A Life of Social Work Dedicated to Children and Families Friends and former colleagues gather in tribute to former educator Joycelyn ‘Joy’ Crumpton, ‘an inspiration to everyone around her’

By Stan Paul

Joycelyn Anita McKay Crumpton — “Joy” to all who knew her — spent more than three decades dedicated to a career in social work and helping others.

The former Social Welfare field faculty member at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, who passed away in September 2017, was known for working to create positive change through education, leadership and service where she worked and taught, as well as in the communities where she lived.

Family, friends, faculty, colleagues and former students got together on March 8 at UCLA’s Faculty Center to honor Crumpton’s contributions to the field of child welfare, diversity, and spirituality in social work practice, to celebrate her life and share memories. In addition, a memorial fellowship fund in her name has been established so MSW student recipients may carry Joy’s legacy as leaders and change agents.

View photos from the memorial gathering on Flickr:

Joy Crumpton Memorial

“Joy was loved and respected by students, faculty and community members,” said Gerry Laviña MSW ’88, director of field education in Social Welfare at UCLA Luskin. “She could always be counted on for support, wisdom, and a smile or hug,” he added. As news of Crumpton’s passing spread into the community and among alumni, Laviña, also a UCLA Luskin MSW alumnus, noted that Crumpton’s “positive spirit and words are carried forward through the many MSWs she taught.”

Contribute to the Joy Crumpton Memorial Fellowship Fund.

At UCLA Luskin, Crumpton MSW ’80 also served as project coordinator of the Title IV-E California Social Work Education Center (CalSWEC) stipend program for MSW students, a post she held from 2004 until her retirement in 2012. Previously, she served as associate director of the UCLA Center on Child Welfare, Inter-university Consortium from 1992 to 1996. In addition, she spent many years in curriculum development and training implementation focused on child abuse and neglect. At the core of her work was the determination to impact those in need — children, adults and families, according to friends, family and colleagues.

“Joy was an inspiration to everyone around her,” said Wanda Ballenger MSW ’73, longtime friend and colleague, who met Crumpton in the 1980s. In 1992, Ballenger hired Crumpton as associate director of the Center on Child Welfare. “Joy was a very social person, who was better at being ‘on,’ ” when it came to meetings and presentations, added Ballenger. In fact, Crumpton was a talented and inspirational speaker. Her audiences included children and youth, parents, graduate students, social workers, probation officers, public health nurses, judges, court officers, community advocates, clergy members, and university faculty and staff, as recounted in a memorial posted online.

In additions to positions at UCLA, Crumpton held a number of training and instructional positions, including lead trainer for the Bay Area Academy and child welfare ombudsman for the Health and Human Services Agency of the city and county of San Francisco. She also founded and directed Family Tree, which provided training and consultation services related to child welfare.

Ballenger said the two stayed in touch despite being far apart. Ballenger recalled that when her husband received a diagnosis of a serious medical condition, even though Joy was fighting her own battle with cancer, she would call every week. “She was just that kind of person,” Ballenger said. “I really miss her. Joy was my sister.”

Throughout Crumpton’s career, she taught and provided fieldwork instruction at a number of institutions, including UC Berkeley’s School of Social Welfare, San Francisco State University, and USC’s Center on Child Welfare. At UCLA Luskin, Crumpton taught graduate courses in cross-cultural awareness, international social work, advanced child welfare practice and the program’s child welfare seminar. She also collaborated with the University of Ghana to develop a cultural immersion and fieldwork internship for MSW students working in key social service agencies in Accra, Ghana, West Africa.

Jorja Leap MSW ’80, adjunct professor of social welfare, remembered her longtime friend and colleague from their early days as MSW students in the same class at UCLA.

“Joy was one of those who knew early on how to collaborate — how to work with difficult people in all groups — she was a mediator so much of the time,” said Leap, recalling an earlier and far different time in social work. “So much of it involving marginalized populations,” Leap said. “Joy knew early on to work within institutions and organizations to make change.”

Joseph A. Nunn MSW ’70 PhD ’90, former director of field education for Social Welfare at UCLA Luskin, also had the privilege of working with Crumpton.

“Whenever Joy Crumpton walked into a room, she would light it up,” Nunn said. “Her first name said it all. With an infectious sense of humor and a winning smile she did indeed live up to her name by bringing joy.”

In addition to discussing their children and families, Nunn and Crumpton talked about time each spent coincidentally as children in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. (Crumpton was born in New Orleans.) “Through one of those it’s-a-small-world experiences, we discovered that she grew up four doors away from my cousins who I visited many summers from my home in Los Angeles.”

Citing her background in direct practice, classroom teaching and training, Nunn said in an email: “Joy had a strong commitment to the children served by the public child welfare system. Whether discussing policy issues or practice interventions her strong analytical skills and compassion for this population were evident. ”

He added: “Joy’s engaging personality made it possible for her to quickly connect with others and thus building collaborative relationships was one of her talents. In summary, Joy had class and style like few before her.”

Recruiting ‘High-Caliber’ Luskin Students More than 200 students attend a career fair held by the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, meeting with employers from a variety of fields with the hope of landing jobs and internships

By Zev Hurwitz

Scores of first- and second-year graduate students worked the room at the annual UCLA Luskin Job and Internship Career Fair, networking and trading business cards with prospective employers.

Held Jan. 30, 2018, at the UCLA Faculty Center, the event gave students in all three disciplines — Public Policy, Urban Planning and Social Welfare — a chance to meet future employers, who were looking to fill jobs and internships.

Mirna Jewell, a researcher with the Los Angeles Department of Public Health, attended for the first time to recruit UCLA Luskin students on the advice of her colleague, a public policy graduate. Jewell was looking for interns for the Public Health Department’s food insecurity program.

“I work with a Luskin MPP graduate who has said so many nice things about the program,” Jewell said. “My colleague specifically wanted to target these students because of the high caliber and strong reputation.”

A strong contingent of Luskin School alumni were on hand.

“Half of the employers we have here today are represented by our alumni,” said VC Powe, director of career services and leadership development at UCLA Luskin. “To see these former students come back and hear about what they’re doing is wonderful. Seeing them here to give back to our students is the best.”

Greg Srolestar, director of technical assistance with Fair and Just Prosecution, a group that works with elected local prosecutors to provide policy and networking support, said he was looking for a few good students to join his team.

“Thus far, our organization has been really heavy on lawyers, which makes sense,” said Srolestar, a Luskin public policy alumnus. “It’s always great to get people with different perspectives and backgrounds. I’ve been the core team member without a law background, and it’s time to look for more people who may come from that kind of background.”

Srolestar was one of several dozen Luskin alumni who attended the fair on behalf of their employers.

Megan Kirkeby MPP ’12, a housing policy research specialist at the California Department of Housing and Community Development, attended to fill recently opened positions.

“We’re primarily recruiting for jobs,” Kirkeby said. “ We passed a big housing package in 2017 with 15 new laws that went into effect Jan. 1. We know we’re going to have to staff up starting in July, so we want to make sure people know about us and know that Sacramento is a wonderful place to work and live.”

Adam Russell, a first-year urban planning student with a focus on design, development and transportation, said the career fair had a good mix of employers.

“This is a really good starting point for looking at internships,” Russell said. “I’ve been making the rounds, getting to know who’s here and what’s out there.”

Sarah Burtner, a second-year MPP candidate, said she also hoped to size up potential employers.

“I’m looking to see how I’ll spend my 40-hour work week in the near future,” she said. “The type of work I will be doing, the type of communities I’ll be working with, and will they make good bosses or coworkers.”

