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Shell Family Endowment Supports Public Affairs Undergraduates

Laura Shell, a member of the UCLA Luskin board of advisors, and her husband, Jeff, have established an endowed scholarship to support students in the Luskin School’s new undergraduate program. The UCLA Chancellor’s Centennial Scholars Match Initiative, which matches gifts for such scholarships at 50 percent, will establish the Shell Family Centennial Scholarship Matching Fund. The funds will support scholarships for students who have declared the new Public Affairs major and have demonstrated financial need. The first recipients of the scholarship will be announced in 2020. “We want to make the excellent college education provided by the UCLA Luskin School possible for students without the worry of tuition,” Laura Shell said. “We are thrilled our contribution will support the education of future leaders in our community, who will undoubtedly work in public service after graduation.” Shell, who earned a B.A. in political science from UCLA and a master’s in public administration from USC, has maintained a 25-year career working in local government and with environmental organizations. The Shells’ gift is part of a network of support inspired by the launch of the UCLA Luskin undergraduate program. In June 2018, Richard Lieboff endowed the Gene Dudley Centennial Scholars Undergraduate Scholarship in memory of Llewellyn Eugene “Gene” Dudley. That gift was also matched by the UCLA Chancellor’s Centennial Scholars Match Initiative.

 

 

Dean’s Message Our professional programs uniformly train students to make families, communities and institutions better, safer, healthier, more responsive, more functional and more effective

Making a difference…

I left traditional social science to come work in a public affairs environment because I had grown frustrated at the slow pace with which esoteric findings in those disciplines find their way into public discussion and social reform — if, indeed, they ever do. This is not to say that this work never reaches a broader audience, but the frustrating truth is that too big a share of that work has no impact outside the journals and libraries in which it is deposited. Part of that is the unfortunate distance between academia and the “real world,” but part of that rests with the choice of “problem” and the approach to research preferred by those disciplines and scholars. That is, some of this failure to have broader influence is on the professors and institutions themselves.

Contrast that with the work of UCLA Luskin. On April 24, the Luskin School hosted its first-ever regionwide summit, themed “Livable LA.” Around 350 policy professionals, civic leaders, business leaders, scholars and elected officials gathered to discuss solutions to many of Los Angeles’ longstanding challenges. Each panel featured Luskin research, and each panel was addressed to making change — using the findings of our work to effect practical change in Los Angeles and beyond, making the lives, families
and communities in our region better.

It is this spirit that animates our work and UCLA Luskin, and it is this mission that we bring to our classrooms and our communities. Our professional programs uniformly train master’s degree students to make families, communities and institutions better, safer, healthier, more responsive, more functional and more effective. Our doctoral students research real problems of real people. Our undergraduates will all spend time working directly in the community. And our faculty members engage the real world and all its challenges as the foundation of our research. It is why we are here.

In these pages, you will read of a trip by UCLA Luskin social workers — faculty and students alike — to the immigrant detention camp in Dilley, Texas. That effort — to bring comfort, support and social services to families who have endured unspeakable hardship — represents the very best of who we are and what we do at UCLA Luskin. I am unbelievably proud of their efforts and humbled by their sacrifice to help these desperate people.

Make a difference,

Gary

Guiding Tomorrow’s Difference Makers Potential internship providers can help ensure that UCLA Luskin's new undergraduate major remains strong as it grows

By Les Dunseith

Inside stately Royce Hall on a recent morning, more than 100 UCLA undergraduates listened intently as their professor spoke about one of the key documents of American democracy — the Federalist Papers.

“The greatest threat to liberty in the eyes of James Madison is faction — that is, the natural tendency of humanity to see their own interests as important and to work together with others who share those interests to try to get their way,” the professor said. “Now the problem with factions is that, while we might see things that they do wrong, if you’re going to have anything that looks like liberty, people have the right to advocate for themselves. Right? You can’t say you can’t go out there and try to make your lot better. That’s hardly liberty.”

It’s a lesson that draws from the past to provide context for the factionalized politics of today. It’s also essential knowledge for a class of aspiring public servants. The person laying this foundation? It’s a man whose influence was essential to creating the educational opportunity his students now pursue — Gary Segura, dean of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.

