The UCLA Luskin Lecture Series enhances public discourse on topics relevant to the betterment of society. The Series features renowned public intellectuals, bringing together scholars as well as national and local leaders to address society’s most pressing problems. Lectures encourage interactive, lively discourse across traditional divides between the worlds of research, policy and practice. The Series demonstrates UCLA Luskin’s commitment to encouraging innovative breakthroughs and creative solutions to formidable public policy challenges.

This Year’s Luskin Lecture Events

Housing for Black People by Black People 

Thursday, May 9, 2024
Downtown Los Angeles

Housing and real estate were instrumental in the concentration of Black disadvantage in U.S. cities. Government and private actors erected barriers to investment and homeownership in Black communities, and now many Black neighborhoods are locked in a downward spiral of devaluation, disinvestment and deterioration. When investments are made, many longtime residents do not benefit, or may even be priced out.

In this session, panelists will discuss this history and provide real-world examples of how Black leaders are investing in Black communities and housing. Featuring:

two men and two women sit together on a stage as one holds a microphone and the others look on

The UCLA Luskin Lawmakers 

Thursday, March 7, 2024
UCLA Luskin Conference Center

During this event, three alumni — one from each UCLA Luskin master’s program — talked about how they are making a difference in California policymaking. Lourdes Castro Ramírez MA UP ’96, L.A.’s chief housing and homelessness officer, opened the evening with a presentation focusing on her perspective on housing, which is rooted in her many years as a policymaker and practitioner at the federal, state and local levels.

She was then joined on stage by Caroline Menjivar MSW ’18 of the state Senate and Assemblymember Isaac Bryan MPP ’18 to talk about their current and future efforts to bring people inside and build more affordable housing. This Q&A was moderated by longtime adjunct instructor and UCLA Luskin Board of Advisors member Michael Fleming of the David Bohnett Foundation.

Read more about the UCLA Luskin Lawmakers and view photos from the event.

Ijeoma Opara on Approaching Substance Use Prevention by Harnessing Black Girls’ Strengths

Thursday, Oct. 19, 2023
California Nanosystems Institute, UCLA Campus

Yale University scholar Ijeoma Opara delved into substance use prevention tailored to the unique challenges faced by Black girls, harnessing their inherent strengths to achieve success. Many Black girls encounter intersecting societal pressures, deal with stereotypes and often must overcome systemic inequalities. Shifting the narrative from deficits to strengths provides a proactive and empowering solution. Scholars and service providers can foster resilience, confidence and a sense of agency through a strengths-based approach, equipping Black girls with the knowledge and confidence they need to make informed, healthy choices.

Read more about Ijeoma Opara’s UCLA appearance and view photos from the event.

Black woman wearing glasses speaks from a podium with a UCLA Luskin backdrop behind her

2nd Annual Distinguished Lecture in Ideas and Organizing with Barbara Ransby

Thursday, Feb. 8, 2024

UCLA Kerckhoff Grand Salon

The UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy and the Luskin Lecture Series presented Professor Barbara Ransby for the 2nd Annual Distinguished Lecture in Ideas and Organizing.

A noted writer, historian and activist, Ransby explored the inter-institutional space of ideas and organizing, linking research and scholarship to communities and movement-based work in a presentation titled, “Scholar-Activism in the Era of the New McCarthyism.”

A discussion moderated by UCLA Professor Ananya Roy followed, with Ransby joined by UCLA scholars Sherene H. Razack and David C. Turner III.

Read more about Barbara Ransby’s UCLA appearance and view photos from the event.

Luskin Lecture Events From Previous Years

Two women are seated on stage, where a woman in red speaks and the other listens

May 3, 2023: Los Angeles County Supervisor Holly J. Mitchell spoke about the work being done to strengthen the public social safety net that serves as a lifeline for so many families in the region, including Breathe: L.A. County’s Guaranteed Income Program, one of the largest and longest programs of its kind in the nation. Read more.

April 27, 2023: This Luskin Lecture featured MacArthur “genius” award-winning activist Catherine Coleman Flowers and her groundbreaking, community-driven work on the previously invisible problem of inadequate water and sanitation infrastructure in rural communities in the United States. Read more.

two men talk while seated in front of a projection screen

February 28, 2023: Author and scholar Robert Cervero probed a number of policy initiatives that implicitly aim to enhance physical access but for which social equity has been at best secondary and all too often an afterthought. He revisited his own past work as well as that of others on policy initiatives, drawing from global experiences, both empirically and inferentially. Read more. 

woman with glasses and white shirt at podium

February 15, 2023: Scholar, author and activist Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor reflected on her work around Black politics, social movements and racial inequality. Read more.