Corina Post, a graduate student in her third and final year of a dual degree in public policy and social welfare, said she was hoping the job fair would kick off her career search.

“I’m hoping to learn more about organizations, what they’re looking for and put things on my radar for me to look for as I’m graduating,” Post said. “I appreciate the diversity of organization that are here. Coming from both public policy and social welfare backgrounds, I’m really impressed with how VC and the career center staff have been able to bring together organizations that are interesting to all three departments.”

Tuesday’s event marked a return to the traditional job fair format. Last year, a “speed dating”-style event paired alumni employers with students with related interests.

“I’m excited about tonight because a lot of employers thought that career fairs are becoming passé, so we didn’t do one last year,” Powe said. “It was students who asked me to bring back a nonprofit career fair.”

While the event was originally billed as a nonprofit fair, high interest from alumni and employers in government and the private sector helped broaden the scope. Powe had hoped to attract at least 30 employers, but more than 200 students and 55 employers registered for the event, making it one of the most popular job fairs ever, Powe said.

“It’s a little bit tricky to have a job fair in January, because it’s difficult for students to commit,” Powe said. “But there are employers here with internships, fellowships and jobs in hand for this session.”

Latino Issues Take Center Stage at Gubernatorial Forum Dean Gary Segura and several UCLA Luskin faculty and students play active roles in framing discussions on vital policy issues as candidates face off at Royce Hall

By Les Dunseith

UCLA Luskin was an active participant in the 2018 California Gubernatorial Forum held Jan. 25, 2018, at UCLA during which six candidates debated issues such as immigration policy, health care, education and ethics.

Dean Gary Segura spoke at a VIP reception that preceded the debate and later welcomed attendees inside Royce Hall to the forum, which was sponsored by the Latino Community Foundation, a San Francisco-based group that invests in Latino-led organizations, and moderated by anchors Jorge Ramos and Ilia Calderón of Univision, a television and media company.

The Latino electorate, whose political clout continues to grow in California, could decide the governor’s race, and a focus on issues of importance to minorities was evident throughout the forum.

“Beyond Latinos, people of color, of all varieties and histories in this nation, are systematically driven from the electoral system, neglected in every aspect of public services, targeted in an unequal justice system, and vulnerable to economic and social exploitation at every turn,” Segura said during the pre-debate reception. “In California, we know we can do better. Tonight, I hope we hear some cogent arguments as to how best to proceed.”

In addition to Segura, many other staff and faculty members affiliated with the new Latino Policy and Politics Initiative at UCLA were on hand. Several students, including representatives from all three departments at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, were seated on stage behind the candidates.

The night’s first question was about deportation policy, and it was posed by UCLA medical student Marcela Zhou and recent UCLA graduate Erick Leyva, whose educations have been directly impacted by the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) program that the Trump administration rescinded late last year.

Gubernatorial front-runners Gavin Newsom and Antonio Villaraigosa both took advantage of the opportunity to publicly voice their support of DACA recipients and to stress agreement with California’s pro-immigrant stance in general, including its sanctuary state status.

Under California’s new law, state and local law enforcement officials are prohibited from sharing undocumented individuals’ information with federal immigration authorities. The policy directly contradicts the Trump administration’s frequent portrayal of ethnic, cultural and racial differences in a negative light.

“We don’t tolerate that diversity, we celebrate that diversity,” said Newsom, California’s lieutenant governor.

 

 

Forum guests were greeted at the forum’s entrance by about 50 UCLA students demonstrating outside Royce Hall, calling on the gubernatorial candidates to support protections for all undocumented individuals — not just DACA participants.

At one point, Villaraigosa waded into the crowd and declared his support for their viewpoint. As the former Los Angeles mayor walked up the steps to enter the building, the students chanted, “Say It Inside!” — an effort to prod Villaraigosa to go on the record in support of undocumented immigrants.

Soon into the debate, he did just that. “They’re saying, ‘no to deportations.’ And I agree. They said that we should say it in here, and we should say it. We are tired of deportations,” said Villaraigosa before invoking in Spanish the rallying cry among many pro-immigrant activists. “Aqui extamos y no nos vamos!

The two Republican candidates at the forum, businessman John Cox and Assemblyman Travis Allen (R-Huntington Beach), both oppose California’s sanctuary status and said the state’s support of undocumented workers undermines the needs of U.S. citizens. Their statements often led to boos from the crowd, and Allen, in particular, generated loud objections from the audience when he expressed full support for the policies of President Donald Trump.

In strong contrast, the four Democrats often drew cheers with rebukes of Trump and his administration’s policies.

“California was built on the back of immigrants,” California Treasurer John Chiang, a Democrat, said. “Fundamentally we’re about dignity, decency and respect for all people. That is the heart of America, and we want to be that shining [city] to send a signal to President Trump that you’re dead wrong.”

Democrat Delaine Eastin, a former state schools chief, drew loud applause when she referred to Trump as an “orange-haired misogynist racist.”

To boost the numbers of Latinos pursuing higher education, Eastin suggested expansion of childcare and child development programs. She and other Democratic candidates also advocated for free college tuition.

“The best crime prevention program is education,” Eastin said.

Responding to a question about California farmers, Eastin called for a long-range water plan and better treatment of agricultural workers. Cox said he sympathized with Central Valley farmers and supports a seasonal worker program “to have people come in and get the work done.” Once crops are picked, however, he said the workers should go back to their countries.

The issue of single-payer healthcare prompted a testy exchange between Villaraigosa and Newsom, who favors improvements to the state’s proposed single-payer health-care legislation. Villaraigosa disagreed, saying he is concerned the idea lacks concrete funding.

“That’s defeatism,” Newsom shot back.

Near the end of the forum, one of the most dramatic moments took place when moderator Ramos returned to the question of undocumented immigrants. He reminded the crowd of the two DACA recipients who had opened the night’s questioning.

“Would you deport them?” Ramos pointedly asked the candidates.

In response, Chiang, Newsom, Villaraigosa and Eastin all said no, and that they would work to protect them. Even Cox said no, though he qualified his response by calling for stronger border security.

Catcalls from the audience greeted Allen when his turn to answer came. “As the next governor of the state California,” he began, “I will follow immigration law …”

Ramos gestured to Zhou and Leyva seated behind him, and they moved to center stage. As Allen walked over and shook their hands, audience objections grew louder.

“Yes or no? Yes or no?” the crowd chanted after Allen dodged a direct answer by saying Republicans plan to include DACA protection as part of immigration reform.

Shouts from the crowd erupted. As the two young people shifted uncomfortably just inches away, Ramos asked again, “Would you deport them, Mr. Allen?”

“That’s not the job of the governor of the state of California,” Allen declared. “Our president is working on a deal right now to protect your status in exchange for border security and a comprehensive immigration plan …”

The crowd grew even louder, drowning out Allen. “Make him leave! Make him leave!” some shouted.

View a Flickr album with additional photos.

 

Suicides by Drugs in U.S. Are Undercounted, Study Suggests Report co-authored by UCLA Luskin professor Mark S. Kaplan finds that a substantial gap between the rates of drug suicides and 'accidental' drug deaths is likely due to misclassification

By Stan Paul

Mark S. Kaplan

The rate of suicides by drug intoxication in the United States may be vastly underreported and misclassified, according to a new study co-written by Mark S. Kaplan, professor of social welfare at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.

