International Practice Pathway Program Sends Seven Students Abroad

By Adeney Zo, UCLA Luskin Student Writer

Seven students from all three departments at UCLA Luskin are going abroad this summer to do internships through the Global Public Affairs Initiative’s International Practice Pathway program.

The IPP program is an integral part of the Global Public Affairs initiative and offers the unique opportunity for Luskin students to intern abroad as a part of their coursework. Through IPP, Luskin students can study international affairs and apply their studies firsthand in under-served communities around the world. Before going overseas, students attend lectures in cross-disciplinary studies such as urban planning, social welfare, public policy, economics, administration, public health and environmental sciences in order to prepare for a future in global careers. After a year-long preparation period, students then apply for summer internships through well-established international organizations in order to conduct research and fieldwork abroad.

“We wanted to give a structured program to students who want to be exposed to the career side of international work,” says Stephen Commins, Urban Planning professor and co-founder of the IPP program. “It’s important for students to have career talk and not discuss academic subjects only, and this program exposes students to what career paths are available for international work.”

From the start of the program in 2011, IPP has expanded greatly and will be sending seven students abroad to various parts of the world this year. “Our two main goals for IPP are to keep growing the summer fellowship program and provide more structured career counseling for students,” says Commins.

Public Policy student Jonathan Slakey is currently preparing to go abroad with IPP next year. “I knew I wanted to travel to India and help in development work, specifically with the human rights NGO, the Association of Relief Volunteers (ARV),” says Slakey. The ARV serves impoverished communities in Andhra Pradesh, India, and Slakey will be traveling to their headquarters to help the NGO with expansion and publicizing in order to receive necessary funding.

“There are so many excellent development programs in the world that lack coverage in developed countries, which are major potential sources of funding for charitable organizations,” explains Slakey.

Though IPP does not have a set of required courses, only lectures, students apply the skills and knowledge they have gained in their degree coursework to their work abroad. One of Slakey’s courses on Education Policy, taught by Professor Meredith Phillips, will play directly into his work with ARV. “I have had to work with data all quarter, and I have a better understanding of how to organize data effectively and what to look for in a dataset, all skills I hope to use with ARV’s data in India,” he says.

As IPP continues to expand, more Luskin students may also have this unique opportunity to witness firsthand how the theories and data from their coursework operate in organizations and communities around the world.

To see a list of the countries students are going to and follow along with them on their travels, visit the Luskin Abroad blog here. Urban Planning students going on a summer exchange program to China and Jon Baskin, a student traveling to Canada on the Dr. Edwar Hildebrand Fellowship for Canadian Studies, will also be contributing to the blog.


UCLA Luskin Congratulates the Class of 2014

UCLA Luskin congratulated the graduating class of 2014 this morning, welcoming 51 Public Policy students, 93 Social Welfare students, and 71 Urban and Regional Planning students into the ranks of its alumni during a ceremony at Royce Hall.

Dean Franklin D. Gilliam, Jr., quoted the recently departed author Maya Angelou in his opening address to the assembled students, faculty, staff and friends of the School. “‘You can only become truly accomplished at something you love,’” Dean Gilliam said. “‘Don’t make money your goal.’

“‘Instead, pursue the things you love doing and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off of you.’”

Social Welfare graduate Brianna McCullough, earning her second degree as a Bruin, spoke of the growth she and her fellow students had undergone during their time at UCLA Luskin. “Most people think it is how we start that holds the most importance, but the piece that holds the most meaning, really, is where we end,” she said.

She highlighted the ability of individuals to instigate change in their communities, citing the founding members of the field of social welfare to show one person’s potential. “We as the future social workers of tomorrow must reflect on the foundation of our past,” she said. “What will be our legacy?”

In the audience were members of UCLA Luskin’s first graduating class of students earning certificates in Global Public Affairs. Formed in 2012, Global Public Affairs is a Luskin initiative that seeks to examine global policy issues through lectures, research opportunities, and international internships and exchanges. The students were Urban Planning’s Ana Luna, Vicente Romero de Avila Serrano, Rupinder Bolaria, Nicole Walter, Sean F. Kennedy, Catherine M. Oloo and Luis Artieda Moncada; and Public Policy’s Gabriela F. Cardozo, Corinne N. Stubbs, Ika Anindya Putri, Yaqiu Chen and Debbie Iamranond.

