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Study Tracks College Enrollment Rate of LAUSD Graduates Research team led by UCLA Luskin Public Policy scholar, in collaboration with the Los Angeles Education Research Institute, also examines how L.A. schools prepare students for enrollment in higher-education institutions

By George Foulsham

In the first comprehensive analysis of college enrollment of Los Angeles Unified School District graduates, UCLA and Claremont Graduate University researchers show that 70 percent of high school graduates enrolled in either two- or four-year colleges, but only 25 percent of graduates went on to earn a college degree within six years.

A separate, parallel study that focused on college readiness revealed that while over 75 percent of high school counselors say they have adequate information to help students complete college and financial aid applications, less than half (42 percent) said they have enough time to provide students with the assistance they need.

Both studies were co-directed by Meredith Phillips, associate professor of public policy and sociology at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, and Kyo Yamashiro, associate professor of education at Claremont Graduate University. Carrie Miller, a doctoral candidate at UCLA, co-authored the report on college readiness supports; Thomas Jacobson, a Luskin Master of Public Policy graduate and incoming doctoral student at UCLA, co-authored the report on college enrollment. Phillips, Yamashiro, Miller and Jacobson are all research collaborators with the Los Angeles Education Research Institute (LAERI), a nonprofit research organization engaged in a research-practice partnership with L.A. Unified. The studies were funded by a grant from the College Futures Foundation to UCLA and LAERI.

“In the first report, we analyze data on college enrollment, persistence and completion from the National Student Clearinghouse and L.A. Unified data on students’ high school performance, and ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds, to provide the first detailed description of graduates’ postsecondary outcomes,” Phillips said. “In the second report, we examine the prevalence of college readiness supports throughout the school district. We hope these reports, taken together, contribute to a broader conversation about preparing L.A. Unified students for their post-secondary options and how the Los Angeles community can work together to ensure that more students enroll in college and complete a four-year degree.”

Enrollment Numbers

The analysis examines college-going outcomes for district graduates who had passed critical milestones for enrollment within one year (class of 2014), persistence into a second year (class of 2013), and completion within six years (class of 2008).

Among the key findings:

  • Seventy percent of 2014 L.A. Unified students enrolled in college within one year of high school graduation; college enrollment rates were similar for the classes of 2008 and 2013.
  • Most college attendees persisted into a second year of college.
  • However, only 25 percent of 2008 graduates had earned a college degree within six years of high school graduation (by 2014). More than two-thirds were four-year degrees.

The researchers also found that L.A. Unified graduates were more likely to enroll in two-year than four-year colleges. Most of the 2008, 2013 and 2014 graduates enrolled in public colleges and universities in California. About 8 percent of the class of 2014 enrolled in “very selective” four-year universities such as UCLA, UC Berkeley, Stanford and USC, or “selective” four-year colleges such as Loyola Marymount University, UC Irvine, UC Santa Cruz and San Diego State University.

The study also revealed disparities based on gender and ethnicity:

  • College enrollment, persistence and completion rates were lower for Filipino American, African American and Latino graduates than for white and Asian American graduates.
  • Female graduates were more likely than their male classmates to enroll in, persist in and complete college.
  • Gender disparities were especially stark for Filipino American, African American and Latino male graduates, who were roughly one-third less likely to enroll or persist in four-year colleges than their female classmates of the same ethnicity.

According to the researchers, improving L.A. Unified students’ academic preparation is essential for ensuring that more graduates start and complete college, and must begin earlier than high school. In addition, striving to ensure that all District students complete their A-G course requirements with at least a C is critical for students’ immediate enrollment after high school in a public, four-year college.

“This report provides a first look at L.A. Unified graduates’ pathways to and through college,” UCLA co-author Jacobson said. “It will be important to continue to track these college-going outcomes in upcoming years to understand students’ successes and challenges as they progress through college, and to learn about how college outcomes change for future graduate cohorts.”

L.A. Unified officials say the study’s recommendations align with the district’s new and ongoing efforts to ensure that students develop the skills and mindset to thrive in college and the workforce.

“The LAERI goals serve as the framework for an array of strategies we are implementing to address the needs of students, families and schools,” said Frances Gipson, the District’s chief academic officer. “We are passionate about continuing our work to foster a college-going climate in our schools and to strengthen our college planning and academic supports as we provide more robust counseling services for our students.”

“We look forward to continuing our partnership with LAERI to learn more about promising strategies for increasing our students’ college readiness,” Gipson said.

Preparation for College

The college readiness study explores the prevalence of support for high school students in L.A. Unified. The data analyzed for this report include survey data from school staff and students in more than 90 percent of the district’s traditional high schools and 76 external service providers, as well as data collected during interviews with district and school staff.

Although more than 75 percent of counselors said they have adequate information to assist students with the college application and financial aid process, less than half said they have enough time to provide students with the individualized college application assistance they need. And counselors at 75 percent of schools report that some students at their schools are not getting the help they need.

Other key findings:

  • Counselors cite large caseloads and competing demands on their time as barriers to helping students with the college application and financial aid process. Counselors spend nearly the same amount of time coordinating academic testing and performing non-counseling activities as they do advising students about college and financial aid.
  • Nearly all schools offer college readiness support but students still need more help with the college application, financial aid and college enrollment process. About one-fifth of 12th graders in the survey said they didn’t feel that adults at their school had helped them learn the details of getting into college.
  • Most L.A. Unified schools rely on external service providers to help them provide college application, financial aid and college enrollment assistance. At more than two-thirds of schools, counselors report that both school and external staff provide college application (66 percent) and financial aid (75 percent) help.

Learning more about disparities among students in their access to college readiness support is an important next step for improving college-going among L.A. Unified graduates, according to the study.

Researchers on the UCLA-LAERI LAUSD study include Meredith Phillips, front, associate professor of public policy and sociology at UCLA; and, back row, from left, Kyo Yamashiro, associate professor of education at Claremont Graduate University; Thomas Jacobson, a Luskin Master of Public Policy graduate and incoming doctoral student at UCLA; and Carrie Miller, a doctoral candidate at UCLA.