The study was published online Jan. 10 in the journal PLOS ONE. The researchers report that the drug suicide rate in the United States rose nearly one-quarter (24 percent) between 2000 and 2016, and the accidental opioid and other drug intoxication death rate increased by 312 percent. This rate gap suggests an increase in suicide undercounting, according to the multidisciplinary international team of researchers led by Ian Rockett of West Virginia University School of Public Health.

“Unfortunately, part of the problem is due to serious under-resourcing of state and local death investigation systems throughout most of the U.S.,” said Kaplan, whose research has focused on using population-wide data to understand suicide risk factors among veterans, seniors and other vulnerable populations. Kaplan added that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently reported more than 63,000 drug deaths in 2016, up from 52,000 in 2015.

“Many of these deaths were probably suicides, yet reported as accidental self-poisoning rather than intentional self-harm, particularly among the middle-aged,” Kaplan said.

The researchers report that suicide notes and psychiatric history, including a prior suicide attempt or diagnosed depression, are much more important in helping medical examiners and coroners identify drug suicides than suicides by more violent and obvious methods. The new research further shows this evidence is absent in a large majority of suicide and possible suicide cases.

“A suicide note, prior suicide attempt or affective disorder was documented in less than one-third of suicides and one-quarter of undetermined deaths,” the research team reported in the study. The researchers cited larger prevalence gaps among drug intoxication cases than gunshot or hanging cases.

“Our incorporation of undetermined deaths, as well as registered suicides, not only provided a window on the nature of suicide misclassification within the undetermined death category, but within the accident category — as a much larger reservoir for obscuring drug intoxication suicides,” the researchers wrote in the report.

The opioid epidemic in the United States is also exacerbating problems with suicide accounting, the researchers report. And that severely impedes the understanding and prevention of suicide and drug deaths nationally.

The team analyzed data from the Restricted Access Database in the National Violent Death Reporting System, which is administered by the CDC.

Luskin Forum Online: Who We Are Essays highlight people who make UCLA Luskin a vibrant, thought-provoking and entertaining place to be

[ From the Luskin Forum Online ]

Dean Gary Segura is fond of saying that the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs is about human well-being.

“We study ways to make individuals, families, communities and polities function better, for the improvement and quality of lives of all those affected,” Segura told the Class of 2017 at Commencement last June.

Those students, now Luskin alumni, spent 2016-17 working on a variety of projects related to urgent human needs, such as:

  • greenhouse gas reduction
  • interventions with at-risk youth
  • prison population reduction
  • homelessness
  • HIV prevention
  • meningitis epidemic control
  • regulation of new and intrusive technologies
  • safe school environments
  • quality mental health services
  • river restoration
  • access to home ownership
  • responsive governance in the developing world

“I’m reminded every day of how lucky I am and how special it is to be a part of the Luskin School of Public Affairs,” Segura told proud parents and family members at the graduation ceremony.

This issue of Luskin Forum is dedicated to just that: taking pride in how this school makes a difference, and why it’s important to remember the myriad accomplishments of our students, faculty, staff
and alumni.

Our UCLA Luskin mission statement says it perfectly: “At the convergence of the fields of social work, urban planning, and policymaking, the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs identifies and develops emerging areas of research and teaching, cultivating leaders and change agents who advance solutions to society’s most pressing problems.”

In the words of Dean Segura: “Do good in the world. Make change.”

— GEORGE FOULSHAM

We Are Connecting

Like their planning and policy peers at UCLA Luskin, the School’s Master of Social Welfare students are connecting with the community throughout their two-year professional program. First-year MSW students have the opportunity to engage in high-impact internships and placements that begin even before fall classes start.

New Luskin MSW students bring with them a wide range of experience in the community and at social work-related agencies, where they have served as students, employees and volunteers. From the get-go, they immerse themselves in the work of organizations that assist and provide programs for the homeless, the elderly, disabled adults, children with emotional and learning disabilities, and foster youth.

The wide array of student placements includes a downtown women’s shelter, a psychiatric care facility, school and community groups, and other sites that provide services such as law advocacy or assistance with transitional housing, according to Michelle Talley MSW ’98, field education faculty member.

First-year MSW students are placed at various field sites throughout Los Angeles County and in surrounding counties, Talley said. Placements are based on previous experience, prior knowledge of the role of a social worker and other factors.

Their extensive field work also involves community outreach and advocacy. They participate in staff meetings and offer consultation. They engage in research activities and participate in development programs that include training on professional responsibility and reporting mandates.

Both years of the MSW program integrate the School, alumni and the community as integral parts of the educational process for this professional practice-oriented degree, assuring that graduates become high-impact practitioners.

“The goal is to place students at sites that will create opportunities to enhance their growth as a professional social worker,” Talley said.

— STAN PAUL

We Are Protectors

From the streets of Los Angeles to innovative research on social media, UCLA Luskin faculty members like Ian Holloway are gathering data to inform programs and policies that improve the health and well-being of vulnerable communities.

In addition to his position as assistant professor of social welfare at UCLA Luskin, Holloway is director of the Southern California HIV/AIDS Policy Research Center. There are approximately 5,000 new HIV cases in California each year. Holloway’s ongoing work focuses on HIV prevention and treatment among sexual and gender minority people. “Young gay and bisexual men, especially those from racial and ethnic minority communities, are disproportionately impacted by HIV, and HIV-related comorbidities,” Holloway said.

In 2016-17, Holloway and a group of Luskin students and recent graduates canvassed more than 500 gay and bisexual men to gauge their awareness of a yearlong outbreak of meningitis in Southern California. Holloway and his research group found that less than a third of those interviewed were vaccinated against meningitis despite extensive outreach efforts by the California Department of Public Health.

Holloway’s findings suggested that better vaccination uptake surveillance, tailored education and more sites for immunization throughout Southern California are needed in order to bolster efforts to track meningitis and encourage vaccination among gay and bisexual men.

Other research conducted by Holloway and student assistants includes the LINX LA project, which uses a mobile phone app to encourage treatment engagement among HIV-positive African American young gay and bisexual men through access to legal and social service resources in Los Angeles.

Next up? Using a new and innovative approach, Holloway and a group of tech-savvy UCLA researchers will use data-mining of social networking sites to learn more about drug use and sexual risk behavior. The project, funded by the National Institutes of Health, aims to use social networking data to inform intervention development. “This would include ‘just-in-time’ technology-delivered interventions aimed at preventing negative health outcomes and promoting healthy behaviors,” Holloway explained.

— STAN PAUL

We Are Innovating

Whether it be guiding equitable revitalization of the L.A. River, helping Californians cut down on their electricity use, or advancing a new way to repurpose carbon dioxide into a greener form of concrete, the Luskin Center for Innovation is a trailblazer among UCLA’s many sustainability leaders.

And that’s just for starters.

Since its inception in 2009, the Luskin Center’s research has influenced local, state and national policy. This includes a new rooftop solar program for Los Angeles, the redesign of California’s clean vehicle rebate program, and current efforts to develop a drinking water low-income assistance program in California. Other research informs the state’s world-renowned actions to combat climate change while maximizing local employment, air quality and health benefits.

A think tank housed within the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, the center is organized around initiatives that translate world-class research into real-world policy solutions. Current initiatives include advanced transportation, clean energy, climate action, digital technologies, sustainable water and urban greening — all linked by the theme of informing effective and equitable policies.

The center brings together faculty and staff from a variety of academic disciplines across campus to conduct research in partnership with civic leaders who use the knowledge to inform policy and organizational innovations. Civic leaders include policymakers, nonprofit organizations, and business associations. Students at UCLA Luskin have the opportunity to work with the Luskin Center to gain hands-on research experience and work closely with these decision-makers.

