Barbara Nelson, former dean of the School of Public Affairs at UCLA and professor emerita of public policy, social welfare, urban planning and political science, received recognition at the 2020 International Women’s Day Conference held at Dhaka University in Bangladesh in March for her award-winning 1994 study, “Women and Politics Worldwide.” Nelson co-edited the book with Najma Chowdhury, a professor in Women and Gender Studies at Dhaka whose lifetime achievements were also honored at the conference. They studied 43 countries and territories focusing on women’s political engagement in state organizations and civil society. In 1995, the book won the American Political Science Association’s Victoria Schuck Award for the best book on women and politics. Nelson’s 12-year tenure as dean ended in 2008. She was invited to speak in Bangladesh about the book and her collaboration with Chowdhury but was unable to attend because of travel restrictions resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Her address was delivered on her behalf at the conference.
By Lena Rogow
Professor Evelyn Blumenberg of Urban Planning and colleagues who include Professor Emeritus Martin Wachs have won the 2019 Pyke Johnson Award from the Transportation Research Board (TRB) for a recent paper about the mobility needs of aging adults, marking the third time someone from UCLA Luskin has won the prize since its inception.
Wachs has been studying transportation and aging for decades and won the same award more than 40 years ago, in 1976.
The award-winning paper, “Physical Accessibility and Employment Among Older Adults in California,” explores the relationship between car ownership, transit accessibility and older adults’ employment status. The paper found that adults age 60 and older are able to stay in the workforce longer when they have access to a car or to public transit — if they live in a dense urban area.
Blumenberg MA UP ’90, Ph.D. ’95 said that she and Wachs decided to collaborate on the winning paper after realizing they had not previously worked together on a research paper.
“This topic seemed to perfectly align our respective areas of research,” said Blumenberg whose work examines the effects of urban structure — the spatial location of residents, employment and services — on economic outcomes of low-income workers.
“I also knew that it was essential for us to shed light on this topic together,” she said. “I think we’ve been able to showcase an important transportation need to serve an aging population. I’m thrilled that TRB shares our opinion about the importance of this work and I’m honored to be included with a long list of former distinguished scholars who have also received this award.”
In addition to Blumenberg and Wachs, the paper’s other authors are Andrew Schouten Ph.D. ’19, who is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the UCLA Institute of Transportation Studies, and Miriam Pinksi, a doctoral student in urban planning.
Pinski said the paper’s focus on low-income adults and their particular access to jobs was notable. Many older adults continue to rely on employment as their main source of income, in part because pensions are becoming rarer in the United States.
“Without transportation, many of these adults would have no way to sustain their lives. I hope our paper has provided more insight into yet another reason why maintaining a functioning transportation infrastructure is critical for many populations,” Pinski said.
“For TRB to recognize our work with this prestigious award is an honor,” Schouten said. “I hope this will bring more attention to important issues that lie at the intersection of transportation, employment and aging.”
ABOUT THE AWARD
TRB established the Pyke Johnson Award in 1971 to give annual recognition to an outstanding paper published in the field of transportation systems planning and administration. It honors the 23rd chairman of the Highway Research Board, who was influential in TRB from its inception.
UCLA has won three times since the first award was given in 1971. Brian Taylor Ph.D. ’92, professor of urban planning and public policy, won in 2000. Wachs is one of three two-time winners and the only person to repeat as winner more than five years apart. The gap in his case was 43 years. In each instance, the research involved faculty and doctoral students.
When Wachs first heard the news, he burst out laughing, recalling how much his life has changed since he first won. His 1976 paper also dealt with mobility and older adults.
“At that time, I was simply writing about the topic from an academic perspective,” Wachs said. “And now my work is coming true in my own personal life.”
“What’s different about this paper is I’m honored to now collaborate with young people,” he said. “This paper benefited from the combination of their sharp methodological skills with my longstanding focus on this topic. It has been an enormous pleasure collaborating with them, and I’m proud to share this honor with them.”
The presentation took place Jan. 13 at TRB’s annual meeting in Washington, D.C.
