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The Lost Shtetl In a new book, Professor Emeritus Jack Rothman chronicles his journey to find the forgotten village in Ukraine where his family had lived for generations

By Zev Hurwitz

With the advent of the internet and Google Maps, searching for virtually any town in the world is just a few clicks away. But for Luskin School of Public Affairs Professor Emeritus Jack Rothman, planning a visit to his father’s birthplace, Butsnevits, was a little more challenging. The biggest issue: No map seems to acknowledge the existence of such a place.

In a new self-published book, “Searching for Butsnevits: A Shtetl Tale,” Rothman sets off to find the titular shtetl, a word for a small Jewish village, of which his father would speak fondly about.

After writing some 25 other books with more traditionally academic prose, Rothman’s latest publication takes on a much more personal feel. Described in the introduction as “part autobiography, part social history, and part detective story,” Rothman pieces together clues to the shtetl life of his family in early 20th century Ukraine.

He describes the book as an encounter with the past, with the history of his family and the region, and what has happened since to the people and the place. No Jews are left in the village anymore. They were decimated by the Nazi destruction machine during WW II. Women work the fields now, and men do maintenance and repairs. Most youth leave for work in the cities. And the old Jewish cemetery has no defining walls left and almost all the stones are gone.

“I wanted to tell the story of my trip and what I experienced, and have the reader accompany me on the journey,” Rothman said. “I wanted the reader to learn what I learned when I learned it.”

His interest piqued growing up with a family that referred to Butsnevits as “der haim” (“the home”). As a researcher at UCLA, Rothman plowed through the records at the UCLA Jewish Library and the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, neither providing any hint to the location of Butsnevits.

The book tells how Rothman, in 1995, tacks on a side trip to Ukraine while in Europe for a speaking engagement in Poland. After changing planes in the bustling airport of Frankfurt, Rothman finds himself further and further removed from modern luxury as he teams up with a local tour guide and driver and sets off to Letichev, which a family member had told him was in the general vicinity of Butsnevits. The rural journey continues only through clues such as a beautiful nearby lake and an old mill, and interviews with locals. Rothman writes about staying in Kiev in a hotel with “cardboard simulations of towels” and navigating towns without running water.

In addition to recounting the journey through rural Ukraine, Rothman also sets the journey and the shtetl in question in the context of the Russian Revolution. As made famous by the film “Fiddler on the Roof,” Jewish settlements in Eastern Europe were threatened by attacks called pogroms from anti-Jewish nationals.

Rothman says he typically tries to avoid focus on the tragic nature of large parts of Jewish history.

“I didn’t start off with a strong intention to deal with anti-Semitism,” Rothman said. “The thing I didn’t like about my Jewish education was dwelling on all of the tragedies that took place. I sort of longed for a Jewish history that was a little brighter.”

In writing “Searching for Butsnevits,” Rothman found it impossible not to contextualize the shtetl’s history and decline without taking into account the history of Eastern Europe. There were the Khmelnytsky massacres of 1648, the Czar Alexander III repressive May Laws of 1882, and the Nazi invasion starting in 1939. The chaotic civil war in the region following the Russian Revolution was also an important element of the oppression of Jews.

“The anti-Semitism hit me in the face,” he said of learning the backstory for Butsnevits. “I had to give it a good deal of play.”

Rothman said that he didn’t face any sort of anti-Semitic interactions during his trip and noted that every interaction with locals — save for a xenophobic innkeeper — was very pleasant. The people in the village were honored to have a visitor from America, whose family had lived among them, and gave him the utmost courtesy, he said.

In the second part of the book, Rothman includes a harrowing firsthand depiction of a violent pogrom attack on the shtetl as witnessed by his older cousin, Sally, who lived in Butsnevits as a child. Rothman had relied heavily on Sally’s description of the shtetl prior to his trip in 1995 and included her firsthand account, recorded in 1973, of an attack on the village and her family’s home.

“I thought of Sally’s narrative as simply being documentation of what many, many people experienced. This is an on-the-ground story of the antipathy and violence experienced by Jews and how it caused this family to pick up and leave this place that they had been in for generations.”

Sally, who was 8 when she and her family fled Butsnevits for the United States, was Rothman’s sole source of information about Butsnevits when he was planning his Ukraine trip. Rothman says that his search for the shtetl and learning about shtetl life has given him new admiration for the family that pioneered life in the United States.

“When they came to the United States, they were what people called ‘greenhorns,’” he said. “They spoke only Yiddish and had no education. It was painful for them to learn how to navigate institutions like hospitals and schools.

“They came from a tiny and isolated rural village and crossed a wide ocean into the frenzy and complexity of tumultuous New York City. I don’t know how they did it — surviving and raising families that even the Rotary Club would admire,” Rothman said. “After visiting the postage-stamp-sized Butnevits, in my mind, they skyrocketed from ‘greenhorn’ immigrants to heroes.”

Rothman is a former social welfare professor at UCLA Luskin, where he focused his research on community organizing for social change. (“I was a community organizer before President Obama,” he said with a laugh.) He previously taught at the University of Michigan and has held emeritus status at UCLA since retiring shortly after his visit to Ukraine.

“Searching for Butsnevits: A Shtetl Tale” is available for purchase from Amazon.

Honored for Contributions to Gerontology and Geriatrics Education UCLA Luskin adjunct professor emerita JoAnn Damron-Rodriguez is recognized as a leading educator in the field of aging

By Stan Paul

JoAnn Damron-Rodriguez, adjunct professor emerita of social welfare at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, has become the first UCLA faculty member to receive the Clark Tibbitts Award from the Association for Gerontology in Higher Education (AGHE).

Damron-Rodriguez received the 2017 award, which is given each year to an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to the advancement of gerontology and geriatrics education, at the Washington, D.C.-based AGHE’s annual meeting held March 10, 2017, in Miami. The award honors Clark Tibbetts (1903-1985) as an architect of the field of gerontological education.

AGHE, which has bestowed the award annually since 1981, is dedicated to education, training and research programs in the field of aging, and counts more than 160 institutional members throughout the United States, Canada and abroad.

