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New Grants Ensure Watts Leadership Institute’s Mission Will Continue to Grow An infusion of more than $650,000 will be invested in marginalized neighborhoods

By Mary Braswell

The community garden launched by the Watts Leadership Institute (WLI) a year ago is growing, thriving, bearing fruit.

The same could be said for the institute itself.

Since the start of 2018, the UCLA Luskin-based WLI has received several grants totaling more than $650,000 that will allow it to expand its core mission of empowering the community leaders of Watts.

“We’re absolutely thrilled,” said co-founder Jorja Leap, adjunct professor of social welfare. “We’re finding great support for this model, the idea that we want to lift up and help the small nonprofits and real community leaders in these marginalized communities.”

Along with Karrah Lompa MSW ’13, Leap founded the institute in 2016 with a two-year $200,000 startup grant from The California Wellness Foundation.

Since January, WLI has received new and increased investments:

  • An additional two-year grant of $250,000 from The California Wellness Foundation is an expression of confidence that its initial investment was effectively used in the community.
  • The Weingart Foundation is providing $200,000 for the next two years to support its efforts in Southern California communities most deeply affected by poverty and economic inequity.
  • Ballmer Group provided $150,000 over two years.  Ballmer Group supports efforts to improve economic mobility and has invested significantly in direct services and capacity building in the Watts-Willowbrook area.
  • GRoW@Annenberg has invested more than $50,000 this year as part of a multiyear commitment for the WLI GRoW Community Garden. It has also provided generous additional funding and technical assistance to enhance WLI community engagement and outreach. In addition, GRoW’s founder, Gregory Annenberg Weingarten, has awarded almost $100,000 directly to Watts community leaders working with WLI.

These continued philanthropic investments will “take our mission to another level,” Leap said. Lompa added that “having the support of these leading philanthropic institutions reinforces both the need for WLI and the impact these leaders are making in Watts.”

“We are grateful for these new funders and grants because they help diversify WLI’s overall funding, helping us lead by example when encouraging WLI leaders to diversify their own funding streams,” Lompa said.

The funds are quickly being put to use on the ground in Watts. WLI works with community leaders who are already making a difference and provides them with the tools, resources and training to be more effective — including tutorials on using tablets to keep their books as well as tips on navigating the Southern California policy and philanthropic landscape.

“These are the people that the community listens to and follows,” Leap said of the first cohort of 12 Watts leaders supported by the institute. “They live there, they work there. But they’ve never had the capacity to really do the work of which they are capable.”

The key for WLI, she said, is to listen to people who are acutely aware of what their neighborhood needs. WLI builds on this knowledge by responding with tangible help to sustain the leaders and their efforts.

Leap told the story of WLI cohort member Amada Valle, a community organizer and advocate for residents of the Jordan Downs public housing development. “Amada is teaching women to sew and to create women-led businesses,” Leap said. “And what do you need if you’re teaching women to sew? Sewing machines.” Thanks to funds allocated by The California Wellness Foundation for direct service reinvestment, Valle received a grant from WLI to purchase six sewing machines.

“You would have laughed if you had walked into the Luskin development office and seen all these boxes of sewing machines, all piled up,” Leap said.

Doing good works is contagious, WLI has found. Los Angeles City Councilman Joe Buscaino donated office space to the institute. The Johnny Carson Foundation funded an MSW internship in Watts. The UCLA Luskin IT team offers technical support, bringing community leaders to campus for tutorials.

“That’s really our dream — to have everybody working together and leading within their community,” said Leap, who has been active in Watts for 40 years, since she attended UCLA for her BA, MSW and Ph.D.

“With WLI, UCLA Luskin has a 24/7 presence in Watts. This is not lip service, and we don’t want to be a temporary program. We’re part of the community, and we want to be,” she said. “We’re honored to be.”

‘Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable’ In commencement address, Riverside Mayor Rusty Bailey issues a call to action to more than 200 change agents from Public Policy, Social Welfare and Urban Planning

By Stan Paul

Before conferring hard-won master’s and doctoral degrees upon the 2018 graduating class of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, Dean Gary Segura gave one last assignment:

“Act! Act on … any of a dozen major challenges facing the United States and the world. Act! Make this world better. Make this country what it aspires to be.