Meyer Luskin, the visionary and benefactor behind the Luskin Center, says, “Sustaining the environment is the greatest inheritance one can leave to children, and the most enduring gift to the community and nation.”

— KELSEY JESSUP

We Are Inspiring

Each year, UCLA Luskin students are embedded in internships and research projects offered through all three departments. That’s a given. Not as well known is how the school also creates partnerships that benefit students and the communities in which they work.

Take, for example, the Watts Leadership Institute (WLI). The brainchild of Social Welfare adjunct professor Jorja Leap MSW ’80 and her research partner, Karrah Lompa MSW ’13, the WLI is engaged in a 10-year mission to bring about positive change in a community hungry for leadership coaching.

Leap and Lompa are working with the first cohort of community members, providing guidance on everything from learning how to establish successful nonprofits to applying those skills in their community garden. After several years of training and coaching, the cohort will provide guidance for future leaders in Watts.

At the same time, Leap is using the project as a way to provide community-based educational experiences for Luskin’s Social Welfare students.

“This kind of a public-private partnership, along with the research attached to it — and the building of the Watts community — really represent the best of how all of these different factors can come together,” said Leap, who has been working in Watts since conducting research there when she was a Social Welfare graduate student in the 1970s. “It represents part of UCLA’s continuing and growing commitment to communities like Watts that need our involvement, our engagement, our organizing, our research.”

The WLI has received funding from the California Wellness Foundation and from GRoW @ Annenberg, a philanthropic initiative led by Gregory Annenberg Weingarten, as well as office space and in-kind support from Los Angeles City Councilman Joe Buscaino.

“What Watts Leadership did was to help us come together, to put our resources together, and be an example for the rest of the nonprofit and leadership community in Watts,” cohort member Pahola Ybarra said. “It’s been an amazing effort to help us grow, and to help us get out of our own way. It encourages us to reach for as much as we can and do as much as we can in the community.”

— GEORGE FOULSHAM

We Are Woke

On Nov. 9, 2016, after many felt their world spin out of control, the Institute on Inequality and Democracy at UCLA Luskin decided to create a space for students, faculty and staff to critically analyze the forms of exclusion, including white nationalism, so pervasive throughout the election that had just ended.

Post-election, the Institute, whose tagline is “Organizing knowledge to challenge inequality,” expanded its mission to challenge state-sponsored violence against targeted bodies and communities by immediately issuing a call for Jan. 18, 2017: Teach.Organize.Resist.

The campaign, known as #J18, included universities and colleges across the nation and internationally that organized nearly 100 courses, performances, sit-ins, and lectures to demonstrate that places of teaching and learning would not bear silent witness to oppression and hate. After a day of programming at UCLA, #J18 ended with “From the Frontlines of Justice,” a multi-performance event held in Ackerman Grand Ballroom. Highlights are online at teachorganizeresist.luskin.ucla.edu

Ananya Roy, professor of urban planning, social welfare and geography and the director of the Institute, remarked: “I encourage students to think of their role as scholars and to consider the power of research and knowledge.”

To strengthen the link between scholarship and collective action even further, the Institute launched its first Activist-in-Residence program in 2017. In the words of the inaugural fellow, Funmilola Fagbamila, arts and culture director of Black Lives Matter LA and adjunct professor of Pan-African Studies at Cal State LA, the definition of “woke” doesn’t end at knowledge. “To achieve the ‘woke’ label, you must be willing to analyze the conditions in your community. Lastly, you must act.”

Through academic research, and in alliance with social justice movements, the Institute creates scholarship, art and collective action to tackle divides and dispossessions in global Los Angeles and in cities around the world.

“We do so to insist on the academic freedom to examine regimes of power and structures of intolerance,” Roy explained. “We do so to forge imaginations of abolitionism, civil disobedience and human freedom. We do so, as James Baldwin reminded us, to shake the dungeon and leave behind our chains.”

— CRISTINA BARRERA

We Are Global

The impact of the Luskin School resonates far beyond the borders of Los Angeles and California. It’s a brand with international flavor. It’s not unusual to find Luskin students and faculty in Mexico, Uganda, India or Japan.

Luskin’s popular Global Public Affairs program offers students the chance to obtain intellectual and professional preparation to become future experts within the realm of international public affairs.

Each year GPA students travel around the globe, immersing themselves in the culture — and problems — of their host countries, and blogging about it for the GPA website. In the past year, students have lived in Mexico City; Paris; Kampala, Uganda; Bonn, Germany; Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic; and Tokyo, among other locales.

The GPA program is led by two members of the Urban Planning faculty. Michael Storper, distinguished professor of regional and international urban planning, is the director of GPA. He’s also a professor of economic sociology at the Institute of Political Studies in Paris and professor of economic geography at the London School of Economics. Stephen Commins UP PhD ’88, a lecturer in Urban Planning, is a former senior development specialist at the World Bank and director of policy and planning at World Vision International. UCLA Luskin’s international influence also includes:

  • Urban Planning faculty like Paavo Monkkonen MPP ’05, whose students made multiple visits to Tijuana, Mexico, where they provided guidance to city and government officials about the best ways to deal with a housing crisis.
  • Policy professors like Manisha Shah, associate professor of public policy, who has traveled around the world — to India, Mexico, Tanzania and Indonesia — to conduct research into microeconomics, health and development.
  • Faculty leaders like Donald Shoup and Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris who are among the many UCLA Luskin faculty in great demand as speakers at conferences around the world.
  • Our international students — who add a global perspective to the student body and to Luskin educational efforts.

“A focus on problems that cross borders and involve international interdependence, also identifies where international forces affect domestic policies,” Commins said. “Students can learn from comparing experiences of different countries in how they face planning, policy and social welfare challenges and apply the experiences to their own studies and professional practice.”

— GEORGE FOULSHAM

We Are Problem Solvers

Graduate students at UCLA Luskin don’t wait to step beyond the classroom to address California’s pressing challenges. Master of Public Policy (MPP) and Master of Urban and Regional Planning (MURP) students spend their time on campus deeply immersed in local, state, national and global issues. At the Luskin School, it’s part of the program.

Luskin students log countless hours learning lessons from leading-edge faculty and researchers. Here they seek solutions related to ongoing problems like housing, transportation or sustainability. They look into topics of vital importance to Southern California like electric recharging stations, barriers to bicycling in and around the city, or accessibility to water and food.

“At Luskin, we give students a diverse set of tools (both quantitative and qualitative) that will help guide them through the APP process and ultimately to go out into the real world and conduct policy analysis on issues close to their hearts,” said Manisha Shah, associate professor of public policy and faculty coordinator for the Applied Policy Project program completed by MPP graduates.

Recent work has connected students with county and city offices such as the Mayor of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Department of Transportation. Regional agencies such as the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) frequently serve as clients. Recent APP projects included healthy food choices for elementary school students and employment opportunities for youths. Students also tackle educational issues right here at UCLA or work with the University of California’s Office of the President.

Many student projects benefit local and regional clients and the communities they serve, but they also reach out to communities far way. A recent planning capstone evaluated the short-term rental market in a Northern California city, for example. And a recent policy project analyzed governance at
the local level in the Ukraine.

— STAN PAUL

We Are Trailblazing

There’s no better place to study how people get around than Southern California — and for the past 25 years, UCLA has been home to one of the country’s preeminent transportation research centers.

