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Alumni Awards Recognize Three With Ties to Luskin School Debra Duardo, Sheila Kuehl and Kristen Torres Pawling are honored for their service to UCLA and their communities

By Manon Snyder

The UCLA Alumni Association will pay tribute to policymakers, activists and other leaders for their lifelong dedication to bringing Bruin values into the world.

Of the seven 2022 UCLA Award honorees who will be recognized at a May 21 ceremony at the UCLA Meyer and Renee Luskin Conference Center, three have ties to the Luskin School of Public Affairs:

Debra Duardo — UCLA Award for Public Service

Duardo is a triple Bruin who earned her bachelor’s degree in women’s studies and Chicana/o studies in 1994, her master’s in social work in 1996 and a doctorate in 2013 from what was then called the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies. In 2013, she was named UCLA Luskin’s Joseph A. Nunn Social Welfare Alumnus of the Year.

After having to drop out of high school to work full time and postponing higher education until her late 20s, Duardo has dedicated her career to ensuring a safe environment for underrepresented students. Duardo worked for the Los Angeles Unified School District for 20 years and in 2016 was appointed Los Angeles County Superintendent of Schools by the county board of supervisors, where she continues to pursue equity for 2 million students.

Sheila Kuehl — Edward A. Dickinson Alum of the Year

Kuehl earned her bachelor’s degree in English from UCLA in 1962. She is a former University of California Regents’ Professor in public policy at UCLA Luskin, where she received the Ruth Roemer Social Justice Leadership Award for her work in homelessness.

Kuehl has been a lifelong trailblazer for women’s rights and queer representation in politics. In 1994, Kuehl was the first openly gay or lesbian person elected to the California Legislature, and throughout her many tenures in public office, she has passed important bills advancing the rights of disenfranchised communities in Los Angeles County and California as a whole. She will retire from the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors this year. Kuehl has been previously honored by UCLA in 1993 with the UCLA Award for Community Service and in 2000 with the UCLA Award for Public Service.

Kuehl attended UCLA at the same time as she was filming “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis,” playing the character of Zelda Gilroy. Upon graduation from UCLA, she became an associate dean of students. In addition to her position as a Regents’ Professor at UCLA Luskin, Kuehl taught law at UCLA, USC and Loyola Law School.

Kristen Torres Pawling — Young Alumnus of the Year

Pawling completed her bachelor’s degree in geography and environmental studies from UCLA in 2009 and her master’s in urban and regional planning in 2012. She served as an executive fellow in the office of the chair on California climate change policy in Sacramento, where she also joined the Sacramento Alumni Network and helped grow its young alumni program. Pawling brought her expertise to the climate crisis as an air pollution specialist for the California Air Resources Board Transportation Planning Branch and helped the Natural Resources Defense Council’s urban solutions department implement its strategic plan in Los Angeles. She is currently the sustainability program director for Los Angeles County.

Other 2022 UCLA Award honorees are:

UCLA Alumni Band — Network of the Year

Monica Ebeltoft — Volunteer of the Year

Alberto Retana — UCLA Award for Community Service

A. Wallace Tashima — UCLA Award for Professional Achievement

Read more about all of the 2022 UCLA Award Recipients.

In Memoriam: Karen Lee, Former Field Faculty Member A co-founder of a national consortium focusing on geriatric social work, she educated and mentored hundreds of students during 12 years at UCLA

Former UCLA faculty member Karen Lee died of cancer Jan. 25 at her home in Eugene, Oregon. 

Lee’s tenure at UCLA Luskin Social Welfare began in 2002 as a member of the field education faculty, and she later served as associate director of the Master of Social Welfare program. She retired in 2014.

Known for fostering student interest in geriatric social work, Lee represented UCLA as a founding member of the Geriatric Social Work Education Consortium, or GSWEC. Twenty years later, the consortium continues to flourish, and the partnership of universities and centers of excellence has expanded. 

