Millard-Ball Receives Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel Research Award

Adam Millard-Ball, professor of urban planning at UCLA Luskin, has received the Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel Research Award, which recognizes outstanding accomplishments by scientists and scholars from around the world. Trained as an economist, geographer and urban planner, Millard-Ball conducts research on transportation, the environment and urban data science. Award recipients are invited to collaborate with scholars based in Germany, and Millard-Ball is currently on sabbatical at the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change in Berlin. Each year, the Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel Research Award, named after the noted German astronomer and mathematician, is given to 10 to 20 internationally renowned academics. The awards are funded by Germany’s Federal Ministry of Education and Research and administered by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, which promotes scientific advances, academic exchanges and cultural dialogue across borders. Award recipients were honored at a symposium in Bamberg, Germany, in March.


Hecht Joins Podcast to Discuss Deforestation in Latin America

UCLA Luskin Professor Susanna Hecht joined the LatinNews Podcast to talk about deforestation and other environmental issues in the Amazon. Hecht, a professor of urban planning who also serves as director of the Center for Brazil Studies at UCLA, spoke about the region’s history and the complex dynamics relating to forest resurgence in the tropical world. To begin, she noted with a laugh that the interview was taking place “from climate-battered Southern California. My road is closed from landslides, so just to keep things in proportion, climate change is pretty generalized these days, even in places that view themselves as immune from it.” As the podcast proceeded, she spoke about geopolitical issues and provided an overview of the various types of resource depletion that continue to plague the Amazon and how these practices contribute to climate change. 


Amazon Rainforest Nearing a Tipping Point, Researchers Warn

The collapse of the Amazon rainforest’s ecosystem, home to a tenth of Earth’s land species, could collapse much more quickly than earlier estimated, according to an international team of prominent researchers including UCLA’s Susanna Hecht. Their peer-reviewed paper, the first major study to focus on the cumulative effects of a range of variables including temperature, drought, deforestation and legal protections, appeared in the journal Nature and has been covered by news outlets including the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, BBC and the Guardian. A forest-wide collapse is “happening much faster than we thought, and in multiple ways,” the researchers said. The study called on governments to halt carbon emissions and deforestation and restore at least 5% of the rainforest. Hecht, professor at UCLA Luskin Urban Planning and the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, is director of the university’s Center for Brazilian Studies.


A Picturesque Welcome to the Luskin School Green spaces replace construction zones after seismic upgrades to Public Affairs Building

Splashes of color now ring the UCLA Luskin Public Affairs Building, replacing fences and scaffolding used during months of seismic upgrades.

With the completion of renovations in the summer of 2023, construction zones have been replaced by green spaces populated by native grasses and flowers, planted by UCLA Facilities Management in coordination with UCLA Sustainability and Hien McKnight, the School’s assistant dean for operations and administration.

Fescues, needlegrass and wildflowers in shades of red, yellow, purple, pink and white are among the 17 types of plants seeded throughout the strips of land.

They were chosen for their biodiversity, support of pollinators and climate resiliency, in keeping with the UCLA Landscape Plan, whose guiding principle is to model responsible environmental practices.

The beautification project marks the official end of the two-year renovation. While making the Public Affairs Building earthquake safe was the No. 1 goal, the project also included several other improvements, including:

  • Installation of a high-security system at building entrances.
  • Upgrades to restrooms, including two all-gender facilities with diaper-changing stations.
  • Addition of 10 hydration stations, six of which have bottle fillers.
  • Installation of shade structures in the 5th floor atrium.
  • Remodeling of the 5th floor kitchen area.
  • Mechanical upgrades to the building’s elevators.

The following native plants were used in the Luskin School’s new landscape:

  • Molate Creeping Red Fescue
  • Western Mokelumne Fescue
  • Idaho Fescue
  • Purple Needlegrass
  • California Poppy
  • Arroyo Lupine
  • Farewell-to-Spring
  • Baby Blue Eyes
  • Chinese Houses
  • Golden Lupine
  • Globe Gilia
  • Bird’s Eye
  • Five-Spot
  • Tidy Tips
  • White Yarrow
  • Mission Red Monkeyflower
  • Blue-Eyed Grass

UC Grant Will Fund EV Research by UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation Team led by a Fielding School professor gets nearly $2 million to pursue an equitable model for electrical vehicle charger placement

The UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation will be a key contributor to research recently funded through a partnership between the University of California and the state intended to spur real-world solutions relating to climate change in California.

