Annual conference at UCLA Luskin increases awareness and shares information about working with the Latinx community
Newly hired Urban Planning faculty member Kelly Turner speaks during the "job talk" with UCLA Luskin faculty, staff and students that took place when she visited campus in January to interview for the position. Photo by Les Dunseith
By Les Dunseith
Nine new faculty members will be joining the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs on July 1 as part of a hiring binge that will soon enlarge the size of the full-time faculty by almost 20 percent and further diversify its demographic makeup.
The additions will help UCLA Luskin expand it course offerings, in part to support the new undergraduate major in public affairs set to launch in fall of 2018. A few positions will fill openings that had become vacant because of faculty retirements and other departures.
Dean Gary Segura said the new hires expand the Luskin School’s range of knowledge and evolve its faculty to better match the country’s rapidly changing demographics.
“These additions to the Luskin School faculty represent an outstanding growth and expansion of our expertise and social impact,” Segura said. “With these additions and those last year, we are among the most diverse and interdisciplinary units in the entire UC system and profoundly well-positioned to engage, educate, study, and contribute to California’s diverse and dynamic population.”
Six of the new hires are women and four are Latino. They include two new assistant professors in Social Welfare and three new assistant professors in Urban Planning, plus two assistant professors, one associate professor and one full professor who will join Public Policy.
The new faculty represent additional expertise for the School in international human and women’s rights; survey research; environmental planning, adaptation, and justice; criminal justice and bias in policing; immigration; gentrification; social and political inequality; poverty; and social identity among youth.
Among the additions are three political scientists, two economists, a developmental psychologist, a sociologist and a geographer. All of the positions have multidisciplinary aspects, crossing department lines not only within the Luskin School but also, in some cases, with academic units elsewhere on campus.
In all, 40 candidates were interviewed, coming from across the United States and around the world. The new faculty range from people just finishing graduate school to a full professor.
Here are the nine new faculty members:
- The full professor is Martin Gilens, who previously taught political science at UCLA and has also worked at Yale and, most recently, Princeton. Gilens, who will join the Public Policy faculty, grew up in Los Angeles and has strong ties to the university.
- Amada Armenta: She is returning to UCLA where she completed her PhD in sociology, and will join Urban Planning in the fall. Armenta comes to UCLA from the University of Pennsylvania where she is an Assistant Professor of Sociology. Her work looks at immigration enforcement and its impact on the lives and communities affected. She is particularly interested in the intervention of the criminal justice system in immigration enforcement. She has been published in Social Problems and the Annual Review of Sociology, in addition to her University of California Press book, “Protect, Serve, and Deport: The Rise of Policing as Immigration Enforcement.”
- Natalie Bau: She is an international economist currently at the University of Toronto and will be joining Public Policy. Bau’s work examines several different aspects of the economics of education and educational policies and their downstream implications, including the effects on marriage patterns, teacher pay, student achievement and motivation, and others. She has projects in the works including “The Misallocation of Pay and Productivity in the Public Sector: Evidence from the Labor Market for Teachers” as well as “Labour Coercion and Economic Growth: Evidence from the Harrying of the North.”
- Liz Koslov: She will assume a joint post in Urban Planning and the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability as an assistant professor. Koslov is a scholar of environmental justice and specifically examines the urban socio-cultural impacts of climate change. She is currently a Mellon Post-Doctoral Fellow at MIT, and holds a PhD in Media, Culture, and Communication from New York University. She is in the process of completing her first book, “Retreat: Moving to Higher Ground in a Climate-Changed City,” under contract to the University of Chicago Press.
- Amy Ritterbusch: She will be joining Social Welfare. Ritterbusch is a human and urban geographer and currently an associate professor of government at the Universidad de los Andes in Bogotá, Colombia. Her work is focused on urban social justice movements, marginalized youth, substance abuse, prostitution and other downstream effects of child poverty. She also brings extensive expertise in field work, ethnographic methods and Latin American populations across the hemisphere. She has written several journal articles, which have been featured in Child, Abuse & Neglect, Global Public Health, Annals of the American Association of Geographers and other peer-reviewed journals.