The researchers offer several recommendations for increasing schools’ capacity to meet students’ college counseling needs, including clarifying a common set of college counseling expectations by grade level, diversifying the type of school staff responsible for specific aspects of college counseling assistance, incorporating key college application tasks into required academic coursework, and providing professional development specific to college counseling tasks.

The researchers concluded that the district could maximize the effectiveness of existing partnerships with external service providers by:

  • providing counselors and other school staff who connect schools and students to external providers with additional support to develop and maintain these partnerships;
  • asking external service providers to contribute to a common information system to aid individual schools or the district in determining which students are and are not receiving sufficient help; and
  • evaluating the effectiveness of the college-related services that students receive from external providers.

“This report is a first step toward understanding the college readiness resources available to LAUSD students,” UCLA co-author Miller said. “While we find that nearly all schools offer a range of college readiness resources, identifying the extent of these services — the proportion of students served and the intensity of the services they receive — is essential for more effectively targeting school and district resources.”

Phillips said that LAERI will continue its collaboration with L.A. Unified by gathering additional data on college counseling resources available to students and the relationship between those resources and whether and where students enroll in college.

“Our partnership with LAERI and this research informed our approach to the state’s College Readiness Block Grant,” said Gipson, of L.A. Unified. “Through this research, Phillips and Yamashiro’s team developed a counselor section of our annual staff survey, which provided the first districtwide data on college readiness resources. Additionally, these initial data have provided a foundation for the college readiness professional development resources we are developing for schools.”

“We’re very excited to present the first detailed overviews of LAUSD graduates’ postsecondary outcomes and college readiness supports,” Yamashiro said. “As we build on this research partnership work, we look forward to continuing to collaborate with the district to get a better understanding of elementary and middle school predictors of college readiness and success, identifying schools that are doing an especially good job of preparing their students for college, and helping the district identify the most effective practices and interventions for improving college access.”

Click below to download the full reports in PDF format.

 

“College Going in LAUSD: An Analysis of College Enrollment, Persistence, and Completion Patterns”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“College Readiness Supports In LAUSD High Schools: A First Look”

 

 

Public Policy Professor Is Honored by UCLA Randall Akee receives C. Doris and Toshio Hoshide Distinguished Teaching Prize in Asian American Studies

By Asian American Studies Center Staff

Assistant Professor Randall Akee of the Department of Public Policy and American Indian Studies is the 2016-17 recipient of the C. Doris and Toshio Hoshide Distinguished Teaching Prize in Asian American Studies at UCLA.

Akee is emerging as one of the most important and influential scholars studying the socioeconomic conditions of indigenous people and formulating strategies to address their marginalization. He is a former economic development specialist for the state of Hawaii, Office of Hawaiian Affairs. Since 2013, he has served on the U.S. Census Bureau’s National Advisory Committee on Racial, Ethnic and Other Populations. Akee has conducted extensive research on several American Indian reservations, Canadian First Nations, and Pacific Island nations in addition to working in various Native Hawaiian communities. His main research interests are labor economics, economic development and migration.

Colleagues and students expressed that Akee is deserving of the Hoshide Award honor. He has taught key courses that benefit Asian American Studies, incorporating Pacific Islanders, an understudied racial group in the United States. One colleague stated, “He epitomizes a faculty who bridges disciplinary silos — American Indian Studies, Asian American Studies and Public Policy — not an easy task at UCLA.”

In his “Economic Principles and Economic Development in Indigenous Communities” course, Akee uses Micronesian migration to Guam and the U.S. and Tongan migration to New Zealand as examples of diaspora of indigenous peoples. The significant international movement of Pacific Islanders makes this group unique among indigenous populations, creating challenges to how students understand the indigenous experience. It is the only course offered at UCLA focusing on the prosperity of indigenous nations and communities globally through economic subsistence.

“I learned first-hand of the high expectations he has for his students. Dr. Akee challenges his students intellectually. As one of a few Pacific Islander students, it made me think about what it meant to be a Pacific Islander scholar,” said one student.

Another student noted, “With the purpose of using data to show how Native people have successfully approached economic development, Dr. Akee effectively engaged our class in a way that felt both very thorough and intimate.”

Akee’s “Pacific Island Economic Development” course focuses on the Anglophone former colonies and countries in the Pacific. The class examines the economic and political development of the Hawaiian Islands, Fiji, the islands of Micronesia, Samoa and Tahiti.

A student commented, “I enjoyed every minute of Dr. Akee’s class because it challenged me to look beyond the scope of my field and bridge western-indigenous methodologies to critique economically sustainable programs in the South Pacific.”

Akee also worked with Pacific Islander graduate students to establish the Graduate Student Association for Pasifika. It was created to support graduate students from Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander descent or areas.

As one student expressed, “Dr. Akee is a role model, but a mentor to countless Pacific Islander students. He offers unencumbered and relentless support to any student seeking his guidance, which, I believe, reflects his love for teaching, research, but more so his community.”

The late C. Doris Hoshide, class of 1934, of Rockville, Maryland, established the teaching prize to annually recognize an outstanding professor in Asian American Studies. She was a longtime supporter of Asian American Studies at her alma mater. The Hoshide Prize includes a $1000 award.

Akee received his Ph.D. from Harvard University in political economy, his M.A. from Yale University in international and development economics, and his bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth College in economics. The award was announced by the Asian American Studies Center’s Interim Director Marjorie Kagawa Singer and Assistant Director Melany De La Cruz-Viesca.

A Final Test for Policy Analysis Projects UCLA Luskin public policy master’s degree culminates in a public forum in which students present Applied Policy Projects on issues of regional, global importance

By Stan Paul

By necessity, the Master of Public Policy (MPP) students at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs quickly begin learning skills and tools to complete the program and prepare for problem-solving careers in the public, private and nonprofit sectors.