The course — Public Affairs 50: Foundations and Debates in Public Thought — taught by Segura in spring quarter was just one of many signposts that the new undergraduate major in Public Affairs is taking shape. Other core courses are being taught, and scores of pre-majors are filling the seats. A class of incoming freshman has been recruited. Transfer students are arriving too. Construction has begun on a dedicated undergraduate office space in the Public Affairs Building. Additional staff are being hired.

But there is still much to be done.

Jocelyn Guihama, director of administration and experiential learning, is hard at work building out the experiential learning component of the major. Time is short. By winter 2020, she expects about 65 Public Affairs juniors to be planning senior-year internships.

To create those opportunities, Guihama is pursuing leads and hammering out details for mentorships in government, in public service agencies and in the many advocacy organizations that help shape policies.

Those partnerships are occurring thanks to supportive people throughout Los Angeles, including some connections close to home like UCLA Luskin alumnus Kevin Medina, program coordinator for the LGBT Campus Resource Center at UCLA. He got his job upon graduation in 2016 with master’s degrees in social welfare and public policy.

Guihama and Administrative Specialist Justin De Toro stopped by his office recently to discuss key assistance Medina is providing to the new major. Guihama noted that Medina had been instrumental in connecting her with a “very large organization in Los Angeles” as a possible internship sponsor.

“I definitely engage with our community in person, as well as through our digital resources,” Medina explained. “We usually have a resource or career fair for LGBTQ and social justice organizations that exist in Los Angeles. We also engage with folks constantly for their paid internship opportunities — for career development for our students.”

Discussions are also underway about placing future Public Affairs students as interns at UCLA’s LGBT Campus Resource Center.

“We know that there are so many centers on campus doing work that is relevant to our students’ interests,” Guihama noted. “So, we hope to connect students to experiential learning opportunities both on and off campus, where students can develop an understanding of what it takes to create social change.”

In his job, Medina provides personal counseling to people “who are at various stages of coming out or [exploring] various relationships to their personal intersectional LGBTQ identity.” His point of view is not far removed from the concerns of many undergraduates.

For example, Medina stressed that “desirability of location is an important advantage of UCLA in terms of quality of life — particularly for folks with multiple marginalized identities. Where am I going to feel safe? Where am I going to find a community?”

For him, that sense of community extends to UCLA Luskin, and Medina is excited to play a role in helping the new major grow. Guihama hopes others — both recent graduates like Medina and the many older UCLA alumni who work in the Los Angeles area — will follow his example.

The experiential learning opportunities are envisioned as an essential step in the undergraduates’ educations, which will culminate with capstone projects.

“The internships have to allow students to test what they’ve learned in the classroom,” Guihama explained. “The senior capstone experience is not only about being out in the community. It’s taking those experiences back to the classroom, reflecting on them, and then building a capstone project with and for the organization that has hosted the student.”

Potential partners may contact Guihama by email or call (310) 569-4491.

Undergrads Share Feedback at Forum

UCLA Luskin Dean Gary Segura responded to questions and concerns raised by Public Affairs pre-majors at this year’s Annual Undergraduate Forum held Wednesday, May 22. Chair Meredith Phillips and the Public Affairs staff were also on hand to answer questions. Prior to the event, the team conducted a survey to gather feedback from pre-major students about their experience. The undergraduates expressed appreciation for the interdisciplinary nature of the major, the close-knit environment and staff enthusiasm, and raised some concerns about curricular coordination, enrollment issues and reciprocal agreements on course requirements between UCLA Luskin and the College of Letters and Sciences. Segura addressed the issues raised in the undergraduate survey and fielded questions from students in attendance about upper-division courses and the experiential capstone projects that Public Affairs majors will complete in their senior year. The undergraduate major in Public Affairs was launched in fall 2018. As its first year comes to a close, the staff thanked students for their patience as they finalize the nuts and bolts of the program. The entire university has responded to the creation of the Public Affairs major, they noted, adding that UCLA Luskin staff are engaged in an ongoing dialogue with other programs, including the Honors College and Academic Advancement Program, as they smooth out the details of the major. Students collectively expressed appreciation for the undergraduate program’s responsiveness to their feedback. — Zoe Day

View a Flickr album of images from the Annual Undergraduate Forum.