“Our celebration today is less about what you’ve already done and far more about what you are expected to do,” Segura told the more than 200 Public Policy, Social Welfare and Urban Planning students graduating before an audience of family, friends and faculty in UCLA’s historic Royce Hall on June 15, 2018.

Following the conferral of degrees, the celebration continued at an outdoor reception. The sea of black graduation gowns was brightened by a rainbow of tassels and academic regalia, along with elaborately decorated mortarboards that told the students’ stories, if in a few words:

“For my family that dreams beyond borders.” “53, got my degree.” “Every end is a new beginning.” One message, in Spanish, thanked parents … and coffee. Another honored the past and projected hope for future generations: “I am my ancestor’s wildest dreams.”

One UCLA Luskin grad who put his degree to good use is William R. “Rusty” Bailey MPP ’99, who is now in his second term as mayor of Riverside, California.

“Rusty Bailey’s leadership of Riverside has been characterized by a willingness to put human well-being at the forefront of his city’s agenda,” Segura said, introducing the keynote speaker. The dean cited Bailey’s focus on serving the city’s homeless, encouraging green development, enhancing mass transit and supporting the arts for his hometown of more than 300,000.

Bailey recalled the two decades since he was admitted to the first MPP class at UCLA Luskin.

“I was sitting where you were almost 20 years ago,” said the West Point graduate and former city councilman. “This institution gave me the tools, the confidence and the network I needed to achieve my ultimate career goal of serving as the mayor of my hometown. …

“If there’s any group of people prepared to tackle these issues and others I’ve mentioned, it is you — UCLA Luskin School graduates,” said Bailey, who was named MPP Alumnus of the Year in 2013. “You are equipped with a well-rounded toolkit that includes social advocacy, policy analysis and community development along with an incredible network of professors, research centers and alumni to keep you encouraged, motivated and accountable.”

Bailey cautioned, “You better get comfortable being uncomfortable,” but added, “Luskin has prepared you to handle it.”

Like the dean, Bailey ended his speech with a challenge for the graduates: “Let’s make it happen. Go out into this world and make things happen for your neighbors, for your families and for humanity.”

‘I refuse to let this diploma allow my fight to fade.
The work does not end when we cross the stage.’

— Student speaker Gabriela Hernandez

Student speakers representing each Luskin School department underscored the message that their work is not done.

“We did it, but we didn’t do it alone,” said MPP Ramandeep Kaur, the daughter of immigrants who spoke for her classmates in thanking those who made their accomplishments possible. “Hopefully now we can explain what public policy means,” she joked.

Kaur said that public policy has historically been used to support discriminatory practices in housing, zoning ordinances, transportation and labor. “But in my hands, in our hands, it can mean so much more,” she said. “In our hands, having a master’s in public policy means having the tools to upend the status quo and disrupt those narratives.

“As change agents, we’re going to rewrite history and those unjust public policies.”

Urban Planning student speaker Aleli Balaguer said her fellow graduates have been more than just classmates during the rigorous two-year program.

“They are kind, passionate, honest, forthright and unwavering in their vision,” Balaguer said. Coming from very different backgrounds, they shared family stories over meals and traveled the globe together, from New Orleans to Mexico to Japan, the Philippines and Indonesia, she said.

“We hosted each other in our families’ homes and worked on group projects until the sun rose, and we presented at Google and multiple city halls,” she said. But, most importantly for Balaguer, “We imagined better, more equitable cities together.”

Social Welfare class speaker Gabriela Hernandez told her fellow students and audience members, “Today, after years of difficult work, I have reclaimed my anger. I am no longer ashamed to be angry. I call my anger passion.”

She recited a poem recounting her journey in the MSW program to “remind us that no matter how far from slavery and segregation we have gone, there is still hella work to be done.”

Her poem concluded:

“The work does not end when you cross the stage/
You were born to fight for life/
I refuse to let this diploma allow my fight to fade/
The work does not end when we cross the stage/
It marks the beginning/
Let my words sink in, feel what you got to feel then please turn that page/
The work does not end when we cross the stage/
Smile because you deserve it, but do not forget those still trapped in a cage/
The work does not end when you cross the stage/
You call it rage, you call it anger, it’s passion/
Let us hold each other up, together, let us take action”

This year, Segura said, the Luskin School has been true to its mission: improving the quality of life for individuals, families and communities. Students and faculty have taken on issues including greenhouse gas abatement, prison population reduction, gentrification, gun violence, home ownership and homelessness in Los Angeles, and economic development across Asia, Africa and Latin America, he said.