Lee is fondly remembered for her passion and guidance by many, including her former colleagues in Social Welfare.     

“I truly considered her a role model in the way she interacted with students and taught in the classroom,” Laura Alongi Brinderson said. “Her sweet smile and infectious laughter will not be forgotten.”

Michelle Talley recalled being assigned to work with Lee when she first arrived at UCLA, shadowing her and learning how to teach and manage a classroom. “It really helped me to understand the role,” Talley said.    

“Karen Lee will be missed by our Social Welfare community at UCLA and beyond,” said former colleague Gerry Laviña, director of field faculty at UCLA Luskin.

Laviña recalled that the “Advanced Practice in Aging” course taught by Lee was highly evaluated, and she was known to be a readily accessible field liaison who touched the lives of many students.

As news of Lee’s death spread on social media, several alumni and friends posted remembrances on the Social Welfare alumni page on Facebook saying they viewed her as a pivotal mentor during their time as MSW students and as someone who continued to make an impact in their personal and professional lives well after graduation.   

“She was more than a teacher — she was friend, mentor, cheerleader, and all around mensch,” wrote Charlie Padow MSW ’07. “I am not alone. She touched countless lives as an educator and a friend.”

Jean Dorsky wrote: “As a gerontology specialist, Karen was pivotal in my career choice. I will always remember her as being honest, fair, and funny and insightful.”

“This is such a surprise. … Karen was a mentor in more ways than one,” wrote Brittany Leigh, who continued to say that Lee cared not only “about what we did at school, but really cared about me as an individual.”

She is survived by her husband, Joseph “Joe” Lee, and sister, Eileen. The family has requested that donations in her name be made to Food for Lane County, a nonprofit food bank near their home. 

Alumni Notes

CELEBRATING THE CLASS OF 2020

The Luskin School welcomed students and alumni back to campus with a series of celebrations and orientations to launch the new academic year. The 10th annual UCLA Luskin Block Party on Sept. 23 drew a record crowd as students, alumni, faculty, staff and supporters such as Meyer and Renee Luskin gathered on Dickson Court North to connect with one another after an 18-month stretch of remote learning brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. The week wrapped up with an exclusive reception, above, for Class of 2020 graduates in the School’s public policy, social welfare and urban planning programs at the Luskin Conference Center for a celebration of their academic achievement.


Therese Agnes Hughes MA UP ’99

ALUMNA RECOGNIZES WOMEN IN THE MILITARY

Author and photojournalist Therese Agnes Hughes MA UP ’99 grew up in the military with a father who served in World War II, so her respect for people in service started at
a young age. She lived in far-flung places such as Guam and Hawaii as a result of her dad’s career.

Later, with two children still in school, she came to UCLA Luskin. After a break from her studies in 1997 for a kidney transplant, she came back to finish her education.

After graduating, she worked at the AmeriCorps Vista Clinic in Venice, California, and met women soldiers returning home from Iraq. She found that these women were not being appropriately recognized. After later working with California Congresswoman Linda Sánchez to raise awareness of issues specifically affecting women, Hughes started her own business to help female veterans.

It became evident to Hughes that many of those veterans had served ably beside male counterparts without being similarly recognized. This was true within her own family: Her mother volunteered for the Navy but never told Hughes about the experience.

In May 2010, Hughes quit her job and began her project to start telling women’s stories through photographs and quotes. Her first step was to ask to connect to veterans.

She eventually gained enough funding to travel to Washington, D.C., for five interviews, but only one person showed up. But this didn’t stop her work. Later, with an assist from UCLA Luskin’s Michael Dukakis, she was connected to Sen. Tammy Duckworth, an Iraq War veteran, Purple Heart recipient and former assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Duckworth was among the first handful of Army women to fly combat missions during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Once Duckworth was on board as an interviewee, Hughes’ project flourished, and she has interviewed more than 800 women since 2011. They include Brigadier Gen. Wilma L. Vaught, the first woman to be a four-star general.

