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‘Unsung Hero,’ Leader in South L.A. Named 2017 Social Welfare Alumna of the Year Aurea Montes-Rodriguez MSW ’99 was inspired to develop a healthier generation by award namesake Joseph Nunn

By Stan Paul

Aurea Montes-Rodriguez, this year’s Social Welfare Alumna of the Year, has a lifelong personal and professional connection to South Los Angeles.

The 1999 Master of Social Welfare graduate of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs came to California from Mexico at the age of 3, grew up in South Los Angeles, witnessed firsthand the 1992 riots, and has gone on to be a leader and change agent in the community.

In recognition of her work and commitment to the community, Montes-Rodriguez was presented the Joseph A. Nunn Alumna of the Year Award on May 20, 2017. The award is bestowed annually in honor of Joseph A. Nunn, UCLA alumnus, former vice chair and longtime director of field education for the UCLA Department of Social Welfare.

“I am surprised and very humbled to be nominated and selected, especially for an award named after Dr. Nunn,” said Montes-Rodriguez. “When I was a student I looked up to him and admired the work he had done around juvenile criminal justice — thinking about ways we could do a better job eliminating the cradle-to-prison pipeline so we can develop a healthier generation.”

Montes-Rodriguez, who now serves as executive vice president of organizational growth at Community Coalition, a social justice nonprofit based in South Los Angeles, was honored at a social welfare alumni gathering in Los Angeles.

Toby Hur MSW ’93, a longtime member of the social welfare field faculty, nominated Montes-Rodriguez and shares some history with her.

“My history with Community Coalition goes back to 1992,” Hur said. “In the aftermath of the rioting that rocked a city marred by racial division and economic disparity, a small group of community leaders emerged, such as Karen Bass, a current congresswoman, of Community Coalition, and B.H. Kim of Koreatown Youth and Community Center and a Luskin Senior Fellow, in order to bring forth a constructive agenda for healing and rebuilding of L.A.”

Hur said that, as a graduate student during that time, he became very involved in those efforts. The experience has deeply impacted his professional career and teaching in the ensuing years.

“Community Coalition has stayed true to its roots and continues to develop community capacities and future leaders,” Hur said, adding that Luskin students continue to be trained at Community Coalition in grassroots organizing, advocacy and political action. “Aurea is one of the unsung heroes, the all-important and crucial glue, holding the organization and its causes together. I think she is well overdue for recognition as one of the best Bruin MSWs.”

Since joining Community Coalition, Montes-Rodriguez has made significant strides in helping the organization grow and she has led efforts to raise funds to purchase and renovate its current headquarters in South L.A. “To be nominated by someone who understands the importance of building multiracial coalitions is really special,” she said of Hur.

She credits her success and inspiration to lessons learned at UCLA Luskin. Among those were leadership seminars led by Nunn, who focused on social welfare beyond the individual treatment model to build organizations and change the systems that prevent people from reaching their potential, taking on leadership roles to change those situations. She cited courses on leadership by social welfare professor Zeke Hasenfeld, as well as courses on grant writing and fundraising — skills that she said “were critical in helping us build community coalitions, long-term fundraising strategy and growing the organization.”

“The late Mary Brent Wehrli really brought us out to communities and organizations who were doing great work, went out of her way to help us understand the theory with the practice in communities,” Montes-Rodriguez said. Wehrli, a former member of the field faculty, was “one person who really pushed us to see leadership opportunities and a contribution we could make to the social welfare field, providing us with concrete training.”

“Since I graduated, that’s exactly the work I have been doing … organizing everyday people about having a voice in addressing the most-pressing issues so they can be the drivers of change,” Montes-Rodriguez said.

Another of Montes-Rodriguez’s mentors is Gerry Laviña, director of field education at the Department of Social Welfare.

“Community Coalition has hosted MSW interns for decades, provided summer jobs for our MSW students through their youth programs, and has hired many of our graduates — some like Aurea who remain and create and build capacity,” Laviña said. “Whenever someone asks about an example of a successful grassroots organization or doubts the possibility of African-American and Latino communities effectively working together, I hold up Community Coalition as a shining example.”

Montes-Rodriguez is a big reason why Community Coalition has been successful, Laviña said. “Aurea has had a part in all of this, and has been steadfast and resolved in her commitment to giving back to the community where she was both personally and professionally raised,” he said. “I have always appreciated Aurea’s blend of strength and humility, her commitment to her family and community. Los Angeles needs leaders like Aurea, and we need to highlight her as someone to aspire to.”

Memories — and Lessons — from 1992 UCLA Luskin participates in weekend of remembrance 25 years after the Los Angeles riots, examining how the civil unrest changed the city, its institutions and some of the people it impacted most  

By Les Dunseith

Today, Los Angeles is celebrated as an inclusive city known for tolerance, diversity and a welcoming attitude to immigrants from around the globe. Just 25 years ago, however, it was a city seemingly afire with racial distrust, anger and violence.

Things have changed so much for the better since the L.A. riots. Haven’t they?

That question was the focus of a weekend filled with reflection, debate, education and artistic interpretation as the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs joined with several partners to sponsor a series of special events marking the April 29, 1992, anniversary of the start of civil unrest that followed the acquittal of four white LAPD officers in the videotaped beating of a black man, Rodney King. On that day and for five days to follow, looting, arson and violence led to dozens of deaths and $1 billion in damage in and around South Los Angeles.

The memories of those days vary starkly depending on an individual’s perspective and background, a fact that was highlighted by Dean Gary Segura during his opening remarks at one of the panel discussions co-sponsored by UCLA Luskin as part of Flash Point 2017, which was held on the UCLA campus and in Little Tokyo on April 28-30.

“L.A. uprisings. L.A. civil unrest. L.A. riots. L.A. rebellion. Indeed our very language captures the idea that the perspective that different communities have on the event, and what they understood about its causes and consequences, really depended on where you sat at the moment at which it occurred,” Segura said.

