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A Warm Welcome to UCLA Luskin

The Luskin School welcomed students and alumni back to campus with a series of celebrations and orientations to launch the new academic year. The 10th annual UCLA Luskin Block Party on Sept. 23 drew a record crowd as students, alumni, faculty, staff and supporters such as Meyer and Renee Luskin gathered on Dickson Court North to connect with one another after an 18-month stretch of remote learning brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Health protocols remained in force during Welcome Week, which included graduate student informational and networking sessions and an open house for undergraduates focusing on the public affairs major. The week wrapped up with an exclusive reception for Class of 2020 graduates in the School’s public policy, social welfare and urban planning programs.

View UCLA Luskin photo galleries from:

10th Annual Block Party

Graduate Student Orientation

Undergraduate Open House

Class of 2020 Celebration

Alumni Notes

ALUMNA NAMED ONE OF 25 MOST POWERFUL LATINAS  

Nathalie Rayes ’96, MPP ’99 was recently honored by People En Español as one of the magazine’s 25 most powerful Latinas (las 25 más poderosas) in the United States.

Rayes is the president and CEO of Latino Victory, a progressive organization working to build political power by increasing Latino representation at every level of government.

Latinos are 18% of the population “but 1% of political power,” she said. “That is unacceptable; this is supposed to be a representative government.”

The honor underscores the need to elevate more Latinas to positions of leadership.

Previously, Rayes was vice president of public affairs for Grupo Salinas in the United States, coordinating philanthropic activities seeking to improve the quality of life of Latinos by partnering with nonprofit organizations to empower, create awareness, and motivate change on social and civic issues.

Much of her prior experience was in Los Angeles politics, serving as deputy chief of staff for Mayor James K. Hahn and directing the Mayor’s Office of Intergovernmental Relations. She also has served as chief liaison to federal, state and regional governments and to the City Council on international trade, protocol and immigrant affairs, as well as holding appointments to city commissions and boards. And she was previously senior policy advisor to Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Feuer, heading activities related to citywide legislation and ordinances impacting his district.

Rayes also served as a Department of State fellow focusing on economics and politics in the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, Egypt.

Rayes is a presidential appointee to the Board of Trustees of the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars. She is chair of both the Board of Directors of the Hispanic Federation and the Binational Advisory Group for Hispanas Organized for Political Equality (HOPE) Binational Fellowship. She is also on the Board of Directors of Planned Parenthood Action Fund.


ALUMNUS TALKS ABOUT SUICIDE PREVENTION AND THE VALUE OF HIS MSW EDUCATION 

Brian Stefan MSW ’19 is a grief therapist, consultant, trainer and “proud social worker” specializing in suicide, suicide bereavement, grief/traumatic grief counseling and crisis response.

His work with the Didi Hirsch Suicide Prevention Center began prior to attending UCLA Luskin, and he has remained active there in a variety of roles, including shift supervisor, crisis counselor, follow-up counselor and trainer. He’s been a co-facilitator of a support group for survivors of suicide attempts and a member of the center’s suicide response team.

Stefan said a crucial component of any suicide prevention effort is to normalize talking about one’s feelings in an honest and informative manner.

Just as stigma reduction was important in paving the way for sex education and reproductive health in schools, likewise now society must become educated about the full range of human feelings and experiences, Stefan said. While there is suffering in the world, he said suffering in silence often leads to more exhaustion and feelings of helplessness, hopelessness and disconnection.

Stefan’s MSW studies at UCLA taught him valuable lessons — curiosity, to look at the big picture and the joy of learning from others.

“From Day 1, there was an invitation to forever be students,” he recalled, noting that he appreciated that UCLA Luskin Social Welfare’s educational approach went beyond studying for two years “and then you’re good to go.”

He said his professors served as role models, continuing to learn as part of their effort to be “better cheerleaders and advocates.”

Stefan said he also was taught to view work from a bigger, more holistic perspective. Social workers must not focus attention just on the client, he said, but also on the broader picture that includes their family and environment. All people are connected to our communities, he said.

Lastly, he learned from professors and classmates about how much joy it is to be of service and to learn about people who are different from oneself.

“Suicide prevention is such a life-affirming and loving field, in the same way that grief is all about love,” Stefan said. “I couldn’t anticipate all the honesty I learned in this field, and Luskin was a good place to learn that foundation.”

