content from Luskin Forum magazine

Dean’s Message

And in the blink of an eye, five years has come and gone.

This is my 11th Forum column. I write after an extraordinary period of change in the world, and at UCLA Luskin. We do our work in the world, on real problems facing real people, families and communities. When I arrived five years ago, I made a commitment to embrace and enhance the School’s well-established mission of helping, of doing good in the world. I believe we have kept that promise, and each day I am stunned to see the astounding efforts of my colleagues in implementing that vision through research, training and action.

Five years ago, I could not have envisioned the pandemic, the insurrection and the myriad crises of these last two years. New challenges and new opportunities, daunting and exciting at the same time, have emerged from this upheaval. Out of the old will emerge new patterns, changed institutions, terrible losses and unanticipated opportunities. Exactly what those will look like is hard to foresee. But the Luskin School will certainly be trying.

What can UCLA Luskin do to enhance our understanding of COVID-19, of the political upheavals of the last years, of the social changes being set into motion by both? In this issue, we highlight ways in which Luskin research has immediate impact on the world around us.

Our work on inequality and displacement is never more needed than now, when the homelessness and affordable housing crises collide with large-scale economic struggle during the pandemic, and
a 40-year growth in income inequality.

Our work on housing and transportation can certainly inform our understanding of the “great resignation” or the withdrawal of substantial segments of the workforce from active participation. There is very little question that priorities have shifted for millions of Americans, less willing to work for minimum wage, less willing to take that second job (or, for couples, third job), less willing to

commute for hours a day. The death of hundreds of thousands of our countrymen, the 18 months of remote work, clearly reshaped choices.

Similarly, our expertise in these areas cannot help but inform the changing nature of work and workplaces after nearly two years of remote employment for many. Telecommuting pre-dates the pandemic, but these last two years have revolutionized our understanding of what tasks require in-person labor, and how supervisors can effectively monitor those working from home. Clearly some of this work was not ideal, but we discovered that some workers did just fine! In this context, hours of commuting and parking costs are hard to justify when they don’t improve productivity or enhance service.

Our expertise on health and health care disparities, disruptions in the insurance market, depression and mental health challenges, and lack of services to the poor, to marginalized communities and the homeless is made more urgent in the wake of clear and undeniable effects of this inequality on Los Angeles and beyond. We have witnessed wildly uneven mortality rates, testing and vaccination efforts, and untreated morbidities that have made a terrible situation worse for those who have the least.

Communities of color, among those most disadvantaged in the pandemic, have also seen their political voice weakened by vote dilution and voter suppression, and by a history of the use of the criminal justice system as social regulation. The UCLA Voting Rights Project at Luskin may be coming to a courtroom near you as we fight to protect the franchise and American democracy. When those most disadvantaged take to the streets in frustration, they are likely to face hostile law enforcement and attempts at suppression. Minority experiences in the U.S. justice system have historically been problematic under the best of circumstances and even more so in these times of social stress and the ongoing tragedy of unjustified killings. Thankfully, these events, too, are the subject of inquiry in all Luskin departments.

The distinction between the Luskin School and much of academia is reflected in words written by Marx 133 years ago in his 11th Thesis on Feuerbach: “The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it.”

Gary

In Support Social justice, equity and diversity are among the priorities for new gifts, fellowships and other initiatives

SHAH IS FIRST RECIPIENT OF GILLIAM CHAIR IN SOCIAL JUSTICE

When the Luskin School formally presented its fifth and newest endowed chair to Professor Manisha Shah in November, former Dean Frank Gilliam and benefactors Meyer and Renee Luskin were in attendance.

The Franklin D. Gilliam, Jr. Chair in Social Justice, which was created by the Luskins as part of their naming gift to the School in 2011, is now fully funded. It will provide financial support for Shah’s research throughout her five-year term as holder of the chair.

Gilliam, who is the chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, said he was honored to have his name attached to an award focusing on social justice.

“Meyer and Renee have ambitious goals about how to change the world and how to make it a better place,” Gilliam said. “At the core of that commitment is social justice: What, in a democracy, are you going to do about vast inequality?”

He pointed to a statement by sociologist W.E.B. Du Bois that the so-called color line is the great American dilemma. “Whether it’s African Americans or Muslims, Latin Americans or Asian Americans, it’s about integrating all people into the society and determining the rules upon which entry to society will be considered legitimate,” Gilliam said.

Dean Gary Segura credits Gilliam with codifying social justice as a unifying theme among the disparate departments that were rolled together decades ago into one school of public affairs.

“Frank is very much the dean that put the social justice stamp on the School,” Segura said. “The Luskin School we know today came into existence as a social justice-oriented entity because of his ingenuity.”

The Luskins have also endowed three other chairs benefitting professors at UCLA Luskin, Segura noted. One provides funding to research projects under his direction as dean. Another funds the research endeavors of the director of the UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy, a position held by Ananya Roy since it was founded five years ago. The third supports the director of the Luskin Center for Innovation, a position held by JR DeShazo prior to his departure in August to become a dean at the University of Texas. A search for DeShazo’s permanent replacement is underway. The fifth endowed chair at UCLA Luskin is the Marjorie Crump Chair in Social Welfare, currently held by Ron Avi Astor.

Segura said all these chairs were funded with gifts of $2 million to $3 million to provide funding in support of academic research endeavors. UCLA Luskin does not currently have any endowed chairs of another type offered at UCLA in recognition of gifts at the $5 million level. Those chairs include salary support for a recipient.

Shah is a professor of public policy who joined the UCLA Luskin faculty in 2013. Her scholarship tends to focus on issues of health equity and exploitation of disadvantaged people around the world, and she is the director of Global Lab for Research in Action at
UCLA Luskin, which she founded in 2019.

So, what is it like to have one’s name attached to an endowed chair?

“As with any sort of institutionalized thing like this, the naming of a school or a professorship or a scholarship is significant because it goes on in perpetuity,” Gilliam said, smiling broadly. “If somebody has the misfortune of asking one day who Frank Gilliam was, and they go back and discover who I was and what my connection was to the Luskin School, then that story gets told again.”


Jacqueline Waggoner, left, and Lourdes Castro Ramirez will co-chair a newly created Equity, Diversity and Inclusion committee on the UCLA Luskin Board of Advisors.

FUNDING CAMPAIGN TIED TO EQUITY LAUNCHES AS BOARD WELCOMES NEW MEMBERS

The UCLA Luskin Advisory Board welcomed six new members to start the academic year: Lourdes Castro Ramirez, Andy Cohen, Brien Kelley, Travis Kiyota, Alex Rose and Wendy Wachtell. Castro Ramirez and continuing board member Jacqueline Waggoner are urban planning alumnae, and they will co-chair a newly created Equity, Diversity and Inclusion committee. The committee will focus on confronting disparities, driving equity and creating greater access in the field of public affairs. To kick off this initiative, Castro Ramirez and Waggoner created a matching gift campaign to encourage others to join them to support this cause. Funds raised during the campaign will go toward the Urban Planning Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Fund. The fund seeks to diversify the field of planning, providing two kinds of support: funded internships with nonprofit community organizations that otherwise could ill afford to provide a paid internship; and student fellowships, allowing students to devote more time to learning instead of having to hold down a job or being saddled with an unsustainable debt load. For more information, contact Nicole Payton at npayton@luskin.ucla.edu.


Research grant from W.K. Kellogg Foundation will seek to broaden the understanding of issues affecting Latinos.

KELLOGG GRANT WILL SUPPORT LATINO-FOCUSED RESEARCH DATABASES

The UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative (LPPI) was awarded a $2.5 million grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to support a pair of new research databases that will become available to policymakers, scholars and the public as resources for broadening understanding of issues affecting the Latino community.