One of those unique perspectives is that of the Asian community, particularly people of Korean descent. Korean immigrants and Korean Americans who could only afford to set up shop in the poorest neighborhoods of Los Angeles owned many businesses in low-income areas that were predominantly black at the time.

“When you look at one specific story out of 1992, the story of Korean Americans is that they are a dynamic community that was undergoing really dramatic demographic and political transformation,” said Taeku Lee, professor of law and political science at UC Berkeley. He was keynote speaker for a session that took place at the UCLA Luskin Conference Center on the opening day of the anniversary series, which was coordinated by the UCLA Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion.

In 1992, cultural and language barriers, plus racial mistrust in some cases, had led to simmering resentment among some African Americans toward Koreans. In the riots, resentment turned to rage, and looters and arsonists disproportionately targeted Korean businesses. Today, Lee pointed out, the Korean words for April 29, Sa-I-Gu, hold great cultural and historical significance to all people of Korean descent.

The Korean perspective of the 1992 unrest was also important to Saturday’s events, held in conjunction with the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival at the Japanese American National Museum in Little Tokyo.

Segura noted that the enterprise represented an expansion of an ongoing speaker program known as the Meyer and Renee Luskin Lecture series to also include other types of programming on topics of historical and political significance. In this case, the weekend included speeches, panel discussions, art and multimedia exhibits, and the screening of two different films related to the 25th anniversary of the riots.

“The three-day Flash Point program is exactly what I had in mind when I asked to expand the Luskin Lecture Series into a series of public forums, and we at the Luskin School are proud to be a sponsor of this thought-provoking examination of the 1992 Los Angeles uprising,” said Segura during his introduction of filmmaker Dai Sil Kim-Gibson.

Her documentary film, “Wet Sand: Voices from L.A.,” offers a look back at the causes of the riots from the perspectives of various ethnic groups. It also speculates about whether some of those causes linger just below the surface today.

“Things have changed since the 1992 L.A. riot, and the aftermath; I think it stimulated people to think. So racism, overtly, went away a little bit. But the danger was that racism went inside of the people,” Kim-Gibson said during the panel discussion that followed the film. “Overt racism is sometimes easier to deal with than the racism that is inside. So we have to really follow up and talk about what really happened after the L.A. riot and what we still have to do.”

UCLA Luskin’s Abel Valenzuela, professor of urban planning and Chicano studies and director of UCLA’s Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, moderated the panel discussion.

“From destruction, from ashes, we can see rebirth and growth,” Valenzuela said of the progress that has been made since 1992. “There’s lots to be proud of, though we still have lots of work still to do.”

Only through greater understanding can progress result, said panelist Funmilola Fagbamila, the winter 2017 activist-in-residence at UCLA Luskin. She noted that distrust between blacks and Koreans at the time was often rooted in similar struggles just to survive, to provide for their families.

“We need to talk about unity that addresses the difficulty of power relations among different communities of color,” said Fagbamila, an original member of Black Lives Matter.

“It means looking at the role of anti-blackness in the way in which Korean Americans and Korean immigrants were in conversation with each other during this time. We have to be critical in how we are engaging each other,” she said. “But also loving. Our attitudes need to change in order to change the issues.”

Another panel on Saturday focused on the evolution of communication since 1992 to today’s world in which people with a story to tell can go directly to their audience via YouTube or social media rather than relying on mainstream news outlets.

Panelist Ananya Roy, professor of urban planning, social welfare and geography and director of the Institute on Inequality and Democracy at UCLA Luskin, said the media narrative quickly became about interracial and interethnic conflict during the 1992 unrest. The same might not hold true today.

“We are at a slightly different moment. This is perhaps the success of Black Lives Matter,” she speculated, “that it has drawn attention to the ways in which we cannot see these moments of violence as those of individual participants, but we’ve got to see them as structural violence. We’ve got to see this as our liberation being bound up with the liberation of others.”

Today, she said, “even mainstream media has to pay much more careful attention to state violence, in particular police violence, in a way that I do not recall in the 1992 coverage.”

UCLA Luskin also served as sponsor of a screening of the feature film “Gook” on Saturday, during which a packed auditorium of attendees witnessed a fictionalized story of two Korean American brothers, owners of a struggling shoe store who have an unlikely friendship with a streetwise 11-year-old African American girl. Then the Rodney King verdict is read and riots break out.

Filmmaker and lead actor Justin Chon was on hand to introduce his film and answer questions about it. He was joined on stage by cast members and others who participated in the film’s production.

On Sunday, an artist talk in Little Tokyo featured works by Grace Lee, Grace Misoe Lee and Patrick Martinez. Among the works was “Ktown92,” an interactive documentary in process that disrupts and explores the 1992 Los Angeles riots through stories from the greater Koreatown community.

Flash Point 2017 and the weekend’s other events were produced in partnership with the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival, Institute on Inequality and Democracy at UCLA Luskin, Ralph Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA, UCLA Asian American Studies Center, UCLA Center for EthnoCommunications, UCLA César E. Chávez Department of Chicana and Chicano Studies, UCLA Department of History, UCLA Institute of American Cultures, UCLA Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, and Visual Communications.

‘Day of Remembrance’ Blends History and Activism Panel at UCLA Luskin marks 75 years since Japanese American internment camps by advocating resistance to modern-day efforts that target immigrant populations

By Les Dunseith

Marking the passage of 75 years since a presidential executive order that led to the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II, the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs hosted a panel discussion on Feb. 23, 2017, that took place at a time when many U.S. citizens believe history is in danger of repeating itself.

The session was opened by moderator Lisa Hasegawa, a UCLA Luskin Senior Fellow and one of two alumnae who are activists-in-residence on campus for the winter quarter. She told of her Japanese American family’s experience of being unjustly forced into internment camps in 1942. Hasegawa likened that long-ago situation to an executive order signed by President Donald Trump in January that sought to bar entry into the United States by immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries.

