Keum on Suicide Risk in Communities of Color

A report by Kaiser Health News and Science Friday on the growing suicide crisis among people of color cited research by Brian Keum, assistant professor of social welfare. While overall suicide rates in the U.S. decreased in 2019 and 2020, rates in the Black, Hispanic and Asian American communities continued to climb in many states. Suicide rates also remain consistently high for Native Americans. Although the suicide rate is highest among middle-aged white men, young people of color are emerging as particularly at risk, the report noted. The COVID-19 pandemic appears to have exacerbated the crisis, and researchers are looking into the role played by job losses, social isolation, racial tensions, mental illness and social media use. The report cited Keum’s preliminary research findings, which indicate that experiencing racism and sexism together is linked to a threefold increase in suicidal thoughts for Asian American women.

A New Approach to Preventing Weapons-Related Violence at California Schools Study gauges the prevalence of weapons on campuses and provides a comprehensive look at factors that put schools at risk

By Mary Braswell

At some schools in California, nearly 1 in 5 students say they have either carried a weapon or been injured or threatened with one, according to a new study co-authored by UCLA Social Welfare Professor Ron Avi Astor that examines the presence of weapons in the state’s public middle and high schools and recommends focusing on campus-level conditions that could serve as warning signs for violence.

“Although tragic incidents of shootings in schools are rare and directly affect only a small number of students, tens of thousands of students report bringing weapons to school, and many more see other students in their school carrying weapons,” said Astor, who holds joint appointments at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and UCLA School of Education and Information Studies.

The study, co-authored with Rami Benbenishty of Hebrew University of Jerusalem, was published recently in the Journal of School Violence.

Based on surveys of nearly 890,000 California students in grades 7, 9 and 11, the research focuses on all types of weapons — not only guns — and assesses how factors such as the level of crime in a school’s surrounding neighborhood, students’ feelings of belongingness or victimization at school, their relationships with teachers and staff, and their perceptions about whether disciplinary practices are fair can heighten or lower the potential for weapons-carrying and violence.

This holistic or school-wide approach represents a significant departure from previous school-violence studies, which have typically sought to identify risk factors around individual students who might pose a threat, Astor noted.

“A major limitation of current ‘shooter’ studies is that they tend to maintain a narrow focus on individual perpetrators,” the authors write. “Although it is very difficult to detect students who perpetrate school shootings, it is possible to identify schools that have many students who are involved with weapons.”

The number of students who reported seeing weapons on campus is very low at many schools, according to the study, which included a representative sample of students from every county in the state who completed the California Healthy Kids Survey between 2013 and 2015.

However, in 3.3% of schools, more than 15% of students reported carrying a weapon, and in 5.8% of schools, at least 15% of students said they had been injured by a weapon or threatened with one. It is at these schools in particular, Astor and Benbenishty say, that an approach focused on improving campuswide conditions can bear the most fruit.

“It is imperative to develop a monitoring system to identify such schools and channel resources to this vulnerable group of students, educators and parents,” said Astor, who teaches a UCLA undergraduate course on ways to improve school safety. “We must create opportunities to hear their voices and explore local solutions that make their schools safer.”

Fostering a warm, supportive school environment is key to reducing the presence of weapons and creating a truly safe campus, according to the authors, whose previous research has demonstrated that prioritizing a culture of care, funneling more resources to vulnerable schools and elevating the voices of students, teachers and students leads to a drop in the number of weapons at schools.

“Students who trust that teachers support them and have a sense of safety in school may be less inclined to bring weapons to school,” the authors write.

In this new study, Astor and Benbenishty also focus on the unintended negative consequences of past efforts to deter individual shooters by “hardening” schools with metal detectors, security cameras and armed staff, as well as “active shooter” drills and harsh mandatory punishments that research shows often demonstrated bias against students of color.

These measures, they noted, frequently created fortress-like campuses that greatly diminished students’ well-being, heightened the fear of violence on school grounds and sent more of the nation’s children into the school-to-prison pipeline.