SHAPIRO FELLOWS SHARE PLANS FOR THE FUTURE AT APPRECIATION LUNCH
UCLA Luskin’s Shapiro Fellows shared their impactful experiences and plans for the future at a lunch with Peter Shapiro, whose family has provided generous support to students from all three of the School’s graduate programs. UCLA alumni Ralph and Shirley Shapiro have maintained a lifelong commitment to helping the Bruin family. Their son Peter is president of the Shapiro Family Charitable Foundation, which supports organizations that advocate for the arts, education, environmental issues, religious causes, children’s health and human rights.
RECIPIENTS OF MONICA SALINAS FELLOWS MEET FOR LUNCH
Monica Salinas hosted recipients of her fellowship over lunch at her home in March. Established in 2005, the Monica Salinas Fellowship is awarded to students who have an interest in public policy issues affecting Latinos. Of particular interest are the contributions and achievements of the emerging Latino community as it plays an increasingly important role in our country’s social, economic, cultural and political life. The 2018-19 fellowship recipients are Gabriela Solis, a dual MPP and MSW student,
and Julio Mendez-Vargas, an undergraduate Political Science major and Public Affairs minor. The students, who are on track to graduate in June, have worked closely with the Latino Policy & Politics Initiative at UCLA Luskin.
PH.D. SUITE RECEIVES NEW COMPUTER LAB
Thanks to generous support from The Ahmanson Foundation, a newly modernized computer lab is nearing completion for doctoral students at UCLA Luskin. The project provided the perfect opportunity to redesign the old lab space and customize it to better fit the needs of our students. The refurbished lab is now equipped with brand-new computers, specialized software and upgraded furniture. Its open layout is conducive to students working individually or collaboratively. An adjoining office space was converted into a conference room to accommodate private meetings and has videoconferencing capability.
INAUGURAL ‘LUSKIN SUMMIT’ ADVOCATES FOR A LIVABLE L.A.
The UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs marked its 25th anniversary with the inaugural “Luskin Summit 2019: Livable L.A.” — made possible by support from sponsors Bank of America, the Los Angeles Rams, The California Endowment, Guidehouse, the Southern California Leadership Network and ABC7, which also served as the media partner. Leaders from government; business; academia; and the civic, nonprofit and philanthropic spheres gathered at the summit for a cross-sector conversation centered on the latest UCLA Luskin research. “We do hope you learned more about the great work at the Luskin School and that you’ll be our advocates out in the community, helping us make an even greater impact,” Dean Gary Segura told supporters at the close of the summit. “We ask that you become engaged with the Luskin School in a variety of ways: host students as interns or hire our graduates, fund summer internships or full-year fellowships, learn more about our faculty research and support it, and connect us with others who want to learn more about our great work and the progress we are leading.” Segura concluded, “Philanthropy truly makes our work possible and we have so much more we want do to.”
DUKAKIS MEETS WITH STUDENT FELLOWS
This spring, former Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis met recipients of the Michael S. Dukakis Internship award to hear about their experiences. Dukakis spearheaded this privately funded internship program to provide students with first-hand public service experience in government. As power shifts from Washington, D.C., to the state and local level, the need for talented public servants has never been greater. The internship program provides stipends for students serving in nonpartisan internships in government, with a special emphasis on California.
ESTOLANO LESAR ADVISORS ESTABLISH SUMMER INTERNSHIP AWARD
Luskin alumnae and business partners Cecilia Estolano and Jennifer LeSar established a summer internship award for deserving students in urban planning. Each summer, one graduate student will receive a stipend while developing professional skills working at a nonprofit organization that offers critical services in areas such as affordable housing, sustainability, transportation, land use, or workforce and economic development. The first recipient of the award was Michael Loper, a dual MURP and MPH candidate, who interned at the Los Angeles Food Policy Council last summer to help communities achieve food justice and social equity. Estolano LeSar Advisors invited Loper for lunch at their office in downtown L.A. to share his experience.
