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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


 

Brain Teasers and Belly Laughs at Virtual Trivia Night 2.0

Continuing a longstanding Luskin School tradition of closing out the academic year with a spirited competition, students, alumni, faculty and staff came together to test their knowledge of pop culture and arcane UCLA facts at Virtual Trivia Night 2.0. Alumni turned out in force, making up more than half the total participants, said Tammy Borrero, UCLA Luskin’s director of events. With COVID-19 precautions in place, the May 27 contest again took place on a digital platform, and some participants gave a nod to the times we live in with team names such as “Nerd Immunity” and “None the Pfizer.” The top prize in the individual competition went to U.S. Foreign Service Officer Jason Vorderstrasse, UCLA’s diplomat in residence for the 2021-22 academic year. Public Policy students and alumni made up the top-scoring team, giving the department an edge in overall standings since the tradition began in 2013. The winners earned cool prizes, bragging rights and their names emblazoned on the UCLA Luskin Quiz Bowl trophy.

Team Competition Winners

  • First Place: La Croix Taste Test Troix (Adam Barsch ’20, Jess Bendit, Rosie Brown, Dickran Jebejian ’20, Erica Webster ’19), Public Policy
  • Second Place: Public Private Partnership (Ma’ayan Dembo ’20, Katherine Stiegemeyer ’20, Spike Friedman ’20, Lupita Huerta ’20, Peter Garcia ’20), Urban Planning
  • 3rd Place: The Public Affairs Bears Quaran-Team (Justin De Toro, April Michelle Enriquez, Erika Villanueva, Kevin Medina, Jocelyn Guihama), Undergraduate Program

Individual Competition Winners

  • First Place: Jason Vorderstrasse, Public Policy Diplomat in Residence
  • Second Place: Lance MacNiven, Urban Planning ’16
  • Third Place: Austin Mendoza, Undergraduate Program

Team departmental standings over the years:

  • 2013: Urban Planning
  • 2014: Public Policy
  • 2015: Urban Planning
  • 2016: Public Policy
  • 2017: Social Welfare
  • 2018: Public Policy
  • 2019: Social Welfare
  • 2020: Social Welfare and Urban Planning
  • 2021: Public Policy

Contestants compete for cool prizes and bragging rights at the individual trivia competition.

In Memoriam: Martin Wachs, Renowned Transportation Scholar The prolific author and educational leader was an award-winning teacher and caring mentor to generations of urban planners

By Stan Paul

Martin Wachs, distinguished professor of urban planning at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, died unexpectedly April 12 at his home in Los Angeles. He was 79.

“Marty Wachs was mentor to an entire generation of urban planners and urban planning scholars and a cherished friend of many of the Luskin faculty,” wrote Dean Gary Segura in a memo about Wachs’ passing to the Luskin School community.

Throughout his five decades of service to the University of California — which included teaching and serving in top research and leadership posts at both UCLA and UC Berkeley — Wachs earned a reputation as a world-class scholar and expert in the field of transportation planning. He garnered numerous accolades and academic awards.

Wachs was a prolific author, writing and collaborating on more than 160 articles and four books on relationships between transportation, land use and air quality, and the use of performance measurement in transportation planning. He also was interested in many related aspects and social issues, including professional ethics, aging, the environment and finance.

He came to UCLA in 1971 as an associate professor in a newly founded Graduate School of Architecture and Urban Planning, and Wachs was widely known as an outstanding teacher and caring mentor. In the wake of his death, numerous colleagues, former students and friends have shared memories and tributes that will be collected on a page of remembrances over the coming weeks.

Among one generation of planners influenced directly by Wachs is Brian Taylor, who studied under Wachs as an urban planning doctoral student at UCLA Luskin.

“The number of students who studied under Marty is legion,” said Taylor, professor of public policy and urban planning at the Luskin School and director of the Institute of Transportation Studies, which was founded by Wachs. “It’s just a veritable who’s who in the area of transportation policy and planning.”

Wachs’ dedication to students and colleagues included supporting their work and aspirations before, during and long after their studies.

