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

Chinling Chen MSW ’06 is the new Chief Program Officer of Prevention for L.A.-based nonprofit Five Acres. Chen will lead Five Acres’ programs in community-based mental and behavioral health care and help pioneer partnerships with other healthcare providers to prevent family separation.

Mustafa Ghuneim MURP ’18 secured a new position as a Water Resources Engineer Intern at Geosyntec Consultants.

Brandy Henry MSW ’12 was appointed by Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker to the Commonwealth’s Restrictive Housing Oversight Committee.  The committee will oversee the use of restrictive housing in Massachusetts state prisons and county jails.

Mark Kenegos MURP ’18 is now database manager at PLACE Program Division of Chronic Disease and Injury Prevention–LA County Dept. of Public Health.

Allan Nguyen MPP ’18 started a new position as Operations Analyst at Green Dot Public Schools.

Sarah Simons MPP ’07 secured a new position as Advisor at Mexican Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources.

Kiana Taheri MPP ’16 was promoted to Executive Officer to the Deputy Chief of Staff for the Office of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.  Taheri also is a 2016 UCLA Luskin Bohnett Fellowship recipient.

Heather Ward MPP ’04 is an International Cooperation Specialist at the U.S. Agency for International Development. She recently participated in the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Fellowship Program in Japan.

In Support Development efforts include establishment of fellowship fund in memory of Urban Planning's Leo Estrada

Urban Planning’s Leo Estrada, who passed away in November 2018, began his career at UCLA in 1977 and retired just a few months before his death. He leaves behind an extraordinary legacy of service to students and leadership, especially as a role model to Latino and other minority scholars. While at UCLA, Professor Estrada was a pioneer in demography and a leader on UCLA’s campus and beyond, serving as the chair of the Academic Senate and member of the 1991 Christopher Commission, which examined the use of force by the Los Angeles Police Department.

In honor of his remarkable career, Urban Planning celebrated Professor Estrada at a retirement celebration on June 11 at the Luskin School. Colleagues, former students, friends and family members gathered to honor Estrada and the many people he served in his four decades at UCLA.

The department also established the Leo Estrada Fellowship Fund. The fund supports Urban Planning graduate students with an unmet financial need who are from cultural, racial, linguistic, geographic and socioeconomic backgrounds that are underrepresented in graduate education.

To support the Leo Estrada Fellowship Fund, please contact Ricardo Quintero (310) 206-7949 or rquintero@luskin.ucla.edu

SALONS HOSTED BY BOARD OF ADVISORS FURTHER CONNECT UCLA LUSKIN TO LOS ANGELES

In an effort to provide further connections for business and community leaders to engage with the School, UCLA Luskin has created a series of topical salons hosted by members of the Board of Advisors. The first session hosted by Jeffrey Seymour, a longtime member of the Board, was scheduled for December at the SOHO House in West Hollywood.

The salon and others to follow provide an opportunity for Dean Gary Segura and other UCLA Luskin leaders to share information on a wide range of topics, including changes in the School’s three graduate departments and the progress of the new undergraduate major in Public Affairs.

Seymour is a dual-degree holder from UCLA with a B.A. in political science and a master’s in public administration. He and his wife, Valerie, whose UCLA undergraduate degree is in sociology, have been longtime supporters of UCLA and the Luskin School. Seymour is the founder and owner of Seymour Consulting Group, a governmental relations firm specializing in areas of planning, zoning and land use consulting, as well as public policy analysis and ordinance studies.

LUSKIN FELLOWSHIP RECIPIENTS MEET MEYER AND RENEE LUSKIN

Thanks to the overwhelming generosity of Meyer and Renee Luskin, more than 60 Luskin students were recipients of the Luskin Graduate Fellowship this past academic year along with five undergraduate student fellows. The Luskins came to campus on April 10 to meet the recipients, learn about the important work they are doing and hear highlights of their student experiences. Students were able to personally thank Mr. and Mrs. Luskin for their generosity as they work to become change agents while at the Luskin School.