“Schools,” the authors conclude, “could develop a variety of caring and supportive approaches to reduce weapons-related behaviors … that do not include law enforcement methods and do not increase the school-to-prison pipeline.”

Commencement Events Bring Class of ’21 Together

UCLA Luskin honored its Class of 2021 with two days of celebrations, including an on-campus ceremony that brought classmates together after more than a year of remaining apart. The June 10 stage-crossing event felt like a class reunion for many students who completed their coursework remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic. Although some health protocols remained in place, students from the School’s public policy, social welfare, urban planning and undergraduate programs were able to gather at UCLA’s Los Angeles Tennis Center to hear their names read aloud and take photographs with Dean Gary Segura, department chairs and fellow graduates. “Today, we have so much to celebrate,” Segura told the assembled graduates. “You have accomplished, against all odds, completing your UCLA degree during a global pandemic, and we could not be prouder of you.” Formal commencement ceremonies and speeches were posted online June 11 as the Luskin School bestowed master’s and doctoral degrees — and, for the first time, the new Bachelor of Arts in Public Affairs.

View a livestream of the on-campus event on Vimeo and additional images on Flickr.


UCLA Luskin Commencement 2021


UCLA Alumni Association Honors Luskins, Coggins

The UCLA Alumni Association hosted a virtual ceremony to honor Meyer and Renee Luskin, Wilfred “Bill” Coggins MSW ’55 and other Bruins whose service to UCLA and the world have made a great impact. UCLA Chancellor Gene Block introduced a video segment (beginning at minute 40:17) featuring the Luskins, the 2020 Edward A. Dickson Alumni of the Year, UCLA’s highest alumni honor. “For as long as I’ve had the pleasure of knowing the Luskins, they’ve always credited UCLA with giving them their start,” Block said of the couple, first-generation college students who are now major benefactors of UCLA and namesakes of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. Meyer Luskin earned a bachelor’s degree in economics in 1949, then went on to launch Scope Industries, which recycles bakery waste to make an ingredient in animal feed. Renee Luskin earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology in 1953. The Luskins said their parents came from modest means but emphasized charity and philanthropy. “We wanted to have the pleasure of helping people,” Meyer Luskin said. Paco Retana ’87, MSW ’90 introduced Coggins (beginning at minute 27:10) and paid tribute to his decades of stewardship of the Kaiser Permanente Watts Counseling and Learning Center. Retana called Coggins “the heart and soul of the center,” which helps families achieve academic and personal success. “I believe in education. I believe in self-actualization. I believe in human potential,” said Coggins, who received the UCLA Award for Community Service. The May 22 virtual ceremony recognized several recipients of the 2020 alumni awards, which were announced last year

Watch the UCLA Awards virtual ceremony


Jack Rothman’s ‘Delayed Harvest’: Poetry That Grasps People Emeritus professor of social welfare publishes a collection of poems to link readers to his nine decades

By Stan Paul

Jack Rothman, professor emeritus of social welfare at UCLA Luskin, has written numerous books — more than 25 — during his long academic career, most of them on community organizing and multiculturalism.

Among those titles is a book on the film industry and a recent chronicle of his search for his ancestral home, a Jewish village, or shtetl, in Ukraine — a place that didn’t appear on any map at the time.

His most recent literary effort is a book of poetry published during the worldwide pandemic titled, “The Voice of Consciousness: Poems Composed After Ninety.” (Tebot Bach)

“My poems dig into the past, embrace the present, look to the future,” Rothman wrote in the book’s introduction. The book is organized into three sections: Musings, Family and Humor. Some of the poems deal with his long-term interests in social issues, such as peace, social justice, and inequality. Rothman describes his straightforward verse style as accessible, “like low-hanging fruit you can easily reach and digest.”

“Too much poetry nowadays,” he says, “is abstract and hard to fathom.”