“All of us in different generations are trying to figure out how we learn the lessons from the past and figure out how we activate those lessons in our daily lives,” Hasegawa said of the correlation between these two historic and controversial presidential actions.

The desire for activism amid a political climate that many people find fearful was a dominant theme of the panel discussion, which included five activists and filmmakers. Several showed clips from documentary films and other video projects that they have helped create in response to the Trump administration and its efforts that seem to target minority populations, particularly Muslim Americans.

“When Trump got elected, it was definitely very devastating to the Muslim community. I think we were all in shock,” said panelist Tanzila “Taz” Ahmed MPP ’07, who co-hosts a popular podcast titled “#GoodMuslimBadMuslim.”

But Ahmed has since been heartened by the showings of support that have taken place at protest marches and rallies around the country, including a sit-in at LAX that united various ethnic communities in opposition to the immigration ban.

“It is super-powerful as a Muslim to go into these spaces and to see non-Muslim people of color coming together in solidarity,” Ahmed said.

The mass protests in January at Los Angeles International Airport were also the subject of a “rough cut” clip for a documentary film shown by panelist Tani Ikeda, a filmmaker and member of imMEDIAte Justice. Her video focuses on two women (one Muslim, one Japanese American) from a grassroots solidarity group known as Vigilant Love that helped organized the resistance effort at LAX.

Ikeda said her father, who had been incarcerated as a draft resister when he was young, inspired her involvement in political activism and her pursuit of filmmaking as a career. Ikeda said she struggled with frustrations about societal and educational hurdles related to her minority status when she was young, but her father advised her to find strength, not despair, in those moments.

“Everything that makes you different is what gives you this unique perspective on the world, and that’s so needed,” Ikeda said her father told her. “So start making art.”

Also joining the panel, which was sponsored by the UCLA Asian American Studies Center and the Institute on Inequality and Democracy at UCLA Luskin, was Sasha W. from the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance. She seeks to “redefine security” by helping more people understand why many U.S. residents, especially those at the margins of society, don’t always feel safe.

For example, she was recently involved in a project in which average U.S. citizens were approached on the streets under the pretext of an opinion survey, but then were asked the sorts of questions that someone being racially profiled would hear.

Two other filmmakers also joined the panel discussion. The team of Mustafa Rony Zona and Koji Steven Sakai are working together on a documentary about the experiences of a young Muslim girl and her mother who recently relocated from Syria to Los Angeles. And they are in the development stage of a feature film about what might happen if new terrorist attacks sparked a modern-day effort to round up Muslim Americans in a manner similar to what happened to Japanese Americans during World War II.

They hope to make a film that would lead people to recognize the parallels of the internment of Japanese Americans 75 years ago and anti-immigration efforts today.

“Today it’s Muslim Americans, Arab Americans. But tomorrow we don’t know who it is,” Sakai said. “It’s not about Muslim Americans; it’s not about any other group. It’s not even about Japanese Americans. It’s just making sure it doesn’t happen to anybody, ever again.”

Message From the Dean UCLA Luskin joins University in supporting those impacted by an executive order that blocks citizens of seven nations from entering the United States

To the Luskin Family:

As you have no doubt heard, the President issued an executive order last Friday blocking citizens of seven nations from entering the United States for at least the next 90 days.  Parts of this order have been enjoined by the federal courts in New York and Virginia, but at this writing, the administration appears to be continuing to enforce the order, in its entirety or in parts, at several ports of entry into the U.S.

The University is recommending to anyone holding a visa or who are lawful permanent residents but who hail from Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Syria not to leave the United States until this matter is resolved. 

The President of the University, in conjunction with all of the chancellors, has issued a statement of strong support for these students and colleagues, and for our longstanding principles of inclusion.  The Luskin School of Public Affairs stands with the UCLA Chancellor and Provost in their view that “the executive order directly challenges the core values and mission of universities to encourage the free exchange of scholars, knowledge and ideas.”

For those with questions about the evolving legal environment and its effects on students, please contact the Dashew Center, which is working tirelessly to stay up on events as they occur and to help inform students of their rights and their options.

Sincerely,

Gary M. Segura
Professor and Dean

 

 

 

Taking the Fight for LGBT Health Equity to the Streets Late-night canvassing to assess a meningitis outbreak exemplifies the dedication that has earned UCLA Luskin Social Welfare professor Ian Holloway national recognition for his groundbreaking research

By Les Dunseith

It’s the Tuesday night before Christmas as UCLA Luskin professor Ian W. Holloway tucks his 2-year-old daughter Sofía into bed and prepares to leave his home on a tree-lined street of bungalow-style houses in the Larchmont neighborhood of Los Angeles.

It’s time for Holloway, an assistant professor in the Department of Social Welfare, to get back to work.

Along with three UCLA student researchers, Holloway will spend the next several hours in West Hollywood doing legwork for his latest research project. Their task will be to find and interview gay and bisexual men outside popular nightspots and discover how much they know about an ongoing meningitis outbreak and the steps that health officials have taken to battle it.

This type of time-consuming, on-the-ground research is par for the course for Holloway, who serves as the director of the UCLA Luskin-based Southern California HIV/AIDS Policy Research Center and is currently juggling four major research efforts related to his expertise in health disparities among sexual and gender minority populations. Holloway’s dedication and his innovative methods recently led the Society of Social Work Research (SSWR) to select him for its Deborah K. Padgett Early Career Achievement Award, presented in January 2017 during the organization’s national conference in New Orleans.

“This is our primary professional society,” Holloway says about the honor, which recognizes social work research completed during the recipient’s first decade after earning a doctoral degree. “They give just one a year at the society’s big professional meeting.”

UCLA Luskin students Jorge Rojas and Christine Munoz listen as Ian Holloway outlines the agenda as another night of research gets underway. Photo by Les Dunseith

On this night, however, the meningitis study takes precedence. Outside the Urth Caffé, Holloway helps the student researchers establish a “line” — in this case basically a crevice in the sidewalk — at the corner of Melrose Avenue and Westmount Drive. One or more of the students then approaches any man who crosses that line, asking them to participate in the research effort by spending 20 minutes answering survey questions using an iPad.

