Posts

‘Social Workers Who Drive Social Change’ Students from around the world gather at UCLA to reimagine their chosen field through a justice-first lens

By Mary Braswell

The aspiring social workers from around the world gathered on a shaded lawn at UCLA to process what they had seen that morning.

Their visit to an agency on Skid Row, epicenter of Los Angeles’ homelessness crisis, came after several days immersed in conversation about how to engage communities on society’s margins, and the group’s reflections pointed to one overriding question:

How can individual social workers move away from managing misery and toward a transformation of their entire field, upending systems that perpetuate inequity in order to truly change lives?

That aspiration guided this year’s International Summer University in Social Work, hosted by UCLA Luskin Social Welfare over two weeks in July.

More than 20 scholars and graduate students from universities in Australia, Canada, China, India, Israel and Switzerland joined a large UCLA contingent during the collective multinational inquiry.

“We are seeking common practices that promote justice, and we learn from one another,” said Amy Ritterbusch, the assistant professor of social welfare who developed the curriculum with Professor Emerita Rosina Becerra.

‘We are seeking common practices that promote justice, and we learn from one another.’ — Amy Ritterbusch, assistant professor of social welfare

The summer university has convened around the world for more than a decade, governed by a consortium of universities to bring a global lens to core social work theories and practices.

This is the first year that UCLA has hosted, and finding a place on a full agenda were topics such as racism, the wealth gap, gender bias, housing and health inequities, children’s rights and elder abuse.

Faculty members from each participating university shared their scholarship on community engagement, as did the keynote speaker, University of Washington Professor Karina Walters, a triple Bruin who earned her doctorate in social welfare in 1995. Walters drew from her Choctaw heritage and research, using the elements of water, land, air, wind and fire to frame the dialogue.

Off-campus elements of the program revealed the extremes of L.A. society: the structural poverty and exclusion seen on Skid Row and at the Los Angeles LGBT Center, and the spaces of privilege glimpsed during cultural outings to the Hollywood Bowl and Pantages Theater.

Also built into each day’s schedule was space for group dialogue to share the unique cultural perspectives and social work practices each participant brought to the summer university.

Vanessa Warri, a UCLA doctoral student studying social welfare and a leader in the summer university, said the program challenged students to broaden their thinking about their chosen profession.

“There’s a history of social workers showing up as ‘saviors’ — at best providing resources to an underserved community and at worst managing the suffering of a population, but not necessarily helping to alleviate it,” she said. “So how can we engage and advocate in the spaces we are in and build more sustainable communities?”

Before and after the trip to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul’s Cardinal Manning Center on Skid Row, the group grappled with the enormity of the homelessness crisis, the limits of social work, and the concern that taking a tour of life on the streets would be more voyeuristic than educational. The shelter staff invited them to take note of the sights, smells and sounds, then ponder how policies are addressing or not addressing what they observed.

Bobby Benny, a student from the Rajagiri College of Social Science in India, was struck by the dozens of shelters and service providers within a few blocks but wondered how they could possibly meet the needs of the 6,500 unhoused people in downtown Los Angeles, much less the tens of thousands countywide.

“How is that building with 100 beds a solution? How is any of it a solution?” Benny asked as the students gathered back at UCLA. “I’ve seen this in India, but something is different here.”

On the institute’s final day, Benny shared a poem juxtaposing the Los Angeles he had dreamed of and the one he woke up in, where “those skyscrapers were acting as a source of shade for the people who were forgotten in the City of Angels.”

Group presentations allowed all the students to synthesize their experiences and reflect on how they could apply what they learned in their home cultures. And they expressed a desire to stay connected even over long distances.

Said Ritterbusch, “We hope to leave here with a collective commitment to become social workers who drive social change.”

View lectures and photos from this year’s International Summer University in Social Work.

International Summer University in Social Work

Ian Holloway Named Editor-in-Chief of Sexuality Research and Social Policy At a time when people’s sexuality and reproductive rights are at issue, UCLA professor hopes to make relevant academic insight more readily available to policymakers

By Les Dunseith

Ian Holloway, a professor of social welfare at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, has been named editor-in-chief of Sexuality Research and Social Policy.

The peer-reviewed academic journal publishes research on sexuality and the implications of that research on public policy across the globe. It has traditionally been focused primarily on an academic audience, but Holloway intends to work with the editorial board to expand the journal’s reach and impact in response to a wave of anti-LGBT legislation in the United States and issues such as the ongoing criminalization of same-sex sexual behavior in many countries.