- Carlos Santos: Currently an assistant professor in counseling psychology at ASU, Santos is coming to UCLA Luskin Social Welfare. His work is principally on gender and ethnic identities, stereotypes, and their impacts on social adjustment, educational performance and outcomes among adolescents in communities of color. He received his PhD from NYU and his work has been funded by NSF and NIH. In addition to his monograph “Studying Ethnic Identity” for the American Psychological Association, his work has been published in many outlets, including the Journal of Youth and Adolescence and the Journal of Counseling Psychology.
- V. Kelly Turner: Turner is currently an assistant professor of geography at Kent State and her focus is human-environmental interaction and urban management. She will join Luskin Urban Planning in the fall. Her focus has been on how institutional arrangements and good metrics for resource consumption can help us build toward a more sustainable ecosystem, and she has applied this work to water resources, sustainable urbanism, and green infrastructure. She is the author of more than a dozen journal articles in publications such as Applied Geography, Ecology and Society, Urban Geography, and others.
- Emily Weisburst: She is finishing a PhD in economics at UT-Austin and will be joining Public Policy. Her work focuses on bias in policing, officer discretion in arrest behavior, police reform, and the effects of police presence in public schools. Weisburst previously served as a staff economist at the Council of Economic Advisors in the Executive Office of the President, and has done collaborative research for RAND and the State of Texas. Her work has been published in the Journal of Higher Education and Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis.
- Chris Zepeda-Millan: He joins Luskin Public Policy. Zepeda-Millan is a political scientist and current professor of ethnic studies at UC Berkeley. His research focuses on social movements, immigration and communities of color, and has been published in American Journal of Political Science, Political Research Quarterly, Social Science Quarterly, and Politics, Groups and Identities. His book, “Latino Mass Mobilization: Immigration, Racialization and Activism,” was recently published by Cambridge University Press. Zepeda-Millan will be jointly appointed in the Department of Chicana/o Studies and will be working with the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative.
Participants view responses to the question, "What is Resistance" at the April 20, 2018 "Resistance Through Research" conference hosted by UCLA Luskin School doctoral students. Photo by George Foulsham
By Stan Paul
For urban planning, social welfare and education doctoral students at UCLA, the results of the 2016 election added a new urgency to their role as researchers and to their research agendas.
In response to the rhetoric and policies of the Trump administration following the inauguration, a working group was formed to discuss questions of concern for upcoming scholars in UCLA’s academic and professional programs who are — and will be — working directly with individuals and groups in diverse communities.
This year, the group’s efforts culminated in “Resistance through Research: Social Justice Research and Activism in the Trump Era,” a conference held April 20, 2018, at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.
“As Ph.D. students in the professional schools, we conduct research on issues of race, gender and class-based discrimination, and we critically examine the opportunities that people have to participate in the institutions that shape their lives,” said Rebecca Crane, an Urban Planning doctoral student and one of the event organizers. “We decided to start a working group to discuss these issues which we hope will create dialogue around the notion of a politically engaged research agenda and its potential to challenge inequality now in this political moment.”
“Urgency for resistance is not new, but rather persistent,” said Roy, a professor of urban planning, social welfare and geography. “The phenomenon of Trumpism is not unique to the United States.” Rather, it is something that must be treated “as a rupture in the fabric of the world.”
But, she added: “The question is whether we, scholars rooted in academia, have stepped up … whether the global university, a command and control node of knowledge production, can be committed to such forms of research.”
And, Roy pointed out, academic fields and institutions that produce knowledge are not exempt from examination or resistance.
“For me, resistance within, against and from the university has meant a politics of alliance, solidarity and collectivism. It has meant taking and exercising academic freedom through a very visible politics of building collectivity, of building a commons.”
However, she cautioned the room full of students and researchers, “There’s a hell of a lot of risk ahead of you.”
