UCLA Ranked in Top Five Urban Planning Programs The Department of Urban Planning was named the fourth best planning program in North America by Planetizen.


UCLA Luskin’s Department of Urban Planning has been ranked No. 4 in North America, according to the latest survey of the nation’s top graduate programs in urban planning by Los Angeles-based planning and development network Planetizen.

Planetizen’s latest guidebook also ranks UCLA No. 4 on its list of best graduate planning programs according to educators and the No. 2 program on the West Coast. In addition, UCLA is in the top five schools for most diverse student body in an urban planning program.

In terms of specialty areas, Luskin’s urban planning department was named in nine of those areas, including: Community Development, Economic Development, Environmental/Sustainability Planning, Housing, International Development, Land Use/Physical Planning, Regional Planning, Transportation Planning, and Urban Design.

For more information on the rankings and Planetizen’s methodology, go here.

In other studies, UCLA has taken the top spot for faculty productivity and reputation. An analysis published late last year found that UCLA faculty members averaged the highest number of total citations, and the School ranked second for average citations per year for faculty. In that same study, Urban Planning Professor Michael Storper was also ranked the No. 2 most cited planning faculty member of any school. Confirming this finding, in July Professor Storper was named to Thomson Reuters’ list of the World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds of 2014.  Researchers who published numerous articles that ranked in the top one percent of the most cited in their respective fields in the given year of publication made the list.

Newton to Write on Region’s Civic Life for UCLA Luskin The Los Angeles Times journalist begins a new role designed to deepen UCLA's ties to the region's civic life

newton_slideVeteran journalist and author Jim Newton will join the faculty and staff of UCLA in a new role designed to deepen UCLA’s ties to the civic life of Los Angeles and the region.

Newton, is best known for his 25-year career at the Los Angeles Times, where he spent time as a reporter, editor, bureau chief, editorial page editor and columnist.

In his enhanced role, Newton’s first project will be to develop and launch a new quarterly university journal highlighting UCLA research in fields that are particularly relevant to Southern California. The journal will also highlight our region’s leading institutions and influential figures. The journal will serve as the centerpiece of a series of public events. It will be housed in the Luskin School of Public Affairs and jointly published with External Affairs Public Outreach.

Newton will also serve as an advisor for other UCLA public outreach programs, for which he has appeared several times as a moderator or panelist in recent years. At the same time, he will take on an increased teaching load in the Communication Studies Department, where he has taught journalistic ethics since 2010. In addition to that course, Newton will begin teaching a special course in writing starting next year. He will continue to serve as a UCLA Luskin Senior Fellow, a distinction he has held since 2008, mentoring and engaging graduate students in Los Angeles’ civic life.

In addition to his career as a newspaperman and academic, Newton is also an author, well-known for his biographies of California governor and Chief Justice Earl Warren (“Justice for All: Earl Warren and the Nation He Made,” Riverhead, 2006) and President Dwight Eisenhower (“Eisenhower: The White House Years,” Doubleday, 2011), a national best-seller. His next book, which he co-authored with former CIA Chief and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, is being released this week.

American Women Less Likely to Bike Than Dutch Women, Here’s Why Domestic roles influence the cycling habits of women across the world.


By Alejandra Reyes-Velarde
UCLA Luskin student writer

The UCLA Institute of Transportation Studies’ Herbie Huff and transportation policy and planning doctoral student Kelcie Ralph say that American women are less likely to bike than Dutch women, largely to differences in domestic roles rather than infrastructure.

In an op-ed that ran in The Guardian’s bike blog on Oct. 3, the researchers said that “Despite years of progress, American women’s lives are still disproportionately filled with driving children around, getting groceries and doing other household chores…that doesn’t lend itself easily to two wheeled transportation.”

Their claims that infrastructure does not account for the differences in male and female bikers are supported by Ralph’s research, which reveals disparities between Dutch culture and labor policies as well as the gender gap of bikers in the U.S.

To learn more about their solutions to these disparities, you can read the full article here.


There’s a Brand New Vocabulary on the Streets, Says NYC Planning Rock Star UCLA Regents’ Lecturer Janette Sadik-Khan Discusses Designing the 21st-Century City.