But the challenges that lie ahead are great, he warned.

“We live in perilous times. You enter a career in public well-being at a time when longstanding assumptions about our values as a society are challenged in ways most of us had never imagined possible,” Segura said.

Of the separation of migrant families at the nation’s border, he said: “Today, here in the United States of America, 10,000 children are being held in detention, in cages, with foil blankets, ripped from their parents’ arms. Over 1,400 of them have been misplaced, gone missing, some likely into child trafficking. The country plans to build a camp — a camp — to hold 5,000 more children.”

The dean then asked pointedly, “What are you going to do about this? Indeed, what am I going to do about this?”

Segura sent the newly minted change agents into the world with the words of Henry David Thoreau, “Be not simply good; be good for something.”

View additional photos from UCLA Luskin Commencement 2018 on Flickr:

 

Commencement 2018

Immersed in the Real World The yearlong Applied Policy Project puts MPP candidates on the front lines to grapple with issues close to home and far afield

By Mary Braswell

It’s a year’s worth of exacting work, whittled down to a 20-minute talk.

And for some, it’s over in a flash.

“We were all talking about it afterward. ‘That was 20 minutes? It felt like five minutes!’ ” Ramandeep Kaur said of her team’s Applied Policy Project presentation, a rite of passage for all Luskin School MPP candidates.

Kaur’s team was one of 13 to stand before a packed lecture hall over three evenings in May. Each succinctly presented a policy issue, reviewed their research, made a case for the wisest course of action — then fielded a barrage of questions from their peers and professors. They also produced polished reports laying out their findings in detail.

In short, they were using skills each will need as they leave UCLA Luskin and put their master’s degrees to work.

“These Applied Policy Projects are extremely beneficial to our MPP students as they are an opportunity to put all of their policy analysis skills to work in a real-world setting,” Public Policy Vice Chair Manisha Shah said.

“In their first year, students learn so many of the tools necessary to do policy analysis, and then in their second year, they get to implement these tools in the APP,” Shah said. “The final product is an important piece of policy analysis on topics ranging from health to housing to the environment to social justice issues … and the list goes on.”

This year’s APP teams conducted rigorous research on issues near and far — from the drinkability of Los Angeles tap water to human rights abuses in Europe.

Some of the teams formed a year in advance, as students with similar interests and complementary skill sets banded together. Knowing they would work on the APP during their entire second year, they chose topics close to their hearts.

“I knew I wanted to do a project I was passionate about, a project that had an advocacy lens on it,” Kaur said.

Teammate Annia Yoshizumi had worked with the UCLA Luskin-based Center for Neighborhood Knowledge (CNK) and suggested pursuing a project on housing. Allan Nguyen and Xiaoyue Zheng brought strong data analysis skills to the team, Kaur said.

Their research on the impact of drastic rent increases in unincorporated L.A. County benefited two clients, CNK and the Los Angeles Center for Community Law and Action.

“For me personally, I did grow up in L.A., and my parents did live in a rent-controlled apartment, and they were able to then save a lot of money and purchase a house,” Kaur said. “But that’s not an opportunity that many people have. So how do you tell that story so that people understand?”

Another team focused on preserving undocumented patients’ access to healthcare in a time of anti-immigrant rhetoric. Two of the team’s members are earning concurrent MPP and M.D. degrees through UCLA’s Prime Program, including Joe Torres, who was undocumented himself until he became a U.S. citizen in 2016.

Working with Venice Family Clinic, which has provided medical care to vulnerable populations in West Los Angeles for nearly 50 years, the team paired data analysis with extensive surveys in English and Spanish. Among the findings: In the wake of the 2016 presidential election, 64 percent reported more fear or anxiety about ICE raids specifically at clinics, and 39 percent felt less safe taking their U.S. citizen children to the doctor.

To maintain the trust of its patients, Venice Family Clinic should step up the security of its patient records and forge partnerships with legal advocates in the community, the team recommended.

This year’s APP clients were a diverse lot, including the Partnership for L.A. Schools, the Clean Power Alliance, the European Implementation Network, an administrative judge for the Equal Employment and Opportunity Commission and several local government entities.

One team that shared an interest in international development took on the World Bank as a client. Their focus was assessing financial incentives for hospitals in the Kyrgyz Republic to improve infant and maternal mortality rates.