The keynote speech was delivered by Congresswoman Karen Bass, Democrat from the 37th District of California and the first African American woman to serve as Speaker of the California Assembly. Like many of the graduating students, Bass has advocated for foster youth and children in need, serving as co-chair of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption and co-founding the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth. Her roots in Los Angeles go deep; she founded the Community Coalition in 1990, bringing together residents of the city to fight against the crack cocaine epidemic.

Representative Bass offered warm wishes of congratulations to the students and called upon them to remember their commitment to instigating positive change. Drawing on her own experience as a community organizer, she made clear that policy victories are not the final goal — true change requires sustained effort.

She shared the story of her work to get lawmakers in Sacramento to understand the role of relative caregivers — aunts and uncles, grandparents and other family members — in the lives of foster children. When colleagues were dismissive of the positive influence these relatives can have, she organized face-to-face meetings with foster children and their families so that lawmakers could hear their struggles in person. The tactic worked, and the legislation passed.

Bass said the experience taught her a lesson on the value of listening to one’s constituents. “Never lose your connection to the communities, the people and to the emotions of their struggle,” she said. “If you lose touch with the very people you are supposed to serve, you can do harm.”

Throughout, she hailed the students’ commitment to making the world a better place. “While some at other schools are earning their degrees and thinking about their own individual advancements, you have decided to change the world,” she said.

“And let me be clear, the world needs you.”

DVDs of the commencement ceremony are available for purchase through Take One Productions.

Professor Torres-Gil Published in New Book on Aging

Fernando M. Torres-Gil, Professor of Social Welfare and Public Policy and director of the UCLA Center for Policy Research on Aging, was recently published as a contributing author of the book: The Upside of Aging: How Long Life is Changing the World of Health, Work, Innovation, Policy, and Purpose. This book, a collaboration between renowned thought-leaders in the subject and Milken Institute President Paul H. Irving, examines the changing definition of aging revolutions in genomics, technology, and medicine continue to expand the average human lifespan. Each chapter features one contributing author’s knowledge of a specific aspect of aging, ranging from the characteristics of an aging brain to the role of aging workers in society to the factors of accommodating an increasing mature population.

Through the publication of this book (and a number of other projects), editor Irving continues to advance the Milken Institute’s initiatives to “improve public health and aging across America and the world, expand capital access, and enhance philanthropic impact.”

The full list of contributing authors are as follows:

Laura L. Carstensen, Pinchas Cohen, Freda Lewis-Hall, Joseph F. Coughlin, Ken Dychtwald, Michael M. Hodin, Marc Freedman, Jody Heymann, Susan Raymond, Henry Cisneros, Steven Knapp, Fernando M. Torres-Gil, Baroness Sally Greengross, Dan Houston, Philip A. Pizzo, A. Barry Rand; with a foreword by Michael Milken.

Link to the publishing company’s product page:


Who is at Fault When a Driverless Car Gets in an Accident?

Autonomous vehicles are the talk of the town, especially since Google hosted its first-ever media event showcasing its “self-driving car” earlier this week. But while Google is demonstrating that the technology for autonomous cars exists, the question of liability remains.

Last year, several news outlets including the San Diego-Union Tribune and Wall Street Journal asked whether liability issues could stymy consumer access to autonomous cars.

In his latest paper for the Brookings Institution Center for Technology Innovation published in April 2014, Public Policy professor John Villasenor says this shouldn’t be the case. He argues that existing product liability law is well equipped to adapt to new technology and handle most of the issues that could arise.

Villasenor explains his findings in The Atlantic saying:

“Thanks largely to the tremendous technological change that has occurred since the middle of the last century, products liability has been a dynamic, rapidly evolving area of law. Notably, when confronted with new, often complex, questions involving products liability, courts have generally gotten things right…

…while the specific fact patterns will vary, in products liability terms, manufacturers of autonomous vehicle technologies aren’t really so different from manufacturers in other areas. They have the same basic obligations to offer products that are safe and that work as described during the marketing and sales process, and they have the same set of legal exposures if they fail to do so.”

The Washington Post noted Villasenor’s paper in their own analysis, which concludes that autonomous cars can be a boon to safety rather than a minefield of liability risks.

The New York Times also quoted Villasenor in their article about driverless cars and various issues like law-breaking and liability.