By the time she had reached 60 interviews, Hughes said, she became aware that many of the women would go back to service “in a heartbeat.”

Her work has culminated in the book, “In a Heartbeat: Military Women WWII to Present.” Hughes hopes that young women of today can look at the women she has profiled and “see someone who looks like them and say, ‘I can do military service.’ ”

Hughes said she learned at UCLA Luskin not to be afraid to ask for help, and never to stop following up. She learned to look at the world through a prism, seeing many ways to do something. Those skills are not taught in a typical urban planning master’s program, she said.


Álvaro Huerta ’03, MURP ’06

ALUMNUS BECOMES A HARVARD FACULTY FELLOW

Álvaro Huerta ’03, MURP ’06 has been appointed as a Harvard faculty fellow.

The son of working-class Mexican immigrants and a product of public housing projects in Los Angeles, Huerta said he is honored to become a Harvard fellow.

He is additionally “eternally grateful to UCLA and my former professors and mentors, like the late professors Dr. Leo Estrada and Dr. Juan Gómez-Quiñones. Given that there are few Chicano urban planners and historians in the academy, I will maximize my Harvard position to show that for those of us who hail from America’s barrios like Boyle Heights, we, too, can teach and mentor graduate students at elite spaces.”


Jennifer Payne BA ’87, MSW/PhD ’11

ALUMNA IS FIRST WITH SOCIAL WORK PH.D. AT KENNEDY KRIEGER INSTITUTE

Jennifer Payne BA ’87, MSW/PhD ’11 is the first social work researcher with a doctorate ever to be hired at the Kennedy Krieger Institute, an affiliate of Johns Hopkins. Quite a few people with MDs and Ph.D.s had been hired there in psychiatry and psychology, but no social work researchers with a Ph.D. — until now.

Payne conducts research at the Kennedy Krieger Center for Child and Family Traumatic Stress. She joined a newly formed Neuropsychology of Social Injustice Center at Kennedy Krieger, which is in Baltimore.

She developed a culturally tailored model to address African American racial trauma based on an evidence-based intervention called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). The center wants Payne to start a culturally based ACT clinic at Kennedy Krieger and to teach others across the nation and around the world about the model.

Payne is also an assistant professor in the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine with a primary appointment within the Department
of Psychiatry, Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

She was also recently named as the 2021 recipient of the NACSW Diana Garland Award for Clinical Practitioner Excellence.


Susan Nakaoka ’91, MSW ’99, MA AAS ’99, PhD UP ’14, left, and Nicole Vazquez MSW/MPP ’09

 

MSW ALUMNAE SERVE CALIFORNIA CHAPTER OF SOCIAL WORK ORGANIZATION

The National Association of Social Workers: California has two organizers from UCLA Luskin Social Welfare: Susan Nakaoka ’91, MSW ’99, MA AAS ’99, PhD UP ’14, and Nicole Vazquez MSW/MPP ’09.

Both have been involved with a critical race studies course at UCLA.

Nakaoka is currently a visiting professor at Cal State Long Beach. Vazquez is the former field director and chair designee for Cal State Dominguez Hills’ MSW program, and currently is running Vazquez Consulting.

Recently, Laura Abrams, chair of Social Welfare at UCLA Luskin, and Vazquez spoke about critical race theory in social work on the podcast, “Doin’ the Work: Frontline Stories of Social Change.” They discussed the history of CRT, honoring the scholars of legal studies who developed it. They noted the conclusion of CRT that the law is not neutral and historically has been used to oppress people of color and others from marginalized groups.

Alumni Accolades Career changes and other updates from the alumni of UCLA Luskin

Richard Xavier Corral MPP ’02, executive producer of “L.A. A Queer History,” won Best Documentary distinction at the Highland Park Independent Film Festival. The film sheds light on largely unacknowledged historical figures in U.S. history and how the LGBTQ community affects the world today.