In accepting the award, Damron-Rodriguez, a licensed clinical social worker who earned master’s and Ph.D. degrees in social welfare at UCLA, delivered a lecture titled, “Gerontology: Cultural Change, Competence and Creativity.”

“Gerontologists are taking the lead worldwide to build, with our communities, the future of purposeful living for the 50-plus population,” said Damron-Rodriguez, who has previously received UCLA’s Distinguished Teaching Award. She is a federally appointed member of the Veteran’s Health Administration Gerontology and Geriatrics Advisory Committee.

Taking the Fight for LGBT Health Equity to the Streets Late-night canvassing to assess a meningitis outbreak exemplifies the dedication that has earned UCLA Luskin Social Welfare professor Ian Holloway national recognition for his groundbreaking research

By Les Dunseith

It’s the Tuesday night before Christmas as UCLA Luskin professor Ian W. Holloway tucks his 2-year-old daughter Sofía into bed and prepares to leave his home on a tree-lined street of bungalow-style houses in the Larchmont neighborhood of Los Angeles.

It’s time for Holloway, an assistant professor in the Department of Social Welfare, to get back to work.

Along with three UCLA student researchers, Holloway will spend the next several hours in West Hollywood doing legwork for his latest research project. Their task will be to find and interview gay and bisexual men outside popular nightspots and discover how much they know about an ongoing meningitis outbreak and the steps that health officials have taken to battle it.

This type of time-consuming, on-the-ground research is par for the course for Holloway, who serves as the director of the UCLA Luskin-based Southern California HIV/AIDS Policy Research Center and is currently juggling four major research efforts related to his expertise in health disparities among sexual and gender minority populations. Holloway’s dedication and his innovative methods recently led the Society of Social Work Research (SSWR) to select him for its Deborah K. Padgett Early Career Achievement Award, presented in January 2017 during the organization’s national conference in New Orleans.

“This is our primary professional society,” Holloway says about the honor, which recognizes social work research completed during the recipient’s first decade after earning a doctoral degree. “They give just one a year at the society’s big professional meeting.”

UCLA Luskin students Jorge Rojas and Christine Munoz listen as Ian Holloway outlines the agenda as another night of research gets underway. Photo by Les Dunseith

On this night, however, the meningitis study takes precedence. Outside the Urth Caffé, Holloway helps the student researchers establish a “line” — in this case basically a crevice in the sidewalk — at the corner of Melrose Avenue and Westmount Drive. One or more of the students then approaches any man who crosses that line, asking them to participate in the research effort by spending 20 minutes answering survey questions using an iPad.

In the first half-hour, however, only one man who meets the study’s criteria has been successfully interviewed. Holloway and his research team are trying to complete about 500 interviews for the project by February, and foot traffic is just too light to continue at the site. So they move on to the next venue that has been randomly preselected for this night’s canvassing effort — the Motherlode, a tavern with removable walls that proudly shows off its dive-bar atmosphere to passersby along Santa Monica Boulevard.

The thought of an academic research project centered around bar hopping in West Hollywood until 2 a.m. may seem incongruous, but it’s a proven research approach that works particularly well when the target audience is gay and bisexual men in Los Angeles County, including those who are HIV positive. During a meningitis outbreak that has led to two deaths in Southern California since it was first reported last spring, the researchers need to go where those who are most at risk can reliably be found.

UCLA Luskin student researchers Ryan Dougherty and Christine Munoz use digital devices to establish a survey zone. Photo by Les Dunseith

“We use a strategy called venue-based sampling,” Holloway explains. “It’s a systematic sampling strategy that is one of the best ways we know for how to approximate generalizability among gay and bisexual men.”

Holloway’s meningitis study is funded as part of a four-year, $4-million grant from the California HIV/AIDS Research Program to produce “what we call rapid response research,” he says. The idea is to complete research within months, not years, related to timely policy issues that impact people living with HIV or AIDS in California.

As noted on its website, CHPRC.org, the center works closely with community partners from AIDS Project Los Angeles Health and the Los Angeles LGBT Center to tailor research efforts to match urgent needs within the LGBTQ communities.

“We get community input, synthesize that and then set an agenda for policy research,” Holloway explains.

He took over the center’s leadership last April from Arleen Leibowitz, professor emeritus of public policy at UCLA Luskin, and feels fortunate to conduct research efforts that directly arise from community interaction.

“Models of funding like this aren’t widely available, so we are lucky to have a center here at UCLA, and we are lucky to have had it for seven years,” he says. “We want to continue to do this work and be able to conduct research that is driven by the community and that directly benefit the community.”

The meningitis study resulted from a meeting in October at which about 40-50 advocates, health workers and social service providers from across Southern California came to Los Angeles to talk about the needs of people in the local LGBTQ communities.

“These are people who are working with HIV-positive clients, who are doing prevention work,” Holloway says of the attendees. The meeting gave them an opportunity to think about and debate the issues most affecting their communities. The researchers primarily were there to listen and help structure projects that could be completed in a rapid response timeframe to produce data that would actually benefit those communities.

“It is … very much aligned with the mission of Luskin and the mission of the Department of Social Welfare,” Holloway notes.

Ian Holloway discusses where to relocate with his survey team when one of their preselected research sites proves unworkable. Photo by Les Dunseith

Back in West Hollywood, the Motherlode proves unworkable as a survey venue on this night. A private party is booked at the site, but it won’t start for a couple of hours and the survey team can’t afford to simply bide time waiting.

Holloway, ever cheerful no matter the hurdle he faces, quickly gathers his team to discuss their options. Proceed to the next pre-selected venue? Or go just around the corner to the “emergency backup” site, the Abbey, a 25-year-old West Hollywood landmark that has been voted the best gay bar in the world.

Within minutes, the team is in place outside the Abbey, and all three student researchers are actively engaged in recruiting potential survey respondents.

To gather enough surveys to produce statistically valid results by their deadline, Holloway has put together a rotating team of about 10 UCLA student workers, assisted occasionally by a couple of alumni who help out during staffing shortfalls. The majority are current Luskin master of social welfare students, but two are in a Ph.D. program.