The conference also included a panel focused on research methods illustrating theoretical and political points of departure and avenues in academic research. Panelists represented different career stages from new Ph.D.s to veteran scholars and educators.
Daniel Solórzano, a longtime professor of Education and Chicano/a Studies at UCLA, recalled early in his academic career his decision to go against the grain — and against the advice of senior scholars — to “challenge the dominant frames.” Solórzano whose teaching and research interests include critical race theory, agreed that “the issues are something that are not new,” crediting his students with helping him advance important work and fields of inquiry. “I need a diverse student population to move this work forward.”
Also on the methods panel was Nina Flores, who completed her doctorate in urban planning at UCLA Luskin in 2016. Flores, now an assistant professor of Social and Cultural Analysis at California State University Long Beach, also discussed the challenge and benefits of “push-back.”
“Find your people,” she said, citing her work and collaboration with longtime UCLA Luskin Urban Planning faculty members Leo Estrada and the late Jacqueline Leavitt. By finding the right people to work with, Flores said, “the push-back can be creative,” as well as affirming.
Also making up the methods panel were Kristina Lovato-Hermann SW Ph.D. ’17, now assistant professor of social work at Cal State University Long Beach, and Karen Umemoto, professor of Urban Planning and Asian American Studies. Umemoto also serves as the inaugural holder of the Helen and Morgan Chu Endowed Director’s Chair in the UCLA Asian American Studies Center.
A second panel, devoted to research justice, included Saba Waheed, research director at the UCLA Labor Center; Yvonne Yen Liu, research director of the Solidarity Research Center in Los Angeles; and Lolita Andrada Lledo, associate director of the Los Angeles-based Pilipino Workers Center.
“We wanted today to be an opportunity to connect with people outside our departments who might be working on similar topics … as well as community-based researchers working on these topics,” Crane said.
In fact, a class of UCLA undergrads was able to take advantage of the knowledge shared at the conference. Diya Bose, a Ph.D. candidate in Sociology, brought students from her UCLA freshman cluster course on Interracial Dynamics in American Culture and Society.
“It was important for them to witness how the UCLA students are continuing to fight for justice and liberation through education, research and working with communities of color,” said Bose. “Following the Luskin event, my students shared with me that they felt inspired and empowered to participate in the UCLA community, not as passive consumers of knowledge, but as producers of knowledge.”
The conference also featured research workshops in three subgroups: Racial and Gender Justice, Public Services and Spaces, and Migration and Displacement.
“In my internship we do a lot of research and we partner with a lot of community organizations,” said Evelyn Larios, a second-year MSW student at UCLA. “So this is really nice because it really reinforces the idea that as we move forward in collective research we need to partner with communities to build that relationship.”
Larios added: “At some point it take compromise. That’s important to society and democracy in general.”
Click or swipe below to view more photos from this event on Flickr:
Rodrigo Garcia, center, transportation planner for Alta Planning + Design, mentors visiting students. Photo by Stan Paul
By Mary Braswell
When 105 high school sophomores came together with urban planning students, professors and professionals at the UCLA Luskin School, everyone in the room stood to benefit.
The students came from two Central Los Angeles schools as part of Gear Up 4 LA, a federally funded program to put underserved students on the road to college.
The adults were there to support this mission but also to address the vexing lack of diversity in their field.
Many young people aren’t familiar with urban planning as a major or career path, said Rodrigo Garcia, MURP ’15, a transportation specialist with Alta Planning + Design. As part of the firm’s pro bono work, Garcia collaborates with schools across Los Angeles with the aim of diversifying the field.
“We want to urge these kids to have an impact, to make changes in their community” regardless of which career they choose, Garcia said.
Alta Planning hosted the March 22, 2018, event with the Luskin School’s Planners of Color for Social Equity and Urban Planning Womxn of Color Collective. UCLA Luskin professors Kian Goh, Chris Tilly and Goetz Wolff shared their expertise on the opportunities and challenges that planners face.
Two hours into the program, one student asked a question that many were likely thinking: “What is the exact definition of ‘urban planning’?”