Urban Planning’s Leo Estrada, who passed away in November 2018, began his career at UCLA in 1977 and retired just a few months before his death. He leaves behind an extraordinary legacy of service to students and leadership, especially as a role model to Latino and other minority scholars. While at UCLA, Professor Estrada was a pioneer in demography and a leader on UCLA’s campus and beyond, serving as the chair of the Academic Senate and member of the 1991 Christopher Commission, which examined the use of force by the Los Angeles Police Department.
In honor of his remarkable career, Urban Planning celebrated Professor Estrada at a retirement celebration on June 11 at the Luskin School. Colleagues, former students, friends and family members gathered to honor Estrada and the many people he served in his four decades at UCLA.
The department also established the Leo Estrada Fellowship Fund. The fund supports Urban Planning graduate students with an unmet financial need who are from cultural, racial, linguistic, geographic and socioeconomic backgrounds that are underrepresented in graduate education.
To support the Leo Estrada Fellowship Fund, please contact Ricardo Quintero (310) 206-7949 or email@example.com
SALONS HOSTED BY BOARD OF ADVISORS FURTHER CONNECT UCLA LUSKIN TO LOS ANGELES
In an effort to provide further connections for business and community leaders to engage with the School, UCLA Luskin has created a series of topical salons hosted by members of the Board of Advisors. The first session hosted by Jeffrey Seymour, a longtime member of the Board, was scheduled for December at the SOHO House in West Hollywood.
The salon and others to follow provide an opportunity for Dean Gary Segura and other UCLA Luskin leaders to share information on a wide range of topics, including changes in the School’s three graduate departments and the progress of the new undergraduate major in Public Affairs.
Seymour is a dual-degree holder from UCLA with a B.A. in political science and a master’s in public administration. He and his wife, Valerie, whose UCLA undergraduate degree is in sociology, have been longtime supporters of UCLA and the Luskin School. Seymour is the founder and owner of Seymour Consulting Group, a governmental relations firm specializing in areas of planning, zoning and land use consulting, as well as public policy analysis and ordinance studies.
LUSKIN FELLOWSHIP RECIPIENTS MEET MEYER AND RENEE LUSKIN
Thanks to the overwhelming generosity of Meyer and Renee Luskin, more than 60 Luskin students were recipients of the Luskin Graduate Fellowship this past academic year along with five undergraduate student fellows. The Luskins came to campus on April 10 to meet the recipients, learn about the important work they are doing and hear highlights of their student experiences. Students were able to personally thank Mr. and Mrs. Luskin for their generosity as they work to become change agents while at the Luskin School.
The Luskin Graduate Fellowship has supported students in the School since 2011. Recipients of the award are among the best and brightest in the Luskin School and come from all walks of life. Graduate students and doctoral candidates who have received the award carry forward the Luskins’ legacy of giving back generously to their communities and creating long-lasting positive change.
FIRST LUSKIN SCHOOL UNDERGRADUATE BRUIN FAMILY WEEKEND FEATURES LUNCH WITH DEAN GARY SEGURA
UCLA Luskin Dean Gary Segura met with students currently enrolled in the Public Affairs under-graduate major and their parents for an exclusive luncheon during Bruin Family Weekend on Oct. 26. Students who attended are members of the first enrolled class in the Public Affairs major after the program was approved by the Academic Senate in April.
Segura outlined his vision for the program, which strives to provide a wide-ranging education with a clear public service ethos. Students who matriculate from the program will be well-equipped to bring what they learn on campus back to their communities to create long-lasting positive change. This emphasis on service learning is highlighted by a yearlong capstone project that will immerse seniors in communities where they can apply their scholarship in the real world.
The program has already piqued interest across campus. More than 100 students have declared the Public Affairs pre-major, outpacing School projections.