 

 

Looking at the Life and Legacy of Nipsey Hussle

“The Hussle Is Real,” a conversation inspired by the life and work of Nipsey Hussle, was held May 14 at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. The event, organized by the student-run Luskin Black Caucus and UCLA Luskin’s Social Welfare Diversity Committee, included presentations by Latoya Small, assistant professor of social welfare; Michael Lens, associate faculty director of the UCLA Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies; and Marcus Hunter, associate professor of sociology and chair of African American Studies at UCLA. The discussion went beyond the “gangster-rapper” label to examine Hussle’s contributions to the community and impact in the context of public affairs and urban space. “When you think about Nipsey Hussle, it’s not just the gangster rap, it’s also the entrepreneurship,” Small said. “He didn’t rent a shop, he purchased the building. He hired people that were undesirable to others and talked about promoting commerce … and building business legitimately.” Lens, associate professor of urban planning and public policy, provided “numbers and history” on South L.A.’s environment and long legacy of segregation to provide a framework for Hussle’s community work. “Nipsey was the embodiment of the power to affect positive change from the ground up, and his death undoubtedly leaves a hole,” Lens said of the rapper, who was slain in March. Hussle, who was born in 1985, during America’s “War on Drugs” era and its aftermath, was a survivor, Hunter said. He played samples of Hussle’s music, asking the audience to “consider what questions come up when you meditate on Nipsey’s contributions and tragic murder.” View photos of the event on Flickr.


 

Former Congresswoman Discusses Path to Political Office

Mimi Walters, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 2014 to 2019, shared her personal pathway to political office, “From Orange County to Washington, D.C.,” at a noontime talk May 9 to an audience that included graduate students and undergraduates from the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. The Republican former lawmaker, who represented California’s 45th district, also served previously in both the California State Senate and State Assembly. Walters talked about what it took to win campaigns from student government in high school to a seat on her local city council in Laguna Niguel to state and federal seats. For Walters, success has come through preparation that included volunteer work, participation in and support for other candidates, and fundraising. “I said, ‘If I really want to do this, I better learn how to campaign.’ So I got involved in other people’s races. I worked on other people’s campaigns. That is how I learned how to run a race.” She added, “The other thing … when you go and volunteer for somebody’s campaign and you someday want to run, they remember.” Navkaran Gurm, a first-year pre-major in Public Affairs, said he was impressed by Walter’s talk and how candid she was about what is required to seek elected office. “It was a good intellectual exchange. She gave us the facts and inside look at the life of a politician,” Gurm said.


 

UCLA Luskin Again Ranks High Among U.S. Graduate Programs

The UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs is once again among the top 15 public affairs schools in the nation as ranked by the latest U.S. News and World Report ratings released March 12, 2019. The School retained the No. 14 (tied) spot in the ratings while moving up to No. 13 (tied) in the social work category. “I am extremely pleased that Social Welfare at UCLA Luskin has moved up in rankings to 13 in the nation as rated by our esteemed peers,” said Laura Abrams, professor of social welfare and chair. “We will continue to work to educate the most-prepared social workers at all levels of practice in our pursuit of equity and social justice.” The School — with graduate departments in Public Policy, Social Welfare and Urban Planning, and a new undergraduate major in Public Affairs — also received high marks for subcategories that include health policy and management (No. 12) and urban policy (No. 9). A number of UCLA professional schools and programs also were named among top schools in U.S. News and World Report’s “Best Graduate Schools 2020” guidebook, which will be available in the spring. According to the publication, yearly graduate program rankings are based on experts’ opinions about program excellence and on statistical indicators that measure the quality of a school’s faculty, research and students. Research for the publication included surveys conducted in fall 2018 and early 2019 of more than 2,000 graduate programs and more than 22,000 academics and professionals in the disciplines.