By Stan Paul

New York has long been known for its colorful language, distinctive regional accents and even its own definition of time: the proverbial “New York minute.”

But, while New Yorkers are still in a hurry, “There’s a brand new vocabulary on the streets,” said UCLA Regents’ lecturer and former commissioner of New York City Department of Transportation, Janette Sadik-Khan, who spoke to a full house Wednesday evening at UCLA. The event was part of the UCLA Luskin Welcome Week.

Sadik-Khan, who was appointed in 2007 by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, ran the department until 2013 and is currently a principal with Bloomberg Associates.

“You will see that there is a sea-change in what the streets of New York look like. There’s a brand new vocabulary on the street that didn’t used to be there,” she said. Throughout the evening, Sadik-Khan provided case studies and data about the many innovations and improvements that have occurred in recent years. These included transforming Times Square – “a crossroads of the world” —  into a pedestrian friendly place, expansion of bus service routes, the creation of the largest bike share program in U.S. and the addition of 400 miles of bicycle lanes, to name just a few.

“New Yorkers now talk about traffic calming. New Yorkers now talk about bike sharing. New Yorkers now talk about way-finding, said Sadik-Khan, adding, “There is just a completely different set of transportation options and designs on the streets of New York. Once known as the ‘mean streets’ I think they’ve really changed.” She noted that younger people today are looking for choices that include not taking on the burden of car ownership. This is important because “The choices we make today about how we prioritize our streets…has worldwide implications for generations to come.”

Sadik-Khan is acclaimed for her work to transform the transportation system in New York City. The crowd that filled the hall was made up of students, alumni, faculty and city and community leaders who work in the field. At the start of the evening, Sadik-Khan was introduced to the podium by Evelyn Blumenberg, chair of the UCLA Department of Urban Planning at the Luskin School of Public Affairs, who acknowledged Sadik-Khan’s renown in the transportation world.

“So often we hear about the many urban problems facing large urban areas…bankruptcy, poverty, poor urban design, traffic congestion, pollution and on,” said Blumenberg. “It’s awesome when someone in my own line of work achieves rock star status and tremendous visibility for helping to address some of these problems.”

“I’m really honored to be here with you as the Regents’ Lecturer at the Luskin School. I think the work is extraordinary, what you are doing here,” said Sadik-Khan.

During her lecture, Sadik-Khan outlined how increasing the safety and sustainability of a city is not just a single strategy, but “a panoply” that includes creating plazas and walkways and even creating places for people to just sit, putting “new life into old spaces.”

“Streets are our most valuable asset in cities and yet our street designs haven’t taken into account the ways people want to use them,” she said. “This dysfunction has somehow become accepted. We’ve become used to our streets as being out of balance.”

Sadik-Khan concluded the lecture with a word of caution and advice. Recounting the ways the media reported negatively on the changes she implemented in New York City, she explained that, “when you push the status quo, it can push back.” She added: “We are simply not going to create healthier, safer, more sustainable cities with the strategies that we followed up till now, that ignore all the other ways that a street is used.”

Her recommendation to the diverse audience of planners, academics, citizens and those who work daily in city government on these problems was this: “All sorts of new options are taking hold and planners need to adapt to these new changes and understand the way people want to get around. And we’re really just starting to glimpse what this shared economy means for transportation and cities.”

Following her presentation, transportation planning expert and Urban Planning Professor Emeritus Martin Wachs led a lively and informative question and answer session.

In addition to her Regents’ Lecture, Sadik-Khan was a guest speaker at an Urban Planning graduate course at the Luskin School on Thursday.


In studying suicide, he shines a light on a secret shame Social welfare professor Mark Kaplan says raising awareness about suicide is a key to preventing it.

Mark Kaplan

When people think of public health, they do not often think of suicidology — the study of the causes and prevention of suicide. Historically, public health has beeneither associated with Hollywood-style images of government workers investigating disease outbreaks or mistakenly equated to local health departments responsible for restaurant inspections and bureaucracy.

But more recently, the ever-changing public health field now faces a growing list of problems, including, chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Mark Kaplan, professor of social welfare at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, is working to ensure that suicide, the tenth-leading cause of death in the United States, is on this list.