The collection is the product of a poetry workshop that Rothman, now 94, started attending in his early 90s. A few poems in the collection were written before then, like “The 1%,” which was previously published in The Huffington Post. The rest, about 95%, he says, were written in the last few years.

Rothman, who garnered numerous awards and honors for his academic research, describes himself as “a proponent of social activism and a supporter of progressive causes.” He has written political opinion pieces over the years that appeared in publications including The Nation, Social Policy, The Humanist and the Los Angeles Times. But, he explained, “With time, I found that poetry became a tighter, more cogent way to express my thinking and feelings about what is important to me.”

The section Musings includes titles such as “Precious Consciousness,” “A Struggle for Language” and “Renewal,” where “Hundreds of students/Chant/Carrying posters/Demanding climate change action/Speaking hope amidst the waste.”

In Humor, Rothman takes a poke at the political with “Voting,” “America Ain’t Got No Social Classes” and even the former occupant of the White House in “The Donald.”

Rothman says as teacher he always liked telling stories and discusses the origins of his poetry in his latest book.

My poetry springs from the comic
I was born with a funny bone
Or was it many funny bones
I’ve merged humor and poetry

In fact, in his 70s, Rothman took up stand-up comedy, which resulted in gigs at local venues including The Comedy Store, The Improv and Pasadena’s Ice House.

His work wanders from mundane and daily observances to memories of his childhood in Depression-era America to hope for his grandson in the next generation. For example, Rothman, who grew up in New York, the son of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, paints a portrait of an August day in 1935, remembering his father.

Pop, an immigrant,
Owns a candy store

Somewhat shabby and worn
On a Street corner in Queens…

Always a hard worker
The Great Wall Street Crash
Battered Pop’s life
In a double disaster
He lost his wife the same year
And I a toddler of two
Lost my mother…

In “Ode to My Miata,” Rothman uses the image of his prized silver sports car, which “remained streamlined and sporty/Ever youthful,” as he “sprouted signs of aging.” The well-cared-for car is passed on to his grandson, “who now navigates the Miata/with the care and love/That I had bestowed upon it.”

Leaning on my cane
I see a glint on the horizon
An auto and a young man
Flowing along the Southern California Sunset

And lastly, a simple object gives voice to consciousness for Rothman. In “The Yellow Pencil,” he concludes:

“My Yellow pencil may be worn out
The eraser a stump
Just give us a little more time
And we’ll compose
A lasting anniversary rhyme
For my wife”

The book is dedicated to his wife, Judy, “Companion and Helpmate Extraordinary.”

As for the future, Rothman says, along with his other interests, he’ll keep writing poetry.

Astor on Role of Racism in Unsafe Learning Environments

Social Welfare Professor Ron Avi Astor co-authored a Journal of School Health commentary on the importance of factoring in structural racism when developing strategies to prevent school violence. “Microaggressions and bullying associated with skin color can result in a pathway of increased alienation from and decreased engagement in school, both of which can increase the probability of harm to self and others,” wrote Astor and co-author Marc A. Zimmerman of the University of Michigan. Unconscious biases may surface among staff making threat assessments as well as among teachers who send implicit messages that reduce academic motivation among Black, Latino, Native and immigrant students. Economically disadvantaged campuses typically have fewer resources for social and emotional learning, relying instead on target-hardening strategies such as metal detectors and school safety officers — a signal that schools are not a welcoming place. “It is time we pay particular attention to the role racism plays in creating unsafe learning environments for our children,” the authors wrote.

Cooper Sees Wisdom in Children on the Margins

Adjunct Assistant Professor of Social Welfare Khush Cooper spoke about insights she has gained from working with children on the margins during an episode of the podcast Welcome to Humanity. “Children on the margins live at the edge of chaos,” Cooper said. “They understand where families, groups, societies have failed, yet their brains are plastic enough to be able to point to what could be.” Foster youth, for example, “can tell you exactly what family is and what family isn’t,” she said. And the very youngest transgender children, up to age 5, are unburdened by labels but recognize something within themselves that doesn’t match how others perceive them. A willingness to learn from these young voices could help societies find solutions for families in crisis and for persisting inequities such as the gender pay gap, she said. “When children on the margins thrive, they lead us to what’s next for the planet,” Cooper said.



