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.
Four UCLA Luskin alumni were among six individuals inducted into the California Social Work Hall of Distinction in fall 2018. Bill Coggins MSW ’55, Kathleen Kubota MSW ’82, John Oliver MSW ’64 and Yasuko Sakamoto MSW ’83 were honored at a ceremony on Oct. 7, 2018. They were joined by inductees June Simmons, who received an MSW from USC in 1970, and Diane Takvorian, who earned an MSW from San Diego State University in 1976. The California Social Welfare Archives launched the Hall of Distinction in 2002 to ensure that the contributions of today’s social work leaders, innovators and pioneers will be recognized and preserved for the future. The archives plans to post oral history interviews with each of the six inductees. This year’s honorees leave a remarkable legacy.
A leader in counseling and educational services: Bill Coggins founded the Kaiser Permanente Watts Counseling and Learning Center, which offers a wide range of mental health and educational resources for free or at minimal cost for the children and families of Watts. Coggins served as the center’s executive director for more than 30 years. In May 2018, Coggins was honored as the first recipient of the UCLA Luskin Social Welfare Lifetime Achievement Award.
A dedicated child welfare advocate: As chief of Los Angeles County’s adoption division, project director of the Runaway Adolescent Pilot Project and L.A. County DCFS director of governmental relations, Kathleen Kubota has been instrumental in the advancement of social welfare programs directed toward improving the situations of children across Los Angeles. Kubota has been a trailblazer in bringing together diverse and even competing organizations to work toward shared social work goals.
A champion of equality and social justice: John Oliver’s research and leadership in professional organizations have focused on oppressed and underserved communities. He has been involved in the Council on Social Work Education, the California Social Work Education Center, the California Association of Deans and Directors of Social Work Programs and the California chapter of the National Association of Social Workers. Oliver, who holds a Ph.D. from Brandeis University, has received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the NASW California chapter, the UCLA Outstanding Alumni Award and election to the Black Administrators in Child Welfare Hall of Fame.
A pioneer of culturally sensitive services: Yasuko Sakamoto spearheaded the creation of bilingual and bicultural social work programs for Japanese and Japanese-American communities in Los Angeles. Sakamoto founded the Nikkei Family Counseling Program and was involved in the development of the Nikkei Tomodachi Program, Nikkei Helpline and other support groups that cater to the unique cultural needs of the Japanese and Nikkei populations. As an author and mental health advocate, Sakamoto has worked to improve the lives of the underserved.
Advocates for health, welfare and the environment: June Simmons is an innovator in senior healthcare programs who is dedicated to achieving better healthcare at lower cost for high-risk populations. Environmental justice and healthcare advocate Diane Takvorian strives to achieve public policies that improve the health of children, families and neighborhoods, as well as of the natural environment.