“He was a mentor to people who did and did not study with him,” Taylor recalled. “He’s the person that we went to … late in our careers for advice about things.”

“He clearly enjoyed the role of teacher,” said Chris Tilly, professor and current chair of urban planning at UCLA. “I can’t think of how many times I walked past his office and heard him listen carefully, then offer thoughtful advice to a student, whether an undergrad, a [master’s of urban and regional planning], or a Ph.D. student — not your typical emeritus.” 

Tilly also described Wachs as an “influential person who built institutions, organized things and people, and made change. He did much to build our department. We have all lost someone who greatly enriched our lives.”

Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, distinguished professor of urban planning and the former chair of urban planning, said, “Marty was a giant in the field of transportation, someone who early on set the stage for the advancement of transportation planning and policy and who kept contributing to it till now.” She added, “For me, Marty was also an inspiring mentor and role model, a trusted friend, and a wonderful colleague and collaborator. I will miss him dearly.”

At the time of his death, Wachs was collaborating and consulting with colleagues on research, working on papers, actively mentoring students and looking forward to attending a socially distanced game of his beloved L.A. Dodgers, said Taylor, noting that Wachs was also a longtime UCLA basketball season ticketholder.

Taylor described Wachs as a first-class scholar, an exemplary teacher and a caring person. “He was an extraordinarily kind and generous person. … That’s just who he was. He was a true mensch.”

Wachs was deeply committed to public service and over his career served on advisory boards and commissions at the local, state and national levels, including the South Coast Air Quality Management District and the U.S. Department of Transportation. He was a member of professional and honorary societies and served on editorial boards for transportation and planning journals and publications.

In a 2006 tribute to Wachs at his retirement from the University of California, Robert Cervero, a former UCLA urban planning doctoral student and now professor emeritus of City & Regional Planning at UC Berkeley wrote: “I had the privilege of being around Marty as a student and colleague over the past 30 years. It is an unspoken truth by those in the transportation planning academy that Marty is the gold standard on how to be a professor — sharp, decisive and demanding, yet warm, caring and approachable. His profound and lasting influence on the field and today’s generation of transportation planning professionals and scholars is unparalleled.”

In 2000, he served as chair of the Transportation Research Board of the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine. He retired from the University of California in 2006 and later, in 2010, stepped down from a role as senior principal researcher and director of the Transportation, Space and Technology Program at Rand Corp. in Santa Monica.

More recently, Wachs was a member of the California High-Speed Rail Peer Review Group and, in 2016, he was chosen to serve as chair of a design commission for the famed “gateway to New York,” the Port Authority Bus Terminal of New York.

His honors included a Guggenheim Fellowship, two Rockefeller Foundation Humanities Fellowships, a UCLA Alumni Association Distinguished Teaching Award, the Pyke Johnson Award (twice, four decades apart) for the best paper presented at an annual meeting of the Transportation Research Board and the Carey Award for service to that board. He also was named a Distinguished Planning Educator, the highest honor the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning bestows on a faculty member.

Prior to coming to UCLA, Wachs was an assistant professor in civil engineering at Northwestern University and an assistant professor in systems engineering at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He earned his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from City University of New York in 1963, followed by master’s and doctoral degrees in civil engineering from Northwestern University in 1965 and 1967, respectively.

Wachs also served as a U.S. Army captain. 

He is survived by his wife, Helen; daughter, Faye Wachs; son, Steven Wachs; son-in-law, Navid Ardakani; daughter-in-law, Shirley Tse-Wachs; grandson, Ziya; and granddaughter, Leia.

An online memorial service was held Thursday, April 15, 2021.

In lieu of flowers or gifts, Wachs’ family has requested that those interested in making a donation contribute to the Urban Planning Professors Emeriti Fund, specifying that the gift is being made in his memory. Proceeds from this fund support the Martin Wachs Fellowship in Transportation, which provides financial assistance to promising students studying transportation policy and planning at UCLA.

Gifts can also be made by check payable to the UCLA Foundation. Please include “Fund #90695Q” in the memo field and send the donation to the UCLA Foundation, P.O. Box 7145, Pasadena, CA 91109. 