The Luskin Graduate Fellowship has supported students in the School since 2011. Recipients of the award are among the best and brightest in the Luskin School and come from all walks of life. Graduate students and doctoral candidates who have received the award carry forward the Luskins’ legacy of giving back generously to their communities and creating long-lasting positive change.

FIRST LUSKIN SCHOOL UNDERGRADUATE BRUIN FAMILY WEEKEND FEATURES LUNCH WITH DEAN GARY SEGURA

UCLA Luskin Dean Gary Segura met with students currently enrolled in the Public Affairs under-graduate major and their parents for an exclusive luncheon during Bruin Family Weekend on Oct. 26. Students who attended are members of the first enrolled class in the Public Affairs major after the program was approved by the Academic Senate in April.

Segura outlined his vision for the program, which strives to provide a wide-ranging education with a clear public service ethos. Students who matriculate from the program will be well-equipped to bring what they learn on campus back to their communities to create long-lasting positive change. This emphasis on service learning is highlighted by a yearlong capstone project that will immerse seniors in communities where they can apply their scholarship in the real world.

The program has already piqued interest across campus. More than 100 students have declared the Public Affairs pre-major, outpacing School projections.

 

The 2018 UCLA Luskin Diversity Fair drew more than 100 prospective students. Photo by Mary Braswell

A Schoolwide Investment in Students of Color UCLA Luskin showcases its strengths at 2018 Diversity Fair

By Mary Braswell

Eliza Franklin-Edmondson came to UCLA Luskin’s annual Diversity Fair to gather information about the School’s programs and priorities. She went home with so much more.

“I’m leaving here so full,” the prospective Urban Planning applicant said. “Being here and seeing the myriad of disciplines that give back to communities that are told that they have no value. … I’m leaving knowing that I have my purpose in life, my calling.”

For the third year, Public Policy, Social Welfare and Urban Planning invited prospective graduate students from all backgrounds to hear what sets the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs apart: a social justice ethos that is strengthened by a commitment to diversity. Key speakers included the chairs of each department, all of whom are professors in their respective fields.

“We are all united at Luskin by wanting to make our society and the world a better place for everyone,” Social Welfare chair Laura Abrams told the audience of about 125 prospective students.

The fair’s moderator, second-year planning student Dora Armenta, said she came to UCLA Luskin because it invests in students of color.

“We choose students that reflect our cities, that are diverse in backgrounds, experience, interests and skills,” Armenta said. “And because of these students, the program gets a little better each year.”

UCLA Luskin Urban Planning is highly ranked and has one of the most diverse student bodies in the nation, chair Vinit Mukhija said.

“We are the only program that is able to bring together excellence and diversity in urban planning,” he said. “Our program is made richer by that diversity, and it makes teaching in this department exciting for me and my colleagues.”

Public Policy students at UCLA Luskin develop deep analytical skills but also step into the real world, chair JR DeShazo said. They partner with clients to conduct research projects in fields such as health care, education, criminal justice and transportation, among many others, he said.

“In Public Policy, we really focus on understanding the programs and the policies that are supposed to meet the needs and provide the protections and services to our communities,” DeShazo said.

Social Welfare also pairs theory with practice, focusing on society’s most vulnerable populations, Abrams said, adding, “At UCLA, you get a set of interesting opportunities that really represent the breadth and the depth of the profession as a whole.”

Prospective student Laura Elaine Daza came from the Bay Area to attend the fair because “I want to be a decision-maker in my community.” As an immigrant, first-generation student and tenant rights advocate, she said, “I think it’s important to go to a program that reflects the communities that we come from and that provides you with the skills to give back to your community.”

The Dec. 1, 2018, Diversity Fair included financial aid counseling, a workshop for applicants preparing a statement of purpose, and a conversation with alumni who shared why they chose the Luskin School.

