School Rises to Top 12 — and Top 10 for Social Work — in U.S. News Graduate Ranking Enhanced reputation is an indicator of ongoing work to meet and exceed high expectations for Luskin School and its Social Welfare programs.

UCLA Luskin’s overall ranking is in the top dozen among public affairs graduate schools in the nation based on the latest U.S. News & World Report ratings released today, including a Top 10 ranking in the social work category.

The School tied with other prestigious programs — Princeton, NYU, Georgetown and Carnegie Mellon at No. 12 and at No. 9 in social work with Case Western Reserve University.

“I am proud of the work that the Luskin School has done and continues to do. This ranking among national public affairs schools is just one indicator of the Luskin School’s continued growth and ongoing work to maintain and exceed our high expectations,” Dean Gary Segura said. “And the leap into the Top 10 for Social Welfare is a gigantic achievement! These reputational enhancements reflection the hard work and the continuing commitment of, and to, our UCLA and UCLA Luskin community, faculty, students, staff and all those that support and contribute to our mission,” he said.

“I am thrilled that our peers have rated us one of the top 10 social work programs in the nation,” said Laura Abrams, chair and professor of social welfare. “In the last five years, we have streamlined our Master of Social Welfare curriculum into three areas of concentration and incorporated several new elements, such as Intergroup Dialogue and the second-year capstone research projects.”

Abrams also noted the recruitment of new faculty members who are doing cutting-edge teaching, scholarship and community-based work.

“Dean Segura has been incredibly supportive of our expansion and increasing our visibility on the national stage. I couldn’t be more pleased to see our MSW program being honored in this way,” Abrams said.

Among public universities, the UCLA Luskin Social Welfare program is now one of the top six nationwide and the top two in California.

The School — with graduate departments in Public Policy, Social Welfare and Urban Planning, and a Public Affairs undergraduate program — also received high marks for subcategories that include urban policy (No. 7), social policy (No. 7), public policy analysis (No. 13) and health policy and management (No. 12).

The 2023 rankings of public affairs programs are published in 2022 based on peer assessment survey results from fall 2021 and early 2022. U.S. News surveyed deans, directors and department chairs representing 270 master’s programs in public affairs and administration, and 298 social work programs accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of the Council on Social Work Education. The National Association of Deans and Directors of Schools of Social Work supplied U.S. News with the lists of accredited social work schools and programs, plus the respondents’ names.

See the full list of the 2023 U.S. News & World Report Best Graduate Schools, published today.

New Lab Aims to Advance Access to Affordable, Safe Water  UCLA’s Human Right to Water Solutions Lab expands research on drinking water across the nation

Since 2012, Californians have had a legal right to clean water — yet safe, affordable water is not always easily accessible throughout the state.

Issues like high water bills, contaminated water sources and outdated infrastructure complicate water access, especially in frontline communities — all against a backdrop of chronic drought in some of our most water-limited regions. Researchers are working to find solutions that make water access more just, including at a new research lab at UCLA.

To address the most pressing challenges in realizing safe, clean water throughout the country, the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation has launched the Human Right to Water Solutions Lab. The lab is led by Gregory Pierce, co-director of the Luskin Center for Innovation, adjunct assistant professor in the Luskin School of Public Affairs and co-director of the UCLA Water Resources Group. In addition, the lab is advised by collaborators from across the nation.  

Pierce and his research team have helped to guide California’s efforts to provide safe drinking water for all residents, as well as develop a plan for the first statewide low-income water rate assistance program in the nation. Now, the new lab is expanding its work across the country to support policy, advocacy and civic leadership solutions to improve water access, quality and affordability — the three key pillars of the human right to water.

“As lab director, I hope to cultivate a space to collectively improve access to clean water,” Pierce said. “This lab builds on the Luskin Center for Innovation’s broader goals to collaborate with community leaders and policymakers who can use our research to advance environmental equity.”