“I think that this historical moment really calls upon us, as academics, to make sure the work we’re producing reaches policymakers and other decision-makers, including practitioners and the folks who are designing programs in government and public health settings,” said Holloway, who is director of the UCLA Hub for Health Intervention, Policy and Practice and its Gay Sexuality and Social Policy Initiative.

He envisions promoting research from the journal via social media, soliciting more special issues on timely and relevant topics, and putting short summaries of key findings atop articles — written in layperson’s language to make academic work that is relevant to ongoing policy debates more widely accessible.

“Those of us who’ve been writing peer-reviewed articles for academic journals for years have a particular style of writing, a particular format of writing, that may not be conducive to lay audiences,” Holloway noted. “But lay audiences include policymakers who may not have the time, the energy or the expertise to wade through an academic article on a particular topic.”

At a time when people’s sexuality and the reproductive rights of pregnant people are at issue, Holloway sees his new role as an opportunity to make a difference.

“A lot of times, policy decisions are not evidence-based,” he said. “They’re based in moral judgment or religious views.

“But we have robust scientific evidence that is based on sexual liberty and the impact of social policy on sexuality. And I would like to make that academic discourse more relevant and available to those who are making decisions for the future of our country and for communities across the globe.” 

As editor-in-chief, Holloway will have the final say on every manuscript that is published in the journal, about 150 articles a year. He was selected for a five-year term as editor-in-chief through a peer-nomination process that included a recommendation from the outgoing editor, Christian Grov of the City University of New York, and interviews with representatives of Springer Nature, the journal’s publisher.

“The previous editor did an incredible job of building up the journal, and he increased the number of submissions,” Holloway said. “I’m grateful to Dr. Grov for all of his hard work and look forward to continuing to grow the journal in terms of its impact in the real world beyond the ivory tower.”

 

Faculty, Students United by Their International Interests  

A desire to bring about change in a world that sorely needs it drew three UCLA Luskin undergrads to the Global Lab for Research in Action.

Joey Lu, Karlinna Sanchez and Anjani Trivedi spent their senior year immersed in research aimed at improving the health of women and children around the world — the primary focus of the Global Lab, which was launched at UCLA Luskin in 2019. They translated scholarly texts into persuasive op-eds and policy briefs, and used their skills in digital media and design to increase the audience for the lab’s important work.

“I really like that the Global Lab focuses on under-researched, hard-to-reach populations and doesn’t treat them like people cast aside but like people we could learn from,” Sanchez said.

The Global Lab is one of several UCLA Luskin entities with a distinctly international focus. The Latin American Cities Initiative, established by Associate Professor Paavo Monkkonen in 2019, fosters cross-border collaboration among students, scholars and professionals in the planning and policy fields. Often referred to as Ciudades, the initiative puts an emphasis on discerning shared lessons from different urban cultures. 

Since 2014, Global Public Affairs has offered Luskin School graduate students a chance to study abroad, learn from top scholars from across the UCLA campus and earn certificates in any of several international concentrations. GPA is led by Professor Michael Storper, who was also instrumental in developing an Urban Planning dual-degree program that includes a year studying in Paris.

UCLA Luskin also broadened its geographic scope with two ventures helmed by Adjunct Professor of Social Welfare Helmut Anheier: the transdisciplinary social sciences journal Global Perspectives, published by University of California Press, and the Berggruen Governance Index, a data-rich evaluation of the effectiveness of governments worldwide.

At the Global Lab, research on the well-being of vulnerable people around the world is led by Public Policy Professor Manisha Shah, the center’s director and an expert in microeconomics, health policy and international development. 

That research portfolio resonated with the trio of interns. 

Lu said a trip to Ghana after her freshman year opened her eyes to the powerful forces that keep some countries mired in poverty, and led her to triple major in public affairs, sociology and international development. 

Childhood trips back to her birthplace, India, exposed Trivedi to different lifestyles, heightening her interest in comparative economics and helping her think about her own place in the world.

Sanchez grew up in American Samoa, a U.S. territory that “everyone forgets about,” where their public school lacked tables and chairs and their classmates fell into apathy.

“I just see so much potential in my peers, in my population, but no one invests in them,” said Sanchez, who uses they/them pronouns.

The three were attracted to the Global Lab’s research but also its call to action. They worked closely with founding Deputy Director Janine N’jie David MPP ’14, and credited her with shaping a shared public affairs capstone project that would steep them in the research that intrigued them while tapping into their own talents to advance the lab’s mission.