The students, working in groups, must clear one final hurdle to graduate: the Applied Policy Project presentation.  Each group has 20 minutes to impress faculty and peers by showcasing what they have learned during two rigorous years of study.

Each year, a diverse group of clients “hire” the students, usually in teams of two or more, to tackle real-world problems and offer actionable recommendations and feasible solutions.

“I think one of the exciting aspects of the APP is the variety of topics covered,” said Manisha Shah, associate professor of public policy and faculty coordinator of the program. “Because our students have a diverse set of interests and because we encourage them to identify their own clients, the result is an interesting variety of APP projects.”

Among this year’s clients were the Southern California Association of Governments, Covered California, Peterson Institute for International Economics and a member of the California State Assembly. Internal clients included a research center within the Luskin School, a professional program elsewhere on campus and the University of California’s Office of the President.

“The first-year curriculum of the MPP program is tool-driven,” Shah said. “What I mean by that is we try to give students a diverse set of tools — both quantitative and qualitative — that will help guide them through the APP process and ultimately go out into the real world and conduct policy analysis on issues close to their hearts.”

Shah said she was fortunate to advise a diverse set of APP groups this year. One group of students found that behavioral tools such as reciprocity and commitment devices should be implemented in schools to increase consumption of fruits and vegetables in an attempt to combat obesity. Another group helped improve the service delivery model of an organization in L.A. that tries to get at-risk youth into better employment opportunities. And another group proposed interventions and policies aimed at reducing displacement and gentrification in South L.A.

In all, 18 presentations were made. Luskin faculty watched and then asked questions that tested the students’ depth and breadth of knowledge and the thoroughness of their projects.

The range of projects is broad, including:

  • Local and regional issues such as investments in electric vehicle charging stations in Los Angeles and a rent stabilization ordinance to prevent displacement of low-income minority communities in South Los Angeles.
  • Statewide issues such as bail reform, insuring Californians, health care, access to water and juvenile justice.
  • National and global issues like mitigating the negative impacts of trade on employment in the U.S. auto industry and improving local-level governance amid decentralization reforms in the Ukraine.

A closer look at some of this year’s APPs follows.

Gender Issues in Engineering

Applying qualitative and quantitative methods to their study for the UC’s Office of the President, Traci Kawaguchi, Yuhan Sun and Eri Suzuki focused on the need for connections in their analysis of system-wide retention by gender in engineering at the undergraduate level. They initially determined that the retention rate of female engineering students was significantly lower than for male engineering classmates across the UC system.

Their faculty adviser, Professor of Public Policy John Villasenor, also holds an appointment in electrical engineering at UCLA. He helped connect them with UCLA engineering students, which led to interviews with aspiring female engineers.

Women and men had similar levels of academic performance in the first year, but the qualitative interview uncovered that “affinity groups play a key role in affirming engineering identity and belonging in the field,” according to the UCLA Luskin students’ written summary.

“I think the big thing that came up was just the idea of fitting in,” Kawaguchi said. “When you go into a classroom that is 80 percent male … it may make you feel that you don’t necessarily belong.”

Team members analyzed policy options based on anticipated effectiveness, cost feasibility and institutional feasibility, and they recommended support for female students based on a sense of community and belonging. Adoption of residential living communities and formal peer mentoring programs for female undergraduate students in engineering were also recommended.

 A Program to Help Plug-In Commuters

Another APP team focused on plug-in vehicles with a limited range on all-electric power that switch to gasoline-based power after batteries are exhausted. Specifically, the group studied how workplace charging stations in Los Angeles could increase the number of miles that vehicles travel without burning gasoline.

MPP students James Di Filippo, Mahito Moriyama, Toru Terai, Kelly Trumbull and Jiahui Zhang completed their project, “Prioritizing Electric Vehicle Charging Station Investments in Los Angeles County,” for the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG). Their model combined commuting data from SCAG’s transportation demand study with plug-in electric vehicle registration data, information on vehicle all-electric range, and point data on existing charging infrastructure locations.

The students found that nearly 6,000 plug-in hybrid commuters could benefit from workplace charging but currently do not have access. Full support of those commuters’ vehicles would yield about 76,000 additional miles driven on electric power each day.

The potential increase is concentrated in just a few zones. Di Filippo said that the group used a tool from the Environmental Protection Agency to identify zones that fall within disadvantaged communities that might require additional support, which were more than a third of all zones identified as having potential for investment across Los Angeles County. SCAG should direct additional funding toward those disadvantaged communities to ensure that the benefits are distributed equitably, the students said.

Di Filippo said that the APP process was challenging but rewarding. “I credit my teammates for pulling together quickly, conceptualizing and delivering a strong report that offers actionable information for SCAG’s electric vehicle charging infrastructure siting decisions in only eight weeks,” he said. “My team was fortunate to have the support of faculty and peers who were invaluable in shaping our thinking on key aspects of the report.”

Healthy Food for Children

Sarah White and teammates Sydney Ganon, Hiroto Iwaoka and Jonathan McIlroy examined behavioral economics for tools in nutrition education curricula. Their goal was to promote long-term healthy food choices and habits in third and fourth grade students in light of a growing recognition of negative health outcomes of childhood obesity.

“While the field of behavioral economics is still fairly new, we read a lot of the existing literature and had reason to believe that really low-cost interventions could potentially have large impacts on getting people to make better choices for themselves,” White said.

One challenge that behavioral economics has “rarely, if at all, studied within the realm of children’s nutrition.” That made evaluating different policy options more difficult. “We had to evaluate each policy option on our own,” White said.

The group’s recommendations bundled three potential behavioral tools that are cost-effective. Giving attractive names such as “power peas” to fruits and vegetables in the cafeteria would frame foods in a way that is appealing to children. Giving students something as simple as a sticker and thanking them for choosing the healthy option would promote reciprocity. Having students set goals for eating better would make them more likely to stay committed.

Ayappa Biddanda

Rocking his Comeback

For one student, Ayappa Biddanda, the final APP presentation was a long time in the making. In the early 2000s he left UCLA Luskin to pursue an opportunity that turned into a career in the music industry. He came back this year to do his final presentation — and thus finish his master’s degree.

