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.
Associate Professor Randall Akee, center, shares his views on diversity in the economics profession at the recent American Economic Association conference.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
A CityLab story on the city of Los Angeles’ efforts to pursue “cool pavement” technologies to address rising urban temperatures featured the research of V. Kelly Turner, assistant professor of urban planning. While other cool pavement studies have measured surface and air temperature, Turner’s research is the first to focus on “mean radiant temperature,” which is most related to thermal comfort. Turner and Ariane Middel, assistant professor of arts media and engineering at Arizona State University, studied unshaded streets in Pacoima and Sun Valley that had been coated with an asphalt mixture called CoolSeal, which reflects, rather than absorbs, the energy from sunlight. They measured air temperature, wind speed, humidity and radiation from morning to sundown, and their preliminary findings will soon be published by the American Meteorological Society. The project is one part of a greater effort to collect data on the effectiveness of strategies to address so-called urban heat islands.
Amada Armenta, assistant professor of urban planning, penned a post on the role of dignity in the immigration debate for Oxford University’s Border Criminologies blog. “Decriminalizing immigration offenses and creating a path to a legal and permanent immigration status would allow millions of immigrants to live more dignified lives,” Armenta wrote. But she cautioned that deploying arguments that rely on immigrants’ dignity may actually be counterproductive. “To combat stereotypes about immigrants’ criminality, we rely on tropes that highlight immigrants’ best qualities — they work hard, they provide for their families, and they do not commit ‘real’ crimes,” she wrote. “However, in our attempts to legitimize immigrants, to convince people that they ‘deserve’ policies that would be less harmful, we inevitably leave people out. We may champion the most ‘worthy’ and exceptional immigrants at the expense of those for whom it is more difficult to advocate, such as those with criminal convictions or prior deportation orders.”
Urban Planning Chair Vinit Mukhija held a wide-ranging dialogue about affordable housing with state Sen. Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont) on the podcast Then There’s California. Mukhija’s research focuses on informal, makeshift housing in the United States and abroad. He has studied slums, border areas and farmworker dwellings but noted that unregulated and unpermitted shelter is becoming more commonplace in cities and suburbs. Wieckowski has sponsored legislation to remove barriers to the creation of granny flats, garage conversions and other so-called accessory dwelling units. “This can be a very reasonable way of adding housing supply from our existing physical resources,” Mukhija said. In addition to addressing the growing demand for affordable housing, regulated accessory dwelling units can bring in significant property tax revenues, he added.
Social Welfare Adjunct Professor Jorja Leap spoke with BBC World Service’s Spanish-language news outlet about the Fulton clique of the MS-13 street gang. A federal indictment of 22 of the gang’s members detailed brutal acts across Los Angeles, according to BBC Mundo. Federal officials said 19 of those indicted are undocumented immigrants from Central America who arrived in the past three or four years. The Fulton clique actively recruits young people, who often behave impulsively and unpredictably, Leap said. Youths who have experienced poverty, poor education, trauma and mental illness are particularly susceptible to gang overtures, she said. The indictments came as MS-13’s influence in the region has waned. Leap said 1,200 homicides were recorded during MS-13’s boom, but last year the number had dropped to 300.
Family and friends pack Royce Hall for the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs' 2019 commencement. Photo by Les Dunseith
By Mary Braswell
As members of UCLA Luskin’s Class of 2019 walked across the commencement stage to receive their hard-earned master’s and doctoral degrees, each took on a new mantle: Advocate. Warrior. Watchdog.
And don’t forget “Superhero.”
“I believe being a public affairs nerd is in fact a superpower, one that if used for good can transform the lives of millions of people,” keynote speaker Janet Murguía told the 260 graduates at the June 14 ceremony at UCLA’s Royce Hall.
Murguía, president and CEO of UnidosUS, the nation’s largest Latino civil rights organization, challenged the graduates to put their educations to work in the world — a feat requiring determination, patience and resilience.
“Your degree and everything it represents can be a force for good,” she said. “We desperately need people with your talents to help us defend and build that more perfect union.”
The newly minted policy, social welfare and planning scholars and professionals are entering the workforce at a pivotal time, UCLA Luskin Dean Gary Segura said.
“The next 18 months are among the most important in the history of this nation. We face a critical time in deciding who we are as a people, what values matter to Americans and what our historic role is in human history,” Segura said.
“I want to thank you, perhaps prematurely, for all that we expect you to do with all that you have learned.”
Segura shared the stage with faculty members from every department, noting, “Luskin faculty engage the world as it is, to diagnose and hopefully help address our many challenges.” The hiring of 14 faculty members over two years and the fast expansion of the new undergraduate major in Public Affairs are just two measures of the School’s growth, he said.
Following the conferral of degrees, crowds surrounded the graduates at an outdoor reception, offering congratulations, taking photos and admiring regalia decorated with “UCLA 100 Years” to mark the university’s Centennial Celebration. Mortarboards showed off personal touches, often thanking families and friends who buoyed the graduates as they worked toward this milestone day.
Student speakers echoed that spirit of gratitude throughout the commencement ceremony.
Robert Gamboa of Public Policy memorialized his twin brother, Albert, who died seven years ago. “His passing was one of those crystal-clear moments when everything and nothing made sense,” Gamboa said. “But I knew then that I must double down my efforts to fight for social justice.”
Gamboa’s classmates represented different backgrounds and value systems, he said, “and yet we came together as one. We found something in common, something at our very core, something that led us here to Luskin to expand our knowledge. And that something has energized us, guiding us, creating a bridge to change — smart, systemic, lasting change that will save lives.”
Social Welfare speaker Gabriela Andreina Peraza Angulo told her classmates, “The world really needs us right now, maybe more than ever. Injustice, greed, inequity, racism, forces of discrimination, of violence, of exclusion. Forces of sexism. And did I mention racism? All of these forces are gaining in strength. …
“But they’re not counting on us. Here we are. And we’re ready to build those bridges instead of a wall, we’re ready to connect instead of divide.”
Caroline Calderon urged her Urban Planning classmates to challenge power structures in a rousing address that incorporated oral histories she conducted with about 15 of her peers.
“We have seen the possibilities of radical community action,” she said. “Our commitment involves sharing the knowledge we have and being humble about that knowledge, and recognizing the power and privilege that we have been given.
“This is our commitment, to be accountable to our own convictions and values, to be accountable to poor people, to black and brown communities, not in words but in action.”
Three students received special honors at commencement. The Public Policy Student Award went to Lindsay Graef, who earned her MPP and MSW concurrently. Michelé Dianne-Shaunte Jones won the Social Welfare Student Award, and Jacob Wasserman won the Urban Planning Student Award.
Murguía’s address included a poignant tribute to her parents, who instilled a sense of purpose and possibility in their seven children.
“Two humble, simple people from Tangancícuaro, Michoacán, in Mexico with little means worked very hard, sacrificed much and dedicated themselves to the education of their family, and to the service and care of their community. I am a witness to — and in many ways evidence of — their belief in the American Dream,” she said.
“However your generation defines the American Dream, I know that, like my parents, you will leave the world a better place than you found it,” Murguía said. “You know how I know? As I look out at you today, graduation day, I see our future and it looks amazing. I can’t wait to see where your superpowers will take us.”