The Wachs family also encourages gifts to be made in Marty’s memory to other causes or charities of importance to individual donors.

Message From the Dean

Friends and Colleagues:

I am deeply saddened to report that our friend Marty Wachs, professor emeritus of Urban Planning, passed away Sunday night. Marty was a 50-year member of the Luskin and Urban Planning Community since his arrival as an associate professor of Urban Planning in 1971. He spent 25 of those years on the UCLA faculty.

Martin Wachs was a professor, chair (three terms), and the director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at UCLA who then spent a decade at UC Berkeley, where he was also chair and director of their Transportation Center. He also held appointments at UIC, Northwestern and Rand. Marty was the author of more than 160 articles and four books on transportation, land use and environment. He was an award-winning teacher and scholar, recognized for his research with a Guggenheim Fellowship, two Rockefeller Foundation fellowships, and he was the winner of a UCLA distinguished teaching award.

He was mentor to an entire generation of urban planners and urban planning scholars and a cherished friend of many of the Luskin faculty.

We are in touch with his wife, Helen, and will share details regarding arrangements as they become available. The Luskin School will plan an appropriate commemoration of his life and work, in consultation with his family, in the near term.

I know you all join me in offering our sincerest condolences to his family and friends.

In fellowship,

Gary

Gary M. Segura
Professor and Dean

Further coverage will follow. The Institute of Transportation Studies at UCLA is encouraging people to add remembrances of Martin Wachs in the comments section of a post on the ITS website. Email tributes also may be sent to rememberingmarty@its.ucla.edu

Alumni Notes

ALUMNA APPOINTED AS L.A. COUNTY’S PARKS DIRECTOR

Norma Edith García-Gonzalez BA ’95, MA UP ’99 is the new director of Los Angeles County Regional Parks and Open Space District, becoming the first woman and first person of color to serve in this capacity.

As parks director, García-Gonzalez’s position touches all corners of Los Angeles. She is responsible for the department’s operations, including a $232-million budget, more than 2,000 employees, 183 parks, 70,079 acres of parkland, more than 210 miles of trails, five equestrian centers, 14 lakes, 475 sports amenities, 42 swimming pools, 15 wildlife sanctuaries and 10 nature centers that serve as a refuge for more than 200 animals. And then there’s a handful of county-operated arboreta and botanic gardens, outdoor performance venues like the Hollywood Bowl, plus the largest municipal golf system in the nation, which consists of 20 courses.

García-Gonzalez brings 17 years of experience working for the county. During her time as acting director of parks, she led efforts to keep the parks available to Angelenos during the COVID-19 crisis. As director, she will continue to lead the department during emergencies and natural disasters, providing support for communities when gyms, regional facilities and local parks are needed as shelters for residents and livestock.

In 2016, García-Gonzalez helped with an equity ballot measure in L.A. County aimed at directing resources to refurbish park amenities in high-need neighborhoods, particularly in low-income communities of color.

In a Parks and Recreation news release, García-Gonzalez said, “Our parks are the backyard of Los Angeles County residents, and I look forward to leading the department with empathy, a vision for equity, an unwavering commitment in serving our communities and working with the Board of Supervisors to create a pathway for Los Angeles County’s recovery.”


 

UCLA ALUM SHOWS HOW FUNNY MANAGING A CITY CAN BE

Tim Casey MPA ’77, the retired city manager of Laguna Niguel, kept notes of some of the funnier and most memorable moments throughout his professional journey, always hoping to document those moments in a book. The time is now here.

The Mayor Married Who?” is a fun insider’s look at the daily challenges, unexpected curveballs, occasionally embarrassing failures, and successful triumphs that local elected officials and professional administrators face every day in our city halls and county halls of administration.

Through short stories capturing a 40-year management career, Casey’s sense of humor, passion for public service and compassion for others permeate every chapter.

His work is now available in paperback and digital form through Amazon. The book is also featured among publications from the International City/County Management Association.


MURATA RETIRES FROM MENTAL HEALTH DEPARTMENT

After 35 years, Dennis Murata MSW ’84 retired from his role as deputy director of the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health.