“I fell for the rankings,” said Rodrigo Garcia MURP ’15. “And I knew there was a big social justice component at Luskin whereas other schools that I was applying to didn’t have that component.”

“UCLA felt more like home,” said Sofia Espinoza MPP ’18, in contrast to other schools where “they dressed in suits and tried to schmooze you.” Espinoza said she appreciated the personal attention she received from Policy Professionals for Diversity and Equity (PPDE), which guided her through the application process.

PPDE was a co-sponsor of the fair, along with the Luskin D3 Initiative, Luskin Leadership Development, Social Welfare Diversity Caucus and Planners of Color for Social Equity.

The alumni panelists spoke of the skills they developed at UCLA Luskin and offered advice for how to maximize the graduate school experience. At the top of the list: Get off campus and out of the Westside.

“If you really want to do community work, then be in the community,” said Sheila Nem MURP ’15. “Get to know the landscape and really build those connections.”

“Be comfortable exploring opportunities that maybe you don’t even think are your interests,” said Diane Terry MSW ’04 Ph.D. ’12, urging the audience to jump into projects and research outside their disciplines. “That skill set, that perspective that you would get just from being out there, is going to be useful in some space at some time in your future career.”

UCLA Luskin offers the best of two worlds, said Hector Palencia MSW ’08, who is a field faculty member in Social Welfare. “The university is constantly alive,” a world-class research institution rich with opportunity, he said, but the Luskin School feels like a close-knit family.

“There are a lot of good programs out there. But how many of their faculty actually know their students well enough, by name, and how comfortable are the students to come back and look at this place like home?”

Isaac Bryan MPP ’18 cautioned the students that their time at the Luskin School would fly by.

“Land your solid GPA, learn your skill sets, but really build yourself a power base of relationships and connections to the city,” Bryan said. “Because here in Los Angeles I firmly believe that if you can solve a problem here and be a part of working on it, you can really take that anywhere. And that is something about UCLA Luskin that is really unique. So get busy.”

View additional photos on Flickr:

Diversity Fair 2018

UCLA Luskin Alumni Emerge as Local Leaders With Election Wins Former students credit policy lessons learned on campus with helping them garner votes during 2018 midterm races

By Stan Paul and Zoe Day

The November 2018 midterm elections provided an opportunity for several alumni to follow previous officeholders from the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and put their educational experience and training to the test in local California races, with three Master of Public Policy graduates winning election battles.

Nelson Esparza MPP ’15, an economics instructor at Fresno City College, won a grass-roots bid for Fresno’s city council. His latest win follows a successful campaign in 2016 for a spot on the Fresno County Board of Education in which he unseated a longtime incumbent.

“I attribute my success to the variety of different variables, but my experience at the Luskin School was just invaluable,” said Esparza, who will serve out his school board term until he takes the oath of office for his new role in January. “It wasn’t just the nitty-gritty of the public policy that we got into in the classroom. It was the leadership aspects that I was able to engage in with my peers inside and outside of the classroom and through the different supplemental programs that Luskin offered.”

Esparza said he is excited about the opportunity to impact public policy in Fresno. He cited independent study with Luskin Public Policy Professor Mark A. Peterson and “instrumental” advice from Michael Dukakis, visiting professor of public policy and the 1988 Democratic presidential nominee, as elements contributing to his win.

“And now we have a majority Democrat city council and a majority Latino city council, which is a lot more reflective of what our city looks like,” said Esparza, who has already started assembling his team and policy agenda. “We’re doing the best we possibly can to minimize the learning curve.”

Regina Wallace-Jones MPP ’99 was victorious in her run in East Palo Alto’s city council race.

“I cannot wait to get started with the policymaking. That’s where I am most enthusiastic,” said the chief of staff and head of product operations at eBay. She has also held posts at Yahoo and Facebook.

Wallace-Jones, who focused on technology policy as a student at Luskin, also said that classes such as Dukakis’ course were particularly “useful in sizing up the political opportunity.”