In the first half-hour, however, only one man who meets the study’s criteria has been successfully interviewed. Holloway and his research team are trying to complete about 500 interviews for the project by February, and foot traffic is just too light to continue at the site. So they move on to the next venue that has been randomly preselected for this night’s canvassing effort — the Motherlode, a tavern with removable walls that proudly shows off its dive-bar atmosphere to passersby along Santa Monica Boulevard.

The thought of an academic research project centered around bar hopping in West Hollywood until 2 a.m. may seem incongruous, but it’s a proven research approach that works particularly well when the target audience is gay and bisexual men in Los Angeles County, including those who are HIV positive. During a meningitis outbreak that has led to two deaths in Southern California since it was first reported last spring, the researchers need to go where those who are most at risk can reliably be found.

UCLA Luskin student researchers Ryan Dougherty and Christine Munoz use digital devices to establish a survey zone. Photo by Les Dunseith

“We use a strategy called venue-based sampling,” Holloway explains. “It’s a systematic sampling strategy that is one of the best ways we know for how to approximate generalizability among gay and bisexual men.”

Holloway’s meningitis study is funded as part of a four-year, $4-million grant from the California HIV/AIDS Research Program to produce “what we call rapid response research,” he says. The idea is to complete research within months, not years, related to timely policy issues that impact people living with HIV or AIDS in California.

As noted on its website, CHPRC.org, the center works closely with community partners from AIDS Project Los Angeles Health and the Los Angeles LGBT Center to tailor research efforts to match urgent needs within the LGBTQ communities.

“We get community input, synthesize that and then set an agenda for policy research,” Holloway explains.

He took over the center’s leadership last April from Arleen Leibowitz, professor emeritus of public policy at UCLA Luskin, and feels fortunate to conduct research efforts that directly arise from community interaction.

“Models of funding like this aren’t widely available, so we are lucky to have a center here at UCLA, and we are lucky to have had it for seven years,” he says. “We want to continue to do this work and be able to conduct research that is driven by the community and that directly benefit the community.”

The meningitis study resulted from a meeting in October at which about 40-50 advocates, health workers and social service providers from across Southern California came to Los Angeles to talk about the needs of people in the local LGBTQ communities.

“These are people who are working with HIV-positive clients, who are doing prevention work,” Holloway says of the attendees. The meeting gave them an opportunity to think about and debate the issues most affecting their communities. The researchers primarily were there to listen and help structure projects that could be completed in a rapid response timeframe to produce data that would actually benefit those communities.

“It is … very much aligned with the mission of Luskin and the mission of the Department of Social Welfare,” Holloway notes.

Ian Holloway discusses where to relocate with his survey team when one of their preselected research sites proves unworkable. Photo by Les Dunseith

Back in West Hollywood, the Motherlode proves unworkable as a survey venue on this night. A private party is booked at the site, but it won’t start for a couple of hours and the survey team can’t afford to simply bide time waiting.

Holloway, ever cheerful no matter the hurdle he faces, quickly gathers his team to discuss their options. Proceed to the next pre-selected venue? Or go just around the corner to the “emergency backup” site, the Abbey, a 25-year-old West Hollywood landmark that has been voted the best gay bar in the world.

Within minutes, the team is in place outside the Abbey, and all three student researchers are actively engaged in recruiting potential survey respondents.

To gather enough surveys to produce statistically valid results by their deadline, Holloway has put together a rotating team of about 10 UCLA student workers, assisted occasionally by a couple of alumni who help out during staffing shortfalls. The majority are current Luskin master of social welfare students, but two are in a Ph.D. program.

“There’s lots of exciting work going on,” Holloway says with a broad smile. “And we have a fantastic team at UCLA supporting it.”

The data being gathered now will be analyzed by March to inform a research brief that should help California produce better outreach and better programs centered around meningitis vaccination for this population. The student workers collecting the information were carefully screened during a selection process led by Holloway’s research manager, Elizabeth Wu.

“We are looking for people who are obviously outgoing and who understand the importance of collecting good quality data,” says Holloway, whose own affable manner permeates the research effort. The canvassers, who refer to Holloway mostly by his first name, also need to be comfortable staying out to the wee hours to chat with strangers they encounter outside bars and clubs.

The iPad-based surveys are completed by the researchers based on respondents’ answers. Photo by Les Dunseith

For researcher Christine Munoz, a first-year MSW student who got her undergraduate degree at UC Riverside, the learning process was frenetic at first, but also rewarding.

“It is very new to me because I wasn’t really involved in the LGBTQ community previously,” she says during a break during the canvassing effort. “I am learning so much from this community. So, it’s broadening my skills, my social work skills. Now I can work with clients who are from the LGBT community. I am learning so much as a future social worker.”

The survey teams have been on the job since November, gathering data that Holloway says will either confirm or refute the notions that helped form the basis of the survey hypothesis.

For example, there is a feeling that the distribution of meningitis vaccine to the targeted community “is pretty haphazard,” Holloway says. “There isn’t always a good refrigeration system for the vaccine at community clinics; health workers aren’t always tracking how many doses have been given.”

Without a systematic infrastructure in place to promote the wellbeing of these men, health officials often find themselves in a defensive posture when dealing with outbreaks of vaccine-preventable illnesses among HIV-positive men or men at high risk for HIV. “It shouldn’t take an outbreak for us to realize this is a priority community,” Holloway says.

His passion to understand and promote better health options for LGBTQ communities is an outgrowth of Holloway’s life experience. He was raised in Northern California during the early years of the HIV crisis in America. His parents’ generation saw an entire community of gay men decimated, almost wiped out by AIDS.