Two men in white chairs on stage in front of blue curtain

November 3, 2022: Kal Penn, the UCLA graduate, actor, author and former public official spoke about his career in entertainment and public service, weaving a path of dueling passions that appeals to anyone who has more than one interest in life. Read more.

May 12, 2022: Often described as the father of environmental justice, professor Robert Bullard of Texas Southern University is a renowned advocate for those who suffer the earliest and most damaging setbacks from climate change simply because of where they live. His presentation focused on empowering vulnerable populations in the United States and ensuring that climate change mitigation is fair and equitable. Read more.

April 7, 2022: Authors E.J. Dionne and Miles Rapoport discussed their book about the U.S. election process and how it compares to other countries. They argued that the time has come for the United States to take a major leap forward and recognize voting as both a fundamental civil right and a solemn civic obligation. Read more

April 4, 2022: Environmentalist Mary Nichols helped lead California’s internationally recognized efforts to reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions during four terms as chair of the California Air Resources Board. Her legacy has encouraged policymakers to cut emissions from the transportation sector — the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the state and nation. Read more

March 9, 2021: Pulitzer Prize-winner Megan Twohey, above left, shared insights and anecdotes from an investigation of sexual misconduct by film producer Harvey Weinstein that was a landmark revelation in what later coalesced into the #MeToo movement. Moderating the session was Meredith Phillips, professor of public policy and chair of the undergraduate program at UCLA Luskin. Read more

Nov. 10, 2020: Neera Tanden, a UCLA alumna and the president and CEO of the Center for American Progress, held a post-election analysis with Dean Gary Segura. Tanden, who served in both the Obama and Clinton administrations and was later nominated by President Joe Biden to serve in his cabinet, discussed the current state of the electoral process and the future of the country under the newly elected president.  Read more

Oct. 21, 2020: “Voices of Dissent” featured conservative political experts Sarah Longwell and Steve Schmidt, who broke from the Republican Party to oppose the reelection of President Donald Trump. Schmidt called Trump “an autocrat who is unfaithful to the American republic’s ideas and ideals.” Read more

Feb. 11, 2020: In her keynote address, historian Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz traced U.S. gun culture from the nation’s founding to its present-day schisms and the grave consequences of America’s “gun love.” Dunbar-Ortiz joined Ismael Ileto and Adam Winkler for a panel discussion moderated by Brad Rowe. The panelists related personal tales of loss, discussed how to best effect change and discussed arguments over the reach of the Second Amendment. Read more. 

Jan. 15, 2020: A screening of a digital adaptation of “We Gon’ Be Alright,” Jeff Chang’s critically acclaimed collection of essays on racial resegregation, followed by a dialogue with the author and filmmakers. Read more.

 November 7, 2019: James Forman, Jr., author of  “Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America,”  shares insights on how America became the ‘World’s Largest Jailer’ while discussing his critically acclaimed 2017 book. The book explores how decisions made by black leaders — often with the best of intentions — contributes to disproportionately incarcerating black and brown people. Read more.

Oct. 17, 2019: During “Dawn of a New Day: Asian American Women Who Are Changing Media,” panelists actress Tess Paras, writer Fawzia Mirza, performance artist Kristina Wong, and director Grace Lee fierce discussed their experiences on becoming female leaders, storytellers, and activists who challenge a predominantly male-dominated film/tv/media industry. With moderator Ada Tseng of TimesOC. For a full recap of the event, click here.

Oct. 10, 2019: UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs joined the Human Rights Campaign in providing nine Democratic presidential candidates a forum to speak about their policy platforms and plans regarding moving LGBTQ equality forward. Read more.

May 14, 2019: In a moderated Q&A, featured panelists including Richard Alatorre, Gil Cedillo, Gloria Molina, Richard Polanco, and Antonio Villaraigosa share their thoughts on the history authors David R. Ayón and George L. Pla capture in their book “Power Shift: How Latinos in California Transformed Politics in America”.  To read a full recap of the event, click here.

May 1, 2019: During their lecture “Just Urban Design: Un-Walling Citizenship,” Teddy Cruz and Fonna Forman discussed their inspiration for MEXUS, exhibited at the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale, among other ongoing projects. Click here for a full recap on the lecture.

April 23, 2019: Professor Setha Low shared five dimensions of evaluating the success of public spaces to better assess social justice in public infrastructure based on 25 years of ethnographic research on parks, plazas and streets in cities such as New York, Philadelphia and San José, Costa Rica during her lecture “Social Justice and Public Space: Propositions and Problems.” Click here for a full recap of the lecture.

