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Regents’ Lecturer Sees Unity of Purpose Among Planners and Artists

Urban planning can seem bureaucratic and risk-averse — seemingly closed off to experimentation and imagination. “But I believe that planners have a lot of creativity,” said UC Regents’ lecturer Mallory Rukhsana Nezam during a Feb. 21 presentation in the Grand Salon of Kerckhoff Hall. “I always find that planners are the most excited about their arts and culture work,” Nezam said. She has worked with many planners who are driven toward social causes and social change. “And artists are also drawn to that. So, there’s an overlap of values there.” In her consulting practice, Justice + Joy, Nezam seeks to de-silo the way cities are run and build models for interdisciplinary collaboration. “What planners are actually doing is work that pertains to a built environment, and I think that’s really ripe for this intersection with arts and culture,” she said during a presentation that included a lively Q&A session with Professor Chris Tilly of UCLA Luskin Urban Planning and audience members. Nezam’s presentation was organized around reimagining planning in three ways — structural, process and spatial. Citing examples from across the country, she outlined ways in which city planners are incorporating artists into government, including a growing number of artists-in-residence. “These residencies are embedding artists deeply as co-creators and problem-solvers,” she said. “We’re not talking about artists just painting murals, we’re actually talking about artists being at the table when we’re discussing policy.” She expressed optimism about approaches that reward innovation. “We have to imagine something different — imagine a world we haven’t created yet. And that’s where this creative, radical imagination of arts and culture can come in.”

Download an audio recording or view photos on Flickr.

Mallory Nezam Regents' Lecture


Keeping L.A. Connected Is Topic of Annual City Hall Day

Graduate students from throughout UCLA Luskin gathered in downtown Los Angeles on Feb. 16 to participate in the 18th UCLA Luskin Day at Los Angeles City Hall. The longtime tradition brought together students and local leaders from government, nonprofit agencies and the community to discuss and learn more about how the city can prioritize first-mile and last-mile investments in transportation. The Luskin School joined with UCLA’s Office of Government and Community Relations to partner with the office of city councilmember Katy Yaroslavsky to address transportation in preparation for large-scale events such as the Summer Olympics, soccer’s World Cup and the Super Bowl. Urban Planning Professor Brian Taylor of the Institute of Transportation Studies served as this year’s faculty advisor. Discussion touched on local projects such as the Metro Purple Line expansion and the pending Sepulveda Transit Corridor and Crenshaw/LAX Transit projects that will seek to speed up city transit and make it easier for riders to get to their preferred destinations. Other transit policy choices relating to street-level access for bikes, scooters, walking and rolling were mentioned, as were ridehail and parking policies. “Events like Luskin Day at City Hall provide students with invaluable hands-on experience to learn about public policy in local government,” said Kevin Medina, director of the Office of Student Affairs and Alumni Relations, which organized the event. The students’ policy recommendations will be presented to Yaroslavsky in May, Medina said.

View more photos from the day on Flickr

UCLA Luskin Day at Los Angeles City Hall

Keeping Guard Against the Forces Behind Jan. 6

Sandeep Prasanna MPP/JD ’15 returned to his UCLA Luskin alma mater to share a pressing message about the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol: The threat is not over. Prasanna served as investigative counsel for the House Select Committee that issued a comprehensive, 800-page report on the insurrection. “January 6th was not just one event. January 6th was and is an ongoing effort to undermine our democratic institutions,” said Prasanna, whose team spent months interviewing or deposing about 1,000 right-wing extremists who carried out the attack. Now a senior advisor at the law firm Miller & Chevalier, he travels the country to speak with election officials about continuing threats to free and fair voting — including how to safeguard the essential workers who keep the democratic process running smoothly. Prasanna’s comments came at a Feb. 12 event marking the 25th anniversary of UCLA Luskin’s Public Policy program. Chair Robert Fairlie presented him with the 2022 MPP Alumnus of the Year Award, and Professor Mark Peterson led a conversation that touched on Prasanna’s time at UCLA. “I don’t think anyone starts a career in D.C. feeling prepared because things that you learn in a textbook are so different from interacting with people in real life,” Prasanna said. “But the thing they say about law school is that they teach you how to think like a lawyer. What I feel I learned at Luskin was how to do.” He encouraged UCLA Luskin students to take advantage of internships and other opportunities on the East Coast. “There’s a lot of work to do in California, for sure,” he said, “but I think D.C. could use more Luskin grads.”

Learn more about events marking Public Policy’s 25th anniversary. 

View photos of Prasanna’s talk on Flickr.