A team from the Center for Innovation, or LCI, will focus on community engagement relating to a project led by Yifang Zhu, professor of environmental health sciences at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, that will look at how efforts to reduce greenhouse gases can better enable residents of disadvantaged communities to adopt electric vehicles more readily. 

A $1.99 million grant under Zhu’s direction will fund the study of EV usage in communities that have historically lacked access to charging stations. The LCI researchers will work with local residents and community-based organizations to identify barriers, improve knowledge and awareness of EVs, and design plans for deploying and installing charging stations in underserved areas. 

To date, the siting of EV chargers has been a top-down process driven by business priorities rather than community needs and preferences. Gregory Pierce, adjunct associate professor of urban planning and co-executive director of LCI, said researchers will partner with three community-based organizations in the Los Angeles area to co-design the first-ever procedurally equitable process for placement of EV chargers. 

“We hope that this project leads to a new community co-designed model for placing electric vehicle charging stations throughout California that can accelerate our transition to a zero-emissions transportation future,” Pierce said. 

The UCLA Luskin-affiliated team will be co-led by Rachel Connolly, project director for air quality and environmental equity research at LCI. The effort will include surveys and a three-part workshop process relating to the siting of EV chargers and future investments in coordination with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and other partners. Connolly, who earned doctorate and master’s degrees in environmental health sciences from UCLA, has been working at LCI since 2017. 

In all, $83.1 million in California Climate Action grants were awarded to a total of 38 projects involving researchers from across the UC system, as well as California State University campuses, private universities and community, industry, tribal and public agencies. The two-year grants are part of $185 million allocated by the state for UC climate initiatives that advance progress toward California’s climate goals.

Read about other UCLA research funded by California Climate Action grants

Turner Says Regulations Hinder Heat Mitigation Efforts Like ‘La Sombrita’


A Time of Transition

By Les Dunseith

What’s new, you ask?

  • There’s a new dean.
  • Two new master’s degrees are  working their way through the  faculty approval process.
  • Next fall, three of four department chairs will be new in the role, and  one of them is new to UCLA.
  • One of our prestigious academic research centers has a new faculty director.
  • We have several new or almost-new  staff members, including two whose  jobs focus on alumni.
  • Newly renovated public areas are  now open in the Public Affairs  Building after the completion of   an 18-month seismic retrofit.
  • And, as you may have heard, a  historic 40-day strike ended with  a new labor agreement that will  boost the pay of graduate student workers and postdocs at all 10 University of California campuses.

In this story, we delve into these changes in detail, starting with a familiar face in a new role — Interim Dean Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris. (Note that each subhead below links to other, often-more-detailed content online, including some photos.)


On Jan. 1, Loukaitou-Sideris took over for Professor Gary Segura, who chose to step down as dean after six years to focus on his teaching and research. Loukaitou-Sideris is a longtime distinguished professor of urban planning who had served as associate dean for 12 years. She will lead the Luskin School for at least two-and-a-half years, while a permanent dean is being sought.

A widely published scholar who joined the UCLA faculty in 1990, Loukaitou-Sideris helped lead a strategic planning effort to redefine the future of the School after Meyer and Renee Luskin’s naming gift in 2004. She later drew on that experience to lead a campuswide task force to create UCLA’s strategic plan.

After 33 years at UCLA, Loukaitou-Sideris felt comfortable diving right in  as dean.

“I love the School,” she said shortly after moving into the dean’s office. “I know the School inside and out, and I have served the university in different capacities. I know the deans. I know the vice chancellors. There is an element of familiarity. And I feel that I’m giving something back to a School that has been extremely good to me all these years.”

Loukaitou-Sideris doesn’t plan to simply be a caretaker. “I’m going to continue some activities, and start new initiatives,” she said. “I feel I owe it to the School and its people.”

The foundation of the Luskin School with its unique integration of public policy, social welfare and urban planning remains strong, she said. “The common thread is social justice and a desire to make cities and society better — to improve things.”

