Urban Planning Students Take Home Scholarship Awards

Four UCLA Luskin Urban Planning students were winners at the 2018 Women’s Transportation Seminar, Los Angeles Area Chapter, annual scholarship awards dinner held Nov. 8 in downtown Los Angeles. Two doctoral students, Hannah Rae King and Miriam Pinksi, each won Myra L. Frank Memorial Graduate Scholarships of $10,000 and $7,500, respectively. Urban planning master’s student Cassie Halls is the inaugural winner of the $5,000 Stantec scholarship. Halls was also among award winners – with urban planning master’s student Kidada Malloy – at the American Public Transportation Foundation’s annual conference in Nashville this past October. Joceline Suhaimi, a student in UCLA Luskin’s Urban and Regional Studies undergraduate minor, also received a WTS award. Suhaimi, who is majoring in civil engineering, won the Ava Doner Undergraduate Scholarship. “Transportation is a basic human need, and I want to make it accessible to all people, regardless of age, ability, income and car ownership,” said Suhaimi, who will receive $10,000. “This scholarship will allow me to continue education and pursue my career goals.” Allison Yoh, MA UP ’02 Ph.D. ’08, served as co-emcee for the awards. Yoh is now director of transportation planning for the Port of Long Beach. WTS-LA is a chapter of WTS International founded in 1977. The organization has more than 6,500 members (men and women) with 79 chapters in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. — Stan Paul


In Memoriam: Leo Estrada, Urban Planning Scholar and Champion of Diversity His life and 40-year career at UCLA were marked by civic engagement, leadership and giving back

By Stan Paul

Leo Estrada, associate professor emeritus of urban planning at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, died Nov. 3, 2018, following a lengthy illness. He was 73.

Estrada came to UCLA in 1977, joining the faculty of what was then UCLA’s Graduate School of Architecture and Urban Planning under the late Harvey Perloff, who was known as the dean of American urban planners.

A native of El Paso, Texas, Estrada had held academic appointments previously at the University of North Texas, University of Texas at El Paso and the University of Michigan. He received his undergraduate degree from Baylor University and his master’s and doctoral degrees from Florida State University.

During his decades of service at UCLA, Estrada was recognized as an expert demographer and an urban planning researcher and teacher. He also was a fierce and effective advocate for Latino voting, civil rights and representation, said UCLA Luskin Dean Gary Segura, and someone who made huge contributions to UCLA.

“Throughout his career, Leo Estrada distinguished himself as a mentor, adviser and advocate for the careers of countless young planners and scholars, many students and faculty of color, and so much more,” Segura said.

Professor of urban planning Vinit Mukhija said he remembers Estrada for his compassion, generosity and commitment. Mukhija, now chair of urban planning, recalled that Estrada went out of his way to help him navigate through his first year as an assistant professor at UCLA. “That’s just one thing on a very personal level that I am grateful for,” Mukhija said.

Estrada’s selflessness extended not only to faculty, but to staff, students and beyond, Mukhija said.

“Leo was pretty much on campus every day, and he had a sign-up sheet on his office door that included all the days of the week, for many hours — just way beyond what the expectation was and what the practice was in terms of accessibility to students.” Mukhija said. “That was just another remarkable thing — he did that at the undergraduate level, the graduate level and the doctoral level. And I don’t know how many dissertation committees he did, but he seemed to be one of the busiest.”

Mukhija said that people “change the culture of a place, and Leo was along those lines. Definitely, he primarily led by example, but I think he encouraged people to be helpful to others as well.”

What also stood out to Mukhija was that “Leo was always the calmest person in the room. And yet, there was no question that he was engaged. He did that in a remarkable way that is almost peerless.”

In addition to teaching courses about planning for minority communities and geographic information systems, for a number of years the tireless Estrada led intensive undergraduate urban planning travel study trips to Geneva, Switzerland during the summer term.

Following a role on UCLA Academic Senate’s undergraduate council, Estrada stepped up to serve as chair of the senate during the 2015–16 academic year.

In his professional work, Estrada applied his skills in mapping to redistricting issues for cities across the country and provided expertise on ethnic and racial groups for the U.S. Census Bureau, where he held titles such as special assistant to the chief of the population division and as staff assistant to the deputy director. He also participated in numerous national studies, including an evaluation of the U.S. Standard of Live Birth for the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics.

Following the beating of Rodney King in 1991, Estrada was called by Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley to serve on the Christopher Commission to examine the use of force by the Los Angeles Police Department. Describing the experience as “incredible,” Estrada later said that it was “one of the most important moments of my history and life here in Los Angeles.”

Estrada served on numerous advisory boards, including U.S. Census Bureau of Transportation Statistics, Latino Issues Forum, the Aspen Institute, National Association of Hispanic Elderly, the California Policy Research Institute, the Committee for the Study of the American Electorate, and the California Endowment. He also was a former member on the national board of AARP, New Economics for Women, the National Association of Childcare Resource and Referral Agencies, and Hispanics in Philanthropy.

