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Grants Support Challenging Convention, Strengthening Communities

Four members of the UCLA Luskin faculty have received research grants from the Institute on Inequality and Democracy. The 2019-20 grants, among 10 awarded to faculty across the UCLA campus, support research, scholarship and teaching that challenge established academic wisdom, contribute to public debate and/or strengthen communities and movements, the institute said. UCLA Luskin recipients are:

  • Amada Armenta, assistant professor of urban planning, who will study undocumented Mexican immigrants in Philadelphia and their layered, complex relationship with the legal system in their everyday lives.
  • Kian Goh, assistant professor of urban planning, who will use the lessons of Hurricane Sandy to research the key role public housing and infrastructure play in the quest for climate justice.
  • Paul Ong, research professor and director of the Center for Neighborhood Knowledge, who will create multimedia public narratives that document the stresses of gentrification, displacement and other community changes.
  • Amy Ritterbusch, assistant professor of social welfare, who will develop a restorative justice initiative to take research to the streets, producing knowledge about historically misrepresented communities beyond the confines of academic publication traditions.

In addition to awarding faculty grants of up to $10,000, the Institute on Inequality and Democracy supports research by graduate student working groups. The six groups announced for the 2019-2020 academic year include several urban planning and social welfare students from UCLA Luskin.

Minority Fellowship Recipients Advocate in D.C.

As awardees of the Council on Social Work Education’s (CSWE) master’s Minority Fellowship Program (MFP), UCLA Luskin MSW candidates Michelé Jones, Desiree Lopez and Jennifer Grijalva traveled this past March to Washington, D.C., where they gained valuable experience in policy and advocacy. The program aims to reduce health disparities and improve behavioral health care outcomes for racially and ethnically diverse populations by increasing the number of culturally competent master’s-level behavioral health professionals serving racial/ethnic minority populations. Recipients of the one-year fellowship receive specialized training, a monetary stipend and other professional development support. “The MFP program has provided me with professional development and access to mental health practitioners of color, which have been invaluable to my second year of social work education,” explained recipient Desiree Lopez. The 41 fellows gathered in Alexandria, Virginia, for the annual spring training and spent a morning on Capitol Hill, where they educated Congressional staff members about the importance of the MFP program. Grijalva described the spring conference as “a space filled with MSW students of color who were passionate about social justice issues around the country,” an experience that was “inspirational and empowering.” Jones was excited to use her skills as an advocate and gain a better understanding of policy during the training. “I was able to discuss the importance of having more mental health professionals of color in the field with members of the Senate in my own district. I left the training in D.C. extremely empowered and more prepared to begin my career,” she said.


Town Hall Gives Graduate Students a Forum for Dialogue

Dean Gary Segura and key members of the UCLA Luskin leadership team fielded questions from graduate students at an informal Town Hall on March 14, 2019. Joining Segura and his staff were Public Policy chair JR DeShazo, Social Welfare chair Laura Abrams, Urban Planning professor Chris Tilly and Undergraduate Affairs chair Meredith Phillips. Students submitted questions in advance and from the floor, and the dialogue touched on diversity in admissions and hiring, space issues in the Public Affairs building, teaching assistantships and other financial support, and opportunities to connect UCLA Luskin graduate and undergraduate students, among other topics. As the Town Hall coincided with Pi Day, members of the Association of Masters of Public Policy Students served pie to those present. A separate Town Hall for undergraduate students is planned for the spring quarter.

View a Flickr album of images from the Town Hall.


 

A Showcase for Research by Urban Planning Students The annual Careers, Capstones & Conversations networking event highlights activities that welcome newly admitted students to UCLA Luskin Urban Planning and give them a preview of what the future holds. Public Policy and Social Welfare host their own Welcome Day events.

By Stan Paul

Britta McOmber wants to know “What’s the Dam Problem?” in terms of flood risk in California. Shine Ling wants to know “How Fair is Fair-Share” when it comes to housing law in California. Sabrina Kim asks, “Still No to Transit?” looking at areas in Los Angeles County that do not meet their full transit commuting potential.