She plans to build on the successes of her predecessor, who increased the footprint and reputation of the Luskin School. Segura also successfully advanced student and faculty diversity. Women and people of color now constitute roughly half of UCLA Luskin’s full-time and ladder faculty.

The number of research grants has also grown substantially, and the Luskin School expects to exceed last fiscal year’s record total of more than $20 million in extramural research grants and contracts.

“All of this is very, very good,” Loukaitou- Sideris said. “We have reached a level of stability now.”


Loukaitou-Sideris hopes to bring to fruition efforts initiated by previous deans to create two additional master’s degrees.

The UCLA Graduate Council gave a thumbs-up in mid-April for a Master of Real Estate Development, or MRED, degree. Pending further reviews, including approval by the University of California Office of the President and the UC Regents, the first cohort would likely  enroll in fall 2025.

Led by Vinit Mukhija, a professor and former chair of urban planning,  the program is envisioned as a one-year, full-time, self-supporting degree program in which enrollment is matched to costs.

Documentation for the new degree stresses instruction on the ethical underpinnings of a growing profession and the training of real estate developers to have a social conscience. Coursework would be led by faculty experts from UCLA Urban Planning, the Anderson School of Management and UCLA Law.

The second new degree, a Master of Global Public Affairs, is envisioned as an interdepartmental degree providing intellectual preparation to future experts who plan to work within the realm of global public affairs. The program description is being developed by Professor Michael Storper and lecturer  Steve Commins, members of  the urban planning faculty who  have led UCLA’s Global Public  Affairs certificate program since  its inception in 2015.

“We need to educate global citizens,” Loukaitou-Sideris said.

In the discussion stage of development is a third initiative — a new revenue-producing certificate program around e-governance and the impact  of emerging technologies.

Loukaitou-Sideris hopes to create an opportunity for working professionals, including alumni, to pursue coursework at UCLA that would help them stay current in an era of rapidly changing technology.


Helping to guide the future of the Luskin School will be three new department chairs for the 2023-24 academic year:

  • Professor Michael Lens will become the new chair of the undergraduate major, succeeding Meredith Phillips, who since 2018 successfully built from scratch the Bachelor of Arts in Public Affairs.
  • Professor Michael Manville will become the new chair of Urban Planning, following a three-year term by Professor Chris Tilly.
  • Professor Laura Abrams will remain as a department chair for one additional year, extending to seven years a term as leader of Social Welfare that began in the summer of 2017.
  • After a year as interim department chair of Public Policy, Mark Peterson will step aside for a new chair, Robert Fairlie, who will move to UCLA this summer from the University of California Santa Cruz.

Fairlie was a professor of economics at UC Santa Cruz and is a member of the National Bureau of Economic Research. Areas of his research, published in leading economic and policy-related journals, include public policy, entrepreneurship, education, racial and gender inequality, information technology, labor economics, developing countries and immigration.

He has strong ties to the state, arriving in California at age 2 and growing up near San Jose. He attended Stanford University, earning a bachelor’s in economics. He previously held visiting academic positions at Stanford and UC Berkeley. He also serves on the  Faculty Council of the UC Sacramento Center.

A new book on entrepreneurial job creation and survival — seven years in the making — will soon be published with MIT Press. Fairlie and his co-authors at the U.S. Census Bureau created a new dataset to track the universe of startups in the country — the Comprehensive Startup Panel, or CSP.

“We find that startups, on average, create fewer jobs and have lower survival rates than previously documented,” Fairlie said.


Fairlie is the second professor recently hired into a leadership position in UCLA Luskin Public Policy.

Megan Mullin also joined UCLA Luskin, as both a professor and the new faculty director of the Luskin Center for Innovation. Formerly a professor at Duke University, Mullin has been getting to know the people and programs at UCLA since her arrival in January.

“I had an idea of what the center was doing. It impressed me, and everything I’ve learned in the last months has assured me that my impression was correct,” said Mullin about the center and the strength of its work. “The people doing it are so committed to the mission of bringing good research and good analytics to responsible environmental decision-making,” she said. “It’s really exciting to see.”