The UCLA Institute for Transportation Studies (ITS) at UCLA Luskin combines cutting-edge research with meaningful, influential civic engagement to lead to policy results in California and beyond. From the impacts of traffic congestion to fairness around rideshare hailing to the civic consequences of paying for parking, ITS scholars produce work that ties directly to current transportation planning practices and policymaking at the local, state and national levels. ITS is noted for connecting transportation and equity, and for emphasizing the effect of transportation decisions on people’s lives.

“We take our policy mandate seriously,” said Brian Taylor UP PhD ’90, director of ITS and professor of urban planning.

Through close partnership with dozens of outside organizations that include government agencies, private transportation companies, nonprofit foundations and advocacy groups, ITS faculty, staff and students translate the latest knowledge on transportation into proposed real-world policies around movement and growth. ITS’ biannual digital magazine is widely read throughout the transportation community, highlighting important new research in a clear, constructive manner for practitioners.

Luskin students working at ITS collaborate closely with faculty members, receive generous scholarship funding for their own trailblazing projects, and have garnered an inordinate number of prestigious grants and awards over the years. Regular interactive events and publications showcase student findings to the academic community and the public at UCLA and around the country.

The next quarter-century will bring significant changes to how we travel, with daunting societal impacts. As it has since 1992, ITS research and policy action will help guide the way toward solutions.

— WILL LIVESLEY-O’NEILL

We Are Family

Attend any gathering at UCLA Luskin and you may feel like you stumbled into someone’s family reunion.

There will be a toddler or two, chasing a balloon or dancing as a faculty, staff or student parent hovers nearby. You’ll notice plenty of happy young faces — graduate students tend to be in their 20s — but look closer, and you’ll see older folks too. Mid-career professionals returning to add a degree. Staff and faculty, some grayed and others not. Perhaps alumni who earned degrees during the days of typewriters or even pencil and paper, not smartphones.

But family is more than differences in age. It’s continuity. Legacy. Progress over time, as one generation blazes a trail and then passes the torch of knowledge along to another to mark its own, slightly different path. It’s every professor who imparts a tidbit of knowledge only to be surprised, and humbled, when a protégé nurtures that information into something new and wonderful and impactful.

A lifetime of learning walks the Public Affairs Building each day — legends who become mentors, colleagues, even friends. Marty Wachs. Joan Ling. Mark Peterson. Michael Dukakis. Ananya Roy. Gerry Laviña. And so many more. People who have done everything in their careers that students could ever dream of doing themselves and yet still seem to care most about what their students learn now that will improve the world tomorrow.

Family provides inspiration. At Luskin, it’s instructors who know how to say, “You can do better,” in a way that makes students understand that, yes, they really can.

Families help those who need it. It’s every person on the Donor Honor Roll whose name is there not because their wealth exceeds their needs but because money is a way to honor someone who once expanded their worldview. Or lifted their spirits. Or answered a question late one night as a deadline loomed.

After 40 years at UCLA Luskin, Donald Shoup knows all about the Luskin family. In 2017, he won another big award, honoring his contributions as an educator. He put it in perspective: “If we have any influence — if there is going to be anything to remember after we are gone — I think it will be the successful careers of our students who will be changing the world for the better.”

— LES DUNSEITH

Message From the Dean

Act.

Well, act if you want to — but since that is almost certainly true, ACT!

I have to admit, it is difficult to be a professor of public affairs and not watch the news. But, too often of late, I find I can’t. I know enough about most matters of public policy that a quick skim of the headlines, a scan of the first paragraph of this or that story, and I can fill in the rest. To read it all, to watch cable news, to do the deeper dive that I used to do is not good for me. I feel physically un-well.

It is always easier not to come to grips with humanity’s problems. They are plentiful and seemingly beyond our capacity to solve. Perhaps that’s so. And the 30,000-foot view, of all of them at once, can be overwhelming.

These days, the Luskin School is my solace, my happy place. And, ironically, this is not because it insulates me from all that bad news. Quite the contrary. The School and its faculty are engaged in many — perhaps most — of the struggles that populate the evening news.

What is comforting to me is the recognition that thoughtful people, engaged in systematic analysis of social challenges, can find answers. That reasoned examination can produce social interventions and design policies that are able to make things better.

Increasingly, at least here in California, legislators at the state and local level reach out regularly to ask us for help, to seek suggestions, to run ideas by us. Individual Luskin faculty members, students and research teams in all of the Institutes and Centers in the School are constantly engaged in the world, mobilizing their research and inquiry into direct social action. Carbon pollution, mass incarceration and its effects, HIV, catastrophic increases in housing costs, urban sprawl, challenges of the aging, technology driven erosion of privacy, weak social, civic and political institutions in the nations of the developing world (and, increasingly, in our own nation) are all challenges engaged by the Luskin faculty. The results are inspiring, and several of our efforts are chronicled in the pages of this issue.

In this first year, I have gotten to meet many of you, heard of your work, observed its impacts. It is beyond joyful to know that good people, armed with the tools we develop here, can create such positive change in so many different and important ways. The alumni of the Luskin School include a vast array of high-impact social actors, people whose day-to-day lives are about improving the human condition.

Your action and your spirit sustain me. Please, please … keep it up!

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

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

Each issue of the Luskin Forum magazine includes information regarding alumni gatherings and notes about what our graduates have been up to lately. Here are highlights from the most recent issue:

UCLA Urban Planning Legends Remembered

UCLA Luskin Professor of Urban Planning Emeritus Allan Heskin and Margaret Crawford UP PhD ’91 organized a beautiful alumni gathering in Berkeley, California, to honor the lives of three UCLA Urban Planning faculty we recently lost — John Friedmann (1926-2017), Jacqueline Leavitt (1939-2015) and Edward Soja (1940-2015).

UCLA Luskin alumni, friends and family spent an afternoon together sharing stories and celebrating the vibrant lives, careers and ideas of these influential individuals.

“We are fortunate to learn and grow from those we remember and those who gathered,” said Anson Snyder MA UP ’90.

Pioneering Collaboration for Safe and Affordable Water in California

Gregory Pierce

Max Gomberg MPP ’07

The growing problem of household affordability of water has been a concern for many, and for good reason. According to a survey by Circle of Blue, water rates rose in Los Angeles by as much as 71 percent from 2010 to 2017.

In San Francisco, the increase was as much as 127 percent. And the trend in water scarcity, climate change and competing uses over the last several decades indicates the problem is projected to get worse.

Climate and Conservation Manager Max Gomberg MPP ’07 of the California State Water Resources Control Board is working to change this with the help of the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation, which is headed by Professor J.R. DeShazo. Together, the Water Board and the Luskin Center’s Senior Researcher Gregory Pierce MA UP ’11 PhD ’15, are conducting research to inform policy designs for a statewide Low-Income Rate Assistance program. This program would support California’s leadership in implementing a human right to water.

“If California does enact this program, it would be out in front. No other state has done this,” Gomberg said.

 

A Legacy of Helping People Grow

Maria Aguirre, current director of the Kaiser Permanente Watts Counseling and Learning Center, poses with Bill Coggins MSW ’55.

Bill Coggins MSW ’55 celebrated the 50-year anniversary of the Kaiser Permanente Watts Counseling and Learning Center, which he founded in 1967. Coggins began his career with Kaiser in the aftermath of the Watts Riots, having just returned from London, where he studied as a Fulbright Fellow. As a clinical social worker, he was tasked with creating a loosely defined community service program that could provide services for children and parents in South Los Angeles.

The enterprise is rooted in the community thanks to Coggins’ relentless efforts to build partnerships and encourage local residents like “Sweet” Alice Harris. It all began in a small room on 103rd Street and Anzac with three employees. Coggins recalls, “We all thought great things were going to happen … we were going to change the world.”