While the causes of suicide are complex, during his 20-plus years studying it, Kaplan has become a leading suicidologist working to understand the range of determinants that lead to suicide.

At the heart of Kaplan’s study is one motivating factor: “to do work that can save lives.” In many of his conversations, Kaplan mentions two statistics that tumble off his tongue with the speed and familiarity of someone who has spent years laboring under them. Nearly, 40,000 people die by suicide every year in the United States and more than half of all suicides involve firearms.

“In general, we underappreciate the impact that suicide has on our country and even globally,” Kaplan said. “Not only is the victim of concern, but scores of others are affected, such as family members. A colleague of mine at my former university took her life at the peak of her career and left behind a very young child. We have all been touched by suicide.”

As each September — National Suicide Prevention Month — comes to a close, Kaplan reflects on some of the most salient facts about suicide that he has learned — points that continue to spur him onward in further study.

First, male and female veterans face high risk of suicide. Second, two-thirds of gun deaths in the United States are suicides. Third, more than 80 percent of suicides among older men involve firearms. And lastly, about a third of all suicide victims consumed alcohol immediately before their death and many of them were acutely intoxicated, particularly those who died of self-inflicted gunshot wounds.

Kaplan’s research has focused on using population-wide data to understand suicide risk factors among veterans, seniors and other vulnerable populations. And his work has significantly influenced clinical practices and public policy. Many references to his suicide research have appeared in reports by the prestigious Institute of Medicine. He has contributed to state and federal suicide prevention initiatives.

He’s also testified before the Senate Special Committee on Aging at its hearings on veterans’ health and was appointed by the secretary of veteran affairs to the VA Blue Ribbon Work Group on Suicide Prevention in the Veteran Population.

A study Kaplan published in 2010 on the hidden epidemic of suicide among women with military experience was the first to estimate the suicide risk among women with U.S. military service. The results showed that young women veterans have nearly triple the suicide rate of young women who have never served in the military.

“The elevated rates of suicide among female veterans should be a call-to-action, especially for clinicians and caregivers to be more attentive to the warning signs of suicide among women with military service,” Kaplan said.

In recognition of his work on veteran suicide (Kaplan and his colleagues published a landmark study in 2007 on the risk of suicide among male veterans prior to his study that focused on female veterans), Kaplan received a Distinguished Investigator Award from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

Kaplan’s foray into what is generally thought of as a somber topic was through one of his professors while he was a public health graduate student at UC Berkeley. Richard Seiden had just published his groundbreaking study in 1978 of people who had attempted suicide by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. Years later, Kaplan collaborated with a colleague at the University of Illinois on a study that was the first to point out that, as of the mid-1980s, firearms were the most common suicide method among elderly women. They also demonstrated that despite this risk, few primary care providers would ask their at-risk elderly patients about access to firearms.

“This discovery was troubling to me as a researcher and a family member with elderly relatives,” Kaplan recalled. “And sadly, suicide as a public health priority is often neglected in contemporary societies. Silence and shame still surrounds suicide victims and their survivors.”

As Kaplan and his colleagues in suicidology know, much more research is needed to understand how personal, environmental and social factors determine suicide risk across people of different ages and how preventive interventions should be designed to best address the national suicide crisis. Currently, he is lead investigator on two National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism funded projects: “Acute alcohol use and suicide” and “Economic contraction and alcohol-associated suicides: A multi-level analysis.” So far, this research shows a high prevalence of alcohol involvement among persons who died by suicide during the recent economic downturn.

“I continue to see some positive developments in the field, such as a push to advance awareness of suicide prevention,” Kaplan said. “But there is still a need for a spotlight on this issue. The investment in suicide research and prevention is vastly underfunded. There is far more funding for research of other epidemics than there is for suicide.”

Kaplan is committed to training and mentoring the next generation of suicide researchers. He’s included many graduate students and young scholars in producing these important studies. “It’s imperative we offer students opportunities to conduct prevention research on one of the most pressing public health issues facing us today.”

