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

Jane Christenson MA UP ’02 has joined Placer County’s executive management team as assistant county executive officer.

Stephen Cheung MSW ’07 has been named executive vice president of the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation (LAEDC), in addition to his role as president of World Trade Center Los Angeles.

Saira Gandhi MPP ’14 has been named investment management analyst at Los Angeles City Employees’ Retirement System (LACERS).  Gandhi is a former UCLA Luskin Bohnett Fellow in the Office of the Mayor of Los Angeles.

Khalilha Haynes MURP ’18 has been named an associate at Estolano LeSar Advisors.

Nate Hughes MPP ’01 has been named senior manager for business development and client management at CTI Clinical Trial and Consulting Services.

Laurel Hunt MURP ’14 has been appointed vice chair at Alliance of Regional Collaboratives for Climate Adaptation (ARCCA).

Amalia M. Merino MURP ’13 started a new position as associate planner for the Woolsey Fire Rebuild and Recovery Unit, City of Malibu, at 4LEAF Inc.

Julie Munjack MPP ’09 has been appointed Pacific Northwest regional director for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

Paul Sorensen MA UP ’05 has been promoted to principal at the transportation consulting firm Cambridge Systematics.

Takao Suzuki MA UP ’04 has been appointed to the Affordable Housing Advisory Council by FHLBank San Francisco.  Takao is currently director of community economic development for the Little Tokyo Service Center Community Development Corporation in Los Angeles.

Naomi Tacuyan Underwood MPP ’08 is the new executive director of the Asian American Journalists Association. She joins AAJA from the Washington, D.C.-based Faith & Politics Institute, where she served as director of programs.

Guiding Tomorrow’s Difference Makers Potential internship providers can help ensure that UCLA Luskin's new undergraduate major remains strong as it grows

By Les Dunseith

Inside stately Royce Hall on a recent morning, more than 100 UCLA undergraduates listened intently as their professor spoke about one of the key documents of American democracy — the Federalist Papers.

“The greatest threat to liberty in the eyes of James Madison is faction — that is, the natural tendency of humanity to see their own interests as important and to work together with others who share those interests to try to get their way,” the professor said. “Now the problem with factions is that, while we might see things that they do wrong, if you’re going to have anything that looks like liberty, people have the right to advocate for themselves. Right? You can’t say you can’t go out there and try to make your lot better. That’s hardly liberty.”

It’s a lesson that draws from the past to provide context for the factionalized politics of today. It’s also essential knowledge for a class of aspiring public servants. The person laying this foundation? It’s a man whose influence was essential to creating the educational opportunity his students now pursue — Gary Segura, dean of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.

The course — Public Affairs 50: Foundations and Debates in Public Thought — taught by Segura in spring quarter was just one of many signposts that the new undergraduate major in Public Affairs is taking shape. Other core courses are being taught, and scores of pre-majors are filling the seats. A class of incoming freshman has been recruited. Transfer students are arriving too. Construction has begun on a dedicated undergraduate office space in the Public Affairs Building. Additional staff are being hired.

But there is still much to be done.

Jocelyn Guihama, director of administration and experiential learning, is hard at work building out the experiential learning component of the major. Time is short. By winter 2020, she expects about 65 Public Affairs juniors to be planning senior-year internships.

To create those opportunities, Guihama is pursuing leads and hammering out details for mentorships in government, in public service agencies and in the many advocacy organizations that help shape policies.

Those partnerships are occurring thanks to supportive people throughout Los Angeles, including some connections close to home like UCLA Luskin alumnus Kevin Medina, program coordinator for the LGBT Campus Resource Center at UCLA. He got his job upon graduation in 2016 with master’s degrees in social welfare and public policy.

Guihama and Administrative Specialist Justin De Toro stopped by his office recently to discuss key assistance Medina is providing to the new major. Guihama noted that Medina had been instrumental in connecting her with a “very large organization in Los Angeles” as a possible internship sponsor.

“I definitely engage with our community in person, as well as through our digital resources,” Medina explained. “We usually have a resource or career fair for LGBTQ and social justice organizations that exist in Los Angeles. We also engage with folks constantly for their paid internship opportunities — for career development for our students.”

Discussions are also underway about placing future Public Affairs students as interns at UCLA’s LGBT Campus Resource Center.

“We know that there are so many centers on campus doing work that is relevant to our students’ interests,” Guihama noted. “So, we hope to connect students to experiential learning opportunities both on and off campus, where students can develop an understanding of what it takes to create social change.”

In his job, Medina provides personal counseling to people “who are at various stages of coming out or [exploring] various relationships to their personal intersectional LGBTQ identity.” His point of view is not far removed from the concerns of many undergraduates.

