A Call to Action Two-day UCLA Luskin Lecture event champions academic research to help community activists promote societal change to address issues such as inequality, urban displacement and California’s ongoing housing affordability crisis

By Cristina Barrera and Les Dunseith

In Los Angeles during a time that is so rife with political conflict, it’s hard to find a topic upon which everyone seems to agree. But UCLA Luskin’s Ananya Roy quickly honed in on just such an issue during her opening remarks at a two-day event convened by the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.

Ananya Roy, director of the Institute on Inequality and Democracy, speaks during the recent Luskin Lecture “Black, Brown, and Powerful: Freedom Dreams in Unequal Cities.” Photo by Les Dunseith

“Rent is too damn high,” said Roy, a professor of urban planning, social welfare and geography who also serves as director of the Institute on Inequality and Democracy (II&D) at UCLA Luskin.

Her declaration generated rousing applause from the crowd of about 250 students, scholars, community organizers, local residents and other stakeholders who gathered on April 26-27, 2018, at L.A. Trade Technical College near downtown Los Angeles to ponder the lack of affordable housing and other issues that are of special importance to residents in lower-income areas such as South L.A.

Participants in the event, “Black, Brown, and Powerful: Freedom Dreams in Unequal Cities,” also learned of recent research and discussed solutions to problems such as urban displacement, racialized policing, criminal justice debt, forced labor, and the mass supervision and control of youth.

UCLA Luskin Dean Gary Segura welcomed the crowd, telling them that the event was part of the Luskin Lecture Series, which is intended to enhance public discourse for the betterment of society.

“The Luskin School is home to three public-facing departments. I want to emphasize that — public facing,” Segura said. “I like to say that the Luskin School of Public Affairs puts the public back in public higher education research institution.”

Roy said one of the goals of the institute she directs is to share “freedom dreams” through research and teaching. “We borrow this beautiful phrase, freedom dreams, from our rock at UCLA, Robin D.G. Kelley,” said Roy, referring to writings by the esteemed UCLA distinguished professor of U.S. history.Freedom, Robin notes, is an integral part of the black radical tradition and its global imagination.”

The Institute on Inequality and Democracy is certain that “university-based theory and research has a role to play in transforming unequal cities,” Roy said. “But II&D is also certain that this role can only be meaningful when it is in humble partnership with social movements and community-based organizations that are on the frontlines of struggle.”

Photos from the event:

Freedom Dreams

Holding the event at L.A Trade Tech rather than on the UCLA campus was about more than geography.

“Here in South L.A., there are fierce struggles for self-determination, for black and brown power, for resistance in defiance of banishment,” Roy said.

Over the course of one evening and almost a full day of programming that followed, attendees heard from a variety of speakers and engaged in discussions during workshops that included representatives not only from UCLA and L.A. Trade Tech, but also from the Los Angeles Black Worker Center, Urban Habitat, Right to the City Alliance, and a wide variety of community-based organizations such as the Watts Leadership Institute and Loving Hands Community Care.

Attendees also were treated to music and dance from “Lockdown Unplugged” by Bryonn Bain & the Lyrics Crew. Funmilola Fagbamila, a founding member of Black Lives Matter LA, also presented a stirring spoken-word performance derived from her recent play, “Woke Black Folk.”

In addition to Roy and Segura, speakers from UCLA included:

  • Paul M. Ong, professor emeritus of urban planning, social welfare and Asian American students and the director of the Center for Neighborhood Knowledge, who spoke about recent research that found little progress in improving the lives of residents in South L.A since the Kerner Commission report in the 1960s.
  • Manuel Criollo, activist-in-residence at II&D, who talked about his research into the so-called school-to-prison pipeline that often results when school police officers focus primarily on punishing youthful offenders rather than dealing with the underlying societal issues that lead many youth to commit antisocial acts.
  • Jorja Leap, adjunct professor of social welfare and director of the Watts Leadership Institute, who was joined on-stage by Kathy Wooten of Loving Hands Community Care for a discussion of that nonprofit organization’s efforts to serve families of murder victims, specifically mothers who have lost a child to violence.
  • Lola Smallwood Cuevas, project director at the UCLA Labor Center and director of the Los Angeles Black Worker Center, who noted that 50 percent of black workers in South L.A. are either unemployed or earning subminimum wage.

The second day of the event focused heavily on problem-solving strategies and advice for organizing to promote solutions. Three separate workshops took place, producing discussions about the shared vision of many attendees to use research and analysis as a foundation to build proposals that will result in meaningful societal change.

A wrap-up session was moderated by Roy and Pete White of the Los Angeles Community Action Network.

The event was an opportunity “to be and think together,” Roy said, “in what is often a divided city with dispersed urban life. Now at II&D we take up some new mandates of research and action that emerged from this convening.”

Additional participants at the event included T.R.U.S.T. South LA, Union de Vecinos, Time for Change, Anti-Eviction Mapping Project, Los Angeles Center for Community Law and Action, L.A. Coop Lab, Long Beach Residents Empowered, THRIVE Santa Ana, Right to the City Alliance, CD Tech, A New Way of Life Re-entry Project, Back on the Road Coalition, East Bay Community Law Center, Debt Collective, Million Dollar Hoods, Journey House, Social Justice Advocate, Urban Youth Collaborative, #cut50, Underground Scholars Initiative, Black Organizing Project and InsideOut Writers.

Visit the II&D website for workshop reports.

On-camera interviews:

Recordings of the live streaming that took place each day:

Day 1

Day 2

Another Super Trivia Night Annual Super Quiz Bowl brings out UCLA Luskin’s best — and most competitive — for an evening of brain-teasing questions, some good-natured teasing and plenty of hearty laughter

UCLA Luskin’s annual trivia competition was held for a sixth year on May 31, 2018, inside a tent on the 3rd Floor Terrace of the Public Affairs Building.