Social Welfare and Urban Planning PhD Professional Development Series Part 3

Doctoral students are encouraged to attend this professional development series (presented by the departments of Social Welfare and Urban Planning). These three virtual workshops will provide tools to navigate the academic world, answer questions about doctoral expectations, and introduce pedagogical methods. RSVP links below.

Session 1: The Academic Job Market & Navigating the Academy 

Session 2: Funding PhD Research

Session 3: Teaching Strategies 

Social Welfare PhD Open Forums

The Social Welfare Department is hosting biweekly open forums for PhD students, facilitated by Doctoral Program Chair, Ian Holloway. The first session will be held Friday, October 23 from 2 –3:30 PM via Zoom.

These sessions are opportunities for students to ask questions about any topic related to the Social Welfare Doctoral Program. An anonymous Google Form is available for students wishing to express concerns prior to the forum.

Use this Zoom link to attend

UCLA MSW Admissions and Recruitment Diversity Fair: Embracing Diverse Voices and Experiences

Full Schedule TBA:

Interested in UCLA but not sure how to navigate the application process? Learn more about our Master of Social Welfare program where we provide tools and tips to assist you in the application process and the resources to help you thrive once you are in the program.

Social Welfare and Urban Planning PhD Professional Development Series

Doctoral students are encouraged to attend this professional development series (presented by the departments of Social Welfare and Urban Planning). These three virtual workshops will provide tools to navigate the academic world, answer questions about doctoral expectations, and introduce pedagogical methods. RSVP links below.

Session 1: The Academic Job Market & Navigating the Academy 

Session 2: Funding PhD Research

Session 3: Teaching Strategies 

Kindness and Aging (Common Ground Series)

Kindness and Aging pairs Artist and UC Santa Barbara Art Department Professor Jane Callisterin conversation with Dr. Lené Levy-Storms, Hartford Faculty Scholar Departments of Social Welfare and Medicine/Geriatrics, Bedari Kindness Institute, UC Los Angeles. They will discuss concepts of kindness and its implementation in our communal world. Callister will address “kindness” as a theme in contemporary art practices and her new body of work It Started with a Crocofish created in collaboration with her father. Levy-Storms’ research addresses the role “kindness” as it intersects with modes of communication and caregiving to older adults living with Alzheimer’s and chronic disease and optimizing urban spaces for the well-being of the low-income community elders.

Jane Callister was born on the Isle of Man, UK in 1963 and is now a Southern California based artist who works across the mediums of painting, sculpture, drawing and installation. Over the past 20 years Callister has exhibited in many notable exhibits including The 1st Prague Biennale at the Veletrizni Palace Prague, Czech Republic; Extreme Abstraction at the Albright Knox Museum, Buffalo, New York; and was included in the 2006 California Biennial at the Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach, CA. Recent solo exhibitions include Baroco-pop at Royale Projects, Los Angeles (where she is currently represented) and It Started With a Crocofish; New Drawings by Jane Callister at the VITA arts Center, Ventura, CA. Callister’s work has also been featured in notable publications such as: Vitamin P: New Perspectives in Painting with essay by David Pagel and LA Artland by Chris Krauss. Her work is in numerous private collections as well as The New Museum, New York and The Albright Knox Museum, Buffalo, NY. In 2019 ArtSlant, an online archive that featured her work, was accepted into the Library of Congress and the NYARC (New York Resources Consortium).