Questions like these launched 36 research projects that brought together Master of Urban and Regional Planning (MURP) students with clients to produce research projects that address a specific planning issue. The second-year students, completing their required capstones, showcased their work at the annual Careers, Capstones & Conversations (CCC) networking event held April 5, 2018, at UCLA’s Covel Commons.

The event followed a day of welcoming activities for newly admitted UCLA Luskin Urban Planning students, who had the opportunity to view the projects and interact with current students, as well as faculty and staff.

Newly admitted student Bradley Bounds II said his interest in urban planning is local.

“I want to work on building up my community,” said the Compton resident. “I’m looking more toward open space projects; I’m looking for transportation projects and economic development,” said Bounds, who enthusiastically affirmed his intent to join the new Urban Planning class in fall 2018.

Project clients include governmental organizations, local agencies and cities, as well as private planning and design firms and nonprofit organizations concerned with regional, state and national urban issues.

Video highlights of the students practicing for CCC. [full size]

In addition to engaging titles, the projects — produced individually or in teams — include solid research and data that has been analyzed and put into context by the students. Topics included transportation, housing and social justice issues, including foster care in the region and environmental, resource conservation and energy challenges. At CCC, the students pitch and support their approaches via posters that frame the issues and their proposed solutions.

UCLA Luskin Urban Planning faculty, alumni and Luskin Senior Fellows were on hand to evaluate the projects displayed in Covel’s Grand Horizon Room.

McOmber, who has studied coastal cities and flood risk resulting from rising sea levels, as well as designated flood plains, said her project was inspired by last year’s Oroville Dam overflow incident in Northern California.

“There are quite a number of dams and large reservoirs in L.A. County,” said McOmber, explaining that, from the perspective of Oroville’s near disaster,  the state faces a broader problem of dam and water storage infrastructure that is aging, underfinanced and sometimes not well-maintained.

“I noticed that there really wasn’t any information on dam flood zones, so I thought that was an area that’s lacking in the academic field and also very relevant, not only for California, but I think more broadly for the country,” she said.

Her project also looked at who may be impacted based on factors such as income and education. For example, McOmber asked whether socially vulnerable households are more likely to live within dam flood zones in California. She found that almost 50 percent of households in these areas are Hispanic or Latino.

Presentation is an important aspect of the projects. Commenting on the eye-catching displays, Ananya Roy, professor of urban planning, social welfare and sociology, looked at how effectively information was conveyed, noting those that “made a very dramatic and legible point.”

In Public Policy and Social Welfare, newly accepted graduate students were welcomed at daylong events designed to introduce them to the School and provide information about topics such as program content and financial aid. They got a day-in-the-life experience at UCLA Luskin through lectures, breakout sessions, tours and informal social gatherings.

UCLA was the top choice for many of the students attending the April 3, 2018, Welcome Day for newly accepted students in UCLA Luskin Social Welfare who learned about topics such as public child welfare stipend programs and social welfare field education.

“I’ve already decided on UCLA,” said Nancy Salazar, who joined other admitted students for roundtable discussions with UCLA Luskin faculty. Salazar, who also has a master’s degree in public administration, said that in addition to a focus on social justice, she was attracted by the leadership aspect of the program.

For Guillermo Armenta Sanchez, UCLA was the only choice. “That’s the only one; that’s where I’m coming,” said the Long Beach resident who is interested in focusing on mental health.

At the Master of Public Policy (MPP) Welcome Day on April 9, 2018, J.R. DeShazo, department chair and professor of public policy, provided introductory comments and introduced faculty and staff to incoming students.

“At Luskin, you are making a commitment to mastering a very challenging set of policy tools,” said DeShazo, who also serves as director of the Luskin Center for Innovation, the state’s premier environmental policy research center.

DeShazo highlighted the outstanding faculty and research institutes across all three departments, then continued, “There are a tremendous number of extracurricular activities that we present to you. The challenge is a scheduling challenge: How do you take advantage of everything that we offer?”

The new cohort of policy students gathered at the School to participate in a number of informative activities that included an ice-breaking exercise and an inside look at student life and the strengths of the UCLA Luskin program as presented by a students-only panel.