Key to the project were interviews conducted with agencies on the ground, team member Tanya Honey said.

“That’s the thing I love to do — I love doing outreach,” said Honey, who spent hours on international calls with the World Health Organization, United Nations and USAID. She credits faculty advisor Wes Yin with pushing the team to use these conversations with experts to provide context to their data.

“I think that was extremely valuable to our project,” Honey said, adding, “I’ve never heard so many Russian accents!” With a bachelor’s degree in linguistics, Honey speaks Spanish, French, Italian, Chinese, Hindu and English, but “not Russian — yet.”

To prepare for their APP presentation, Honey’s team recruited students from the Luskin School’s third-floor Commons to serve as a mock audience.

“We were definitely a little bit nervous,” she said, but fortunately her team had substantial experience in public speaking. Teammate Parshan Khosravi is an officer and advocate with the Graduate Students Association, and others have taught classes as teacher’s aides or presented papers at symposiums.

Another APP tradition also helped calm nerves: dressing like you mean business. “I actually feel more confident when I dress up,” Honey said.

Following each APP presentation is a question and answer period that can be daunting. While everyone in the audience is supportive of the presenters, many are also experts in their fields and can readily spot holes in data, assumptions and methodology.

Kaur’s team knew that its main policy recommendation — a rent stabilization ordinance — was controversial.

“A lot of economists do not like RSOs, so we knew we were going to be hit with a lot of questions about that,” she said.

But her team was confident in their analysis and ready for any challenge they might face.

“We did a mock presentation in front of both of our clients, and had them ask us really hard questions that they get in the field when they talk about any sort of tenant protection policy,” she said. “So that really prepped us.”

Also important to Kaur’s team was putting a human face on their policy analysis. They included tenants’ voices because “we really wanted to frame it in a way that people understood who this policy was going to impact.”

Faculty advisors for this year’s APP teams were Shah, Yin, Meredith Phillips and John Villasenor. “What’s great about the experience is that, while it is a real-world experience, it is also a guided experience in that each group is assigned to a Public Policy professor who advises them through the entire process,” Shah said.

This year, three APP projects were singled out for special recognition:

  • Highest honors: Reducing Delay to Promote Civil Rights: How Administrative Judges at the EEOC Can Resolve Employment Discrimination Complaints in a Fair Yet Efficient Manner (Delvin Turner, Elizabeth Joun, David Lyons)
  • Honors: Social Determinants of Health Literacy: Optimizing Public Health Outreach and Education Strategies in Long Beach, California (Stephanie Berger, Marisa Conner, Alexander Fung, Taylor Wyatt)
  • Honors: LA TAP (Tap Water Action Plan): Evaluating the Customer Experience of Tap Water in Los Angeles (Virdiana Auger-Velez, Rachel Lacoe, Caleb Rabinowitz, Bei Zhao)

Find more photos from the 2018 Applied Policy Project presentations on Flickr

Applied Policy Project presentations 2018

Leo Estrada: ‘A Giant on Many Fronts’ Former colleagues reflect on the late Urban Planning scholar's 40-year legacy as a researcher, teacher, mentor and role model

By Stan Paul

Leo Estrada was a fierce and effective advocate for Latino voting, civil rights and representation prior to his death in November 2018. For 40 years before his retirement in June 2018, Estrada devoted his time and talent to research and teaching new generations of urban planners. But, for the Texas native who first arrived at UCLA in 1977, his career was also marked from the beginning by civic engagement, leadership and giving back.

Estrada was “a giant on many different fronts,” Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, a longtime Luskin School colleague and urban planning professor, said prior to his death. “He has been an inspiring teacher and a mentor to an endless number of UCLA students and a role model to many Latino and minority students.”

A June 11, 2018, retirement celebration in honor of Estrada recognized his decades of scholarship, service and accomplishments as an associate professor at UCLA and the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.

Estrada was one of the first urban planning scholars to teach and institutionalize courses about diversity and planning, said Loukaitou-Sideris, who is also associate provost for academic planning at UCLA.

“As a brilliant demographer, he was also instrumental in confronting gerrymandering and giving ethnic communities equal representation in California and other states around the country,” she said.

“As if these accomplishments have not been enough, Leo has also served on a number of important university shared-governance posts,” Loukaitou-Sideris said at the time. His most recent leadership post was no small assignment — guiding the direction of UCLA for years to come as chair of the Academic Senate in 2015-16.

