Posts

New Franklin D. Gilliam, Jr., Award Advances UCLA Luskin’s Mission of Social Justice The new Franklin D. Gilliam, Jr., Social Justice Award was created to advance research that focuses on issues of racial justice and inequality

By Adeney Zo

Franklin D. Gilliam, Jr., served as dean of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs for seven years, and his legacy here continues to inspire and provide support for Luskin students.

Through the efforts of members of the UCLA Luskin advisory board along with many other donors, the new Franklin D. Gilliam, Jr., Social Justice Award was created to advance research that focuses on issues of racial justice and inequality. Reflecting the School’s mission to bring about social change through academic excellence, this award highlights student scholarship that addresses crucial societal issues.

Board Chair Susan F. Rice explains, “Frank Gilliam’s commitment to social justice permeated his leadership approach. His collaborative style in cross-discipline initiatives left a significant legacy on the students, the faculty, the campus and our Board of Advisors. In particular, the Board relished Frank’s pride in the Luskin School students as research practitioners engaging public personnel in social justice issues. It seemed fitting to establish an award recognizing student initiative.”

This year’s award recipients will be studying a wide range of topics related to social justice, diversity and equity.

Susanna Curry, a doctoral candidate in Social Welfare, was selected for a project which will study housing insecurity among millennials. Curry’s ultimate goal as a researcher is to help end homelessness in the U.S., but her research will first examine the causes of housing insecurity among millennials in early stages of adult life.

“I want to encourage social welfare scholarship to include a greater understanding of housing insecurity, that is, the situations in which people find themselves immediately before becoming homeless such as living temporarily in another person’s home, moving frequently, and facing eviction or a high rent burden,” said Curry.

Curry aims to study how childhood adversity and access to social supports, particularly stemming from the foster care system, may influence housing instability among young adults.

“It is important that we better understand living situations and housing-related stressors beyond age 21, and associated risks and resources, so that service providers and policymakers can develop greater supports for these [foster] youth as appropriate into young adulthood,” said Curry.

Curry will also examine on a national scale how social and cultural patterns may factor into this issue.

While Curry’s work will examine a nationwide issue, three recipients of the award will focus their research on issues within UCLA. Elizabeth Calixtro, a master of Public Policy student; Kevin Medina, a master of Social Welfare and master of Public Policy student; and Nisha Parekh, a master of Public Policy and Law student, were selected for their proposal to evaluate diversity and equity programming at UCLA in conjunction with the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.

“We plan to use the data we collect to create feasible recommendations for the UCLA Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) regarding ways to harmonize the various EDI-related efforts across campus,” said Medina. “EDI was created less than a year ago, and we aim to provide recommendations that will further this harmonization project.”

All three members of the team have backgrounds in social justice work, allowing for them to advance the mission of the award while also utilizing their combined experience to create change within UCLA.

“We felt that selecting a topic addressing equity issues would allow us to bring together multiple lenses and skill sets to create an impactful policy project,” said Medina. “This award provides us with the necessary and scarce resources to actualize our ambitious vision for our policy project.”

The team will be evaluating the EDI’s programs through focus groups, interviews and a campuswide survey. They will also be contacting universities similar to UCLA in order to understand how other schools implement diversity and equity programming. With the implementation of a new undergraduate diversity requirement for UCLA College freshmen, this study may play an important part in the development of these courses.

Other award recipients are Marylou Adriatico, a master of Social Welfare student, and Joanna L. Barreras, Charles H. Lea III and Christina Tam, all doctoral candidates in Social Welfare.

To learn more about the Franklin D. Gilliam, Jr., Social Justice Award, or to make a contribution, visit this page.

A summary of the project descriptions for the Social Justice Award winners can be found here.

Social Welfare student to present at the Summer Colloquium for Social, Economic and Environmental Equity Christina Tam will discuss racial, economic, and social inequalities

 

By Alejandra Reyes-Velarde

Luskin Student Writer

Social Welfare’s Christina Tam was recently one of 10 doctoral students from across the country to be selected to be a part of the Summer Colloquium for Social, Economic and Environmental Equity. The Colloquium will be held at the Boston College School of Social work and will be hosted by professors David Takeuchi and Ruth McRoy.

At the event, Tam will present her dissertation and contribute to ideas addressing racial, economic, social and environmental inequalities. Her dissertation examines Los Angeles County by ethnicity to better understand each ethnic minority’s circumstances within the juvenile justice system.

Last year, Tam was one of many students to present academic papers for the Society for Social Work and Research conference, during which she talked about two of her papers regarding juvenile delinquency studies. Through her research, Tam has explored gender differences in crime, how formerly incarcerated adults find social support and the overrepresentation of Southeast Asians in the American justice system.

 

 

Doctoral Students Pioneer New Research in Social Welfare

By Adeney Zo
UCLA Luskin student writer 

UCLA Luskin is home to a renowned Social Welfare doctoral program, one that focuses on independent research and interdisciplinary studies in order to produce top scholars and researchers. “Our doctoral program offers students the opportunity to pursue an independent line of study,” says professor Laura Abrams, chair of the doctoral program. “Although we are a small program, we focus on each individual student so that they are able to pursue these diverse interests and become leaders and scholars.” Among many notable achievements by both students and faculty, the following Social Welfare students were recently recognized for their research and work.