Through his work with a crisis hotline, Stefan said he has found courage and taken inspiration from callers.

“Maybe we don’t need to keep everything to ourselves anymore, because it’s the silence that kills – we don’t have to live our lives separately,” he said. “The opposite of suicide isn’t to stay alive, it’s safe connection and healthy relationships.”

The Didi Hirsch crisis hotline service that focuses on suicide prevention receives more than 130,000 calls, text messages and crisis chats per year, and callers have ranged in ages from 8 to 102. Didi Hirsch also runs the Suicide Prevention Counseling Center, where adults, youth and families can receive therapy support that relates to suicide prevention or bereavement. Support groups assist adults and teens who have attempted suicide or who have lost someone to suicide.

Stefan previously served as an intelligence officer with the U.S. Department of Defense and an intelligence analyst with the FBI-LAPD Joint Regional Intelligence Center–Regional Threat Assessment Center in Los Angeles.

He is a member of the Los Angeles Mayor’s Office Crisis Response Team serving Angelenos who are experiencing traumatic losses within their families.

People in crisis or who know someone who is can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255 or get help online at suicidepreventionlifeline.org.


ALUMNUS FOUNDS COMPANY TO PROMOTE ‘EMBEDDED PLANNING’

Writing in 2018 for the American Planning Association (APA), Jonathan Pacheco Bell MA UP ’05 said that we cannot plan from our desks, coining the term “embedded planning.”

For him, embedded planning is a practice, or praxis, and not a theory — taking ideas from planning and creating change in society. Throughout his work, he prioritizes street-level engagement. His office is the neighborhood and work is done in constituents’ spaces: homes, churches, businesses or bus stops.

Bell performs plain-language outreach. He conducts neighborhood organizing, gives walking tours, mentors students and provides empathetic code enforcement. All of this helps produce streetwise plans, policies
and ordinances.

Situating urban planners’ work on the street level leads to better results than can be found solely through statistics, Bell argues. Embedded planning happens on the doorsteps of the people affected rather than in intimidating places like city hall or at community meetings where voices can get overshadowed. Speaking directly to constituents establishes relationships, builds trust and lets residents know early about ordinances that could impact them.

Bell, who worked at Los Angeles County’s Department of Regional Planning for 13 years, sought to improve unincorporated areas. In 2021, he founded his own company, C1TYPLANN3R, to focus on writing, publishing, speaking engagements and other methods of moving embedded planning from an idea in his head to a practice that is actively pursued.

Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, distinguished professor of urban planning and associate dean at UCLA Luskin, was one of the professors who made a significant impact on Bell. “He is very passionate about his work and about the communities he is planning for, always measuring the success of his plans through the welfare of communities he serves,” she said.

Bell was recently appointed by Pasadena Mayor Victor Gordo as a public library commissioner in the most ethnically diverse district in the city. His degrees in information and library science and urban planning will help him seek ways to expand the library’s impact on daily lives and better advance equity.

“People’s lives are at the heart of planning. We must understand their experiences to assuage their struggles,” Bell said. “We live up to the promise of creating equitable communities when we’re out there, in the communities, doing the work. We owe it to ourselves as conscientious practitioners. We owe it to planning students who represent the future of our profession. Above all, we owe it to the people we serve.”

In Support Gifts and new initiatives focus on equality, patient care, gay sexuality, research and public discourse

SHAPIRO FAMILY GIFT PROMOTES SOCIAL WORK WITHIN SPECIAL PATIENT CARE SETTINGS 

A new three-year special patient care fellowship has been created thanks to a generous gift from UCLA Luskin Advisory Board member Peter Shapiro and the Shapiro family.

Field education is a critical component of the master of social welfare, and promoting collaborative engagement between UCLA Luskin Social Welfare and local social work agencies is vital to the education process. The degree program relies heavily on experiential learning through partnerships with community agencies, producing practitioners with real-world experience.

Personal experience helped motivate Peter Shapiro and the Shapiro family to build an interdisciplinary learning experience for social welfare students interested in serving the special patient care population. One of the Shapiro children has cerebral palsy, and her light has been a source of inspiration within the family — the Shapiros hope their gift will share her light and life experiences with many others.

