Use this category ONLY for short items intended for the Luskin’s Latest blog. Do NOT tag the entries with any other categories.

Making Connections at UCLA Luskin

The UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs kicked off the 2022-23 academic year with a series of opportunities to connect with students, alumni, faculty and staff. Welcome Week included a graduate student orientation that brought public policy, social welfare and urban planning students together and an undergraduate open house that shared information about the public affairs major during an outdoor luncheon. And on Sept. 22, the 11th annual UCLA Luskin Block Party drew a record crowd, including the School’s benefactors, Meyer and Renee Luskin.

View UCLA Luskin photo galleries from:

Graduate Student Orientation

Undergraduate Open House

11th Annual UCLA Luskin Block Party

Photo booth images from Block Party

Rover images from Block Party

Research Finds Homeless Students Understudied and Overlooked

Despite increasing recognition as a national problem, homeless students remain an understudied and overlooked population that endures multiple challenges, as do the schools and districts that serve them, according to a new report co-authored by UCLA Luskin Social Welfare Professor Ron Avi Astor. The comparative case study, published online in the Journal of Community Psychology, explored the identification, service provision and school experience of homeless students in high- and low-socioeconomic districts. Astor and his colleagues compared two California school districts and their four elementary and middle schools. They found that despite differences in the socioeconomic context, both districts were under-identifying homeless students. “Both districts were underserving and lacking awareness of homeless students that were not identified,” they wrote. However, they found that the low-socioeconomic district had far greater poverty awareness than the high-socioeconomic district and, subsequently, an existing organizational structure to support identified homeless students. “Poverty awareness and districts’ organizational structure are important contextual factors to consider in designing local and tailored interventions and services for homeless students,” they noted. Schools play a major role for homeless students and may be the last social institution with which they interact before disengaging from all social institutions. “Meeting the substantial challenges involved in building schools and districts that support homeless students will require district policies and practices that explicitly address issues of poverty, homelessness and injustice,” they conclude. “Poverty awareness and districts’ organizational structure are important contextual factors to consider in designing local and tailored interventions and services for homeless students.”

Akee Is Among Equitable Growth Award Recipients

Randall Akee, associate professor of public policy, is among those sharing this year’s research grants totaling more than $1 million from the Washington Center for Equitable Growth. The funding is for research relating to inequality’s impact on economic growth and stability. A study of “deaths of despair” among Native Americans, particularly women and girls, will be conducted by three academic researchers and Akee, who is chair of the American Indian Studies Interdepartmental Program at UCLA. In their funding proposal, the researchers said they plan to investigate why such deaths are proportionately higher for Native Americans than among other ethnic groups in the United States. Researchers will examine whether the known predictors of a death of despair for white constituents, especially men — joblessness, high rates of unemployment — are different than those for Native American women and girls. The study will also focus on the oil fracking industry and whether fracking in proximity to Native American lands induces more human trafficking activity. This, in turn, might also induce coping behaviors such as increased alcohol and substance use that could lead to higher rates of suicides among Native American women and girls, according to the research proposal. Equitable Growth has seeded more than $8.8 million to nearly 350 scholars through its competitive grants program since its founding in 2013. According to the organization’s news release, this year’s 42 grantees include economists and social scientists who currently serve as faculty or are postdoctoral scholars and Ph.D. students at U.S. colleges and universities, as well as scholars from government research agencies.

A Graduation Milestone for Luskin Public Affairs Majors

UCLA Luskin’s undergraduate Class of 2022 had the distinction of beginning a school tradition: the in-person exhibition of yearlong research projects that are the hallmark of the bachelor of public affairs program. During the Public Affairs Capstone Showcase in June at UCLA’s Royce Hall, graduating seniors shared their work on capstone projects benefiting more than 50 internship hosts, including UCLA research centers, Los Angeles government officials and agencies, state legislators, and nonprofits with local, national and international reach. Through poster boards and digital presentations, students at the showcase summarized their research and recommendations for an audience of peers, faculty, staff and internship partners. Rebecca Crane, who earned her doctorate in urban planning at UCLA Luskin in 2021, served as the capstone instructor, guiding the students through a three-quarter journey that honed their skills in applying public affairs course concepts to real-world problem-solving. Students who produced exceptional work were honored with the Public Affairs Experiential Learning Outstanding Capstone Award after review by a faculty advisory committee. The Class of 2022 is only the second graduating class in the Luskin undergraduate program. Members of last year’s cohort presented their capstone projects in a virtual setting due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

View winners of the Outstanding Capstone Award along with other honorees in the 2022 Luskin Undergraduate Awards Program.