“There’s lots of exciting work going on,” Holloway says with a broad smile. “And we have a fantastic team at UCLA supporting it.”

The data being gathered now will be analyzed by March to inform a research brief that should help California produce better outreach and better programs centered around meningitis vaccination for this population. The student workers collecting the information were carefully screened during a selection process led by Holloway’s research manager, Elizabeth Wu.

“We are looking for people who are obviously outgoing and who understand the importance of collecting good quality data,” says Holloway, whose own affable manner permeates the research effort. The canvassers, who refer to Holloway mostly by his first name, also need to be comfortable staying out to the wee hours to chat with strangers they encounter outside bars and clubs.

The iPad-based surveys are completed by the researchers based on respondents’ answers. Photo by Les Dunseith

For researcher Christine Munoz, a first-year MSW student who got her undergraduate degree at UC Riverside, the learning process was frenetic at first, but also rewarding.

“It is very new to me because I wasn’t really involved in the LGBTQ community previously,” she says during a break during the canvassing effort. “I am learning so much from this community. So, it’s broadening my skills, my social work skills. Now I can work with clients who are from the LGBT community. I am learning so much as a future social worker.”

The survey teams have been on the job since November, gathering data that Holloway says will either confirm or refute the notions that helped form the basis of the survey hypothesis.

For example, there is a feeling that the distribution of meningitis vaccine to the targeted community “is pretty haphazard,” Holloway says. “There isn’t always a good refrigeration system for the vaccine at community clinics; health workers aren’t always tracking how many doses have been given.”

Without a systematic infrastructure in place to promote the wellbeing of these men, health officials often find themselves in a defensive posture when dealing with outbreaks of vaccine-preventable illnesses among HIV-positive men or men at high risk for HIV. “It shouldn’t take an outbreak for us to realize this is a priority community,” Holloway says.

His passion to understand and promote better health options for LGBTQ communities is an outgrowth of Holloway’s life experience. He was raised in Northern California during the early years of the HIV crisis in America. His parents’ generation saw an entire community of gay men decimated, almost wiped out by AIDS.

“Growing up and knowing that I was gay, and hearing and seeing what happened close by in San Francisco, I think it was pretty impactful for my young life,” Holloway recalls. “When I decided that I wanted to go back to school for social work, I was pretty clear that this was the community that I wanted to work with, and this was the issue that I wanted to work around.”

Professor Ian W. Holloway has been selected by the Society for Social Work Research as its 2017 Early Career Achievement Award winner. Photo by George Foulsham

That dedication is evident in the meningitis study as well as three other research projects that Holloway is currently shepherding:

  • A two-year study supported by a $1.89-million grant from the U.S. Department of Defense is looking at the experiences of of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender active-duty service members since the 2010 repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” the law barring homosexuals from openly serving in the military.
  • A study funded by the NIH through a small research grant mechanism uses predictive technologies to understand how gay and bisexual men use geo-social networking apps and other kinds of social media to find substance use partners and sexual partners. This collaborative effort with UCLA’s departments of engineering and computer science is using predictive algorithms and social media data to try to understand how social media behavior predicts health behavior.
  • And he is involved in the development of a social networking app for HIV-positive black men in L.A. County in the 18-29 age range through a grant from California HIV/AIDS Research Program. It will be a virtual community space where these men can connect with those with similar experiences, focusing not just on health and medication adherence but on housing, job assistance, social services and/or legal needs.

Despite his prolific research output, Holloway doesn’t neglect his classroom responsibilities. If fact, he finds that his research interests often dovetail nicely with teaching opportunities.

“I teach a class on diversity, oppression and social functioning. Each year when we talk about community responses to oppression, I show the ‘Silence = Death’ banner that Act Up used as a call to action in the early days of HIV when nobody was talking about it and the entire community was being wiped out,” he explains. “Each year I show that banner from the early days of the AIDS epidemic, and each year fewer and fewer students recognize it.”

UCLA students working as canvassers approach any men who cross into their survey area. Photo by Les Dunseith

Out on the streets of West Hollywood, student researchers such as Ryan Dougherty are learning first-hand how much knowledge exists among today’s gay and bisexual men about the serious health issues that still impact many of them.

Dougherty joined the survey team as a result of taking Holloway’s research methods class, where he learned “about the process of research, everything from the theoretical foundations of collecting data to the ethics of research. And Ian extended an opportunity for students to get involved and see what that process looks like on the ground.”

As a student in the social welfare Ph.D. program at UCLA Luskin, Dougherty may follow in Holloway’s footsteps someday, pursuing research of his own that will benefit marginalized populations and ameliorate health disparities.

“To be able to do this kind of work, and to work alongside Ian, has helped me to gain more theoretical perspectives and learn about different types of research methods,” Dougherty says. “You can spend all day in the classroom learning about research, but to actually do it and overcome the logistical barriers that come with implementing a really good research project, is a really good learning experience to have.”

At the Abbey, those logistical barriers are in full force as Dougherty attempts to stop men who cross his survey line outside the venue’s patio-style entrance. Some ignore him. A few politely wave him off. One is willing to take the survey but doesn’t qualify because he is not a resident of L.A. County.

Soon, however, a young man in a white hooded sweatshirt approaches. Dougherty catches his attention. The newcomer meets the research criteria. And he is willing to take the survey.

Nearby, Ian Holloway nods his approval. And the research interview begins.

Ryan Dougherty, a Luskin Ph.D. student, conducts a survey interview. Photo by Les Dunseith

A Lifetime Dedicated to Social Welfare Five MSW alumni — ages 76 to 92 and all still working on social issues — recall their time at UCLA and how it shaped their lives

By George Foulsham

One recalls being among the oldest students in UCLA’s School of Social Welfare. Another remembers going to school when there was still a stigma to being unmarried and pregnant. And another recalls her time studying socialwelfare at UCLA as exciting, terrifying and very rewarding.