“As the largest nonwhite minority group in the United States,
Latinos are integral to building a prosperous future for all Americans,” said Sonja Diaz, founding director of LPPI. “Yet Latinos face significant barriers to economic opportunity, political representation and social mobility. This funding will enable us to reliably collect data that brings Latinos and the issues that impact them out of the shadows
and to create real policy solutions that build a truly inclusive economy and democracy.”

The first of two databases, the Latino Data Hub, will contain verified data on demographics, socioeconomics and civic participation that will help decision makers promote policies that benefit Latino communities. It is intended to become a go-to resource for national, state and local data, and it will also include statistics and information on climate change and the environment, economic opportunity and social mobility, education, health and housing.

The second database, the Latino Research Redistricting Hub, will help identify how the drawing of state and federal electoral maps affects Latinos. The hub will be a resource for officials engaged in redistricting decisions with a goal of ensuring fair representation in politics and government for the nation’s diverse Latino communities.

“Before we can address inequity, we must tell the truth about our conditions, and that is what data does,” said Cicely Moore, program officer at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. “We are proud to invest in creating tools that help us see our biggest challenges clearly and identify equitable solutions that enable us all to thrive.”


FIRST GROUP OF YAROSLAVSKY FELLOWSHIPS AWARDED

The inaugural group of graduate fellows to receive support from the Barbara Yaroslavsky Memorial Fund recently met virtually with their benefactor, Zev Yaroslavsky, to share experiences and talk about their futures.

The fellows include students working toward graduate or doctoral degrees in public policy, social welfare or public health at UCLA, or any combination thereof. Their areas of expertise and concentration include mental health as it relates to chronic disease, refugees in connection with forced migration and human rights, family services, and health and mental health across the lifespan.

Zev Yaroslavsky, whose long career in public service included time as both a county supervisor and city councilman in Los Angeles, is now on the faculty at UCLA Luskin. He established the fellowship with support from friends and family after the death of his wife in December 2018, honoring her legacy of advocacy and commitment to health care for all.


URBAN PLANNING FELLOWSHIP CIRCLE FINDS SUCCESS

The recently created Urban Planning Fellowship Circle has raised $53,350 to benefit urban planning students impacted by the pandemic, surpassing its goal of $50,000 with more donations on the way.

Led by co-chairs Joan Ling MA UP ’82 and Nicole Vermeer MA UP ’96,  a group of Urban Planning alumni banded together to help the next generation of urban planners weather a challenging year.

Other committee members were Toni Bates ’82, Alice Carr ’95, Robert De Forest BA ’99, MBA ’06, MA UP ’06, Nancy Lewis ’77, Reagan Maechling ’05, Katherine Perez ’97, Michele Prichard ’89, Anson Snyder ’90, James Suhr ’87, Yasmin Tong ’92 and Dwayne Wyatt ’83. Staff support was spearheaded by Robin McCallum, department manager.

The UCLA Luskin Development team is looking to replicate this model for the other departments. Anyone interested in making a similar impact to benefit students from public policy or social welfare may contact Laura Scarano, associate director of development,
at lscarano@luskin.ucla.edu.


CENTER FOR INNOVATION FUND HONORS DESHAZO

JR DeShazo

A campaign has been created to seek gifts in honor of JR DeShazo to the student fellowship fund for environmental justice.

Former UCLA Professor DeShazo, inaugural director of the Luskin Center for Innovation, became the dean of the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas in August. The student fellowship fund seeks to reflect the spirit of his enduring contribution and the Center for Innovation’s long record of support for hundreds of students during his tenure, helping to shape the next generation of policy.

The effort reflects the Luskin Center for Innovation’s commitment to supporting first-generation Bruins, students of color and other emerging environmental leaders via two types of fellowship opportunities:

  • one providing paid opportunities for students to collaborate with community-based organizations to advance environmental justice;
  • the other expanding opportunities in the center for students to conduct research that shapes environmental policy.

 

Alumni Notes

CELEBRATING THE CLASS OF 2020

The Luskin School welcomed students and alumni back to campus with a series of celebrations and orientations to launch the new academic year. The 10th annual UCLA Luskin Block Party on Sept. 23 drew a record crowd as students, alumni, faculty, staff and supporters such as Meyer and Renee Luskin gathered on Dickson Court North to connect with one another after an 18-month stretch of remote learning brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. The week wrapped up with an exclusive reception, above, for Class of 2020 graduates in the School’s public policy, social welfare and urban planning programs at the Luskin Conference Center for a celebration of their academic achievement.


Therese Agnes Hughes MA UP ’99

ALUMNA RECOGNIZES WOMEN IN THE MILITARY

Author and photojournalist Therese Agnes Hughes MA UP ’99 grew up in the military with a father who served in World War II, so her respect for people in service started at
a young age. She lived in far-flung places such as Guam and Hawaii as a result of her dad’s career.

Later, with two children still in school, she came to UCLA Luskin. After a break from her studies in 1997 for a kidney transplant, she came back to finish her education.

After graduating, she worked at the AmeriCorps Vista Clinic in Venice, California, and met women soldiers returning home from Iraq. She found that these women were not being appropriately recognized. After later working with California Congresswoman Linda Sánchez to raise awareness of issues specifically affecting women, Hughes started her own business to help female veterans.

It became evident to Hughes that many of those veterans had served ably beside male counterparts without being similarly recognized. This was true within her own family: Her mother volunteered for the Navy but never told Hughes about the experience.

In May 2010, Hughes quit her job and began her project to start telling women’s stories through photographs and quotes. Her first step was to ask to connect to veterans.

She eventually gained enough funding to travel to Washington, D.C., for five interviews, but only one person showed up. But this didn’t stop her work. Later, with an assist from UCLA Luskin’s Michael Dukakis, she was connected to Sen. Tammy Duckworth, an Iraq War veteran, Purple Heart recipient and former assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Duckworth was among the first handful of Army women to fly combat missions during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Once Duckworth was on board as an interviewee, Hughes’ project flourished, and she has interviewed more than 800 women since 2011. They include Brigadier Gen. Wilma L. Vaught, the first woman to be a four-star general.

By the time she had reached 60 interviews, Hughes said, she became aware that many of the women would go back to service “in a heartbeat.”

Her work has culminated in the book, “In a Heartbeat: Military Women WWII to Present.” Hughes hopes that young women of today can look at the women she has profiled and “see someone who looks like them and say, ‘I can do military service.’ ”

Hughes said she learned at UCLA Luskin not to be afraid to ask for help, and never to stop following up. She learned to look at the world through a prism, seeing many ways to do something. Those skills are not taught in a typical urban planning master’s program, she said.


Álvaro Huerta ’03, MURP ’06

ALUMNUS BECOMES A HARVARD FACULTY FELLOW

Álvaro Huerta ’03, MURP ’06 has been appointed as a Harvard faculty fellow.

The son of working-class Mexican immigrants and a product of public housing projects in Los Angeles, Huerta said he is honored to become a Harvard fellow.

He is additionally “eternally grateful to UCLA and my former professors and mentors, like the late professors Dr. Leo Estrada and Dr. Juan Gómez-Quiñones. Given that there are few Chicano urban planners and historians in the academy, I will maximize my Harvard position to show that for those of us who hail from America’s barrios like Boyle Heights, we, too, can teach and mentor graduate students at elite spaces.”


Jennifer Payne BA ’87, MSW/PhD ’11

ALUMNA IS FIRST WITH SOCIAL WORK PH.D. AT KENNEDY KRIEGER INSTITUTE

Jennifer Payne BA ’87, MSW/PhD ’11 is the first social work researcher with a doctorate ever to be hired at the Kennedy Krieger Institute, an affiliate of Johns Hopkins. Quite a few people with MDs and Ph.D.s had been hired there in psychiatry and psychology, but no social work researchers with a Ph.D. — until now.