Biddanda’s project evaluated the impact of an educational enrichment program called Rock the Classroom that paired local musicians with students in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Biddanda’s solo presentation on the final night of the APP program literally rocked the classroom with musical sound bites and his enthusiastic, informative and professionally presented argument that, in education, “art matters.”

A Fond Farewell

Wrapping up two decades of APP presentations, Mark Peterson, chair of the department, thanked the students for their efforts. “I really want you all to applaud yourselves,” he said. “The hard work that went into all of the presentations was obvious to us all, and we really just admire the time you put into all of this and the work that you did to put these presentations on a scale of professionalism that we like to see.”

The 2017 APPs ended on a bittersweet note, with Peterson acknowledging the retirement of a key player. Maciek Kolodziejczak is a longtime UCLA staff member who joined the public policy program when it was founded more than 20 years ago and has long coordinated the APP presentations.

“Sadly, this is the last time that this part of the APP program will be orchestrated, moderated and run by Maciek,” Peterson said.


From the UCLA Luskin Flickr feed:

2017 Applied Policy Project presentations

Proud to be Part of the Luskin Community International students share their experiences, dreams and awareness of anxiety in an uncertain world

By George Foulsham

Eri Suzuki, a Public Policy master’s student from Japan; JianChao Lai, a Social Welfare PhD student from China; and Jorge Loor, an Urban Planning master’s student from Ecuador — described the challenges faced by international students and their families in a world filled with anxiety.

What led you as an international scholar to choose California and the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs?

Suzuki: I worked at the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology in Japan. The Japanese government has a program that provides for government officials who have several years of work experience to study abroad. I was in charge of the Japanese National University division and my job was mainly to interpret the law of Japanese National Universities. And through working at the Higher Education Bureau in Japan I realized that there are so many problems in Japanese higher education policy, like tuition, scholarships, finance and budget at universities, especially since the Japanese economy is shrinking right now. So I started getting interested in studying in the U.S. because there are so many world-famous universities here. And I thought maybe as being a grad student I can learn hints or key factors that can be applied to Japanese universities. So I decided to apply to this program through the Japanese government.

Lai: I did my undergrad in social work in China. Social work is a newly developed major — we did not have it 30 years ago. It is fairly new and it’s not complete. So I went to America to study social work. I went to Wisconsin for my MSW. I love to come to large cities like New York and L.A., a more vibrant city feel, and also because of the reputation of UCLA. And I did some stalking online for professors and I found my adviser, Todd Franke. He really matches with my interests, and he is such a great mentor. So I decided to come here, and it’s been a great decision so far.

Loor: I was at a grad school fair when I was at the University of Texas — this was back in 2008 or 2009 — and this school (Luskin) was there. I was toying with this idea to go into urban studies at Texas. My degree is in civil engineering and I wanted something else so I added on history. While I was fulfilling the major I got into an urban studies class and I liked it. I always wanted to come back to L.A. and since I knew this school existed and this program existed, and I knew I wanted to come back to L.A., so I only applied to UCLA. I didn’t apply anywhere else because I know there is a certain prestige to the name. This was just a really good program.

There’s been a lot of talk about travel bans being instituted by our new president. Has that impacted your life in any way? What kinds of things are you hearing from family, friends and other international students about this issue?

Suzuki: As a government official at Japan’s Ministry of Education, I am really concerned about the ban’s effect in the near future on the interaction between Japanese and American students or researchers, or the number of Japanese people who want to study abroad here. They may decide not to come here because they realize maybe that the ban will affect getting a visa to come here.

Lai: The travel ban hasn’t impacted me or my family that much, but the new president’s attitude and actions toward women — cutting funding for Planned Parenthood and Violence Against Women Act, and science education and the EPA — some of my friends are directly influenced by those actions. As a female and a student researcher, that concerns me a lot — together with the travel ban. The globalization process is inevitable, and only through cooperation between countries can we make win-win situations. These actions may only cause hatred and discrimination, but can’t bring the good side of humankind.

Loor: Just tangentially because my mom went to Jordan a few weeks ago for a vacation with her sister. I was just worried about it, though there was no real problem. It is a bummer that you have to think about this. The ICE (Immigrant and Customs Enforcement) crackdowns are a big deal here in L.A. I haven’t been directly affected by it, but still I am just hyper aware because of the nature of what I am studying and the nature of the social consciousness of the cohort as a whole.

How has Luskin prepared you to deal with the challenges you may face upon graduation?

Suzuki: I have to return to the ministry of education so I have to continue working. I still am interested in higher education policy. So I really want to work in the higher education policy division but also at the same time my ministry is in charge of sports policy. In 2020 the Olympics Games are coming to Japan and we have the sports agency in the education ministry. So I want to help the city of Tokyo host the Olympic games in 2020. One thing that I learned here is a lot of quantitative analysis skill that I never learned in Japan. It was a really great opportunity for me to learn that skill. I really want to emphasize the importance of data when making education policies once I return to Japan.

Lai: I’m thinking about being a professor or researcher. I used to focus on the clinical side, but then I thought that is really limited, doing just therapy and counseling. I hope one day, using my research, I can actually advocate for those people who have been ignored in research or in services.

I think the resources that Luskin has provided are great: mentorship, the classes, the connections with other schools and other researchers that are related to my interests. That also helped prepare for my research and just doing independent work. And my social skills. And the supportive platform is really important. I felt really welcome here.

Loor: I will more than likely have to go into the private sector. I’ve taken Joan Ling’s three housing courses. For me, at least with my background in engineering, I’m well-suited to go into real estate development, hopefully with some affordable housing development component. Luskin really prepares you a lot. I was looking at jobs earlier this week, and I realized that I am qualified for real estate financial analyst, and I’d never thought about doing this for a career.