Organized by Luskin Director of Events Tammy Borrero with assistance from students and numerous staff members, the structure of the event led to a tightly competitive night, with more than 100 people in attendance and various teams of students, faculty, alumni and staff from all over UCLA Luskin still in contention until final tallies were made.

In the end, Public Policy snagged first and second place thanks to Quiz Bowl ChAMPPions (helmed by UP SAO Sean Campbell) and Bees Get Degrees (with alum and Luskin Center staff member Kelly Trumbull).  City Bootyful, with Juan Matute of the Lewis Center and ITS leading the charge, got Urban Planning on the map in third place. Team No Faculty, headed by alumna Alycia Cheng, finished just short of third and a near-sweep for Public Policy.

The winning team’s name will be engraved on the new Super Quiz Bowl trophy, joining previous winners such as teams led by faculty members Brian Taylor and Sergio Serna, both of whom were back this year but ultimately fell short of capturing the magic a second time.

Grad Night funding was again based on participation, and 50 percent of the proceeds will be divided among all three UCLA Luskin departments because each department fielded at least one team. Urban Planning won the other categories related to attendance and total team participation.

In addition to the numerous student participants (some returning for a second try and some testing their Luskin knowledge for the first time), the event brought in several faculty participants. In addition to Taylor and Serna, the faculty on hand were Kian Goh, David Cohen, Michael Manville, Ayako Miyashita Ochoa and Joan Ling. Participating alumni included Taylor, Manville, Ling, Trumbull, Matute, Cheng and James Howe.

Staff members who competed were the winning team’s Campbell, plus Social Welfare’s Tanya Youssephzadeh and Public Policy’s Oliver Ike. Executive Director of External Relations Nicole Payton provided several questions. Many other staff members and students helped out as needed and hovered in the background to join the fun and cheer on their friends and colleagues.

As the pictures posted to the UCLA Luskin Flickr feed show, it was a fun-filled night of friendly competition that brought the entire UCLA Luskin community together to wrap up the academic year.

Quiz Bowl 2018

Hot Weather Lowers Students’ Ability to Learn, New Study Finds UCLA Luskin scholar Jisung Park documents the negative effects of warm temperatures on educational performance

By Mary Braswell

An expansive study tracking 10 million American students over 13 years confirms what children, parents and teachers already suspected: When classrooms grow uncomfortably warm, students struggle to learn.

Low-income and minority students are particularly affected, and the problem stands to worsen as global temperatures rise, according to the research co-authored by UCLA Luskin assistant professor of public policy Jisung Park.

In some schools, a remedy is within reach. The negative effects of hotter days are almost entirely offset in classrooms equipped with air-conditioning, the researchers found.

Park said the study was launched to understand the effects of climate on educational performance. “Specifically, we were interested in whether a hotter-than-average schoolyear can actually reduce the rate of learning,” he said.

The researchers found that, without air conditioning, each 1 degree Fahrenheit increase in schoolyear temperature reduces the amount learned that year by 1 percent. The decline in learning was detected when outdoor temperatures exceeded 75 degrees “but becomes really problematic at 85, 90 and above,” Park said.

“I think it’s worth highlighting the fact that racial minorities and low-income students seem to be affected much more negatively,” Park said. “So with the same heat shock — in the same year with 10 more hot days — black or Hispanic students on average would experience roughly three or four times the negative impact than a white student would.

“A lot of that seems to be because of different rates of air conditioning, both at school and at home.”

Park points out that “the United States is still one of the most highly air conditioned countries in the world.” In countries like India and Bangladesh, where both temperatures and poverty levels are high, the effects of heat on cognitive development are likely to be more profound, he said.

The study, published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, assessed test scores from 10 million high school students who took the PSAT exam multiple times, between 2001 and 2014. An individual test-taker’s scores dipped in years when higher temperatures were recorded, the research found.

“An important distinction to make here is, in this paper, we’re not actually studying how temperature during an exam affects your performance,” Park said. “You could have someone who’s very well-educated have a bad test day. That’s very different from someone who, because they weren’t able to focus enough times over an extended period, is actually not very well educated. We wanted to test that latter hypothesis.”

He noted that the research was motivated, in part, by a desire to make our society more resilient to climate change. The study forecasts the impact of hot temperatures on student learning over the next three decades. One model assumes no changes in school infrastructure, and another assumes that the rate of air conditioning is increased.

“There’s a very big difference,” Park said.

But he added that the research should not be interpreted as a mandate for schools to install air conditioning.

“As always, we need to weigh the costs and benefits,” he said. “The costs are going to vary tremendously, and maybe it still doesn’t make sense for a school up in northeast Maine to revamp their hundred-year-old building at a $20-million cost.”

Park holds a joint appointment with the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, where he is an assistant professor of environmental health sciences. As a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University and National Science Foundation fellow at Harvard University, he pursued research in environmental and labor economics, specializing in the impact of climate change on human capital.

Park’s latest study, “Heat and Learning,” was co-authored by Joshua Goodman, associate professor at Harvard University; Michael Hurwitz, senior director at the College Board, which administers SAT and PSAT exams; and Jonathan Smith, assistant professor at Georgia State University.

Alumni Notes Recent gatherings and other updates from the alumni of UCLA Luskin

LAX > DCA > JFK > SFO

There is nothing we like more than visiting with our alumni in the cities where they live. UCLA Luskin alumni regional receptions have continued to grow in attendance as we strengthen our network. About 150 alumni kicked off the new year at the Broadway Bar in downtown Los Angeles. We spent spring break in Washington, D.C., thanks to alumni co-hosts Alex Rixey MA UP ’11 and Eric Shaw ’98, and later visited New York City, where Trent Lethco MA UP ’98 hosted Dean Gary Segura, alumni and friends at Arup U.S. Headquarters for an evening of mingling and camaraderie.