Payne conducts research at the Kennedy Krieger Center for Child and Family Traumatic Stress. She joined a newly formed Neuropsychology of Social Injustice Center at Kennedy Krieger, which is in Baltimore.

She developed a culturally tailored model to address African American racial trauma based on an evidence-based intervention called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). The center wants Payne to start a culturally based ACT clinic at Kennedy Krieger and to teach others across the nation and around the world about the model.

Payne is also an assistant professor in the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine with a primary appointment within the Department
of Psychiatry, Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

She was also recently named as the 2021 recipient of the NACSW Diana Garland Award for Clinical Practitioner Excellence.


Susan Nakaoka ’91, MSW ’99, MA AAS ’99, PhD UP ’14, left, and Nicole Vazquez MSW/MPP ’09

 

MSW ALUMNAE SERVE CALIFORNIA CHAPTER OF SOCIAL WORK ORGANIZATION

The National Association of Social Workers: California has two organizers from UCLA Luskin Social Welfare: Susan Nakaoka ’91, MSW ’99, MA AAS ’99, PhD UP ’14, and Nicole Vazquez MSW/MPP ’09.

Both have been involved with a critical race studies course at UCLA.

Nakaoka is currently a visiting professor at Cal State Long Beach. Vazquez is the former field director and chair designee for Cal State Dominguez Hills’ MSW program, and currently is running Vazquez Consulting.

Recently, Laura Abrams, chair of Social Welfare at UCLA Luskin, and Vazquez spoke about critical race theory in social work on the podcast, “Doin’ the Work: Frontline Stories of Social Change.” They discussed the history of CRT, honoring the scholars of legal studies who developed it. They noted the conclusion of CRT that the law is not neutral and historically has been used to oppress people of color and others from marginalized groups.

Alumni Accolades Career changes and other updates from the alumni of UCLA Luskin

Richard Xavier Corral MPP ’02, executive producer of “L.A. A Queer History,” won Best Documentary distinction at the Highland Park Independent Film Festival. The film sheds light on largely unacknowledged historical figures in U.S. history and how the LGBTQ community affects the world today.

Joshua Kirshner MA UP ’02 joined the University of York’s Department of Environment and Geography in 2015 as a lecturer in human geography and is now a senior lecturer. He previously held appointments at Durham University in Great Britain and Rhodes University in South Africa.

Daniela Simunovic MURP ’13 was appointed senior advisor on environmental equity for the California Air Resources Board. Simunovic previously held policy-related roles for Better World Group, the California Strategic Growth Council, Liberty Hill Foundation and elsewhere.

Sasha (Wisotsky) Kergan MA UP ’10 of Sacramento has been appointed deputy secretary of housing and consumer relations at the Business Consumer Services and Housing Agency. Kergan previously held several housing policy roles at the California Department of Housing and Community Development, as well as management roles elsewhere.

Hironao Okahana MPP ’09, MA ED ’11,
PhD Ed ’13 holds a new position as assistant vice president of research and insights at the American Council on Education. Okahana is a highly published scholar who is passionate about reforming higher education through institutional changes and policy reforms.

Amanda Morrall MPP ’14 was appointed as executive director of the Coretz Family Foundation based in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The foundation’s announcement says she will be asked “to close socioeconomic opportunity gaps in Tulsa and work with partners on the ground to address social injustices in our city’s marginalized communities.”

Susan Oh MPP ’17 started a new position as legislative analyst for Los Angeles’ Office of the Chief Legislative Analyst. Susan is among a large number of MPP alumni now working for the City of Los Angeles and nearby municipalities.

Sara Jackson MPP/JD ’07 was promoted to director of career development at Rainier Scholars in Seattle. The nonprofit organization cultivates the academic potential and leadership skills of hard-working, underrepresented students of color.

Shannon Baker-Branstetter MPP ’05 now holds the position of director of domestic climate policy at the Center for American Progress (CAP) in Washington, D.C. Baker-Branstetter joins alumna Vernessa Shih MPP ’14 at CAP, where several former MPPs also have worked.

Doubling Down at UCLA Luskin undergrads are bringing a public service ethos to second majors, including from the arts and sciences

By Mary Braswell

Think deeply. Analyze facts. Find solutions.

These skills form the core of the UCLA Luskin undergraduate program, preparing students for leadership roles in any field.

But some public affairs students choose to pursue a second option among UCLA’s more than 125 undergraduate majors, perhaps to bring a civic service ethos to a specific career path or simply to pursue two passions.

Economics, education, sociology and political science are commonly paired with the B.A. in Public Affairs, said Erika Villanueva, director of undergraduate student services. Lately, however, more students from the sciences and arts are finding a home at the Luskin School.

Zerxes Bhadha, who is also majoring in astrophysics, and Lilah Haye, who is also majoring in dance, shared how their discovery of the public affairs program shifted their approach to a UCLA education.

IN THE BEGINNING

UCLA Luskin launched undergraduate classwork in the fall of 2018, just as Bhadha and Haye were beginning their freshman year.

Bhadha had planned to study biochemistry but was having second thoughts. “My gut was telling me there’s no real rush to pick a major right now, it’ll work itself out. I’ll figure it out as we go along,” Bhadha recalled.

That plan was upended after a conversation with a teaching assistant at a UCLA summer program for incoming students. The TA, who happened to be an urban planning doctoral student, suggested that Bhadha check out the new undergrad program at Luskin.

“I was totally hooked,” said Bhadha, who uses they/them pronouns. “I realized, this is where I want to be, this is what I want to do. And the next day, I signed up for the pre-major.”

But Bhadha still felt the pull of the sciences.

“One of my earliest memories is my dad taking out this small telescope that we had and showing me the craters on the moon. And you know, since then I’ve been looking at stars, and we’d go out and look for meteor showers, and I’d read everything I could about space and physics,” they said. “It’s definitely something that I really enjoy and so that’s how I settled on this second major.”

For Haye, majoring in dance at UCLA immerses her in the art that she loves.

“I’ve been a competitive dancer my whole life. I started dancing at 5 and I haven’t stopped since,” she said. Contemporary dance is her forte, but as part of the World Arts and Cultures program, she has also studied the dance traditions of places like India, Brazil and West Africa.

The public affairs major is preparing Haye for another dream: a career in law or politics.

“Before school even started I had heard about the brand-new public affairs major, and I knew from the beginning that I wanted to double major,” she said. Learning about the senior capstone project, which immerses students in a year-long research project with a community partner, sealed the deal.

“At the end of the day, the capstone gives you real-world experience in comparison to just taking more upper-division classes,” Haye said. “That’s what really drew me to public affairs.”

BEST OF BOTH WORLDS

Bhadha has found that the physical sciences and social sciences look at the world from different vantage points.

“My science training tells me that every problem has a solution … whereas in many of my public affairs courses, we’re looking at individuals and at systems and at things for which there isn’t necessarily one correct answer, there are just guidelines and principles that we follow to make the world better,” they said.

There is little overlap between the two majors, though the advanced math needed for astrophysics has made the public affairs degree’s statistics, coding and quantitative analysis requirements easier to manage.

While the two fields open doors to a multitude of professions, “it really comes down to how I want to spend my time and where I want my career to be, and that is in public service,” said Bhadha, who’s looking forward to working with the Maryland public defender’s office for their capstone project.

Haye’s chosen majors, as well as her minor in African American studies, allow for quite a bit of crossover. Many people don’t realize that the dance major requires intensive research and writing, she said, such as the 20-page paper she produced on the racialization of dancing bodies, from blackface minstrelsy to modern dance.

