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Taylor’s Journey From Transfer Student to Professor

A UCLA Newsroom article celebrating transfer students featured Urban Planning Professor Brian Taylor and UCLA Luskin Senior Fellow Tom Epstein, president of the California Community Colleges Board of Governors. Taylor, director of the Institute of Transportation Studies, was a Long Beach City College transfer student before getting his bachelor’s in geography and Ph.D. in urban planning at UCLA. “It just so happens that I recently hosted my now retired LBCC economics professor for lunch at the UCLA Faculty Club to thank him for changing my life,” Taylor said. “At the time I was studying to be a travel agent, and he convinced me to transfer to UC to study geography and economics instead.” At UCLA, 92% of transfer students come from California community colleges. “Completing a degree helps students not just to succeed in the economy, but also to contribute more to their community by helping people who are less fortunate or participating in civic affairs,” Epstein said.


 

Nelson Esparza MPP ’15 Named Public Policy Alumnus of the Year New member of the Fresno City Council is honored at alumni reception and luncheon

Public Policy hosted its 21st annual alumni reception and luncheon on May 18, part of UCLA’s campuswide Centennial Launch. Nelson Esparza MPP ’15, who recently won election to Fresno’s City Council, was honored as 2019 Alumnus of the Year. Esparza thanked his UCLA Luskin professors, staff and peers, adding, “When one of us gets elected to office or serves in a position and does good in the community … that reflects greatly upon all of us.” Two first-year students were awarded fellowships made possible by an alumni fund. Irma Castaneda was recognized as “an extremely driven, organized and selfless person who is often looking for ways to help others, especially first-generation students and those who are not well-represented and advocated for in both the MPP and higher education overall.” Devon Schechinger was honored for bringing together classmates in social gatherings aimed at “making our communities and our environment healthier and safer. … She has the quiet determination of an effective change maker.”

UCLA Luskin has followed Esparza’s journey as a public servant:

 

‘My experience at the Luskin School was just invaluable. It wasn’t just the nitty-gritty of the public policy that we got into in the classroom. It was the leadership aspects that I was able to engage in with my peers inside and outside of the classroom.’ — Esparza after winning election to the Fresno City Council in 2018

Read more: UCLA Luskin Alumni Emerge as Local Leaders With Election Wins

‘The Board of Education is especially personal because I am the students of my district. I faced the same barriers and obstacles that students in my district are battling every day.’ — Esparza after winning a seat on the Fresno County School Board in 2016

Read more: A Crash Course in Politics

View photos from Public Policy’s alumni reception on Flickr.

Public Policy Alumni Reception and Luncheon

Alumni Inducted Into California Social Work Hall of Distinction

Four UCLA Luskin alumni were among six individuals inducted into the California Social Work Hall of Distinction in fall 2018. Bill Coggins MSW ’55, Kathleen Kubota MSW ’82,  John Oliver MSW ’64 and Yasuko Sakamoto MSW ’83 were honored at a ceremony on Oct. 7, 2018. They were joined by inductees June Simmons, who received an MSW from USC in 1970, and Diane Takvorian, who earned an MSW from San Diego State University in 1976. The California Social Welfare Archives launched the Hall of Distinction in 2002 to ensure that the contributions of today’s social work leaders, innovators and pioneers will be recognized and preserved for the future. The archives plans to post oral history interviews with each of the six inductees. This year’s honorees leave a remarkable legacy.

A leader in counseling and educational services: Bill Coggins founded the Kaiser Permanente Watts Counseling and Learning Center, which offers a wide range of mental health and educational resources for free or at minimal cost for the children and families of Watts. Coggins served as the center’s executive director for more than 30 years. In May 2018, Coggins was honored as the first recipient of the UCLA Luskin Social Welfare Lifetime Achievement Award.

A dedicated child welfare advocate: As chief of Los Angeles County’s adoption division, project director of the Runaway Adolescent Pilot Project and L.A. County DCFS director of governmental relations, Kathleen Kubota has been instrumental in the advancement of social welfare programs directed toward improving the situations of children across Los Angeles. Kubota has been a trailblazer in bringing together diverse and even competing organizations to work toward shared social work goals.

A champion of equality and social justice: John Oliver’s research and leadership in professional organizations have focused on oppressed and underserved communities. He has been involved in the Council on Social Work Education, the California Social Work Education Center, the California Association of Deans and Directors of Social Work Programs and the California chapter of the National Association of Social Workers. Oliver, who holds a Ph.D. from Brandeis University, has received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the NASW California chapter, the UCLA Outstanding Alumni Award and election to the Black Administrators in Child Welfare Hall of Fame.

