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Social Welfare Ph.D. Faculty Ranked Among Top Three in Scholarly Productivity

Social Welfare Chair Laura Abrams, right.

UCLA Luskin’s Social Welfare doctoral program is one of the top three most productive in the nation, according to a newly published study measuring the impact of faculty research. “The search for meaningful metrics of program excellence has been a longstanding effort by social work schools and colleges,” the researchers said. To understand variations in faculty productivity, they built upon previous work analyzing scholarly citations by considering the impact of a program’s funding sources, regional location, year of establishment and faculty demographics. “Researchers are not expected to build knowledge in a vacuum,” the study said. “Rather, it is a professional expectation that researchers also demonstrate the ability to disseminate knowledge widely despite the narrowness of their specialty area.” The analysis found that the three most productive social work doctoral faculties were based at public universities in the West: the University of Washington, UC Berkeley and UCLA Luskin. “One surprising finding was that there were significant differences among programs with the same size but located in different parts of the country,” the researchers said. “Why Western and Midwestern programs outperform their Northeastern and Southeastern counterparts is unclear.”  The research, published in the journal Scientometrics, was based on empirical data from the entire population of doctoral tenure-track social work faculty at 76 research-oriented universities.

 

Resistance Through Research in the Trump Era Luskin School Ph.D. students host conference on challenging inequality through research in the 'new reality'

By Stan Paul

For urban planning, social welfare and education doctoral students at UCLA, the results of the 2016 election added a new urgency to their role as researchers and to their research agendas.

In response to the rhetoric and policies of the Trump administration following the inauguration, a working group was formed to discuss questions of concern for upcoming scholars in UCLA’s academic and professional programs who are — and will be — working directly with individuals and groups in diverse communities.

This year, the group’s efforts culminated in “Resistance through Research: Social Justice Research and Activism in the Trump Era,” a conference held April 20, 2018, at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.

“As Ph.D. students in the professional schools, we conduct research on issues of race, gender and class-based discrimination, and we critically examine the opportunities that people have to participate in the institutions that shape their lives,” said Rebecca Crane, an Urban Planning doctoral student and one of the event organizers. “We decided to start a working group to discuss these issues which we hope will create dialogue around the notion of a politically engaged research agenda and its potential to challenge inequality now in this political moment.”

Ananya Roy, director of the Institute on Inequality and Democracy at UCLA Luskin, provided opening remarks.

“Urgency for resistance is not new, but rather persistent,” said Roy, a professor of urban planning, social welfare and geography. “The phenomenon of Trumpism is not unique to the United States.” Rather, it is something that must be treated “as a rupture in the fabric of the world.”

But, she added: “The question is whether we, scholars rooted in academia, have stepped up … whether the global university, a command and control node of knowledge production, can be committed to such forms of research.”

And, Roy pointed out, academic fields and institutions that produce knowledge are not exempt from examination or resistance.

“For me, resistance within, against and from the university has meant a politics of alliance, solidarity and collectivism. It has meant taking and exercising academic freedom through a very visible politics of building collectivity, of building a commons.”

However, she cautioned the room full of students and researchers, “There’s a hell of a lot of risk ahead of you.”

The conference also included a panel focused on research methods illustrating theoretical and political points of departure and avenues in academic research. Panelists represented different career stages from new Ph.D.s to veteran scholars and educators.

Daniel Solórzano, a longtime professor of Education and Chicano/a Studies at UCLA, recalled early in his academic career his decision to go against the grain — and against the advice of senior scholars — to “challenge the dominant frames.” Solórzano whose teaching and research interests include critical race theory, agreed that “the issues are something that are not new,” crediting his students with helping him advance important work and fields of inquiry. “I need a diverse student population to move this work forward.”

Also on the methods panel was Nina Flores, who completed her doctorate in urban planning at UCLA Luskin in 2016. Flores, now an assistant professor of Social and Cultural Analysis at California State University Long Beach, also discussed the challenge and benefits of “push-back.”

“Find your people,” she said, citing her work and collaboration with longtime UCLA Luskin Urban Planning faculty members Leo Estrada and the late Jacqueline Leavitt. By finding the right people to work with, Flores said, “the push-back can be creative,” as well as affirming.

Also making up the methods panel were Kristina Lovato-Hermann  SW Ph.D. ’17, now assistant professor of social work at Cal State University Long Beach, and Karen Umemoto, professor of Urban Planning and Asian American Studies. Umemoto also serves as the inaugural holder of the Helen and Morgan Chu Endowed Director’s Chair in the UCLA Asian American Studies Center.

A second panel, devoted to research justice, included Saba Waheed, research director at the UCLA Labor Center; Yvonne Yen Liu, research director of the Solidarity Research Center in Los Angeles; and Lolita Andrada Lledo, associate director of the Los Angeles-based Pilipino Workers Center.