Other nonprofit advisory boards he served on included the Pew Charitable Trust’s Global Stewardship Initiative, the Center for the Study of the American Electorate, the Southern California Association of Governments, and Los Angeles World Airports. In 2013 he was named to the board of directors of SCAN Health Plan.

In June, a retirement celebration for Estrada was held to recognize his decades of scholarship, service and accomplishments at UCLA.

Commenting at that time in a story to commemorate his career, Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, a longtime UCLA Luskin colleague and urban planning professor, described Estrada as “a giant on many different fronts.”

“He has been an inspiring teacher and a mentor to an endless number of UCLA students and a role model to many Latino and minority students,” she said.

Loukaitou-Sideris, who is also associate provost for academic planning at UCLA, noted that Estrada was one of the first urban planning scholars to teach and institutionalize courses about diversity and planning.

“As a brilliant demographer, he was also instrumental in confronting gerrymandering and giving ethnic communities equal representation in California and other states around the country,” she said.

“It was my privilege to know him,” Segura said in an announcement to the UCLA Luskin community. “We extend our deepest sympathies to the Estrada family. Leo will be profoundly missed.”

A private family ceremony will be held. UCLA Luskin is planning to host a campus memorial service for Estrada at a later date.

Journalist Jorge Ramos Receives UCLA Medal The longtime Univision news anchor enlightens an appreciative crowd as he delivers Luskin Lecture

By Les Dunseith

In recognition of his journalistic accomplishments and his leadership on social issues, Jorge Ramos, the longtime host of Univision Noticias’ evening news and its Sunday newsmagazine “Al Punto,” has been awarded the UCLA Medal.

Presenting the university’s highest honor to Ramos on Oct. 9 was UCLA Chancellor Gene Block.

“Jorge Ramos is more than a great journalist who happens to read and report the news to a largely Spanish-speaking audience,” Block told a crowd of about 400 people prior to Ramos delivering the latest Luskin Lecture, which is sponsored by the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. “He is also a fierce advocate for Latino immigrants.”

Ramos studied journalism at UCLA Extension when he first came to the United States from Mexico.

“Journalism and academia really are kindred spirits in that we both are dedicated to honestly searching for and sharing reliable facts,” Block said. “This is why UCLA is so grateful for journalists like Jorge Ramos.”

A pivotal figure for many American Latinos, Ramos has more than 30 years of experience producing informative reporting with an underlying dedication to advancing the interests of marginalized communities.

Students engaging with Jorge Ramos are inspired by his words and warm personality. Read the story. Photo by Les Dunseith

“Regardless of whatever happens [in the midterm elections] this November, there is an incredible demographic revolution happening right now,” Ramos told the crowd at the UCLA Luskin Conference Center. “By 2044, everyone in this country — absolutely everyone — is going to be a minority.”

Ramos said he believes that many conservative voters are afraid that their country is changing so quickly that they won’t be able to recognize it. But in Ramos’ view, “the beauty of this country is its diversity. And the only way to survive is to be tolerant and to respect our differences.”

Tom Oser, interim vice provost of UCLA Continuing Education and Extension, also placed an emphasis on inclusiveness in his remarks. “Mr. Ramos’ story of personal reinvention highlights what Extension does best. We offer open enrollment into academic certificate programs of study that provide access to the riches of UCLA academics — to all adults.”

UCLA played an essential role in his career, Ramos told the crowd.

“This country, and UCLA, and UCLA Extension gave me the opportunities that my country of origin couldn’t give me,” he said. “So my mission now is to make sure that those who come after me have exactly the same opportunities that I had. So UCLA and UCLA Extension, muchísimas gracias.”

Ramos was selected to give a Luskin Lecture at UCLA because the series often “celebrates the inspirational work of individuals like Jorge Ramos whose accomplishments in service to the public interest can serve as models not just to our students but, indeed, to us all,” said Gary Segura, dean of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. “Mr. Ramos is the living embodiment of journalism in the pursuit of justice, the most trusted man in Latino America, and I am proud to know him.”

Those who attended the event shared Segura’s excitement about the opportunity to spend time in the presence of Ramos.

“Every immigrant remembers the date when they arrived. For me, it was Aug. 8, 1993. And, where we lived near Miami, Jorge was in our living room every single night,” said Dulce Vasquez, a first-year master’s degree student in public policy. “From a very young age, I knew that he was a very trusted source of information and a welcome voice in our household. To this day, I have not found a more trusted and reliable voice in the Latino community.”

After the medal presentation, Ramos made brief remarks, then engaged in a discussion of issues of national interest with Eric Avila, UCLA professor of Chicana and Chicano studies, history and urban planning; and Laura Gómez, UCLA professor of law.

Avila asked whether the rules have changed for journalists in the current political climate. Ramos, who quit his reporting job in Mexico 30 years ago to escape censorship and pursue his livelihood in a country with greater press freedom, replied that journalists have a societal obligation to do more than simply relay facts.