Haye was able to satisfy public affairs elective requirements with World Arts and Cultures courses such as “Art as Social Action.” Her capstone internship is with the office of California Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, who has lobbied for fair wages for dancers. And Haye seeks out every opportunity to introduce the arts into her public affairs assignments.

“One of the main things we learn in the dance major is how to use dance as activism, and the public affairs department is all about activism. They’re so intertwined.”

AN INTERDISCIPLINARY LENS

Coupling fine arts or hard sciences with public affairs “makes absolute sense,” said Villanueva, who advises public affairs majors on their educational journeys at and beyond UCLA.

At UCLA, the arts embrace equity and community engagement, she said, and the sciences are viewed through an interdisciplinary lens that captures the importance of social responsibility.

But the decision to double major should not be taken lightly, Villanueva stressed.

“It does take careful planning, and it really comes down to a student’s energy level,” she said. “It becomes a more holistic conversation about what they will gain from double majoring or minoring, other than saying I have an extra line on my diploma.”

Bhadha’s course load is challenging but also provides structure and incentive. “I’ve always taken the view that I would be taking all of these classes anyway,” they said.

In addition to dance and public affairs, Haye was drawn to UCLA’s African American studies curriculum to learn more about her father’s heritage.

“I love public affairs, I love dance, and African American studies is my actual racial identity,” she said. “My three forms of study really define me.”

Some New Faces, Some Familiar Faces in New Roles Academic year brings new employees, plus many prior employees whose roles had changed

By Stan Paul

As the Luskin School emerged from 18 months of COVID isolation to start the 2021-22 academic year, it was with several new employees in place. In addition, some prior employees had moved to new roles. Here’s a cross-section of changes:

STUDENT SUPPORT EXPERTS

Nael Rogers has joined UCLA Luskin in a new student support role designed to assist graduate students in navigating university systems while
at UCLA.

Originally from Chicago, Rogers started this summer as the new student support coordinator and brings a wide breadth of experience to the Luskin School.

The new position is focused primarily on — but not limited to — underrepresented students, said Assistant Dean Julie Straub. Rogers will work closely with graduate students studying public policy, social welfare and urban planning, as well as students in the public affairs major.

Rogers, who is available to students in-person and virtually throughout the year, describes the coordinator role as a “one-stop information hub” to help guide students to a variety of services located across campus, “basically, a centralized liaison of student services.”

The position also includes an emphasis on advocacy for the well-being of students and providing advice and assistance to students and scholars regarding U.S. visa and immigration procedures, compliance issues and eligibility.

Rogers also will help coordinate student-led support groups and be a resource for students looking for additional help outside of the School.

“Sometimes, students might not have time, so they can stop by and see what I can do from my end,” said Rogers, who is currently completing a Ph.D. in English at Claremont Graduate University and has prior experience as an English instructor and in a number of advising and student support roles.

Kevin Medina has made the move to Luskin’s Career Services suite as the School’s new director. Medina, who earned MPP and MSW degrees in 2016, returned to Luskin in 2019 to serve as the inaugural capstone advisor for the new Public Affairs undergraduate major.

In spring 2021, he stepped in as interim graduate advisor for Public Policy during staff transition. Medina started his new position in October and said as the new director of Career Services that he looks forward to working with Luskin master’s and doctoral students.

FACULTY CHANGES

Veronica Terriquez, a UCLA alumna who returned this year as a professor of urban planning, is now director of UCLA’s Chicano Studies Research Center.

The center, which is part of UCLA’s Institute of American Cultures, supports intersectional research, programming and advocacy related to Chicano, Latino and Indigenous communities.

Terriquez, who has a dual appointment with UCLA College, became the 10th director in the center’s 51-year history and its first female leader. Terriquez joined UCLA from UC Santa Cruz. “I’m thrilled to be able to direct a center whose mission is to leverage original research on U.S. Latinx communities in order to have an impact on the campus, higher education and the broader society,” Terriquez said.

Kian Goh, assistant professor of urban planning, has been named associate faculty director at the UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy.

Goh studies the politics around cities’ responses to climate change, and her global perspective will bolster the institute’s efforts to pair critical thought with social movements and activism in the interest of combating societal inequalities.

Her recently published book, “Form and Flow: The Spatial Politics of Urban Resilience and Climate Justice,” explores the politics of urban climate change responses in different cities and the emergence of grassroots activism in resistance.

She said the institute is a leader in working with and alongside movement-based organizations fighting
for change.

“This type of positional research is more attuned to how structural power actually works,” Goh said. “And it’s what I think the Institute on Inequality and Democracy does incredibly well. I’m so excited to be part of it.”

Urban Planning Professor Susanna Hecht has been named director of the UCLA Center for Brazilian Studies, an interdisciplinary research center.

Hecht is a specialist on tropical development in Latin America, especially Amazonia, focusing on the intersections of economies, cultures and land use.

Her work spans climate change, mitigation and the rethinking of longer-term strategies in light of globalization, intense migration and novel climate dynamics.

She holds joint appointments in the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability and the department of geography at UCLA.

Michael Stoll, a longtime professor of public policy and urban planning, is the new director of the Black Policy Project at UCLA, which is affiliated with the Bunche Center for African American Studies.

Stoll outlined several major goals as director: commissioning a report that will look at the demographic changes of Black California; a research project that highlights wealth inequity in the state; and playing a supportive role for the state’s new task force on reparations, the first of its kind in the country.

He said all research will include student workers and the aim is to create materials that are accessible and meaningful to policymakers and the public at large.

“We want to be a good public ally and create accessible research for the layperson, information that engages in affairs that are of interest to and about Black California,” Stoll said. “We are gathering data and will produce reports that provide evidence-based information that can drive policy discussion.”

Stoll also plans to build on a study he first launched nearly 20 years ago, an overall analysis of “the state of Black California,” which will include an equality index with a number of dimensions that will paint a picture of how Black residents have fared when it comes to socioeconomic progress over the last two decades. Early census indicators show overall population declines, major suburban neighborhood shifts and big changes in traditional Black communities.

CENTER FOR INNOVATION LEADERS

Kelly Turner and Greg Pierce, researchers and faculty members in urban planning, are now leading the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation as interim co-directors.

They stepped in upon the departure of former director JR DeShazo, who left UCLA Luskin in August to become dean at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas. (Among those continuing on the LCI leadership team were Jisung Park as associate director and Colleen Callahan as founding deputy director.)

As co-directors, Turner and Pierce said they will focus on environmental equity as well as climate adaptation.

Significant research commitments are already under way, said Pierce, an adjunct assistant professor of urban planning who also directs water-related research for the Luskin Center for Innovation, and the center is “moving ahead at
full steam.”

“JR built a fantastic enterprise at Luskin Center and the momentum is there,” said Turner, an assistant professor of urban planning and geography.

Turner said her emphasis would be on the center’s climate adaptation research portfolio.

“We have a lot of momentum right now, especially on work on urban heat and extreme heat,” said Turner, who previously helped lead urban environment research at the center. “Between wildfires and extreme heat events and all the various problems we’re having, our work is more important than ever,” she said.

 

The Dollars and Sense of Growth More faculty, more students, more research — yes, growth is good, but it does come with a price tag

By Les Dunseith

The Luskin School of Public Affairs has been growing — quickly.

  • The faculty is far larger than it was just five years ago — 35 ladder faculty then, 59 now (with three more hires pending).
  • Half-a-dozen additional research centers have been added or fully funded during that time.
  • The undergraduate public affairs major has skyrocketed from zero to 428 majors and pre-majors since spring 2018. Another 167 undergraduates are working on a minor.