She is the founding board president of StreetCode Academy, a patron of Black Girls Code, a board member for Women Who Code and a partner of the Lean In Foundation.

Jacque Casillas MPP ’14, a nonprofit manager and healthcare advocate with Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest, also won a city council seat in her hometown of Corona.

“I feel like the hard work paid off. We knocked on 10,000 doors in our election and … we fundraised like crazy,” said Casillas, noting that a majority of contributions came from individual donors.

“It’s OK to be outspent but don’t be outworked. You’ve got to be able to do the work,” Casillas said. Early in her campaign, she posted a small number of signs compared to her competition. “Everyone thought it was all over, but, you know, yard signs don’t vote, people vote,” said Casillas, whose goal was to knock on every door twice.

“My Luskin family were among the first folks to donate to my campaign; they were the folks that I called that I didn’t have to explain why the heck I thought this was important or what the heck I thought I was doing,” said Casillas. She noted the generosity and time of local and some out-of-state Luskin alumni — “cohorts past and present”— who phone-banked for her remotely. “It’s Luskin, you know, it’s our network.”

Talking about her first run for office, “Luskin also showed me the value of really diving in to difficult policy questions, and that’s how I really outperformed the competitors,” Casillas said. “My candidate peers had a lot of platitudes to share about decisions that were being made. But during candidate forums, I had more substance and could provide a more thorough perspective on things.”

She also benefited from “the tools of the trade” like cost-benefit analysis and being able to speak in policy terms. “I acquired those skills at Luskin,” she said.

For Casillas, who previously served as a field deputy director for a congressional campaign, serving at the local level is important.

“That’s where decisions are made that impact your everyday life. I’m more of a practitioner. I wanted to make decisions, impact change and see it within five years in my community. That’s why I went back to school and got a master’s in public policy,” she said.

Like her colleagues were for her, Casillas said, “I’m always there for Luskin.”

Peterson, who also holds UCLA appointments in political science and law, congratulated the efforts of former policy students. “There are many valuable ways to be effective change agents, our coin of the realm,” he said. “Few, however, are as potent as becoming one of the actual decision-makers chosen by the voters.”

Two other MPP graduates who threw their hats in the ring this election season garnered second-place finishes in their respective races.

Shana Alex Charles MPP ’01, a professor in Cal State Fullerton’s Department of Public Health, ran for her local school board in Fullerton. Her research focuses on equal access to affordable healthcare in California, health insurance for low-income children and public health policies. At Luskin, she was a teaching assistant for Dukakis.

Mark Anthony Paredes MPP ’02 ran for a seat on Garden Grove’s city council. He is a teacher, health care advocate and former planning commissioner. He also serves as an associate board member for the Boys and Girls Club of Garden Grove.

About these candidates and others before them, Peterson said, “It takes guts, confidence, energy, optimism, hard work, a measure of luck and a thick skin, but there is no better way to become infused in one’s community and, if granted victory, to apply directly the MPP ethos and skills to improve policymaking.”

He continued, “Hats off to our dedicated MPP graduates who took the plunge in the past, in 2018, and who will in the future!”

Urban Planning Alumni Take Awards at ACSP Conference

Two UCLA Luskin Urban Planning alumni received prestigious awards for their work as doctoral students from the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning at its annual conference held this year in Buffalo, New York. Sean Kennedy UP Ph.D. ’18 is the winner of the Gill-Chin Lim Award for the best dissertation on international planning.  Anne Brown, who also completed her Ph.D. in spring 2018, won the Barclay Gibbs Jones Award for the best dissertation in planning. Brown is the third Luskin alum to do so in the last four years, said Brian Taylor, professor of urban planning and director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at the Luskin School. In addition to receiving a cash prize of $1,000, Kennedy was invited to present his paper, “Global Energy Transition and their Contradictions: Emerging Geographies in Energy and Finance in Indonesia and California,” at the ACSP conference. Kennedy is currently a postdoctoral researcher at the California Center for Sustainable Communities at UCLA. Brown is now an assistant professor in planning, public policy and management at the University of Oregon. Since its publication, Brown’s award-winning work has been noted in the media and was the subject of a Los Angeles Times op-ed she authored on racial discrimination in the taxi industry. Brown received $500 and also was invited to present her dissertation, “Ridehail Revolution: Ridehail Travel and Equity in Los Angeles,” at the conference.