Bay Area Alumni: Mark your calendars for Tuesday, Aug. 14, when we will be visiting the California Historical Society for this year’s Bay Area UCLA Luskin Alumni Regional Reception. For more details: luskin.ucla.edu

In Los Angeles, are Allison Yoh MA UP ’02 PhD ’08, and Davis Park MA UP ’02.

 

In D.C. are Melvin Tabilas MPP ’03, Jessica Ramakis MPP ’03, Eric Shaw ’98, Nikki Lewis MPP/ MSW ’18.

 

In NYC, are Jenny Lai, Aiha Nguyen MA UP ’06, Liz Bieber MURP ’15, Sara Terrana MSW ’13 and current doctoral student.

GREEN WITH LEADERSHIP

Three UCLA Luskin alumni were honored by UCLA’s national award-winning Leaders in Sustainability (LiS) Graduate Certificate Program. Planning Manager at AECOM David DeRosa MA UP ’10, Chief Sustainability Officer at UCLA Nurit Katz MPP/MBA ’08, and Sustainability Program Director at L.A. County Chief Sustainability Office Kristen Torres Pawling MURP ’12 participated in a “Sustainability Professionals” panel geared toward current LiS students. They discussed what it’s like to be on the frontlines of advancing policy and planning to address environmental challenges. Representing disciplines across business, education and government, they were recognized for contributions made to each of their respective fields, as well as serving as stellar examples of how to foster innovative ideas and solutions in the field of sustainability. The event was co-sponsored by GSA Sustainable Resource Center and UCLA Luskin Career Services.

David DeRosa MA UP ’10, Nurit Katz MPP/MBA ’08, Kristen Torres Pawling MURP ’12, and Director of the UCLA Leaders in Sustainability Graduate Certificate Program Colleen Callahan MA UP ’10

LEADING BY EXAMPLE

Karina L. Walters MSW ’90 PhD ’95 was cited by Diverse: Issues in Higher Education as one of its most influential Native American Leaders in Higher Education. And for anyone who knows or has worked with Walters, it is no surprise. Prior to her career in academia, Walters was a community-based psychotherapist as well as the commissioner for the L.A. County American Indian Commission.

Today, Walters remains interested in culturally centered and community-based approaches, while also serving as associate dean for research, and professor and Katherine Hall Chambers Scholar at the University of Washington School of Social Work. She is an enrolled member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and co-directs the university-wide, interdisciplinary Indigenous Wellness Research Institute (IWRI), which was co-founded and co-directed with Tessa Evans-Campbell MSW ’94 PhD ’00. IWRI is one of 16 National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities Comprehensive Centers of Excellence and one of two in the country devoted to American Indian and Alaska Native research.

With more than 20 years of experience in social epidemiological research on the historical, social, and cultural determinants of health among American Indian and Alaska Native populations, Walters was selected as a Fulbright scholar at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, and has served as Principal Investigator or co-PI on more than 37 NIH grants. She has mentored more than 90 scholars from historically underrepresented populations.

“Dr. Walters is a model change agent and a distinguished UCLA social welfare alumna, leading the way through her rigorous scholarship and unwavering commitment to indigenous populations,” said Professor and Chair of UCLA Luskin Social Welfare Laura Abrams.

ALUMNI ACCOLADES

Laurie Cannady MPP ’01 was appointed to the California Volunteers Commission by Gov. Jerry Brown. Cannady is the California State Director at the Corporation for National and Community Service, where she has held several positions since 2003.

Anthony DiMartino MSW ’13 was promoted to Legislative Director for California State Assemblywoman Shirley Weber of the 79th California Assembly District. While shaping Assemblywoman Weber’s policy agenda, DiMartino also mentors social welfare students during their annual legislative conference at the Capitol office in Sacramento.

Juan Enriquez MA UP ’01 was nominated for and honored with the 2017 Planner of the Year Award by the Central Texas Section of the American Planning Association (APA) for outstanding professional work. Enriquez is currently a planner for the city of Round Rock in Texas.

Rudy Espinoza MA UP ’06 was selected as an inaugural Fulcrum Fellow through the Center for Community Investment at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy. The 15-month program is designed to position rising executives in the fields of community development, urban planning and community investment, and to help disinvested communities achieve their environmental, social and economic priorities.

Karissa Yee Findley MPP ’11 former Bohnett Fellow, was named director of school portfolio planning at San Francisco Unified School District. Yee Findley oversees an interdepartmental framework to bring SFUSD’s Vision 2025 to fruition, a plan that will redesign academic programs and the built environment so that each SFUSD student can thrive. She is also responsible for developing new schools in response to increasing student enrollment.

Anna Kim UP PhD ’11, a member of the planning faculty at San Diego State University, was selected as the Scholar Prize recipient for the 2018 William and June Dale Prize for Excellence in Urban and Regional Planning, based on her research that examines the emerging practices of “welcoming” cities and immigrant integration in the American South.

Louise McCarthy MPP ’04 was named chair of the L.A. Care Board of Governors, the nation’s largest publicly operated health plan serving more than 2 million members. McCarthy currently serves as president and CEO of the Community Clinic Association of Los Angeles County (CCALAC).

Darcey Merritt MSW ’03 PhD ’06, associate professor at New York University Silver School of Social Work, was appointed by academic publisher Elsevier to a two-year term as associate editor of Children and Youth Services Review (CYSR) effective January 2018. Merritt oversees submissions in the area of public child welfare.