Make no mistake, numbers like these are very good news. But such growth comes with a price tag, and dealing with that financial reality didn’t get any easier amid the economic uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic.

How to pay for it all?

It helps that enrollment in UCLA Luskin’s graduate degree programs is up across the board. A total of 551 master’s students, a record number, are enrolled this academic year. Revenue from fees paid by these professional school students helps offset some of the associated costs of educating more people, such as hiring additional instructors and funding more graduate research fellowships. From a budget standpoint, such fees are also beneficial because they are not part of state appropriations and thus not impacted by any cuts from Sacramento.

It’s also true that adding undergraduate students brings in revenue from tuition. Generally speaking, tuition money flows to the university as a whole, not directly to the Luskin School, but additional funding tied to the undergraduate program has been put to good use at UCLA Luskin to support educational activities in undergraduate classrooms.

A portion has also been directed toward the graduate students who act as teaching assistants.

Rowena Barlow, chief financial officer, said total support received by the Luskin School’s students has risen 72.4% over four years. Teaching assistantships include a tuition waiver in addition to salary, meaning that many graduate students today are paying less for a master’s degree than they would have if the undergraduate degree did not exist.

On the negative side of the ledger, adding the undergraduate program also led to the hiring of many new faculty, which has increased salary costs. But many of the new additions have contributed to another growing source of funding — research contracts and grants.

“Grant proposals and research awards have grown exponentially,” Barlow said, increasing up to 60% since Gary Segura became dean. In the most-recent fiscal year, UCLA Luskin was awarded 124 grants totaling $23.2 million, nearly double the 66 grants totaling $11.2 million in 2017-18. And just three months into the current fiscal year, researchers at the Luskin School had already received contracts and grants totaling more than $13.1 million.

Grants are especially important to faculty and their associated research centers, and as the number of such entities has grown, so has their funding. In the last fiscal year, academic research and advocacy entities, along with related training programs, brought in 72 awards — 58% of the School’s total. Barlow said those grants totaled more than $18.5 million — 80% of all contract and grant funding at UCLA Luskin.

“The numbers are stunning,” said Segura, who credited the dedication of Barlow’s team in Financial Services with coping with a steadily increasing workload as new research centers have come aboard.

“There’s no handbook,” Segura said. “There’s no campus resource center for new center startups.”

Another vital funding source not tied to taxpayer support is private donations, particularly endowments like the gift from Meyer and Renee Luskin in 2011 that led to the renaming of the School. The Luskins recently fulfilled the remainder of that gift and subsequent endowments totaling $54 million, and the full amount is now earning the interest that funds ongoing educational activities such as student fellowships and scholarships, some faculty research efforts and the Luskin Lecture series. A portion of the Luskin endowment is also earmarked specifically to faculty recruitment and retention, Barlow noted.

“Competing for faculty is our biggest budget challenge,” Segura said. “Our faculty are successful. And the more successful they are, the more other schools come knocking.”

Even the generosity of the Luskins extends only so far, however. Several priority needs remain.

Jocelyn Guihama, director of administration and experiential learning for the undergraduate program, mentioned that many students reported working multiple jobs to support their families amid the economic turmoil of the pandemic.

“Since most of the internships that we provide are unpaid, removing the necessity to hold down a job or jobs — by funding more scholarships so that students can focus on their capstone and academics — would be the ideal,” she said.

Segura said gifts that benefit students are always welcomed, and he mentioned another ongoing need that potential donors might not think about — gifts that directly support doctoral students.

“Doctoral fellowships are hugely valuable,” said Segura, not only for the students themselves but indirectly for the entire School because those who earn Ph.D.s at UCLA typically go on to positions at other universities. Many refer potential students to UCLA. Some cooperate with their former professors on new research projects. And having alumni professors distributed widely within academia helps boost the School’s reputation, which drives academic rankings.

Growth at the Luskin School is ongoing, and Segura noted that two more research entities are now in the startup phase — one focusing on childhood bullying, and the other relating to the complexities of gay male sexuality. Both are looking for a benefactor.

Ultimately, today’s UCLA Luskin is a place where bold ambitions might occasionally outpace resources, and the financial challenges can seem daunting at times. Even so, managing the cost of success is a good problem to have.

Mike Dukakis Taught Here The renowned statesman has retired from teaching at UCLA Luskin, where his impact was immeasurable

By Stan Paul

For a quarter of a century, prospective Bruins, their parents and other visitors passing UCLA’s Public Affairs Building heard a familiar refrain that was an enduring highlight of any campus guided tour: “Mike Dukakis teaches here.”

Dukakis, now 88, has officially retired from his role as a visiting professor of public policy at UCLA. He is no longer making the annual cross-country trek with his wife, Kitty, from the East Coast to Westwood for each winter quarter. But his years of dedication and service remain a living legacy.

“Michael Dukakis is a foundational figure in the history of the Luskin School — a giant in the history of public policy leadership in the U.S.,” said Dean Gary Segura about the former three-term Massachusetts governor and 1988 Democratic presidential nominee.

“Mike has never stopped working to solve problems at the state and local level in Massachusetts and beyond,” Segura added. “All the while, Mike has been a dedicated teacher and mentor, particularly to our undergraduates. We will miss his sage wisdom and kindness in the halls of UCLA Luskin.”

And every winter quarter for more than two decades, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Dukakis could be found in those halls early, specifically in his sixth-floor office, before most people arrived on campus — already at work, his office door open, preparing for class, answering emails, engaging in a phone conversation with media or on behalf of a student, or already chatting with a colleague or student.

Dukakis recalled being surprised when he first came to UCLA that the public affairs school was brand new.

“I kind of assumed that a place like UCLA would be deeply into this stuff, and they obviously weren’t,” he said during a recent interview. “That happily changed and changed dramatically.”

When he first arrived, UCLA was entering into a period of growth and development. “It’s really been remarkable in so many ways, and it was great to be a part of that,” Dukakis said.

“My experience here was very special, no question about it,” he said. “And you know, we’ve made wonderful friendships and great colleagues, and I hear from my former students all the time.”

March 2018: UCLA Chancellor Emeritus Albert Carnesale comments during a lunch gathering with Michael and Kitty Dukakis.

“I’ve never seen anybody, any faculty member anywhere, spend more time out of class meeting with students.” —Albert Carnesale, speaking about Dukakis

UCLA Chancellor Emeritus Albert Carnesale has shared office space near Dukakis on the sixth floor of the building since stepping down from UCLA’s top leadership post in 2006.

“I’ve never seen anybody, any faculty member anywhere, spend more time out of class meeting with students.” Carnesale said. “When I came in in the morning, there were always one or more students meeting with him.”

Their longtime friendship and professional relationship go back to the 1970s when Dukakis was governor of Massachusetts and Carnesale was at Harvard.

“My friendship with Mike Dukakis long predates either of us coming to UCLA and then continued when we were at UCLA,” said Carnesale, who was appointed UCLA Chancellor in 1997, the year after Dukakis arrived on campus.

Dukakis’ most-lasting impact on students may have been his ability to show why it is important and satisfying to serve the public good.

“And the best way to do that was — not the only way, but the best way to do that, the most direct way — was through public service,” Carnesale said. “He really does exemplify that.”

March 2018: Michael and Kitty Dukakis pose with Zev Yaroslavsky, their longtime friend and faculty colleague.

“He’s a decent honorable man who never compromised his integrity as as a public official…” —Zev Yaroslavsky

Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA, also has been a sixth-floor hall mate of the former governor. The former five-term Los Angeles County supervisor said he visited Dukakis’ classes on a number of occasions while still in office and then later as a colleague at UCLA.