Villasenor concludes his paper by offering guiding principles for legislation that should and should not be enacted. To read his full paper, go here.


MPP Student Sandeep Prasanna Wins Prestigious Fellowship

By Adeney Zo, UCLA Luskin Student Writer

UCLA Luskin student Sandeep Prasanna (JD/MPP ‘15) was recently awarded the DACOR Bacon House Foundation Fellowship, a prestigious scholarship program for graduate students in international affairs, which traditionally has been awarded to students in East Coast institutions. Prasanna was one of 10 students nationwide to win the fellowship following a rigorous interview process.

The fellowship is awarded annually by DACOR, the professional association for former diplomats and consular officials. In addition to the $11,000 scholarship, each fellow will be featured in a monthly highlight from the organization.

“I really enjoyed the interview, since both of my interviewers—former diplomats—had served in countries that I had an interest in.” says Prasanna. “It turned into an hour of friendly banter with two people that had amazing careers and lots of stories.”

Prasanna initially came to UCLA to study law, but as he delved deeper into his studies, his interest in public policy and international affairs led him to apply for the UCLA Luskin Master of Public Policy program as well. “In law, you develop broad conceptual analysis skills, while in policy you learn how to look at hard data and develop quantitative skills,” explains Prasanna.

Prasanna graduated from Duke University with a self-designed major consisting of linguistics, evolutionary anthropology and psychology. “My interest in the sociology and diversity of language drove my interest in international affairs. From there, I started learning about present-day politics,” he says.

Combining his passion for international law and policy, Prasanna has worked hard to achieve a number of awards and honors throughout his studies at UCLA.

This year, Prasanna was a member of the first UCLA team to enter the Jean-Pictet Competition, a prominent international humanitarian law competition sponsored by the International Committee of the Red Cross. A total of 29 different countries — spread across 48 teams of three — were represented at this year’s competition in Sintra, Portugal.

“We spent around three months preparing for the competition,” describes Prasanna. “Each week, we focused on one area of the law and took tests similar to those from the competition.”

During the week-long competition, teams were tested up to three times a day. Given a set of situational facts and specific character role-plays, competitors had to create a legal analysis of the situation before a panel of judges.

“The judges will grill you on what exactly is legal and what to do in each situation. Some of the tests were incredibly difficult,” Prasanna says. “But there were some areas of the law that I really knew—and when the judges sense that you know what you’re doing, they get excited and start pushing back harder.” Prasanna was ultimately nominated for the Gilbert Apollis Award, which recognizes the best orators in the competition.

In addition to these notable achievements, Prasanna was also recently awarded the Alice Belkin Memorial Scholarship, offered by the Burkle Center for International Relations at UCLA for minority graduate students in the field of international affairs.

With regards to the future, Prasanna explains: “I intend to pursue public international law, particularly human rights law, so an MPP adds to my experience and training. I don’t know what exactly my career will look like because my path up to this point has been extremely nonlinear, but it’s great to get recognition for the things that I really love doing.”

Michael Stoll Presents New Proposal for Sentencing Reform

In a new discussion paper for the Brookings Institute/Hamilton Project by Public Policy professor Michael A. Stoll and Steven Raphael of the University of California Berkeley, suggest that there is room to reduce U.S. incarceration rates without significantly impacting crime.

The U.S. incarceration rate today exceeds its own historical norms as well as the rates of all other developed countries. At the same time, there is growing public awareness of the steep economic and social costs of crime and mass incarceration, including heavy fiscal costs on government budgets leading to higher taxes and effects on prisoners’ families and communities.

Stoll and Raphael have come up with a three-part proposal that they argue will reduce both incarceration and crime rates.

The three parts are:

  • Reforms to state truth-in-sentencing laws that lengthen sentences
  • Revisions to federal and state mandatory minimum sentencing policies that can be disproportionately harsh
  • Creation of fiscal incentives for local governments to consider the cost of incarceration

To read the full discussion paper titled “A New Approach to Reducing Incarceration While Maintaining Low Rates of Crime” and the policy brief, go here.

Stoll and Raphael are presenting their analysis at the Brookings/Hamilton Project forum titled “The Economic and Social Effects of Crime and Mass Incarceration in the United States” on Thursday, May 1 from 1:00-4:30 p.m. EST.

Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert E. Rubin will open the forum, followed by a roundtable to discuss the Stoll-Raphael paper. There will also be a discussion between Senators Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Mike Lee (R-UT) on the Smarter Sentencing Act of 2014.

You can register for the live webcast here.

For updates on the event via Twitter, follow @hamiltonproj and join the conversation using #SmartSentencing.


Conference Explores Future of Digital Cities

As part of a newly expanded focus on the structure and administration of digitally enabled urban environments, UCLA Luskin held a two-day conference April 24-25 titled “Who Owns the Digital City?”. Scholars, entrepreneurs and activists came to campus to explore innovations and share knowledge on digitally empowered publics, tackling questions of ownership, service, participation, equity and justice in equal measure.

Read the formal conference summary

The conference kicked off with a keynote address Thursday, April 24, as detailed in this report by UCLA Luskin student writer Max Wynn.

Rethinking Digital Ownership: The contrarianism of Jaron Lanier

Technologist and futurist Jaron Lanier, author of Who Owns the Digital Future, opened the “Who Owns the Digital City?” conference in front of a crowd gathered on UCLA Luskin’s rooftop terrace.

Lanier is a tech pioneer whose wide-ranging accomplishments include coining the term “virtual reality,” starting a number of successful tech companies, and possessing one of world’s most extensive collections of actively played rare instruments.

After an adjective-laden introduction from Dean Frank Gilliam, Lanier approached the microphone.

“Oh god, aren’t I impressive,” he asked with an air of mock conceit.

The gathered crowd laughed, but it was an appropriate introduction for what followed. Lanier’s talk, like his book, presented a scathing critique of the current Internet landscape, and of the big businesses that dominate it. However, it was a critique given in an off-kilter manner that was befitting of the dreadlocked man delivering it.

His argument centered on the concentration of technologically bred wealth in the hands of a digital elite. According to Lanier, these elites have positioned themselves at the hubs of digital networks, and have succeeded in monetizing the shared data of their users. The users, or “peasant class,” are not compensated for their role in this wealth creation process. The result has been a tech sector that is actively contributing to the continued destruction of the middle class.

As Lanier’s assault wore on, many of the titans of literature, business, philosophy and, of course, technology were both praised and criticized, often in the same breath.

Lanier’s eclectic interests were on constant display, and within the first ten minutes he discussed the works of Aristotle, Marx and Shelley. In doing so Lanier strayed from Silicon Valley’s typical catalog of cultural references, though Ayn Rand was mentioned briefly.

While Lanier referenced an extensive cast of literary figures, his talk veered well beyond the bounds of letters. At one point he linked “Maxwell’s demon,” a famous thought experiment in the field of thermodynamics, to macroeconomic theory and the history of American business.

The talk ended in an appropriately unexpected fashion. After readjusting the microphone, Lanier was joined onstage by the musician Paul Simon’s son, Harper. As the sun dropped below the Westwood skyline, the duo performed a series of musical compositions. Lanier played a number of exotically named instruments from his personal collection while Simon strummed on a guitar and swayed from side to side.

Afterwards, Lanier signed books and took questions from a crowd still slightly awed by the evening’s spectacle.


The Promises and Pitfalls of Digital Governance

Listen to Jaron Lanier here


Rep. Karen Bass to Deliver Commencement Address

Congresswoman Karen Bass (D-Calif.), who represents the 37th Congressional District, will be the keynote speaker at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs’ commencement ceremony on Friday, June 13.

Rep. Bass is a long-time public servant and community leader, and a member of the inaugural class of the UCLA Luskin Senior Fellows Program. She serves on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs where she is a ranking member of the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations. She is also a member of the House Judiciary Committee where she is working to craft sound criminal justice reforms. She was selected by Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi to serve on the Steering and Policy Committee, which sets the policy direction of the Democratic Caucus.

Throughout her career, Bass has maintained a focus on the nation’s foster care system. In her first term, she created the bipartisan Congressional Foster Youth Caucus along with co-chair U.S. Rep. Tom Marino (R-Pa.). Now in her second term, Bass plans to examine national standards of care in the child welfare system.

As a child, Bass became interested in community activism while watching the Civil Rights Movement unfold. It was then that she made a lifetime commitment to effecting social change in her community and abroad. Prior to serving in Congress, Bass worked for nearly a decade as a physical assistant and served as a clinical instructor at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine Physician Assistant Program. Bass also founded and ran the Community Coalition, a community-based social justice organization in South Los Angeles that empowers residents to become involved in making a difference. It was in this position as executive director of the Community Coalition that she became a UCLA Luskin Senior Fellow.