“I get the same question from my mom,” said Mayra Torres, a fourth-year student majoring in sociology and minoring in urban and regional studies.
“If this were a class, I could spend the next 45 minutes having a discussion about this,” Goh said. The best way to think about the mission of urban planners, she said, is to “envision a better city, a better society, and how to get there from here.”
Sixteen-year-old Paola Flores was unfamiliar with the field before the event but left wanting to know more. She was impressed by a workshop led by Alta Planning’s Kevin Johnson, MURP ’17, who asked the students to chew over a planning issue, then create a meme, gif or Instagram story to communicate their ideas — all in an hour’s time.
“It taught me something new,” Paola said. “I didn’t realize how improving public transportation could actually make rent go up.”
Paola attends West Adams Preparatory High in the largely Latino and immigrant community of Pico-Union. Students from Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools in Koreatown were also at the event.
“We want to build a college-going culture in our community,” said David Gantt, the RFK site coordinator for Gear Up, which stands for Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs.
Beginning in middle school, Gear Up guides low-income, first-generation and minority students through each step on the path to a higher education, Gantt said. Counselors work one-on-one with each student, and workshops show families how to read high school transcripts, interpret PSAT results and apply for financial aid, among other services. In some cases, the support extends through the freshman year of college.
Gear Up “makes you feel like you’re family, with arms wide open,” Paola said. Earlier this year, counselors detected that her grades were flagging, she said. They called her in, gave her a pep talk and “now I have all As except for one B.”
Gear Up students visit college campuses across Southern California, West Adams site coordinator Danny Tran said, but he believed this was the first group to visit an urban planning program.
“Students who want to build bridges or design roads might think they need an engineering degree, especially with the current emphasis on STEM,” Tran said.
The UCLA Luskin session introduced them to another path.
Greg Maher, a principal at Alta Planning who volunteered at the event, said he hoped the diverse group of students would get hooked on urban planning.
“This field is very white and very male. It drives me crazy,” said Maher, who received a BFA in design and certificate in landscape architecture from UCLA.
“We need to recruit and retain more planners of color,” agreed MURP candidate Raisa Ma, one of several UCLA Luskin Urban Planning students on hand to mentor the high schoolers. They included Marlene Salazar, who moderated a panel that included the three faculty members, undergrad Torres and MURP candidates Jacob Woocher and Jesus Peraza.
“I want you to know you can get an education, you can get a degree and change the world you live in,” Torres told the students.
Tilly noted that, as high school sophomores, “it’s early to decide, ‘Yes, I definitely want to be an urban planner.’ ” But he encouraged all the students to embrace both big ideas and on-the-ground issues in their communities. “That will be great for being an urban planner but also for being a responsible citizen in a society that needs a lot more responsible citizens stepping up.”
On Jan. 18, 2018, Theresa Williamson shared her experience as an community organizer in Rio de Janerio. In her presentation for the Global Public Affairs program at UCLA Luskin, she spoke of academic and practical ways to work with communities and empower them for positive development and change. Williamson walked through the thinking process and the lessons she learned from founding the organization. Click here to view the slides from her presentation.
View a Flickr album from Williamson’s talk:
The Institute on Inequality and Democracy (II&D) at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and the UCLA Asian American Studies Center welcomed Manuel Criollo and Yvonne Yen Liu as the 2018 UCLA Activist-in-Residence Fellows during a reception held Jan. 11, 2018, at the UCLA Luskin Commons. Criollo is the Irvine Fellow on Urban Life and Liu is the UCLA Asian American Studies Center Fellow for the Winter Quarter. “Manuel Criollo is a legend in the activist and community organizing worlds of Los Angeles,” Ananya Roy, director of II&D and professor of urban planning, social welfare and geography, told the audience of students, faculty and community partners at the standing-room-only reception. “He has not only tackled urgent racial justice issues but has also built networks of leadership that can in turn build power.” The Activist-in-Residence Program was developed by the two research centers to recognize the work of individuals working on community-led social change and to build stronger links between UCLA and the community. Fellows are encouraged to pursue research or reflect on their community work to advance racial, social and economic equity, as well as encouraging UCLA students to develop or strengthen their own commitment to social justice. During his residency, Criollo will research and document the formation of the Los Angeles School Police Department, create a timeline of community struggles against school policing, and organize an organizers exchange on UCLA’s campus. Liu will explore the history of solidarity economies in the Asian American immigrant and refugee experience to guide future community economic development and forge collective economic agency.