Murata was a longtime advocate for underserved communities, as well as cultural and ethnic diversity and inclusion.

After graduating from UCLA, his first county role was psychiatric social worker. In addition to his role as deputy director, he held positions such as acting chief deputy director and served in a leadership role in many of the department’s major initiatives, including implementation of the Mental Health Services Act.

Murata was selected as the Joseph A. Nunn Social Welfare Alumnus of the Year in 2007 at UCLA.

 

In Memoriam: VC Powe A pivotal figure for decades at the Luskin School, Powe oversaw career counseling and programs in which public officials, community leaders and alumni mentor students

By Les Dunseith and Stan Paul

Longtime UCLA Luskin staff member VC Powe, executive director of external programs and career services, died Sept. 16 following complications from a serious illness. She was 66.

Powe BA ’75, MBA ’77 joined the School in 1998 and served in a variety of roles over the years, including director of alumni and government relations. From 1990-97, she worked for the UCLA Alumni Association. Powe also was an adjunct faculty member at Los Angeles City College, where she taught marketing and management.

At the time of her death, Powe, a longtime Culver City resident who was born in Los Angeles, oversaw counseling, internships and fellowships, plus the Bohnett Fellows and Senior Fellows programs, at the Luskin School. Powe, who was widely known on campus simply as VC, was instrumental in developing deep ties to civic leaders. 

“VC Powe was a powerful advocate for the Luskin School, its students and alumni,” Dean Gary Segura said. “She worked tirelessly to draw attention to our excellent students, and she never stopped trying to expand opportunities for them to partner with leading members of the Los Angeles community.”

Segura noted that her work with the Luskin Senior Fellows program connected UCLA Luskin students with elected officials, CEOs and the leaders of nonprofit, educational and philanthropic organizations.

“She paved the pathways for more careers in public affairs than we can count. The Luskin School of Public Affairs lost a bit of its heart this week,” Segura said. “VC will be deeply missed.”

Powe’s death was unrelated to COVID-19. Angelus Funeral Home in Los Angeles made arrangements amid the ongoing pandemic for an Oct. 6 viewing, where friends and family paid their respects.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that any gifts in VC’s honor be made to the VC Powe Memorial Fund, which will support UCLA Luskin-wide fellowships, Career Services and the Senior Fellows program. Gifts can also be made by check payable to the UCLA Foundation. Please include “Fund #14300” in the memo field and mail to the UCLA Foundation, PO Box 7145, Pasadena, CA 91109-9903.

Anyone wishing to send cards and other non-perishable items in her memory can address them to VC Powe’s family in care of the Luskin School of Public Affairs, 337 Charles E. Young Drive East, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1656. Please note that on-campus mail delivery is only available via the U.S. Post Office at this time.

A Luskin School memorial will be announced at a later date.

In recognition of her role strengthening civic life in the region, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors announced that it will adjourn in her honor on Sept. 29. The Los Angeles City Council will also adjourn in her honor that day.

Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, who has longstanding ties to the Luskin School’s leadership programs, called Powe the “perfect combination of supreme competence, kindness and empathy.” 

“VC advocated tirelessly for students and worked to help so many individually,” Kuehl said. “When I was lucky enough to serve as a Regents’ professor, I would have been completely lost without her generous time. She will be deeply missed.”

Associate Dean Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, distinguished professor of urban planning, noted Powe’s contributions to vital programs such as Senior Fellows and Luskin City Hall Day and her guidance in helping students start their careers.

“It is so hard to imagine our Luskin School without VC. She was the nicest, kindest person, and utterly committed to our school and its alums,” Loukaitou-Sideris said. “She did her work with tremendous professionalism and grace, and always with a smile on her face.”

Loukaitou-Sideris added that Powe’s longtime role at the annual commencement was especially memorable.

“I will always remember VC, hidden from the large crowds, steadily guiding us toward one more commencement, orchestrated to perfection,” Loukaitou-Sideris said. 

Powe’s involvement in commencement was also a fond memory for Bill Parent, who recently retired from the Luskin School after serving as an instructor and member of the staff, where he worked alongside Powe for many years.