And they do, every day. The center has since grown into a 9,000-square-foot facility in the same location, with a team of 30 therapists, teachers and staff. Their motto, “Helping People Grow,” is poised to guide the organization through another 50 flourishing years.

 

 

Guests at the annual Social Welfare Alumni Gathering included, from left, Council member Marqueece Harris-Dawson, Karrie Harris-Dawson, Deborah Bryant, Aurea Montes-Rodriguez MSW ’99 and Joanne Kim.

Community Organizer Honored as Joseph A. Nunn Alumna of the Year

More than 100 alumni, faculty, friends and colleagues came together on May 20 at the annual Social Welfare Alumni Gathering to recognize the 2017 recipient of the Joseph A. Nunn Alumna of the Year Award, Aurea Montes-Rodriguez MSW ’99.

Montes-Rodriguez came to California from Mexico at the age of 3, was raised in South Los Angeles and witnessed firsthand the 1992 riots.

Now serving as the Executive Vice President of Community Coalition, a social justice nonprofit based in South Los Angeles, Montes-Rodriguez credits her success and inspiration to lessons learned while at UCLA Luskin. Among those lessons were leadership seminars led by Joseph A. Nunn MSW ’70 PhD ’90, former vice chair and longtime director of field education, who focused on social welfare beyond the individual treatment model to build organizations and change the systems that prevent people from reaching their potential.

She also cited the late Social Welfare faculty member Mary Brent Wehrli MSW ’84 who, according to Montes-Rodriguez, “went out of her way to help us understand the theory with the practice in communities by bringing us out into the communities and organizations who were doing great work. She really pushed us to see leadership opportunities and the contributions we could make by providing us with concrete training.… And, since I graduated, that is exactly the work I have been doing … organizing everyday people about having a voice in addressing the most pressing issues so they can be the drivers of change.”

It is no surprise then that Montes-Rodriguez has indeed made enormous contributions to the community and the field-at-large. Her strategic direction of Community Coalition’s education reform campaigns includes a landmark $151 million settlement that was announced in September 2017 to ensure Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) allocates funds to a group of 50 LAUSD schools in South and East Los Angeles.

She is also a co-founder of Partners for Children South LA, a multiagency initiative that seeks to improve children’s development and reduce the risk of involvement with the child welfare system, and she serves as a board member of the Building Movement Project, working to build capacity within the nonprofit sector to promote social justice at the national level.

Most recently, she was selected by The Education Trust-West as a Senior Equity Fellow, which is a fellowship designed to provide a platform for California’s educational equity leaders.

Alumni Accolades

  • Jennifer Bryning Alton MPP ’01 was appointed senior consultant to the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
  • Mohammed Cato MA UP/JD ’06 was appointed as UCLA’s Title IX Coordinator overseeing UCLA’s compliance with Title IX including policies and procedures to prevent and respond to gender discrimination, sexual harassment and sexual violence.
  • Masen Davis MSW ’02 has been selected to serve as the new CEO for Freedom for All Americans (FFAA). With the goal of securing federal statutory protections for LGBT Americans, FFAA works to advance measures and laws protecting people from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and gender identity and expression.
  • Joey Nuñez Estrada, Jr. MSW ’01 was promoted to associate professor at San Diego State University, Department of Counseling & School Psychology where his scholarship focuses on building socially just school environments by challenging systemic inequities and eradicating school and community barriers to student learning.
  • Sarah Godoy MSW ’15 was named No. 20 in the list of Top 100 Influence Leaders by Assent Compliance, which contributes to the awareness, education, regulation, and fight against human trafficking and slavery.
  • Alexandra Tassiello Norton MA UP ’06 was chosen to serve as the new Deputy Director for Administration and Innovation at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport.
  • Sarah Simons MPP ’07 was selected as a Climate Change Adaption Fellow by the MIT Climate CoLab where she serves as a technical reviewer of proposals to address climate change challenges posed by land use, agriculture and forestry. She represents the Natural Capital Practice of her employer, SSG Advisors.
  • Morgan Sokol MPP ’15 was promoted to vice president of government affairs for MedMen, the leading full-service management company and capital firm serving the cannabis industry.
  • Carole Turley Voulgaris UP PhD ’17 was honored with the Barclay Gibbs Jones Award from the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning (ACSP) for Best Dissertation in Planning, which recognizes superior contributions to scholarship.

 

 

Social Welfare Revises Academic Program Updated MSW curriculum includes three new concentrations and a leadership component designed to launch students on lifelong, impactful careers helping people who are the most vulnerable

By Stan Paul

A newly revised Master of Social Welfare curriculum at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs comes with an expectation: “We expect you to use your career to make a huge difference,” said Fernando Torres-Gil, professor of social welfare and lead instructor of a new leadership component.

Social welfare has a long tradition at UCLA going back to the 1940s and a highly regarded national reputation of training multiple generations of social workers, and the purposeful changes have been made with a fresh focus and expanded goals for the two-year graduate professional program.

“It’s a new program in the sense that we have a new curriculum and new areas of concentration,” said Laura Abrams, professor and chair of social welfare at UCLA Luskin, explaining that the changes are designed to greater utilize the strengths and expertise of faculty and provide specialized and enhanced in-depth training to students.

Each new concentration allows students to delve deeply into an area of focus and, at the same time, to prepare graduates for leadership positions locally, nationally and globally throughout the course of their careers. They are:

  • Health and Mental Health Across the Life Span
  • Social and Economic Justice
  • Child and Family Well-Being

“I think we have to prepare social workers to be the best possible thinkers, leaders, educators, activists they can be.”

— Laura Abrams, professor and chair of social welfare

 
 


Some things will remain the same because the need for social workers is as relevant as ever, if not more, according to Abrams. “We are obviously incorporating some of the same principles,” she said of the program and its “overarching mission” to train the next generation of social work practitioners and leaders in the field, champion the development of knowledge for the social work profession, and strengthen social institutions and services in Los Angeles and beyond. “Everything has to be grounded in, ‘How do we engage clients and communities? How do we help solve some of these social issues like homelessness, kids who have social and emotional issues in schools.’ It’s not that we are focusing on a different set of issues, we are just refreshing our curriculum and making it more up-to-date.”

In addition to the course on leadership that the entire cohort of first-year students will be taking this Winter Quarter, Abrams said all first-year courses have been revised and updated.

“These are all new and they have been rolling out this year,” she said, adding that the divisions between “micro” and “macro” practice — or the distinction between clinical, or direct, practice and community practice — have made way for a more generalist practice approach.

“We realized that most social workers do a little bit of everything,” said Abrams, explaining the reasoning behind the shift to the new concentrations, which come with new faculty searches and hires to augment them. “Within each of those areas students should be expected to get a grounding in policy as well as practice.”

In addition, students will receive more training in research and statistics. So, like their peers in UCLA Luskin’s other graduate programs in public policy and urban planning, they will be working on yearlong capstone projects that mix qualitative and quantitative work, as well as opportunities to take on group projects.

The programs will still be flexible enough to allow students to take electives from the School’s other programs.

“We’ve always kept in mind that we are embedded in a school of public affairs with top-notch public policy and urban planning programs where we have the opportunity to be interdisciplinary, and we need to be,” Torres-Gil said. “It’s all part of the overall Luskin School mission that we’re making a difference, our graduates are special, they’re unique, they’re going places and the Luskin School is UCLA’s tool to train those that are going to be involved in those real-world problems and issues and make a big difference.”