Previously, the Shapiros have supported UCLA Dentistry’s Special Patient Care Clinic and UCLA cerebral palsy clinics, and they have built solid relationships with leading faculty members and patient providers. The new fellowship is a perfect fit for the Shapiros to establish an interdisciplinary collaboration that will provide UCLA Luskin social workers with an opportunity to serve patients within those clinical settings.

Their funding will support a part-time contract staff supervisor position and two second-year social work students each year for three years.

The contract social work supervisor position is designed to be two days per week, with one day spent assisting Dr. Eric Sung and his team in providing comprehensive care for patients and families of the UCLA Dentistry Special Patient Care Clinic. The other day would be spent assisting Dr. Rachel Mednick Thompson with her pediatric cerebral palsy patients at a clinic for the Orthopaedic Institute for Children in downtown Los Angeles.

The Luskin School connection has come full circle, with alumna Michael O’Hara MSW ’14 having recently taken on this role.

One of the two Shapiro student fellows will conduct their field placement three days per week within the dentistry clinic, with a fourth day in the cerebral palsy clinic. They will receive field education credits toward completion of their MSW degrees.

The second Shapiro fellow would conduct their field placement three days per week with Mednick Thompson at the Center for Cerebral Palsy, supporting pediatric and adult patients at her weekly clinic in Santa Monica.

The UCLA Luskin Development team views privately funded student fellowships and support as among the most effective means of attracting the world’s brightest students to fields that profoundly impact local communities and lives.


Robert Schilling

GIVING BACK THROUGH DISCOURSE: THE ROB SCHILLING SERIES ON INEQUALITY  

Professor Emeritus of Social Welfare Robert Schilling and his wife, Sheryl Miller, donated $25,000 in December to establish the Rob Schilling Series on Inequality at UCLA Luskin.

“Given the times we live in, it is not difficult to ponder themes, hardly original, that demand our attention,” Schilling said about the gift.

The gift agreement lists potential topics and themes for the lecture series to include inequality that relates to race/ethnicity, gender, class and geography; social determinants of infectious and chronic disease, from domestic and international perspectives; imagining health care in 2021 and beyond; reinventing child welfare policy; changing criminal justice in the world’s most incarcerated nation; and the disappearance of work and solutions to employment woes.

Personal experience motivated the gift. One of the first positions held by Schilling was as a social worker at a United Way-supported child welfare agency, and it seemed entirely reasonable to him that those whose salaries were in part paid for by community giving should also feel compelled to contribute to the United Way.

Likewise, in his roles as a clinical faculty member at the University of Washington, Columbia University and UCLA, it seemed only right to Schilling and his wife for them to participate in the annual development campaigns at those institutions.

Schilling also drew inspiration from his father, an alumnus and faculty member at the University of Wisconsin and the co-founder of the Wisconsin Medical Alumni Foundation, who gave generously to an institution that had provided so much to him.

Schilling and Miller chose to create a lecture series after reflecting on the stimulating guest lectures they attended at the Luskin School and other parts of UCLA. Although the needs of the School are many, they felt the time was right to focus on the intellectual conversation within UCLA Luskin.

The donors said they hope their gift will enable UCLA Luskin Social Welfare to actively pursue lectures of significance to the educational experience of all units at the Luskin School.

 


GAY SEXUALITY AND SOCIAL POLICY INITIATIVE LAUNCHES 

As COVID-19 continued to disproportionately impact communities at the intersection of multiple vulnerabilities across the world, the UCLA Hub for Health Intervention, Policy and Practice (HHIPP) continued to produce knowledge to improve health outcomes among these groups and bring about positive social change.

This year, UCLA HHIPP also committed to a new undertaking: the Gay Sexuality and Social Policy Initiative @ UCLA Luskin, or GSSPI.

Seventy countries across the world still criminalize homosexuality, enforcing laws and policies that overwhelmingly target same-sex sexual behavior among men. In collaboration with global gay communities, GSSPI was launched to conduct cutting-edge research relating to gay male sexuality and the unique experiences of gay men related to sex.

The new initiative seeks to prioritize research about gay male sex today, 40 years after researchers and policymakers largely failed to take up the mantle at the beginning of the HIV epidemic. Instead, GSSPI founders say that gay sex was de-prioritized in sexual health research and left out of interventions to improve sexual health among gay men, which only increased health risks and further fostered shame and stigma.