He recounted his well-remembered 2015 confrontation with then-presidential candidate Donald Trump. During a news conference at a campaign stop in Iowa, Trump refused to let Ramos ask a question about immigration policy. He stood his ground and refused to be silent, so Trump had security personnel usher Ramos out of the room.

“In journalism school we are taught that we need to be neutral. But after that moment, I realized that neutrality sometimes is not an option,” Ramos said. “Elie Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor, used to say that we have to take a stand. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim.”

Ramos’ remarks included an admonition directed toward the many UCLA students who attended the event, telling them to speak out — to disobey.

“When you see racism, disobey. When you see inequality, you have to disobey. When you see injustice, you have to disobey,” Ramos said. “This is not a time to be silent. And I need to hear your voices. We need to hear your voices — because they are strong and they are right.”

Stan Paul of the UCLA Luskin communications staff also contributed to this story.

View a video from the event:

View additional photographs from the Luskin Lecture and a dinner with Ramos that followed on Flickr:

Ramos Luskin Lecture

Students Inspired by an Icon of Journalism and Advocacy Jorge Ramos' personal warmth and rousing words energize his young admirers

By Les Dunseith

As television journalist Jorge Ramos prepared to leave the stage after his visit to UCLA on Oct. 9, dozens of UCLA students swarmed toward him.

They wanted to get closer to Ramos, an icon for many Latinos in the United States. Graciously, he motioned them forward, and soon he was surrounded on all sides by young admirers. Ramos then spent several minutes chatting with them and posing for selfies.

Kimberly Fabian is a sophomore pre-major in the undergraduate major in public affairs that launched this fall at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. She was among those grateful for the opportunity to engage directly with Ramos at the event, during which he was presented the UCLA Medal by Chancellor Gene Block.

“He is the face of Univision, and Univision is what everyone watches when you grow up in a Spanish-speaking household,” she said of Ramos, the longtime host of Univision Noticias’ evening news and its Sunday newsmagazine. “Even if you don’t know a lot about him or his politics, he is someone who has just always been there. It is a big deal to see him live when you are so used to seeing him on the screen.”

“Neutrality sometimes is not an option,” Univision’s Jorge Ramos tells a gathering of about 400 people at a lecture hosted by the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. Read the story. Photo by Les Dunseith

Many other attendees shared Fabian’s sense of familiarity and excitement about Ramos, including Ricardo Aguilera, also a sophomore pre-major in public affairs. He said making time to attend the event was an easy decision.

“Jorge Ramos — he’s a big voice within the political community, within journalism, within advocacy,” he said. “To hear him talk, to hear that inspiration, to see what’s going on? Definitely. I signed up right away.”

UCLA Luskin graduate student Gabriela Solis had the opportunity to speak one-on-one with Ramos before the medal ceremony.

“I guess you never really know about people who get that much attention — how they are going to act or treat other people,” Solis said. “But he was so kind, very down-to-earth. … He has a nurturing presence about him that is really great.”

Solis found inspiration in Ramos’ words, particularly his call to action for students to speak up when they witness injustice or intolerance.

“As someone who is nearing graduation, I have had a lot of thoughts about what I need to do after UCLA, how I can be more useful,” she said. “He was very adamant about taking risks, really using my voice, and using my education to push against the powers-that-be right now.”

Solis said she is sometimes hesitant to speak out, worrying about the potential repercussions of being more vocal or tackling issues outside of her comfort zone.

“Hearing him talk gave me a little bit of a push to think that maybe I could explore doing more organizing, or working closer in the community or potentially running for office,” Solis said.

Inspiration was a familiar theme among attendees, as was gratitude for Ramos’ kind manner and willingness to engage with them on a very personal level.

In a hallway afterward, Fabian approached Ramos with her cellphone in hand.

“I asked him, ‘Can you do me a favor and give a shout-out to my dad’s family and to my mom’s family?’ And he was like, sure. ‘I am here with Kimberly and don’t forget to vote,’ ” Fabian said about the message from Ramos she recorded.

“On top of him being this public figure, suddenly it became something special — here he was saying my name. It was surreal,” she recalled with a wide smile.

At one point, Dulce Vasquez, a first-year master’s degree student in public policy, asked Ramos about the political climate in their shared home state of Florida. Vasquez wanted to know whether Ramos thought the Florida vote in November’s midterm elections might be impacted by the U.S. response in 2017 to devastation in Puerto Rico resulting from Hurricane Maria. Many refugees from Puerto Rico have since relocated to Florida.

“I have not seen the fallout from Hurricane Maria being talked about enough a year later, especially on the West Coast,” said Vasquez, who has prior experience campaigning for Democratic candidates in the state. “It happened near Florida, which is near to my heart, and knowing the shifting demographics of Florida, I was very interested in hearing Ramos’ opinion about the impact on his home state.”

Although Ramos said he doubts that the immediate election impact will be significant, he said that he expects the changing demographics of Florida to eventually have an impact on election results in the traditionally conservative state, perhaps as soon as 2020.