The leadership aspect of the training seeks to guide students in “their ability to impact social change, to be sophisticated policy advocates and to plan for a career where they will exercise leadership at all levels, whether they are starting off as a clinician or as a lower-level eligibility worker in a large bureaucracy,” Torres-Gil said. “Over time we expect them to move up the ranks, whether it’s a CBO (community-based organization), nonprofit, public bureaucracy or practice,” he added.

Torres-Gil said that this approach is important for a number of reasons, including exerting power and being influential in areas traditionally dominated by arenas such as business, journalism, economics, communication and political science.

“Social workers are grounded in understanding, intuitively and right there at the front lines, how issues affect people, and so we want to be more upstream and train social workers to understand what it takes to be an effective social change agent and leader,” even though terms like “influence” and “power” may “go against the grain of the social work profession that wants to focus on social justice and social equity,” he said.

Other reasons include managing and assuming leadership roles in a career that may last decades and involve a number of different jobs or positions. With the idea of longevity in mind, Torres-Gil, who also serves as the director of the Center for Policy Research on Aging at UCLA Luskin, said it is impossible to pack everything into a single program, but “here are the attributes, those competencies, capabilities that I need to build a greater ability to be effective and to make social change.”

Torres-Gil continued, “So we want to make sure the MSW part of the Luskin School has that same mindset; we’re not just any graduate school, we’re UCLA, we’re Luskin and over time people are going to say, ‘If you want to make a difference, if you want to be a power player, if you want to be an elite leader who is seen as a go-to person or whatever the issue is, get a UCLA MSW.’ That’s the aspiration.”

Abrams noted that the curriculum revamp started “long before the last presidential election, but I think there’s a lot more challenges that are going to be happening, especially in vulnerable communities.”

In sum, “I think we have to prepare social workers to be the best possible thinkers, leaders, educators, activists they can be,” Abrams said. “So they have to be armed with the tools of theory, they have to have tools of research, they have to have tools of practice.”

Details about the new Plan of Study are available on the UCLA Luskin website.

Launch of New UCLA Luskin Initiative Is True to Its Mission Event celebrating the creation of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative brings UCLA community together with policymakers to share research and exchange information

By Les Dunseith

The newest research center at UCLA Luskin aims to bring together scholars and policymakers to share information so that political leaders can make informed decisions on issues of interest to Latinos, and its Dec. 6, 2017, kickoff event exemplified that goal.

Students, faculty and administrative leaders from 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, business leaders and other stakeholders who gathered in downtown Los Angeles to celebrate the launch of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative (LPPI).

Attendees had an opportunity to hear keynote speaker Kevin de León, current president pro tem of the California Senate and a candidate for the U.S. Senate, talk about recent legislation on issues related to such diverse topics as labor, good government, the environment and education. He was then joined by a panel of experts in a spirited discussion of the current national political climate and major issues that directly impact Californians, particularly Latinos and other communities of color.

“In the great state of California, we celebrate our diversity,” de León told the crowd. “We don’t ban it, we don’t wall it off, and we sure as hell don’t deport it.”

In his speech, de León talked about the state’s efforts to deal with climate change, to improve education and to provide a safe haven for all residents. For example, Senate Bill 54, the California Values Act, which de León championed, creates a safe zone at “our schools, our hospitals, our churches, courthouses and other sensitive locations so our undocumented immigrant communities can live their lives and conduct their businesses without fear.”

De León declared, “If this president wants to wage a campaign of fear against innocent families, he can count us out. Because the state of California won’t lift a single finger or spend a single dime to become a cog in the Trump deportation machine.”

One of the goals of LPPI, which received its startup funding from UCLA Luskin and the Division of Social Sciences, is to provide better access to information — real data, not alternative truths — to help leaders nationwide resist attacks on immigrants and also help them to craft new policies on other issues vital to Latinos.

“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.

“It’s going to harness all of the intellectual capacity that UCLA has — it’s going to be truly interdisciplinary,” Waugh explained. The co-founders of LPPI — Professor of Political Science and Chicana/o Studies Matt Barreto, UCLA Luskin Dean Gary Segura and LPPI 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 affect change in a profound way.”

Darnell Hunt, dean of the Division of Social Sciences at UCLA, noted in his remarks that the founding of LPPI comes at a particularly opportune time in American politics. “It goes without saying that we live in challenging times — challenging political times — and the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative will help us make sense of this contemporary setting with an eye toward transformative solutions.”

Barreto, who served as master of ceremonies for the night, spoke about the scope of LPPI’s vision. “We’re not only going to work on immigration reform — we know that immigration reform affects our community and we will work on that — but we are dedicated to work on every policy issue.”

He added, “Whether it has to do with climate change or clean energy, transportation, housing, homelessness, criminal justice or education, we are going to work on that. And we have experts at UCLA who will join us.”

Many of the 20 scholars from across the UCLA campus who are part of LPPI’s faculty advisory council attended the launch event, which began with a networking reception at La Plaza de Cultura Y Artes near Olvera Street, the founding site of Los Angeles itself. As musicians from La Chamba Cumbia Chicha performed, attendees had an opportunity to meet and exchange ideas with the featured speakers and various former and current elected officials in attendance, such as Gil Cedillo, the former state senator and current Los Angeles city councilman. Also in attendance were former California assemblyman and senator Richard Polanco and Amanda Rentería, the former national political director for Hillary Clinton’s campaign and now a staff member in the executive office of California Attorney General Xavier Becerra.

The event wrapped up with a panel discussion and Q&A moderated by Lucy Flores, a former assemblywoman in Nevada who now serves as vice president for public affairs for mitú, a multimedia enterprise that targets young Latinos. Panelists said that bolstering the number of Latino elected officials has been a vital step in bringing about positive change.

“In the end, votes are what count,” Segura said, noting that Latino’s political influence has not kept up with its rapid population growth. “In order for governments to enact policies that benefit Latinos, it is going to be required that Latinos be a significant share of elected officials.”

Panelist Laura E. Gómez, professor of law at UCLA and former interim dean of the Division of Social Sciences, expanded on that idea in light of a recent wave of disclosures related to sexual misconduct by men in positions of power.

“I think it’s really important … for us to realize that Latinos are a diverse community. We are not just men; we are also women. We are not just straight people; we are also gay and transgender people. And those are important numbers going forward,” she said.

Flores summed it up, “Demographics is not destiny.”

The fact that California often seems to be an outlier in the current national political climate was a recurring topic of the night, with several speakers praising Californians’ resistance to the policies of the current U.S. president. Can the state also serve as a model of progress?

“Despite all of the discord and disunity, California is standing tall for our values,” de León said during his speech. “From education to the environment, from high wages to health care, to human rights, to civil rights, to women’s rights, to immigrant rights, California is proof positive that progressive values put into action in fact improve the human condition regardless of who you are or where you come from.”

De León said California is a leader in innovation — “home to Hollywood and Silicon Valley and the best public university system in the world, the University of California. And we are on the cusp of surpassing the United Kingdom for the fifth largest economy on planet Earth.”

The state is thriving, he said, by doing exactly the opposite of what Donald J. Trump says. “We succeed because we are dreamers, not dividers. We succeed because we double down on lifting people up, not putting them down. We are not going to allow one election to erase generations of progress.”

Photo by Les Dunseith

“I want to ask for your partnership, because this is what we need to do — we need to train a new leadership pipeline that is diverse but also represents us substantively,” LPPI Founding Director Sonja Diaz told the audience.