“My favorite mental image of VC Powe will forever be her standing front and center on the Royce Hall stage at the very end of commencement, smiling radiantly, her arms raised to signal the graduates to rise and go take on the world,” Parent recalled.

Powe’s enthusiastic guidance of UCLA Luskin students and alumni is well-known, but she was equally supportive of staff members such as Caroline Lee, who joined the Luskin School in July 2019 as a career counselor. 

“VC was the most amazing mentor and boss,” said Lee, the assistant director of career services. “She is the reason that I felt so comfortable moving across the country to begin a new chapter in my life. She had the unique quality to make people feel at ease and always welcome.”

Lee continued: “I have never seen someone more dedicated to the success of students.” 

Her contributions were many, but Powe’s success with the Senior Fellows program stands out to many as a signature accomplishment. Before she took over, Parent recalled, the fledgling Senior Fellows program was “pretty weak tea,” but that did not deter Powe.

“Year-by-year, fellow-by-fellow, student-by-student, event-by-event, VC nurtured the program into a rewarding honor for scores of fellows and hundreds of students, a centerpiece of engagement for the Luskin School and UCLA in the world of public leadership,” Parent said. 

Past and present fellows include elected officials, corporate CEOs, government leaders, entrepreneurs, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists, prominent educators and numerous public servants with ties to the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors. 

Powe was adept at matching the expectations of students to what fellows could reasonably offer as mentors, then maintaining contact and paying attention to the details to make things work, Parent said. This approach led to similar success with the Bohnett Fellows program and a wide range of internship programs under Powe’s guidance. 

“Near as I could tell, VC’s strongest faith was in the power of education — as a teacher, an administrator, and as a lifelong student of management and leadership,” Parent said. “She believed in UCLA. She believed in the Luskin School and the missions of our three graduate departments. In other words, she believed deeply in us. She dedicated her career, as a vocation, to helping every one of us succeed.”

Powe was also known as someone who went out of her way to welcome new additions to the Luskin School.

“When I first came back to UCLA in 2015, one of the first people who took me under her wing was VC,” recalled longtime elected official Zev Yaroslavsky, a UCLA alumnus who is now director of the Los Angeles Initiative at the Luskin School. “Her engaging smile, understated demeanor, intense commitment to our students, soothing voice, and total embrace of me let me know that I was back home.”

Yaroslavsky recalled that during his time as a public official he came to know Powe as UCLA Luskin’s emissary. 

“She came to meetings in my office, asked for advice on how to place more students in jobs, and proselytized me on the great work being done at Luskin,” Yaroslavsky said of Powe’s relentless efforts to advance the School and its students. “She was preaching to the converted.”

Former colleagues across the UCLA campus recalled some of Powe’s other contributions. Keith Parker, a former assistant vice chancellor of government and community relations, said Powe was a friend and colleague for more than 25 years.

“She was someone that always offered a smile, extended a helping hand and took a moment to let you know that she cared about you,” Parker said. “I always told her VC stood for ‘Very Caring.’”

In the 1990s, when Powe was working for the UCLA Alumni Association, outreach to alumni of African American descent was a key focus. “She developed a number of successful outreach programs that brought alums back to UCLA as engaged, supportive alumni,” Parker said. “She worked on the initial Summer Youth Employment Program that brought low-income high school students to UCLA for not only employment experiences, but also exposure to the benefits of higher education.” 

After she moved over to the Luskin School, Powe was the principal partner with UCLA Government and Community Relations in the annual School of Public Affairs Day at City Hall during which UCLA Luskin graduate students visit with the mayor, council members and department heads for the City of Los Angeles. 

Those meetings focus on an important issue facing the city each year, and the students subsequently produce a white paper with well-researched recommendations, Parker said. “The City Hall Day programs could not have happened without VC.”

Powe’s career history in the late 1970s and 1980s includes employment at May Co., as well as positions in advertising and marketing at the Los Angeles Times. She worked for five years with Inroads, helping to produce business seminars, and she taught business economics at the junior high school level for two years.

She was a former United Way/Kellogg Training Center certified volunteer trainer, a member of the Southern California Leadership Network and a volunteer for the UCLA Alumni Association’s scholarship selection programs. 