An invitation to Professor Michael Stoll’s Methods of Policy Analysis course was included, as were a variety of student-led breakout sessions on policy areas such as education, criminal justice, the environment, international issues and transportation. The conversations continued into a lunch with members of the faculty.

DeShazo advised that the two-year graduate program goes quickly and that students are soon thinking about what’s next.

“One of the things we’re very committed to — alums are committed to, our office of career services is committed to — is providing you with the internship opportunities and the alumni connections that will help you get a great job coming out of our program,” DeShazo said. “You are invited to start to develop your CV, practice in your interviewing skills, your public speaking skills, honing and refining your networking skills.

DeShazo summed it up. “When it’s time to engage with prospective employers, you’re ready.”

 

Shaping the Future of Education at UCLA Luskin’s Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, the newly appointed UCLA Associate Provost for Academic Planning, will lead and coordinate the academic components of campuswide strategic planning

By Stan Paul

Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris

Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris

Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris has spent a career researching the city of Los Angeles — from its physical aspects and aesthetics to its meaning and impact on those who live there.

The professor of Urban Planning and associate dean at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs will now help lead and plan the future of education for graduate and undergraduate students at UCLA. Loukaitou-Sideris, a UCLA Luskin faculty member since 1990, has been named UCLA’s Associate Provost for Academic Planning by Scott Waugh, UCLA’s executive vice chancellor and provost.

“Her administrative experience, expertise in planning and understanding of communities and complex organizations will make her a tremendous resource in this position,” said Waugh, who cited Loukaitou-Sideris’ vast experience as an academic leader and as a consultant to several organizations including the Transportation Research Board, the Federal Transit Administration, the Southern California Association of Governments, the Los Angeles Neighborhood Initiative and the Greek Ministry of Education.

For Loukaitou Sideris, the new post is both a privilege and a challenge.

“UCLA is a very big and complex organization, with many different parts doing many interesting things that the other parts do not necessarily know about,” she said. “Finding the right synergies and coordinating these different pieces towards some common goals is certainly challenging.”

One of her major tasks will be the development of a strategic plan for the whole campus for the next five to 10 years, Loukaitou-Sideris said. “We are going to establish task forces on certain issues and themes, and, these should be very inclusive in the sense they are going to have members from not only faculty and administration but staff and students,” she said.

Loukaitou-Sideris said the challenge would be to make sure that the process represents the aspirations of these groups as well as alumni.

Another significant effort that she will lead will be looking at instructional space at UCLA: “What the needs are, what do we need to do to bring the University into the 21st century in regards to classrooms and labs, but also in terms of what developments in online education may mean in terms of space. Basically, how could UCLA provide the best possible space to accommodate the changing educational and teaching needs?” A committee of deans, vice chancellors, students and staff has already been created to study this issue, she said.

Loukaitou-Sideris explained that a first-tier university like UCLA — a top 10 university in the world — should have a plan for its future.

“We do need to have a guide, for everyone who is a part of this community, as to what we want to focus on in order to have educational impact, research impact, global and social impacts and how these relate to innovation,” she said.

Loukaitou-Sideris said she plans to meet with every dean on campus as well as key administrators and academic leaders to hear their thoughts and to review and build on their unit’s strategic plans.

“The idea is that we are in this together, and what is good for UCLA is good for all of us,” she said. “So that is the spirit that we want to convey.”

Loukaitou-Sideris, who will continue as associate dean at Luskin as well as continue to teach and conduct research, said, “It is a real privilege to be able to work with a wide spectrum of the UCLA community to plan the University’s future. For me it is very important that the plan’s suggestions are followed by action and implementation.”

Loukaitou-Sideris, a core faculty member of the UCLA Urban Humanities Initiative, has published more than 100 articles and chapters, and has co-authored or co-edited five books, most recently “The Informal American City: Beyond Taco Trucks and Day Labor.” Her research has been funded by the California Department of Transportation, the California Air Resources Board, the California Department of Parks and Recreation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the John Randolph Haynes Foundation, the Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation, the Archstone Foundation, the Mineta Transportation Institute and the AARP.

She has also conducted academic reviews of units at several universities, including UC Berkeley, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of Colorado, Boulder, the University of Toronto, University of Auckland New Zealand and National Technical University of Athens.