We recently sat down for a Q&A with five social welfare alumni who attended UCLA from the 1950s to the 1970s and graduated with a master’s in social welfare. But these five scholars are all unique: Four are in their 70s and 80s, one is 92 years old, and all are continuing to work in their respective social welfare fields, long past the age when most people retire.

We discussed this lifelong dedication to their craft and other UCLA memories during interviews with these extraordinary individuals:

Jean Champommier
Photo by Roberto Gudino Jr.

Jean Champommier MSW ’64. He is 76 years old and the chief executive officer of Alma Family Services, which provides a variety of community-based services for families, including those with special needs.

Ellen Smith Graff MSW ’68. She is 80 years old and has been teaching a class for mid-career social workers and psychologists.

Rod Lackey MSW ’59. He is 79 years old and works for three home health care companies, providing counseling for clients.

Elaine Leader MSW ’70. She is 88 years old and the founder of Teen Line, a teen-to-teen confidential hotline and outreach program affiliated with Cedars-Sinai Hospital.

June Sale MSW ’69. She is 92 years old, a child-care consultant, a court-appointed special advocate (CASA) and a board member with Stone Soup Child Care and LA’s BEST, both after-school programs for children.

What are some of the things you remember about studying social welfare at UCLA?

Ellen Smith Graff: My first field placement was at the L.A. County Adoptions Department. A young woman had come in pregnant and she was not married. I had a great supervisor who helped me understand that I was with my client learning about my profession, but I was also too emotional about her situation. In the ’60s there was a stigma of unwed pregnant women and I felt her pain. I believe, though, I was able to facilitate helping her make her own choice to decide to keep her baby while losing some of her shame.

My second year was at the L.A. Children’s Hospital on Vermont Avenue. I learned the difficulty for children and their parents because of [intellectual disabilities] or other physical problems, and that they would never get better.

Both of these experiences stay with me today. They were rich and fulfilling.

Ellen Smith Graff
Photo by Roberto Gudino Jr.

Jean Champommier: The two things I remember were my field-work placements and the professors I had. My first field-work experience was at the Kennedy Child Study Center, part of St. John’s Medical Center, and working with children with developmental disabilities and their families. It was a pioneering program at the time. That experience combined with my second-year placement in a community field-based social welfare agency formed the basis for my need to develop a multicultural, multilingual holistic service approach in addressing the needs of individuals, families and communities.

Elaine Leader: Meeting people who were interested in the same thing I was interested in. But also there was a lot going on in the country around civil liberties and there were demonstrators on campus. It was very exciting.

June Sale: I remember it being exhilarating, exciting, terrifying and very rewarding. I don’t know which order — it depends on where I was when I was there. I had early childhood training and I saw what was going on and what wasn’t going on, and I was feeling very helpless, sometimes in despair. I realized it was not very effective and I wanted it to be more effective. So I applied to Social Welfare and I was admitted. I was one of the oldest students there.

Rod Lackey: It was a good experience. Of course, in those days, you didn’t have all of the cultural issues you have today. In fact, our class was primarily white. I think we had one black woman and a couple of Asian students and one Latino.

If you look at what Luskin is offering to our students now, how have things changed since you went to UCLA?

Lackey: Oh, it’s a whole new world. Now we are dealing with minority issues, gay and lesbian issues, political issues. We didn’t deal with this that much back then. I think I was the only gay student and, of course, I was closeted. You couldn’t be out. Well, you could, but you know I was very uncomfortable, but now I’m not.

Rod Lackey
Photo by Roberto Gudino Jr.

Sale: My sense is that it is far more complicated now from when I was there, with the advent of computers and all kinds of science and engineering and media communications. I think that somewhat changes the relationship people have with other people. How did we ever live without them (computers) for so long?

Graff: As I look back to the ’60s I see that I was quite naive as I entered Luskin. I grew up in the ’50s, married, and I had two small children. At that time, all mothers were to be at home and take care of children. So I ran back and forth to school and home. We were a group of students wanting to help the world: We all shared the goal to learn and get trained together. Our theses were in groups and we all worked together.

Champommier: In many ways it is a new world. We live in diverse communities which is reflected in a much more diverse student body. However, many of the issues that reverberated in the 1960s are still in contention today such as drug abuse and discrimination based on race/ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, etc. Scientific research has continued to advance in neurobiology and genetics including the discovery of DNA. There is greater acceptance of the importance of community mental health services, with significant increased federal, state and local funding.

In L.A. County, there is movement toward greater integration of health, mental health and substance abuse services. Luskin is providing a broader educational context in understanding all of these issues by examining public policies and approaches to deal with them.

Why does Luskin matter to you and why should it matter to those students who are considering their MSW at Luskin in the future?

Leader: I thought it was a very good program when I was there and I learned a great deal. I think it has the esteem that many other programs don’t have. I think anything associated with UCLA is very valuable.

Lackey: I think Luskin offers a lot more than just straight social welfare. You’ve got public health and all of these very important areas you need to be knowledgeable about.

Elaine Leader
Photo by Roberto Gudino Jr.

Champommier: I felt fortunate to enter the social work field in the turbulent 1960s when various institutions were being challenged, including social work itself. This is again a time of significant questioning of institutions charged with meeting the health and welfare needs of individuals, families and communities. Luskin provides a variety of career pathways to become involved in addressing these needs. It’s a wonderful opportunity for students entering the field at this exciting time.

Graff: It seems our world is more complicated now and more open with problems. In 1965 I had a wish to help people who cannot help themselves — rather naive but true. However, Luskin had structure, two or three days of experience in agencies each year, and excellent supervision each week. Luskin is a great school and I took it all in.

Sale: I think it is a pathway to really knowing how to help people. You can’t just go out and do it. You’ve got to know how to reach people. You’ve got to know yourself a little bit better too, and that is one of the real strengths of a social work program.

What motivates you to keep doing this, long after most people would have decided to retire?

Leader: I think I would be very lonely if I didn’t. I am so used to having those kinds of relationships and I would feel adrift without them.