David Vernon Silva MSW ’00 was the recipient of this year’s Council of Nephrology Social Workers (CNSW) Merit Award at the National Kidney Foundation’s annual conference. The award recognizes Silva’s research on the need for bilingual/bicultural MSWs in dialysis and transplant settings, as well as his contributions to the subspecialty of nephrology social work.

 

 

 

In Support of UCLA Luskin Recent gifts and other highlights from the Board of Advisors and other supporters of UCLA Luskin

NEW MEMBERS JOIN THE UCLA LUSKIN BOARD

The UCLA Luskin Board of Advisors met on March 6, 2018, to discuss the School’s future and growth with Dean Gary Segura and hear presentations from faculty members Meredith Phillips and Latoya Small. Phillips is chair of the new Bachelor of Arts in Public Affairs, an undergraduate major program that launches next academic year. Over the previous six months, the board has expanded to include civic and business leaders from across Southern California, including UCLA Luskin alumni.

The newest board members are Bob Abernethy, David Ambroz, Kelli Bernard MA UP ’94, Stephen Cheung MSW ’07, Tracy Colunga MSW ’01, Richard Katz, Gerard Orozco, Richard Polanco and Thomas Safran.

DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL WELFARE CELEBRATES THE LIFE OF JOY CRUMPTON

On March 8, 2018, family, friends, faculty, colleagues and former students gathered at the UCLA Faculty Center to celebrate the life of Joycelyn Anita McKay Crumpton MSW ’80, a former Social Welfare field faculty member at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. Crumpton, known as “Joy” to all who knew her, passed away in September 2017.

“Joy was an inspiration to everyone around her,” said Wanda Ballenger MSW ’73, longtime friend and colleague, who met Crumpton in the 1980s. Others noted her engaging spirit and energy that made her beloved by everyone she worked with.

Joy Crumpton speaks at her retirement reception on June 6, 2011.

Crumpton’s career in social work and her dedication to serving others spanned more than three decades at UCLA and in communities in the San Francisco Bay Area. She was respected by her peers and made lasting contributions to the field of child welfare, diversity and spirituality in social work practice. At UCLA Luskin, Crumpton served as project coordinator of the Title IV-E California Social Work Education Center stipend program for MSW students from 2004 until retiring in 2012.

A memorial fellowship fund in her name has been established so that Master of Social Welfare students may carry Joy’s legacy as a leader and change agent with them at UCLA Luskin and beyond. For more information about how to support the Joy Crumpton Memorial Fellowship Fund, contact Nico Gervasoni at (310) 206-5479 or by email at ngervasoni@luskin.ucla.edu.

$100,000 SCHOLARSHIP ENDOWMENT NAMED FOR ‘GENE’ DUDLEY

The Llewellyn Eugene “Gene” Dudley Centennial Scholars gift of $100,000 was recently announced by UCLA Luskin, coinciding with the school’s launch of a new undergraduate major in Public Affairs beginning in fall 2018.

As part of the UCLA Chancellor’s Centennial Scholars Match, the endowment is aimed at adding at adding $150 million to undergraduate scholarships by inspiring donors to help fulfill the university’s mission of education, research and service. Gifts for these scholarships, which can be awarded on the basis of merit or financial aid, are matched at 50 percent.

“Gene Dudley spent his life making the world a better place,” said Richard Lieboff, Gene’s best friend and life partner. “Remembering him each day and doing things in his memory that will leave a lasting legacy to help others prompted me to make this gift.”

Dudley passed away in May 2009 at the age of 64. He completed his B.A. in political science at UCLA in 1967 and dedicated his life to public service, including a 25-year career with the City of Los Angeles, where he worked with the Aging, Community Development and Housing departments.

A UCLA Luskin student will receive the first Gene Dudley Centennial Scholars Undergraduate Scholarship in the 2018-19 academic year.

“I want to personally thank Richard Lieboff for this endowment,” said Gary Segura, dean of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. “His generosity will allow UCLA Luskin to provide students in financial need with the resources to access education that would have otherwise been out of reach.”

NEW CATALOG DOCUMENTS RESEARCH BY UCLA LUSKIN FACULTY

UCLA Luskin has released its first-ever Luskin Catalog, a comprehensive compilation of the expertise and interests of the school’s faculty members and research centers.

At the request of the UCLA Luskin Board of Advisors, faculty from all three departments provided details of their research interests and recent grants. The catalog also lists research projects each faculty member hopes to complete with outside support from grants and donors. Also included is information on each of UCLA Luskin’s eight research centers and five affiliated research centers at UCLA.

The Luskin Catalog highlights the important work being done in the school by faculty and researchers who work toward improving every single person’s life every single day. To learn more about the Luskin Catalog and to receive a digital copy, please contact Nicole Payton, executive director of external relations, at (310) 206-3059 or by email at npayton@luskin.ucla.edu.

 

‘AN IMPORTANT TIME TO WORK TOGETHER’

Nicole Payton, executive director of external relations at UCLA Luskin

Hello! Having been at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs since mid-October 2017 as the executive director of external relations, I have greatly valued getting to know many alumni, supporters, faculty and community members.

I come to the Luskin School and UCLA with 15 years of cross-industry expertise related to philanthropy. My first experiences with development were at the United Way of Greater Kansas City, and, most recently, seven years as director of regional giving at Northwestern University, the last four years residing in Los Angeles.

It is an exciting time to work at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, especially during our historic Centennial Campaign — an important time to work together to improve life for individuals and communities close to home and around the world. Our Development team at the Luskin School is also complete with the official appointment of Ricardo Quintero as Director of Development.