The lab has three objectives:

  • Advance fundamental research on water access, quality and affordability solutions
  • Support and amplify the efforts of community, scholarly and policy partners working to realize the human right to water
  • Make data and training resources collected or generated through research more useful to the public

The new Los Angeles County Water Governance Mapping Tool illustrates the lab’s dedication to making data more accessible and useful for the public. Developed in collaboration with community-based organizations and the Water Foundation, this interactive visualization tool provides information about Los Angeles County’s complex network of water systems, each managed by a separate set of decision-makers and policies.

“We’re hoping to support Angelenos to understand where their water comes from and who is managing it,” said Peter Roquemore, a researcher in the lab and at the Luskin Center for Innovation. “There are more than 200 different community water systems in the county — it’s a complex system. This information can help hold water system leaders accountable to provide clean and affordable drinking water.”

The Human Right to Water Solutions Lab builds on the work of the Luskin Center for Innovation’s water program, which, under Pierce’s leadership, has grown over the past seven years from a single staff member to a team of more than 15 staff and students producing research to advance water access and equity. 

Map of Los Angeles County water districts

Visit UCLA’s new Los Angeles County Water Governance Mapping Tool to search an address and access information including:

  • Name of the water system that supplies water to the address
  • Names of board members who direct the policies of that water system
  • Demographics, tenure, and pay of individual board members
  • Methods for selecting board members, including eligibility and election cycles
  • Average cost and relative affordability of water from the system
  • Safety and quality of water from the system
  • Water operator qualifications

Callahan Named Co-Executive Director of Luskin Center for Innovation

Colleen Callahan MA UP ’10 has been appointed as co-executive director of the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation. She served as the founding deputy director for 12 years, playing an integral part in building the research center from the ground up. The new role reflects Callahan’s experience, the growing trajectory of the center and its goals for the future. In this expanded position, Callahan plans to increase strategic engagement and partnership initiatives to maximize the center’s impact on public policies and other environmental innovations for the health of people and the planet. “It’s both an exciting and daunting time to step into this role,” Callahan said. “Bold action on the climate crisis is urgently needed. I’m humbled to have this opportunity to expand the center’s collaborations with frontline communities, policymakers and others to help advance solutions.” With 18 years of experience in social entrepreneurship, environmental policy and urban planning, Callahan will amplify the work of the Luskin Center for Innovation’s 20 faculty affiliates, 12 full-time staff, and more than 25 part-time researchers and consultants. The new executive director position will enhance the center’s leadership structure, with Greg Pierce sharing the executive leadership role with Callahan. In addition, V. Kelly Turner and Pierce, faculty in the department of urban planning, are leading the center’s research programs as co-directors. Together, they bring a shared commitment and strong capacity to advance evidence-based and equitable environmental policies. Rounding out the team will be a new faculty director in the coming year. 

Read full story


Dean’s Message

And in the blink of an eye, five years has come and gone.

This is my 11th Forum column. I write after an extraordinary period of change in the world, and at UCLA Luskin. We do our work in the world, on real problems facing real people, families and communities. When I arrived five years ago, I made a commitment to embrace and enhance the School’s well-established mission of helping, of doing good in the world. I believe we have kept that promise, and each day I am stunned to see the astounding efforts of my colleagues in implementing that vision through research, training and action.

Five years ago, I could not have envisioned the pandemic, the insurrection and the myriad crises of these last two years. New challenges and new opportunities, daunting and exciting at the same time, have emerged from this upheaval. Out of the old will emerge new patterns, changed institutions, terrible losses and unanticipated opportunities. Exactly what those will look like is hard to foresee. But the Luskin School will certainly be trying.

What can UCLA Luskin do to enhance our understanding of COVID-19, of the political upheavals of the last years, of the social changes being set into motion by both? In this issue, we highlight ways in which Luskin research has immediate impact on the world around us.

Our work on inequality and displacement is never more needed than now, when the homelessness and affordable housing crises collide with large-scale economic struggle during the pandemic, and
a 40-year growth in income inequality.

