Message From the Dean

My Friends:

It is with tremendous sadness that I share with you the terrible news that our colleague and friend, VC Powe, passed away suddenly overnight. Her husband reached out to us this morning.

VC was a pivotal figure in the history of the School of Public Affairs. She has been with the School since shortly after its founding, and with UCLA for 30 years! She advised a generation of Luskin grads. As executive director of external programs and career services, VC oversaw counseling, internships and fellowships, the Bohnett Fellows Program and the Senior Fellows Program, and she developed long and deep ties to the community and its leadership — political, civic and philanthropic. In my four years as Dean, as I have traveled around Los Angeles and its institutions, there is no single name associated with the School more widely known and more favorably commented upon than VC’s. She was a passionate advocate for our students and alums. She will be deeply missed.

I will share more details when they are available, including arrangements. In the interim, we will reach out to her husband Keith on behalf of the School.

With great sadness…

Gary

Gary M. Segura
Professor and Dean

A longer remembrance of VC Powe will be published soon.

Dean’s Message For society to live up to its promise during this time of crisis, we need to seize the moment.

If you aren’t mad, you should be. If you aren’t furious, you’re not paying attention.

The Luskin School relies on three first principles in our teaching and research.

First, policy should rest on evidence and evaluation of efficacy. We are best served by social decisions in which science and analysis are brought to bear on human problems.

Second, a central tenet in the shaping of those policies must be human and community well-being. Think of this as a Hippocratic oath for public affairs. Do no harm, and try to do good. Historically, our disciplines have not always lived up to that prescription, but I think this is a fair characterization of the guiding beliefs at work in the School and in our respective fields today.

Finally, in times of crisis, government can and must be at the center of shaping our path out of harm’s way. Yes, government will rely on the support and cooperation of philanthropy and civil society. And, yes, a robust social fabric of interconnected communities and rich deposits of social capital will serve any society in its defense, recovery and restoration. But in the last analysis, the allocation of values and the ability to command resources, cooperation and coordinated response to societal peril, where large numbers of lives are at stake, rests with government.

We are witnessing a moment where, to some degree or another, the events in American society and the actions of our leadership fail to reflect any of those three guiding principles. While some levels of government and specific agencies are engaged in heroic efforts to tamp down the coronavirus and ameliorate its consequences, others are asleep at the wheel, absent from the effort, or are — and it is difficult to fathom this —making matters worse.

Considerations of politics and profit are far too often displacing considerations of human suffering and mortality. Personal responsibility for collective well-being appears to be failing. The near-term prognosis is poor. And the success of other nations in addressing the pandemic and its effects make it plain that our misfortune in the United States simply does not have to be so.

In the midst of this incredible pandemic, the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery reminded us that before the first case of COVID-19, this society already had tremendous challenges in living up to the promise of our rhetoric, and the emotional outpouring of anger and demands for action that were unleashed, at long last, hold the potential for meaningful change, if only we can seize the moment.

We have just completed a school year like no other, and, as I write this, we are busily preparing for yet another, largely displaced from Westwood and our bucolic campus, reliant on electronics and medical masks to interact, and working overtime to continue the delivery of our six degree programs and our important research. But even in this unusual time, the School and its faculty, staff and students continue our important work.

As I write, Luskin faculty are working on reducing harm among Los Angeles’ most vulnerable, helping renters struggling to stay housed, providing mental health support to frontline L.A. County workers, examining the challenges of transportation in times of transmissible illness, thinking through the financial impacts on survival for small municipal utilities, examining the despair of citizens of some of Los Angeles’ poorest communities, and working overtime to reform policing practices that lead so often to injustice and violence against minority communities. Our work and our adherence to the first principles of evidence-based social policy, ethical practices to enhance human dignity, and of an efficient and effective government remain in place.

It is in the most difficult times that we come to know what people are made of. I am proud of this School, and you should be too.

Take action,

Gary

Social Welfare Statement on Racial Justice

The Department of Social Welfare at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs recently reaffirmed its commitment to addressing racial disparities and anti-Blackness that permeate all aspects of our social fabric, including within our own department. At the impetus of our doctoral students and the Luskin Black Student Caucus, the faculty are engaged in a process of assessing the extent to which our current curriculum prepares students to engage in anti-racist social work practice. We realized that, despite related foundation and advanced curriculum objectives (i.e., engaging diversity and difference in practice; advancing human rights; and economic, social, and environmental justice), there are no explicit student learning outcomes dedicated to anti-racist social work practice. To that end, with unanimous consent, the faculty has approved the adoption of a curricular principle related to anti-racism as a professional standard.

CSWE maintains a set of nine core Educational and Accreditation (EPAS) Standards that all social work programs must fulfill, and there is a movement underway to press CSWE to create an explicit racial justice standard. Our voting to create such a standard is a part of a larger effort to build on our department’s history of advancing social justice and our commitment to model social and racial justice in our education and scholarship and service. This new educational standard will be written and integrated into our curriculum in a joint effort between faculty and the Luskin Black Student Caucus. We have also committed to hiring MSW and Ph.D. students this summer to assist with a larger curriculum review of our racial justice content.

The successful implementation of this standard will occur with a series of structural changes that will allow for a culture of racial justice within Social Welfare and the larger Luskin School. We look forward to sharing our short-range and long-range plan to address racism and anti-Blackness within social work education and our department later this summer.

Laura Abrams
UCLA Luskin Social Welfare Chair and Professor

 

Manville on Combatting Congestion in L.A.