“I kind of thought the same thing,” Vasquez said later of Ramos’ response. “People who have left the island are settling into their new home, and it is going to take a lot of organizing over the next two years to get them all registered, but I think there will be a very strong anti-Republican sentiment among Puerto Ricans moving forward. His response was reaffirming and very spot-on.”

The event was presented as part of the Meyer and Renee Luskin Lecture series at UCLA, and Fabian said the entire evening was memorable for her.

“On top of Jorge Ramos being there, the chancellor was there. And the Luskins were there,” she said afterward. “Hearing these names from a distance, it kind of seems like it’s make-believe. But then when you meet them in person and see that they are actual people who do very real things for us as students — I think it’s beautiful.”

Before the medal ceremony, Solis had the opportunity to meet Chancellor Block and the Luskins, and she also engaged directly in conversation with Ramos.

“I’m a policy fellow at UCLA’s Latino Policy and Politics Initiative, and we did a study recently on Latino voter turnout,” she began. “We studied a get-out-the-vote campaign with AltaMed, a health provider that has historically helped with the Latino community. … In the precincts that they targeted, Latino voter turnout went up 137 percent.”

Ever the inquisitive journalist, Ramos jumped in with a question of his own: “What did they do right?”

Solis explained that volunteers from the medical services provider canvassed in the community wearing T-shirts with the AltaMed name. “The community knows that brand,” Solis told Ramos. “They had people in waiting rooms to sign them up to register to vote. This was the kicker — the doctors would get some sort of light or reminder with something like, ‘Voting is coming up,’ when they were seeing their patients.”

Ramos said this is the sort of extra effort that is needed to combat an ongoing problem with Latino voter turnout, which is often far below that of other demographic groups, and was a factor in the 2016 presidential election.

“I think partly people didn’t want to vote for Donald Trump, and I can understand that. But also they didn’t want to vote for the Democrats because, in the previous government, Obama … promised to do something on immigration reform his first year in office in 2009, and he didn’t do it,” Ramos told Solis. “So people were saying, ‘I didn’t want Trump; I don’t want the Democrats — I’m going to stay home.’ That’s a problem.”

Ramos’ willingness to answer their questions forthrightly impressed many of the students. They also appreciated that Ramos made a point to relate to them as young people. More than once, he noted that he was once in a very similar place in his own life.

“There is a part of me that is very proud,” Vasquez said. “I am a first year master’s student at UCLA, and there is something very special about having that UCLA connection to Jorge Ramos, knowing that UCLA was his home when he first arrived in the United States.”

Fabian had a similar reaction. “With him being a former student at UCLA, and me wondering whether I can ever reach a level of relevance in my life, now I believe I can,” she said. “He just seemed like a normal guy, someone who was once a normal student — but if I can have his passion, then I feel like I can be up for the challenge. It is very inspiring. It makes me feel: If he could do it, why can’t I?”

Mary Braswell and Stan Paul of the UCLA Luskin communications staff also contributed to this story.

View additional photographs from the Luskin Lecture and a dinner with Ramos that followed on Flickr:

Ramos Luskin Lecture

Cecilia Estolano named to UC Board of Regents UCLA Luskin alumna and adjunct faculty member will help shape higher education in California for years to come

Cecilia V. Estolano MA UP ’91 has been appointed to the University of California Board of Regents. 

Estolano, who teaches as an adjunct faculty member at UCLA Luskin, is one of four new regents appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown on Aug. 6.

“I am eager to partner with these accomplished new board members,” UC President Janet Napolitano said.  “Serving on the UC Board of Regents offers a powerful opportunity to shape California higher education for years to come and ensure that future students receive the same excellent UC education as did previous generations of Californians.”

Estolano, an expert in sustainable economic development and urban revitalization, is chief executive officer at Estolano LeSar Advisors. She co-founded the firm in 2011 with UCLA alumni Jennifer LeSar UP ’92 and and Katherine Perez-Estolano MA UP ’97.

Estolano’s long list of accomplishments includes serving as chief executive officer at the City of Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency and as a senior policy advisor at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In addition to her UCLA Luskin master’s degree, Estolano earned a juris doctorate from UC Berkeley and previously served as counsel at Gibson Dunn and Crutcher LLP and as special assistant city attorney in the Los Angeles city attorney’s office.

New appointees to the UC Board of Regents, who must be approved by the California Senate, serve 12-year terms.

Photo by George Foulsham

Read about Estolano, center, LeSar and Perez-Estolano, founders of a Los Angeles-based planning and policy firm.

 

 

 

 

 

‘Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable’ In commencement address, Riverside Mayor Rusty Bailey issues a call to action to more than 200 change agents from Public Policy, Social Welfare and Urban Planning

By Stan Paul

Before conferring hard-won master’s and doctoral degrees upon the 2018 graduating class of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, Dean Gary Segura gave one last assignment:

“Act! Act on … any of a dozen major challenges facing the United States and the world. Act! Make this world better. Make this country what it aspires to be.