The interns’ aim was to communicate the Global Lab’s work in compelling ways while refining its brand and digital presence. Over the year, the team revamped the lab’s website, stepped up its social media presence, created monthly newsletters and supported its events, taking care to measure the impact of each step of the communications strategy. 

In the end, Trivedi said, “it’s the people that have made this experience the most rewarding. This is a company culture where everyone is so passionate about what they do and they have this intrinsic motivation to create change.”

Faculty Also Lead Research Centers Across Campus

Several research centers based outside of UCLA Luskin are led by one of our faculty. Here are two examples, both of which changed directors in the summer of 2021. The first involves a newly hired faculty member, and the other is a longtime professor who has taken on a new responsibility. 

Veronica Terriquez Ph.D. sociology ’09, hired into the position of director of UCLA’s Chicano Studies Research Center and as an associate professor of urban planning and Chicana/o Studies

Tell us about yourself, the center and your first year as its director. 

I’m a proud daughter of Mexican immigrants with 100-year roots in the L.A. area. I really believe that higher education is an important tool for addressing issues of equity and inclusion. 

We are doing a lot that is addressing the needs of young people as they seek to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and the racial injustices that they have experienced in recent years. I’m leading some projects that focus on that, take a participatory action research approach to understanding the needs of young people, which includes meetings with adolescents and young adults — high school through their 20s. 

A lot of people have suffered during this pandemic, but young people, particularly those in low-income communities, have encountered multiple setbacks to their healthy and successful transitions to adulthood. And part of what I want to do is figure out exactly what is going on so the research can inform local and state investments in young people. 

I’m also developing work to support ethnic studies implementation at the high school level. I’m hoping that the Chicano Studies Research Center could serve as an additional resource for supporting efforts by educators across the state to bring quality ethnic studies to the classroom and to train the next generation of teachers. 

What lies ahead?

I hope that there will be more targeted and quality investments in the lives of young people who are most impacted by social inequalities. And, if those investments are made in the long term, we will see reduced economic and social inequalities in the state of California and beyond.

Professor Susanna Hecht is director of the Center for Brazilian Studies at UCLA.

Susanna Hecht, professor of urban planning, a specialist on tropical development in Latin America who has affiliations in Geography and the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability at UCLA

Please talk about your new role.

I am delighted to be the director of the Center for Brazilian Studies. First, because Brazil is so amazing, and it has been a major site of rethinking so many paradigms about development. Brazil has been an engine of products, concepts and practices that have really changed how people look at things. 

It’s reshaped how we think about conservation. 

Now everyone listens to Brazilian music, has seen Brazilian movies, likes to eat açai bowls and other Brazilian food, and has at least heard of Amazonia. It’s not quite as exotic, although it still maintains the allure of the beaches — its beauty and its beauties! 

When and why was this center created?

Area studies, in general, are an outcome of the Cold War. The isolation of different forms of knowledge across academia made it difficult for understanding of localities through a number of dimensions, including their languages and literatures, their histories, their anthropologies, and their sociology, politics and geography. The geopolitics of the time and the extensive intervention of the U.S. as a novel political power brought a need for consolidation of forms of knowledge in the training of students and fostering interaction between scholars of different kinds. 

These sites also became important areas of critique of American policy and politics in the developing areas that they encompassed. 

Brazil’s new constitution was written in 1988 and it became a template for constitutions in Latin America. It recognized indigenous rights and Afro-descendent land rights, and it paid attention to the new array of environmental questions. 

So much of Latin America is in the tropics, which are seeing deforestation and many extraordinarily important consequences of climate change, including species extinction and changes to livelihoods, both urban and rural. 

Area studies, generally, are useful venues for thinking globally. And in places like Los Angeles, which has become more international in its population — and its arts, music, foods and livelihoods —  area studies centers have been venues for rethinking the relationship of Los Angeles and the world. 

As time went on, large centers like the Latin American Institute realized that its regions were very distinctive, and each needed its own arena of study. This was certainly true of the Brazil Center.