She held professional certifications in Organization and Human Resource Development (sponsored by the American Society for Training and Development) and Online Teaching from UCLA Extension. 

Powe was preceded in death by her mother, Vivian Carrell (Burbridge) Hines. She is survived by her father, Bolden Eugene Hines; her husband, Keith Powe; and three sisters, Brenda Kelly, Roberta Lecour and La Lita Green.

Friends and former colleagues of VC Powe are encouraged to contribute their reminiscences for an online tribute page by commenting on the UCLA Luskin Facebook page or by emailing news@luskin.ucla.edu.

Events

Luskin Launch Event With Steve Kerr

NOT TO BE MISSED

Join the Luskin School as we begin the new academic year with an exclusive discussion and Q&A with Steve Kerr, a former NBA star and current head coach of the Golden State Warriors.

This invite-only event will take place on Oct. 7 at 5 p.m. for the entire UCLA Luskin community — graduate and undergraduate students, faculty and staff, and alumni.

Learn more about the history of the Kerr family at UCLA, Steve Kerr’s commitment to social justice and his global perspective on issues of public importance.

REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED. Email invitations are being sent, but if you have not received yours by early October, please reach out to events@luskin.ucla.edu.

 


Steve Kerr, an eight-time NBA champion as a player and coach, is an outspoken public figure whose commitment to social justice and global perspective on issues of public importance is deeply rooted in the Kerr family’s history at UCLA.

Few athletes have had careers as varied or successful as Kerr — a sharpshooting guard who played on the USA Basketball team that captured the 1986 World Championship title in Madrid, the last American men’s team composed strictly of amateur collegiate players to capture a gold medal. As a pro, he won five championships while playing with the Chicago Bulls and San Antonio Spurs, posting a 45.4% career three-point field goal percentage that is the highest in NBA history.

Kerr, 54, has 30 years of NBA experience, not just as a player and coach, but also as a television analyst and front office executive. In his six years as head coach of the Golden State Warriors, Kerr has guided the club through five of the most prolific seasons in NBA history, winning three NBA championships and making five-straight NBA Finals appearances. He has coached or teamed up with many of the greatest of the great in the NBA: Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal, Tim Duncan, Scottie Pippen, David Robinson, Dennis Rodman, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson.

His perspective on life was shaped not just by his storied sports career, but also by his worldly childhood. Kerr was born in Beirut, and he lived in France, Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East as the son of UCLA-based academics. When in Los Angeles, the Kerr family lived in Pacific Palisades, and young Steve Kerr was a ballboy in 1978 and 1979 at UCLA, where his father, Malcolm, was a political scientist and professor specializing in the Middle East.

Malcolm Kerr accepted a job as president at the American University of Beirut in 1982. Tragically, two years later, when Steve Kerr was a freshman at the University of Arizona, his father was assassinated by members of a radical Islamic group.
Steve’s mother, Ann Kerr, has worked at the International Institute at UCLA since 1991, coordinating the Visiting Fulbright Scholar Enrichment Program for the Los Angeles Metropolitan Area.

Steve Kerr is known for supporting progressive political causes, with an emphasis on access to education and gun control. He earned a degree in general studies from Arizona with an emphasis in history, sociology and English in 1988 and serves on the board of directors for Peace Players International, a Washington, D.C.-based organization that uses basketball as a means to bridge cultural gaps in areas of political, racial and religious conflict.

Steve Kerr and his wife, Margot, have two sons, Nicholas and Matthew, and one daughter, Madeleine.

 

 

Coupling More Housing with Transit

Coupling More Housing with Transit: State, Local & Community Perspectives

// Housing, Equity & Community Series

DESCRIPTION

Please join us on Feb. 20th for the Housing, Equity and Community Series including a presentation of the recently released UCLA Lewis Center report, “Transit Oriented Los Angeles: Envisioning an Equitable and Thriving Future,” made possible by LA Metro and ULI-Los Angeles. The presentation will be followed by a panel discussion on the California Senate Bill 50 (“SB827 v.2.0”), the Los Angeles’ Transit Oriented Communities (TOC) Affordable Housing Incentive Program and the issues around density and transit-oriented development in Los Angeles and California.