UCLA Luskin colleague Fernando Torres-Gil said last spring that Estrada also conducted pioneering work in the fields of gerontology and Latino aging.

“As a young graduate student I came to know about Leo Estrada,” said Torres-Gil, professor of public policy and social welfare. “He was completing his dissertation at Florida State at a time when the field of aging was new and no one had investigated the demographic and social issues of an emerging population — Latinos.”

His former colleague had “the foresight to raise issues of Latino aging, support budding graduate students like myself and become a co-founder of important Hispanic advocacy groups.”

Torres-Gil, director of the UCLA Luskin-based Center for Policy Research on Aging,  said of Estrada: “I owe much to his early mentoring, to his friendship and, best of all, to becoming colleagues in the Luskin School.”

According to Torres-Gil, Estrada was among the first and longest-serving Latinos in the Luskin School and its earlier iterations of Social Welfare and Urban Planning at UCLA.

UCLA and Beyond the Gates

Estrada had been at UCLA during its growth into one of the pre-eminent universities in the world.

“When I came here, I would consider UCLA to be one of the better schools in the United States,” Estrada said prior to his retirement ceremony. “As I leave now, in the year 2018, it is one of the best. And so I’m very proud because I participated in some aspects of that all along the way.”

The Leo Estrada fellowship fund at the Luskin School of Public Affairs
will support graduate students in the department of
Urban Planning with an unmet financial need who are from cultural,
racial, linguistic, geographic and socioeconomic backgrounds that are
underrepresented in graduate education.

Estrada had felt called to engage in the issues, events and protests around him. When he arrived at UCLA, he said last spring, “There was always something happening, and every place I had been to earlier discouraged the faculty from community involvement.”

But Estrada encountered a different attitude in an interview with his first boss at UCLA, the late Harvey Perloff, known as the “dean” of American urban planners and iconic early leader of UCLA’s Graduate School of Architecture and Urban Planning, as it was then known.

“He asked me if I had a question and I said, ‘Yes.’ I said, ‘If I become involved in community issues and spend some of my time not only on campus but off campus, will that be a problem?’ And he said, ‘It’s not a problem at all.’ In fact, he said, ‘I’ll reward you for it.’

“Reward me for it?” repeated Estrada.  He recalled Perloff’s response: “ ‘I think our faculty in the field of planning should be in the community, so you do what you have to do. Try not to get arrested.’ ”

Estrada dove into issues in Los Angeles, then the Southwest, then across the country.

“One of the things I had was a skill in mapping, and so I became involved in redistricting issues” in cities including San Diego, Sacramento, Albuquerque, Chicago and New York, he said prior to his retirement.

“The latest thing I did was redistrict the congressional districts in Arizona after the last Census,” said Estrada, who became a go-to expert for government, academics and the media. “I had a talent and I used it.”

The Call

Estrada’s community involvement put him at the forefront of issues in Los Angeles — including the beating of Rodney King in 1991 and the formation of the Christopher Commission to examine use of force by the LAPD.

Estrada recalled answering his home phone one night about 8 o’clock. “It was Tom Bradley. You don’t expect to receive a call from the mayor,” he said. Bradley invited him downtown the next morning to talk about serving on a commission. Estrada didn’t have classes that day, so he agreed.

“When I got downtown, I was introduced as one of Bradley’s group of seven people that had been selected to serve on this commission. When I showed up, I expected to see the mayor and some of his deputy mayors, and there we were in front of the cameras .”

Estrada said the commission worked from early morning into the evening during the 100 days he served. “It was an incredible experience. We worked every day of the week, Saturdays and Sundays near the end as well,” he said. “We argued a lot.”

“As a brilliant demographer, Leo was instrumental in confronting gerrymandering and giving ethnic communities equal representation in California and other states around the country.”

Anastasia Loukaitou-Siderisurban planning professor 

Relations between police and the public had been deteriorating in Los Angeles for some time. The Christopher Commission concluded that a breakdown in LAPD management created a culture that tolerated the excessive use of force. But the following spring, the acquittal of four officers involved in the beating triggered the Los Angeles riots, which led to scores of deaths.

“It’s one of the most important moments of my history and life here in Los Angeles,” Estrada recalled as he prepared to retire. “That little commission report started a whole movement of community policing that took over in most of the United States.”