Sale: There’s such inequality in the world and such hate and such awful stuff going on. I look at my grandchildren who are in their 40s and then I look at their children, and wonder what their lives are going to be like. I would liketo be able to think that I’m doing something that will help them, that will eventually make them helpers of the world.

Lackey: Because retirement drove me crazy. I retired from Kaiser home health four years ago. I love home health and after I retired I thought, I can’t stand this staying at home, watching TV, not shaving, this is ridiculous. So I got jobs with three different home health care agencies and I work the hours I want to. I always liked home health because every day is an adventure — different people, different backgrounds, different everything.

June Sale
Photo by Roberto Gudino Jr.

Graff: It’s something that is priceless to me. I have worked for over 40 years with many agencies as well as with a private practice. I feel richer because my graduate school was so great in preparing me for my profession — the thesis, classes, agencies and supervision.

Champommier: I didn’t know the typical retirement age was 65, for one thing. I’m 76 and as each year goes by I continue to feel engaged in making a positive difference in the lives of individuals, families and communities. I am fortunate in working together with a group of talented leaders both within the agency and in the community. We are by nature both curious and problem solvers. And each solution brings with it new problems to solve. It is a continuing learning process. I tell my staff, the moment that I lose the excitement of change that will be the time to move on.

Finally, what advice do you have for Luskin students?

Leader: Follow your dream and find something that really interests you, and follow that because that’s going to be satisfying to you and a contribution to your community.

Lackey: Try to do something besides going into private practice just to make money. That to me isn’t social work. Social work is making changes in people’s lives.

Graff: I like challenges that my clients bring to the agency: It keeps my brain working. I think new students want to gain those goals too!

Sale: I think each person has a calling that is special to them. I love working with little kids, and that’s what I do.

Champommier: You are in a unique position at Luskin to gain a broad knowledge of the social welfare field. You are indeed fortunate to be provided with the opportunity to examine social welfare issues from various perspectives and analyze the intricate nuances of situations you will contend with in your professional career. Take full advantage of what Luskin has to offer by academically challenging yourself with a spirit of openness and curiosity.

‘A Leader in Validating Diversity’ UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs to host its first schoolwide Diversity Recruitment Fair

By Stan Paul

“Diversity and excellence are not mutually exclusive.”

For Gerry Laviña, director of field education and associate director of the D3 (Diversity, Differences and Disparities) Initiative at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, those words by former Dean Franklin D. Gilliam, Jr. made “a clear statement and immediately said to our community that Luskin values diversity.”

In Los Angeles and around the world, “diversity is a social justice issue,” Laviña said. “And now we have seen this being challenged.” The unequal playing fields of opportunity and wages — as well as institutional barriers and discrimination — are the issues Luskin students and faculty members grapple with as practitioners and scholars every day, he said.

Laviña, who also serves as the faculty co-chair of the Diversity/Equity/Inclusion (DEI) Committee in Social Welfare, and advises the Luskin dean on related issues, said that, ideally, the products of the students’ and School’s continuing efforts are inclusive and equitable situations in which diversity and diverse viewpoints are valued.

“Luskin is a leader in validating diversity — look at our students, the communities we serve, the student orgs, the research centers, D3, the Gilliam Social Justice Awards, our Diversity Fair, etc. Yet, we always have more work to do,” Laviña said.

In this spirit, the Luskin School will be hosting its first schoolwide Diversity Recruitment Fair starting at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 3. The all-day fair at the Ackerman Grand Ballroom and the Luskin School will bring together the departments of Public Policy, Social Welfare and Urban Planning for an informative program of interest to prospective graduate students, especially those underrepresented in higher education and professional fields.

Throughout the Luskin School’s history there have been diversity events and programs organized by student groups, said Laviña, who is on the organizing committee of academic advisers and staff as well as student diversity group representatives.

Diversity is a common thread at Luskin that runs from students and faculty to staff and alumni, all of whom are part of organizing the event. Luskin’s Leadership Development Program is also helping to organize and sponsor it.

“We have talked about it for a few years and this year decided to join together — pooling resources, knowledge, people power — to benefit each department and Luskin overall,” Laviña said. “We need to do more work collectively and across departments, so this will be a wonderful, concrete way to do so.”

Delara Aharpour, a second-year master of public policy (MPP) student representing the public policy student group Policy Professionals for Diversity and Equity (PPDE), said she was happy to see UCLA Luskin making a concerted effort on diversity. “It makes us really proud to be part of this program,” Aharpour said. “We all believe in making the School accessible to everyone.”

Other groups participating are Social Welfare’s Diversity Caucus and Planners of Color for Social Equity, an Urban Planning organization.

“We hope this is our largest, most successful diversity fair as well as an example of the great work that can be done when all departments have the opportunity to collaborate with each other,” said Ambar Guzman, a second-year master of social welfare (MSW) student representing the Social Welfare Diversity Caucus. “My hope is that prospective students will get a sense of the collaborative and supportive community we have continued to build within the Luskin School of Public Affairs,” she said.

Jackie Oh, a second-year master of urban and regional planning (MURP) student representing Planners of Color for Social Equity, said that the purpose of the diversity admissions fair is to demonstrate to prospective applicants the department’s commitment to social justice and urban planning, and to reach out to those historically underrepresented graduate programs. The fair’s workshops are meant to be both informative and geared toward strengthening the applications of aspiring planners, especially those of color, Oh said. Information on financial aid and statements of purpose will be available at the fair.

“The opportunity to network with our current students, staff and alumni welcomes our visitors to the department and helps them envision joining our community and advancing their planning interests at UCLA,” Oh said. Among participants in the event will be Ed Reyes, Urban Planning alumnus, Luskin Senior Fellow and former longtime Los Angeles City Councilmember.

Interim Dean Lois Takahashi explained why diversity is so important to the mission of the Luskin School: “At the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, we see diversity and excellence as mutually reinforcing dimensions of education, research, and public/community engagement. As such, we are committed to supporting diversity in ideas, in people and in projects across the school.”

For information, schedule and registration, please visit the Luskin Diversity Recruitment Fair web page.