View a Flickr album from the reception:
UCLA Social Welfare co-hosted a reception with the Pacific Region Universities at the Society for Social Work and Research (SSWR) Conference in Washington D.C. on Friday, Jan. 12. During the conference, many UCLA Luskin faculty, students and recent graduates made presentations about topics of interest and recent research. Here is a list of presenters and topics:
- Qualities of Successful Re-Entry Programs for Young Men: A Focus Group Study
- From Research to Policy: How One Good Idea Can Influence State Law
- Social Work Research in the Current Presidential Administration: Responsibility, Ethics, and Social Justice
- Social Worker, Psychologist, or Psychiatrist: Does Profession Matter for Treatment Decisions for Antisocially Behaving Youth?
- South African Adult Caregivers as “Protective Shields”: Serving as a Buffer Between Precarious Neighborhood Conditions, Food Insecurity, and Youth Risk Behaviors
- I’m More Driven Now: Resilience and Resistance Among Transgender and Gender Expansive Youth Experiencing Homelessness
- Hearing Youth Voices: Experiences of Civic Empowerment Among Urban Youth (presented by Jason Anthony Plummer)
- In Their Own Words: Responses of Latinx Youth to the 2016 Presidential Election (presented by Rachel Wells)
Students and Recent Graduates
Skye Allmang, Kristina Lovato-Hermann, Lauren Willner, Rachel Wells
- Social Work Research in the Current Presidential Administration: Responsibility, Ethics, and Social Justice
Joanna L. Barreras
- Does Growing up with Father Involvement Matter? Investigating the Association of Black Women’s Early Father Involvement to Early Childbearing
- Living in Public Housing: A Mother’s Childhood Contact with a Father Predicts Offspring’s Contact with Their Father
- Assessing the Effectiveness of City-Wide Trauma-Informed Trainings
- Enforced Separations: A Qualitative Examination on the Impact of Parental Deportation on Latino-a Youth and Families
Jason Anthony Plummer
Sarah Soakai (Urban Planning)
- The Impact of ‘Compassionate Disruption’ Policies on Indigenous Populations: The Criminalization of Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Houseless in Hawaii
- Increasing Our Understanding of Macro Practice in Low-Income Neighborhoods: A Teaching Case Study of a Nonprofit Organization
Brenda A. Tully
UCLA Luskin students taking part in the Diversity Fair included, from left, Nathan Serafin, first-year MURP; Esteban Doyle, first-year MURP; Katrina Lapira, second-year MURP; Chris Chen, second-year MPP; Gabriela Solis Torres, 2019 MPP/MSW; Sherri Gerard, second-year MSW; Samantha Calvillo, first-year MSW; and Marisol Granillo Arce, second-year MSW. Photo by Stan Paul
“You need diversity because it is excellence and its absence is a sign of intellectual weakness and organizational incapacity. So what we do here today and what we do at Luskin makes the country, Los Angeles and the world a better place.”
— UCLA Luskin Dean Gary Segura
By Stan Paul
Gary Segura, dean of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, was happy to host the second all-school diversity recruitment fair at UCLA. But, in truth, he would like to see it become redundant.
“I am hoping and believing that we are getting very close to the verge of making it redundant in what Luskin does,” said Segura, who has devoted his academic life to studying issues related to the issues highlighted by the fair.
“By your arrival next fall, Luskin will indisputably be the most diverse school of public affairs in the United States,” Segura said to an audience of students who have applied, or are thinking of applying, to one or more of the School’s three professional graduate programs in public policy, social welfare and urban planning.