“He’s a decent honorable man who never compromised his integrity as a public official and he teaches the same way, and I think it’s a loss to us not to have him here,” Yaroslavsky said.

People who know Dukakis are quick to point out his honesty despite his political celebrity and his innate ability to connect with people. He possesses a down-to-earth, unassuming nature. Dukakis’ preferred modes of transportation are public transit and walking, and many staff, faculty and students recall seeing him traverse campus in his iconic khakis and flannel shirt, perhaps stopping to pick up some errant litter and deposit it in a recycling bin before resuming his determined pace.

1975: Former UCLA Luskin lecturer and staff member Bill Parent, standing, talks with then-governor Michael Dukakis, right, during a meeting with University of Massachusetts students in Dukakis’ first year as governor. Photo from the UMass Daily Collegian

“I’ve loved the experience. I’ve loved the fact that these kids were interested in getting deeply and actively involved in public affairs.” —Michael Dukakis

Bill Parent, former longtime staff member and lecturer at Luskin, recalled Dukakis’ preference for public transportation. He once offered to drive him downtown to the annual UCLA Luskin Day at City Hall event.

“ ‘Let’s take the bus,’ ” he said, which I thought was insane,” Parent said. “But there we were on the 720, headed for the Red Line, bouncing along in the very back seat.”

Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, distinguished professor of urban planning and former chair of Urban Planning, recalls her first encounter with Dukakis.

“The elections were over and he was a huge name and I had never met him personally. I remember going to make a Xerox copy, and I bumped into Mike, who was making his own copies. For me, this was amazing.”

Dukakis also is well-known for his ability to quickly find a common link and bond with anyone after asking just a few questions. Loukaitou-Sideris said their initial conversation quickly turned into a discussion of their common Greek origins followed by an invitation for the Dukakises to join her family and friends for dinner.

“His answer was immediately ‘yes,’” said Loukaitou-Sideris, adding, “the guests of honor” were the first to arrive. “There’s Mike and Kitty holding a bread that Mike had baked.” Loukaitou-Sideris describes him as the “most accessible person on Earth.”

“You know, the fame and what he has done— amazing things as governor — never went into his head. He connects to people and to anyone,” she said including undergraduate students clamoring to take his class because he has a unique ability to connect some of the larger theoretical ideas to things in practice.

“His contribution to a public policy school all these years has been immense because students wanted to come to study policy because Mike Dukakis was there.”

When not at UCLA, he also taught at Northeastern University, not far from his home in Brookline, Mass., for many years.

“People came often because of his reputation, but he was much more than that,” Loukaitou-Sideris said. “He is a person always trying to find ways to help. And he had a tremendous amount of contacts. And if he knew that you were trying to do something, he would always find the right person to connect you to as well.”

Students definitely made connections and launched careers, recalled Michael Stoll, professor of public policy and urban planning and also a former chair of UCLA Luskin Public Policy.

“The generosity of his support for students included writing more letters of recommendation and securing more internships for students than anyone could ever imagine.”

In addition, Dukakis spearheaded an internship program to provide UCLA Luskin master’s students with first-hand public service experience in government with a specific focus on California.

Michael Fleming, a longtime lecturer in Social Welfare at Luskin and executive director of the Los Angeles-based David Bohnett Foundation, recalls that Dukakis also was instrumental in making a direct connection for UCLA Luskin students to Los Angeles City Hall and the mayor’s office.

At a meeting at Bohnett’s home in the early 2000s that included Fleming, then-Dean Barbara Nelson and others, the idea for connecting UCLA Luskin students with Los Angeles City Hall and the mayor’s office was conceived. Dukakis astutely sized up the opportunity to bring students, and backing, together to address a need, Fleming said.

The David Bohnett Fellowship program was launched in 2007 as a hands-on working experience in the mayor’s office for exceptionally promising UCLA Luskin public policy, social welfare and urban planning graduate students.

April 2003: Michael Dukakis was a visiting professor at UCLA Luskin for over two decades.

“He was full of stories about his experiences and lessons learned and was never shy about sharing his wisdom.” —Nelson Esparza MPP ’15

Numerous former students were inspired by Dukakis to pursue public service or seek public office — from local city boards to state elected posts to the U.S. Congress. Among those alumni are Nanette Barragán ’00, who represents the 44th Congressional district in South Los Angeles, and Jimmy Gomez ’99, who represents the 34th Congressional district in Los Angeles.

Another former Dukakis student is Nelson Esparza MPP ’15, who has won elections to the Fresno County School Board and the Fresno City Council in his hometown.

“By the time I was in the MPP program, I was strongly considering returning home to represent my local community,” the former Dukakis internship fellow recalled. “Naturally, the governor and I engaged in many conversations about the practical side of leadership, policymaking and the sacred responsibility of representing a community at any level of government.”

Esparza continued: “He was full of stories about his experiences and lessons learned and was never shy about sharing his wisdom.”

Dukakis sometimes recited the names of elected officials who passed through his classroom over the years. “I’ve always thought it was kind of cool to have joined that group,” Esparza said. “In some ways, you might say that I learned more from the governor outside of the classroom.”

March 2018: Professor Emeritus Dan Mitchell co-taught a course at UCLA Luskin with Michael Dukakis for many years.

“As a professor, Mike was one of the most conscientious instructors our undergraduates were likely to encounter.” —Dan Mitchell

Co-teaching with Dukakis during his entire tenure at UCLA in the often-filled-to-capacity undergraduate course California Policy Issues was Dan Mitchell, emeritus professor of public policy and management.

“As a professor, Mike was one of the most conscientious instructors our undergraduates were likely to encounter. All student work was read and evaluated by the instructors, not the TA. Even in a large class, there were always separate meetings with small groups of students.”

Mitchell said Dukakis was a tough evaluator. “At the end of the day, either the final product met the standard, or it didn’t,” he said. Each year, Dukakis delivered a short lecture that came to be known as the excellent writer statement, emphasizing the need to develop that ability.

March 2017: Renee Luskin and Mark Peterson enjoy a laugh with Michael Dukakis

“He wasn’t just any experienced government official. We hit the jackpot.” —Mark Peterson

Longtime Luskin faculty and staff mirrored those comments.

“Mike, there from close to the beginning of the School, for many years was the only actual practitioner — real policymaker — on the faculty of a program whose mission is to train policymaking professionals,” said UCLA Professor of Public Policy, Political Science and Law Mark Peterson. “But he wasn’t just any experienced government official. We hit the jackpot,” said the former chair of UCLA Luskin Public Policy.

“Moreover, he dove into his teaching full bore, excelled at it, and added significantly to the curricula of both the MPP graduate program and the then-undergraduate minor, now a major at UCLA.”

January 2019: Visiting Professor Michael Dukakis speaks with a group of undergraduate students at UCLA.

“When we invited him to speak to the first students of the new public affairs B.A. in 2019, he told all of them to run for office or get involved in politics — it was a call to action.” —Jocelyn Guihama

Jocelyn Guihama, a 2003 MPP graduate and former student of Dukakis, agrees. She now serves as director of administration and experiential learning for the School’s public affairs major.

“Prof. Dukakis’ tireless advocacy for public service has inspired generations of Luskin students, Guihama said. “When I was an MPP student in the early days of the program, I told him that I was planning to work in the nonprofit sector, and he immediately told me that I needed to channel that energy into the public sector.

“That message hasn’t changed,” she said.

“When we invited him to speak to the first students of the new public affairs B.A. in 2019, he told all of them to run for office or get involved in politics — it was a call to action.”

Guihama said that Dukakis’ former students in the major are already getting involved and connecting with elected officials.

Longtime UCLA Luskin faculty colleague Fernando Torres-Gil said Dukakis has exemplified life after politics, building a memorable post-politician career as an educator.