Joshua Kirshner MA UP ’02 joined the University of York’s Department of Environment and Geography in 2015 as a lecturer in human geography and is now a senior lecturer. He previously held appointments at Durham University in Great Britain and Rhodes University in South Africa.

Daniela Simunovic MURP ’13 was appointed senior advisor on environmental equity for the California Air Resources Board. Simunovic previously held policy-related roles for Better World Group, the California Strategic Growth Council, Liberty Hill Foundation and elsewhere.

Sasha (Wisotsky) Kergan MA UP ’10 of Sacramento has been appointed deputy secretary of housing and consumer relations at the Business Consumer Services and Housing Agency. Kergan previously held several housing policy roles at the California Department of Housing and Community Development, as well as management roles elsewhere.

Hironao Okahana MPP ’09, MA ED ’11,
PhD Ed ’13 holds a new position as assistant vice president of research and insights at the American Council on Education. Okahana is a highly published scholar who is passionate about reforming higher education through institutional changes and policy reforms.

Amanda Morrall MPP ’14 was appointed as executive director of the Coretz Family Foundation based in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The foundation’s announcement says she will be asked “to close socioeconomic opportunity gaps in Tulsa and work with partners on the ground to address social injustices in our city’s marginalized communities.”

Susan Oh MPP ’17 started a new position as legislative analyst for Los Angeles’ Office of the Chief Legislative Analyst. Susan is among a large number of MPP alumni now working for the City of Los Angeles and nearby municipalities.

Sara Jackson MPP/JD ’07 was promoted to director of career development at Rainier Scholars in Seattle. The nonprofit organization cultivates the academic potential and leadership skills of hard-working, underrepresented students of color.

Shannon Baker-Branstetter MPP ’05 now holds the position of director of domestic climate policy at the Center for American Progress (CAP) in Washington, D.C. Baker-Branstetter joins alumna Vernessa Shih MPP ’14 at CAP, where several former MPPs also have worked.

Urban Planning Alumna Leads National Endowment for the Arts

Urban Planning alumna Maria Rosario Jackson PhD ’96 has been confirmed as chair of the National Endowment for the Arts, becoming the first African American and Mexican American woman to lead the federal agency. “The arts are critical to our well-being, to robust economies and to healthy communities where all people can thrive,” said Jackson, a professor at Arizona State University who has served on the National Council on the Arts since 2013. For more than 25 years, Jackson’s work has focused on understanding and elevating arts, culture and design as critical elements of strong communities. She has served as an advisor on philanthropic programs and investments at national, regional and local foundations, including the Los Angeles County Cultural Equity and Inclusion Initiative and the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. She serves on the board of directors of the Performing Arts Center of Los Angeles County, among other organizations, and her work appears in a wide range of professional and academic publications. She also taught a UCLA course on arts, culture and community revitalization. Jackson grew up in South Los Angeles and credits her parents with instilling a love of the arts in her family. “Our art, culture and creativity are some of our country’s most valuable resources,” she said. “They are evidence of our humanity, our ability to learn from our examined experience, and our ability to imagine and innovate.” President Joe Biden nominated Jackson to the NEA post in October, during National Arts and Humanities Month; her appointment was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on Dec. 18.

Read full release and bio


 

A Warm Welcome to UCLA Luskin

The Luskin School welcomed students and alumni back to campus with a series of celebrations and orientations to launch the new academic year. The 10th annual UCLA Luskin Block Party on Sept. 23 drew a record crowd as students, alumni, faculty, staff and supporters such as Meyer and Renee Luskin gathered on Dickson Court North to connect with one another after an 18-month stretch of remote learning brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Health protocols remained in force during Welcome Week, which included graduate student informational and networking sessions and an open house for undergraduates focusing on the public affairs major. The week wrapped up with an exclusive reception for Class of 2020 graduates in the School’s public policy, social welfare and urban planning programs.