Social Workers Come Together for ‘This Incredible Conference’ At student-organized event, professionals and scholars gather at UCLA Luskin to hear experts discuss issues of vital importance to the Latina/o community

By Les Dunseith

It’s 8:30 a.m. on a sunny Saturday, and the second floor hallway of the Public Affairs Building at UCLA is abuzz with activity as professional social workers join UCLA Luskin students and faculty for a daylong series of lectures and workshops designed to help them do the best work possible for Latina/o populations in Southern California.

“People come from all over for this conference,” said Gerry Laviña, director of field education for the Department of Social Welfare, as attendees began to file into a large classroom to begin the 15th annual Social Services in the Latina/o Community Conference on May 13, 2017. “They look forward to it.”

One group, from Ventura County, even arrived two hours early. By the time Dean Gary Segura delivered his keynote address shortly after 9 a.m., a total of about 100 people were on hand. Other participants would continue to arrive as workshops proceeded throughout the day. The student-organized conference has become so successful, in fact, that advance registration had to be capped at 220 this year.

A 1988 graduate of UCLA Luskin’s MSW program, Laviña noted during his opening remarks that such popularity wasn’t always the case. When it began a decade-and-a-half ago, the conference “was struggling, struggling, struggling,” he said. “But now it’s this incredible conference — all for free — because of the hard work that the students have done.”

Christina Hernandez, a second-year Master of Social Welfare student and one of the three co-chairs of the Latina/o Caucus, said the conference is the culmination of a yearlong process that starts with the writing of grant applications soon after the academic year begins. This year, a total of about $7,000 in grant funding was obtained.

The six-member board of the Latino Caucus includes two first-year MSW students whose participation is designed to help them be better prepared to lead the caucus and its annual conference next year. It’s a tradition that Hernandez said benefited her personally, as it did her co-chairs and fellow MSW students, Sandra Cervantes and Corina López.

“In my first year, I saw the time commitment that was required for the conference,” Hernandez explained. “So going into this year, I knew that I had to give it my all in order to make it a successful conference.”

As the date drew nearer, the students worked with Laviña and their other faculty advisers, Sergio Serna and Hector Palencia MSW ’08, to issue a call for proposals from potential speakers on various topics. The number of applicants exceeded the time and space available, which led to a culling process.

“We select proposals that seem most appropriate,” said Hernandez, who also noted that the organizers seek a balanced program of workshops, in part because many professionals earn continuing education credit for licensing purposes by attending. For instance, “two really good candidates” proposed workshops on law-related topics, but only one of them made this year’s agenda.

That session, “Trauma-Informed Immigration Law for Social Workers,” was one of nine workshops that took place during the day, which included a lunch break that featured a performance by Aztec dancers. A sample of other workshop topics included “Critical Race Theory in Social Work Practice: Going Beyond Competency” and “Queer Latinx: Policy & Critical Discourse.”

Although workshop topics were highly varied, one theme that got a lot of attention was the symbolic and practical impact of Trump administration policies on the vital work being done by the social workers who interact on a daily basis with members of the Latino community.

The rhetoric from Washington has left many social welfare students and professionals — not to mention their clients in disadvantaged and immigrant communities — feeling fearful and angry.

In his keynote talk, Segura detailed examples of anti-immigrant rhetoric throughout history, noting that Latinos have often felt like unwelcome outsiders because of America’s prevailing Euro-centric culture and view of history.

“It is a reflection of our lives as being principally valued for our labor rather than our personhood,” Segura said, “persistently marginalized for our phenotype rather than any actual transgressions, and conceived of in the eyes of those who hold power as a community that is less than equal.

“At the Luskin School of Public Affairs, we like to say we create change agents,” Segura said during his talk. “I sure hope so. Because we so badly need change. Fight like our lives depend on it. They just might.”

Serna and Laviña offered similar thoughts during their own remarks.

“This act of being of service is an act of resistance to injustice and oppression,” Serna told the crowd. “We are sending a message of hope and solidarity to the communities we serve, while raising a fist to those that desire to restrict us and remove funding to deter us from our purpose.”

Laviña, his voice sometimes breaking with emotion, talked about the importance of taking the high road, especially amid political and policy uncertainty.

“In this time of anger and standing up, I think we need to rely not just on ‘othering’ people. Because we have all been the ‘other,’” he said. “So I hope that today you leave with tools and knowledge and, most importantly, an increased sense of community. Because we cannot do this work alone.”

3 Alumni Are True Change Agents When recruiting for gender, cultural and ethnic diversity, founders of Estolano LeSar Perez Advisors start at UCLA

By Les Dunseith

Working together from a restored 1920s office building in the heart of a city they are helping to revitalize, three graduates of the UCLA Luskin Urban Planning program are fulfilling a shared vision of diversity and innovation.

Their goal? Change the world.

“UCLA, when we went there — and I think it is still the case today — is really about integration,” says Jennifer LeSar MA UP ’92, one of the founding partners of Estolano LeSar Perez Advisors. “You are not just a transportation planner or an affordable housing person or an environmental planner. You understand the integration of it all.”

The company, which provides strategic counsel to public agencies, foundations, business associations and civic organizations, reflects the partners’ deep respect for each other, a bond that first formed about three decades ago for LeSar and her close friend and company co-founder Cecilia V. Estolano MA UP ’91. Through professional interactions, they later met their third business partner, Katherine Perez-Estolano MA UP ’97, and her values were closely aligned.

“We knew that there were diverse people of color who were anxious to make a difference,” says Perez-Estolano.

ELP Advisors and its sister firm, San Diego-based LeSar Development Consultants, makes a point of recruiting smart, talented people who reflect the gender, cultural and ethnic diversity of Southern California.

“Every time I would go and meet with other people who had their own companies, their top folks were all white men,” Perez-Estolano remembers. “And I thought this is not the world that we are planning for.”

Their vision crystalized at UCLA — they cite faculty members such as Martin Wachs, Joan Ling MA UP ’82 and Goetz Wolff as key influencers — and their commitment to the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs remains a vital aspect of their personal and business interactions today. All three are active in alumni activities, and Estolano and Perez-Estalano have both served as Luskin Senior Fellows. They coordinated a visit by a delegation of planners from Panama a few years ago. Their firm also hosted a reception for Professor Ananya Roy when she first came to UCLA in 2015.