Lené Levy-Storms is an Associate Professor in the Luskin School of Public Affairs, Department of Social Welfare at the Geffen School of Medicine, Division of Geriatrics at UCLA, and serves on the advisory board for the Bedari Kindness Institute at UCLA. This fall she teaches a seminar on the intersection of kindness, COVID, and social well-being. Dr. Levy-Storms’ primary research has focused on communication processes underlying social support and on caregiving for older adults living with Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Since 2004, she has partnered with Susan Kohler, a speech and language therapist and author of a book titled: “How to Communicate with Alzheimer’s”, to develop a behavioral, video training program for both family and non-family caregivers. With funding from the National Institute on Aging, the Hartford Foundation, the American Medical Director’s Association, and the National Alzheimer’s Association, Dr. Levy-Storms developed methods of evaluating caregivers’ communication behaviors among a variety of caregivers and long-term care settings. Her other recent research has explored: 1) how best to design an urban park for low-income, diverse older adults in downtown Los Angeles to optimize their well-being and social support, 2) communication issues faced by caregivers of older adults living with diabetes and dementia in the Veteran’s Administration (VA), and 3) communication issues between older adults with advanced chronic diseases and healthcare providers as their treatment needs progress.

The Common Ground: Artist Reimagining Community multi-part transdisciplinary lecture series pairs an artist and researcher in conversation to discuss concepts of “community” from their disciplines. Future fall semester 2020 discussions include Judaism and Global Voices, Home Sweet Home: Homeownership and Community Building, and Latinx Identities: Performing Community Formation. Adjunct Visual Art Department professor Jennifer Vanderpool, Ph.D. created the programming for these lectures in conjunction with the upcoming exhibition (October 30, 2021-March 5, 2021) of the same name guest curated by Vanderpool. Inspired by mutual aid societies, Vanderpool integrated the participatory strategies of social practice art that organizes communities in debate and collaboration with curatorial activism approaches that challenge the assumptions and erasures of voices in hegemonic narratives to develop Common Ground: Artist Reimagining Community.

Community Collaborations Dinner

Meet, mingle, and eat with fellow Luskin students dedicated to equity, diversity, and inclusion to start building a community across departments.

Hosted by D3 Initiative in partnership with Planners of Color for Social Equity and Policy Professionals for Diversity and Equity at the Luskin Commons. Dinner provided with RSVP!

Social Welfare Alumni Gathering & Joseph A. Nunn Alumna of the Year

Dean Segura & the UCLA Luskin Department of Social Welfare cordially invite all social welfare alumni to join us for an evening of camaraderie & celebration at the annual UCLA Luskin Social Welfare Alumni Gathering to honor

Aurea Montes-Rodriguez MSW ’99

Executive Vice President of Community Coalition

2017 Joseph A. Nunn Alumna of the Year

>>RSVP by Thursday, May 18th.<<

We look forward to seeing you!


Luskin Diversity Recruitment Fair

Join us at the Luskin Diversity Recruitment Fair!

Learn about graduate programs in the Luskin School of Public Affairs and how your education in Public Policy, Social Welfare, or Urban Planning can lead to a career in public service and social justice. Sessions include financial aid and statement of purpose workshops, current student panels, and admissions information.

9:30am | Registration and Breakfast
10:00am | Welcome & Speakers
10:30am | Departmental Workshops
11:15am | Alumni Panel
12:00pm | Lunch
1:00pm | Departmental Breakout Sessions, including Statement of Purpose Workshops, Fellowship Workshops, and Campus Tours.
3:30pm | Closing Reception

Registration is Required! 

Click here to RSVP by December 1, and receive more information about our event. Registration is free and required.

This event is co-hosted by the Luskin Leadership Development program, the Departments of Public Policy, Social Welfare, and Urban Planning, and the following student groups: Social Welfare Diversity Caucus, Policy Professionals for Diversity & Equity, Planners of Color for Social Equity.

Webinar for International Admissions

Find out more information regarding UCLA Luskin School degree programs and the application process for international students. Login from the comfort of your own home, your office, or your local coffee shop.

• Degree programs
• Transcript and degree certificate requirements
• Language requirements
• Application requirements
• Visa process
• Living in Los Angeles

Click here to register for this online event, after which you will receive instructions on how to join.