As noted on the GSSPI website, specific U.S. policies such as the Helms Amendment from 1987 exclude gay sex from public health initiatives and withhold funding for activities that explicitly address gay sex.

UCLA Luskin Development officials are seeking philanthropic support for GSSPI as an investment that will help increase the effectiveness of ongoing efforts to improve the quality of life for gay men around the world. Potential donors to GSSPI may contact Ricardo Quintero at rquintero@luskin.ucla.edu for
more information.


ITS LAUNCHES STUDENT AWARD FOR TRANSPORTATION EQUITY AND JUSTICE

The UCLA Luskin Development team recently assisted the UCLA Institute of Transportation Studies in launching a crowdfunding campaign for a new Excellence in Transportation Equity and Justice Capstone Prize in support of students conducting impactful research to advance transportation equity and justice.

“Understanding systems of injustice is critical because of the long-lived nature of our work,” said Isabel Cardenas, who was involved in the effort as a second-year MURP student and also served as co-chair of the Women’s Transportation Seminar and co-founder and facilitator of the Disability Club. “Without centering racism, sexism and ableism, we will continue to produce systemic injustice and harm vulnerable communities for decades. There is urgent need to prioritize equity and justice in transportation planning, research and education, and this capstone prize will move us forward in all three areas.”

Almost $15,000 was raised through a matching gift from Tim Papandreou MA UP ’04. He is a member of the ITS Board of Advisors and founder of Emerging Transport Advisors, where he prepares clients for changes impacting the transportation industry through shared, electric and automated mobility options.

Each year, ITS will award the new prize to a student whose work best advances transportation equity and justice through a combination of intellectual merit and the potential for broader impacts.

“Representation matters in transportation equity and justice,” said Professor Brian D. Taylor, director of ITS. “These structural injustices result from a lack of representation of those who have been marginalized in transportation decision-making.”

Interested in learning more? Contact Laura Scarano, associate director of development, at lscarano@luskin.ucla.edu.


DEVELOPMENT TEAM WORKS DIRECTLY WITH FACULTY SEEKING FUNDING  

Nicole Payton and Ricardo Quintero of the Development Office held office hours virtually this academic year for faculty interested in pursuing funding for their various projects and research as part of a philanthropic effort in cooperation with colleagues from the UCLA Office of Corporate, Foundation and Research Relations.

The team helps connect UCLA Luskin faculty with local, regional and national foundations, or with individual donors who may want to invest in their work.

Grants that are awarded to faculty often depend on understanding a nuanced process that varies from foundation to foundation. The Development officials coach faculty members on strategy and how to think from a foundation perspective when seeking funding or answering requests for proposals, or RFPs.

Faculty save time and effort through UCLA Luskin’s guidance on best approaches and knowledge of a foundation’s grant management process.

The team plans to continue working with faculty and the Luskin School’s research centers and institutes to build ongoing relationships and expertise when operations normalize after the pandemic.

Dean’s Message

Renewal and resilience.

It would be trite to offer metaphors of springtime and cherry blossoms to mark the (maybe) tail end of a global pandemic and ongoing national political crisis. For starters, we are not out of the woods. New variants, lagging vaccination rates in some places, anti-scientific vaccine resistance and global poverty are all enormous barriers to putting a definitive end to the COVID-19 pandemic. Plus, the persistent separation between part of our body politic and un-spun facts, coupled with widescale efforts at disenfranchisement and a governing system designed for inaction, means that the peril to American democracy remains real and present. Indeed, my last message to you dated Jan. 4 celebrated a well-run election that was free of violence — then two days later, an insurrectionist mob occupied the U.S. Capitol attempting to use violence to overthrow a 7-million-vote presidential victory by Joe Biden.

Still, it is worth taking a moment to at least acknowledge where we are and what has happened to get us here. The new administration has facilitated an astounding vaccination campaign. Just shy of half of all Americans were fully vaccinated as of July 1, and almost 60% are on their way with at least one shot. California is among the leading states in successful vaccine distribution. To be certain, disturbing gaps by race, ethnicity and income remain, as do infuriating gaps by political identity and state. But progress has been made. When we return in September for the next academic year, classes will be taught in person because all faculty, staff and students who can be vaccinated will have fulfilled their obligation to do so. 