In addition to UCLA Luskin’s outstanding faculty, Segura cited the School’s wide array of groups, caucuses and organizations — including the D3 Initiative (Diversity, Disparities and Difference) — and new programs, new hires and ongoing searches for new faculty focused on racial inequality, multicultural planning and immigration policy, among other areas of expertise.
The many UCLA Luskin student groups, along with their classmates, alumni, faculty and staff, came together again this year to organize the Dec. 2, 2017, event.
“At some point, the study of class and racial and sexuality differences as an understanding of public policy, social well-being and urban issues is not a niche, it is the discipline,” Segura said. “It’s 70 percent of the population.”
Joining the dean in welcoming fair attendees were faculty leaders in Public Policy, Social Welfare and Urban Planning, along with a panel of Luskin alumni representing all three graduate programs.
Making her pitch to candidates for the Master of Social Welfare professor and department chair Laura Abrams focused on recent tax legislation passed by the U.S. Senate.
“What does the tax bill have to do with social welfare at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs?” she asked. “Everything,” came a soft voice rising from the audience, stealing a bit of Abrams’ thunder.
“That was on my notes,” quipped Abrams, who explained that the bill would directly attack Social Security, Medicare and “all the public benefits that are the foundation of our social welfare system.”
She then asked who would deal with the costs of economic hardships on the front lines.
“Social workers!” she answered emphatically, adding, “We are going to have to be the ones who pick up the pieces of those who are displaced, who are homeless, who are pushed into the criminal justice system, who don’t have enough to eat and who don’t have housing.
“So,” Abrams added, “we need all of you, not just those entering social welfare, but the planners and the policy makers because you are the future that is going to have to fix what is happening today.”
Manisha Shah, associate professor and vice chair of Public Policy, highlighted the expertise of Luskin faculty in areas such as health policy, education, immigration, inequality, science and technology.
“We have a lot of flexibility in the department based on what your interests are and what you want to do, what type of policy arena you want to work in,” said Shah, who cited the department’s mixture of qualitative and quantitative approaches to evidence-based policymaking and analysis.
Vinit Mukhija, professor chair of Urban Planning, said that diversity and excellence are not trade-offs in outlining the holistic approach his department — which will soon celebrate 50 years at UCLA — takes in making admissions decisions. Urban Planning emphasizes not only grades but also a student’s personal statement, recommendations and the importance of relevant work experience.
Mukhija, who studies informal housing and slums in the global north and south, explained his own interest as a planner in finding ways to improve living conditions in slums, and his goal to “learn about them to change our ideas about cities and about our design ideas, our rules and to have more just cities.”
Also providing information and encouragement were recent graduates of the Luskin School’s programs who participated in a series of discussions with aspiring students.
Panelists were asked what motivated them to apply to Luskin in their chosen disciplines.
“Communities of color are not always exposed to urban planning although we’re often experiencing the negative effects of what actually happens,” said Carolyn Vera MURP ’17, who was born and raised in South Central Los Angeles. Vera, who now works at a transportation consulting firm, said that when she moved back to Los Angeles following her undergraduate years, she didn’t recognize the city she grew up in, citing the effects of gentrification. Vera said urban planning is such a diverse field and, “I knew I wanted to stay in L.A. and work with my community.”
It was homelessness that brought Cornell Williams MSW ’12 to UCLA Luskin Social Welfare.
“I was homeless for a year. I had a college degree and I was sleeping in the park,” said Williams, now a psychiatric social worker for Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health and clinical director of the Jeffrey Foundation in Los Angeles. “Like a lot of our clients and people we have the passion to serve, I was stuck in that position and I had no knowledge of resources and access.”
Williams said the experience forced him to ask tough questions about himself and his future. “I came to one of these events and had an interest in all three programs,” but he said that Gerry Laviña, director of field education and associate director of D3, “was a big part of helping me conjure or stir the gifts inside of me to choose social welfare.”