View photos of the Public Affairs Capstone Showcase on Flickr.

Undergraduate Capstones 2022

Report Finds Latino Representation Lacking in State Government Appointments

A new report from the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Institute (LPPI) offers an in-depth picture of the state of Latino representation across the California governor’s leadership cabinet and influential state governing bodies. Latinos make up 39.1% of the state population but only 18.4% of executive appointees, according to the report. Among all women, Latinas remain the most underrepresented. The report also found a lack of Central and Southern California voices on executive boards and commissions. These influential state governing bodies play a critical role in advising the administration, establishing statewide policy priorities and regulatory standards, and determining the allocation of billions of dollars in public resources. The report noted that Latinos who do serve on these bodies tend to be more recent appointments: 70.7% of Latino appointees were appointed in the last four years, while non-Hispanic white appointees are more likely to be legacy appointments carried over from a previous administration. Policy recommendations outlined in the report include limiting these legacy reappointments and issuing an executive order that sets directives for reaching proportional representation of the state’s diverse constituencies across race and ethnicity, age, gender, sexual orientation and geographic residence. “Without representation in these bodies, the myriad of policy reforms necessitating a Latino lens evolve into a universal approach that can leave Latinos worse off,” LPPI Executive Director Sonja Diaz told the Sacramento Bee. “Our elected leaders have an obligation to do more to ensure the state’s diverse Latino population is truly represented as architects of state policy and rule-making.”


Alumnus Stephen Cheung to Lead L.A. County Economic Development Corporation

UCLA Luskin Board of Advisors member Stephen Cheung has been named as the new president and CEO of the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation (LAEDC), succeeding longtime president Bill Allen when he retires in January. Cheung, a double Bruin who earned his master’s in social welfare at UCLA in 2007, is currently the chief operating officer at the nonprofit organization, which focuses on equitable economic growth in the region. He also leads the LAEDC-affiliated World Trade Center Los Angeles and previously managed policies and programs related to the Port of Los Angeles. “Our staff, board and I all agree that LAEDC will be in excellent hands under the leadership of our COO Stephen Cheung,” Allen said in a news release. “Stephen has been a tremendous partner to me in leading the LAEDC and WTCLA for the past seven years, and I’m genuinely excited to see where he will take the organization over the next decade.” Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors chair Holly J. Mitchell said, “Stephen has been a steadfast champion to crush the digital divide and to ensure an economy that works for all county residents. We are indeed grateful for Bill Allen’s 17 years of service and look forward to working with Stephen Cheung in the years ahead.”  An active alumnus who has been a member of the Board of Advisors at the Luskin School since 2018, Cheung helped conceive the School’s annual Luskin Summit event and continues to serve on its organizing committee.


Informing Equitable Stormwater Investments in L.A. County

In a drought-prone area like Los Angeles, rainwater provides tremendous potential to boost local water supply, as well as provide multiple other ecosystem and community benefits. That’s why in 2018, L.A. County voters approved Measure W, a tax that raises about $280 million annually to capture, clean and reuse water runoff. Measure W and the program it created, the Safe Clean Water Program, funds projects to clean and strengthen the local water supply and build community resilience. Research by the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation and Stantec is helping to ensure that these investments benefit all Angelenos, especially residents of disadvantaged communities, as the program already calls for. A new report provides advice to the county to strengthen the impacts of the program over time. The study analyzed 116 projects funded by the program — projects like converting open spaces into wetlands and adding rain gardens along transit lines. Researchers explored the program’s selection process and how projects are geographically distributed in disadvantaged communities. The team also conducted workshops with nonprofit, community-based, and public and private sector stakeholders to understand neighborhood needs and anticipated benefits from each project. “It’s crucial that members of disadvantaged communities have the opportunity to identify those benefits for their own communities. It can’t just be a top-down process,” said Jon Christensen, co-author of the report and an affiliated scholar at the Center for Innovation. This project builds upon the center’s research on local water resilienceenvironmental equity and urban greening, as well as L.A.’s voter-approved infrastructure measures