Bass later made history when the California Assembly elected her to be its 67th Speaker, making her the first African American woman in U.S. history to serve in this state legislative role. While in this role, she helped the State of California to recover from the 2008 economic crisis.

Peterson to Serve as Public Policy Chair

Professor Mark Peterson (left) has been named chair of the Public Policy Department effective July 1, Dean Gilliam announced today.

Peterson, who previously served as chair from 2002 to 2006, succeeds professor Michael Stoll, who has served as chair since 2009.

“Michael has been deeply devoted to the department during his terms of service,” Gilliam said. “He fought hard for his faculty, staff and students, which I’ve always respected.”

Stoll’s tenure has been marked by the following achievements:

  • Significant improvements in the number and strength of applicants to the Master of Public Policy degree
  • Successful recruitment of three new faculty members and three new staff members
  • Establishment of a joint degree in Public Policy and medicine
  • Expansion of interdisciplinary courses in law, management and the UCDC program in Washington, D.C.
  • Strengthened connections to MPP alumni

Peterson brings a deep background of scholarly and administrative experience, with his previous departmental chairmanship supplemented by service at the head of UCLA Luskin’s Faculty Executive Committee and various campus- and UC-wide task forces.

Gilliam praised Peterson as a “trusted advisor.”

“I’ve relied on him over the years for his sound counsel and I look forward to working with him over the coming years,” Gilliam said.

Having celebrated its 15th anniversary last year, Public Policy is the youngest of UCLA Luskin’s three academic departments, and enrolls more than 120 students in its MPP degree program.

Journalist Sasha Issenberg to be Civil Society Fellow

Political journalist Sasha Issenberg will be in residence as a Fellow in the Center for Civil Society in the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and the UCLA Department of Political Science for spring quarter 2014.

Mr. Issenberg is currently Washington correspondent for The Monocle, a magazine covering global affairs, business culture and design. He is the Author of The Victory Lab: the Secret Science of Winning Elections (Crown, 2012), which shows how political campaigns have been transformed by innovations in data, analytics, and behavioral psychology. He is also the author of The Sushi Economy: Globalization and the Making of Modern Delicacy (Gotham/Penguin, 2007), which describes how sushi went from a street snack to a major global commodity in less than a decade.

He is currently writing a book on marriage equality to be published by Crown/Random House, The Engagement: A Quarter-Century of Defending, Defining, and expanding Marriage in America. The Engagement will document the political, legal, and social history of the battles over gay marriage in the United States. Mr. Issenberg’s UCLA Fellowship is supported in part by a generous contribution from the David Bohnett Foundation.

Mr. Issenberg will co-teach a Fiat Lux undergraduate course, Victory Lab, Exploring the Mechanics of Modern Campaigns with Lynn Vavreck of the Political Science Department, who was instrumental in bringing Mr. Issenberg to UCLA. The Fiat Lux Course will meet every other Tuesday from 3:30 to 4:50 in room 1284 of the Public Affairs building. Luskin students are welcome to sit in on the class, which will also feature a number of prominent guest speakers from the political arena.

In addition he will lead brown bag lunch discussions for the Luskin community: Thursday, May 1, 12 pm Why We Stopped Fighting over Gay Marriage” in 3333, and Wednesday, May 14, 12 pm for Why the Democrats Are Better with Data in Room 3343. He will also lead a Dean’s Salon in May on the topics of “Sushi, Campaign Strategy, and Civil Rights.”

Mr. Issenberg has held editorial and reporting positions for George, Philadelphia Magazine, The Boston Globe, and Slate. He has also published articles in a wide range of major publications including the New York Times Magazine, New York, The Atlantic and The Washington Monthly. He was a Fellow of the Institute of Politics at the Harvard Kennedy School Institute of Politics in 2013. He is a 2002 graduate of Swarthmore College.

Most recently, he published “America Exports Democracy, Just not the Way You Think,” in the March 14 Sunday New York Times Review.  And in 2012 he held his own with Stephen Colbert.

Mr. Issenberg’s office is Rm 6273, in the Public Affairs Building, and he can be reached at