health policy. Stipends help cover the cost of tuition, fees and other educational expenses, freeing students like Cuadros to focus on their studies while also pursuing hands-on learning and service opportunities during their time on campus.

Cuadros is the chair and one of the co-founders of First-Gen Luskin Students. She is the public policy representative for the Social Sciences Council and is a participant in UCLA Luskin’s Senior Fellows mentoring program. She has held leadership positions with the UCLA Luskin Latinx Caucus and Public Policy Leadership Association. Her career goal is to work for a research entity as a policy research analyst.

Before coming to UCLA, Cuadros did not have health policy experience and this made it more difficult for her to land paid internships in health policy. Because of the fellowship, she was able to apply for meaningful, but unpaid, internships instead.

In summer 2022, she completed an internship with the Bixby Center on Population and Reproductive Health.

The Yaroslavsky fellowship allows Cuadros to gain unpaid experience in the health policy field while still being able to afford her rent and buy groceries. The financial freedom also provided flexibility in the types of internships she could seek, and it is allowing her to devote time toward applying for post-graduation work. She is very thankful to the Yaroslavsky family for the financial freedom to pursue experiences that will uplift her career aspirations.

man with glasses and beard wears a purple sweater outdoors

Vishal Hira joins UCLA Luskin as associate director of development after previously working in UCLA External Affairs. Photo by Les Dunseith


Vishal Hira is the new associate director of development for the Luskin School’s Development team.

Hira’s position occupies a unique intersection of external affairs, stewardship and alumni affairs, which are distinct areas of specialization at other academic units at UCLA and elsewhere. He will foster interdepartmental collaboration, working in cooperation with the School’s new director of alumni engagement, Karina Mascorro, to emphasize diverse perspectives at all organizational levels.

He is no stranger to UCLA or the Luskin School, having collaborated with his new colleagues in his previous role within the Prospect Management & Development Analytics department of UCLA External Affairs.

Hira also has been part of the university’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion efforts, making his background an ideal match for UCLA Luskin. He sees the new role as an opportunity to expand his reach, as well as a chance to work within a team to benefit a school whose mission and values closely align with his own.

Hiring managers praised Hira’s dynamic outlook and disposition, and his experience “working with stakeholders in diverse environments, ranging from grassroots to corporate, will help us build upon a strong foundation for development in these times of change,” said Ricardo Quintero, senior director of development at the Luskin School.

Upon joining the staff in mid-March, Hira began working to design and execute multichannel communications and solicitation strategies for annual giving. Colleagues expect the School to immediately benefit from his deep passion for fostering relationships, and holistic organizational and community advancement.

Hira has firsthand experience organizing grassroots efforts, including working on dozens of well-attended events for nonprofits that include amBi, Being Alive and Gathering of
the Tribes.

“I would love to bring my well-rounded skill set, passion, diplomacy, integrity and commitment to such a prestigious school,” he said in applying for the job. He also pledged to “be a valuable asset to the Development team at Luskin and continue to build upon its remarkable success story.”

Message From the Dean

The year 2023 arrived finding me, suddenly and unexpectedly, at the helm of our School. But as the sentiments of surprise and overwhelmingness subside, I feel excitement, optimism and joy for the future of the Luskin School.

Yes, it is true that our School emerged in the new year having been hit by a triple tsunami — a global pandemic that emptied our building’s corridors and classrooms and forced us to become a “Zoom university”; a stressful labor strike that brought disagreement and tensions; and a sudden loss in leadership with the resignation of our previous dean, Gary Segura.

But it is also true that our School has been blessed throughout its 29-year history with effective, forward-looking deans, who have helped us witness a consistently upward trajectory.

Today, we have the largest and most diverse faculty in our history. We have research centers that produce and disseminate knowledge locally and globally. We have bright graduate and undergraduate students who want to improve the world around them. We have a very able and supportive staff and a well-networked advisory board, both with the good of the School as their focus. And we have alumni and other donors believing in our School and supporting it materially and otherwise, with the Luskin family at the top of this list.

The research undertaken in our School aligns extremely well with UCLA’s vision of becoming “the most impactful university
in the world.”

Our city, our region and indeed the nation and the globe are confronted with critical and, at times, interrelated challenges: deepening social inequality, housing insecurity and climate change, to name some of the most important ones. United by our mission to promote social justice in communities and cities, a lot of the work that our faculty is involved in concentrates on improving the position of vulnerable and marginalized social groups (racial/ethnic and gender minorities, older adults, immigrants, children, unhoused and disabled individuals, etc.) through sound and progressive policy and planning.