Williams said UCLA Luskin’s Social Welfare gave him the flexibility to work in “every environment you can think of, and I’ve worked in a good number of them myself.”
The day’s events also included breakout sessions led by a number of the School’s sponsoring and organizing student groups: D3, Luskin Leadership Development, Social Welfare Diversity Caucus, Policy Professionals for Diversity & Equity, and Planners of Color for Social Equity.
Attending the event was recent UCLA graduate Vanessa Rodriguez, who said she hopes to enroll in the MSW program next fall. Rodriguez, who grew up in Boyle Heights and has worked with children with autism, said she has always had a passion for helping people. She said her reason for pursuing an MSW degree would be to work with women and victims of domestic abuse.
Among the staff and student volunteers who made the day a success was second-year MSW candidate Marisol Granillo Arce, who said she had attended a number of Luskin diversity related fairs before applying. Granillo Arce, who now also works as a graduate researcher for the UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, said it is exciting to meet future agents of change and tell them: “You’ve got what it takes to be a social worker, urban planner, and public policymaker.”
Granillo Arce added: “I think that individuals thinking of applying get the unique opportunity to know the staff, professors and students in the different departments. It is truly inspirational. You end up leaving the fair more confident and inspired.”
Members of the UCLA Luskin community gathered at Wattles Farm on Oct. 7, 2017, to serve as leaders during UCLA’s Volunteer Day. Once on the farm in the heart of West Hollywood, this assorted group of Luskin faculty, staff and students organized and worked alongside UCLA undergraduates to participate in ongoing work there. Wattles Farm is an organic community farm whose mission is to provide the area’s diverse local population with a rare opportunity to participate in sustainable agricultural practices. Luskin volunteers not only got to spend a morning aiding with maintenance of a sustainable mainstay of Los Angeles, they also further united with UCLA and the greater Los Angeles community through conversations and life stories shared over snacks of oranges, granola and water. Hover over the image below to access a Flickr gallery of photos taken that day by Aaron Julian.
My friends in the Luskin community,
For the kind of work that we do here at Luskin, the tragic and horrific events in Charlottesville last weekend cut very close to home. The forces of division are strong and, for the first time in a generation, they are being legitimized, and endorsed by the highest powers in the country. Our nation is in mourning, as adherents of the abhorrent ideology of white supremacy murdered a woman (and injured dozens) in broad daylight in a university town. Heather Heyer is among the most recent and visible casualties of racism, but she is not the first and I am sadly certain she will not be the last.
That racism, sexism, homophobia, islamophobia, anti-Semitism and white supremacy kill is hardly news. Their effects are everywhere, if only you are willing to look. Racial disparities in political representation, educational opportunity, net wealth, access to affordable health care, home ownership, and contact with the carceral state are manifest and written into institutional arrangements that preserve social inequalities rather than disrupt them.
Women face wage and health care discrimination, mosques burned as Muslims are banned, Jews denounced by white men wearing swastikas, gays and lesbians beaten and murdered, transsexual persons demonized and legislated against, and undocumented immigrants who do some of the hardest jobs in the society described as rapists and drug mules by the President of the United States and deported at an accelerating pace.
All of these things were true on the day before the Charlottesville marches and murder last weekend. These affronts to human dignity and well-being are what makes our work so important. At Luskin we train scholars, policymakers and community leaders who work hard—together—every day to alleviate and transform these social injustices. We must continue to produce state of the art research in the service of all of our communities. In Los Angeles, we know that our diversity is not a weakness; in fact, it is our strength.
It is my fervent hope that these tragic events become a tipping point. We should be more motivated than we have ever been. We should be more fully mobilized than we have ever been. And we should work even harder to bring the tools of our professions, our training as applied social scientists, our insights, our skills at distilling fact from propaganda to this struggle.
In a spirit of hope and action, we remain deeply committed to engaging in the kind of work that creates a better future for all communities. And we must fight like hell to achieve that goal.
Best wishes to you all,
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