“Growing up and knowing that I was gay, and hearing and seeing what happened close by in San Francisco, I think it was pretty impactful for my young life,” Holloway recalls. “When I decided that I wanted to go back to school for social work, I was pretty clear that this was the community that I wanted to work with, and this was the issue that I wanted to work around.”

Professor Ian W. Holloway has been selected by the Society for Social Work Research as its 2017 Early Career Achievement Award winner. Photo by George Foulsham

That dedication is evident in the meningitis study as well as three other research projects that Holloway is currently shepherding:

  • A two-year study supported by a $1.89-million grant from the U.S. Department of Defense is looking at the experiences of of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender active-duty service members since the 2010 repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” the law barring homosexuals from openly serving in the military.
  • A study funded by the NIH through a small research grant mechanism uses predictive technologies to understand how gay and bisexual men use geo-social networking apps and other kinds of social media to find substance use partners and sexual partners. This collaborative effort with UCLA’s departments of engineering and computer science is using predictive algorithms and social media data to try to understand how social media behavior predicts health behavior.
  • And he is involved in the development of a social networking app for HIV-positive black men in L.A. County in the 18-29 age range through a grant from California HIV/AIDS Research Program. It will be a virtual community space where these men can connect with those with similar experiences, focusing not just on health and medication adherence but on housing, job assistance, social services and/or legal needs.

Despite his prolific research output, Holloway doesn’t neglect his classroom responsibilities. If fact, he finds that his research interests often dovetail nicely with teaching opportunities.

“I teach a class on diversity, oppression and social functioning. Each year when we talk about community responses to oppression, I show the ‘Silence = Death’ banner that Act Up used as a call to action in the early days of HIV when nobody was talking about it and the entire community was being wiped out,” he explains. “Each year I show that banner from the early days of the AIDS epidemic, and each year fewer and fewer students recognize it.”

UCLA students working as canvassers approach any men who cross into their survey area. Photo by Les Dunseith

Out on the streets of West Hollywood, student researchers such as Ryan Dougherty are learning first-hand how much knowledge exists among today’s gay and bisexual men about the serious health issues that still impact many of them.

Dougherty joined the survey team as a result of taking Holloway’s research methods class, where he learned “about the process of research, everything from the theoretical foundations of collecting data to the ethics of research. And Ian extended an opportunity for students to get involved and see what that process looks like on the ground.”

As a student in the social welfare Ph.D. program at UCLA Luskin, Dougherty may follow in Holloway’s footsteps someday, pursuing research of his own that will benefit marginalized populations and ameliorate health disparities.

“To be able to do this kind of work, and to work alongside Ian, has helped me to gain more theoretical perspectives and learn about different types of research methods,” Dougherty says. “You can spend all day in the classroom learning about research, but to actually do it and overcome the logistical barriers that come with implementing a really good research project, is a really good learning experience to have.”

At the Abbey, those logistical barriers are in full force as Dougherty attempts to stop men who cross his survey line outside the venue’s patio-style entrance. Some ignore him. A few politely wave him off. One is willing to take the survey but doesn’t qualify because he is not a resident of L.A. County.

Soon, however, a young man in a white hooded sweatshirt approaches. Dougherty catches his attention. The newcomer meets the research criteria. And he is willing to take the survey.

Nearby, Ian Holloway nods his approval. And the research interview begins.

Ryan Dougherty, a Luskin Ph.D. student, conducts a survey interview. Photo by Les Dunseith

UCLA Luskin Diversity Recruitment Fair Has a Message: You Belong Here First schoolwide fair provides encouragement and information to prospective students — and explains why diversity matters

By Stan Paul

Elizabeth Salcedo, a recent graduate of the Master of Social Welfare (MSW) program at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, has a simple, emphatic message for those contemplating a career in social work, urban planning or public policy — “Just Apply!”

“I did, and I got in,” beamed the 2013 alumna at the Luskin School’s first all-school Diversity Recruitment Fair held Dec. 3 UCLA’s Ackerman Grand Ballroom. Like many students contemplating life after their undergraduate studies, Salcedo said she was reluctant and had self-doubt. Now working as an analyst in community development for the City of Long Beach, Salcedo can confidently articulate a good reason to apply and why diversity is important: “We need your voice.”

Salcedo participated in a panel of UCLA Luskin alumni — representing the School’s three departments, Public Policy, Social Welfare and Urban Planning — who shared their firsthand experiences of life during and after Luskin. The daylong event also included a panel of the School’s three department chairs and informational breakout sessions for their respective departments. Resources and advice concerning admissions and financial aid were also offered to prospective students, as well as a “suite of tools” they might need for their careers.

Urban Planning breakout sessions included topics such as “Our ’Hoods, Our Stories” to “Planning Post Trump.” A panel of current Master of Public Policy (MPP) students talked about building a “career toolkit” and what future students would need to do to prepare themselves – or, as first-year MPP student Isaac Bryan described it, “to be in that room” – where policy-making, discussion and analysis are taking place — from the local to the federal level.

“You are creating a baseline to create change,” said Joanna Williams MSW ’14, a social worker in Orange County who also participated in the alumni panel. She added that while challenging, graduate study at UCLA Luskin also offered an opportunity to explore options to collaborate and to form important and lasting bonds with classmates.

Panelist Jen Tolentino, a 2010 graduate of the MPP program said that for her, “the Public Policy degree has framed how I think about my work and framed how I think about problems,” which includes looking at issues through the lens of social justice.

Urban planning alumnus Richard France MA UP ’10, advised potential applicants that while finding a specific purpose for graduate study, “know that is it wide open,” referring to the field and careers that will follow graduation. He also reinforced the connection with peers at UCLA Luskin. “You will see your classmates out there. Your cohort is going to be one of your greatest resources and they are going to bring a diversity of experiences,” said France, who now works for a prominent strategic consulting firm headed by UCLA Luskin Urban Planning alumnae.