Amid the turmoil, the Luskin School has continued to pursue our core mission of teaching, training and research in the interest of the public good. Moreover, we have advanced our ongoing process of renewal, regeneration, reinvestment and reinvention. The School and its faculty are determined to adapt to new conditions, new challenges and new opportunities. We have been quite busy. 

Student recruitment for fall was one challenge successfully met, and we anticipate welcoming the largest class of incoming professional students (MPP, MSW, MURP) in our history. The undergraduate major — which just graduated its first class to receive a Bachelor of Arts in Public Affairs — will have approximately 450 students across four classes this year thanks to the amazing leadership of Professor Meredith Phillips, the department chair,
and Jocelyn Guihama, director of undergraduate administration
and experiential learning.

Fall also will bring our first dual-degree program when Urban Planning joins with an international partner in Sciences Po, the leading social science university in France. Professor Michael Storper, Associate Dean Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris and the current and former UP chairs, Chris Tilly and Vinit Mukhija, worked hard to develop this proposal and shepherd it through the complex UC approval process.  

And a new certificate program, Data Analytics in Public Affairs, will also be available starting this year to students in all professional programs thanks to the leadership of Zachary Steinert-Threlkeld, an assistant professor of public policy, and a schoolwide committee. 

Five new faculty will join us this year — three hired a year ago and two new additions — bringing to 60 the number of tenure-stream faculty in the Luskin School. They include specialists in transportation equity, housing discrimination, Black social mobility, child welfare and LGBTQ equity, and Latino youth empowerment. The range of expertise represented in the UCLA Luskin faculty continues to be enriched and expanded by such scholars.

And there have been other joys to celebrate. Professors Paul Ong and Don Shoup both won distinguished emeriti awards for their extensive research and teaching contributions to the School and to UCLA that have continued amid retirement. Other faculty and researchers have won awards and research grants too numerous to recount here. Alumnus Bill Coggins, a distinguished social worker and social service professional, was recognized by UCLA with the Alumni Public Service Award. And our most-worthy benefactors, Renee and Meyer Luskin, were chosen as UCLA’s Alumni of the Year. 

So, onward!  We have work to do and more challenges to meet. Be well.

Gary

Storper on the Pandemic’s Lasting Impact on Cities

Urban Planning Distinguished Professor Michael Storper co-authored a paper assessing COVID-19’s anticipated impact on the economic, political and social fabric of cities for the journal Urban Studies. As the world continues to adapt to the pandemic, “we remain in a period of extended social experimentation, with households, business, the professions and the public sector all in the game,” wrote Storper and co-authors Richard Florida of the University of Toronto and Andrés Rodríguez-Pose of the London School of Economics. Throughout history, major metropolitan areas have proved resilient to epidemics and other crises and catastrophes, they wrote. “Nonetheless, even if large cities are unlikely to lose their prominent role, they will be transformed and changed — in the short term and even well after mass immunity.” The authors predict that “social scarring” based on the continued fear of coronavirus infection will continue to influence residence choice, travel and commute patterns, and the economic viability of certain businesses and social gathering spaces. The future of downtowns hangs in the balance as remote work is normalized and online shopping grows even more common. “Cities might increasingly become cultural and civic places rather than shopping destinations or office hubs,” they wrote. Despite its horrific toll, the pandemic offers a window of opportunity where cities can reset, re-energize and call old practices into question, the authors conclude. “As cities rebuild and recover, …  they can pilot efforts to confront the widening chasms between classes and neighborhoods and prepare for the many threats of climate change.”


 

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 Model Identifies Neighborhoods Still at Risk as L.A. Reopens

