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On the Job Training UCLA Luskin alumni return to campus to share career insights and tips with students seeking full-time and summer work

By Zev Hurwitz

With second-year Luskin students searching for career opportunities and first-year students looking to lock in summer placements, the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs presented an alumni panel to give timely advice about what types of jobs might be out there in the public service sector.

At an evening panel discussion hosted by Luskin School Career Services on March 9, 2017, alumni of all three UCLA Luskin master’s programs spoke about working professionally with local governments and how their degrees opened those careers as possibilities.


Former Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis, who has taught as a visiting professor at the Luskin School each winter for more than 20 years, spoke about the opportunities for Luskin students to engage in public service, and he challenged the audience — mostly current Luskin students — to make strides in addressing the world’s issues.

“Five-sixths of the world today is conflict-free,“ Dukakis said. “The challenge now is how do we get the remaining one-sixth to join the other five-sixths? I just hope that, in addition to everything else you’re doing, you’ll be working hard for that kind of future.”

Five UCLA Luskin alumni spoke on the panel, which was moderated by Emily C. Williams MPP ’98, a member of Luskin’s first-ever graduating Master of Public Policy class. Williams noted that the panel’s academic diversity demonstrated the value in having cross-educational opportunities for current students, and she encouraged the audience to enroll in courses in other disciplines.

“It’s really nice that we have this great array of talent from all three departments in the school,” Williams said. “What was nice, for those of us who took classes outside our department, is that we really got to know some of the people outside of our programs, which lends itself to great working relationships.”

Paul Weinberg MPP ’98 is now emergency services administrator in the Office of Emergency Management for the City of Santa Monica. Weinberg spoke about how his schooling — Dukakis’ course in particular — gave him important insight into professionalism.

“Always return your phone calls — I cannot tell you how important that is,” Weinberg said. “You’ve got to find a way to acknowledge people reaching out to you,” attributing that advice to Dukakis. “Also, never say or write anything you don’t want to see on the cover of the L.A. Times. If you think about that now, that is more important than ever because [if] you put something out there in social media, it’s everywhere.”

Nahatahna Cabanes MSW ’13 is director of the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program at L.A. Works. As a former Bohnett Fellow, Cabanes had the opportunity to work in the administration of former L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa while a student at Luskin. She said her current job is different from her role in the mayor’s office, but both jobs speak to her interests.

“It’s because I’m a little bit bipolar in term of my interests that I still have the compassion that drove me to social work, but at the same time, I’m a community organizer at heart and I love the world of politics,” Cabanes said. “I sort of balance between the macro and the micro.”

Molly Rysman MA UP ’05 is now the housing and homelessness deputy for Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl. Rysman discussed her experience bringing a priority issue to the mainstream of local politics.

“When I joined [Rysman’s] office, I worked really hard during her campaign to educate both her and her challenger that homelessness was an important issue — because back then you had to actually tell elected officials to care about homelessness,” she said. “Now I get to work on an issue that’s top of the agenda.”

Also serving on the panel were Daniel Rodman MURP ’14, now transportation manager in Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office, and Everado Alvizo MSW ’08, a former Bohnett Fellow who now works as a project coordinator and registered associate clinical social worker for Special Service for Groups.

VC Powe, director of career services and leadership development at Luskin, said that giving opportunities for current students to engage with alumni is critical in providing a realistic idea of what life after UCLA will be like.

“When we have representatives from an organization talk about their work, they’re going to give you all of the formal, appropriate ‘yes-you-need-to-know’ detailed background about the organization,” Powe said. “When you’re talking to an alum, they’re also going to give you the inside story and they’re going to be honest. The alum knows what the students have learned here, so they can tell them how to tailor their experience to the jobs they’re seeking. I think that’s a very important difference.”

 

 

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.”

Melinda Morgan Named Social Welfare Alumna of 2014 The two-time UCLA Luskin Alumna Melinda Morgan will accept her 2014 Social Welfare Alumna of the Year award on April 26th

Two-time UCLA Luskin Alumna Melinda Morgan (MSW ’89,  PhD ’98) has been named the 2014 Dr. Joseph A. Nunn Alumna of the Year by the Department of Social Welfare for her commitment to helping military families.