SPEAKERS:

  • Mike Manville: Associate Professor, Urban Planning, UCLA Luskin School
  • Laura Raymond, Director, Alliance for Community Development (ACT-LA)
  • Arthi Varma, Deputy Director, Citywide Planning, Los Angeles Department of City Planning

MODERATOR:

  • Michael Lens: Associate Faculty Director, UCLA Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies; and Associate Professor, Urban Planning and Public Policy and UCLA Luskin School

________________________________________________________

**Dinner will be provided. For sustainability purposes, we ask that you please bring your own beverage**

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RSVP Here: https://bit.ly/2MnPUqF

From Public Transit to Public Mobility

From Public Transit to Public Mobility

12th Annual UCLA ITS Downtown Los Angeles Forum on Transportation, Land Use, and the Environment

Presented by the UCLA Institute of Transportation Studies

Date: March 1, 2019

Location: Japanese American National Museum (Aratani Central Hall)

100 N. Central Ave., LA,CA 90012

Registration: 8:45AM – 9:00AM

Event Program: 9:00AM – 5:00PM

Reception: 5:00PM – 7:00PM (Hirasaki Family Garden)

The 12th UCLA Institute of Transportation Studies Downtown Forum grapples with the public sector’s response to the dual trends of emerging new mobility services and declining public transit ridership.

What does the increasing role of private mobility options in cities mean for transportation agencies, public transit providers, cities, and the traveling public? Should innovation be encouraged, quashed, or managed? Many regions in California are making big investments in public transit to create a viable alternative to driving; are these burgeoning new services a threat or opportunity for these investments?

The 12th Annual Downtown Forum will explore implementation of the strategies discussed at the October 2018 Arrowhead Symposium, a 3-day in-depth examination of what’s happening in urban mobility amidst an inundation of new options, to how public agencies are adapting to accommodate, manage, and incorporate, and compete with new options while continuing to serve the public interest. The Downtown Forum advances strategies to implementation in four areas seen as critical to the public sector’s response to new mobility:

  • Successful models for the public sector to partner with private companies providing public mobility service
  • How public agencies can effectively obtain and use data to manage public mobility
  • Identifying and implementing the most impactful, cost-effective incremental changes to streets and transit service in order to double public transit ridership in the next decade
  • Coordinating implementation of new technologies and mobility services to enhance equity and quality of life

AICP credits available.

Lunch Provided. RSVP at https://uclaitsdtla2019.eventbrite.com

Robert Poole: Rethinking America’s Highway Institutions

Robert Poole: Rethinking America’s Highway Institutions

Thursday, November 15
12:15 – 1:45 p.m.
Room 4320B, Public Affairs Building
Lunch will be served, beverages not provided
Robert Poole is the director of transportation policy at the Reason Foundation and the author of the new book “Rethinking America’s Highways, in which he argues that 20th century governance and funding model for highways is failing to solve chronic problems such as congestion, deferred maintenance, and poor resource allocation decisions, in addition to inadequate funding. He argues that other major utilities (electricity, telecommunications, water supply) are governed and funded very differently from highways, and that major 21st century highways should be re-configured as network utilities. He cites precedents for this in other countries and in the better performance of U.S. toll roads than of comparable highways. He also outlines a possible transition from the status quo to highway utilities, starting with the Interstate highways.
Mr. Poole’s work has introduced HOT lanes, express toll lanes, dedicated truck lanes, and long-term public- private partnerships to U.S. transportation. He has advised federal and state transportation agencies, testified before congressional and legislative committees, and served on advisory boards and commissions.