Our work on housing and transportation can certainly inform our understanding of the “great resignation” or the withdrawal of substantial segments of the workforce from active participation. There is very little question that priorities have shifted for millions of Americans, less willing to work for minimum wage, less willing to take that second job (or, for couples, third job), less willing to

commute for hours a day. The death of hundreds of thousands of our countrymen, the 18 months of remote work, clearly reshaped choices.

Similarly, our expertise in these areas cannot help but inform the changing nature of work and workplaces after nearly two years of remote employment for many. Telecommuting pre-dates the pandemic, but these last two years have revolutionized our understanding of what tasks require in-person labor, and how supervisors can effectively monitor those working from home. Clearly some of this work was not ideal, but we discovered that some workers did just fine! In this context, hours of commuting and parking costs are hard to justify when they don’t improve productivity or enhance service.

Our expertise on health and health care disparities, disruptions in the insurance market, depression and mental health challenges, and lack of services to the poor, to marginalized communities and the homeless is made more urgent in the wake of clear and undeniable effects of this inequality on Los Angeles and beyond. We have witnessed wildly uneven mortality rates, testing and vaccination efforts, and untreated morbidities that have made a terrible situation worse for those who have the least.

Communities of color, among those most disadvantaged in the pandemic, have also seen their political voice weakened by vote dilution and voter suppression, and by a history of the use of the criminal justice system as social regulation. The UCLA Voting Rights Project at Luskin may be coming to a courtroom near you as we fight to protect the franchise and American democracy. When those most disadvantaged take to the streets in frustration, they are likely to face hostile law enforcement and attempts at suppression. Minority experiences in the U.S. justice system have historically been problematic under the best of circumstances and even more so in these times of social stress and the ongoing tragedy of unjustified killings. Thankfully, these events, too, are the subject of inquiry in all Luskin departments.

The distinction between the Luskin School and much of academia is reflected in words written by Marx 133 years ago in his 11th Thesis on Feuerbach: “The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it.”


In Support Social justice, equity and diversity are among the priorities for new gifts, fellowships and other initiatives


When the Luskin School formally presented its fifth and newest endowed chair to Professor Manisha Shah in November, former Dean Frank Gilliam and benefactors Meyer and Renee Luskin were in attendance.

The Franklin D. Gilliam, Jr. Chair in Social Justice, which was created by the Luskins as part of their naming gift to the School in 2011, is now fully funded. It will provide financial support for Shah’s research throughout her five-year term as holder of the chair.

Gilliam, who is the chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, said he was honored to have his name attached to an award focusing on social justice.

“Meyer and Renee have ambitious goals about how to change the world and how to make it a better place,” Gilliam said. “At the core of that commitment is social justice: What, in a democracy, are you going to do about vast inequality?”

He pointed to a statement by sociologist W.E.B. Du Bois that the so-called color line is the great American dilemma. “Whether it’s African Americans or Muslims, Latin Americans or Asian Americans, it’s about integrating all people into the society and determining the rules upon which entry to society will be considered legitimate,” Gilliam said.

Dean Gary Segura credits Gilliam with codifying social justice as a unifying theme among the disparate departments that were rolled together decades ago into one school of public affairs.

“Frank is very much the dean that put the social justice stamp on the School,” Segura said. “The Luskin School we know today came into existence as a social justice-oriented entity because of his ingenuity.”

The Luskins have also endowed three other chairs benefitting professors at UCLA Luskin, Segura noted. One provides funding to research projects under his direction as dean. Another funds the research endeavors of the director of the UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy, a position held by Ananya Roy since it was founded five years ago. The third supports the director of the Luskin Center for Innovation, a position held by JR DeShazo prior to his departure in August to become a dean at the University of Texas. A search for DeShazo’s permanent replacement is underway. The fifth endowed chair at UCLA Luskin is the Marjorie Crump Chair in Social Welfare, currently held by Ron Avi Astor.