View UCLA Luskin photo galleries from:

10th Annual Block Party

Graduate Student Orientation

Undergraduate Open House

Class of 2020 Celebration

Luskin Career Bootcamp Equips Graduates for Job Search

UCLA Luskin graduate students from the Class of 2021 gained valuable knowledge about searching for and securing a job through a two-day virtual Career Bootcamp. The series was designed by Luskin Career Services to help current and recently graduated students jumpstart their job search and learn about networking, interviewing and offer negotiation. At the beginning of the July 13-14 event, students and graduates described their current job search status, which allowed the Career Services team to tailor the sessions to the needs and goals of individual participants. Technology is always transforming the way that people find jobs, and the pandemic has brought new changes to the job search process. Attendees learned about the importance of tailoring a cover letter and resume to rank well in applicant tracking systems, which are largely automated. The Bootcamp also highlighted the importance of networking, noting that 70% of all jobs are not published publicly on job sites and up to 80% of jobs are filled through personal and professional connections. Counselors recommended building genuine relationships and making networking a habit, not just something you do when you need a job. Day 2 of the Bootcamp provided insights about interviewing for a job, both virtually and in person. Attendees also learned about factors to consider when evaluating initial salary and benefit packages before accepting a final job offer. The Luskin Career Services team is available for one-on-one counseling appointments for career guidance and exploration, resume and cover letter critiques, mock interviews and other career-related topics. — Zoe Day


Alumni Accolades Career changes and other updates from the alumni of UCLA Luskin

Charisma Acey MPP ’98, PhD UP ’09 of UC Berkeley is the newly appointed faculty director of the Berkeley Food Institute. Her expertise will help guide the institute’s role in expanding access to healthy, affordable food and promoting sustainable, equitable and diverse food systems.

Florentina Craciun MA UP ’11, a senior environmental planner in San Francisco, is the new APA California–Northern Section director. Her term lasts two years.

Meg Healy MURP ’19 was appointed planning manager by Los Angeles City Council member Nithya Raman. Healy spent three years researching and reporting on housing policy in Brazil in neighborhoods impacted by the 2016 Olympics. In L.A., she worked with the NOlympics advocacy group and the Renters’ Right to Counsel campaign.

George Yin MA UP, JD ’99 has been elevated to shareholder at Kaufman Legal Group. Yin joined the firm in 2012, focusing on advising public officials and others about laws governing the election process, conflict of interest, local agency and municipal governance, and legislative drafting.

Lily Sofiani MA ’08, MA ’13, MPP ’18 is now assistant deputy for homelessness policy for Los Angeles County Supervisor Holly J. Mitchell. She previously worked for Mitchell during her time as a state senator. Sofiani also served with Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office as homelessness policy analyst overseeing a pilot project on older adults experiencing homelessness.

Brian Nguyen MPP ’16 was promoted to infrastructure and data manager at California Calls. Nguyen is one of several alumni working in the area of voter engagement and civic participation.

Marcos Carvalho MPP ’15 is the new product policy manager in the Latin America—Trust and Safety section at TikTok. He was formerly with the Consulate General of Brazil in Los Angeles for nine years, overseeing program implementation and grants.

Jane Davis MSW ’16 is a Red Cross Volunteer Excellence Award nominee. Davis started with the Red Cross in September 2017 during Hurricane Harvey and has been part of a team that ensures clients who identify as LGBTQ feel welcomed and have equal access to services. She is employed full time by the L.A. County Department of Mental Health and volunteers for the Red Cross on weekends.

Alumni Notes

ALUMNA NAMED ONE OF 25 MOST POWERFUL LATINAS  

Nathalie Rayes ’96, MPP ’99 was recently honored by People En Español as one of the magazine’s 25 most powerful Latinas (las 25 más poderosas) in the United States.

Rayes is the president and CEO of Latino Victory, a progressive organization working to build political power by increasing Latino representation at every level of government.

Latinos are 18% of the population “but 1% of political power,” she said. “That is unacceptable; this is supposed to be a representative government.”