If we have not had the opportunity to meet yet, please reach out to say hello and learn more about the great work at the Luskin School.

—Nicole
npayton@luskin.ucla.edu

These stories also appeared in the Summer 2018 edition of Luskin Forum magazine.

 

Dean’s Message Announcing final approval and launch of the new Bachelor of Arts in Public Affairs at the Luskin School

Friends,

The UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs has, in recent years, more finely honed our mission — to one that creates positive changes for individuals, communities, polities, ecosystems and the world through improved governance, equitable policies, sustainable planning and the facilitation of healthy individuals and families. As you will read in this issue, a big part of that mission is to address the needs and aspirations for a better quality of life among people of color and other marginalized populations who, collectively, comprise a majority of Angelenos and Californians.

The time has come for UCLA Luskin to take the next step in our efforts to create change-makers. As part of that effort, I am happy to announce the final approval and launch of the Bachelor of Arts in Public Affairs at the Luskin School. By a vote of 58-1 on February 15, the Academic Senate authorized the School to launch our major, which, at full enrollment, will provide training to 600 total majors across the four years.

The Public Affairs major is an interdisciplinary social science degree that combines rigorous analytical and research methods training with deep theoretical immersion in social, psychological, economic and political theories of social change. Students will be trained to ask and answer tough questions regarding how society copes with socioeconomic inequality, democratic access, economic development, and infrastructure, capped off with a yearlong immersion in a field placement and research project, applying these insights in a real-world environment.

We envision a curriculum built around the same guiding principles that inform our graduate and professional programs: that the tools of social science, properly applied, can help us identify and address some of society’s most vexing problems. Students will be able to take these degrees straight to the job market in civic and governmental organizations, business and nonprofit sectors, or go on to graduate and professional training in a cognate field.

Associate Professor Meredith Phillips of the Department of Public Policy will serve as the inaugural Chair of the program, the development of which is owed to all three departments and a core of thoughtful faculty committed to new and socially relevant undergraduate social science.

In the coming years, we will keep you informed as to the progress and growth of the degree program, which should graduate its first seniors in June of 2021!

In the meantime, rest assured that the nationally ranked professional and doctoral programs will extend their tradition of excellence, diversity and impact.

— Gary M. Segura
Professor and Dean
UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs

The Dean’s Message also appeared in the Summer 2018 edition of Luskin Forum magazine.

 

 

Amplifying the Voice of Latinos Latino Policy & Politics Initiative at UCLA Luskin fills a critical research gap and provides a think tank around political, social and economic issues

By Les Dunseith

The new think tank at UCLA known as the Latino Policy & Politics Initiative (LPPI) has moved quickly to bring together scholars and policymakers to share information that can help political leaders make informed decisions about issues of interest to Latinos.

One of the goals of LPPI, which received its startup funding from the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and the Division of Social Sciences, is to provide better access to information to help leaders nationwide craft new policies.

“It is impossible to understand America today without understanding the Latino community and the power that it wields. And this institute is going to do that,” Scott Waugh, UCLA executive vice chancellor and provost, told the crowd at the official launch of LPPI in December 2017.

Representatives of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and throughout UCLA were among a crowd of about 175 people that also included elected officials, community activists and other stakeholders who gathered in downtown Los Angeles. The co-founders of LPPI — Professor of Political Science and Chicana/o Studies Matt Barreto, UCLA Luskin Dean Gary Segura and LPPI Executive Director Sonja Diaz MPP ’10 — “have a vision that reaches not just inside the School of Public Affairs but reaches out across the campus in areas like health, education, science, the arts — wherever Latinos have made a difference and continue to effect change in a profound way,” Waugh said at the launch event.

LPPI founders Matt Barreto, Gary Segura and Sonja Diaz, front row, joined with their 2017-18 student assistants for a formal portrait in March. Also on hand was Director of Development Ricardo Quintero, far left. Photo by Les Dunseith

LPPI works with UCLA faculty to produce research and analyze policy issues from a Latino perspective — aided by an enthusiastic and dedicated team of students from UCLA Luskin and other schools. For example, students associated with LPPI were involved in the production of two recently released reports:

  • An empirical analysis of Fruitvale Village in Oakland, California, that assessed aggregate census tract socioeconomic outcomes to evaluate changes for those living there compared to those living in similar communities in the Bay Area.
  • A state-by-state analysis of Latino homeownership, plus data research on national disasters and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program for the 2017 Hispanic Homeownership Report issued by the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals (NAHREP).

Gabriela Solis, a UCLA Luskin MPP and MSW student whose focus at LPPI is on housing and displacement, provided some of the information in the NAHREP report, working from raw Census data.

“My background is in homelessness in L.A. County and extreme poverty,” said Solis, a policy fellow at LPPI. “With this research and learning about homeownership rates, and who gets to buy homes and who gets loans, it’s something that I had really never thought about too much. It’s been really interesting.”

Several students also traveled to Sacramento in February, during which LPPI visited legislators and their staffs, and presented applied policy research before the California Latino Legislative Caucus.

LPPI’s inaugural Sacramento legislative briefing included research on three policy areas: the Latino Gross Domestic Product; Criminal Justice and Bail Reform; and the impact of Social Science Research on DACA litigation.

Sofia Espinoza MPP ’18 was also a Monica Salinas fellow during her time as a student. She focused on criminal justice in her schoolwork, so joining the effort in Sacramento dovetailed nicely with her interests.

“Being on our Sacramento trip and meeting with all Latino legislators and aides, that’s really important,” Espinoza said. “The higher up you go in academia, to see people who look like you doing amazing work, I think that is really a value add for LPPI.”

LPPI Director Diaz said her student team includes a mix of graduate students like Solis and Espinoza and undergrads with an interest in public affairs and
Latino issues.