Former Los Angeles City Councilman (2001-2013) and Urban Planning alumnus Ed Reyes served as the keynote speaker for the fair, organized in cooperation by each of the School’s departments and staff, as well as diversity groups from each of the School’s three disciplines.

“In you, I see hope. In you, I see optimism,” Luskin Senior Fellow Reyes said to the potential applicants while balancing encouragement with a bit of practical advice. “I’m not going to candy-coat it, it’s going to be tough. It’s not going to be a straight line. But, it’s going to be worth it.”

Attendees energized and motivated by the event included applicant Kathleen Ann Sagun, who works in administration for the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services. She said that she was appreciative of all of the valuable information provided during the day, but, more than that, “It was empowering” to hear the stories of the alumni and to learn about “the advantages they had from doing there graduate studies here, at UCLA.”

“By the end of the day, we hope you will be motivated to join Luskin,” said Gerry Laviña, director of field education and associate director of the D3 (Diversity, Differences and Disparities) Initiative at UCLA Luskin, who was part of the network of Luskin organizers who made the day possible.

“You belong here because we believe in diversity as a necessary component of what makes each department, each profession, Luskin and UCLA excellent,” said Laviña, a 1988 graduate of the School’s MSW program. “You see that excellence in our students and in the student organizations that we have. You see that in the excellence in the research of our faculty and our research centers. You see that excellence in the communities and causes we believe in.”

In wrapping up the event, he said one thing became clear: “We must continue to value and validate diversity in order to maintain our excellence. The communities we serve deserve this.”

Others who helped organize the event included Jennifer Choy, associate director of admissions and recruitment for the Luskin Department of Urban Planning; the Public Policy student group Policy Professionals for Diversity and Equity (PPDE); Social Welfare’s Diversity Caucus; and Urban Planning’s Planners of Color for Social Equity. Choy and her colleagues, Public Policy’s Sean Campbell and Social Welfare’s Tiffany Bonner, also held Q&A sessions for interested applicants.

“We hope events like this encourage prospective students from underrepresented groups to feel a sense of belonging at UCLA Luskin and inspire them to join our commitment to social justice in serving disadvantaged communities,” Choy said.

‘A Leader in Validating Diversity’ UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs to host its first schoolwide Diversity Recruitment Fair

By Stan Paul

“Diversity and excellence are not mutually exclusive.”

For Gerry Laviña, director of field education and associate director of the D3 (Diversity, Differences and Disparities) Initiative at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, those words by former Dean Franklin D. Gilliam, Jr. made “a clear statement and immediately said to our community that Luskin values diversity.”

In Los Angeles and around the world, “diversity is a social justice issue,” Laviña said. “And now we have seen this being challenged.” The unequal playing fields of opportunity and wages — as well as institutional barriers and discrimination — are the issues Luskin students and faculty members grapple with as practitioners and scholars every day, he said.

Laviña, who also serves as the faculty co-chair of the Diversity/Equity/Inclusion (DEI) Committee in Social Welfare, and advises the Luskin dean on related issues, said that, ideally, the products of the students’ and School’s continuing efforts are inclusive and equitable situations in which diversity and diverse viewpoints are valued.

“Luskin is a leader in validating diversity — look at our students, the communities we serve, the student orgs, the research centers, D3, the Gilliam Social Justice Awards, our Diversity Fair, etc. Yet, we always have more work to do,” Laviña said.

In this spirit, the Luskin School will be hosting its first schoolwide Diversity Recruitment Fair starting at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 3. The all-day fair at the Ackerman Grand Ballroom and the Luskin School will bring together the departments of Public Policy, Social Welfare and Urban Planning for an informative program of interest to prospective graduate students, especially those underrepresented in higher education and professional fields.

Throughout the Luskin School’s history there have been diversity events and programs organized by student groups, said Laviña, who is on the organizing committee of academic advisers and staff as well as student diversity group representatives.

Diversity is a common thread at Luskin that runs from students and faculty to staff and alumni, all of whom are part of organizing the event. Luskin’s Leadership Development Program is also helping to organize and sponsor it.

“We have talked about it for a few years and this year decided to join together — pooling resources, knowledge, people power — to benefit each department and Luskin overall,” Laviña said. “We need to do more work collectively and across departments, so this will be a wonderful, concrete way to do so.”

Delara Aharpour, a second-year master of public policy (MPP) student representing the public policy student group Policy Professionals for Diversity and Equity (PPDE), said she was happy to see UCLA Luskin making a concerted effort on diversity. “It makes us really proud to be part of this program,” Aharpour said. “We all believe in making the School accessible to everyone.”

Other groups participating are Social Welfare’s Diversity Caucus and Planners of Color for Social Equity, an Urban Planning organization.

“We hope this is our largest, most successful diversity fair as well as an example of the great work that can be done when all departments have the opportunity to collaborate with each other,” said Ambar Guzman, a second-year master of social welfare (MSW) student representing the Social Welfare Diversity Caucus. “My hope is that prospective students will get a sense of the collaborative and supportive community we have continued to build within the Luskin School of Public Affairs,” she said.

Jackie Oh, a second-year master of urban and regional planning (MURP) student representing Planners of Color for Social Equity, said that the purpose of the diversity admissions fair is to demonstrate to prospective applicants the department’s commitment to social justice and urban planning, and to reach out to those historically underrepresented graduate programs. The fair’s workshops are meant to be both informative and geared toward strengthening the applications of aspiring planners, especially those of color, Oh said. Information on financial aid and statements of purpose will be available at the fair.

“The opportunity to network with our current students, staff and alumni welcomes our visitors to the department and helps them envision joining our community and advancing their planning interests at UCLA,” Oh said. Among participants in the event will be Ed Reyes, Urban Planning alumnus, Luskin Senior Fellow and former longtime Los Angeles City Councilmember.

Interim Dean Lois Takahashi explained why diversity is so important to the mission of the Luskin School: “At the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, we see diversity and excellence as mutually reinforcing dimensions of education, research, and public/community engagement. As such, we are committed to supporting diversity in ideas, in people and in projects across the school.”