Segura said all these chairs were funded with gifts of $2 million to $3 million to provide funding in support of academic research endeavors. UCLA Luskin does not currently have any endowed chairs of another type offered at UCLA in recognition of gifts at the $5 million level. Those chairs include salary support for a recipient.

Shah is a professor of public policy who joined the UCLA Luskin faculty in 2013. Her scholarship tends to focus on issues of health equity and exploitation of disadvantaged people around the world, and she is the director of Global Lab for Research in Action at
UCLA Luskin, which she founded in 2019.

So, what is it like to have one’s name attached to an endowed chair?

“As with any sort of institutionalized thing like this, the naming of a school or a professorship or a scholarship is significant because it goes on in perpetuity,” Gilliam said, smiling broadly. “If somebody has the misfortune of asking one day who Frank Gilliam was, and they go back and discover who I was and what my connection was to the Luskin School, then that story gets told again.”

Jacqueline Waggoner, left, and Lourdes Castro Ramirez will co-chair a newly created Equity, Diversity and Inclusion committee on the UCLA Luskin Board of Advisors.


The UCLA Luskin Advisory Board welcomed six new members to start the academic year: Lourdes Castro Ramirez, Andy Cohen, Brien Kelley, Travis Kiyota, Alex Rose and Wendy Wachtell. Castro Ramirez and continuing board member Jacqueline Waggoner are urban planning alumnae, and they will co-chair a newly created Equity, Diversity and Inclusion committee. The committee will focus on confronting disparities, driving equity and creating greater access in the field of public affairs. To kick off this initiative, Castro Ramirez and Waggoner created a matching gift campaign to encourage others to join them to support this cause. Funds raised during the campaign will go toward the Urban Planning Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Fund. The fund seeks to diversify the field of planning, providing two kinds of support: funded internships with nonprofit community organizations that otherwise could ill afford to provide a paid internship; and student fellowships, allowing students to devote more time to learning instead of having to hold down a job or being saddled with an unsustainable debt load. For more information, contact Nicole Payton at

Research grant from W.K. Kellogg Foundation will seek to broaden the understanding of issues affecting Latinos.


The UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative (LPPI) was awarded a $2.5 million grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to support a pair of new research databases that will become available to policymakers, scholars and the public as resources for broadening understanding of issues affecting the Latino community.

“As the largest nonwhite minority group in the United States,
Latinos are integral to building a prosperous future for all Americans,” said Sonja Diaz, founding director of LPPI. “Yet Latinos face significant barriers to economic opportunity, political representation and social mobility. This funding will enable us to reliably collect data that brings Latinos and the issues that impact them out of the shadows
and to create real policy solutions that build a truly inclusive economy and democracy.”

The first of two databases, the Latino Data Hub, will contain verified data on demographics, socioeconomics and civic participation that will help decision makers promote policies that benefit Latino communities. It is intended to become a go-to resource for national, state and local data, and it will also include statistics and information on climate change and the environment, economic opportunity and social mobility, education, health and housing.

The second database, the Latino Research Redistricting Hub, will help identify how the drawing of state and federal electoral maps affects Latinos. The hub will be a resource for officials engaged in redistricting decisions with a goal of ensuring fair representation in politics and government for the nation’s diverse Latino communities.

“Before we can address inequity, we must tell the truth about our conditions, and that is what data does,” said Cicely Moore, program officer at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. “We are proud to invest in creating tools that help us see our biggest challenges clearly and identify equitable solutions that enable us all to thrive.”


The inaugural group of graduate fellows to receive support from the Barbara Yaroslavsky Memorial Fund recently met virtually with their benefactor, Zev Yaroslavsky, to share experiences and talk about their futures.

The fellows include students working toward graduate or doctoral degrees in public policy, social welfare or public health at UCLA, or any combination thereof. Their areas of expertise and concentration include mental health as it relates to chronic disease, refugees in connection with forced migration and human rights, family services, and health and mental health across the lifespan.

Zev Yaroslavsky, whose long career in public service included time as both a county supervisor and city councilman in Los Angeles, is now on the faculty at UCLA Luskin. He established the fellowship with support from friends and family after the death of his wife in December 2018, honoring her legacy of advocacy and commitment to health care for all.