Alumna Jaime Nack Discusses Female Entrepreneurs at the White House The Public Policy graduate met senior White House staff to discuss women’s leadership in business.


Public Policy alumna Jaime Nack (MPP ’02) was at the White House on September 24 to join fellow National Women’s Business Council Members for briefings with senior White House staff and representatives from Congress to discuss policies that impact women entrepreneurs and business owners.

Nack, who is founder and president of environmental consulting firm Three Squares Inc., participated in the briefings as the youngest member of the Council and represented entrepreneurs under the age of 40. She also contributed her expertise in the arenas of clean technology and environmental consulting.

“It is an honor to serve on the Council and work to build out an ecosystem that encourages economic growth for women entrepreneurs,” Nack said in a press release. “The government has the ability to further spur business growth and it is encouraging to see legislature like Senate Bill 2693 – The Women’s Small Business Ownership Act of 2014 – which supports the efforts of the 8.6 million women-owned small businesses across the country by providing women’s small business counseling, small business contracting, and access to capital.”

The National Women’s Business Council is charged with serving as an independent source of advice and counsel to the President, Congress, and the U.S. Small Business Administration on economic issues important to women business owners. Members of the Council are prominent business owners and leaders of women’s business organizations.

Nack is a two-time UCLA Bruin. She holds a master’s degree in Public Policy, as well as a bachelor’s degree in International Economics with a minor in Urban Planning.

“The network I created at UCLA was instrumental in launching a career that has led me from corporate strategy sessions to White House environmental briefings,” Nack has said. “I’m incredibly thankful.”

UP’s Monkkonen Challenges Media View of Mexican Housing Crisis The Urban Planning professor recently presented new research in Mexico City talk.


In the wake of the recent US housing market crash, images of abandoned homes on the urban periphery of American cities dominated international media coverage, and when Mexico experienced its own vacant housing crisis in 2013, media outlets such as the New York Times, the Economist, and the Wall Street Journal covered the story through this same narrative lens of half-empty developments and residents stranded in sprawl.

Yet while these pictures and stories make for compelling journalism, according to research by urban planning professor Paavo Monkkonen they capture only one aspect of the Mexican housing crisis, and more crucially, they serve to distract focus away from the most urgent problems confronting housing in Mexico, such as reforming the housing finance system and addressing vacancy in urban cores.

Monkkonen discussed his research and ideas in a recent presentation at the Institute of Social Research of the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico in Mexico City on September 8. The talk, entitled “Housing Finance is Urban Policy: INFONAVIT, Vacant Housing, and Urban Growth” in Mexico, was based on two ongoing research projects Monkkonen is conducting in collaboration with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the World Bank. Both projects are motivated by the housing vacancy crisis in Mexico caused by a finance system that hinders both the construction of new homes and the improvement of existing units in city centers.

As part of a series called the Ciclo La coyuntura nacional a debate, Monkkonen presented a vision of how the Mexican government could shift its approach to housing finance. He submitted four general areas for reforming urban policy in Mexico, including reforming the housing loan allocation system, increasing investment in the institutional infrastructure of the primary housing market (for example, property registries and cadastres), raising property taxes and placing more effort into collecting them, and encouraging urban density by promoting public transportation, eliminating parking requirements for new buildings and increasing the cost of operating private automobiles.

Monkkonen’s talk and research was picked up by several Mexican blogs and media outlets, such as Entrelineas and Impulso Informativo (in Spanish). Coverage in English can be found at the Mexico Daily Review.

Dr. Monkkonen first examined Mexican housing in his doctoral dissertation. According to Monkkonen, the Mexican housing vacancy crisis stems in part from housing finance policies that began in the 1990s, and the first of his current research projects focuses on vacant housing through analysis of rates of vacancy in the center and periphery of the 100 largest cities in Mexico, as well as their determinants. Findings show that although the high rates of peri-urban vacancy are a problem, there are a greater number of vacant units in the centers of Mexican cities. Additionally, there is a strong association between central city vacancy and housing finance, suggesting that the country’s housing policies have facilitated a suburbanization of urban populations.