Faced with disasters such as drought and wildfires in our state, brought upon us by human action and causing uneven and adverse effects on communities, some of our faculty are also involved in studies about the sustainability and resilience of our ecosystems, our air and water, and the intersection of environmental policies with justice.

The fiscalization of land and market-driven urbanism in our cities have led to dispossession, residential and commercial displacement, housing unaffordability and homelessness, which
are particularly acute in our region. Some of our faculty and research centers are at the forefront of studying and developing policy recommendations to address these menaces.

And there are other very important issues and challenges requiring policy attention involving police brutality, mass shootings, inferior access to education or health services, voting rights — to name just a few — that my colleagues are working
on and helping to develop responses.

The portfolio of our School’s work is indeed impressive, but there is room for more. At the time of this writing, a proposal for a Master of Real Estate Development (MRED) is passing through the last round of reviews from the UCLA Academic Senate. It aspires to educate a new type of real estate professional: people who are not only technical experts in the field but also experts in the ethical and political underpinnings of development. Additionally, driven by our conviction that we should educate global citizens, and that global issues are also experienced locally, we are developing a new master’s degree in Global Public Affairs. Lastly, a faculty committee is examining the opportunity to develop a certificate program for our alumni and others who wish to learn about new technologies and digital tools for public policy — skills that we currently offer to our students, but which have changed significantly from previous decades.

So, the coming years will be busy and exciting. There is a lot to be done, but the future is bright.

Thank you very much for your support and for staying close to our School!



Alumni Accolades

Regina Wallace-Jones MPP ’99 was appointed as the first  Black female CEO and president of ActBlue, an organization that builds tech and infrastructure for Democratic campaigns and progressive-aligned causes.

Eric Schroer MPP ’19 is now the exploratory research manager  for the California Department of Social Services, where he aids research projects.

Lys Mendez MURP ’12 and a Bohnett Fellow alumna started  a new position as communications director at the California Air Resources Board.

Hilary Stein MSW ’19 became a clinical advisor at NOCD, a telehealth provider for the treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Stein started with NOCD as an associate therapist in 2022.

Christopher Mann MSW ’17 is now a child and adolescent inpatient clinical social worker at UCLA Health. Mann is also  co-founding co-chair of the UCLA Health Pride Network.

Rachel DuRose BA Public Affairs ’21 started a new position  as a fellow with Vox’s Future Perfect Team.

Michael Lima-Sabatini BA Public Affairs ’22 started a new position as grants coordinator at Food Forward, a nonprofit that brings fresh surplus fruits and vegetables to people experiencing food insecurity in California and neighboring states.

Rutik Shinglot BA Public Affairs ’22 is now an associate at  Tusk Strategies, a political, regulatory and communication advisory firm specializing in blockchain and crypto technology.

Triple Bruin Shana Charles BA Political Science ’97 MPP ’01 PhD ’09 was honored by Assemblymember Sharon Quirk-Silva  as one of the Women of Distinction in District 67.

Ahmanise Sanati MSW ’10 received the Woman of the Year  Award from the California Women’s Caucus.

Triple Bruin Karina Walters BA Sociology ’87 MSW ’90  SW PhD ’95 was appointed to lead the NIH Tribal Health  Research Office.

Shonté Johnson MSW ’19 started a new position as associate clinical social worker at Epiphany counseling, consulting and treatment services.

Genevieve Hernandez MURP ’13 started a new position as director of land use for the San Diego Housing Commission.

Megan Miller MSW ’22 is now a social work clinician for  pediatric heart transplants at Stanford Children’s Health,  Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital in Palo Alto.

Alumni Notes Luskin School hosts in-person gatherings in Los Angeles, Sacramento

UCLA Luskin resumed its schedule of annual alumni receptions on March 16 when, for the first time since the pandemic, alumni from all departments gathered at the Bonaventure Brewing Co. in Downtown Los Angeles.

This networking event brought together alumni from Public Policy, Social Welfare, Urban Planning and the Undergraduate Program. Joined by staff and faculty that included the current department chairs, alumni had the opportunity to connect (and reconnect) with a vibrant and diverse group of individuals committed to social change, building community and giving back to the Luskin School.

Additional alumni receptions took place April 6 in San Francisco and June 1 in Sacramento.

Alumni are encouraged to be on the lookout for future UCLA Luskin networking opportunities, including monthly Cafecito con Luskin and quarterly Luskin Aperitivos gatherings being held at venues across Greater Los Angeles.

To learn more, just search online for UCLA Luskin alumni relations or contact Director of Alumni Engagement Karina Mascorro, PhD, at

 View photos from the Los Angeles gathering

L.A. Alumni Reception 2023

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


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


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


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.”


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


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