The recently created Urban Planning Fellowship Circle has raised $53,350 to benefit urban planning students impacted by the pandemic, surpassing its goal of $50,000 with more donations on the way.

Led by co-chairs Joan Ling MA UP ’82 and Nicole Vermeer MA UP ’96,  a group of Urban Planning alumni banded together to help the next generation of urban planners weather a challenging year.

Other committee members were Toni Bates ’82, Alice Carr ’95, Robert De Forest BA ’99, MBA ’06, MA UP ’06, Nancy Lewis ’77, Reagan Maechling ’05, Katherine Perez ’97, Michele Prichard ’89, Anson Snyder ’90, James Suhr ’87, Yasmin Tong ’92 and Dwayne Wyatt ’83. Staff support was spearheaded by Robin McCallum, department manager.

The UCLA Luskin Development team is looking to replicate this model for the other departments. Anyone interested in making a similar impact to benefit students from public policy or social welfare may contact Laura Scarano, associate director of development,


JR DeShazo

A campaign has been created to seek gifts in honor of JR DeShazo to the student fellowship fund for environmental justice.

Former UCLA Professor DeShazo, inaugural director of the Luskin Center for Innovation, became the dean of the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas in August. The student fellowship fund seeks to reflect the spirit of his enduring contribution and the Center for Innovation’s long record of support for hundreds of students during his tenure, helping to shape the next generation of policy.

The effort reflects the Luskin Center for Innovation’s commitment to supporting first-generation Bruins, students of color and other emerging environmental leaders via two types of fellowship opportunities:

  • one providing paid opportunities for students to collaborate with community-based organizations to advance environmental justice;
  • the other expanding opportunities in the center for students to conduct research that shapes environmental policy.


Alumni Notes


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. The week wrapped up with an exclusive reception, above, for Class of 2020 graduates in the School’s public policy, social welfare and urban planning programs at the Luskin Conference Center for a celebration of their academic achievement.

Therese Agnes Hughes MA UP ’99


Author and photojournalist Therese Agnes Hughes MA UP ’99 grew up in the military with a father who served in World War II, so her respect for people in service started at
a young age. She lived in far-flung places such as Guam and Hawaii as a result of her dad’s career.

Later, with two children still in school, she came to UCLA Luskin. After a break from her studies in 1997 for a kidney transplant, she came back to finish her education.

After graduating, she worked at the AmeriCorps Vista Clinic in Venice, California, and met women soldiers returning home from Iraq. She found that these women were not being appropriately recognized. After later working with California Congresswoman Linda Sánchez to raise awareness of issues specifically affecting women, Hughes started her own business to help female veterans.

It became evident to Hughes that many of those veterans had served ably beside male counterparts without being similarly recognized. This was true within her own family: Her mother volunteered for the Navy but never told Hughes about the experience.

In May 2010, Hughes quit her job and began her project to start telling women’s stories through photographs and quotes. Her first step was to ask to connect to veterans.

She eventually gained enough funding to travel to Washington, D.C., for five interviews, but only one person showed up. But this didn’t stop her work. Later, with an assist from UCLA Luskin’s Michael Dukakis, she was connected to Sen. Tammy Duckworth, an Iraq War veteran, Purple Heart recipient and former assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Duckworth was among the first handful of Army women to fly combat missions during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Once Duckworth was on board as an interviewee, Hughes’ project flourished, and she has interviewed more than 800 women since 2011. They include Brigadier Gen. Wilma L. Vaught, the first woman to be a four-star general.

By the time she had reached 60 interviews, Hughes said, she became aware that many of the women would go back to service “in a heartbeat.”

Her work has culminated in the book, “In a Heartbeat: Military Women WWII to Present.” Hughes hopes that young women of today can look at the women she has profiled and “see someone who looks like them and say, ‘I can do military service.’ ”

Hughes said she learned at UCLA Luskin not to be afraid to ask for help, and never to stop following up. She learned to look at the world through a prism, seeing many ways to do something. Those skills are not taught in a typical urban planning master’s program, she said.