Sean Kennedy, right, with Ashok Das UP Ph.D. ’08

Anne Brown

Public Policy Celebrates 20th Anniversary, Alumna of the Year Honored Jaime Nack ’02 is recognized for entrepreneurship, leadership and impact at UCLA and beyond

By Stan Paul

Since graduating its first class of 17 students in 1998, the Master of Public Policy program at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs has equipped nearly 900 more for careers in the public, private and nonprofit sectors.

The highly competitive MPP program that now admits about 70 students each year celebrated its second decade with alumni, faculty, staff, friends and family Sept. 22, 2018, at the UCLA Luskin Conference Center.

As part of the MPP program’s milestone anniversary, Jaime Nack MPP ’02 was named Alumna of the Year.

An entrepreneur and environmental consultant, Nack was a Luskin School Public Policy minor before pursuing her graduate degree. She credits UCLA with helping her meld her interests and foster her career.

“I always knew I wanted to focus on ‘impact’ and figuring out a way to effect change around the landscape around me, and public policy felt like the best place where I could actually explore those interests,” Nack said. “Whether it be transportation or housing or social welfare, all of the pieces that I was interested in my impact puzzle I found at Luskin, I found in public policy.”

Also during the celebration, five current students were given the UCLA Luskin MPP Alumni Fellowship Awards for outstanding leadership and service. The students, nominated by their classmates, were: Marissa Ayala, Robert Gamboa, Gabriela Solis, Caio Velasco and Erica Webster.

“A lot’s happened since many of you graduated,” Dean Gary Segura told the crowd, citing a list of accomplishments that included 19 new UCLA Luskin faculty hires, nine of whom are in Public Policy; the addition of new research centers; the launch of an undergraduate major in Public Affairs this fall; and, “more importantly, the training of a generation of MPPs who’ve gone off and made the world a better, cleaner, more just place to live.”

“We have impact on things that we care about,” such as climate change, water pollution, public education, health care, civil society and social inequality, Segura said. “All of these things are things that faculty at Luskin Public Policy work with students every day to understand, to explain, to search for solutions.”

On hand to celebrate two decades of growth and success was Public Policy chair JR DeShazo, who recalled his more than 20 years on the School’s faculty.

Despite the growth of the Public Policy community, “we need all the MPPs we can get in this day and age,” said DeShazo, who is also director of the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation.

“We share a common goal of creating a more just society and opportunities for all of its members,” he added. “We gather today because we are part of a community committed to strengthening our civil society, and we gather here today because we all know that our future depends on us investing in staying connected and supporting one another.”

Former Public Policy chairs including Mark Peterson and Michael Stoll attended the anniversary celebration.

“We have all watched the department and program grow from the excitement of the founding moment to become an institution of considerable reputation and influence,” Peterson said prior to the event. “You can see it in our graduates, where they go and what they do.”

Peterson added, “There is no better embodiment of that impact than Jaime Nack.”

Nurit Katz MPP ’08, who currently serves as UCLA’s chief sustainability officer and executive officer of facilities management, presented the Alumna of the Year Award to Nack, crediting her leadership in sustainability and climate issues nationally and internationally.

Nack’s accomplishments as an entrepreneur include founding Three Squares Inc., an environmental consulting firm, and serving as director of sustainability and greening operations for the 2008 and 2012 Democratic National Conventions, marking the first time the DNC took measures to reduce the events’ environmental impact on host cities. She also has served as a member of the National Women’s Business Council — an Obama Administration appointment — and is on UCLA’s Alumni Association Board of Directors. In 2011, Nack was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum.