Celina Avalos, wan undergraduate student in political science, served as special projects associate for LPPI during the 2017-18 academic year.

“A lot of it does have to do with political science, what I hope to do in the future,” she said. “My main focus was never on policy. But being here in LPPI and working with [Diaz], I have gotten more passionate about it — how impactful public policy actually is.”

Diaz said the LPPI students work as a team. “For the undergrads, what is great is that they have a seat at the table,” she said. “There is integration. There is cohesive learning. We are learning from each other. The students are on the calls with the external stakeholders. They are going on these trips. They are supporting our events.”

The undergrads also see first-hand what it is like to be a graduate student involved in impactful research efforts.

“Working with the graduate students, I get to hear from them and see the work that they are doing,” Avalos said. “I have found it really inspiring seeing these Latino women — honestly, I look up to them. I see them doing their research work and think, ‘Wow, look at them.’ It has definitely changed my perspective on what I hope to do in the future.”

The inspirational potential of LPPI was an important motivation for Segura in getting the new research center underway and finding a home for it at UCLA.

Segura, who secured approval to hire additional UCLA Luskin faculty members with expertise in Latino policy, said the day-to-day work being done by LPPI helps bolster UCLA’s capacity to provide role models for its Latino students.

“I genuinely care about every research opportunity that I have with LPPI,” Espinoza said. “And it really hits close to home. It gives you an added desire to do well and a drive to succeed.”

Segura said of the LPPI students: “I have been at events with them. I have seen them present on our behalf. I have seen the product of their work. And they are doing great.”

The students fully embraced LPPI’s goal to advance knowledge about Latinos through work that actually involves Latinos themselves.

“It’s why we do what we do,” Espinoza said. “It’s motivating.”

For more information about how to support LPPI, contact Ricardo Quintero at (310) 206-7949 or by email at rquintero@luskin.ucla.edu.

A version of this story also appeared in the Summer 2018 edition of Luskin Forum magazine.

Diversity Is Excellence at UCLA Luskin The Diversity, Disparities and Difference (D3) Initiative connects students and groups across UCLA

By Stan Paul

Estefanía Zavala, Michelle Lin and Jordan Hallman are all up early on a Sunday morning. They meet at a favorite coffee shop in Hollywood. This is when the trio of busy UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs students can break from their fast-paced two-year professional programs to discuss a topic central to their lives, studies and future careers.

Diversity.

It’s important at UCLA Luskin, especially to the numerous student groups working to make their programs, the School and the campus more inclusive. At the time, Zavala, Lin and Hallman were student program managers for the UCLA Luskin initiative known as D3 – Diversity, Disparities and Difference. Launched in 2014 by former Dean Franklin D. Gilliam, Jr., D3 aims to “create a cohesive strategy to bridge differences, understand our diverse society and confront disparities in the field of public affairs.”

“I was really interested from the get-go, and the mission of D3 really aligns with Social Welfare’s mission, our core values of social justice and equity. And that’s always been a topic of interest to me and trying to improve the way things are and make sure that the campus is inclusive for all people,” Lin said.

The D3 Initiative is one of many UCLA Luskin student groups focused on issues of equity and social justice. Among the others are Urban Planning Women of Color Collective, Planners of Color for Social Equity, Policy Professionals for Diversity & Equity, Luskin Pride, Black Caucus, Asian Pacific Islander Student Caucus (API), Latinx Student Caucus and Diversity Caucus.

Working independently or in collaboration with D3, the groups host Schoolwide and campus events designed to promote collaboration, bridge gaps and encourage understanding. These include an Equity in Public Affairs research conference and group dialogues with incoming UCLA Luskin students.

“My favorite experience thus far has been the Equity in Public Affairs training that we do in the beginning of the year, where students share their unique identities and receive training on operating professionally in a diverse environment,” said Zavala, who recently earned her MPP degree after also serving as a leader of Policy Professionals for Diversity & Equity. “I got to meet so many people and really got to understand them.”

The D3 Initiative has three priorities:

  • Enhance student admissions and faculty searches by championing more diverse applicant pools;
  • Institutionalize programming that offers a critical understanding of social inequity while establishing connections with the greater community;
  • Strengthen student collaboration for a more inclusive school climate.

That mission is supported by the office of Dean Gary Segura as part of efforts to build an equitable environment on campus that has hired new faculty whose research and areas of interest include a social justice focus.

The D3 group has coordinated gatherings known as “Difficult Dinner Dialogues,” which invite classmates and others with diverse backgrounds and different life experiences to share and learn from one another.

“I think it’s a space, call it a brave space. It’s a brave space for everyone to come and not feel judged for what they think because it’s about being open to learning, so that will hopefully change the political climate,” said Lin, who has since earned her social welfare degree.

One Dinner Dialogue focused on sexual assault and “the role of men and women of color who don’t have the means to quit their job or speak out against their employer, the power dynamics of that,” Lin said.

“People really felt like this was the beginning of the conversation and they wanted even more,” she added.

In addition to their Sunday meetings, the student leaders stayed connected throughout the year with D3 faculty director Gerry Laviña MSW ’88, Social Welfare’s director of field education, along with the dean’s office staff. During the 2017-18 academic year, D3 added office hours to collect feedback, questions and concerns directly, and in confidence, from students at UCLA Luskin.

Hallman, who has since earned her urban planning degree, said her professional focus is “the intersection of transportation and land use and the responsibilities that come with approaching that point of intersection justly and equitably, which is a relatively new conversation within planning. I think participating in D3 has also led me to a role where I try to shed light on other points of intersection that aren’t talked about.”