Saying that UCLA is “arguably the finest public institution in the nation, if not the entire world,” De León spoke enthusiastically of the promise that LPPI represents for elected officials such as himself. “We need the empirical evidence, and it’s about time we have this institution established at UCLA.”

Later, when speaking about climate change during the panel discussion, he expanded on the idea that knowledge equals power.

“California has the ability — if we have access to this type of information, this data — to export our policies to other states, even to red states that may not believe in climate change per se,” de León said. “We are showing that, whether you believe in climate change or not, you can actually grow an economy by delinking and decoupling carbon from GDP.”

Access to data is important, but it takes real leadership to turn information into action. “You can have all the academics in the world, all the data, but it doesn’t make a difference if it just sits in a book on a shelf,” de León said. “You have to take that data and move it with political power to actually implement it, execute it, to improve the human condition.”

Segura said it is his goal — and the mission of LPPI — to unite scholars and policymakers for mutual benefit, helping academics turn research into actionable policy.

“Facts do matter. Facts may not be a good way to sell people who don’t want to hear them, but lots of well-meaning elected officials want information,” Segura said. “One of the jobs of the institute is going to be to take the data out of those dusty books and put them in the hands of policymakers in a useful time frame so that policymakers can respond.”

The Latino Policy & Politics Initiative is a comprehensive think tank around political, social and economic issues faced by California’s plurality population of Latinos and other people of color. Anyone interested in providing financial support may do so through the UCLA giving page for LPPI.

Additional photos from the event may be viewed in an album on the UCLA Luskin feed on Flickr. Watch the video of our speakers and panelists.

 

 

 

 

 

The Goal: Making Diversity Redundant UCLA Luskin alumni, faculty, students and staff gather for a daylong diversity recruitment fair showcasing programs and commitment to social justice

“You need diversity because it is excellence and its absence is a sign of intellectual weakness and organizational incapacity. So what we do here today and what we do at Luskin makes the country, Los Angeles and the world a better place.”

— UCLA Luskin Dean Gary Segura

By Stan Paul

Gary Segura, dean of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, was happy to host the second all-school diversity recruitment fair at UCLA. But, in truth, he would like to see it become redundant.

“I am hoping and believing that we are getting very close to the verge of making it redundant in what Luskin does,” said Segura, who has devoted his academic life to studying issues related to the issues highlighted by the fair.

“By your arrival next fall, Luskin will indisputably be the most diverse school of public affairs in the United States,” Segura said to an audience of students who have applied, or are thinking of applying, to one or more of the School’s three professional graduate programs in public policy, social welfare and urban planning.

In addition to UCLA Luskin’s outstanding faculty, Segura cited the School’s wide array of groups, caucuses and organizations — including the D3 Initiative (Diversity, Disparities and Difference) — and new programs, new hires and ongoing searches for new faculty focused on racial inequality, multicultural planning and immigration policy, among other areas of expertise.

The many UCLA Luskin student groups, along with their classmates, alumni, faculty and staff, came together again this year to organize the Dec. 2, 2017, event.

“At some point, the study of class and racial and sexuality differences as an understanding of public policy, social well-being and urban issues is not a niche, it is the discipline,” Segura said. “It’s 70 percent of the population.”

Joining the dean in welcoming fair attendees were faculty leaders in Public Policy, Social Welfare and Urban Planning, along with a panel of Luskin alumni representing all three graduate programs.

Making her pitch to candidates for the Master of Social Welfare professor and department chair Laura Abrams focused on recent tax legislation passed by the U.S. Senate.

“What does the tax bill have to do with social welfare at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs?” she asked. “Everything,” came a soft voice rising from the audience, stealing a bit of Abrams’ thunder.

“That was on my notes,” quipped Abrams, who explained that the bill would directly attack Social Security, Medicare and “all the public benefits that are the foundation of our social welfare system.”

She then asked who would deal with the costs of economic hardships on the front lines.

“Social workers!” she answered emphatically, adding, “We are going to have to be the ones who pick up the pieces of those who are displaced, who are homeless, who are pushed into the criminal justice system, who don’t have enough to eat and who don’t have housing.

“So,” Abrams added, “we need all of you, not just those entering social welfare, but the planners and the policy makers because you are the future that is going to have to fix what is happening today.”

Manisha Shah, associate professor and vice chair of Public Policy, highlighted the expertise of Luskin faculty in areas such as health policy, education, immigration, inequality, science and technology.

“We have a lot of flexibility in the department based on what your interests are and what you want to do, what type of policy arena you want to work in,” said Shah, who cited the department’s mixture of qualitative and quantitative approaches to evidence-based policymaking and analysis.

Vinit Mukhija, professor chair of Urban Planning, said that diversity and excellence are not trade-offs in outlining the holistic approach his department — which will soon celebrate 50 years at UCLA — takes in making admissions decisions. Urban Planning emphasizes not only grades but also a student’s personal statement, recommendations and the importance of relevant work experience.

Mukhija, who studies informal housing and slums in the global north and south, explained his own interest as a planner in finding ways to improve living conditions in slums, and his goal to “learn about them to change our ideas about cities and about our design ideas, our rules and to have more just cities.”

Also providing information and encouragement were recent graduates of the Luskin School’s programs who participated in a series of discussions with aspiring students.

Panelists were asked what motivated them to apply to Luskin in their chosen disciplines.

“Communities of color are not always exposed to urban planning although we’re often experiencing the negative effects of what actually happens,” said Carolyn Vera MURP ’17, who was born and raised in South Central Los Angeles. Vera, who now works at a transportation consulting firm, said that when she moved back to Los Angeles following her undergraduate years, she didn’t recognize the city she grew up in, citing the effects of gentrification. Vera said urban planning is such a diverse field and, “I knew I wanted to stay in L.A. and work with my community.”

It was homelessness that brought Cornell Williams MSW ’12 to UCLA Luskin Social Welfare.

“I was homeless for a year. I had a college degree and I was sleeping in the park,” said Williams, now a psychiatric social worker for Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health and clinical director of the Jeffrey Foundation in Los Angeles. “Like a lot of our clients and people we have the passion to serve, I was stuck in that position and I had no knowledge of resources and access.”

Williams said the experience forced him to ask tough questions about himself and his future. “I came to one of these events and had an interest in all three programs,” but he said that Gerry Laviña, director of field education and associate director of D3, “was a big part of helping me conjure or stir the gifts inside of me to choose social welfare.”

Williams said UCLA Luskin’s Social Welfare gave him the flexibility to work in “every environment you can think of, and I’ve worked in a good number of them myself.”

The day’s events also included breakout sessions led by a number of the School’s sponsoring and organizing student groups: D3, Luskin Leadership Development, Social Welfare Diversity Caucus, Policy Professionals for Diversity & Equity, and Planners of Color for Social Equity.

Attending the event was recent UCLA graduate Vanessa Rodriguez, who said she hopes to enroll in the MSW program next fall. Rodriguez, who grew up in Boyle Heights and has worked with children with autism, said she has always had a passion for helping people. She said her reason for pursuing an MSW degree would be to work with women and victims of domestic abuse.

Among the staff and student volunteers who made the day a success was second-year MSW candidate Marisol Granillo Arce, who said she had attended a number of Luskin diversity related fairs before applying. Granillo Arce, who now also works as a graduate researcher for the UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, said it is exciting to meet future agents of change and tell them: “You’ve got what it takes to be a social worker, urban planner, and public policymaker.”

Granillo Arce added: “I think that individuals thinking of applying get the unique opportunity to know the staff, professors and students in the different departments. It is truly inspirational. You end up leaving the fair more confident and inspired.”