On Planning

Estrada’s fascination with the planning profession never waned.

“I think urban planning is … one of the key fields right now in academia. There’s almost nothing that doesn’t touch on planning,” he said last spring. The profession has expanded its horizons, he said, pointing to areas such as food systems and bike path planning as “something we never would have thought of 20 years ago.”

“I’m just pleased by the way we expanded into new fields, never got stuck in a status quo. [We’re] always looking for new ways to make planning relevant to all aspects of urban life,” Estrada said.

In some ways, the field has become more complex, he said, but planners have access to new technology that didn’t exist a generation ago.

“As long as people really believe in trying to make this a better world, we can make things happen,” he said.

Giving Back

“UCLA has been really good to me, and I have been appreciative,” Estrada said as he looked back on his long career prior to retiring. “They provided me with resources, opportunities, just an incredible amount. I can’t even begin to list the amount of things I’ve been able to do, in the department, at the university. And I’ve felt blessed.”

As he approached retirement, Estrada decided he needed to give back. He had previously served on the Undergraduate Council and Academic Senate, and in 2015 he stepped up to chair the Senate, which allows the faculty to participate in governing the university.

But this was no twilight tour for Estrada. “You find yourself in a position of negotiating constantly, and UCLA is such a monster in terms of what’s going on, so many things happening, so many people, and there’s 3,700 members of the Academic Senate and you represent them as the spokesperson.”

“I gave back a lot more than I was expecting,” said Estrada earlier this year. “Some things were controversial.

He added, “Leaders of the Academic Senate … work every day to make the faculty at UCLA the best that it can be.

“It gives you a perspective,” he said of his time on the Academic Senate.  “That’s why I can tell you I know for sure that UCLA is one of the best schools in the world because I’ve seen what we do and how it’s done to sustain that kind of quality.”

View photos from the retirement celebration in a Flickr album:

Leo Estrada Retirement Celebration

‘Gratitude and Respect’

In preparation for the retirement celebration, students and colleagues from all three UCLA Luskin departments recalled the essential role that Leo Estrada played in their education and careers.

“Leo’s tireless mentorship of our master’s and Ph.D. students is very well-known, and we will honestly struggle mightily to fill that void after he leaves. What might not be as well known is his mentorship of junior faculty. In my case, Leo taught me more than anyone how to work –how to organize your time and ideas, and how to prioritize between the countless opportunities and responsibilities that we face in these great jobs we have. I will continue to pass this advice down to future colleagues and try (and often fail) to fully implement his advice.”

Michael LensAssociate professor of urban planning and public policy

“When people learn that I was in urban planning at UCLA, their most frequently asked follow up question is “Do you know Leo Estrada? From community spaces to academic conferences to quick conversations with people I’ve just met, Leo is a living legend whose legacy will stretch far beyond his more than four decades at UCLA. Leo was my Ph.D. advisor and dissertation committee chair, and I am endlessly grateful that from day one he modeled for me his incredible dedication to mentoring, to teaching, and to being an active citizen of the university community. Now as a professor at CSULB I often find myself thinking ‘What Would Leo Do?’ when considering how to guide my own students. The answer is easy: I remind myself of the ways in which Leo always sees his students as the whole people that they are, which means it is only natural that he then teaches and mentors them from a place of authentic care. I know I’m not alone in saying that Leo had a significant impact on my trajectory as an educator, and on how I learned to envision a place for myself in academia and the community.”

Nina Flores, UP Ph.D. ’16Assistant Professor, Social & Cultural Analysis of Education, California State University Long Beach.

“Professor Estrada always listened first, and then provided his sage and soft prompts that got us back on our feet and headed in the right direction.  And he did this for so many students.  There was a constant stream of students visiting him in office hours to discuss any number of issues.  He has helped thousands of students, and so many of them first generation students of color who, without his guidance, might not have been the first in their families to attain a master’s or doctorate degree. I have also been fortunate to stay connected with Professor Estrada post my UCLA studies, through the enormous work he has led in redistricting, demographics and spatial analysis.  Professor Estrada’s work trail blazed equitable representation and full counts of ALL people across Los Angeles, California and beyond. Finally, his wisdom in connecting his students to his applied research work ensured the next generation of demographers, urban planners, and policy leaders follow in his footsteps. To Leo, you have my eternal gratitude, respect, and prayers for good health.”