A Conversation With Sandeep Prasanna MPP/JD ’15


Amplifying Latina Voices in Law and Policymaking

By 2050, Latinas are expected to make up 13% of the U.S. population and account for 11% of the labor force. Yet Latinas comprise only 2.5% of all U.S. lawyers, account for less than 1% of all partners in law firms and have never served on the highest court in 44 states. To address this gap in Latina representation and leadership in law and policy, the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Institute; Latina Futures, 2050 Lab; Latina Lawyers Bar Association; and UCLA Chicanx Latinx Law Review hosted the inaugural Latina Futures: Transforming the Nation Through Law and Policy symposium. The event, which took place Jan. 20 and 21 at UCLA’s Luskin Conference Center, brought together nearly 400 Latina scholars, attorneys, politicians, policy leaders and students from across the country to explore today’s legal and advocacy challenges and opportunities through a Latina lens. “This weekend, we are replacing the status quo with forward-thinking, accurate and necessary contributions from Latina leaders now and well into the future,” said Sonja Diaz, founding executive director of the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Institute. Diaz co-founded the Latina Futures, 2050 Lab with Veronica Terriquez, professor of urban planning at UCLA Luskin and director of UCLA’s Chicano Studies Research Center. Terriquez expressed hope that the symposium would inspire participants to continue their advocacy and leadership. “We have the potential to inform social, political and economic changes that benefit the majority of this nation,” she said. “This is a long game, and it builds on the work that came before us.” — Cristian Rivera

Read the full story


Career, Wellness and Networking Opportunities at UCLA Luskin

UCLA Luskin students will have several opportunities to map out their professional journeys, focus on health and wellness, and engage with the School’s alumni over three special weeks during the winter quarter:

  • Career Week, Jan. 22-25, will allow students to explore fellowships and jobs in the fields of government, racial justice and community organizing. A special session for undergraduates will offer tips on how to apply and interview for the yearlong internships that are a signature part of the public affairs major. LEARN MORE ABOUT CAREER WEEK
  • Student Services Week, Feb. 5-8, will help students navigate the array of student support programs offered by UCLA. In addition to a wide-ranging resource fair, individual sessions will focus on legal counseling and financial wellness, and a “paint and sip” event will allow students to de-stress through creative expression and community-building. LEARN MORE ABOUT STUDENT SERVICES WEEK
  • Alumni Engagement Week, Feb. 20-24, includes opportunities for students to network with alumni from all departments. In winter quarter, panels will feature LGBTQ+ and international alumni, as well as those who have completed the prestigious David Bohnett Fellowship at Los Angeles City Hall. Networking events exclusively for Luskin graduates will also take place. LEARN MORE ABOUT ALUMNI ENGAGEMENT WEEK

The events, all offered by the Luskin School’s Office of Student Affairs and Alumni Relations (OSAAR), complement services provided throughout the year to support students’ career development and emotional and mental well-being. These range from one-on-one counseling to major initiatives such as the Senior Fellows Progam, which pairs graduate students with prominent mentors in the public affairs sphere, and City Hall Day, an opportunity to gather in downtown Los Angeles to discuss pressing issues with government and civic leaders.

Career, Student Services and Alumni Engagement weeks will return in spring quarter.

View the UCLA Luskin events calendar

four people in front of blue background

UCLA Luskin’s Office of Student Affairs and Alumni Relations is staffed by, from left, Nael Rogers (student support services), Nandini Inmula (career services), Karina Mascorro (alumni engagement) and Kevin Medina (director). Photo by Les Dunseith


UCLA Luskin Alumna Confirmed as U.S. Ambassador to Croatia

UCLA Luskin Public Policy alumna Nathalie Rayes has been confirmed as U.S. ambassador to Croatia. “I promise to always lead and serve with integrity and in the best interest of our country, while continuing to strengthen our diplomatic relations with the people of Croatia,” Rayes said after the U.S. Senate voted to confirm her nomination on Dec. 6. The double Bruin who earned a bachelor’s in sociology in 1996 and a master of public policy in 1999 has had a distinguished career in public service. Rayes most recently served as president and CEO of Latino Victory, an advocacy group focused on increasing Latino representation. Prior to that, she was vice president of public affairs for the Mexican conglomerate Grupo Salinas and executive director of its philanthropic arm, Fundación Azteca America. She also served in Los Angeles city government, including as deputy chief of staff to then-Mayor James K. Hahn. President Biden appointed Rayes to the board of the United States Institute of Peace, and she has served on the boards of numerous organizations in the fields of politics, civil rights, education and health. During her time at UCLA Luskin, she was a Department of State Fellow in the U.S. Embassy in Cairo. She was named the UCLA Luskin Public Policy Alumna of the Year in 2014. Earlier this year, in comments to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, California Sen. Alex Padilla cited Rayes’ “unwavering commitment to public service, a drive to diversity the highest levels of leadership in our nation, and a fundamental understanding of the hope and stability America’s leadership brings to the world stage.”