Michael Manville, associate professor of urban planning, spoke to Curbed LA about measures being taken to combat traffic congestion in Los Angeles. According to a newly released index on congestion and mobility, the typical Los Angeles driver logged 103 hours of traffic in 2019. The index also found that the metro area is home to the two most congested stretches of road in the country, on sections of the 5 and 134 freeways. Among other strategies to lighten traffic, transit agencies plan to expand rail lines. While this would provide an alternative to driving, it may not reduce traffic, Manville cautioned. “It basically allows people to avoid exposure to congestion. But if you want to actually improve congestion on the 405, the unfortunate truth is that you have to toll the 405,” he said.


 

Newton on Papadopoulos’ Congressional Run in California

Jim Newton, public policy lecturer and editor of Blueprint magazine, spoke to Los Angeles magazine about George Papadopoulos’ congressional run in California. Papadopoulos, a former adviser to President Trump’s campaign, served 12 days in a federal correctional institution for making false statements during the special counsel investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. He is currently running in the special election to represent California’s 25th congressional district. Running as a Republican, Papadopoulos hopes to get elected by relying on his Fox News fan base and his association with Trump, the article said. Hitching your star to Trump may work in some parts of the country but not in California, Newton warned. “An affiliation with Trump is just not enough to put you over the line. It may be enough to boost book sales and drive some name recognition,” but ultimately it is not enough to win a congressional seat, he said.


 

UCLA Luskin to Welcome 3 New Social Welfare Scholars

Three new additions will join UCLA Luskin Social Welfare’s world-class faculty in the fall, Dean Gary Segura has announced. Judith Perrigo, Margaret “Maggie” Thomas and Brian TaeHyuk Keum will become members of the teaching and research roster as assistant professors. Perrigo’s work focuses on the determinants of well-being, experience of abuse or neglect, and readiness for kindergarten among children from birth to age 5. She holds an MSW from USC, and, after several years of practice, is completing her doctorate there. Thomas, who earned an MSW at the University of Illinois, is a scholar of family and child well-being. She is completing her Ph.D. in social work at Boston University. Thomas’ work focuses on young children in families facing serious economic hardship, as well as children and youths from minority communities or with an LGBTQ identity. Keum is finishing his Ph.D. in counseling psychology at the University of Maryland, having previously completed an MA in counseling psychology at Teacher’s College, Columbia University. His work examines interracial dynamics, cyberbullying behaviors, and measurement issues in the study of bias and racism online. “I am beyond pleased to welcome Maggie, Brian and Judith to the Luskin Public Affairs faculty and the Department of Social Welfare,” Segura wrote in a memo to staff and faculty.

Akee Addresses Lack of Diversity in Economics

Associate Professor of Public Policy Randall Akee’s views on the lack of diversity in the economics profession were featured in the Economist after the annual American Economic Association conference in San Diego. Conference attendees expressed concern that the lack of racial and gender diversity within the profession has limited the field by excluding certain perspectives. At the conference, Akee joined a panel on “How Can Economics Save Its Race Problem?” to speak about the pressures to be taken seriously as a scholar, not merely a race scholar. He explained his decision to postpone the research he wanted to do on indigenous people and work instead on other subjects, in order to be taken seriously as an economist. Akee argues that race should occupy a more central space within the portfolio of economic research. Despite efforts to increase diversity within the profession, many economists worry that this movement will stall before achieving long-term change.


Villasenor on 5G Cybersecurity Challenges

John Villasenor, professor of public policy, electrical engineering and management, spoke to the Wall Street Journal about the potential challenges of 5G cybersecurity. While 5G is expected to be 100 times faster than 4G, enabling new technologies and strengthening security, Villasenor remained cautious. He predicted that some cybersecurity risks and vulnerabilities will not be addressed right away. “I’m not very confident that we’re going to be on top of these problems,” he said. “People only get cybersecurity right after they get it wrong. We’re going to learn the hard way, and hopefully the mistakes will not be particularly costly and harmful.”


 

Matute on E-Scooters in Santa Monica

Juan Matute, deputy director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at UCLA Luskin, spoke to LAist about the future of e-scooters in Santa Monica. “Santa Monica has a relatively stable system … that can demonstrate to other parts of Southern California what might be possible,” Matute said. The city launched a pilot program of 3,250 dockless scooters in September 2018. Matute said its manageable level and investment in quality over quantity is key to its success, in comparison with Los Angeles’ pilot program of 36,000 e-scooters and e-bikes. “It would be hard for any group of people to regulate that many devices,” he said. Better roads and investment in bikeways are also key, he said. While Santa Monica’s new green bike lanes are a step in the right direction, Matute advocated for more bike lanes that are segregated from car lanes.


 

Monkkonen on Affordable Housing for Moderate-Income Angelenos

Paavo Monkkonen, associate professor of urban planning and public policy, spoke to Curbed LA about the availability of affordable housing for moderate-income people in Los Angeles. Many residents must pay a burdensome price for shelter yet do not qualify for affordable housing because their annual income surpasses the $56,000 threshold. The Los Angeles City Council voted to examine why there is a shortage of housing options for these people. Monkkonen argued that studying the restraints on moderate-income housing development could lead to city policies that make it easier to develop more housing in the city. He said policymakers and the public believe only certain types of housing need to be built. More housing in general is needed, he said.  “All multifamily housing getting built quicker would help everyone, including middle-income residents,” he says.