For Zavala, connecting with peers from UCLA Luskin’s other two departments was important.

“The D3 position has empowered me to create a community across all three departments. I hope that in any future career that I have, I work actively to form bridges across silos and uplift the work of diversity. I also want to center my professional career on empowering traditionally marginalized communities. Starting at Luskin has been a wonderful experience,” Zavala said.

The D3 Initiative also supports students with awards, grants and funding for their work, including the Franklin D. Gilliam, Jr. Social Justice Awards, which were created to recognize student scholarship in social justice and inequality. The award was made possible by contributions from the School’s board of advisers, UCLA faculty, staff and alumni.

“We are not yet where we need to be and there is still much to do, but D3 has been a guiding force for progress,” said Isaac Bryan MPP ’18. With the help of a Gilliam Award, Bryan’s Applied Policy research group studied the dynamic needs of the city’s formerly incarcerated reentry population for Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.

“D3 empowers us all to continue placing diversity, equity and inclusiveness at the forefront of the work we do here in Luskin,” said Bryan, who is also a member of Policy Professionals for Diversity & Equity.

As a PhD student in urban planning, Aujean Lee also received funding through the D3 Initiative, including the Gilliam Award.

“These resources are important because urban planners, and planning research, still need to engage with and grapple with its historical legacies of racism, classism, sexism, homophobia, ableism, etc., that continue to shape our cities and communities,” Lee said.

A version of this story also appeared in the Summer 2018 edition of Luskin Forum magazine.

James Comey’s Lesson in Values and Truth In conversation with UCLA Luskin’s Jim Newton, the former FBI director explains his views on impeachment, Hillary Clinton’s emails and much more

By George Foulsham

To impeach or not to impeach? That was one of the questions put to former FBI Director James Comey by UCLA Luskin Public Policy lecturer Jim Newton during Comey’s sold-out appearance at the Aratani Theatre in downtown Los Angeles on May 24, 2018.

Comey’s answer? Impeaching President Donald Trump is not a solution to the current political divide in the United States; instead, it would likely exacerbate the split.

“In a way, [impeachment] would let all of us off the hook,” Comey said. “And not just off the hook, but drive a dysfunction and a divide deep into the fabric of America, leaving 40 percent — it’s probably less than that — 30 percent of voters believing there’d been a coup.” Comey said America needs a reset, “and that’s only going to come, I believe, if the American people, not just those who voted for Hillary Clinton, but so many others who didn’t vote, get off the couch … and vote your values in this country.”

Comey, a former Republican who now says he is unaffiliated politically, continued, “Vote for people who reflect a commitment to the rule of law, equal protection of the laws, and the truth. That will be a moment of clarity and inflection in this country that will not allow the angry wing to say, ‘It was stolen from us!’ No, it wasn’t. The American people stood up and said, ‘No more!’”

Comey’s appearance was part of the Los Angeles Library’s ALOUD series, and marked his first visit to Los Angeles since he was fired by Trump while speaking with FBI agents here a year ago. Since being removed from office, Comey has made appearances all over the country promoting his book, “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership,” currently the No. 3 best-seller on the New York Times nonfiction list.

Newton, who is also editor of UCLA’s Blueprint magazine, asked Comey to explain the meaning of the book’s title. Values, a recurring theme in his remarks, came up again.

“It’s to try to convey the sense that the best leaders I ever worked for, and learned from a lot, were people who were always able to look above the angry and the political and the financial to the things that are above that,” Comey said. “When they’re making the hard decisions, they always ask, ‘What are the values of this institution? What’s the constitution? What’s the law? What’s the long run?’ And they’re able to, by focusing on those things, by being above the loyalty to a person or a tribe, make better decisions.”

Comey expressed concern that political battles over guns, immigration or taxes are causing citizens to lose sight of the core values that Americans share. “It should be the only thing we are truly loyal to. Which is the rule of law, freedom of religion, freedom of expression. The truth is the only loyalty that matters,” he said.

Comey’s controversial role in the 2016 presidential election was one of the subjects covered by Newton, who questioned whether it was appropriate for the FBI director — and not the attorney general — to announce in July of an election year that no charges would be filed against Clinton following the agency’s criminal investigation into her emails. At a pre-election press conference to announce that decision, Comey said that the FBI had found that Clinton and her staff had been “extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.”

Comey told Newton, “I’m not certain that I arrived at the right answer. I think I did, but I can see reasonable people seeing it differently. … I thought the least bad alternative was to make an announcement … and that would be the thing best-calculated to reduce the damage to the institutions of justice, and increase faith and confidence that the result was done in a decent and independent way.

“I know a lot of people characterize this as me criticizing Hillary Clinton,” he added. “That’s not how I thought about it. I felt I was giving the American people an honest description of what we found. … But I should have said really sloppy (instead of extremely careless).”

Among the many other issues that were discussed, Comey:

  • characterized the FBI as being designed “to embody the blindfold that Lady Justice wears. There’s no peeking out to see whether the president is angry or happy with what you’re doing.”
  • brushed aside charges that the FBI and Justice Department are part of a “Deep State.” “There is no Deep State. There’s a deep culture — in the military services, in the intelligence community, in the law enforcement community — that runs all the way to the bedrock. It’s about the rule of law, and the truth. No president serves long enough to screw that up.”
  • said that the only way to effect change is to awaken the “sleeping giant.” “We need the American people more broadly to wake up to our norms and values, because it’s going to take a change in political culture. I think that’s only going to come with significant political changes, and that’s only going to come at the hands of the sleeping giant waking up.”
  • revealed that his wife and children were disappointed with the results of the presidential election. “My wife considered Secretary Clinton to be a seriously flawed candidate, but very much wanted a woman to be president of the United States. So she was very disappointed, as were my children, including my daughters, who marched the day after the Inauguration in the Women’s March.”