Nack described her career journey as “non-linear” but said she found a path to environmental consulting because it was a “perfect blend of policy, business and impact.”

“So the last 20 years have take me through the Arctic to the White House,” said Nack, who returned recently from an Arctic expedition sponsored by FutureTalks, and more recently served as head of sustainability for the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco.

“It’s been great to be a part of and play a role in some of those, but I definitely think that a big part of who I am comes from my experiences on campus with professors, with staff. I owe a debt of gratitude. … I can’t wait to see what the next 20 years brings for Luskin.”

View a Flickr album from the event.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by George Foulsham

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

 

 

 

 

 

Connecting With Those Who Once Traveled the Same Path During annual career event, UCLA Luskin Alumni Career Leaders share employment insights and offer career advice to current students preparing to enter the job market

More than 60 alumni returned to UCLA Luskin on April 26, 2018, to provide informational interviews to students during the second annual Alumni Career Connections event.

The meetings gave Urban Planning, Public Policy and Social Welfare students an opportunity to meet graduates of the School who serve as Luskin Alumni Career Leaders and receive career advice, learn about job opportunities and connect with practitioners in their fields of career interest.

The number of alumni volunteers grew by 30 percent this year, giving UCLA Luskin students additional opportunities to gain invaluable information.

“A 2017 Career Services survey ranked alumni networking as one of the graduates’ top two sources of job leads, so it’s essential to provide these opportunities to students,” said VC Powe, director of Career Services and the Leadership Development Program.

“We were very excited to be able to put on this event for a second year in a row,” said Emily Le, career counselor at UCLA Luskin. “It gives students an opportunity to connect with many alumni in their related fields that they wouldn’t normally get an opportunity to meet with. Some of the first-year students have already said that they’re looking forward to next year’s event.”

Alumni also appreciated the opportunity to meet current students. Sheena Innocente MSW ’15 said, “The students I met with were very interested in learning about research consulting and how it can serve to shift policy at nonprofit agencies and in political ways.”

This year’s Career Connections event was expanded to include a resume station and a free photo booth for LinkedIn and other website headshots.

Many students, such as first-year public policy student Sarah Rubinstein, seized the opportunity to improve their professional profiles by getting photos taken. Others worked with Social Welfare alumnae Christina Hernandez and Juliane Nguyen and Public Policy alumna Emily Williams to review their resumes. The three also coached students on how best to formally present their information for interviews.

The meetings did not end once the doors were shut in the Ackerman Grand Ballroom; some alumni joined students for dinner or coffee and many exchanged business cards to stay in contact with their newfound UCLA Luskin connections.

Ruby Ramirez, who is in her second year as a dual MPP and MSW student, and C.J. Horvath, who is in his first year of the MURP degree, were two of the attendees who said they gained important connections with new alumni, while reinforcing their current networks. “I thought the whole event was done really well,” Horvath said.

As the lights were dimmed and a crew began to clear furniture, Williams MPP ’98, was spotted in the corner with a student. “I can’t leave now,” she called out, “I want to finish with this student before I go.”

— UCLA Luskin staff

Click or swipe to view additional photos from the event on Flickr:

Alumni Career Connections Event

Gross Fellowship Recipients Meet Their Benefactors at Luncheon

Click or swipe below to view a Flickr album of photos of the 2018 fellowship recipients with Cal and Marilyn Gross and UCLA Luskin Director of Development Ricardo Quintero:

2018 Gross Fellowship

Alumni Share Advice with Urban Planning, Public Health Students

The event was organized by students. Pictured, from left to right, are Rae Spriggs (MURP & MPH), Teddy Tollin (undergraduate geography major), Rebecca Ferdman (MURP & MPH), Tsai, Jasneet Bains (MURP & MPH), Diaz, Cristina Valadez (MPH), Simunovic, and Ali Goodyear (MPH). Click or swipe below to view a Flickr album of additional photos:

 

BEPHC alumni event

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