The California Council on Science and Technology (CCST) has added Albert Carnesale, UCLA chancellor emeritus and professor emeritus of public policy and mechanical and aerospace engineering to its Board of Directors. Also joining the board, which provides strategic vision and direction for CCST, is Alexandra Navrotsky of UC Davis. “Dr. Navrotsky and Dr. Carnesale have made exceptional contributions to their respective scientific fields and applications on the global stage,” said CCST Board Chair Charles F. Kennel in a news release. “Their deep insights and experiences into the societal importance of science and technology will greatly inform CCST’s mission and service to state leaders in California.” Carnesale joined UCLA in 1997 and was chancellor through 2006. He is the author or co-author of six books and more than 100 articles on a wide range of subjects, including national security strategy, arms control and nuclear proliferation. CCST is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that engages experts in science and technology to advise state policymakers.
Anna Kim UP PhD ’11 is the Scholar Prize winner for the 2018 William R. and June Dale Prize for Excellence in Urban and Regional Planning. This year’s award theme was based on planning with immigrants in communities and regions. Kim’s research was conducted in her role as an assistant professor of housing and community development at Georgia Tech. According to a story on the university’s website, she examined the blurred boundaries between informal and formal jobs for low wage immigrant workers, and how these semi-formal employment arrangements translate into strategies for local economic growth in ethnic neighborhoods. Her studio course projects include work in the greater Atlanta area and supports efforts to understand immigrant communities. “I’m proud to see how passionate planners are about planning with and for diverse communities and making sure that all voices are heard,” Kim said in the Georgia Tech story. The Dale Prize is awarded by California State Polytechnic University, Pomona’s Department of Urban and Regional Planning and invites recipients to meet with students and to speak at a two-day colloquium held on campus. Kim will soon be returning to Southern California as a member of the planning faculty at San Diego State University.
By Les Dunseith
Donald Shoup, distinguished research professor of urban planning at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, is the 2017 recipient of the Distinguished Educator Award — the highest honor bestowed by the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning (ACSP).
The award is conferred every two years to honor significant contributions to the field of planning, and it recognizes scholarly contributions, teaching excellence, public service, and contributions that have made a significant difference to planning scholarship, education, and practice. Shoup is the second current member of the UCLA Urban Planning faculty to win this award; Professor Emeritus Martin Wachs won in 2006 when he was at UC Berkeley. Two other UCLA faculty members also won the award: John Friedmann in 1987, and Harvey Perloff, the inaugural recipient in 1983.
Perloff and Shoup are two of only three people who have won both the ACSP’s Distinguished Educator Award, which is given to academics, and the American Planning Association’s National Excellence Award for a Planning Pioneer, which is given to planners who have made important innovations in planning practice. This unusual combination of both awards highlights UCLA’s commitment to both academic excellence and practical relevance in urban planning.
Shoup said the latest award is particularly gratifying because it’s for education. “Universities reward you mainly for research and publication. It’s why we say, ‘Publish or perish.’ And I think most academics believe their lasting contribution will be their research,” he said. “But I think that our most important contribution is through teaching. If we have any influence — if there is going to be anything to remember after we are gone — I think it will be through the successful careers of our students who will be changing the world for the better.”
Professor Vinit Mukhija, the current chair of Urban Planning, remembers coming to UCLA as a job candidate when Shoup was department chair. Shoup’s manner then became a model for Mukhija to follow years later. “Donald was one of the first people I met on campus. His philosophy is to help people feel comfortable so they can share and present their best ideas. He takes that philosophy into the classroom, where he likes to engage students in a deliberative, non-confrontational manner as they discuss ideas that challenge accepted policy practices.”
During his tenure of more than 40 years at UCLA, Shoup has built an impressive record of accomplishment and scholarship, producing insightful research that has been truly influential on public policy. According to Urban Planning Professor Brian Taylor, Shoup is an “internationally recognized authority on parking policies and their effect on urban development and transportation. Though largely overlooked by academics for years, parking policies significantly influence land use development and travel behavior in U.S. metropolitan areas and in rapidly developing urban areas across the globe.”
“The High Cost of Free Parking,” Shoup’s widely acclaimed book (originally published in 2005, and revised and reprinted in 2011), was based on decades of research on parking policies. It also was based on years of listening.