For example, Medina stressed that “desirability of location is an important advantage of UCLA in terms of quality of life — particularly for folks with multiple marginalized identities. Where am I going to feel safe? Where am I going to find a community?”

For him, that sense of community extends to UCLA Luskin, and Medina is excited to play a role in helping the new major grow. Guihama hopes others — both recent graduates like Medina and the many older UCLA alumni who work in the Los Angeles area — will follow his example.

The experiential learning opportunities are envisioned as an essential step in the undergraduates’ educations, which will culminate with capstone projects.

“The internships have to allow students to test what they’ve learned in the classroom,” Guihama explained. “The senior capstone experience is not only about being out in the community. It’s taking those experiences back to the classroom, reflecting on them, and then building a capstone project with and for the organization that has hosted the student.”

Potential partners may contact Guihama by email or call (310) 569-4491.

5 Luskin Alumni Are Among New Senior Fellows They join other professionals as mentors for graduate students

For the first time, five alumni of UCLA Luskin are included in the new group of Senior Fellows — two each from Public Policy and Social Welfare, plus a graduate of Urban Planning. In the Senior Fellows Leadership Program, professionals in careers associated with fields related to the School’s academic programs volunteer to mentor graduate students. Senior Fellows also provide UCLA Luskin students with career guidance and arrange an on-site visit at their organization.

The five alumni additions:

  • Michael Alvidrez MA UP ’83 is external ambassador and CEO emeritus of Skid Row Housing Trust
  • Seth Jacobson MPP ’03 is senior director of energy and water programs for Climate Resolve
  • Cheryl Mathieu SW Ph.D. ’05 is founder and CEO of AgingPro
  • Paco Retana MSW ’90 is vice president of programs at Los Angeles Child Guidance Clinic
  • Emily Williams MPP ’98 is senior deputy for human services and child welfare for Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas

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.

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.

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

A Speedy Solution to Networking A new format for the UCLA Luskin career event gives students direct access to alumni in their fields and fosters ideas about what they can do after graduation

By Zev Hurwitz

Taking a cue from speed dating, the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs held its first alumni career networking event in which graduates of the school’s three departments met with current students about professional opportunities.

The event, held April 20, 2017, at the UCLA Faculty Center, was the first career development opportunity for students in which each employer was represented by an alumnus or alumna of the Luskin School.

Edon Cohanim, a first-year MPP student, said he appreciated the directness with which alumni provided tips on best practices.

“Alumni are more willing to help us and are more down-to-earth with us,” he said. “I got some advice on my career and how to pursue it, and they helped me understand what good moves are.”

Barbara Andrade-Dubransky MSW `00, director of program support at First 5 LA, said she hoped to help students understand more about career options in social welfare.

“There’s interest for students in knowing what’s going on out in the field, and I’m happy to share not only what I know about my organization, but I have relationships with other organizations, so I’m happy to share information to help students find other opportunities as well,” Andrade-Dubransky said.

UCLA Luskin Career Services launched Alumni Career Connections in lieu of its annual career fair. In past years, Luskin had held career events that more closely resembled traditional job fairs. This year, students met one-on-one with alumni who graduated from the same department or who currently work in the student’s desired field. Each student had the opportunity to meet with up to three alumni over the course of an hour.

VC Powe, director of career services and leadership development at UCLA Luskin, said the change was in response to feedback from employers whose participation in the annual job fair had dwindled in recent years.

“For many employers, these small career fairs are passé,” she said. “I shared that with my student advisory committee, and one of the students said, ‘I want an alumni career fair.’ I lit up at the thought of that and said, ‘That’s a great idea!’”

Although many students attend career fairs in the hopes of finding a job, Powe noted that most UCLA Luskin students end up securing employment through networking.

“Networking, especially with alumni from your program, is extremely important,” she said. “This is more of a ‘We share a career-field, and am I prepared to do what you’re doing?’ kind of event.”

Alumni met with as many as eight students over the course of the evening. In all, 105 students and 42 alumni participated.

Jasneet Bains, a second-year, dual-degree graduate student in urban planning and public health, said she attended because she liked the structure of meeting with alumni from her programs and wanted to broaden her professional network.

“We were matched up with alumni who share our interests, and that’s very valuable,” Bains said. “They’re able to provide specific insight. Having gone through that process, they’re able to teach us about how to take knowledge from our program and apply that in the field.”

Adrian Cotta, a second-year MSW student, said he had no expectations about leaving the event with a job offer, but she hoped to learn from alumni who had the same educational experience as he did.