Panel Highlights Growing Presence of Women in Military Speakers at Luskin’s annual Veterans Day seminar explore the role, challenges and accomplishments of women in the armed services

By Zev Hurwitz

Two U.S. military veterans and a photojournalist who has made it her mission to bring female veterans’ stories front and center spoke Nov. 10 at the third annual Veterans Day seminar at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.

“Women Who Serve,” hosted by the California National Guard, UCLA Luskin Department of Social Welfare, UCLA Nathanson Family Resilience Center and U.S. Vets, began with an overview of women in the armed services presented by emcee Kathleen West, who holds a Dr.P.H. degree from UCLA and is a lecturer on military social work at the Luskin School.

West said that women make up more than 15 percent of active duty military members in the U.S., including 18 and 19 percent of the Navy and Air Force, respectively — a dramatic increase since the Vietnam War, when just 3 percent of the military was female. She noted, however, that only about 10 percent of veterans currently living in the U.S. are women.

“That is a real challenge, because when they leave the service, we don’t have the [Veterans’] services in place for them that we need to,” West said. “That is one thing we want to talk about right now: What is our present looking like and what do we need to be thinking about for the future?”

West noted that the Department of Defense aims to achieve gender parity in the military by 2030 and said that there has been progress in allowances for parental leave for active duty members, although more work is needed to fully realize women’s military rights.

Therese Hughes MA UP ’99, one of the event’s panelists, spoke about her motivation for spending much of the past six years as a photojournalist, documenting the stories and images of female veterans and active duty military personnel.

“History is critical for civil engagement and for public policy, and when properly taught, it teaches the pursuit of truth and understanding,” she said. “Women’s stories in history are critical. Women’s stories in the military are essential.”

Hughes, who launched her traveling exhibit/photojournalism book “Military Women: WWII to Present Project” in 2010, says she has interviewed more than 800 women and ultimately plans to reach 1,200.

During the Luskin panel, Hughes also highlighted unique groups of female veterans that she has interviewed for the project. They include immigrant women who elected to serve as a way to give back to the country that welcomed them, as well as the pioneers of modern female military service: veterans of World War II.

“I’ve interviewed 68 of them,” she said of the World War II veterans. “I have five that are alive today. It breaks my heart every time I hear of one who has died, because these women were the footprints, the foundation of the women who serve today.”

Col. Susan I. Pangelinan, an active duty National Guardsman and former Air Force reserve member, spoke about women’s military service through the ages, framing the developments through her family members’ experiences in the military over the past several decades. Pangelinan talked about obstacles that women have faced in the journey toward equality, noting a 2013 landmark policy change that allowed women to serve in combat roles. Additionally, women are now finding role models in divisions of the service historically dominated by men, such as maintenance.

“We have female leaders in abundance that we hadn’t seen before,” she said. “Women are seeing other women just like them rising to very high places and high levels of responsibility.”

Megan Rodriguez, a U.S. Air Force veteran and current district representative for state Sen. Carol Liu, spoke about the darker side of military service. Rodriguez told of her personal challenges in the service. During the year-and-a-half that she served in the Air Force, Rodriguez was the victim of a sexual assault, which had lasting effects on her physical and mental health.

Rodriguez, who had only publicly spoken twice before about her experience as a victim of Military Sexual Trauma (MST), stressed the importance to her of sharing her experiences to broad audiences.

“The reason I’m able to speak about it is because I know there are other women veterans and nonveterans who have gone through the same thing,” she said. “Providing this place for discussion is essential, and I want to provide a safe space to other women and men that go through this.”

Laura Alongi, a field faculty member in the Luskin Department of Social Welfare, introduced the evening and said the yearly event was aimed, in part, to further the department’s work with veterans.

“Part of the reason we do this, is because as a department … we started to realize a few years ago that meeting veterans’ needs is something we really wanted to do,” she explained. “We felt that, because of our focus, we could really provide services and trainers who provide those services in a holistic way to veterans and active duty military.”

 

Studying the Link Between Poverty and Suicides New research shows that poverty may have a greater effect on suicide rates than do unemployment or foreclosures

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Mark S. Kaplan

County-level suicide rates in the United States had a strong positive relationship with county poverty rates, while no relationships were found between county measures of unemployment or foreclosures when poverty rates were controlled, according to a new study from the Alcohol Research Group (ARG), a program of the Public Health Institute, in collaboration with the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, Oregon Health and Science University, Prevention Research Center and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto.

The study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, analyzed data over a six-year period from 2005 to 2011 that includes the major U.S. economic downturn from 2007 to 2009. The study also found that for men 45 to 64 years old, the proportion of alcohol-related suicides and poverty rates were positively associated. This working-age group was a key demographic in rising suicide rates during the recession.

This is the first study to try to unravel how different features of such a downturn affect suicide rates and alcohol-related suicides in particular. It is also the first study to suggest that unemployment’s role may not be as significant as poverty.

“Our finding suggests that the consequences of unemployment were more important than being unemployed during this period,” said ARG senior scientist and lead author William C. Kerr. “These results are consistent with what we see in countries that have strong unemployment support systems — where being out of a job doesn’t increase your risk for suicide.”

Poverty was also found to mediate unemployment’s effect on suicide rates, which suggests that policies should focus directly on reducing poverty as well as on supporting people who are unemployed.

“The analysis also draws attention to the importance of targeting suicide prevention efforts in economically disadvantaged communities and incorporating alcohol control policies, abuse prevention and treatment for alcohol misuse into such efforts,” said Mark S. Kaplan, co-author and professor in UCLA Luskin’s Department of Social Welfare.

“County-level poverty rates reflect what’s happening at an individual and family level as well as across the entire area,” Kerr added. “It speaks to a lack of resources for people who are struggling. It’s possible that some people were already at a breaking point when the recession hit — it’s difficult to know for sure. But the results do tell us that we need better mechanisms in place to help the people who need it the most.”

The study analyzed data from 16 states included in the National Violent Death Reporting System during the study period. This system links data from coroner/medical examiner records, police reports, death certificates and crime laboratories.

Support for this paper was provided by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism at the National Institutes of Health under award number R01 AA021791.