“When I was younger, I focused much more on analysis and publication. As I began to see how policies got adopted, I became much more oriented toward the concerns of public officials,” Shoup said of how his approach has evolved over the years. “I have always tried to engage with practicing planners and city officials who will have to implement anything that I recommend — to hear their objections and concerns.”
The Distinguished Educator Award is selected from candidates nominated by faculty at ACSP member schools, which consist of universities with departments and programs offering planning degrees or programs that offer degrees affiliated with planning. Most are in the United States, but some member schools are located internationally.
“The conventional wisdom on good parking policy across the world is now defined by Donald’s research. Our students are fortunate to have been involved in the development of these ideas from the start.” — Professor Vinit Mukhija, chair of Urban Planning
The nomination letter included testimonials about Shoup from renowned scholars at UCLA and other universities:
- “… in recent years he has become one of the most widely cited urban planning scholars in the world. … [Shoup] is literally the world’s leading expert in the subject matter on which he specializes while admirably fulfilling all of the other responsibilities of a senior faculty member.” (Martin Wachs, UCLA and UC Berkeley)
- “Don is probably the most creative, original planning scholar who has been at work during the past several decades, and this is certainly so within the field of transportation.” (Alan Altshuler, Harvard University)
- “What impresses me most … is his willingness to take his ideas and writings and be fully engaged in public debate and action over them. It is not an exaggeration to say that he has been one of the most powerful forces in the nation for bringing sanity and good sense to our work with urban communities.” (Michael Dukakis, UCLA, former Massachusetts Governor and Democratic Presidential nominee)
- “Over the years I watched him create literally many generations of students who went on to implement his ideas in cities throughout the U.S. and world. It would be difficult indeed to find another scholar who has had as much impact on the practice of urban planning.” (Genevieve Giuliano, University of Southern California)
Shoup’s most important scholarly contribution has been his research related to how parking policies affect land use and urban travel.
Said Taylor, “Through more than three dozen publications on the role of parking in cities, Professor Shoup has almost single-handedly convinced a previously skeptical audience of planners and elected officials about the critical importance of parking policy to urban planning, transforming planning practice to a degree unmatched by any of his contemporaries in the planning academy.”
“The conventional wisdom on good parking policy across the world is now defined by Donald’s research,” Mukhija said. “Our students are fortunate to have been involved in the development of these ideas from the start.”
Shoup said that his research approach tends toward finding solutions to practical problems. “My focus is to look at areas where the prices that people pay are substantially below the cost of what they consume. Traffic congestion is a good example. Drivers in peak hour traffic pay far less than the cost they impose on other drivers and in the process they aggravate traffic congestion.”
His forte — parking policy — is another example. “The price that drivers pay for parking is usually far below the cost of providing it,” Shoup said. “Drivers park free at the end of 99 percent of all automobile trips in the United States. But all this free parking costs a lot of money.”
As his research progressed, he was struck by the lack of equity in parking. People who are too poor to own a car, or who prefer not to own one, receive no benefit.
“If you ride the bus or ride a bike or walk to work, you get nothing. But if you drive to work, you get to park free in a very expensive parking place. It leads to overuse of automobiles, creating air pollution and traffic congestion.”
When cities charge fair market prices for on-street parking and spend the meter revenue to finance added public services, they can improve the lives of everyone. Shoup’s work has inspired cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Pasadena, Austin, Houston, Seattle, and many others to change their approach to parking.
Shoup has four degrees in electrical engineering and economics from Yale University. At UCLA he has served as chair of Urban Planning and as director of the Institute of Transportation Studies. And he practices what he preaches — walking or biking to campus every day, even after his “retirement” in 2015.
This dedication comes in part from his perception that he has been fortunate to have worked in Los Angeles, a city where his ideas about land use, traffic, and parking are particularly important and where civic leaders — some of whom count themselves among his legion of followers, known as Shoupistas — have been willing to listen to his advice.
Great city. Great university. Great professor. It all adds up to a career filled with great accomplishments.