Mullin is a scholar of American political institutions and behavior, with a focus on environmental politics. In addition to her center appointment, she is also the Meyer and Renee Luskin Endowed Professor of Innovation and Sustainability in the department of Public Policy.

In spring quarter, Mullin taught an undergraduate course in U.S. environmental politics designed to help “students gain competency in identifying political opportunities for advancing environmental policy goals,” she said.

Her arrival happened to coincide with one of California’s rainiest seasons to date, and Mullin said the growing uncertainties surrounding the impact of climate change will persist as a concern in California and the country.

Mullin cited risks associated with overabundance, including rainfall, and cautioned about complacency and thinking that California’s drought is over thanks to winter rains, “because it’s not.” Managing water resources and water accessibility are problems during both severe storms and drought, she said, particularly as it relates to what happens to floodwater.

She wrote a recent article in Nature on why Americans have been slow to respond to the climate crisis. “It is time to bring political knowledge to bear on decisions about protecting people from its consequences,” Mullin wrote.

“And so that’s going to be part of the portfolio for the center going forward, too.”


This academic year started with Karina Mascorro, Ph.D. as the School’s new alumni engagement director. She works with the departments to manage and promote alumni-related activities such as the regional alumni receptions that have resumed after the pandemic.

“I am responsible for ensuring that we catch every opportunity to highlight the outstanding accomplishments of our alumni,” Mascorro wrote in an email to staff and faculty last fall.

In March, the Luskin School added another staff member with an alumni-related role, Vishal Hira, who will oversee the annual giving program as associate director of development for the School


After making the building safer in the event of a major earthquake, construction crews have departed the Public Affairs Building.

The project also involved refurbishing the notoriously unreliable elevators, and all four have been upgraded. Restrooms were modernized with an eye toward sustainability and inclusivity — non-gendered options are now available. And some shared-use areas, including a lounge on  the 5th floor with cooking appliances, have  been remodeled.


There’s been plenty of upbeat news, but the path ahead has also been complicated by what Loukaitou-Sideris refers to as a “triple whammy” — the aftereffects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the UC strike and the unexpected resignation of a dean.

“Morale is very important, as you know, in an organization,” Loukaitou-Sideris said.

She’s a believer in open communication and transparency, so she began her tenure by immediately hosting a town hall with faculty and staff, and another with students. Loukaitou-Sideris spoke frankly about some of the challenges ahead.

With inflation spiking in the wake of the pandemic and a continued decline in the percentage of operating costs in higher education being funded by the state, a time of budget austerity looms.

One hurdle relates to the increased labor costs resulting from the strike settlement agreement. Unless the state and University of California Office of the President unexpectedly shift money to individual units, it appears that it will be up to the faculty and staff leaders to find the necessary dollars to pay the higher wages of student workers and other union-represented employees at the Luskin School.

Some trims in budget areas controlled by the dean have been made, with more likely to follow. And staff who leave UCLA for another job or retire may not be replaced, with remaining staffers’ duties likely changing as a result.

Already, two associate dean positions have been combined into one, with Professor David Cohen adding responsibilities that he formerly shared with Loukaitou-Sideris. Her other former duties have been parceled out to staff members in the dean’s office or the departments.

Loukaitou-Sideris said departments have been asked to share more of their funds with the dean’s office for one year, “and then we will reevaluate once we have a better sense of the overall budget situation at UCLA and [the University of California].”

So far, she said, everyone has been responsive, understanding that reducing the budget is a collective effort.

Their Luskin Connection Extends to Sacramento


For three 2018 alumni, a friendship that started at UCLA Luskin has led to legislation under consideration by the California Legislature.

Parshan Khosravi is a policy advocate. Isaac Bryan is an assemblyman. Caleb Rabinowitz is Bryan’s chief of staff. They’ve known each other since the 2016 new student orientation for their public policy master’s cohort at UCLA. Now, they are working to pass Assembly Bill 274 and benefit lower income graduate students.

Because MPP cohorts are relatively small, classmates get to know each other even if they take different paths through graduate school. Bryan has always been politically astute, Khosravi said, and he was already influencing policy change at the local level while at UCLA.

“And then we have somebody like Caleb … who was  both a genius and genuinely kind person, one of the most exemplary students in our class,” Khosravi said. “Meanwhile, I would probably say I was one of the worst students,” Khosravi joked.