Torres-Gil, professor of social welfare and public policy, is also director of the Center for Policy Research on Aging. He said he knew Dukakis from his time serving as his deputy issues director in the 1988 campaign.

“I saw first-hand his deep integrity and commitment to public service and a focus on doing so honorably, a term rarely seen among most political players,” Torres-Gil said. “It was such a thrill to know that he and I would be at UCLA and the Luskin School and to maintain our friendship and continued participation in civic life.

“Professor Dukakis, by all measures, has been a master teacher and one of the most popular and effective instructors,” Torres-Gil said.
He noted that Dukakis also represented UCLA to donors and stakeholders, connecting the Luskin School with the wider policy and political arenas.

“We will miss Professor Dukakis greatly, but he has set the gold standard for professional practice faculty and for honorable contributions after public service.”

March 2010: Michael Dukakis often spoke with community groups and UCLA supporters during his time on campus.

“We will miss Professor Dukakis greatly, but he has set the gold standard for professional practice faculty and for honorable contributions after public service.” —Fernando Torres-Gil

Outside of teaching, Dukakis was often a speaker at events in Southern California during the winter quarter. Some events were linked to UCLA and others not, Mitchell said, adding that he preferred not to say “no” when an invitation occurred, even the times and places were less than convenient.

Kitty Dukakis also traveled each year to Westwood, and she was involved and active in speaking engagements with the former governor, who said she “was no passive spectator … wouldn’t have been any other way.”

“And because of her interest in mental health and related kinds of things, she had an opportunity to do some good things herself,” Dukakis said.

Public Policy lecturer Jim Newton, an award-winning journalist and former editor of the editorial page of the LA Times, also shared the sixth floor of the Public Affairs Building with Dukakis for the past several years. Newton knows a bit about governors, having written historical books on two of them — Jerry Brown and Earl Warren.

“It’s sort of my stock in trade,” said Newton, now editor of UCLA Blueprint magazine, which has included profiles and interviews with Dukakis.

“I know we had a number of conversations about UCLA and its engagement in the community, and so my interest and the governor’s overlapped in a lot of ways,” which included a common interest in government and politics, Newton said.

“One of the things that has impressed me throughout my acquaintance or friendship with the governor is how available he is and how much of an integrated part of the overall UCLA community here.  There’s nothing aloof or unapproachable about him,” Newton said.

“I’ve spent my life with people in politics. There’s a lot of people I admire as a result of that. I got to know and admire and have respect for a lot of them who are not super-nice people. They’re ambitious, and they’re smart, and they’re interesting,” Newton said. But they sometimes can be “kind of difficult or prickly.”

“[Dukakis] is not that person. Not here, he is the opposite of that. Just as warm and as modest, and as humble and approachable as a person can be,” Newton said.

“So, I have a world of respect for him. Both in terms of his achievement, but also just in terms of the way he holds himself out and makes himself available and helps people to learn and understand.”

March 2015: Friends and family were on hand when UCLA Luskin celebrated the Michael S. Dukakis Internship program and his 20 years of teaching at UCLA.

“You know, the fame and what he has done— amazing things as governor — never went into his head. He connects to people and to anyone.” —Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris

Dukakis finished his 25th and final winter quarter at UCLA Luskin in 2020 by, what else, grading papers. His return home to Massachusetts was then delayed a few weeks by a bout of pneumonia, and his travel options then and now have been impacted by COVID-19 restrictions.

When asked what his impact has been, he responded in his typical way, humble and redirecting toward students: “I’m hoping it’s positive. I’ve loved the experience. I’ve loved the fact that these kids were interested in getting deeply and actively involved in public affairs.”

Dukakis said he can’t count how many students he convinced to take advantage of UCLA’s program in Washington, D.C., which he said could lead to internships at the municipal level, the state level and other career opportunities.

Any regrets about relocating from coast to coast every year for more than two decades?

“No, never regretted it for a minute. It’s really been remarkable in so many ways, and it was great to be a part of that.” He elaborated, “I’ve worked both with a great faculty and with a wonderful group of students, so you know, for me and for us — for Kitty and I — it was a great experience and I’m sorry it had to end.

“There’s nothing more satisfying than being in a position where you can introduce and convince young people to go into the public sector, surely, and then to see them thrive,” he said, reflecting on his decades-long experience at UCLA. “Luskin is doing it all the time.”

Growing Influence L.A.'s new curb on plastic utensils is one example of how UCLA Luskin research impacts policy

By Mary Braswell

Los Angeles County is restricting use of the plastic tableware that clogs our landfills and waterways.

The L.A. City Council launched a coordinated effort to deter harassment on the city’s streets and transit systems.

And the LAPD created a new bureau to elevate the community’s voice in places where law enforcement has a rocky history.

Each of these actions, taken with the intention of improving the lives of Angelenos, relied on research produced by the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. And they are just three recent examples that underscore the School’s growing influence as it turns incisive scholarship into real policies aimed at building a more just and equitable world.

This calling is not new. The work done by UCLA Luskin’s public policy, social welfare and urban planning programs and more than a dozen affiliated centers and institutes has long been a source of data-driven guidance for decision-makers in the public and private sectors. The School’s impact has been felt across the region, nation and world.

“We must always ask ourselves, ‘What’s the benefit of this work?’’’ said Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, the School’s associate dean of academic affairs. “Our research is meant to be applied, not just read by other academics, or what, really, is the use?”

CHALLENGING THE THROWAWAY CULTURE

L.A. County had identified a problem. In search of solutions, it looked to the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation. 

The problem was the harmful environmental impact of disposable forks, knives, spoons and other plasticware, used once then tossed in the trash by 10 million county residents. 

The county had pledged to phase out these single-use plastics, and needed a strong base of knowledge to craft an effective ordinance. The Center for Innovation was contracted to study what the products are made of, how they impact the environment and economy, why they cannot be easily recycled, what alternatives are available, and more.

Momentum grew in January 2020, when the Center for Innovation delivered a high-profile report identifying prime targets for policy action. Then, COVID-19 struck.

“The county had decided that it really wanted to take firm action,” said Daniel Coffee MPP ’20, a Center for Innovation project manager who has worked on each phase of the plastics study.

“But the pandemic created a really significant resource crunch for the county, as it did for many municipal governments, and understandably they prioritized public health and services.”

In 2021, the legislative effort to curb plastic waste got back on track. The L.A. County Board of Supervisors voted to eliminate single-use plastics in county-run facilities, though it stopped short of broadening the new rules to restaurants still affected by the pandemic. Other local governments also stepped up, including the L.A. City Council, which unanimously voted to make disposable foodware at restaurants available only if requested by customers.

“Only upon request” rules are relatively simple to implement, Coffee said. “Those sorts of policies don’t require the business to retool work areas or install new equipment or secure new types of products. They can take effect almost immediately.”

Crafting longer-term strategies is more complex. One significant reason is that alternatives to plastic — paper, bamboo and bioplastic, for example — have hidden carbon footprints of their own. 

“Replacing a plastic item with a non-plastic version that is still disposable and single-use is not always the better move,” Coffee said, saying the real game-changer comes “the moment you stop throwing something away right after you’re done with it.”

“That’s why we can so confidently say that reusable products are the way to go, wherever possible, in any context. It’s really important to get this right.”

Coffee’s research into the most effective ways to tackle plastic waste began during an internship with the L.A. County Chief Sustainability Office. He later joined the Center for Innovation staff, which recently produced an addendum to the county report. This time, the focus was on the impacts of the COVID-19 era on the plastic waste stream.