For information, schedule and registration, please visit the Luskin Diversity Recruitment Fair web page.

Putting Historical Context on the Black Experience ‘Minority Report’ performance at UCLA on Nov. 1 will provide a ‘mirror to society’ of black life in America

By Stan Paul

“What’s going on in America?”

This question — following back-to-back shootings of two black men this summer in the United States — both urged and inspired actor Scott St. Patrick to create “Minority Report,” a series of vignettes on the black experience in America. It was performed Nov. 1 at UCLA’s Broad Art Center.

The question came unexpectedly from a friend, said the 35-year-old actor, whose goal is “to attack this issue from different points of view.”

In July, “I received a call from a friend in Germany, who is white. She was crying,” he recalled. “I almost felt that I was so numb to this whole thing that these two shootings went over my head.”

St. Patrick said his friend then asked him what he was going to do about it. “I said I don’t know what to do, what can I do? She was like, ‘Do something!’

“And here was this totally objective perspective from across the seas about America and saying ‘Scott, you need to do something.’ So, that is when I started to work on this piece,” said St. Patrick, who has been immersed in theater for 12 years.

The 1½-hour series of theatrical performances, accompanied by audio and video — historical and contemporary — was sponsored by the Department of Social Welfare at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and will be held at 5 p.m. at the UCLA Broad Art Center (2160E). To RSVP, go to: http://luskin.ucla.edu/event/minority-report/

Consuelo Bingham Mira MSW ’03 Ph.D. ’07, who is organizing the event with St. Patrick, said the purpose of bringing the performance to campus was initially for a social welfare seminar series for the Luskin School’s first-year Master of Social Welfare (MSW) students enrolled in the course “Diversity, Oppression, and Social Functioning,” and for Luskin D3 (Diversity, Differences and Disparities) Initiative students.

“When I spoke with Todd Franke, chair of the Department of Social Welfare, regarding the possibility of bringing this project to the department, I realized its importance for all MSW students and indeed for all Luskin students, faculty and staff,” said Bingham Mira, who serves as the California Social Work Education Center Public Child Welfare (CalSWEC PCW) academic coordinator at Luskin.

Bingham Mira said the CalSWEC PCW faculty and staff were struggling to try to understand the shootings and violence — of summer 2016 in particular. She said it is necessary to discuss and explore racism, oppression and self-awareness with the students, who receive education and training in providing services to vulnerable children and families, those exposed to issues of poverty, violence and trauma, many of whom are in child protective services.

“Oftentimes, the face of the worker is different from the child and the family,” Bingham Mira said. “So the question for any MSW student becomes, ‘How do I engage diversity and difference in social work practice, whether it is clinical or not?’”

“Minority Report,” which had its first performance this past Sept. 11, seeks to provide some perspective on that question. “The performance is provocative and educational,” Bingham Mira said. “You will learn about certain historical events in the black experience in the United States that are not taught in history classes.”

“I can’t tell you how many times I cried making this piece,” St. Patrick said. “Just the research going into finding out the history and what has happened over the years, it breaks my heart.”

He added, “I think the dialogue will be more like ‘What did I just see?’”

St. Patrick said this particular show is about understanding the experiences of black Americans and “why it is that we have so much frustration. And it puts a historical context on a narrative about that black experience.”

He added, “Sometimes when you see protest the only thing you can think is, ‘They’re acting like hooligans, They’re angry.’ Well, why are they angry, though? Why is it that there’s so much frustration?”

As an actor, St. Patrick said he believes “your job is to be a mirror to society of what’s going on. You basically show society what it is that they can’t see.”

St. Patrick, who also performed, said the actors “are some of the best you will find in the city.” Among the performers is Kelly Jenrette, currently on the Fox series “Pitch.”

“They are all very passionate about the subject, and they’ve made the time because of this project. They believe it’s special,” St. Patrick said. “I really want to tip my hat to UCLA for taking the initiative to want to do a project like this. We, as black actors, just representing the narrative, representing this issue, we appreciate that UCLA is taking the time and interest to have this discussion.”

St. Patrick said he hopes the performances “will evoke empathy, sympathy and move us just a little bit closer together to understanding each other.”

Examining Voting in L.A. at the Neighborhood Level Researchers at UCLA Luskin’s Center for Neighborhood Knowledge produce maps to document the county’s voter trends and behavior

By Stan Paul

All politics is local.

Researchers at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs’ Center for Neighborhood Knowledge (CNK) have taken that phrase to heart in an effort to determine the impact of voter behavior.

Silvia Gonzalez, an Urban Planning Ph.D. student at Luskin, and fellow CNK researchers have gathered data to create a map of all eligible voters by neighborhood in Los Angeles County. That data was then filtered to produce maps showing the percentage of registered voters and actual voters who turn out at the polls.

“My doctoral studies focus broadly on understanding patters of socioeconomic inequality, how these are constructed and reproduced in societal, economic and political context,” Gonzalez wrote in her proposal for a UCLA summer research mentor fellowship grant. Gonzalez, who also is assistant director of CNK, said that her interest is in “community power,” including the impact of voting.

The team has culled data on areas of Los Angeles with various majority ethnic groups, such as Latinos, who represent a significant percentage of the L.A. population. Other areas studied include those with a majority population of Asian, African American, Hispanic and Non-Hispanic White.

“This work will help organizations dedicated to political and civic engagement, and will show where there are opportunities to increase those rates,” said Paul Ong, CNK director and professor of Urban Planning, Social Welfare and Asian American studies at UCLA. The data show general trends and also voter behavior within various groups, said Ong, who is serving as Gonzalez’s faculty mentor.

For example, by creating a gender parity index that reflects the level of female voter participation compared to men, the researchers studied who is more likely to vote in L.A. County. Turns out that it’s women, following a nationwide trend, according to Gonzalez and her CNK colleagues.