Read the full story

UCLA Study Finds Significant Increase in Firearm Suicide Among Young Black Adults

The suicide rate for young Black adults has increased significantly since 2013, according to a new research report co-authored by UCLA Luskin’s Mark Kaplan, professor of social welfare. Increases in overall suicide rates among young Black and other racial/ethnic minority populations are characterized as “alarming” by Kaplan and colleagues from UCLA and UC Merced in the study published by the journal Archives of Suicide Research. Based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the research team identified adults aged 18-25 who died by suicide from any method, as well as firearm-related suicides in the United States. After more than a decade of declining rates of suicide among young Black adults, the new results showed an 84.5% increase in the firearm suicide rate among Black men and a 76.9% increase among young Black women between 2013 and 2019. “The mechanisms/causes of this concerning trend are not clear,” wrote Kaplan and co-authors about the “sharp reversal” of the downward trend since 2013. “This context highlights how the intersection of age, gender and race influences suicide trends.” Additional research in relation to suicide risk is recommended around potential population-level environmental exposures, rising racial and economic inequalities, and the recent proliferation of firearms. “Future research should consider how structural factors may lead to suicide and the appropriate analytic methods needed to draw rigorous inferences from these complex relationships,” researchers said.


UCLA Teams Up With LADWP for Equitable Energy Solutions

More than 20 UCLA faculty and researchers have entered into a $2.6 million agreement to conduct research for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power to help the city achieve its goal of producing all of its energy from carbon-free and renewable energy sources by 2035 and doing so in ways that benefit all Angelenos equitably. The Luskin Center for Innovation, Center for Neighborhood Knowledge and Latino Policy and Politics Institute are among several UCLA research entities collaborating with the LADWP’s LA100 Equity Strategies, which will guide the department as it creates the first justice-focused, carbon-free energy transition of any major city. The effort builds upon interdisciplinary work already being done across campus, including the Center for Innovation’s research on energy affordability. “It takes careful intent to ensure that the costs associated with the transition to renewable energy get translated equitably through rates, and to protect low-income households in disadvantaged communities from bearing too much of that cost,” said Gregory Pierce, co-director of the center. “Historically, sustainability investments have not been equitable, so in some ways this project is trying to tackle that transition.” Recommendations from Pierce’s team could include enhanced rate discounts, speeding up energy efficiency and solar programs, and adjusting what criteria would trigger the shutoff of a household’s water or energy if it falls behind on payments. The university’s participation was made possible through an existing agreement between the LADWP and the UCLA Sustainable LA Grand Challenge. — Jonathan Van Dyke

Read the full story


Keum Wins Grant to Study Link Between Online Racism, Tobacco Product Use

Assistant Professor of Social Welfare Brian Keum has received a grant from the Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program to study links between online racism and high rates of smoking among Black young adults. The three-year grant of more than $775,000 will also support Keum’s partnership with the California Youth Advocacy Network to conduct community- and campus-based anti-racism advocacy programs. Keum, director of the Health, Identities, Inequality and Technology Lab at UCLA Luskin, conducts research focusing on reducing health and mental health disparities among marginalized and oppressed individuals and communities. His research team has collected preliminary data indicating that depression and anxiety associated with exposure to racist victimization and content online is a significant factor in smoking and vaping behaviors among Black young adults, who have the second-highest smoking rate among racial minority groups in California. “Our study aims to expand the current understanding of racism-related tobacco product use among Black emerging adults by focusing on online racism,” Keum said. Given the everyday influence of social media, online interactions can increase exposure to racially charged content, leading to rumination, vigilance and trauma associated with a host of mental health and problematic substance use issues, he explained. “With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the anti-Black racial tragedies and violence across the U.S., there is an emerging public health concern that this substance-related coping may be further exacerbated,” he said. The Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program uses tobacco taxes to fund research that informs public policy and improves care for Californians stricken with tobacco-related diseases.