As graduation looms, UCLA Luskin students must polish, perfect and present their projects and research results
Matt Barreto and Sonja Diaz of LPPI joined Juan Cartagena, center, of LatinoJustice for a panel discussion of criminal justice issues that launched the day's activities. Photo by Les Dunseith
A recent gathering at UCLA Luskin included a full-day of programming related to efforts to advance visibility on the experience of Latinos in the criminal justice system across the United States.
Dozens of experts and scholars on Latino issues at the local, state and national levels gathered on campus May 31, 2018, for a day of presentations and workshops organized by the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative (LPPI) and LatinoJustice PRLDEF. Attendees included a number of nationally known advocates for Latinos, including LatinoJustice President Juan Cartagena.
“It is so reaffirming seeing Latinx people talking about these issues,” Cartagena told a packed classroom of workshop participants, including several UCLA Luskin students. “Everyone in this room should be listed as experts.”
The sessions began with an introduction from Dean Gary Segura, who was also one of the participants in a high-level strategy workshop focusing on Latino civil rights and the U.S. criminal justice system.
He told attendees that he helped found LPPI in part to address a shortfall in research about issues of importance to Latinos, including inequalities in the criminal justice system.
“People across the ideological divide agree that this is an issue for the Latino community,” said Segura, who said he hoped the day would provide an opportunity for attendees to “think constructively about the things that have to happen” in order to bring about change.
A discussion hosted by LPPI’s founding director, Sonja Diaz, followed with Cartagena and Matt A. Barreto, a professor of political science and Chicana/o Studies at UCLA and the other co-founder of LPPI. They zeroed in on the fact that national discussions have historically downplayed the impact on Latinos of criminal justice policies related to policing, mass incarceration or unequal rates of prosecution.
“Why are Latinos invisible in this discussion?” Barreto asked. “It’s because we are invisible in the data.”
For example, the U.S. Census has historically grouped Latinos with whites in its tabulations based on ethnicity. And this shortcoming has been replicated in much of the research at the state and local levels.
“So many people don’t count Latinos,” Barreto said. “This makes advocacy impossible.”
Today, some states still do not count Latinos as a separate group, he said. Even when Latinos are specified in the data, “some counties have better data than others.”
Discussions like this one continued for several hours, and participants had an opportunity to hear from wide range of people — scholars, policymakers and community advocates. That evening, the participants viewed a sneak peek of the in-progress documentary, “Bad Hombres,” by award-winning filmmaker Carlos Sandoval, and then heard from the director, Cartagena, UCLA lecturer Virginia Espino, and from some of the people featured in the film.
Noting an “insurmountable amount of knowledge of Latino criminal justice knowledge on the stage,” second-year UCLA Luskin student Gabriela Solis Torres participated in the gathering and shared her impressions via social media, saying, “I am so honored to be in the same of the room as such inspiring leaders.”
View additional photos in an album on Flickr
UCLA students gain cultural insight during annual study abroad trip that is organized by Japanese classmates
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.
In NYC, are Jenny Lai, Aiha Nguyen MA UP ’06, Liz Bieber MURP ’15, Sara Terrana MSW ’13 and current doctoral student.
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
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.
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.
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.
Undergraduate Celina Avalos (center, wearing glasses) during a meeting of the student staff with LPPI Executive Director Sonja Diaz. Photo by Les Dunseith
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 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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
A version of this story also appeared in the Summer 2018 edition of Luskin Forum magazine.
From left, 2017-18 D3 student program managers Jordan Hallman, Estefanía Zavala and Michelle Lin listen to Gerry Laviña, director of field education at UCLA Luskin. Photo by Stan Paul
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.
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.
Three in the Class of 2018 who are already changing the landscape of public affairs
Joseph A. Nunn MSW '70 PhD '90 with honorees Helene Creager MSW '85 and Bill Coggins MSW '55. Photos by Les Dunseith
By Stan Paul
During the annual gathering to present Helene Creager MSW ’85 with its Alumna of the Year award, UCLA Luskin Social Welfare also recognized a lifetime of achievement by Wilfred “Bill” Coggins, a member of the Social Welfare graduating class 30 years earlier, in 1955.
Friends, family, faculty and coworkers jammed Loteria Grill in Hollywood on May 19, 2018, to celebrate Creager, a supervising U.S. probation officer, and Coggins, founder of the Kaiser Permanente Watts Counseling and Learning Center.
Since 2007, a Master of Social Welfare (MSW) graduate has received the alumni award named after the former vice chair and longtime director of field education at UCLA Luskin, Joseph A. Nunn MSW ’70 PhD ’90. He was on hand to congratulate both awardees and to introduce Coggins, who was the first-ever recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award.
Distinguished at Every Level
Creager received her award from Professor Emeritus Alex Norman DSW ’74, who had nominated her and is also the person who first encouraged Creager to pursue an MSW at UCLA. “She has distinguished herself at every level of her professional employment,” Norman said.