A self-described student government junkie, Khosravi’s world at the time revolved around the UCLA Graduate Student Association and advancing campus-related issues.

“So, each of us took a different route. One was a scholar who worked on developing policies, one went on to do grassroots and civil rights organizing and ultimately getting elected to office, and one went on to become a lobbyist and education advocate. And it all ended up coming back and working in collaboration,” he said.

A bonding experience, Khosravi said, was the 2016 presidential election. Like most classmates, they opposed Donald Trump, and the election result was a shock.

“We all realized that the expectations we came in with were not going to be our experience,” Khosravi said. Their bond was strengthened by “the collective need to do something about it.”

After graduation, Khosravi stayed in touch as Bryan won a seat in the California Assembly in 2021 with Rabinowitz as his campaign manager and then chief of staff. Meanwhile, Khosravi’s student government experience had led to work that included lobbying in Sacramento. Today, he is California policy director for uAspire, a nonprofit that focuses on removing financial barriers to higher education.

He is often among the first to hear about policy issues in higher education, including a situation involving the eligibility determination for student recipients of two assistance programs — CalFresh, which provides healthy, nutritious food for qualified households, and CalWORKS, which provides cash aid and services for low-income families with a child in the home.

If student recipients get a scholarship, grant or other financial award, it counts as income when determining future eligibility.

“You would think that we shouldn’t tax folks who are low income for going out of their way and getting an award or a scholarship of merit,” Khosravi said.

He knew of an effort in Massachusetts to address this situation, so he raised the issue over coffee with Rabinowitz in Sacramento. Soon, Bryan was sponsoring similar legislation for California.

At press time, AB-274 was still going through the legislative process, but Khosravi said its prospects for passage are strong.

“We expect the bill to be heard in committee soon, and we have a broad coalition of education, welfare and basic needs organizations supporting it. This may be a wonky and technical bill, but its impact will be deeply felt for a lot of grad students who don’t have a big income stream,” Khosravi said. “And we would have never been able to work on this if it wasn’t for Luskin bringing us together.”



Making Strides Toward Climate Justice

LAist highlighted the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation‘s work with the Transformative Climate Communities program, which funds neighborhood-level action to reduce the pollution driving the climate crisis. The program is active in low-income and historically underserved communities that have been severely impacted by pollution and environmental racism. A recent evaluation by the Center for Innovation found that the program has made an impact in providing local green jobs, creating avenues for implementing community-driven climate solutions, and building trust between communities and government entities that haven’t always been partners. “There’s definitely a demand for this type of program, one that allows communities to pursue their priorities to advance their vision for change,” said Colleen Callahan, co-executive director of the Center for Innovation.


A Call to Come Together for Climate and Economic Justice

Activist and author Kali Akuno came to UCLA not just to share stories about his lifetime of advocacy for economic and climate justice, but to inspire his audience to join the fight. “I am here as an organizer to recruit you. To motivate you, struggle with you and get you to move in some particular ways,” Akuno told a standing-room-only crowd at the Charles E. Young Grand Salon at UCLA’s Kerckhoff Hall, part of the UC Regents’ Lecture Series. Akuno is co-editor of “Jackson Rising Redux: Lessons on Building the Future in the Present,” released on the same day as his April 11 talk. The updated collection of essays chronicles Jackson, Mississippi’s successful grassroots coalition-building, led by Cooperation Jackson, a nonprofit co-founded by Akuno. That emphasis on the power of coming together permeated his UCLA visit, which included an on-stage dialogue with Assistant Professor of Public Policy Jasmine Hill and office hours with students the following day. During his lecture, Akuno acknowledged that those who work against entrenched government and economic systems often become discouraged, “feeling that we are without a program, that we are without vision and oftentimes that we are without hope.” But the post-pandemic world has opened up a “profound period of opportunity,” he said, calling on progressive groups to set aside ideological and policy divisions, build a level of trust and just get to work. “I need you here in L.A. doing the best work that you can do, building as much power as you can build, and then let’s figure out how to be in dialogue with each other to build the future that we want.”

View photos on Flickr.

Regents' Lecture by Kali Akuno