A pioneer of culturally sensitive services: Yasuko Sakamoto spearheaded the creation of bilingual and bicultural social work programs for Japanese and Japanese-American communities in Los Angeles. Sakamoto founded the Nikkei Family Counseling Program and was involved in the development of the Nikkei Tomodachi Program, Nikkei Helpline and other support groups that cater to the unique cultural needs of the Japanese and Nikkei populations. As an author and mental health advocate, Sakamoto has worked to improve the lives of the underserved.

Advocates for health, welfare and the environment: June Simmons is an innovator in senior healthcare programs who is dedicated to achieving better healthcare at lower cost for high-risk populations. Environmental justice and healthcare advocate Diane Takvorian strives to achieve public policies that improve the health of children, families and neighborhoods, as well as of the natural environment.


A Speedy Solution to Networking A new format for the UCLA Luskin career event gives students direct access to alumni in their fields and fosters ideas about what they can do after graduation

By Zev Hurwitz

Taking a cue from speed dating, the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs held its first alumni career networking event in which graduates of the school’s three departments met with current students about professional opportunities.

The event, held April 20, 2017, at the UCLA Faculty Center, was the first career development opportunity for students in which each employer was represented by an alumnus or alumna of the Luskin School.

Edon Cohanim, a first-year MPP student, said he appreciated the directness with which alumni provided tips on best practices.

“Alumni are more willing to help us and are more down-to-earth with us,” he said. “I got some advice on my career and how to pursue it, and they helped me understand what good moves are.”

Barbara Andrade-Dubransky MSW `00, director of program support at First 5 LA, said she hoped to help students understand more about career options in social welfare.

“There’s interest for students in knowing what’s going on out in the field, and I’m happy to share not only what I know about my organization, but I have relationships with other organizations, so I’m happy to share information to help students find other opportunities as well,” Andrade-Dubransky said.

UCLA Luskin Career Services launched Alumni Career Connections in lieu of its annual career fair. In past years, Luskin had held career events that more closely resembled traditional job fairs. This year, students met one-on-one with alumni who graduated from the same department or who currently work in the student’s desired field. Each student had the opportunity to meet with up to three alumni over the course of an hour.

VC Powe, director of career services and leadership development at UCLA Luskin, said the change was in response to feedback from employers whose participation in the annual job fair had dwindled in recent years.

“For many employers, these small career fairs are passé,” she said. “I shared that with my student advisory committee, and one of the students said, ‘I want an alumni career fair.’ I lit up at the thought of that and said, ‘That’s a great idea!’”

Although many students attend career fairs in the hopes of finding a job, Powe noted that most UCLA Luskin students end up securing employment through networking.

“Networking, especially with alumni from your program, is extremely important,” she said. “This is more of a ‘We share a career-field, and am I prepared to do what you’re doing?’ kind of event.”

Alumni met with as many as eight students over the course of the evening. In all, 105 students and 42 alumni participated.

Jasneet Bains, a second-year, dual-degree graduate student in urban planning and public health, said she attended because she liked the structure of meeting with alumni from her programs and wanted to broaden her professional network.

“We were matched up with alumni who share our interests, and that’s very valuable,” Bains said. “They’re able to provide specific insight. Having gone through that process, they’re able to teach us about how to take knowledge from our program and apply that in the field.”

Adrian Cotta, a second-year MSW student, said he had no expectations about leaving the event with a job offer, but she hoped to learn from alumni who had the same educational experience as he did.

“I’m hoping to get some advice from people in the field to see how to begin a career — and make a new friend, if nothing else,” he said.

Wendy Yan MA UP `97, vice president of underwriting at affordable housing syndicator WNC and Associates, said that she attended not only to inform students about the field but also to recruit for summer internships and possibly full-time jobs.

“We’re always looking for good people,” Yan said. “Being an alum of the urban planning program, I know there are a lot of students who specialize in affordable housing, and so we’d love to have good people from Luskin work with us.”

Rima Zobayan MPP `01 currently works at Westat, focusing on an implementation project for national assessment on educational progress for the U.S. Department of Education.

“I was in the fourth class of public policy students, so there weren’t a lot of alumni who could participate in something like this for us,” Zobayan said. “It’s great for alums to have a chance to talk to current students, to share what we’re doing and to see what students’ interests might be.”