 

Undergrads Lunch and Learn With Gov. Dukakis

Former Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis sat down with 30 public affairs undergraduate students to talk about the 2020 election and the importance of politics at a Learn-at-Lunch gathering on Monday, Jan. 28, 2019. Dukakis, the 1988 Democratic presidential candidate, began the roundtable discussion by crediting his third-grade teacher for inspiring him to enter politics when he ran for class president. Ever since, Dukakis has been involved in politics at the local, state and national level. In the 2020 presidential campaign, Dukakis said, Democrats must adopt what he called the 50-state strategy. The system must be responsive to the people it is serving, he said, and candidates must engage with voters in every state. “If you neglect a place, if you disparage people, if you don’t spend time with them, don’t be surprised if they turn somewhere else,” he said. A visiting professor of public policy this quarter, Dukakis is teaching both graduate and undergraduate courses. His class on California policy issues is part of the coursework for the new undergraduate major in public affairs. At the lunch, Dukakis wholeheartedly encouraged every student in the room to run for office or become involved in politics. “There is nothing more fulfilling or satisfying than being a professional where you can make a difference in the lives of people,” he said. — Myrka Vega

View photos from the roundtable on Flickr.


 

Message From the Dean The mission to find and tell the truth sometimes gets you fired, as journalist Jorge Ramos learned

In Henrik Ibsen’s timeless play, “An Enemy of the People,” a medical doctor and a journalist plot to publish a troubling truth about their town’s major attraction, a resort spa. The waters of the spa are contaminated with bacteria. It is not fit for human use. At the last moment, fearing the consequences, the editor cowers and declines to publish the story, imperiling the guests but protecting the town’s economy and — not coincidentally — his hide.

The doctor proceeds to tell the truth in a public forum. It does not go well. The town turns against him and his family. Perhaps the editor made the personally wise decision, but he didn’t make the right one.

On Oct. 9, 2018, the Luskin School presented a UCLA Medal — our highest honor — to Jorge Ramos, a journalist, longtime Univision anchor and proud Bruin. Mr. Ramos recounted his journey from Mexico to Westwood and UCLA. Ramos left Mexico where he was a successful reporter because, unlike Ibsen’s editor, he refused to be censored in his efforts to tell the truth. Ramos was fired for refusing to change a story to reflect a better light on the ruling one-party government in Mexico. He sold his car and came to the U.S. with little more than what he could carry. Not long after, he enrolled in a journalism program at UCLA Extension. “UCLA saved my life,” he told the crowd of students, alums and friends of the University.

We now know that Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist, was murdered by his own government. Though there are efforts to offer alternative narratives, there is little question that he was killed and largely as a consequence of his critiques. Khashoggi is, alas, not alone. He joins Daniel Pearl, journalists of the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland, and many more… The international Committee to Protect Journalists has documented 590 intentional deaths of journalists in just the last decade, some in the cross-fire of international or civil military conflicts, but the overwhelming majority through murder/assassination. The mission to find and tell the truth sometimes gets you fired, as Jorge Ramos learned. And sometimes it gets you killed.

The values of democracy are powerful but do not defend themselves. They require us, citizens committed to the sovereignty of the people rather than autocratic rule, to defend them, to draw lines, to hold accountable those who cross them. We can and should disagree about policy, about which paths are best. But the truth, facts and evidence must inform us. To suppress the truth is unscientific and undemocratic. It is beneath us. And the values of democracy require a courageous, fair and uncensored press. Calling the press the “enemy of the people” is corrosive to an accountable democracy because it risks trading the courageous Jorge Ramos for Ibsen’s small-town editor, too afraid to publish the truth.

Jorge Ramos closed his remarks to the UCLA audience with this powerful affirmation of our duty as citizens. “When you see racism, disobey. When you see inequality, you have to disobey. When you see injustice, you have to disobey. This is not a time to be silent … The greatest social movements in this country and in the world have happened when people disobey authority.”

Be like Jorge.

All the best,

Gary

A New Wrinkle at UCLA Luskin — Undergrads Within months of official approval, the undergraduate degree in Public Affairs was already educating scores of pre-majors and providing them an avenue for activism

By Mary Braswell

The rising excitement over UCLA Luskin’s new undergraduate program increased by at least a hundredfold as the first prospective Public Affairs majors stepped onto campus this fall.