A UCLA team has developed a predictive model that pinpoints which populations in which neighborhoods of Los Angeles County are most at risk from COVID-19 and, by extension, which should be prioritized for vaccines. The research – COVID-19 Medical Vulnerability Indicators: A Predictive, Local Data Model for Equity in Public Health Decision Making – is published in the peer-reviewed International Journal of Environmental Health. With more than 10 million residents, Los Angeles County has a larger population than 41 U.S. states. While many have been vaccinated, others in neighborhoods and communities at high risk of COVID-19 must be reached to fully re-open Los Angeles County, the authors said. The model maps the county neighborhood by neighborhood, based on four indicators known to increase an individual’s vulnerability to COVID-19 infection: preexisting medical conditions, barriers to accessing health care, built-environment characteristics and socioeconomic challenges that create vulnerabilities. The research data demonstrate that neighborhoods characterized by significant clustering of racial and ethnic minorities, low-income households and unmet social needs are still most vulnerable to COVID-19 infection, specifically areas in and around South Los Angeles and the eastern portion of the San Fernando Valley. Communities along the coast and in the northwestern part of the county, which have more white and higher-income residents, were found to be the least vulnerable. The study was co-authored by Professor Paul Ong, Chhandara Pech and Nataly Rios Gutierrez of the Center for Neighborhood Knowledge at UCLA Luskin and Vicky Mays, a professor with the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health and UCLA College.


 

Brain Teasers and Belly Laughs at Virtual Trivia Night 2.0

Continuing a longstanding Luskin School tradition of closing out the academic year with a spirited competition, students, alumni, faculty and staff came together to test their knowledge of pop culture and arcane UCLA facts at Virtual Trivia Night 2.0. Alumni turned out in force, making up more than half the total participants, said Tammy Borrero, UCLA Luskin’s director of events. With COVID-19 precautions in place, the May 27 contest again took place on a digital platform, and some participants gave a nod to the times we live in with team names such as “Nerd Immunity” and “None the Pfizer.” The top prize in the individual competition went to U.S. Foreign Service Officer Jason Vorderstrasse, UCLA’s diplomat in residence for the 2021-22 academic year. Public Policy students and alumni made up the top-scoring team, giving the department an edge in overall standings since the tradition began in 2013. The winners earned cool prizes, bragging rights and their names emblazoned on the UCLA Luskin Quiz Bowl trophy.

Team Competition Winners

  • First Place: La Croix Taste Test Troix (Adam Barsch ’20, Jess Bendit, Rosie Brown, Dickran Jebejian ’20, Erica Webster ’19), Public Policy
  • Second Place: Public Private Partnership (Ma’ayan Dembo ’20, Katherine Stiegemeyer ’20, Spike Friedman ’20, Lupita Huerta ’20, Peter Garcia ’20), Urban Planning
  • 3rd Place: The Public Affairs Bears Quaran-Team (Justin De Toro, April Michelle Enriquez, Erika Villanueva, Kevin Medina, Jocelyn Guihama), Undergraduate Program

Individual Competition Winners

  • First Place: Jason Vorderstrasse, Public Policy Diplomat in Residence
  • Second Place: Lance MacNiven, Urban Planning ’16
  • Third Place: Austin Mendoza, Undergraduate Program

Team departmental standings over the years:

  • 2013: Urban Planning
  • 2014: Public Policy
  • 2015: Urban Planning
  • 2016: Public Policy
  • 2017: Social Welfare
  • 2018: Public Policy
  • 2019: Social Welfare
  • 2020: Social Welfare and Urban Planning
  • 2021: Public Policy

Contestants compete for cool prizes and bragging rights at the individual trivia competition.

Isaac Bryan MPP ’18 Elected to California Assembly

Isaac Bryan MPP ’18 is the newest member of the California Assembly. Bryan took his seat May 28 after winning a special election to represent the state Legislature’s 54th District, which includes Westwood, Culver City, Baldwin Hills and parts of South Los Angeles. “I didn’t get here by myself. I carry with me the passion, the dreams and the hopes of an entire community,” Bryan said after he was sworn in by Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon. Bryan most recently served as the public policy director of the UCLA Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies. In 2020, he co-chaired the campaign for Measure J, which allocates nearly $1 billion of Los Angeles County’s annual budget to address racial injustice through community investments and alternatives to incarceration; the measure passed with 57% of the vote. While at UCLA Luskin, Bryan was named a David Bohnett Foundation Fellow in the office of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and also worked with the Bunche Center’s Million Dollar Hoods research project, which documents the fiscal and human costs of mass incarceration in Los Angeles. In a UCLA Luskin profile, Bryan shared glimpses of his personal journey to becoming an advocate for criminal justice — and now, at age 29, the elected representative for the community surrounding UCLA. “Los Angeles, in my mind, is the city for innovation, the city for trying new things, and if you can solve a problem in Los Angeles, you can take it everywhere else,” Bryan said in a video accompanying the profile.