“Our celebration today is less about what you’ve already done and far more about what you are expected to do,” Segura told the more than 200 Public Policy, Social Welfare and Urban Planning students graduating before an audience of family, friends and faculty in UCLA’s historic Royce Hall on June 15, 2018.

Following the conferral of degrees, the celebration continued at an outdoor reception. The sea of black graduation gowns was brightened by a rainbow of tassels and academic regalia, along with elaborately decorated mortarboards that told the students’ stories, if in a few words:

“For my family that dreams beyond borders.” “53, got my degree.” “Every end is a new beginning.” One message, in Spanish, thanked parents … and coffee. Another honored the past and projected hope for future generations: “I am my ancestor’s wildest dreams.”

One UCLA Luskin grad who put his degree to good use is William R. “Rusty” Bailey MPP ’99, who is now in his second term as mayor of Riverside, California.

“Rusty Bailey’s leadership of Riverside has been characterized by a willingness to put human well-being at the forefront of his city’s agenda,” Segura said, introducing the keynote speaker. The dean cited Bailey’s focus on serving the city’s homeless, encouraging green development, enhancing mass transit and supporting the arts for his hometown of more than 300,000.

Bailey recalled the two decades since he was admitted to the first MPP class at UCLA Luskin.

“I was sitting where you were almost 20 years ago,” said the West Point graduate and former city councilman. “This institution gave me the tools, the confidence and the network I needed to achieve my ultimate career goal of serving as the mayor of my hometown. …

“If there’s any group of people prepared to tackle these issues and others I’ve mentioned, it is you — UCLA Luskin School graduates,” said Bailey, who was named MPP Alumnus of the Year in 2013. “You are equipped with a well-rounded toolkit that includes social advocacy, policy analysis and community development along with an incredible network of professors, research centers and alumni to keep you encouraged, motivated and accountable.”

Bailey cautioned, “You better get comfortable being uncomfortable,” but added, “Luskin has prepared you to handle it.”

Like the dean, Bailey ended his speech with a challenge for the graduates: “Let’s make it happen. Go out into this world and make things happen for your neighbors, for your families and for humanity.”

‘I refuse to let this diploma allow my fight to fade.
The work does not end when we cross the stage.’

— Student speaker Gabriela Hernandez

Student speakers representing each Luskin School department underscored the message that their work is not done.

“We did it, but we didn’t do it alone,” said MPP Ramandeep Kaur, the daughter of immigrants who spoke for her classmates in thanking those who made their accomplishments possible. “Hopefully now we can explain what public policy means,” she joked.

Kaur said that public policy has historically been used to support discriminatory practices in housing, zoning ordinances, transportation and labor. “But in my hands, in our hands, it can mean so much more,” she said. “In our hands, having a master’s in public policy means having the tools to upend the status quo and disrupt those narratives.

“As change agents, we’re going to rewrite history and those unjust public policies.”

Urban Planning student speaker Aleli Balaguer said her fellow graduates have been more than just classmates during the rigorous two-year program.

“They are kind, passionate, honest, forthright and unwavering in their vision,” Balaguer said. Coming from very different backgrounds, they shared family stories over meals and traveled the globe together, from New Orleans to Mexico to Japan, the Philippines and Indonesia, she said.

“We hosted each other in our families’ homes and worked on group projects until the sun rose, and we presented at Google and multiple city halls,” she said. But, most importantly for Balaguer, “We imagined better, more equitable cities together.”

Social Welfare class speaker Gabriela Hernandez told her fellow students and audience members, “Today, after years of difficult work, I have reclaimed my anger. I am no longer ashamed to be angry. I call my anger passion.”

She recited a poem recounting her journey in the MSW program to “remind us that no matter how far from slavery and segregation we have gone, there is still hella work to be done.”

Her poem concluded:

“The work does not end when you cross the stage/
You were born to fight for life/
I refuse to let this diploma allow my fight to fade/
The work does not end when we cross the stage/
It marks the beginning/
Let my words sink in, feel what you got to feel then please turn that page/
The work does not end when we cross the stage/
Smile because you deserve it, but do not forget those still trapped in a cage/
The work does not end when you cross the stage/
You call it rage, you call it anger, it’s passion/
Let us hold each other up, together, let us take action”

This year, Segura said, the Luskin School has been true to its mission: improving the quality of life for individuals, families and communities. Students and faculty have taken on issues including greenhouse gas abatement, prison population reduction, gentrification, gun violence, home ownership and homelessness in Los Angeles, and economic development across Asia, Africa and Latin America, he said.

But the challenges that lie ahead are great, he warned.

“We live in perilous times. You enter a career in public well-being at a time when longstanding assumptions about our values as a society are challenged in ways most of us had never imagined possible,” Segura said.

Of the separation of migrant families at the nation’s border, he said: “Today, here in the United States of America, 10,000 children are being held in detention, in cages, with foil blankets, ripped from their parents’ arms. Over 1,400 of them have been misplaced, gone missing, some likely into child trafficking. The country plans to build a camp — a camp — to hold 5,000 more children.”