And the close association with UCLA has benefited the company as well. Three of ELP Advisors’ six full-time employees are also UCLA Luskin alumni, and the firm has employed a steady stream of interns from the Luskin School since its founding in 2011.

LeSar notes the “amazing talent pool at UCLA.” Estolano says their firms are a direct reflection of the “particular way that UCLA teaches students how to be urban planners. In order to be an activist planner, you have to have strong sense of civic purpose.”

Estolano continues:  “The idea of building a company owned by three women with multiple core competencies in Southern California, the most diverse place in the country, based upon the graduate educations and work experience that we have had, and an ability to hire staff  out of the institutions from which have come, was our vision then and still is to this day.”

Their many professional accomplishments contributed to the three founders’ decision to join forces at ELP Advisors. But there is a personal side to it, too.

Katherine Perez, a former Deputy to Pasadena Mayor Bill Bogaard, and Cecilia Estolano, the former chief executive officer of the Community Redevelopment Agency of the City of Los Angeles, married in 2013. LeSar’s spouse is San Diego Assemblywoman Toni Atkins, who served as Assembly Speaker from 2014 until March of this year.

The three also believe that their backgrounds mesh particularly well. “If you look at Katherine’s career, and my career, and Cecilia’s career, we have all worked in different sectors,” says LeSar, who also has an MBA from UCLA and is an expert in community development and real estate finance. Estolano, who is a graduate of UC Berkeley’s Boalt Hall School of Law, has expertise in sustainable economic development and urban revitalization. Perez-Estolano, who in 2013 was appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown to the board of directors of the California High Speed Rail Authority, brings knowledge of transportation and stakeholder engagement.

They have a professional contact list — “a giant Rolodex” as Perez-Estolano notes it once would have been called — that few companies can match.

It has helped them land clients such as Los Angeles County, the Metropolitan Water District, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Goldhirsh Foundation. The latter is a great example of the firms’ strengths, Estolano says.

The Goldhirsh Foundation “wanted to completely change their approach” to philanthropy and orient it toward making L.A. the best it can be by 2050. The resulting 2050 Report “really put us on the map,” Estolano recalls. “And the folks we hired to do a lot of the analysis, gather the data and design the report, they are just top-flight. And they are still working with us.”

ELP Advisors takes pride in solving solutions that have stumped others.  “We are just scrappy,” Estolano says, “and resourceful. We are smart people, and we have  broad-ranging interests. So, if a client has a difficult problem and they really can’t figure out how to get at it, sometimes they just give us a call and ask us what we think. And I say, sure, we know how to do that. We can figure it out!”

Success hasn’t always come easily, however. For one, they started ELP Advisors while the Great Recession was still dragging down the economy and hindering new projects. Then, just a few months after ELP Advisors opened for business, Gov. Brown dissolved the state’s redevelopment agency.

“We formed at a time that, in hindsight, was the worst possible,” LeSar recalls.

But they quickly adapted, putting their knowledge to good use to help clients adapt to the new reality they were facing. “So,” Estolano says, “we made lemonade out of lemons! What we thought would be a negative for us ended up creating a base for our company to expand.”

LeSar adds, “We learned some hard lessons, and that’s OK. You know, most small businesses don’t survive. Most women-owned businesses don’t survive. Most businesses of color don’t survive. And I don’t really know any other businesses today that are quite like ours.”

Each partner brings talents that complement the others. They say their success is based on hard work and smart choices. And it’s also based on staying true to their principles: Inclusion. Diversity. Gender equality. Community engagement.

“You live in our city, you live in our neighborhood, and you have a right to participate in these processes,” Perez-Estolano says about the firm’s commitment to getting involved at every level. “We had people who would understand how they could actually change the outcome by getting involved, participating on local city commissions, by running for city councils, by running for county offices or state offices. That was, to me, the pipeline of future leadership.”

A recent example of this commitment to the community is a project spearheaded by Estolano and Tulsi Patel MURP ’14, a senior associate at ELP Advisors. The L.A. Bioscience Hub and its Biotech Leaders Academy launched in summer 2016 to promote entrepreneurship training for community college students from underrepresented groups. The pilot program, funded by a grant from the Goldhirsh Foundation, introduced 10 students of color (six of them women) to professional opportunities related to a growing biosciences sector in the East Los Angeles area.

It’s another example of the three UCLA graduates’ commitment to open doors for people who might not otherwise get a chance to succeed. It also shows their dedication to the value of education, which underlies everything they do, including their advice to current and future UCLA Luskin students about what it takes to succeed.

“I think the core skills are in writing, research and quantitative analysis,” LeSar says. “And be a creative thinker!”

For Perez-Estolano, being adaptable is important. “The world changes rapidly today,” she says, “and you have to embrace that as a planner.”

Estolano advises today’s students to take full advantage of their educations at UCLA Luskin. “Your classmates are going to be your greatest network,” she says. “Do not turn your back on the school. Your school can be a huge asset for you, and even if you can only do a little bit, always give to this school.”

“It’s about changing the future,” she says. “If you have a commitment to keeping the school strong — to honor its mission — it will continue to graduate people that will change the world.”

 

From left, Leah Hubbard, Katherine A. Perez-Estolano MA UP ’96, Jennifer Lesar MA UP ’91, Cecilia Estolano MA UP ’91, Richard France MA UP ’10, Cynthia Guzman MURP ’12 and Tulsi Patel MURP ’14. Photo by George Foulsham

Just One Visit: Volunteers Make a Difference for Prisoners UCLA Luskin professor’s book launch highlights little-known but vital role that volunteers play in the juvenile and adult prison system

By Stan Paul

Just one visit. For those whose lives are entangled in the pipeline of the juvenile and adult justice systems, the life-changing meeting might come from a family member. It could be a psychologist. Or a chaplain. Or it could never come at all.