The honor underscores the need to elevate more Latinas to positions of leadership.

Previously, Rayes was vice president of public affairs for Grupo Salinas in the United States, coordinating philanthropic activities seeking to improve the quality of life of Latinos by partnering with nonprofit organizations to empower, create awareness, and motivate change on social and civic issues.

Much of her prior experience was in Los Angeles politics, serving as deputy chief of staff for Mayor James K. Hahn and directing the Mayor’s Office of Intergovernmental Relations. She also has served as chief liaison to federal, state and regional governments and to the City Council on international trade, protocol and immigrant affairs, as well as holding appointments to city commissions and boards. And she was previously senior policy advisor to Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Feuer, heading activities related to citywide legislation and ordinances impacting his district.

Rayes also served as a Department of State fellow focusing on economics and politics in the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, Egypt.

Rayes is a presidential appointee to the Board of Trustees of the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars. She is chair of both the Board of Directors of the Hispanic Federation and the Binational Advisory Group for Hispanas Organized for Political Equality (HOPE) Binational Fellowship. She is also on the Board of Directors of Planned Parenthood Action Fund.


ALUMNUS TALKS ABOUT SUICIDE PREVENTION AND THE VALUE OF HIS MSW EDUCATION 

Brian Stefan MSW ’19 is a grief therapist, consultant, trainer and “proud social worker” specializing in suicide, suicide bereavement, grief/traumatic grief counseling and crisis response.

His work with the Didi Hirsch Suicide Prevention Center began prior to attending UCLA Luskin, and he has remained active there in a variety of roles, including shift supervisor, crisis counselor, follow-up counselor and trainer. He’s been a co-facilitator of a support group for survivors of suicide attempts and a member of the center’s suicide response team.

Stefan said a crucial component of any suicide prevention effort is to normalize talking about one’s feelings in an honest and informative manner.

Just as stigma reduction was important in paving the way for sex education and reproductive health in schools, likewise now society must become educated about the full range of human feelings and experiences, Stefan said. While there is suffering in the world, he said suffering in silence often leads to more exhaustion and feelings of helplessness, hopelessness and disconnection.

Stefan’s MSW studies at UCLA taught him valuable lessons — curiosity, to look at the big picture and the joy of learning from others.

“From Day 1, there was an invitation to forever be students,” he recalled, noting that he appreciated that UCLA Luskin Social Welfare’s educational approach went beyond studying for two years “and then you’re good to go.”

He said his professors served as role models, continuing to learn as part of their effort to be “better cheerleaders and advocates.”

Stefan said he also was taught to view work from a bigger, more holistic perspective. Social workers must not focus attention just on the client, he said, but also on the broader picture that includes their family and environment. All people are connected to our communities, he said.

Lastly, he learned from professors and classmates about how much joy it is to be of service and to learn about people who are different from oneself.

“Suicide prevention is such a life-affirming and loving field, in the same way that grief is all about love,” Stefan said. “I couldn’t anticipate all the honesty I learned in this field, and Luskin was a good place to learn that foundation.”

Through his work with a crisis hotline, Stefan said he has found courage and taken inspiration from callers.

“Maybe we don’t need to keep everything to ourselves anymore, because it’s the silence that kills – we don’t have to live our lives separately,” he said. “The opposite of suicide isn’t to stay alive, it’s safe connection and healthy relationships.”

The Didi Hirsch crisis hotline service that focuses on suicide prevention receives more than 130,000 calls, text messages and crisis chats per year, and callers have ranged in ages from 8 to 102. Didi Hirsch also runs the Suicide Prevention Counseling Center, where adults, youth and families can receive therapy support that relates to suicide prevention or bereavement. Support groups assist adults and teens who have attempted suicide or who have lost someone to suicide.

Stefan previously served as an intelligence officer with the U.S. Department of Defense and an intelligence analyst with the FBI-LAPD Joint Regional Intelligence Center–Regional Threat Assessment Center in Los Angeles.