“I’m hoping to get some advice from people in the field to see how to begin a career — and make a new friend, if nothing else,” he said.

Wendy Yan MA UP `97, vice president of underwriting at affordable housing syndicator WNC and Associates, said that she attended not only to inform students about the field but also to recruit for summer internships and possibly full-time jobs.

“We’re always looking for good people,” Yan said. “Being an alum of the urban planning program, I know there are a lot of students who specialize in affordable housing, and so we’d love to have good people from Luskin work with us.”

Rima Zobayan MPP `01 currently works at Westat, focusing on an implementation project for national assessment on educational progress for the U.S. Department of Education.

“I was in the fourth class of public policy students, so there weren’t a lot of alumni who could participate in something like this for us,” Zobayan said. “It’s great for alums to have a chance to talk to current students, to share what we’re doing and to see what students’ interests might be.”

On the Job Training UCLA Luskin alumni return to campus to share career insights and tips with students seeking full-time and summer work

By Zev Hurwitz

With second-year Luskin students searching for career opportunities and first-year students looking to lock in summer placements, the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs presented an alumni panel to give timely advice about what types of jobs might be out there in the public service sector.

At an evening panel discussion hosted by Luskin School Career Services on March 9, 2017, alumni of all three UCLA Luskin master’s programs spoke about working professionally with local governments and how their degrees opened those careers as possibilities.


Former Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis, who has taught as a visiting professor at the Luskin School each winter for more than 20 years, spoke about the opportunities for Luskin students to engage in public service, and he challenged the audience — mostly current Luskin students — to make strides in addressing the world’s issues.

“Five-sixths of the world today is conflict-free,“ Dukakis said. “The challenge now is how do we get the remaining one-sixth to join the other five-sixths? I just hope that, in addition to everything else you’re doing, you’ll be working hard for that kind of future.”

Five UCLA Luskin alumni spoke on the panel, which was moderated by Emily C. Williams MPP ’98, a member of Luskin’s first-ever graduating Master of Public Policy class. Williams noted that the panel’s academic diversity demonstrated the value in having cross-educational opportunities for current students, and she encouraged the audience to enroll in courses in other disciplines.

“It’s really nice that we have this great array of talent from all three departments in the school,” Williams said. “What was nice, for those of us who took classes outside our department, is that we really got to know some of the people outside of our programs, which lends itself to great working relationships.”

Paul Weinberg MPP ’98 is now emergency services administrator in the Office of Emergency Management for the City of Santa Monica. Weinberg spoke about how his schooling — Dukakis’ course in particular — gave him important insight into professionalism.

“Always return your phone calls — I cannot tell you how important that is,” Weinberg said. “You’ve got to find a way to acknowledge people reaching out to you,” attributing that advice to Dukakis. “Also, never say or write anything you don’t want to see on the cover of the L.A. Times. If you think about that now, that is more important than ever because [if] you put something out there in social media, it’s everywhere.”

Nahatahna Cabanes MSW ’13 is director of the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program at L.A. Works. As a former Bohnett Fellow, Cabanes had the opportunity to work in the administration of former L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa while a student at Luskin. She said her current job is different from her role in the mayor’s office, but both jobs speak to her interests.

“It’s because I’m a little bit bipolar in term of my interests that I still have the compassion that drove me to social work, but at the same time, I’m a community organizer at heart and I love the world of politics,” Cabanes said. “I sort of balance between the macro and the micro.”

Molly Rysman MA UP ’05 is now the housing and homelessness deputy for Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl. Rysman discussed her experience bringing a priority issue to the mainstream of local politics.

“When I joined [Rysman’s] office, I worked really hard during her campaign to educate both her and her challenger that homelessness was an important issue — because back then you had to actually tell elected officials to care about homelessness,” she said. “Now I get to work on an issue that’s top of the agenda.”

Also serving on the panel were Daniel Rodman MURP ’14, now transportation manager in Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office, and Everado Alvizo MSW ’08, a former Bohnett Fellow who now works as a project coordinator and registered associate clinical social worker for Special Service for Groups.

VC Powe, director of career services and leadership development at Luskin, said that giving opportunities for current students to engage with alumni is critical in providing a realistic idea of what life after UCLA will be like.

“When we have representatives from an organization talk about their work, they’re going to give you all of the formal, appropriate ‘yes-you-need-to-know’ detailed background about the organization,” Powe said. “When you’re talking to an alum, they’re also going to give you the inside story and they’re going to be honest. The alum knows what the students have learned here, so they can tell them how to tailor their experience to the jobs they’re seeking. I think that’s a very important difference.”