A project by a team from the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs about age-friendly outdoor environments has picked up another honor — this time an Achievement Award presented by the American Planning Association (APA).
The winner is among 12 Achievement Award recipients chosen by a jury of planners as examples of good planning work. The recipients are recognized collectively at an awards luncheon held during APA’s National Planning Conference, which is set for May 6-9, 2017, in New York City.
The UCLA Luskin project was designated as a silver winner in the category: National Planning Achievement Award for a Best Practice. It had qualified for consideration at the national level by previously being honored in 2016 by the APA Los Angeles Section, which recognizes the “best of planning” from cities, agencies and nonprofits to consulting firms and individuals.
“Placemaking for an Aging Population,” funded by the Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation and the Archstone Foundation, was led by principal investigator and Urban Planning professor Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris. It provides information about the park needs and preferences of older, low-income adults living in inner-city neighborhoods.
Loukaitou-Sideris, who is also associate provost for academic planning at UCLA, worked on the study with Social Welfare professor Lené Levy-Storms and Madeline Brozen, associate director for external relations for the UCLA Lewis Center and the Institute of Transportation Studies, and program manager of the Complete Streets Initiative. Brozen is also an alumna of the Luskin Urban Planning program.
“Older adults represent a fast growing segment of the population, and U.S. cities are now beginning to realize the imperative of creating age-friendly environments,” Loukaitou-Sideris said in a previous story about the project. She said that while parks can offer many benefits to seniors, “if planners wish to see more seniors visiting parks, they should carefully consider their needs and tastes, and incorporate their voices in park design and programming. Our study seeks to do just that.”
Luskin graduate student researchers — and now alumni — for the project were Lynn Chen SW Ph.D. ’13 and Master of Urban and Regional Planning (MURP) graduates Liz Devietti, Hannah Gustafson and Lucia Phan. Lia Marshall, a doctoral student in Social Welfare, also was on the research team.
More information about the UCLA Luskin project and a list of all 2017 APA award winners may be found on the APA website.
By Les Dunseith
It’s the Tuesday night before Christmas as UCLA Luskin professor Ian W. Holloway tucks his 2-year-old daughter Sofía into bed and prepares to leave his home on a tree-lined street of bungalow-style houses in the Larchmont neighborhood of Los Angeles.
It’s time for Holloway, an assistant professor in the Department of Social Welfare, to get back to work.
Along with three UCLA student researchers, Holloway will spend the next several hours in West Hollywood doing legwork for his latest research project. Their task will be to find and interview gay and bisexual men outside popular nightspots and discover how much they know about an ongoing meningitis outbreak and the steps that health officials have taken to battle it.
This type of time-consuming, on-the-ground research is par for the course for Holloway, who serves as the director of the UCLA Luskin-based Southern California HIV/AIDS Policy Research Center and is currently juggling four major research efforts related to his expertise in health disparities among sexual and gender minority populations. Holloway’s dedication and his innovative methods recently led the Society of Social Work Research (SSWR) to select him for its Deborah K. Padgett Early Career Achievement Award, presented in January 2017 during the organization’s national conference in New Orleans.
“This is our primary professional society,” Holloway says about the honor, which recognizes social work research completed during the recipient’s first decade after earning a doctoral degree. “They give just one a year at the society’s big professional meeting.”
On this night, however, the meningitis study takes precedence. Outside the Urth Caffé, Holloway helps the student researchers establish a “line” — in this case basically a crevice in the sidewalk — at the corner of Melrose Avenue and Westmount Drive. One or more of the students then approaches any man who crosses that line, asking them to participate in the research effort by spending 20 minutes answering survey questions using an iPad.
In the first half-hour, however, only one man who meets the study’s criteria has been successfully interviewed. Holloway and his research team are trying to complete about 500 interviews for the project by February, and foot traffic is just too light to continue at the site. So they move on to the next venue that has been randomly preselected for this night’s canvassing effort — the Motherlode, a tavern with removable walls that proudly shows off its dive-bar atmosphere to passersby along Santa Monica Boulevard.