He is a member of the Los Angeles Mayor’s Office Crisis Response Team serving Angelenos who are experiencing traumatic losses within their families.

People in crisis or who know someone who is can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255 or get help online at suicidepreventionlifeline.org.


ALUMNUS FOUNDS COMPANY TO PROMOTE ‘EMBEDDED PLANNING’

Writing in 2018 for the American Planning Association (APA), Jonathan Pacheco Bell MA UP ’05 said that we cannot plan from our desks, coining the term “embedded planning.”

For him, embedded planning is a practice, or praxis, and not a theory — taking ideas from planning and creating change in society. Throughout his work, he prioritizes street-level engagement. His office is the neighborhood and work is done in constituents’ spaces: homes, churches, businesses or bus stops.

Bell performs plain-language outreach. He conducts neighborhood organizing, gives walking tours, mentors students and provides empathetic code enforcement. All of this helps produce streetwise plans, policies
and ordinances.

Situating urban planners’ work on the street level leads to better results than can be found solely through statistics, Bell argues. Embedded planning happens on the doorsteps of the people affected rather than in intimidating places like city hall or at community meetings where voices can get overshadowed. Speaking directly to constituents establishes relationships, builds trust and lets residents know early about ordinances that could impact them.

Bell, who worked at Los Angeles County’s Department of Regional Planning for 13 years, sought to improve unincorporated areas. In 2021, he founded his own company, C1TYPLANN3R, to focus on writing, publishing, speaking engagements and other methods of moving embedded planning from an idea in his head to a practice that is actively pursued.

Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, distinguished professor of urban planning and associate dean at UCLA Luskin, was one of the professors who made a significant impact on Bell. “He is very passionate about his work and about the communities he is planning for, always measuring the success of his plans through the welfare of communities he serves,” she said.

Bell was recently appointed by Pasadena Mayor Victor Gordo as a public library commissioner in the most ethnically diverse district in the city. His degrees in information and library science and urban planning will help him seek ways to expand the library’s impact on daily lives and better advance equity.

“People’s lives are at the heart of planning. We must understand their experiences to assuage their struggles,” Bell said. “We live up to the promise of creating equitable communities when we’re out there, in the communities, doing the work. We owe it to ourselves as conscientious practitioners. We owe it to planning students who represent the future of our profession. Above all, we owe it to the people we serve.”

UCLA Alumni Association Honors Luskins, Coggins

The UCLA Alumni Association hosted a virtual ceremony to honor Meyer and Renee Luskin, Wilfred “Bill” Coggins MSW ’55 and other Bruins whose service to UCLA and the world have made a great impact. UCLA Chancellor Gene Block introduced a video segment (beginning at minute 40:17) featuring the Luskins, the 2020 Edward A. Dickson Alumni of the Year, UCLA’s highest alumni honor. “For as long as I’ve had the pleasure of knowing the Luskins, they’ve always credited UCLA with giving them their start,” Block said of the couple, first-generation college students who are now major benefactors of UCLA and namesakes of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. Meyer Luskin earned a bachelor’s degree in economics in 1949, then went on to launch Scope Industries, which recycles bakery waste to make an ingredient in animal feed. Renee Luskin earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology in 1953. The Luskins said their parents came from modest means but emphasized charity and philanthropy. “We wanted to have the pleasure of helping people,” Meyer Luskin said. Paco Retana ’87, MSW ’90 introduced Coggins (beginning at minute 27:10) and paid tribute to his decades of stewardship of the Kaiser Permanente Watts Counseling and Learning Center. Retana called Coggins “the heart and soul of the center,” which helps families achieve academic and personal success. “I believe in education. I believe in self-actualization. I believe in human potential,” said Coggins, who received the UCLA Award for Community Service. The May 22 virtual ceremony recognized several recipients of the 2020 alumni awards, which were announced last year

Watch the UCLA Awards virtual ceremony