The dean then asked pointedly, “What are you going to do about this? Indeed, what am I going to do about this?”

Segura sent the newly minted change agents into the world with the words of Henry David Thoreau, “Be not simply good; be good for something.”

View additional photos from UCLA Luskin Commencement 2018 on Flickr:

 

Commencement 2018

Leo Estrada: ‘A Giant on Many Fronts’ Former colleagues reflect on the late Urban Planning scholar's 40-year legacy as a researcher, teacher, mentor and role model

By Stan Paul

Leo Estrada was a fierce and effective advocate for Latino voting, civil rights and representation prior to his death in November 2018. For 40 years before his retirement in June 2018, Estrada devoted his time and talent to research and teaching new generations of urban planners. But, for the Texas native who first arrived at UCLA in 1977, his career was also marked from the beginning by civic engagement, leadership and giving back.

Estrada was “a giant on many different fronts,” Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, a longtime Luskin School colleague and urban planning professor, said prior to his death. “He has been an inspiring teacher and a mentor to an endless number of UCLA students and a role model to many Latino and minority students.”

A June 11, 2018, retirement celebration in honor of Estrada recognized his decades of scholarship, service and accomplishments as an associate professor at UCLA and the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.

Estrada was one of the first urban planning scholars to teach and institutionalize courses about diversity and planning, said Loukaitou-Sideris, who is also associate provost for academic planning at UCLA.

“As a brilliant demographer, he was also instrumental in confronting gerrymandering and giving ethnic communities equal representation in California and other states around the country,” she said.

“As if these accomplishments have not been enough, Leo has also served on a number of important university shared-governance posts,” Loukaitou-Sideris said at the time. His most recent leadership post was no small assignment — guiding the direction of UCLA for years to come as chair of the Academic Senate in 2015-16.

UCLA Luskin colleague Fernando Torres-Gil said last spring that Estrada also conducted pioneering work in the fields of gerontology and Latino aging.

“As a young graduate student I came to know about Leo Estrada,” said Torres-Gil, professor of public policy and social welfare. “He was completing his dissertation at Florida State at a time when the field of aging was new and no one had investigated the demographic and social issues of an emerging population — Latinos.”

His former colleague had “the foresight to raise issues of Latino aging, support budding graduate students like myself and become a co-founder of important Hispanic advocacy groups.”

Torres-Gil, director of the UCLA Luskin-based Center for Policy Research on Aging,  said of Estrada: “I owe much to his early mentoring, to his friendship and, best of all, to becoming colleagues in the Luskin School.”

According to Torres-Gil, Estrada was among the first and longest-serving Latinos in the Luskin School and its earlier iterations of Social Welfare and Urban Planning at UCLA.

UCLA and Beyond the Gates

Estrada had been at UCLA during its growth into one of the pre-eminent universities in the world.

“When I came here, I would consider UCLA to be one of the better schools in the United States,” Estrada said prior to his retirement ceremony. “As I leave now, in the year 2018, it is one of the best. And so I’m very proud because I participated in some aspects of that all along the way.”

The Leo Estrada fellowship fund at the Luskin School of Public Affairs
will support graduate students in the department of
Urban Planning with an unmet financial need who are from cultural,
racial, linguistic, geographic and socioeconomic backgrounds that are
underrepresented in graduate education.

Estrada had felt called to engage in the issues, events and protests around him. When he arrived at UCLA, he said last spring, “There was always something happening, and every place I had been to earlier discouraged the faculty from community involvement.”

But Estrada encountered a different attitude in an interview with his first boss at UCLA, the late Harvey Perloff, known as the “dean” of American urban planners and iconic early leader of UCLA’s Graduate School of Architecture and Urban Planning, as it was then known.

“He asked me if I had a question and I said, ‘Yes.’ I said, ‘If I become involved in community issues and spend some of my time not only on campus but off campus, will that be a problem?’ And he said, ‘It’s not a problem at all.’ In fact, he said, ‘I’ll reward you for it.’

“Reward me for it?” repeated Estrada.  He recalled Perloff’s response: “ ‘I think our faculty in the field of planning should be in the community, so you do what you have to do. Try not to get arrested.’ ”

Estrada dove into issues in Los Angeles, then the Southwest, then across the country.

“One of the things I had was a skill in mapping, and so I became involved in redistricting issues” in cities including San Diego, Sacramento, Albuquerque, Chicago and New York, he said prior to his retirement.

“The latest thing I did was redistrict the congressional districts in Arizona after the last Census,” said Estrada, who became a go-to expert for government, academics and the media. “I had a talent and I used it.”

The Call

Estrada’s community involvement put him at the forefront of issues in Los Angeles — including the beating of Rodney King in 1991 and the formation of the Christopher Commission to examine use of force by the LAPD.

Estrada recalled answering his home phone one night about 8 o’clock. “It was Tom Bradley. You don’t expect to receive a call from the mayor,” he said. Bradley invited him downtown the next morning to talk about serving on a commission. Estrada didn’t have classes that day, so he agreed.