The thought of an academic research project centered around bar hopping in West Hollywood until 2 a.m. may seem incongruous, but it’s a proven research approach that works particularly well when the target audience is gay and bisexual men in Los Angeles County, including those who are HIV positive. During a meningitis outbreak that has led to two deaths in Southern California since it was first reported last spring, the researchers need to go where those who are most at risk can reliably be found.
“We use a strategy called venue-based sampling,” Holloway explains. “It’s a systematic sampling strategy that is one of the best ways we know for how to approximate generalizability among gay and bisexual men.”
Holloway’s meningitis study is funded as part of a four-year, $4-million grant from the California HIV/AIDS Research Program to produce “what we call rapid response research,” he says. The idea is to complete research within months, not years, related to timely policy issues that impact people living with HIV or AIDS in California.
As noted on its website, CHPRC.org, the center works closely with community partners from AIDS Project Los Angeles Health and the Los Angeles LGBT Center to tailor research efforts to match urgent needs within the LGBTQ communities.
“We get community input, synthesize that and then set an agenda for policy research,” Holloway explains.
He took over the center’s leadership last April from Arleen Leibowitz, professor emeritus of public policy at UCLA Luskin, and feels fortunate to conduct research efforts that directly arise from community interaction.
“Models of funding like this aren’t widely available, so we are lucky to have a center here at UCLA, and we are lucky to have had it for seven years,” he says. “We want to continue to do this work and be able to conduct research that is driven by the community and that directly benefit the community.”
The meningitis study resulted from a meeting in October at which about 40-50 advocates, health workers and social service providers from across Southern California came to Los Angeles to talk about the needs of people in the local LGBTQ communities.
“These are people who are working with HIV-positive clients, who are doing prevention work,” Holloway says of the attendees. The meeting gave them an opportunity to think about and debate the issues most affecting their communities. The researchers primarily were there to listen and help structure projects that could be completed in a rapid response timeframe to produce data that would actually benefit those communities.
“It is … very much aligned with the mission of Luskin and the mission of the Department of Social Welfare,” Holloway notes.
Back in West Hollywood, the Motherlode proves unworkable as a survey venue on this night. A private party is booked at the site, but it won’t start for a couple of hours and the survey team can’t afford to simply bide time waiting.
Holloway, ever cheerful no matter the hurdle he faces, quickly gathers his team to discuss their options. Proceed to the next pre-selected venue? Or go just around the corner to the “emergency backup” site, the Abbey, a 25-year-old West Hollywood landmark that has been voted the best gay bar in the world.
Within minutes, the team is in place outside the Abbey, and all three student researchers are actively engaged in recruiting potential survey respondents.
To gather enough surveys to produce statistically valid results by their deadline, Holloway has put together a rotating team of about 10 UCLA student workers, assisted occasionally by a couple of alumni who help out during staffing shortfalls. The majority are current Luskin master of social welfare students, but two are in a Ph.D. program.
“There’s lots of exciting work going on,” Holloway says with a broad smile. “And we have a fantastic team at UCLA supporting it.”
The data being gathered now will be analyzed by March to inform a research brief that should help California produce better outreach and better programs centered around meningitis vaccination for this population. The student workers collecting the information were carefully screened during a selection process led by Holloway’s research manager, Elizabeth Wu.
“We are looking for people who are obviously outgoing and who understand the importance of collecting good quality data,” says Holloway, whose own affable manner permeates the research effort. The canvassers, who refer to Holloway mostly by his first name, also need to be comfortable staying out to the wee hours to chat with strangers they encounter outside bars and clubs.
For researcher Christine Munoz, a first-year MSW student who got her undergraduate degree at UC Riverside, the learning process was frenetic at first, but also rewarding.
“It is very new to me because I wasn’t really involved in the LGBTQ community previously,” she says during a break during the canvassing effort. “I am learning so much from this community. So, it’s broadening my skills, my social work skills. Now I can work with clients who are from the LGBT community. I am learning so much as a future social worker.”