Veronica Melvin MPP ’01President & CEO of LA Promise Fund

“Dr. Estrada represents everything that I hope to be in a Professor. He is brilliant, warm, fair, empowering and extremely skilled in shepherding students through the hurdles of academia.  As a woman of color returning for my doctorate in my 40s, Dr. Estrada met my anxious arrival with a calm ‘I know how to get you through, don’t worry.’ My doctoral program was a tough road, as I usually had at least one job (sometimes two) and I was a single parent for much of the time. Dr. Estrada made sure I stayed on track, focused on what was important and made each milestone. Most importantly, he serves as my model for how I interact with students. As a scholar dedicated to social and economic justice, I feel helping students access public education is a vital part of my mission.  UCLA, as a great public institution, is only as great as how its faculty provides this access. Dr. Estrada embodies this role – He broke through barriers and widened the pathway for others to follow.  Without him, countless students of color would not have achieved their graduate degrees.  As a three time Bruin (BA ’91, MA/MSW ’99, PhD ’14), when I define UCLA’s greatness, I describe the faculty that truly believe in the purpose of public education – and Dr. Estrada personifies that purpose.”

Susan J. Nakaoka, MA ’99, MSW ’99, PhD ’14Assistant Professor in the Division of Social Work, College of Health and Human Services, California State University Sacramento

“While Leo is a national leader in the field of demographics and was instrumental in developing and teaching the department’s GIS curriculum, I think his most important contribution has been to the hundreds of students he has mentored and supported. For many years Leo and I were the Faculty Counseling Board tasked with helping students who were having academic trouble. Leo had a marvelous way of getting students to focus on why things weren’t going well and to help them create a plan to overcome their difficulties.  He was supportive at every step and I can’t remember a student who did not ultimately complete the program successfully – in many cases largely because of Leo’s encouragement.  We also both worked on admissions for the department. When tough decisions were required, Leo was always willing to read and discuss files, give valuable input and straightforward opinions.  He has been instrumental in helping the department student body become as diverse as it is.  Many excellent students applied to our program because of their introduction to Urban Planning in Leo’s undergraduate courses. Whether fellow faculty member, staff or student, Leo would always make time to listen and offer support. I feel very lucky to have worked with him for so many years and to have him as a friend.”

Robin LiggettProfessor emeritus of urban planning

Hot Weather Lowers Students’ Ability to Learn, New Study Finds UCLA Luskin scholar Jisung Park documents the negative effects of warm temperatures on educational performance

By Mary Braswell

An expansive study tracking 10 million American students over 13 years confirms what children, parents and teachers already suspected: When classrooms grow uncomfortably warm, students struggle to learn.

Low-income and minority students are particularly affected, and the problem stands to worsen as global temperatures rise, according to the research co-authored by UCLA Luskin assistant professor of public policy Jisung Park.

In some schools, a remedy is within reach. The negative effects of hotter days are almost entirely offset in classrooms equipped with air-conditioning, the researchers found.

Park said the study was launched to understand the effects of climate on educational performance. “Specifically, we were interested in whether a hotter-than-average schoolyear can actually reduce the rate of learning,” he said.

The researchers found that, without air conditioning, each 1 degree Fahrenheit increase in schoolyear temperature reduces the amount learned that year by 1 percent. The decline in learning was detected when outdoor temperatures exceeded 75 degrees “but becomes really problematic at 85, 90 and above,” Park said.

“I think it’s worth highlighting the fact that racial minorities and low-income students seem to be affected much more negatively,” Park said. “So with the same heat shock — in the same year with 10 more hot days — black or Hispanic students on average would experience roughly three or four times the negative impact than a white student would.

“A lot of that seems to be because of different rates of air conditioning, both at school and at home.”

Park points out that “the United States is still one of the most highly air conditioned countries in the world.” In countries like India and Bangladesh, where both temperatures and poverty levels are high, the effects of heat on cognitive development are likely to be more profound, he said.

The study, published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, assessed test scores from 10 million high school students who took the PSAT exam multiple times, between 2001 and 2014. An individual test-taker’s scores dipped in years when higher temperatures were recorded, the research found.

“An important distinction to make here is, in this paper, we’re not actually studying how temperature during an exam affects your performance,” Park said. “You could have someone who’s very well-educated have a bad test day. That’s very different from someone who, because they weren’t able to focus enough times over an extended period, is actually not very well educated. We wanted to test that latter hypothesis.”