Álvaro Huerta ’03, MURP ’06


Álvaro Huerta ’03, MURP ’06 has been appointed as a Harvard faculty fellow.

The son of working-class Mexican immigrants and a product of public housing projects in Los Angeles, Huerta said he is honored to become a Harvard fellow.

He is additionally “eternally grateful to UCLA and my former professors and mentors, like the late professors Dr. Leo Estrada and Dr. Juan Gómez-Quiñones. Given that there are few Chicano urban planners and historians in the academy, I will maximize my Harvard position to show that for those of us who hail from America’s barrios like Boyle Heights, we, too, can teach and mentor graduate students at elite spaces.”

Jennifer Payne BA ’87, MSW/PhD ’11


Jennifer Payne BA ’87, MSW/PhD ’11 is the first social work researcher with a doctorate ever to be hired at the Kennedy Krieger Institute, an affiliate of Johns Hopkins. Quite a few people with MDs and Ph.D.s had been hired there in psychiatry and psychology, but no social work researchers with a Ph.D. — until now.

Payne conducts research at the Kennedy Krieger Center for Child and Family Traumatic Stress. She joined a newly formed Neuropsychology of Social Injustice Center at Kennedy Krieger, which is in Baltimore.

She developed a culturally tailored model to address African American racial trauma based on an evidence-based intervention called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). The center wants Payne to start a culturally based ACT clinic at Kennedy Krieger and to teach others across the nation and around the world about the model.

Payne is also an assistant professor in the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine with a primary appointment within the Department
of Psychiatry, Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

She was also recently named as the 2021 recipient of the NACSW Diana Garland Award for Clinical Practitioner Excellence.

Susan Nakaoka ’91, MSW ’99, MA AAS ’99, PhD UP ’14, left, and Nicole Vazquez MSW/MPP ’09



The National Association of Social Workers: California has two organizers from UCLA Luskin Social Welfare: Susan Nakaoka ’91, MSW ’99, MA AAS ’99, PhD UP ’14, and Nicole Vazquez MSW/MPP ’09.

Both have been involved with a critical race studies course at UCLA.

Nakaoka is currently a visiting professor at Cal State Long Beach. Vazquez is the former field director and chair designee for Cal State Dominguez Hills’ MSW program, and currently is running Vazquez Consulting.

Recently, Laura Abrams, chair of Social Welfare at UCLA Luskin, and Vazquez spoke about critical race theory in social work on the podcast, “Doin’ the Work: Frontline Stories of Social Change.” They discussed the history of CRT, honoring the scholars of legal studies who developed it. They noted the conclusion of CRT that the law is not neutral and historically has been used to oppress people of color and others from marginalized groups.

Dean’s Messages on Remote Instruction to Start Winter Quarter UCLA Luskin modifies operations as part of COVID-19 health and safety efforts on campus amid the rapid spread of Omicron variant

January 10 update:


I hope this note finds you all safe and well.

On Friday, you received the campuswide Bruin Post extending our period of remote instruction through Friday, Jan. 28, with our return to campus on Monday, Jan. 31. In my meeting with senior Luskin School leadership Wednesday, we anticipated such a development this week, but the chancellor opted to act sooner as case rates and circumstances made the 18th implausible and unadvisable. Even without a full complement of students on campus last week, the case numbers were shocking. This is the right decision.

For staff or faculty who need to come to campus, please follow the directions of the university with respect to masking, vaccination boosters, testing and so forth, and complete the daily symptom monitoring.  If you come to campus for any reason, please use that opportunity to submit a test to the campus system.

In the interim, our policy of suspending in-person events is extended up to the Jan. 31 return. Planning for all events AFTER Jan. 31 should continue, but always with a cautious eye toward deadlines, financial implications and the changing public health circumstances.