Just weeks into the fall quarter, more than 100 students had formally opted in and dozens more had reached out to hear about the ambitious program, which combines critical thinking, social science methodology and deep engagement in the community.

In a year when young people are leading the charge for gun reform, transgender rights, climate change and more, the new major provides an avenue for activism.

“There will certainly be an infusion of energy that only undergraduates can bring,” said Dean Gary Segura.

Freshman Callie Nance was immediately attracted to the public service ethos at the heart of the major.

“I was undecided and feeling a little anxious about that, so I looked through all the majors on the UCLA website. When I came across Public Affairs, I realized it hit all of my passions,” said Nance, who spent time in high school working to create educational and employment opportunities for young people.

“This major doesn’t just expand knowledge,” she said. “It shows us how to do something with that knowledge, to make an impact.”

That sentiment is reflected in the undergraduate program’s motto: Developing Leaders Engaged in Social Change.

“Our students are developing knowledge and skills in the service of solving society’s most pressing problems, which is really what distinguishes this major from others,” said Undergraduate Affairs Chair Meredith Phillips, who is also an associate professor of public policy and sociology.

No other campus in the UC system offers a Public Affairs bachelor’s degree that draws from the three fields UCLA Luskin is known for: public policy, social welfare and urban planning.

This partnership has created an infectious energy that was on display during an undergraduate open house during the first week of school. Phillips led the welcoming committee, along with more than 20 faculty from across the School and Dean Segura, who noted that he too will teach an undergrad course this year, Foundations and Debates in Public Thought.

The event offered a glimpse of the resources available to students pursuing the B.A. in Public Affairs. Freshmen and sophomores freely mingled with professors who teach graduate-level courses and conduct cutting-edge research. And the undergraduate staff, who came together this summer to ensure the major was launched without a hitch, was out in force to answer questions and offer encouragement.

The networking continued the following evening at the Schoolwide Block Party, where the entire UCLA Luskin family — students, faculty, staff and alumni — came out to celebrate the new academic year.

“It was a good chance to talk to some alumni, to see what they are currently doing,” said freshman Navkaran Gurm, whose interests lie in law, politics, economics and public service.

Over the summer, another alumni connection led Gurm to the new major. He had enrolled in a Fresno City College economics class taught by Nelson Esparza MPP ’15, and ended up volunteering for Esparza’s campaign for Fresno City Council.

In the classroom and on the trail, Gurm spent hours talking to Esparza, who urged him to take a look at the Luskin School’s new bachelor’s degree. Gurm was sold. He plans to double-major in Economics and Public Affairs, with an eye toward attending law school.

“What I saw in the Public Affairs major was a way to show us how to make the world a better place, and that was something that really appealed to me,” said Gurm, who is keenly interested in battling disparities that put youth in rural communities, like his hometown, at a disadvantage.

A poll ahead of the November 2018 midterm elections found a remarkable level of civic engagement among young Californians. They talk politics, volunteer and allow political values to guide their purchases, the survey of 16- to 24-year-olds found. A full 80 percent said they considered themselves part of a social movement, according to the poll funded by the California Endowment.

Rising student demand led to creation of the Public Affairs major, which UCLA Luskin faculty unanimously endorsed in 2017. The university’s Academic Senate gave final approval in April 2018, and the first cohort was recruited over the summer.

Ricardo Aguilera switched to the pre-major as soon as it was announced. “For me, it was right on, concentrating on social advocacy within the community and just giving back,” he said.

Aguilera is one of several dozen sophomores who are working closely with the undergraduate staff to complete pre-major requirements in a single year. The School also continues to offer undergraduate minors in Public Affairs, Gerontology and Urban and Regional Studies.

Aguilera, Nance and Gurm have been struck by the personalized attention they receive in the relatively small Public Affairs program. Weekly emails share information about jobs, internships and campuswide events, and keep the cohort connected, they said.

Gurm said he attended informational sessions for other majors where students clamored to get their questions answered. At the Public Affairs workshop, “there were four of us and Brent, and it was as if we were having a one-on-one conversation,” he said, referring to undergraduate advisor Brent Showerman, who explained both the vision and the requirements of the program.

“I really like that whole support system, the feeling that they are guiding us in the right direction,” he said.