For many, though, the visitor is a volunteer — someone who can make the difference between continuing a downward spiral through the criminal justice system and turning a life around.

“The cycle continues until someone breaks it,” said Ernst Fenelon Jr., who was part of a Nov. 3 panel speaking about volunteers who help those incarcerated in America’s juvenile detention centers and adult prisons. The event also launched a new book co-edited by UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs Social Welfare professor Laura Abrams. It was sponsored by the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs Department of Social Welfare, the Institute on Inequality and Democracy at UCLA Luskin, and the UCLA Justice Work Group.

New book co-edited by UCLA's Laura Abrams.

New book co-edited by UCLA’s Laura Abrams.

The book, “The Voluntary Sector in Prisons: Encouraging Personal and Institutional Change,” was published “to highlight many examples of great practice, of volunteer programs that make a real difference behind bars … and impacting not only those who take part in the programs, but the volunteers,” Abrams said. She was accompanied by one of her three co-editors, Emma Hughes, an associate professor and chair in the Department of Criminology at California State University, Fresno.

“This event, and the book itself, is intended to honor volunteers in jails and prisons, juvenile and adult institutions, who devote their personal and professional time, travel long distances and overcome numerous bureaucratic hurdles to reach out to those locked on the inside, whose humanity and dignity is often limited by the very condition of incarceration itself,” Abrams said in her introductory remarks.

Abrams said that the work of her colleagues and co-editors highlights many examples of great practice, impacting not only those who take part in the programs, but the volunteers as well. “Unfortunately, this evidence of good practice is not well-known, so other volunteers have to keep reinventing the wheel, rather than benefitting from the experiences of others,” she said.

The co-editors pointed out that volunteers themselves are very diverse. They may be formerly incarcerated, currently incarcerated, teachers, musicians, artists, students or people of faith. A unique feature of the book is that it includes the voices of a number of people currently serving time, in addition to the 19 contributing authors from the United States, Canada and Britain.

“You may be that one person,” said Fenelon, whose 25 years of experience with the California prison system includes more than 14 as an inmate. He is now the program coordinator for the Prison Education Project (PEP), a “prison-to-college” program that seeks to enhance the educational experience of inmates and parolees while providing practical tools for reintegration.

“You’re here because it is a calling,” Fenelon told the audience of academics, social welfare students and volunteers, some of whom also had been wards of the foster care, juvenile justice and adult prison systems in California. “The best people to speak are the volunteers,” continued Fenelon said. Like himself, they “speak from a voice of unique experience,” and “sat where they sat” and they strive to “reconnect [those incarcerated] to their humanity.”

He was joined by Rosalinda Vint, president of Women of Substance and Men of Honor Inc. Vint, who grew up in the foster care system, has been “that one person,” Hughes said in introducing her.

“All of us have a friend or relative touched by the system,” said Vint, whose nonprofit organization provides mentoring, leadership training and other services for the Department of Juvenile Justice Ventura Youth facility. The former corporate executive, who left a successful 25-year career to reach out to foster youth, said it is a privilege to serve those who, like her, have suffered abandonment and loss. Recounting her own and her siblings’ experiences within the foster care and criminal justice systems, Vint paused, as her voice cracked with emotion. She continued, “This has changed my life, what I do. I wish someone would have come for me, looked me in the eye and said it is going to be OK.”

The relationship between two of the event’s speakers, Felix Miranda and Matthew Mizel, is an example of the significant difference that volunteering can make in the lives of both volunteers and those they help.

Miranda was raised in Nicaragua and he “saw things that no kid should see.” He was angry when he came to the United States, eventually ended up in trouble and lost 13 years of his life to the prison system in California. Mizel, a native of New Jersey, had a successful career in the entertainment industry before becoming a volunteer with Inside Out Writers in 2003, teaching creative writing in juvenile and adult facilities.

They met while Miranda was imprisoned, and the experience was transformative for Mizel, who was volunteering with the nonprofit organization founded in 1996. Mizel is now a doctoral student in the Luskin School’s Department of Social Welfare, where his research focuses on ways to reduce racial inequality in the justice system.

“I had to grow out of that phase,” said Miranda, who was recently released from prison and is now a member of the Anti-Recidivism Coalition (ARC). “You can make a change.”

Miranda said that at first he couldn’t understand why Mizel kept showing up to his prison visits, and more than once asked him why he would do this.

“He came every week — that’s what impacted my life,” said Miranda, who also is now a member of the Inside Out Writers alumni project. He credits Mizel “for the love and friendship he showed me,” and the writing program for the positive changes he experienced.

“Don’t just show up,” Miranda said about volunteers’ need for perseverance and engagement. “It’s the follow-up that matters.”

According to Hughes, the book is also intended to show correctional officials and policymakers how valuable this work is. “All too often volunteers are confronted with insurmountable hurdles in terms of red tape and bureaucracy when trying to access facilities.”

Hughes added, however, that she is encouraged by recent changes.

“I am heartened that this year, CDRC (California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation) has a mandate to establish a volunteer advisory committee at every adult prison, with the intention of better supporting volunteer-led programs,” Hughes said.

The evening’s presentations also included a moving spoken word performance by Harry Grammar, who brought students from his New Earth Arts and Leadership Center, a comprehensive re-entry center serving 2,500 young people each year who are incarcerated in Los Angeles County detention centers and placement homes.

Gary Segura Named UCLA Luskin Dean A faculty member at Stanford since 2008, Segura is the Morris M. Doyle Centennial Professor of Public Policy and professor of political science and Chicana/o studies

By George Foulsham

Gary Segura, the Morris M. Doyle Centennial Professor of Public Policy and professor of political science at Stanford University, has been named new dean of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.

“Chancellor [Gene] Block and I are confident that Gary will provide outstanding leadership as dean of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs,” Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Scott Waugh said in an announcement.

Segura’s anticipated start date is Jan. 1, 2017. He will succeed Lois Takahashi, who has served as interim dean since August 2015.