The survey teams have been on the job since November, gathering data that Holloway says will either confirm or refute the notions that helped form the basis of the survey hypothesis.
For example, there is a feeling that the distribution of meningitis vaccine to the targeted community “is pretty haphazard,” Holloway says. “There isn’t always a good refrigeration system for the vaccine at community clinics; health workers aren’t always tracking how many doses have been given.”
Without a systematic infrastructure in place to promote the wellbeing of these men, health officials often find themselves in a defensive posture when dealing with outbreaks of vaccine-preventable illnesses among HIV-positive men or men at high risk for HIV. “It shouldn’t take an outbreak for us to realize this is a priority community,” Holloway says.
His passion to understand and promote better health options for LGBTQ communities is an outgrowth of Holloway’s life experience. He was raised in Northern California during the early years of the HIV crisis in America. His parents’ generation saw an entire community of gay men decimated, almost wiped out by AIDS.
“Growing up and knowing that I was gay, and hearing and seeing what happened close by in San Francisco, I think it was pretty impactful for my young life,” Holloway recalls. “When I decided that I wanted to go back to school for social work, I was pretty clear that this was the community that I wanted to work with, and this was the issue that I wanted to work around.”
That dedication is evident in the meningitis study as well as three other research projects that Holloway is currently shepherding:
- A two-year study supported by a $1.89-million grant from the U.S. Department of Defense is looking at the experiences of of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender active-duty service members since the 2010 repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” the law barring homosexuals from openly serving in the military.
- A study funded by the NIH through a small research grant mechanism uses predictive technologies to understand how gay and bisexual men use geo-social networking apps and other kinds of social media to find substance use partners and sexual partners. This collaborative effort with UCLA’s departments of engineering and computer science is using predictive algorithms and social media data to try to understand how social media behavior predicts health behavior.
- And he is involved in the development of a social networking app for HIV-positive black men in L.A. County in the 18-29 age range through a grant from California HIV/AIDS Research Program. It will be a virtual community space where these men can connect with those with similar experiences, focusing not just on health and medication adherence but on housing, job assistance, social services and/or legal needs.
Despite his prolific research output, Holloway doesn’t neglect his classroom responsibilities. If fact, he finds that his research interests often dovetail nicely with teaching opportunities.
“I teach a class on diversity, oppression and social functioning. Each year when we talk about community responses to oppression, I show the ‘Silence = Death’ banner that Act Up used as a call to action in the early days of HIV when nobody was talking about it and the entire community was being wiped out,” he explains. “Each year I show that banner from the early days of the AIDS epidemic, and each year fewer and fewer students recognize it.”
Out on the streets of West Hollywood, student researchers such as Ryan Dougherty are learning first-hand how much knowledge exists among today’s gay and bisexual men about the serious health issues that still impact many of them.
Dougherty joined the survey team as a result of taking Holloway’s research methods class, where he learned “about the process of research, everything from the theoretical foundations of collecting data to the ethics of research. And Ian extended an opportunity for students to get involved and see what that process looks like on the ground.”
As a student in the social welfare Ph.D. program at UCLA Luskin, Dougherty may follow in Holloway’s footsteps someday, pursuing research of his own that will benefit marginalized populations and ameliorate health disparities.
“To be able to do this kind of work, and to work alongside Ian, has helped me to gain more theoretical perspectives and learn about different types of research methods,” Dougherty says. “You can spend all day in the classroom learning about research, but to actually do it and overcome the logistical barriers that come with implementing a really good research project, is a really good learning experience to have.”
At the Abbey, those logistical barriers are in full force as Dougherty attempts to stop men who cross his survey line outside the venue’s patio-style entrance. Some ignore him. A few politely wave him off. One is willing to take the survey but doesn’t qualify because he is not a resident of L.A. County.
Soon, however, a young man in a white hooded sweatshirt approaches. Dougherty catches his attention. The newcomer meets the research criteria. And he is willing to take the survey.
Nearby, Ian Holloway nods his approval. And the research interview begins.