Stephen Cheung Making Waves at LA Port

The port of Los Angeles and Long Beach is the busiest port in the United States and currently receives 44 percent of all cargo shipped to our country. In 2012, this amounted to about eight million cargo units with global trade partners including China, Japan and South Korea.

Stephen Cheung, a 2007 graduate from the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs with a Master of Social Work degree, is now the Director of International Development at the Port of Los Angeles and is in charge of overseeing international port trade. Cheung works to maintain Los Angeles as a dominant international trading hub by attracting new partners and strengthening current relationships.

“We have been the ideal and more advantageous destination,” Cheung said, “but by 2015 places like the gulf coast and the new Panama Canal are going to create more competition. So we have to be more strategic and look at new partnerships and commodities to attract and retain business. Before the rest of the world can catch up we still have the opportunity to market ourselves and look at new areas, including Vietnam and Brazil as potential trading partners.”

Cheung said the Port has a significant impact on the local and national economy, generating 3.3 million jobs nationally. The port can also have a negative environmental impact through high levels of pollution. Cheung believes the role the port has in building strong communities through economic vitality and the potential to reduce the environmental impact makes his job unique and interesting.

“Los Angeles is a global leader in trade and in mitigating our environmental footprint,” says Cheung. Before coming to the Port, Cheung worked for Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and helped create and run the Clean Air Action Plan.

The Clean Air Action Plan (CAAP), started in 2006 as a five-year program to reduce emissions at the LA and Long Beach port by 45 percent. The aggressive plan invested $2 billion and partnered with the U.S Environmental Protection Agency and local air quality organizations. Replacing older diesel using trucks and using new technologies to reducing truck emission is another key element to the plan.

Although all goals have not been met yet, the program was considered successful and was renewed in 2010. New standards include reducing residential cancer risk of port-related emissions by 85 percent.

“It’s not just about making money,” Cheung said. “The port helps create economic opportunity but also is committed to the surrounding community. We are a leader on environmental issues. Our connectivity can help shape our outlook and what we can do together.”

It might seem unlikely that an alum with a Master’s of Social Work works for International Development at the Port, but Cheung sees it as a very natural progression.

Cheung praised the internship requirement as a UCLA Luskin student and credited his current career to his internship with Representative Karen Bass’s office while at Luskin. He began working in government at the Mayor’s office soon after graduating in 2007.

“My experience working at Karen Bass’ office prepared me for working in local and state government. It was very a practical and hands-on experience that helped build my career with the Mayor’s office,” Cheung said.

Cheung also credited the vast networking opportunities available to Luskin students and urged current students to not get overwhelmed and take advantage of what is offered, including the Senior Fellows program. Cheung participated in the fellowship program and worked with Jean Ross, then Executive Director of the California Budget Project.

“Take advantage of everything and do some digging to find support,” Cheung advised. “Don’t get too overwhelmed with the academics.”

Cheung said we was encouraged to see more Luskin alums working in all levels of government. As an example, he referred to his fellow Luskin alum, Antonio Sanchez, running for District Representative for the LA Unified School District. According to Cheung, Luskin alums working in government can use their unique social justice perspective to impact the system in responsible ways to address the concerns and needs of communities.

UCLA Luskin alumni and students are cordially invited to a UCLA Luskin Alumni Student Networking Event at the Port of Los Angeles!

Join us for a special afternoon of networking, a behind the scenes look at the Port of Los Angeles, and a brief Boat Tour.  Don’t miss this opportunity to reunite with fellow alumni and meet current students!

Friday, April 19, 2013

11:30 AM – 3:00 PM

The Port of Los Angeles
425 South Palos Verdes Street
Los Angeles, CA 90731

Lunch will be provided! 

All guests will be charged $10 to cover the cost of the experience.

Schedule for the Day:

11:45 am – 12:00 pm      Welcome to the Port of Los Angeles – Security Check-In

Port of Los Angeles Administration Building

12:00 pm – 12:45 pm   Briefing at the Port of Los Angeles

Port of Los Angeles Administration Building Board Room

1:00 pm – 2:30 pm     Boat Tour of the Port of Los Angeles

Harbor Breeze Vessel, Berth 84

Limited space is available; please RSVP only if you can confirm your attendance when doing so.  An RSVP should not be used as a tentative place holder.  Parking and directions for Check-In will be sent approximately one week prior to the event.

Click here to RSVP.

Feel free to email with any questions!

Available exclusively to UCLA Luskin grads and students, Luskin Online is the best resource for current students and alumni to connect in a Luskin-only setting. Click here to be a part of it!

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