Two students had the opportunity to present academic papers at the Society for Social Work and Research conference in San Antonio. Gina Rosen presented a paper on “Determinants of Employment: Impact of Medicaid and CHIP among Unmarried Female Heads of Household with Young Children.” For her research, Rosen analyzed how social welfare programs impact the employment choices of low-income single mothers with young children (particularly under the age of six). Rosen explains that her childhood in Milwaukee, a city with high rates of inequality and segregation, inspired her to study policy issues in college and graduate school. “I wanted to look at these equality and fairness issues and how to correct them through public policy,” says Rosen. Her work was also recently accepted for publication in the journal Social Work in Public Health.

For the same conference, Christina Tam presented two papers on juvenile delinquency. For her first paper, “Gender Differences in Desistance from Crime: How Do Formerly Incarcerated Emerging Adults Use Social Supports?” Tam worked closely with Professor Abrams on the subject of transition to adulthood among formerly incarcerated young people, ages 18-25. This study analyzes youth transitioning out of juvenile justice and foster care systems. “I am interested in better understanding their experiences, as well as the practices and policies that may help these young people to cross this significant bridge,” explains Abrams.

Tam’s second project, and the subject of her dissertation, is a quantitative study on the overrepresentation of Southeast Asians in the American justice system. Her paper focuses on the acculturation of immigrant Cambodian families that have survived trauma and violence and how these changes affect rates of incarceration for their youth. Tam explains, “[I chose this group because] as a small population with a high amount of incarcerated youth, they are an understudied group in America.” Tam’s interest in the justice system stems from her undergraduate days as a Psychology and Criminology student at UC Irvine, and she describes her current research as “a good melding of all my interests, especially with studying second-generation Asian Americans.”

Matthew Mizel is also working closely with Professor Abrams on issues relating to incarcerated youth. Mizel first developed an interest in helping these youth through a volunteer teaching program in juvenile hall. “In 2003, I began teaching creative writing as a volunteer to incarcerated youth, and through the years my passion for that grew,” Mizel relates. “I eventually wanted to spend more of my time making an impact, and I decided the best way to do that was getting my Master’s and Ph.D.” For his research, Mizel conducted a systematic review on the use of mentoring programs as intervention for formerly incarcerated youth. He worked with Abrams to submit his research to the Journal of Evidence-Based Work, which was accepted last summer. “I learned a great deal from working with Professor Abrams. She helped me grow as a researcher and social welfare scholar,” says Mizel. “I ultimately want to become a professor in the future, and UCLA Luskin is helping me get the training and knowledge I need.”

While Tam and Mizel work with Abrams on youth incarceration, a few students also collaborate with Ian Holloway, Assistant Professor in Social Welfare, to research the social determinants of HIV/AIDS. “HIV is a major public health issue,” comments Holloway. “We’ve made tremendous progress in terms of preventing the virus in certain populations like mothers and infants. Now it’s important to address health disparities in sexual minority communities and racial ethnic groups disproportionately affected by HIV.” Holloway’s current research focuses on analyzing the social networks of HIV positive men in Los Angeles in relation to their well being and health, as well as developing a mobile smartphone application to encourage HIV testing and treatment among young African American gay and bisexual men (a heavily impacted demographic).

Shannon Dunlap is one of four students currently working with Professor Holloway on his social network research. “We’re using an informative survey to assess social networks of different people affected by HIV,” explains Dunlap. “We want to know how many people are in their social network, who they talk to, and how their social network supports them.” Outside of her studies, Dunlap also works with AMP!, a UCLA Art & Global Health Center program that aims to educate students about HIV through song, dance, and personal stories. “I’m looking at how [AMP!] impacts students and their social networks, along with how well the message has been received,” says Dunlap.

For fellow student Lesley Harris, HIV research led her on a journey to Vietnam to conduct a three-year field study. A country with traditionally underreported rates of HIV and a large population of young adults who are injection drug users, Vietnam is a key location to study the medical and social effects of HIV/AIDS. Harris’ studies focus on the relationship between children who have lost their parents due to AIDS and their grandparents, who consequently become the caretakers. By examining the effects of HIV on family dynamics, Harris also hopes to understand the greater social context surrounding the HIV epidemic in Vietnam. “Health is something that is socially constructed,” explains Harris. “The grandparents in Vietnam understood AIDS as a social evil, not a health issue.”

While conducting her field study, Harris also began to notice the importance of her relationship with her interpreter, a Vietnamese local. “Without an interpreter, it’s hard to bridge the cultural disconnect,” says Harris. “My interpreter actually had his own interpretation of the data, by looking at it through a Vietnamese lens.” As researcher-interpreter relation is not a frequently studied topic, Harris began work on a separate paper analyzing her close relationship with her interpreter and how it affected her understanding of the research. The resulting product, “Working in Partnership with Interpreters: Studies on Individuals Affected by HIV/AIDS in Vietnam,” was recently published in the Qualitative Health Research journal. Lesley is currently preparing for her final defense of her dissertation (chaired by emeritus professor Ted Benjamin) and is beginning a job as an assistant professor at the University of Louisville’s Kent School of Social Work in the fall.

While each Social Welfare student’s interests and research varies widely, their combined achievements serve to bring new insight and perspective to the field. “The Social Welfare program has a unique mix of scholars interested in society’s most pressing issues,” says Holloway. “Many of these issues intersect, and what’s been most exciting for me is that there is a lot of encouragement of interdisciplinary collaboration both within the school and within the larger university.” As the doctoral program continues to foster the development of innovative and interdisciplinary scholars, there may be more achievements in store for the students of Social Welfare.