The Rent is Too Damn High: A Forum on L.A.’s Housing Crisis Skyrocketing costs and politics of supply are focus of UCLA Lewis Center’s 11th annual Downtown Los Angeles Forum

By Stan Paul

“Too Much and Not Enough” is a recipe for a crisis when it comes to rising rents and lack of available and affordable housing in Los Angeles County.

It also was an apt title of the UCLA Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies’ 11th annual Downtown Los Angeles Forum on Transportation, Land Use and the Environment, held May 18, 2018, at the California Endowment.

“The short story is the rent has been getting ‘too damn high’ for decades, and renter wages have not kept up,” said moderator Michael Lens, associate professor of urban planning and public policy at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.

In the last few years, a threshold has been crossed as “more and more households cannot really bear the rising costs of rent,” Lens said, launching a day of debate and discussion on a nationwide problem that is acutely felt in the L.A. region, which is also beset by chronic homelessness.

Experts representing academia, government and nonprofit organizations, as well as community stakeholders, came together to discuss problems, barriers and solutions to the multifaceted issue of affordable housing.

“Research is pretty unequivocal that increasing housing supply is necessary to stabilize prices,” Lens said, but there is less certainty about what happens in neighborhoods that receive new housing supply or investment. “Neighborhood dynamics certainly complicate any of our policy options or choices and solutions for increasing housing affordability,” said Lens, who also serves as associate faculty director for the Lewis Center.

‘If we want to stem the pipeline of people moving onto our streets, we have to come up with solutions that keep people in place, and that’s a moral issue, it’s a humanitarian issue, and it doesn’t rest with individual owners, it rests with all of us.’

— Panelist Jacqueline Waggoner

Paavo Monkkonen, associate professor of public policy and urban planning at UCLA, led the first panel of speakers, who looked at the causes and effects of the crisis from a variety of perspectives.

Panelists included Isela Gracian, president of the East LA Community Corporation; Robin Hughes, president and CEO of Abode Communities; Shane Phillips, director of public policy at the Central City Association; and Carolina Reid, assistant professor of city and regional planning at UC Berkeley.

“We can’t build affordable housing fast enough to meet the need,” said Reid, adding that “we don’t have a system where we can hold cities accountable for how much housing they’re producing to meet growing housing demand.”

Since 2000, half of L.A. neighborhoods built no housing at all, according to Reid. Citing gentrification pressures at the urban core, she said neighborhoods with the best transit access are building the fewest affordable housing units.

“Planning isn’t helping,” she added, noting that California cities continue to include minimum lot sizes and restrictive zoning. Compounding the problem are lengthy permitting and regulatory requirements along with strong public opposition to some affordable housing projects.

A second panel, led by Lens, addressed the politics of supply and evaluated possible solutions. Panelists were Becky Dennison, executive director of Venice Community Housing; Jackelyn Hwang, assistant professor of sociology at Stanford University; Jacqueline Waggoner, vice president and Southern California market leader for Enterprise Community Foundation; and Ben Winter, housing policy specialist with the Office of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.

Hwang weighed the pros and cons of rent control. She cited research showing that landlords do take advantage of “perverse incentives,” such as converting units to condos to become exempt from rent control — and consequently decreasing rental housing supply. But rent control also protects tenants, she said, noting that it encourages longer-term and elderly residents to stay in place, protecting them from displacement.

“I think the takeaway from the study is it puts too much power in the hands of landlords,” she said.  “I think there are ways to have rent control and maybe we can think of more creative ways on how it’s implemented.”

Waggoner is a proponent of rent control but said the strategy should be regional and not just within the city. “If we want to stem the pipeline of people moving onto our streets, we have to come up with solutions that keep people in place, and that’s a moral issue, it’s a humanitarian issue, and it doesn’t rest with individual owners, it rests with all of us,” she said.

Keynote speaker Kathy Nyland made her point succinctly: “Put people first, share the power, and let people be part of the solution.”

As director of Seattle’s Department of Neighborhoods, Nyland oversaw the overhaul of the neighborhood council system to emphasize inclusive outreach, equity and community engagement. She said she has looked at affordable housing from several vantage points, having also served as chief of staff to a Seattle City Council member and as a senior policy advisor to the city’s mayor.

Audience members had the opportunity to join the discussion, during the panels and at a reception that followed the conference.One of them was Tham Nguyen, a 2005 alumna of the Luskin Urban Planning master’s program, who is now a senior manager in transportation planning for LA Metro’s Office of Extraordinary Innovation.

“It’s certainly a very important component of transportation, looking at the housing and land use aspect,” Nguyen said. “This is a really great learning experience to see the conversations that are happening and unfolding around affordable housing.”

Brian Taylor, professor of urban planning and outgoing director of the Lewis Center, closed the conference with this observation: “I thought transportation planning was complicated, but you’ve got me humbled here.”

Taylor, who also serves as director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at UCLA Luskin, said he often hears comments that emphasize both connections and contradictions in transportation: “Traffic is terrible. We have to stop development. Let’s build a lot of rail and have transit-oriented development, but we’re really worried about gentrification.”

While the “enormously complex” affordable housing crisis has been manifested over years and solutions may be slow in coming, “that doesn’t mean they’re not worth pursuing,” he said. “But what it does mean is that the person that has been displaced today is not going to benefit from that immediately. …

“These problems are visceral and they’re current, and the needs to address them are immediate and pressing,” he said, adding that bridging the gap between slow market changes and urgent needs on the streets of L.A. “is really going to be the challenge as we move forward.”

View additional photos from the conference on Flickr:

DTLA 2018