In 1995, Creager joined the U.S. Probation Office for the Central District of California. Creager has served in a number of roles bringing a social justice emphasis to posts ranging from clinical director of a youth center for wards of the court and the Los Angeles County Probation Department.
During her time as an undergraduate psychology major at UCLA, she enrolled in a class taught by Norman — her first exposure to social work. “Meeting Dr. Norman and taking that class motivated me to obtain my master’s in social welfare instead of psychology,” she recalled.
Creager has served as a field instructor for UCLA students, and her career includes work as a treatment team leader of the supervising and treatment staff at Dorothy Kirby Center. Since 1995, Creager – who plans to retire this year – has been serving with the U.S. Court Office, Central District of California. There she has led the implementation of STARR (Staff Training Aimed at Reducing Re-Arrest), which is a set of skills that U.S. Probation Officers can use in their interactions with the individuals they supervise in the community. She has also provided training and assisted in other districts in implementing STARR.
“I am receiving this award as I am about to retire, by the man who helped me start my career,” said Creager, who is married to another alum.
Creager cites Nunn as a mentor during her studies and throughout her career.
“Being selected for this award is exponentially more meaningful to me because it is named after someone I admire and respect,” said Creager, who also worked with Nunn when she became a field instructor for MSW interns and served with him on the Social Welfare Alumni Board in the 1980s. “We both also share that we worked in the criminal justice system and value what social workers bring to criminal justice agencies.”
Commenting on her early training in social welfare, Creager said, “I have been very fortunate that all of my life’s work has been in line with my social work values, knowledge, skills and education. I have had a career that has been fulfilling and meaningful, and it all began with my graduate social work education and experience.”
A Chance to Develop Something Important
At one time Coggins, trained as a psychiatric social worker, contemplated working in private practice, but his life took a different path shortly after the New York native and U.S. Army veteran returned to the United States in 1966 from a Fulbright Scholar post in London.
Recalling his decision to take a job in South Los Angeles in the wake of the Watts riots, Coggins recalled thinking, “Here’s a chance to develop something for the community.”
Since 1967, Coggins has been known for his work in Watts and for founding and serving as director of the Kaiser Permanente Watts Counseling and Learning Center. Through his leadership and clinical experience, a center that started as a “loosely defined program” for children and their parents became the important community service that today continues to provide counseling and educational services to the Watts community.
“I am reminded of the contribution of Bill Coggins every single day as I work in Watts,” commented Jorja Leap MSW ’80, adjunct professor of Social Welfare at Luskin and director of the UCLA Watts Leadership Institute. “He rolled up his sleeves and got involved in the community.”
Leap said Coggins focused his efforts on the strengths of the people who live in Watts. “Every Monday morning at the Watts Gang Task Force, when the staff of Kaiser gets up to present on their latest efforts, we are all (silently) reminded of the work Bill did — it lives forever,” she said.
Alice Harris, an institution in Watts herself, has carried on the tradition of Coggins. “Sweet Alice,” as she is known in the community, met Coggins through a program he established through the Watts Counseling and Learning Center. Harris is one of the original Core Mothers, a group of parents who attended the center with their children and went on to serve as advisers to new parents and their children. Today, Harris continues to serve as executive director of Parents of Watts, a social services agency that she started out of her own home more than 50 years ago.
Harris, who was on hand to see Coggins receive his honor, said, “I went on to college, and then I started a program because I wanted to be like Bill Coggins. I wanted to help the people out like he was helping the people; that’s exactly what I did, and I have been doing that ever since.”
Coggins describes his MSW education as “priceless and valuable,” adding, “skills you develop … can be applied to a variety of settings that can be nonmedical, nonclinical.”
Coggins’ wide-ranging career has included stints as a psychiatric social worker for the Suicide Prevention Center in Los Angeles, providing therapeutic treatment for patients at the Wells Medical Group in Arcadia and serving as a senior psychiatric social worker for the Veteran’s Administration. He has also done work assisting the developmentally disabled.
He has applied his education and training well. “I’ve had a very rich career, and I’ve worked in a variety of quality places. I’ve been lucky, but at the same time, when the luck broke, I had the tools to deal with the situation that was being presented to me.”
This year Coggins will also be inducted into the California Social Work Hall of Distinction along with alumni Kathy Kubota MSW ’82, John Oliver MSW ’69 and Yasuko Sakamoto MSW ’83.
Other UCLA Luskin speakers at this year’s Social Welfare gathering included Dean Gary Segura, Alumni Relations and Social Media Director Marisa Lemorande, and Gerry Laviña MSW ’88, director of field education. Toby Hur MSW ’93, a Social Welfare field faculty member, introduced this year’s Social Welfare Alumni Fellowship Fund recipient, Jennifer Weill, a second-year MSW student.
Annual conference at UCLA Luskin increases awareness and shares information about working with the Latinx community