“When I got downtown, I was introduced as one of Bradley’s group of seven people that had been selected to serve on this commission. When I showed up, I expected to see the mayor and some of his deputy mayors, and there we were in front of the cameras .”

Estrada said the commission worked from early morning into the evening during the 100 days he served. “It was an incredible experience. We worked every day of the week, Saturdays and Sundays near the end as well,” he said. “We argued a lot.”

“As a brilliant demographer, Leo was instrumental in confronting gerrymandering and giving ethnic communities equal representation in California and other states around the country.”

Anastasia Loukaitou-Siderisurban planning professor 

Relations between police and the public had been deteriorating in Los Angeles for some time. The Christopher Commission concluded that a breakdown in LAPD management created a culture that tolerated the excessive use of force. But the following spring, the acquittal of four officers involved in the beating triggered the Los Angeles riots, which led to scores of deaths.

“It’s one of the most important moments of my history and life here in Los Angeles,” Estrada recalled as he prepared to retire. “That little commission report started a whole movement of community policing that took over in most of the United States.”

On Planning

Estrada’s fascination with the planning profession never waned.

“I think urban planning is … one of the key fields right now in academia. There’s almost nothing that doesn’t touch on planning,” he said last spring. The profession has expanded its horizons, he said, pointing to areas such as food systems and bike path planning as “something we never would have thought of 20 years ago.”

“I’m just pleased by the way we expanded into new fields, never got stuck in a status quo. [We’re] always looking for new ways to make planning relevant to all aspects of urban life,” Estrada said.

In some ways, the field has become more complex, he said, but planners have access to new technology that didn’t exist a generation ago.

“As long as people really believe in trying to make this a better world, we can make things happen,” he said.

Giving Back

“UCLA has been really good to me, and I have been appreciative,” Estrada said as he looked back on his long career prior to retiring. “They provided me with resources, opportunities, just an incredible amount. I can’t even begin to list the amount of things I’ve been able to do, in the department, at the university. And I’ve felt blessed.”

As he approached retirement, Estrada decided he needed to give back. He had previously served on the Undergraduate Council and Academic Senate, and in 2015 he stepped up to chair the Senate, which allows the faculty to participate in governing the university.

But this was no twilight tour for Estrada. “You find yourself in a position of negotiating constantly, and UCLA is such a monster in terms of what’s going on, so many things happening, so many people, and there’s 3,700 members of the Academic Senate and you represent them as the spokesperson.”

“I gave back a lot more than I was expecting,” said Estrada earlier this year. “Some things were controversial.

He added, “Leaders of the Academic Senate … work every day to make the faculty at UCLA the best that it can be.

“It gives you a perspective,” he said of his time on the Academic Senate.  “That’s why I can tell you I know for sure that UCLA is one of the best schools in the world because I’ve seen what we do and how it’s done to sustain that kind of quality.”

View photos from the retirement celebration in a Flickr album:

Leo Estrada Retirement Celebration

‘Gratitude and Respect’

In preparation for the retirement celebration, students and colleagues from all three UCLA Luskin departments recalled the essential role that Leo Estrada played in their education and careers.

“Leo’s tireless mentorship of our master’s and Ph.D. students is very well-known, and we will honestly struggle mightily to fill that void after he leaves. What might not be as well known is his mentorship of junior faculty. In my case, Leo taught me more than anyone how to work –how to organize your time and ideas, and how to prioritize between the countless opportunities and responsibilities that we face in these great jobs we have. I will continue to pass this advice down to future colleagues and try (and often fail) to fully implement his advice.”

Michael LensAssociate professor of urban planning and public policy

“When people learn that I was in urban planning at UCLA, their most frequently asked follow up question is “Do you know Leo Estrada? From community spaces to academic conferences to quick conversations with people I’ve just met, Leo is a living legend whose legacy will stretch far beyond his more than four decades at UCLA. Leo was my Ph.D. advisor and dissertation committee chair, and I am endlessly grateful that from day one he modeled for me his incredible dedication to mentoring, to teaching, and to being an active citizen of the university community. Now as a professor at CSULB I often find myself thinking ‘What Would Leo Do?’ when considering how to guide my own students. The answer is easy: I remind myself of the ways in which Leo always sees his students as the whole people that they are, which means it is only natural that he then teaches and mentors them from a place of authentic care. I know I’m not alone in saying that Leo had a significant impact on my trajectory as an educator, and on how I learned to envision a place for myself in academia and the community.”

Nina Flores, UP Ph.D. ’16Assistant Professor, Social & Cultural Analysis of Education, California State University Long Beach.

“Professor Estrada always listened first, and then provided his sage and soft prompts that got us back on our feet and headed in the right direction.  And he did this for so many students.  There was a constant stream of students visiting him in office hours to discuss any number of issues.  He has helped thousands of students, and so many of them first generation students of color who, without his guidance, might not have been the first in their families to attain a master’s or doctorate degree. I have also been fortunate to stay connected with Professor Estrada post my UCLA studies, through the enormous work he has led in redistricting, demographics and spatial analysis.  Professor Estrada’s work trail blazed equitable representation and full counts of ALL people across Los Angeles, California and beyond. Finally, his wisdom in connecting his students to his applied research work ensured the next generation of demographers, urban planners, and policy leaders follow in his footsteps. To Leo, you have my eternal gratitude, respect, and prayers for good health.”