As always, I deeply appreciate your fortitude and resilience during this very challenging period for the School and for the globe.

Dec. 30 email to the UCLA Luskin community:


By now you’ve likely seen the Bruin Post sent last Tuesday, informing us all that the winter quarter will begin with remote instruction through the Martin Luther King Holiday. As of now, we will return to the classroom on Jan. 18, 2022.  This date, of course, is dependent on evolving public health conditions. Staff working remotely should continue to do so. Staff working in person or hybrid should speak directly with their supervisor regarding School and departmental needs and each unit’s plans.

Please note the new testing and vaccination requirements detailed on UCLA’s COVID-19 resources page.  In brief, everyone should receive the booster as soon as eligible, all personnel (students, faculty and staff) will require a baseline test before returning to campus, and all will require once or twice weekly testing through UCLA testing systems. More details are available on the linked web pages.

Some thoughts:

I am as disappointed as you that we have once again had to step back from the normal (or nearly normal) conduct of university business and our daily lives. Our primary concern at this moment is the health and safety of our team and our students. We have succeeded in the last year beyond our wildest imaginations despite the many challenges presented by the epidemic — thanks to your creativity, your adaptability, your perseverance, and your hard work. We have admitted and trained more students, won more extramural grants, and we have spread the word of our important work to our largest audience ever.

I know this has come at a cost … all of us are stressed and tired. And I am sorry to say that I have to ask you to take on this challenge again, at least until we can return.

Here is how I’d like to proceed in the interim:

Instructors: I think a sober assessment of the current public health information suggests that we should prepare for a period of remote instruction that lasts beyond Jan. 18.

  • Exceptions to the in-person suspension are allowed under guidance provided in a follow-up Bruin Post of Dec. 28.
  • Additional guidance for course instructors is available in a separate Bruin Post sent Dec. 30.

Staff: As I suggested, you should confer with your manager regarding safeguards. However, I am instructing staff managers to use remote work to the fullest extent possible. The campus has NOT closed and we will require minimal staffing in the building unless it does, but we should meet only the most urgent needs with in-person work.

Meetings: Same as the fall, any meeting which CAN be held remotely SHOULD be held remotely. We are all accustomed to Zoom meetings now.

Events: Guidance from the campus has allowed events to continue but imposed a more restrictive safety protocol.  On my own authority, all UCLA Luskin in-person events should be canceled (or re-platformed) through Jan. 17. Assuming the return to in-person instruction on Jan. 18, we will follow the campus’ new guidance, which includes testing, masks and an indoor eating ban. We will reconsider event plans after Jan. 18 as new information becomes available.  The new campus safety protocols include:

  • One of the following testing options is acceptable upon onsite check-in.
    • Proof of negative antigen test within 24 hours
    • Proof of negative PCR test within 48 hours
    • On-site negative rapid test (we have the supplies)
  • Masks are required.  Recommend surgical/procedure or N95/KN95 masks (we have the supplies)
  • Indoor eating should be avoided, when feasible.

Research: Since the campus is not closed, there is no suspension of research activity at this time, though restrictions on in-person meetings apply. Research center and institute leaders are encouraged to consider the reinstatement of remote work for any research or administrative staff whose effectiveness should allow for remote working.

Students: Just so you know, the campus would like students to return by Jan. 9 and would welcome their return Jan. 3. The leadership feels like we will have a better handle on the public health issues and vaccine/testing compliance among students when they are in residence, and steps have been taken to assure the availability of quarantine beds should they be necessary.

My first concern remains our collective safety and well-being, and I want all of you to know how deeply I appreciate your great work.

All these headaches notwithstanding, I hope all of you and your families enjoy a joyous and SAFE new year, and I will see you soon.

All the best,


Gary M. Segura
Professor and Dean
UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs

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


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.


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


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


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


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.

In light of the ongoing pandemic, the donors have asked that these funds be allocated to the School in an unrestricted manner until such time that in-person events resume without COVID-19 restrictions.

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.



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 for
more information.


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


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.