Among voters of all ages, the CNK researchers found that in Los Angeles, 52 percent of millennials (ages 21-34) registered in both 2012 and 2015 had not voted in the 2012 election cycle. About 1.1 million were registered in both 2012 and 2015. Actual voting percentages increased progressively in older age categories with seniors (65+) having the highest registration-to-voter turnout ratio, with voters comprising about 75 percent of the more than 850,000 registered in 2012 and 2015. More total millennials were registered, however, so the actual turnout between millennials and seniors was relatively similar in number, according to the researchers.

Ong said that this is a long-term project with a goal of building a database and disseminating results that the public will find useful. “We are very interested how political engagement plays out for communities,” he said.

The impact of their research on this year’s general election in November may not be that significant, Ong, said, but it may prove useful in the long term. The researchers will integrate neighborhood voting patterns from November’s election as soon as the data becomes available.

Team members include Gonzalez; Alycia Cheng, CNK analyst; and C. Aujean Lee, CNK research assistant and Urban Planning doctoral candidate.

Data sources for the maps included the October 2015 voter registration roll counts and November 2012 voter history file from the L.A. County Registrar, the 2010-14 American Community Survey population estimates by tract and the 2006 L.A. County Geographic Information System (GIS) data portal. Low population or non-urban areas were excluded.

The maps may be viewed online.

The mission of the Center for Neighborhood Knowledge is to conduct basic and applied research on the socioeconomic formation and internal dynamics of neighborhoods, and how these collective spatial units are positioned and embedded in the Southern California region. The CNK emphasizes the study of diversity, differences and disparities among neighborhoods, and it explicitly covers immigrant enclaves and minority communities.

CNK examines neighborhoods through multidisciplinary lenses and through collaboration with community partners. Equally important, CNK is dedicated to translating its findings into actionable neighborhood-related policies and programs, and to contributing to positive social change.

Examining Diversity ‘Between the Lines’ In year-end conference, UCLA Luskin D3 students view issues through a social justice lens

By Stan Paul

Students at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs take the tools, methods and knowledge they acquire to solve problems, seek social justice and provide policy options for the world.

Luskin students are also examining their own university for insights into a number of issues, including what role UCLA’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion office should play in creating, implementing and evaluating UCLA diversity programs. Also, students raised the concern that it may be possible to progress through their academic programs without ever critically engaging with social justice topics.

Public Policy, Social Welfare and Urban Planning graduate students were given the opportunity to discuss, present findings and offer recommendations on these issues at “Researching Between the Lines,” the school’s year-end D3 (Diversity, Differences and Disparities Initiative) student research conference held at UCLA Luskin.

“The conference gives a formal opportunity for students to present their research to other people in other cohorts,” said Edber Macedo, a second-year Master of Urban Planning (MURP) student and project manager for the D3 initiative. “Our work in the public affairs realm is highly intersectional and this conference aims to highlight those crossroads.”

The D3 Initiative was established by former UCLA Luskin Dean Franklin D. Gilliam, Jr., as the only student-led equity effort on campus.

Three students in the master of public policy (MPP) program dedicated the culmination of their studies — their applied policy project — to examining UCLA’s office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI).

Group member Nisha Parekh, who is completing a law degree in conjunction with her MPP, pointed out that “pockets of diversity … have been doing the work already.” But, she said, “There is no communication between these folks,” and the challenge is how to leverage relationships.

“It is important to differentiate between being diverse in composition from having equitable and inclusive policies, practices and procedures,” Parekh said. She and her MPP colleagues, Kevin Medina, who also is in the Master of Social Welfare (MSW) program, and Elizabeth Calixtro, sought to find out what it means to have an office focused on equity, diversity and inclusion.

What became clear to the student researchers after gathering data and conducting interviews and focus groups with faculty, staff, graduate and undergraduate students is that diversity programming is not well-defined at UCLA. Students, faculty, and staff who supply diversity programming on campus also reported a lack of resources and institutional knowledge, Parekh said. “People are starting from scratch over and over.”

Among the group’s recommendations is that the EDI office clarify its jurisdiction and “brand,” which would improve stakeholder trust in the office, the students said. Based on the survey data gathered, Parekh said “we found that the majority of students surveyed think having a culturally competent campus is important.”

Two other projects examined diversity in their own department. Urban Planning MURP students examined both the curriculum and hiring practices.

Julia Heidelman, a first-year MURP, said her group conducted a critical analysis of the core curriculum to gauge content consistency with the department mission and whether social justice was integral to students’ understanding of the discipline.

“Students want more room for critical and well-facilitated discussions,” Heidelman said. “It has historically been the duty of students to advocate for improvement of the curriculum and incorporation of themes of diversity, social justice and race.”

Another group of MURP students focused on mentorship and how it can be both a help to students but also an added burden — taking time away from research and scholarship — especially for faculty of color. Recommendations made by student researchers included expanding the definition of scholarship to encompass questions of social justice and racial equality.

Finally, Joanna L Barreras MSW ’12, a doctoral student in the Department of Social Welfare, looked beyond the campus to a statewide concern. Her project, “Predictors of Having a Place for Care Among the Largest Ethnic Minority in California,” addressed the issue of more than 30 million Latinos of Mexican origin who face barriers when utilizing health care services in the state.

Barreras said she wanted the takeaway from her presentation to be that “we cannot have health without mental health.”

“By screening for serious psychological distress we are able to provide needed resources, prevent future chronic health illnesses, and ultimately help reduce physical and mental health disparities,” Barreras said. She found problematic that most research on Latinos does not differentiate among Latino subgroups, which “ignores cultural variation across Latino subgroups but it also ignores the heterogeneity within these groups.”

“These presentations signify the continuation of what Dean Gilliam started — to address EDI issues within Luskin,” said Gerardo Laviña MSW ’88. “We are grateful for Interim Dean Takahashi’s continued support,” added Laviña, who is director of field education for the Department of Social Welfare and faculty advisor for the Luskin D3 initiative.

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