UCLA Luskin Scholars on Strengthening Democracy in the Americas

A June 8 conference on how to strengthen the collective defense of democracy in the Americas featured several scholars from the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. The hybrid in-person discussion and webinar was a companion event to the Ninth Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles. The webinar focused on strengthening the Inter-American Democratic Charter, adopted in 2001 by 34 countries of the Organization of American States. The goal is to generate and advance realistic policy recommendations to improve the charter’s application by OAS member states. President Gabriel Boric of Chile offered the keynote address . In addition to Dean Gary Segura, participating UCLA Luskin faculty included Adjunct Professor of Social Welfare Helmut Anheier, Professor of Urban Planning Susanna Hecht, Associate Professor of Urban Planning Veronica Herrera and Associate Professor of Public Policy and Urban Planning Paavo Monkkonen. The webinar is sponsored by the UCLA Burkle Center for International RelationsUCLA Latin American Institute and UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and co-sponsored by the Latin American Program at the Wilson CenterThe Carter Center and the Community of Democracies

 

View photos from the event on Flickr:

Defense of Democracy


 

Anheier on Germany’s New Ruling Coalition

Adjunct Professor of Social Welfare Helmut Anheier authored an article in Project Syndicate about Germany’s new ruling coalition. After eight weeks of negotiations, a national-level three-party alliance has been established for the first time since the 1950s, with Social Democrat Olaf Scholz succeeding Angela Merkel as chancellor. Leaders of the center-left Social Democrats, the Greens and the liberal Free Democrats collaborated to produce the coalition agreement “Dare to Make More Progress,” which outlines lofty goals for Germany, including modernization of the social security system and strengthening support for social welfare programs. Scholz’s government will also aim to increase renewable energy, invest in public transportation, expand public housing and overhaul Germany’s immigration framework. “Germany’s new ruling coalition has advanced a much-needed vision for the country, but whether it can realize it will depend largely on the coalition committee’s political skill,” Anheier wrote. “If the coalition fails, Germany will risk reverting to its old habit of doing too little too late.”


Roy Protests Olympic Injustices at ‘NOpening Ceremony’

Professor of Urban Planning and Social Welfare Ananya Roy was featured in a KCET article about the NOlympics LA group mobilizing to resist the 2028 Olympic Games. On the day of the Olympics Opening Ceremony in Tokyo, the NOlympics group held a “NOpening Ceremony” in Echo Park to rally support for the movement to stop the 2028 Games from coming to Los Angeles. The event was co-sponsored by the UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy. “We are gathered here as a counterpoint to the Opening Ceremony of the Tokyo Games,” said Roy, director of the institute and moderator of the event. “That Olympic spectacle, that seeming dream image, is in fact a nightmare… [It] has always been a land profiteering scheme with the excuse of world harmony.” Pointing to a history of racial injustice, policing and class oppression associated with the Olympic Games, the NOlympics group aims to build transnational resistance and reject Olympics anywhere in the world.


Abrams Book Compiles Global Research on Child Imprisonment

A new book co-edited by Professor Laura Abrams, chair of UCLA Luskin Social Welfare, seeks to educate students, scholars and policymakers about the role of incarceration in young people’s lives. “The Palgrave International Handbook of Youth Imprisonment” compiles research from dozens of scholars from around the world on cross-cutting themes including the conditions of confinement, gender/sexuality and identity, juvenile facility staff, young people’s experiences in adult prisons, and new models and perspectives on juvenile imprisonment. “Numerous children are imprisoned across the globe in deplorable conditions, despite international legal conventions which suggest that children should be detained only as a last resort,” write Abrams and co-editor Alexandra Cox of the University of Essex. In addition to facing lengthy terms of imprisonment, a substantial number of children are exposed to abuse and violence in custody, poor health and mental health care, and a lack of access to educational, vocational and training opportunities. Some nations, however, have instituted reforms that have greatly decreased the number of children held in confinement. The handbook offers far-flung criminal justice systems the opportunity to learn from one another: “In this volume, we bring together views from a wide variety of countries and contexts to present the most recent cutting-edge research on youth imprisonment that has the potential to shape how the field can create better systems of care for all young people in conflict with the law.”


 

Bau on Intersection of Culture and Policy

Assistant Professor of Public Policy Natalie Bau was interviewed by the American Economic Association about her research on the effect of pension reform on traditional family arrangements in Indonesia and Ghana. Bau explained that she was curious about how traditional customs of sons and daughters living with their parents after getting married might incentivize parents to make educational investments. She found that pensions led parents to invest less in the education of children who would have traditionally supported them in old age, and it also resulted in more of those children leaving home after marriage rather than continuing to live with their parents, as was the customary practice. She noted that even though her research shows that the pension program in Indonesia is reducing female education, there are still benefits. The best solution would be to “combine the pension policy with other policies that mitigate these negative effects on female education,” she concluded.

Listen to the interview
Read the full report

Events

Nothing Found

Sorry, no posts matched your criteria