“We wanted today to be an opportunity to connect with people outside our departments who might be working on similar topics … as well as community-based researchers working on these topics,” Crane said.

In fact, a class of UCLA undergrads was able to take advantage of the knowledge shared at the conference. Diya Bose, a Ph.D. candidate in Sociology, brought students from her UCLA freshman cluster course on Interracial Dynamics in American Culture and Society.

“It was important for them to witness how the UCLA students are continuing to fight for justice and liberation through education, research and working with communities of color,” said Bose. “Following the Luskin event, my students shared with me that they felt inspired and empowered to participate in the UCLA community, not as passive consumers of knowledge, but as producers of knowledge.”

The conference also featured research workshops in three subgroups: Racial and Gender Justice, Public Services and Spaces, and Migration and Displacement.

“In my internship we do a lot of research and we partner with a lot of community organizations,” said Evelyn Larios, a second-year MSW student at UCLA. “So this is really nice because it really reinforces the idea that as we move forward in collective research we need to partner with communities to build that relationship.”

Larios added: “At some point it take compromise. That’s important to society and democracy in general.”

Click or swipe below to view more photos from this event on Flickr:

Resistance Through Research

Dispensing Knowledge in Real Time UCLA Luskin Social Welfare students present the results of their rapid response research projects

By Stan Paul

Research, by design, is focused, systematic, methodical. It takes time.

But when information moves at the speed of social media, and false, distracting and potentially harmful information can be spread worldwide via tapping a screen in the middle of the night, there is a pressing need for responsible research that can be produced in real time.

A dozen social welfare graduate students at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs reacted to this challenge by taking on projects — above and beyond their required studies — to match their data-gathering and synthesizing skills with the ability to make useful information available quickly to communities that may need it.

The social welfare master’s and doctoral students researched topics such as hate speech and immigration.

“You are going to enter your profession, a profession built around the question of human caring, at a time where human caring is not held in particularly high esteem,” UCLA Luskin Dean Gary Segura said in introducing “Rapid Response Research in the Trump Era,” a June 1, 2017, gathering at the Luskin School to review student projects.

Segura, whose research has centered on representation and empowerment, said: “You know the challenges that all of us face … across all racial and ethnic, socioeconomic subpopulations in the United States: access to affordable health care, dealing realistically and honestly with challenges that individuals and families face, providing quality education and job opportunities for people. The list is unbelievably long.

“The first piece of advice I’m going to give you for resistance is to call things by their name,” Segura said. “We must begin our resistance by calling things what they are: Racism is racism, sexism is sexism, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia are what they are.” He urged students not to pass these things off as merely rants not worthy of comment or notice.

Laura Abrams, the incoming chair of UCLA Luskin Social Welfare, said that a list of potential research ideas was presented to social welfare students early in the academic year, and a number of groups responded. The criteria for the projects included working with real-time data from social media platforms such as Twitter.

Abrams said the research topics “were going to be more immediately applicable to what communities might need in order to resist and they had to be social justice oriented.” Social welfare faculty such as assistant professors Ian Holloway and Laura Wray-Lake served as advisers for the students.

One project examined Twitter data based on the motivations of those who participated in the Women’s March, and how that motivation connects — or doesn’t — with broader issues of racial justice.

One immigration issue tackled by the students was part of a nationwide project asking how young people have been affected by the policies and rhetoric of the Trump administration. That project relied on responses from Latino high school students. The information gathered is intended to inform educators and others working with adolescents.

First-year MSW student Alexandra Rhodes said she studied anti-LGBT hate speech and the incidence of particular words used on Twitter.

“I was interested in seeing if anti-LGBT hate speech on Twitter increased after Donald Trump’s election,” said Rhodes, who gathered information from more than 40,000 users who had tweeted anti-LGBT search terms. From that group, just over 10,000 users were randomly selected for comparison of the number of such tweets before and after the election.

“I was most interested in how Donald Trump’s election was affecting the LGBT population given his seemingly anti-LGBT rhetoric and policies,” said Rhodes, who is primarily interested in working with the LGBT population and is considering pursing a Ph.D. in social welfare.

“It is very important to me to do ethical and essential research in my community and build evidence to support how we have been affected by various social changes and policies,” Rhodes said. “For now, I’m focusing on getting involved with research in whatever way I can as an MSW student. It is important to do research and look at the data and respond to what is happening right now.”

Abrams said she hopes that this becomes a tradition that can continue to be built into the curriculum in a meaningful way.

“As a Social Welfare Department, the rapid response research projects are a prime example of what we can accomplish when we have an idea, put our heads together, and work hard as team,” Abrams said. “I am proud of the students for carrying out their projects in such a timely and rigorous manner.”