Magnifying the Work of Grassroots Leaders in Watts

The UCLA Watts Leadership Institute (WLI) has welcomed six new community advocates into a program that provides training, resources and ongoing support aimed at elevating grassroots work done on behalf of the people of Watts. The leaders make up the third cohort of the institute, which is housed at UCLA Luskin. The multi-year program includes intensive one-on-one coaching as well as group learning that taps into the experiences and strengths of each leader. Areas of focus include goal-setting, operational essentials, establishing a compelling digital presence, funding and finances, and planning for future growth — all aimed at creating a safer, healthier and more vibrant Watts. Founded in 2016 by Jorja Leap and Karrah Lompa of UCLA Luskin Social Welfare, WLI is supported by a diverse group of collaborators including nonprofit foundations and Los Angeles city officials. Members of WLI’s newest cohort are:

  • Kristal Gilmore of Yung Power Foundation, who hosts food and resource distribution events with a focus on empowering women;
  • Jorge Gonzalez of 5 La Nuevo Comienzo, which strengthens families and communities through sports, excursions and other activities;
  • Miguel Gonzalez, who uses dance as a tool to educate people about LGBTQ+ rights and prevention of sexually transmitted infections;
  • Shawn Lampley of Home of Kings & Queens, which distributes food, school supplies and personal hygiene supplies to low-income communities;
  • Raul Panuco, a photographer and artist working to educate youth on media arts and ensure that outlets for creative expression are broadly available;
  • Jennifer Williams of Gifted Creations, who hosts back-to-school, Halloween and holiday activities for residents of public housing.

 Read the full release.


Astor Receives 2023 School Mental Health Research Award

The National Center for School Mental Health has selected UCLA Luskin Social Welfare Professor Ron Avi Astor as the recipient of the 2023 School Mental Health Research Award. Launched in 2018, the award recognizes scholars who have made a significant contribution to advancing research and practice in school mental health. Astor received the award on Dec. 5 at the 2023 Annual Conference on Advancing School Mental Health, held in New Orleans. At a summit on the eve of the conference, Astor shared his scholarship on campus climate, social-emotional learning and social justice with leading school mental health researchers from across the country. In his decades of research, Astor has studied tens of thousands of schools and millions of students, teachers, parents and administrators, and his work has been published in more than 200 scholarly manuscripts. His latest research examines antisemitism in K-12 settings, and he is spearheading research exchanges focusing on schools that empower students in Arab, Jewish and other diverse communities in the Middle East and Los Angeles. Astor’s far-reaching impact on the field of school mental health was cited in three separate nominations he received for this year’s School Mental Health Research Award. “This interdisciplinary career award coming from such an important organization that does critical work for our schools means the world to me,” said Astor, who has a joint appointment at the UCLA School of Education and Information Studies. “I appreciate the recognition and hope to use it as a platform to spread peace and mental health support to our world’s children.” 

Michael Stoll Joins Board of Directors of American Institutes for Research

Michael Stoll, professor of public policy and urban planning at UCLA Luskin, is one of two new appointees to the American Institutes for Research Board of Directors. Stoll, an expert in labor markets and the impacts of poverty, joins Mayra E. Alvarez, a national leader in public health policy and systems, on the board of the nonprofit organization, which is based in Washington, D.C. “We are excited to have Mayra E. Alvarez and Michael A. Stoll on the board and welcome the deep expertise they bring to key areas of AIR’s work,” said Patricia B. Gurin, chair of the AIR board. “Their experience, knowledge and insights will help the board guide the institution’s strategic direction today, and in the years ahead.” David Myers, chief executive officer of AIR, said that Stoll will join a group of experts who will provide guidance and understanding to AIR’s leadership team and ensure that the organization’s research and technical assistance work is “relevant, meaningful and mission-focused.” Stoll has previously served as a fellow for the institute, which is focused on behavioral and social science research and providing technical assistance to solve national and global challenges. He has also been a fellow at the Brookings Institution, the Institute for Research on Poverty at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and the National Poverty Center at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. He has served as a past visiting scholar at the Russell Sage Foundation. In congratulating Stoll, Professor Robert Fairlie, chair of UCLA Luskin Public Policy, said, “AIR is an amazing place doing extremely important and impactful work.”


Wesley Yin Appointed Chief Economist of White House Budget Office

UCLA Luskin’s Wesley Yin has been appointed chief economist at the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Yin heads OMB’s Office of Economic Policy, where he will help formulate President Biden’s budget and work on a wide range of issues, including national tax policy, health care and social insurance, climate policy, labor and student loans. OMB assists the president in meeting administration policy, budget and management objectives across the federal government. “There’s the saying, ‘Don’t tell me what you value. Show me your budget — and I’ll tell you what you value.’ This saying resonates with me, and now more than ever at OMB,” said Yin, whose research focuses on economic inequality, health care and household finance. During his government service, Yin will be on leave from UCLA during the 2023-24 academic year. He previously served on the White House Council of Economic Advisors and as the U.S. Treasury Department’s deputy assistant secretary of economic policy during the Obama administration.