Veronica Melvin MPP ’01President & CEO of LA Promise Fund

“Dr. Estrada represents everything that I hope to be in a Professor. He is brilliant, warm, fair, empowering and extremely skilled in shepherding students through the hurdles of academia.  As a woman of color returning for my doctorate in my 40s, Dr. Estrada met my anxious arrival with a calm ‘I know how to get you through, don’t worry.’ My doctoral program was a tough road, as I usually had at least one job (sometimes two) and I was a single parent for much of the time. Dr. Estrada made sure I stayed on track, focused on what was important and made each milestone. Most importantly, he serves as my model for how I interact with students. As a scholar dedicated to social and economic justice, I feel helping students access public education is a vital part of my mission.  UCLA, as a great public institution, is only as great as how its faculty provides this access. Dr. Estrada embodies this role – He broke through barriers and widened the pathway for others to follow.  Without him, countless students of color would not have achieved their graduate degrees.  As a three time Bruin (BA ’91, MA/MSW ’99, PhD ’14), when I define UCLA’s greatness, I describe the faculty that truly believe in the purpose of public education – and Dr. Estrada personifies that purpose.”

Susan J. Nakaoka, MA ’99, MSW ’99, PhD ’14Assistant Professor in the Division of Social Work, College of Health and Human Services, California State University Sacramento

“While Leo is a national leader in the field of demographics and was instrumental in developing and teaching the department’s GIS curriculum, I think his most important contribution has been to the hundreds of students he has mentored and supported. For many years Leo and I were the Faculty Counseling Board tasked with helping students who were having academic trouble. Leo had a marvelous way of getting students to focus on why things weren’t going well and to help them create a plan to overcome their difficulties.  He was supportive at every step and I can’t remember a student who did not ultimately complete the program successfully – in many cases largely because of Leo’s encouragement.  We also both worked on admissions for the department. When tough decisions were required, Leo was always willing to read and discuss files, give valuable input and straightforward opinions.  He has been instrumental in helping the department student body become as diverse as it is.  Many excellent students applied to our program because of their introduction to Urban Planning in Leo’s undergraduate courses. Whether fellow faculty member, staff or student, Leo would always make time to listen and offer support. I feel very lucky to have worked with him for so many years and to have him as a friend.”

Robin LiggettProfessor emeritus of urban planning

Another Super Trivia Night Annual Super Quiz Bowl brings out UCLA Luskin’s best — and most competitive — for an evening of brain-teasing questions, some good-natured teasing and plenty of hearty laughter

UCLA Luskin’s annual trivia competition was held for a sixth year on May 31, 2018, inside a tent on the 3rd Floor Terrace of the Public Affairs Building.

Organized by Luskin Director of Events Tammy Borrero with assistance from students and numerous staff members, the structure of the event led to a tightly competitive night, with more than 100 people in attendance and various teams of students, faculty, alumni and staff from all over UCLA Luskin still in contention until final tallies were made.

In the end, Public Policy snagged first and second place thanks to Quiz Bowl ChAMPPions (helmed by UP SAO Sean Campbell) and Bees Get Degrees (with alum and Luskin Center staff member Kelly Trumbull).  City Bootyful, with Juan Matute of the Lewis Center and ITS leading the charge, got Urban Planning on the map in third place. Team No Faculty, headed by alumna Alycia Cheng, finished just short of third and a near-sweep for Public Policy.

The winning team’s name will be engraved on the new Super Quiz Bowl trophy, joining previous winners such as teams led by faculty members Brian Taylor and Sergio Serna, both of whom were back this year but ultimately fell short of capturing the magic a second time.

Grad Night funding was again based on participation, and 50 percent of the proceeds will be divided among all three UCLA Luskin departments because each department fielded at least one team. Urban Planning won the other categories related to attendance and total team participation.

In addition to the numerous student participants (some returning for a second try and some testing their Luskin knowledge for the first time), the event brought in several faculty participants. In addition to Taylor and Serna, the faculty on hand were Kian Goh, David Cohen, Michael Manville, Ayako Miyashita Ochoa and Joan Ling. Participating alumni included Taylor, Manville, Ling, Trumbull, Matute, Cheng and James Howe.

Staff members who competed were the winning team’s Campbell, plus Social Welfare’s Tanya Youssephzadeh and Public Policy’s Oliver Ike. Executive Director of External Relations Nicole Payton provided several questions. Many other staff members and students helped out as needed and hovered in the background to join the fun and cheer on their friends and colleagues.

As the pictures posted to the UCLA Luskin Flickr feed show, it was a fun-filled night of friendly competition that brought the entire UCLA Luskin community together to wrap up the academic year.

Quiz Bowl 2018