‘Minority Report’ Hits Major Racial Themes Scott St. Patrick’s Luskin-sponsored performance provides a no-holds-barred look at race in America through the centuries

By Zev Hurwitz

It can be difficult to truly empathize with another community’s narrative. Tragedies and injustices toward a racial group only resonate up to a point for those not directly impacted. But true empathy cannot be felt without experiencing the narrative up close.

Scott St. Patrick and his company brought the black American experience up close to a diverse crowd of nearly 200 students and community members when they took to the stage in the Broad Art Center.

Sponsored by the Department of Social Welfare at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, “Minority Report” is a nine-vignette journey through the black experience in America. Each act was a solo piece by one of seven actors articulating a narrative that touched on a different area of the history of black Americans.

“In Social Welfare at Luskin, we are committed to struggling with racism as a social justice issue,” Gerry Laviña, director of field education for the Luskin School, said as he opened the evening. “We also acknowledge and will acknowledge tonight that the struggle has gone on for generations and continues today.”

St. Patrick, the show’s creator, led off with an extended poem that addressed some of the program’s hardest-hitting themes. St. Patrick began with an emotionally charged lament of the “epidemic of violence” against African Americans by police, which followed a montage of cellphone footage of recent acts, including the death of Eric Garner by police in which Garner could be heard gasping, “I can’t breathe.”

St. Patrick’s opening monologue, which slammed a system in which African Americans are predisposed to institutionalized racism toward blacks and drew parallels with the shooting of the Cincinnati Zoo’s gorilla, Harambe, set the tone for the following acts.

Several of the most impactful vignettes described historical instances of oppression toward African Americans — both violent and socially oppressive. Detra Hicks lamented the cyclical nature of racism toward blacks in America in a piece that linked the violent 1955 murder of black teenager Emmett Till in Mississippi to the more contemporary killings of Tamir Rice and Jordan Davis.

“Where the hell is peripety?” she exclaimed, referring to the literary device wherein a protagonist’s misfortunes are reversed.

In between each vignette, a clip of relevant video or audio set the tone for the following act. While much of the content focused on graphic illustrations of violent injustices and systematic inequality suffered by blacks, a piece by comedian Donald George probed some of these areas with a touch of humor. He likened the 2016 presidential election to a choice between different sexually transmitted infections in the first fully humorous segment of an otherwise serious series.

Kelly Jenrette discussed civil disobedience in her piece “Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party” and highlighted the story of institutional repression of voting rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer. Jenrette currently stars on television in the Fox series “Pitch,” which follows a fictional African American woman breaking the gender barrier in professional baseball.

In “Black Tulsa,” Marcuis Harris delivered an informative piece on how, even in instances of success for the black community, racism rears its ugly face in a violent and destructive manner. Harris’ piece focused on the destruction of a thriving Tulsa, Okla., black community, which was leveled by supremacists in a “race riot” in 1921.

Even the terminology used to describe these instances is part of the issue, Harris said. “‘Race riot’ implies equal footing,” he said, describing the overnight destruction of Greenwood. “This was terrorism.”

Jaclyn Tokos, the only non-black performer of the evening, described the various points of contention — with both blacks and whites — she has faced as a white woman engaged to a black man.

“You can’t teach someone who to love,” she asserted, following a video of boxing legend Muhammad Ali’s 1971 interview in which he explains why he would never choose to marry outside of his race.

Several performers wore attire related to their performances, though Tokos’ donning of a “Black Lives Matter” t-shirt (her fiancé’s, she said) not only made a strong impact, it also reminded audiences of the times. “Minority Report” was performed at a critical time for race relations in America and to be reminded of this in an aptly named piece, “Interracial Love,” was pivotal to the message.

Tokos was followed by Kiya Roberts, who continued to preach love — between blacks. “I don’t need you, but I want you,” Roberts says to no man in particular in her vignette, “It’s Complicated…” The pursuit of love as a means of resolution to the pain between races was stressed more than once during the performances.

As the evening came to a conclusion, “Minority Report” became a “call to action,” to fight injustice and inequality with the power of love. Audience members were left with an “it’s on us” mentality and affirmation that love truly is the only way forward.

St. Patrick performed in two other acts, including the closing. In “Katrina,” St. Patrick led a multimedia-guided personal drop-in to the conditions inside the Superdome in post-Hurricane Katrina. For several days following the devastating storm in 2005, thousands of New Orleans residents were told to seek shelter at the stadium, having been promised provisions. However, the nearly all-black population housed in the Superdome went largely neglected, with few-to-no rations or supplies brought in, and horrific restroom conditions — all on top of deep emotional trauma.

In the most moving moment of the performance, St. Patrick brought the audience inside the Superdome and shared vivid descriptions of the sights and smells. “Many of you couldn’t even last one minute,” he said. Those who dared to attempt to flee to a neighboring community came across a battalion of armed guards, who blocked access to the relatively well-supplied Jefferson Parish.

As the audience absorbed the horror experienced in the days following Katrina, they were reminded of the underlying message of the evening: What ethnicity is experiencing this travesty? Would the conditions have been the same had the ethnic makeup of those inside the dome been different?

After witnessing nine vignettes of reflection, the audience is more likely to acknowledge the ugly truth that is the “Minority Report.” No. No it would not.

Read more about the genesis of “Minority Report” and why Social Welfare Chair Todd Franke chose to sponsor it at UCLA.

 

Three Decades of Devotion to Social Justice Gerry Laviña, the director of UCLA Luskin’s Field Education Program, is named Social Worker of the Year by the California chapter of NASW

By Stan Paul

This year marks three decades since Gerry Laviña started doing social work. It can be a challenging job, but the director of the Field Education Program in the Department of Social Welfare at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs says that his profession has more than returned the favor.

“Every day as a social worker I have the opportunity to be inspired … by students, colleagues, our community, other social workers and others that support social justice,” Laviña said.

For his remarkable body of work, Laviña has been named the 2016 Social Worker of the Year by the California chapter of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW). The award is given by the group to professional social workers who have consistently demonstrated the core values of the NASW Code of Ethics: service, social justice, dignity and worth of the person, the importance of human relationships, and integrity and competence.