“I am honored and excited to be selected as dean of the Luskin School of Public Affairs, and to come to UCLA,” Segura said. “The Luskin School and its distinguished faculty represent an outstanding intellectual community whose work makes important contributions in addressing human problems at the individual, community, national and global levels. The three nationally prominent departments and the affiliated centers are asking and answering critical questions about the challenges — personal and structural — that real people face every day.  It will be my privilege to join them and do whatever I can to broaden and deepen their impact in Los Angeles, across California and beyond.”

A member of the Stanford faculty since 2008, Segura is also a professor and former chair of Chicana/o-Latina/o studies. Additionally, he is a faculty affiliate of African and African American studies; American studies; feminist, gender and sexuality studies; Latin American studies; and urban studies. In addition, he is the director of the Center for American Democracy and the director of the Institute on the Politics of Inequality, Race and Ethnicity at Stanford.

In 2010, Segura was elected as a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Prior to joining Stanford, he was a member of the faculty at the University of Washington, the University of Iowa, Claremont Graduate University and UC Davis.

Segura received a bachelor of arts magna cum laude in political science from Loyola University of the South, and a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His research focuses on issues of political representation and social cleavages, the domestic politics of wartime public opinion and the politics of America’s growing Latino minority.

Segura has published more than 55 articles and chapters, and he is a co-editor of “Diversity in Democracy: Minority Representation in the United States” and a co-author of four books: “Latino America: How America’s Most Dynamic Population is Poised to Transform the Politics of the Nation”; “Latinos in the New Millennium: An Almanac of Opinion, Behavior, and Policy Preferences”; “The Future is Ours: Minority Politics, Political Behavior, and the Multiracial Era of American Politics”; and “Latino Lives in America: Making It Home.”

Active in professional service, Segura is a past president of the Western Political Science Association, Midwest Political Science Association and Latino Caucus in Political Science. From 2009 to 2015, he was the co-principal investigator of the American National Election Studies. Segura has also briefed members of Congress and senior administration officials on issues related to Latinos, served as an expert witness in three marriage equality cases heard by the Supreme Court, and has filed amicus curiae briefs on subjects as diverse as voting rights, marriage equality and affirmative action.

“I am thrilled that Gary Segura is taking the helm as the next dean of the Luskin School,” Takahashi said. “He is the perfect leader to bring the Luskin School into its next phase of growth. I look forward to working with him on what I know will be a smooth transition.”

In his announcement, Waugh praised Takahashi and the search committee.

“I want to thank search/advisory committee members for assembling an outstanding pool of candidates and for their roles in recruiting Gary,” Waugh said. “I also want to recognize and thank Lois Takahashi for her distinguished leadership of the school as interim dean during the past year.”

The search committee was chaired by Linda Sarna, interim dean, UCLA School of Nursing; professor and Lulu Wolf Hassenplug Endowed Chair in Nursing. Other members were: Rosina Becerra, professor of social welfare; Evelyn Blumenberg, professor and chair, Department of Urban Planning; Michael Chwe, professor of political science; Todd Franke, professor and chair, Department of Social Welfare; Vickie Mays, professor of psychology, and of health policy and management; Mark Peterson, professor and chair, Department of Public Policy, and professor of political science and of law; Susan Rice, chair, UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs Board of Advisors, and senior consulting associate, Brakeley Briscoe Inc.; Daniel Solorzano, professor of social sciences and comparative education, GSE&IS; and Abel Valenzuela Jr., professor and chair, César Chávez Department of Chicana/o Studies, and professor of urban planning.

Debra Duardo Named Social Welfare Alumna of the Year Debra Duardo, a 1996 Master of Social Welfare graduate from the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and LAUSD Student Health Director, has been selected to receive the Joseph A. Nunn Award

By Luskin Staff

Debra Duardo, a 1996 Master of Social Welfare graduate from the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, has been selected to receive the Joseph A. Nunn Award, honoring her as the department’s Alumna of the Year. The award will be presented to Duardo in a ceremony on Saturday, April 20.

The Social Welfare Alumnus of the Year award recognizes outstanding social work professionals who have contributed leadership and service to the school, university, and/or community, and who have otherwise distinguished themselves through commitment and dedication to a particular area of social work.

Duardo is currently the executive director of student health and human services for Los Angeles Unified School District, the second-largest school district in the United States. As the executive director she is responsible for the administrative oversight of support services and district programs designed to address the physical health, mental health, and home and community barriers that prevent student academic success, including student medical services, school nursing, pupil services, dropout prevention and recovery, school mental health, community partnerships, and Medi-Cal programs.

In this role she manages a $100 million budget and over 3,000 employees including directors, specialists, pupil services and attendance counselors, psychiatric social workers, nurses, organization facilitators, and healthy start coordinators.

After graduating from UCLA with a major in Women Studies and Chicana/o Studies in 1994 Duardo earned her Master of Social Welfare degree at UCLA in 1996 with a specialization in school social work. Since that time she has earned her school administrative credential and is currently completing her Ed.D. in the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies at UCLA. Following completion of her MSW, Debra started her career serving as a school social worker and the Healthy Start project director at Wilson High School.

She advanced to being the LAUSD Healthy Start District Administrator. Since that time she has served as assistant principal at Le Conte Middle School, the director of dropout prevention and recovery for LAUSD, and director of pupil services for LAUSD.  Through all of these positions she has maintained her focus on the important of health and social services for children and families.

The Joseph A. Nunn Social Welfare Alumnus of the Year award was established to honor Joseph A. Nunn, former director of field education at the Department of Social Welfare at UCLA. Dr. Nunn brought leadership and service to UCLA and the Social Welfare program at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs for over two decades. Dr. Nunn received his B.S., M.S.W. and Ph.D. degrees from UCLA. After working as a probation officer for 15 years, he became a member of the field education faculty in 1980, and except for a three-year, off-campus appointment, remained at UCLA until his retirement in 2006. During his last 15 years, he served with distinction as the director of field education and, simultaneous for the last decade, as vice chair of the Department of Social Welfare, where he supervised the field education program.