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A UCLA Luskin Welcome Departments of Public Policy, Social Welfare, Urban Planning welcome six new faculty members

By Stan Paul

Six new members of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs faculty were warmly welcomed at a reception held Oct. 18 and hosted by their new Luskin departments of Public Policy, Social Welfare and Urban Planning. Interim Dean Lois Takahashi and the three department chairs were also on hand to welcome the new teachers and researchers.

This year, the School’s three departments strengthened their faculty teaching and research rosters with the additions of Darin Christensen and Zachary C. Steinert-Threlkeld (Public Policy), Leyla Karimli and Laura Wray-Lake (Social Welfare), and Michael Manville and Kian Goh (Urban Planning).

In Public Policy, Darin Christensen will be teaching three classes at Luskin this year. “The students are great, really engaged,” said Christensen, who recently received his Stanford Ph.D. in political science. Christensen said he will be showing his Master of Public Policy (MPP) students how to bring evidence to bear on policy decisions, teaching them tools for wrangling and exploring data, as well as statistical methods that generate credible claims about “what policies work.” In another course offered this quarter, he is discussing how political institutions and public policies affect why some countries are rich and peaceful while others with persistent poverty and instability.

Also joining the Public Policy department this year is Zachary C. Steinert-Threlkeld, who will begin teaching this winter quarter on topics including social networks and protest. “I study protest,” said Steinert-Threlkeld, who completed his Ph.D. in political science this year at UC San Diego. “Wherever there is a protest in the world, I go to Twitter and see what people say. Are they expressing political grievances because they’re mad about the economy?”

Steinert-Threlkeld, who studies social media as it relates to subnational conflict, teaches analysis of “big data.” “If anyone wants to learn with Twitter data,” he said, “they can reach out to me. I would love to be working with motivated students or faculty.”

In Social Welfare, Laura Wray-Lake, who comes to UCLA from the University of Rochester, will be teaching two classes in winter: research methods with children and youth, and development and resilience for the Master of Social Work (MSW) students. “I was really excited about the interdisciplinary environment” at Luskin, she said, explaining that her area of research is civic engagement. “I’m really interested in how to get young people interested in politics and the communities, and solving social issues.”

Leyla Karimli brings an international focus to Social Welfare on topics including child welfare, education and child labor. With more than a decade of international research and practice, her work has taken her to a number of countries in Africa as well as Colombia, the Philippines, Tajikistan and Krgyzstan. She will be teaching on program evaluation and topics including a multidisciplinary analysis of poverty and social exclusion, one of her main research interests.

Returning to UCLA, assistant professor Michael Manville said he is currently teaching courses on transportation and the environment and another on shared mobility. Manville, who earned his master’s and Ph.D. degrees in Urban Planning at Luskin, most recently was an assistant professor at Cornell University in the Department of City and Regional Planning. Manville said the rest of the year he will be teaching transportation, land use and public finance, primarily for the Urban Planning Department’s master’s students.

Urban Planner Kian Goh plans to teach a winter quarter seminar titled “Urban Futures,” with a focus on space, ecology and society. In the spring, she will teach a studio course on site planning and a qualitative methods course.

“This year I am continuing my research broadly on the politics of urban climate change adaptation and research on the L.A. region,” said Goh, who comes to Luskin from Northeastern University. “It’s inevitable, not just because I am here but because it so interesting. I think the L.A. region is an example of urban form.”

Goh has focused her research on cities from New York to Jakarta.

“It is really helpful to look at other cities,” she said. “I think of the challenges we face here and all of the opportunities. We’ve learned a lot from other regions.”