March 5, 2019: Author and educator Cris Beam shared policy and cultural insights into improving queer care, as well as her personal experiences fostering a trans teenager, during her lecture, “Queer Care: LGBTQ Youth in Child Welfare.”

October 9, 2018: Jorge Ramos. A pivotal figure in the American Latino community, Ramos is the long-time host of Univision Noticias’ evening news, as well as their Sunday news magazine Al Punto. His more than 30 years of engaging and informative reporting — as well as his unwavering dedication to advancing the rights of marginalized communities — have been an inspiration to so many people. He was recognized for his decades of achievements in journalism, and his advocacy for Latino and immigrant communities, with the presentation of the UCLA Medal. Read more.

April 26-April 27, 2018: “Black, Brown, and Powerful: Freedom Dreams in Unequal Cities.” This two-day Luskin Lecture powerfully addresses the use of academic research to advocate for societal change regarding the affordable housing crisis in California, urban displacement, and inequality. To read more about the discussion and watch videos, click here.

March 5, 2018: “A Conversation with Chelsea Manning.” To read the recap of the event with the former United States Defense intelligence analyst, click here

Fall 2017: Off the Table. The UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and the UCLA Food Studies Graduate Certificate Program presented a series of events that took topics of urban agriculture, food security and food policy off the table and brought awareness to the food movement in the Los Angeles area. Read the recap of the events by clicking here

May 25, 2017: “Do Words Matter? Journalism, Communication and Alternative Truth.” A daylong symposium during which journalists, scholars and media pundits debated whether truth matters in a polarized United States, and reporter and news anchor Ray Suarez summarized the condition of American politics vs. American journalism. Read the recap of the event by clicking here.

April 28-30, 2017: “Flash Point 2017.” A weekend of reflection, debate, education and artistic interpretation marking the 25th anniversary of the start of the Los Angeles Riots in 1992. Read the recap of the event by clicking here.

Watch the video of the “Media and Social Change” panel discussion.

Feb. 7, 2017: “Disrupt Aging” featuring Jo Ann Jenkins, CEO of AARP. Read the recap of the event and view a video interview with Jenkins by clicking here.

Feb. 5, 2016: “The Audacity of Despair”
A Conversation with David Simon
Read the recap of the event by clicking here.

Jan. 12, 2016: “The Paris Agreement: An Agreement for Humanity”
A Conversation with Mary Robinson
Read the recap of the event by clicking here.

March 30, 2015: “A Conversation With Leon Panetta
Read the recap of the event by clicking here.

April 14, 2015: “The Role of Arts & Culture in Public Life”
Read about the event by clicking here.

Dec. 4, 2014: “Lessons from Little Rock: A Conversation with Terrence Roberts
Read the recap of the event by clicking here.

May 15, 2015: “A Conversation With U.S. Transportation Sec. Anthony Foxx
Read about the event by clicking here.

Jan. 29, 2014: “A Conversation With Sec. Madeleine Albright
Read the recap of the event by clicking here.

Oct. 21, 2014: “American Winter: Millions of Americans Still Left Out in the Cold”: A Documentary Screening and Discussion
Read the recap of the event by clicking here.

March 21, 2013: The Future of Aging in America: A Conversation with A. Barry Rand, CEO of AARP
Read the complete Rand recap by clicking here.

March 6, 2013: Partnering for Schools: Building the Future of Education in Los Angeles with Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa & LA Unified School District Superintendent John Deasy
Read the complete Villaraigosa-Deasy recap by clicking here.

Dec. 4, 2013: “A Conversation With Marian Wright Edelman
Read the recap of the event by clicking here.

Jan. 23, 2013: Campaigns Matter! with former Governor Howard Dean
Read the Howard Dean recap by clicking here.

Feb. 28, 2013: Change Can Come with New York City Commissioner of Transportation Janette Sadik-Khan
Read the complete Sadik-Khan recap by clicking here.

Oct. 17, 2012: Sea Change or More of the Same? Looking Beyond Nov. 6. See video by clicking here.

Feb. 16, 2012: A Conversation with Charles Ogletree, Harvard University
Read the Charles Ogletree recap by clicking here.

Nov. 7, 2013: “Policing: Where We Have Been, Where We Are & Where We Are Going” with former LAPD Chief William J. Bratton.
Read the Bratton review by clicking here.

The Luskin School of Public Affairs at UCLA acknowledges the Gabrielino/tongva peoples as the traditional land caretakers of Tovaangar (the Los Angeles basin and Southern Channel Islands). As a land grant institution, we pay our respects to the Honuukvetam (Ancestors), ‘Aniihirom (Elders) and ‘Eyoohiinkem (our relatives/relations) past, present, and emerging.