Monkkonen’s second project focuses on urban growth patterns in Mexico and changes in the distribution of people and jobs within cities. Preliminary results reinforce the findings of the vacancy study, showing a loss of population in the center of 70 of the 100 largest cities in Mexico, concurrent with robust urban expansion.

Both of these research projects reinforce the Mexican government’s current shift towards the support of urban infill and higher density development. However, Monkkonen argues that the goal of urban infill will only be achieved with larger and more comprehensive reforms of the Mexican housing finance system than those currently proposed.

UCLA Luskin Welcomes New Diplomat in Residence Michelle G. Los Banos represents the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Foreign Service.


Foreign Service Officer Michelle G. Los Banos will serve as UCLA’s new Diplomat in Residence for the 2014 – 2016 academic years. She was appointed by the U.S. Department of State to serve as Diplomat in Residence for Southern California and Hawaii and will be housed in the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.

Los Banos will serve as a resource to students and graduates interested in working in the Foreign Service and at the Department of State.  She will be attending career fairs and conferences, as well as holding informational sessions and meetings with students by appointment.

In addition to her duties as Diplomat in Residence, Los Banos will also serve the Luskin School of Public Affairs as a Senior Fellow mentoring students from across all three departments.

“I am extremely excited to support my organization and help strengthen our future diplomatic corps by recruiting talented and diverse individuals to work for the State Department,” Los Banos said. “Being a Senior Fellow and getting to work with students who might share similar interests is also very exciting. It will give me a chance to share the experience and knowledge that I’ve gained in the world of diplomacy with someone who might be passionate about public service.”

Los Banos holds a Master in Public Policy from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and a Bachelor of Science in Foreign Service from Georgetown University. Her 12-year career in the Foreign Service has taken her to Ankara, Turkey; Managua, Nicaragua; Rome, Italy; as well as State Department headquarters in Washington, D.C, where she most recently served as Deputy Division Chief in the Cultural Programs Division of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. A native of the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Banos is also excited to be back in her home state.

“We are honored to have Ms. Los Banos join us here at Luskin,” said Dean Franklin D. Gilliam. “It has been our privilege to host Diplomats in Residence since 1998. Ms. Los Banos’ unique skills and experiences will be a valuable resource to our students who are dedicated to making an impact both locally and globally.”

For information about all upcoming events Los Banos will hold at UCLA and in the greater Los Angeles area, follow her on Facebook – DOS Diplomat in Residence Southern California. For individual or group appointments, you can email her at DIRSouthernCalifornia@state.gov.

Public Policy’s Aaron Panofsky Awarded Kenneth L. Sokoloff Fellowship The Center for American Politics and Public Policy Faculty Fellowship will support his research.


Aaron Panofsky, associate professor of Public Policy, has been named the UCLA Center for American Politics and Public Policy’s Kenneth L. Sokoloff Fellow for the 2014-2015 academic year.

The CAPPP Faculty Research Fellows program is meant to help support ladder faculty initiate, conduct or complete research on U.S. political and policy processes and institutions. Each year, one of the faculty researchers receives the Sokoloff named fellowship in honor of UCLA economic history scholar Kenneth Sokoloff. This year that honor went to Professor Panofsky.

Panofsky’s project proposal is for “Value Added Modeling” which is an emerging technique for evaluating the quality of teachers in terms of which ones do better and worse jobs of improving student test scores.

“VAM is controversial in the social scientific community – there is disagreement whether it can effectively distinguish better and worse teachers – yet it is being implemented in many states for personnel decisions,” Panofsky explained. “My project aims to talk to the experts to learn their different understandings of VAM and the controversy surrounding it, and then to look at how the controversy is affecting VAM’s implementation.”

There was a highly competitive set of applications for the research fellows program this year. Panofsky’s project stood out for its excellence, CAPPP Director Joel D. Aberbach said. The fellowship award comes with a grant, which will allow Panofsky to hire a graduate research assistant. This assistant, Zachary Griffen (PhD candidate in sociology) will be designated the Marvin Hoffenberg Research Fellow.

“I am honored to have received the CAPPP fellowship and especially to be named the Sokoloff Fellow,” Panofsky said. “I am excited to contribute to the great tradition of research on policy and politics that the Center has long supported.”