The South Los Angeles Homeownership Crisis

Since the Sixties: The SLA Homeownership Crisis // Housing, Equity & Community Series

DESCRIPTION

Discrimination in the housing market was legal in California until the 1968 Federal Fair Housing Act, which finally upheld the State’s frustrated efforts to legislate equal access in 1963. Legalized discrimination and segregation led to highly unequal housing outcomes between white households who benefited from several programs designed to increase homeownership and people of color who were systematically excluded. The confluence of major historical events central to the struggles for equality in South Los Angeles makes it a particularly apt lens through which to reflect on the disparities that persist to this day. Homeownership rates have decreased county-wide, but the gap with South LA has remained just as large. This leaves a shrinking share to the population able to benefit from rising property values and exacerbates wealth inequality. At the same time, the combination of the housing crises and housing shortage locks an increasing number of household in South LA into extreme housing cost burden which makes the aspiration of maintaining a stable home as distant as it ever was.

Please join us on May 7th for a discussion on the key findings from the recently released report, South Los Angeles Since the Sixties, from the UCLA Luskin Center for Neighborhood Knowledge.  Our distinguished panelists will examine what progress has been made in South LA, if any, in the domain of housing since the 1960s.

SPEAKERS:

MODERATOR:

  • Michael Lens: Assoc. Faculty Director, UCLA Lewis Center; and Professor of Urban Planning & Public Policy, UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs

________________________________________________________

**Lunch will be provided. Please bring your own beverage**
________________________________________________________

 

RSVP Here: https://bit.ly/2HlV1Ef

DTLA Forum – Housing Costs and Scarcity

Too Much & Not Enough: Housing Costs and Scarcity

11th Annual UCLA Downtown Los Angeles Forum on Transportation, Land Use, and the Environment

Presented by the UCLA Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies

The housing crisis gripping Los Angeles and cities around the country has two primary, interconnected causes: The rent is too damn high for most people to afford without cost burdens, and the politics of supply make building more housing extremely complicated. The 2018 UCLA Downtown Los Angeles Forum will explore how these two ideas interact with and contradict one another, and how finding solutions to the housing crisis can become a debate about the role of government, market forces, and community groups in society.

Lunch keynote address:
Kathy Nyland
Director, Seattle Department of Neighborhoods

Confirmed speakers:

  • Becky Dennison, Venice Community Housing
  • Isela Gracian, East LA Community Corporation
  • Jackie Hwang, Stanford University
  • Michael Lens, UCLA
  • Paavo Monkkonen, UCLA
  • Shane Phillips, Central City Association
  • Carolina Reid, UC Berkeley
  • Jacqueline Waggoner, Enterprise Community Partners
  • Ben Winter, Office of Mayor Eric Garcetti

AICP credits available.

Lunch Provided. RSVP at https://ucladtlaforum2018.eventbrite.com

Protecting Renters in Los Angeles

California’s housing crisis is hitting renters hard. With rents fast increasing in Los Angeles, many people are scared. Whether they fear rent increases that push housing costs out of reach or being scared that improvements to the building mean a rent increase is imminent, the rental market can scary. California is known for strong tenant protections, but existing state laws like the Ellis Act (evicting tenants to convert buildings to ownership) or Costa-Hawkins Act (not allowing new construction to be under rent control) weakens these tenant protections. What’s the appetite for reforming these laws? How are they currently affecting residents in Los Angeles? What can be done to put renters in Los Angeles on a more stable foundation?

Speakers:

  • Joan Ling MA UP ’82, UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs
  • Tony Samara, Urban Habitat

Moderator:

  • Mike Lens, UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs

Lunch Provided. RSVP at https://protectingrenters.eventbrite.com

Homelessness in Los Angeles

Tens of thousands of Angelenos, including families with children, are without homes every night. Many more are on the brink of homelessness. In response to this crisis, both the County and City of Los Angeles recently passed funding measures intended to provide new and needed services and resources.

We will explore the issue of homelessness, and the response of local institutions, from three different perspectives: a Skid Row resident and activist, a developer of permanent supportive housing, and UCLA’s own BruinShelter. These speakers will share their perspectives and answer questions from the audience.

Confirmed speakers:
Dora Leong Gallo, A Community of Friends

Suzette Shaw, Activist and Skidrow Resident

Jordan Vega, Director of Resources, Bruin Shelter

Jerry Ramirez, Homelessness Initiative, Chief Executive Office – County of Los Angeles

Moderated by Professor Mike Lens

Lunch Provided. RSVP at homelessnessla.eventbrite.com