“Long story short, it’s not good. You have a massive, massive uptick in medical waste,” including packaging for sterile products as well as disposable masks that degrade into harmful microplastics, he said. Consumer behavior has also shifted during the pandemic, with more goods, groceries and take-out food encased in plastic.

“It just adds to the need for prompt action. And it underscores the importance for institutions like the Luskin Center to have these strong relationships with both municipal and state-level government institutions,” Coffee said. “They know they can reach out to us to stay apprised of things that are dynamically changing.”

SAFEGUARDING L.A.S PUBLIC SPACES

When members of the L.A. City Council decided it was time to deal head-on with an increase in harassment on the streets of Los Angeles, they knew where to turn.

Loukaitou-Sideris, a distinguished professor of urban planning as well as the Luskin School’s associate dean, had shared her extensive research into harassing behavior many times, in high-level government and academic settings and through a book published
in 2020.

She had also lived it.

As a young university student in Athens, Greece, Loukaitou-Sideris chose to walk half an hour to attend class rather than risk being groped on the bus — an experience familiar to women around the world and across generations.

“It is, sadly, a global phenomenon,” she said. “And I am sorry to say, it is very prominent in Los Angeles.”

Loukaitou-Sideris’ statement is backed up by numbers, collected through an extensive survey of transit riders from local campuses. The survey asked 400 students from UCLA, 650 from Cal State Los Angeles and 250 from Cal State Northridge whether they had experienced any of 16 types of harassment in the previous three years in a public transit environment. Of the women who responded, more than 80% said yes.

“These are very, very high numbers,” said Loukaitou-Sideris, whose research was published by the Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies at UCLA.

In the fall of 2020, her work came to the attention of a legislative deputy in the office of Los Angeles City Councilman Joe Buscaino. The aide had personally witnessed street harassment and reached out to Loukaitou-Sideris for help in crafting a motion urging city leaders to act.

“I was more than happy to be approached by Councilman Buscaino’s office, and I was even more thrilled that this motion first passed the committee unanimously and then the City Council,” she said. 

The motion, adopted in March 2021, mobilized several city departments to work together to respond to street harassment, which disproportionately affects not just women but people of color, people with disabilities, those in the LGBTQ community, older adults and adolescents. 

“As the second most populous city in the nation,” the motion stated, “the City of Los Angeles has a responsibility to protect its most vulnerable residents from harassment in public spaces.”

In addition to measuring the scope of the problem, Loukaitou-Sideris’ study recommended strategies for increasing safety in public spaces. Smart urban design, such as providing adequate lighting, is critical. New technologies can provide real-time arrival information at transit stops, as well as apps and hotlines that make it easier to report harassment. Educational campaigns can embolden bystanders to intervene to protect one another.

Loukaitou-Sideris stressed that restoring confidence in the safety of public spaces is likely to encourage the use of transit — key to the sustainability goals of many urban centers.

 

VISION FOR COMMUNITY-ENGAGED POLICING

Researchers do acknowledge one frustrating reality: Compelling evidence does not always lead to decisive action. 

“Oftentimes, research is exploited as a way to avoid doing something,” said Jorja Leap, adjunct professor of social welfare and an expert on criminal justice and community empowerment.

“To be blunt, that is what happens with a lot of research and evaluation. It’s carefully designed, it’s rigorously carried out, everybody says, ‘Thank you very much,’ and it goes onto a shelf, usually with several other reports.”

So Leap was stunned and heartened when the Los Angeles Police Department created a new bureau for community-engaged policing, led by a person of color who reports directly to the police chief — recommendations her team had put forward in a report commissioned by outside interests.

Leap and her colleagues spent more than a year studying the effectiveness of the LAPD’s Community Safety Partnership (CSP), a strategy instituted years earlier to build trust between police and residents of the city’s most troubled public housing developments. 

Civil rights attorney Connie Rice was the driving force behind the evaluation. For decades, Rice had sparred with the LAPD before deciding to join forces with the department to work for change. 

It was she who steered the vision for community policing, and who brought in Leap to guide the way with authentic academic research. The UCLA team was given a budget, access to CSP sites, and assurances of independence from both Rice and the LAPD.

“We were the rigorous scientific vessel for the thoughts and feelings and beliefs and experiences of the residents,” Leap said.

Working with Social Welfare Professor Todd Franke and a team of field researchers and analysts from across UCLA, Leap launched a study that involved 425 hours of observation, 110 interviews, 28 focus groups, and nearly 800 surveys to capture the views of police officers and residents in Watts and Boyle Heights.

“It is not a lovely report,” Leap said. “Many of the residents had a horrendous history with police.” 

Distrust of police rightfully persists, but most survey respondents reported feeling decidedly safer under the CSP program, which assigned specially trained officers to work side-by-side with residents to understand the community’s assets as well as its dangers.

The final report endorsed the Community Safety Partnership as a model to be integrated throughout the city, offering 45 recommendations to make it work, including the establishment of a full-scale LAPD bureau.

“I was shocked by the response on the part of the LAPD. We made some major, major recommendations, and some of the most difficult have been or are in the process of being carried out,” Leap said.

In this case, the grave events of 2020 may have served as an accelerator instead of a brake. The CSP report was unveiled in March of that year. Two months later, the killing of George Floyd sparked a worldwide uprising against police brutality. And in July 2020, the LAPD unveiled its new Community Safety Partnership Bureau, led by Emada Tingirides, the department’s second Black female deputy chief.

Leap’s work with the program continues. With the input of community residents, she is designing new tools to ensure that CSP officers are fully trained, that residents continue to have a seat at the table and that the dozens of recommendations her team put forward are heeded.

“As researchers,” she said, “we’ve got to hold public agencies and institutions accountable and say, ‘Don’t pass the buck.’ ”

Alumni Accolades Career changes and other updates from the alumni of UCLA Luskin

Charisma Acey MPP ’98, PhD UP ’09 of UC Berkeley is the newly appointed faculty director of the Berkeley Food Institute. Her expertise will help guide the institute’s role in expanding access to healthy, affordable food and promoting sustainable, equitable and diverse food systems.

Florentina Craciun MA UP ’11, a senior environmental planner in San Francisco, is the new APA California–Northern Section director. Her term lasts two years.

Meg Healy MURP ’19 was appointed planning manager by Los Angeles City Council member Nithya Raman. Healy spent three years researching and reporting on housing policy in Brazil in neighborhoods impacted by the 2016 Olympics. In L.A., she worked with the NOlympics advocacy group and the Renters’ Right to Counsel campaign.

George Yin MA UP, JD ’99 has been elevated to shareholder at Kaufman Legal Group. Yin joined the firm in 2012, focusing on advising public officials and others about laws governing the election process, conflict of interest, local agency and municipal governance, and legislative drafting.

Lily Sofiani MA ’08, MA ’13, MPP ’18 is now assistant deputy for homelessness policy for Los Angeles County Supervisor Holly J. Mitchell. She previously worked for Mitchell during her time as a state senator. Sofiani also served with Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office as homelessness policy analyst overseeing a pilot project on older adults experiencing homelessness.

Brian Nguyen MPP ’16 was promoted to infrastructure and data manager at California Calls. Nguyen is one of several alumni working in the area of voter engagement and civic participation.

Marcos Carvalho MPP ’15 is the new product policy manager in the Latin America—Trust and Safety section at TikTok. He was formerly with the Consulate General of Brazil in Los Angeles for nine years, overseeing program implementation and grants.

Jane Davis MSW ’16 is a Red Cross Volunteer Excellence Award nominee. Davis started with the Red Cross in September 2017 during Hurricane Harvey and has been part of a team that ensures clients who identify as LGBTQ feel welcomed and have equal access to services. She is employed full time by the L.A. County Department of Mental Health and volunteers for the Red Cross on weekends.