He will be honored at the annual NASW-CA Social Work Conference Awards ceremony later this month.

Laviña began his educational and career path in social work by entering the Master of Social Welfare (MSW) program at UCLA in 1986, but his foundation and motivation started with lessons learned early in life.

“I come from a family whose father was an immigrant from the Philippines and mother is an immigrant from Honduras,” said Laviña, a licensed clinical social worker. “My family had a strong belief in education, and they daily reminded us of the privilege and opportunities we had — relative to others in our community and the world — and that we have a great responsibility to give back.”

Laviña has spent his career giving back in a number of roles: social worker, instructor, mentor and leader. His primary interests are working with children and families, particularly in the areas of school social work, mental health and multicultural issues.

“When I found social work terms like social justice and dignity of every human being, my family’s belief system came to life,” Laviña said.

Asked what qualities every social worker should possess, Laviña said: “Openness to learning and lifelong learning, flexibility, a willingness to meet every individual/family/community where they are, a commitment to serving those with the least resources, and a belief in diversity that is actualized in our work.”

The NASW honor acknowledges a social worker who has broad professional social work experience and has provided significant leadership in the field of social work. In addition, the Social Worker of the Year must have NASW and voluntary association experience, diverse and multicultural expertise, and have made a lasting impact on social policy, advocacy for clients and exceptional professional practice.

In UCLA Luskin’s Department of Social Welfare, Laviña is the faculty co-chair of the Diversity/Equity/Inclusion (DEI) Committee; and faculty adviser for the Diversity Caucus and Latina/o Caucus. At Luskin, he also serves as the associate director of MSW education and as faculty adviser for the School’s D3 (Diversity, Differences and Disparities) Initiative, for which he provides support and guidance to the D3 team and advises the dean on matters related to diversity, equity and inclusion.

As the project coordinator for the California Social Work Education Center (CalSWEC) Integrated Behavioral Health Program, a collaborative effort of California social work programs and the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development, Laviña works with second-year MSW students placed in the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health and contract agencies. Prior to becoming the director of field education, he served as field liaison with many local school districts, including Los Angeles Unified, developing and monitoring student internships in school social work and coordinating the Pupil Personnel Services Credentialing/SSW/CWA program. He also has served on the local and state-wide board of the California Association of School Social Workers.

In the classroom, he has taught an advanced practice course in school social work as well as courses related to diversity. He worked for several years as a field consultant for the Inter-University Consortium program, a collaboration with the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services and the L.A. County MSW program.

Prior to joining the field faculty in 1993, Laviña was a social worker in the Family and Child Guidance Clinic of the Didi Hirsch Community Mental Health Center in Culver City, where he was program coordinator and clinician in two different programs working with emotionally disturbed children and their families. He has also served as a contract assessor for the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health’s Children and Youth Services Bureau, and as a private practitioner.

NASW also recognized Laviña for his accomplishments outside academia, including his work with community organizations that promote diversity in education, such as Los Amigos Council of Para Los Niños and Trabajadores de la Raza. He has received numerous awards, including Field Faculty of the Year by the UCLA MSW student body and the UCLA Faculty-Staff Partnership Award.

“I am energized by the dialogue in Social Welfare, Luskin, UCLA and our community around diversity, equity and inclusion issues,” Laviña said. “My family has discussed these issues throughout my life, and I have professionally been working on this directly and indirectly for 30 years. While I know the struggle continues, I feel realistically optimistic about what is happening.”

UCLA Luskin Salutes the Class of 2015

UCLA Luskin celebrated the graduating class of 2015 Friday, welcoming 68 students in urban planning, 56 students in public policy and 101 students in social welfare to the ranks of its alumni.

“This is how change is made,” Dean Franklin D. Gilliam, Jr., said in his opening remarks. “It starts with a small group of people who believe.”

His words resonated with the audience of faculty, family and friends, who have watched UCLA Luskin’s graduate students develop as change agents over the course of their education.

Three students addressed the crowd during the ceremony. Ana Tapia, who graduated with a master of urban and regional planning and who came to UCLA as an undocumented student after her family emigrated to the U.S. in 1994, spoke of how her degree encouraged her to follow her dreams. Urban planners, she said, “are people who turn dreams into reality. We not only dream and plan, but make things happen.” She urged her fellow students to “go dream, go plan and go on to do great things.”

Public Policy graduate CC Song cast her cohort as the “architects of the future,” devising and deploying policies to help build equity and create a better world. She spoke of being ready to take on life after graduate school, asking her fellow students to “find the courage to seek what makes you curious, fulfilled and challenged.”

Jennifer Chou, a graduate of UCLA Luskin’s Master of Social Welfare program, spoke about the “acceptance of not knowing” when confronted with an uncertain future. Her heartfelt speech included a rendition of a verse from the Louis Armstrong classic “What a Wonderful World.”

The invited speaker, newly installed Uber public relations executive Rachel Whetstone, brought in the perspective of a group not often mentioned on Commencement day — those who “don’t dream well.” Whetstone put herself in that category, and told the story of a career that proceeded not by some overarching grand scheme but instead progressed as a series of steps from college to internships to opportunities at various organizations.

She said her experience had taught her that hard work helps make up for the absence of a dream. “Pour yourself into your job,” she said, “even if it seems like a chore.” As she acknowledged and embraced the persona of the stereotypical overworked Silicon Valley executive, she relayed a story of a visit with a psychiastrist friend, who said something that stuck with her: “Has it ever occurred to you, Rachel, that hard work is what makes you happy?” Hard work can open up new horizons, she said, and she urged the graduating students to apply themselves to their work, “because if you don’t try, you will never, ever know.”

The ceremony was a mix of pomp and celebration, with a sense of impending change on the horizon. Dean Gilliam summed up the mood best through his quotation of, as he described it, a “classic of American Cinema,” the movie Friday.

“For most people, Friday’s just the day before the weekend,” he said. “But after this Friday, the neighborhood will never be the same.”

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