For over six  years, Morgan has served as site director of the Camp Pendleton FOCUS Program. FOCUS (Families OverComing Under Stress) is a resilience training program for military families, children, and couples implemented in 2008, in collaboration with the UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior and the US Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery. The program, now part of the UCLA Nathanson Family Resilience Center, is in operation in over 20 sites around the world and has provided services to over 500,000 service members and their families.

Morgan teaches as a field instructor for the University of Southern California San Diego Academic Center for Military Social Work and supervises interns placed at FOCUS. In addition, she works as a consultant for the National Military Family Association as an embedded team member in Operation Purple Camps for military families throughout the country.

Prior to receiving her MSW and PhD from UCLA, Morgan was a probation officer working primarily with Latino youth gangs and worked as a psychiatric social worker During her program at UCLA, Morgan maintained a private practice in psychotherapy, and was a co-investigator and assistant professor for UCLA’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology researching neurophysiologic correlates of women’s mood disorders. For the majority of her academic career, Morgan also raised four children as a single parent.

While one of Morgan’s favorite things to do is go on kayaking trips in the Sea of Cortez, she gladly will forgo a beach trip for the annual MSW Alumni Reception on Saturday, April 26 where she will accept her 2014 Social Welfare Alumna of the Year award.

 

 

Intervening in Violence: “People Join Gangs Because of a Lethal Absence of Hope” Associate professor Jorja Leap discusses factors that lead to young people joining gangs on radio show

Jorja Leap, adjunct associate professor of social welfare, appeared as a guest on the Howard Gluss radio show to discuss the factors that lead to young people joining gangs.

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Jorja Leap is an expert in crisis intervention and trauma response. Her research examines gangs, prison culture and high-risk and system-involved youth

“So many of the young men and young women I have worked with over the years come from families where there has been abuse,” says Leap. “They come from families where other family members have been gang members themselves. They come from families where there has been substance abuse and multiple problems and they also come from communities that are impoverished, but also more importantly communities that are affected by violence.”

The following is an excerpt from the interview:

GLUSS: We need the facts and then we need an emotional connection to the facts. So give us some of the facts.

LEAP: Well, the facts are, and I’m going to quote Father Greg Boyle here, gangs do not arise and people do not join gangs because of violence, people join gangs because of a lethal absence of hope.

GLUSS: Which is depression.

LEAP: It’s depression, you’re absolutely right. It’s a sense of powerlessness. It’s feeling there are no opportunities, no options, no one who cares. And that’s what it comes from. It comes from depression, and it also comes from, this will come as no surprise to you and I’m sure to other listeners, it also comes from families and communities.

So many of the young men and young women I have worked with over the years come from families where there has been abuse. They come from families where other family members have been gang members themselves. They come from families where there has been substance abuse and multiple problems and they also come from communities that are impoverished, but also more importantly communities that are affected by violence.

And you’ve mentioned that I’ve worked all over the world and one of the commonalities is that when young people and children are raised in violent communities they often have post traumatic stress disorder even as they are growing up and they will join gangs and engage in violent behavior strangely enough in order to feel empowered.

GLUSS: There’s a sense of respect and self esteem with that.

LEAP: Exactly…now you know, for example, I witnessed one very powerful transformation. There are young men and young women who are now being trained, former gang members that are being trained in solar panel installation, a job that with which they can earn a tremendous amount of money. The transformation in them and the sense of control they begin to feel is just astonishing in terms of themselves and their identity.

Listen to the entire interview here.

Dr. Jorja Leap is a professor at UCLA, a recognized expert in crisis intervention and trauma response and has been involved with training and research for the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe as part of post-war development and conflict resolution in Bosnia and Kosovo and has conducted work with the families of victims of the 9/11 WTC disaster. She is the author of the book, “No One Knows Their Names.”