He noted that the research was motivated, in part, by a desire to make our society more resilient to climate change. The study forecasts the impact of hot temperatures on student learning over the next three decades. One model assumes no changes in school infrastructure, and another assumes that the rate of air conditioning is increased.

“There’s a very big difference,” Park said.

But he added that the research should not be interpreted as a mandate for schools to install air conditioning.

“As always, we need to weigh the costs and benefits,” he said. “The costs are going to vary tremendously, and maybe it still doesn’t make sense for a school up in northeast Maine to revamp their hundred-year-old building at a $20-million cost.”

Park holds a joint appointment with the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, where he is an assistant professor of environmental health sciences. As a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University and National Science Foundation fellow at Harvard University, he pursued research in environmental and labor economics, specializing in the impact of climate change on human capital.

Park’s latest study, “Heat and Learning,” was co-authored by Joshua Goodman, associate professor at Harvard University; Michael Hurwitz, senior director at the College Board, which administers SAT and PSAT exams; and Jonathan Smith, assistant professor at Georgia State University.

Michael Lens, associate faculty director for the UCLA Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies, at the Downtown Los Angeles Forum on Transportation, Land Use and the Environment. Photos by Stan Paul

The Rent is Too Damn High: A Forum on L.A.’s Housing Crisis Skyrocketing costs and politics of supply are focus of UCLA Lewis Center’s 11th annual Downtown Los Angeles Forum

By Stan Paul

“Too Much and Not Enough” is a recipe for a crisis when it comes to rising rents and lack of available and affordable housing in Los Angeles County.

It also was an apt title of the UCLA Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies’ 11th annual Downtown Los Angeles Forum on Transportation, Land Use and the Environment, held May 18, 2018, at the California Endowment.

“The short story is the rent has been getting ‘too damn high’ for decades, and renter wages have not kept up,” said moderator Michael Lens, associate professor of urban planning and public policy at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.

In the last few years, a threshold has been crossed as “more and more households cannot really bear the rising costs of rent,” Lens said, launching a day of debate and discussion on a nationwide problem that is acutely felt in the L.A. region, which is also beset by chronic homelessness.

Experts representing academia, government and nonprofit organizations, as well as community stakeholders, came together to discuss problems, barriers and solutions to the multifaceted issue of affordable housing.

“Research is pretty unequivocal that increasing housing supply is necessary to stabilize prices,” Lens said, but there is less certainty about what happens in neighborhoods that receive new housing supply or investment. “Neighborhood dynamics certainly complicate any of our policy options or choices and solutions for increasing housing affordability,” said Lens, who also serves as associate faculty director for the Lewis Center.

‘If we want to stem the pipeline of people moving onto our streets, we have to come up with solutions that keep people in place, and that’s a moral issue, it’s a humanitarian issue, and it doesn’t rest with individual owners, it rests with all of us.’

— Panelist Jacqueline Waggoner

Paavo Monkkonen, associate professor of public policy and urban planning at UCLA, led the first panel of speakers, who looked at the causes and effects of the crisis from a variety of perspectives.

Panelists included Isela Gracian, president of the East LA Community Corporation; Robin Hughes, president and CEO of Abode Communities; Shane Phillips, director of public policy at the Central City Association; and Carolina Reid, assistant professor of city and regional planning at UC Berkeley.

“We can’t build affordable housing fast enough to meet the need,” said Reid, adding that “we don’t have a system where we can hold cities accountable for how much housing they’re producing to meet growing housing demand.”

Since 2000, half of L.A. neighborhoods built no housing at all, according to Reid. Citing gentrification pressures at the urban core, she said neighborhoods with the best transit access are building the fewest affordable housing units.

“Planning isn’t helping,” she added, noting that California cities continue to include minimum lot sizes and restrictive zoning. Compounding the problem are lengthy permitting and regulatory requirements along with strong public opposition to some affordable housing projects.

A second panel, led by Lens, addressed the politics of supply and evaluated possible solutions. Panelists were Becky Dennison, executive director of Venice Community Housing; Jackelyn Hwang, assistant professor of sociology at Stanford University; Jacqueline Waggoner, vice president and Southern California market leader for Enterprise Community Foundation; and Ben Winter, housing policy specialist with the Office of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.

Hwang weighed the pros and cons of rent control. She cited research showing that landlords do take advantage of “perverse incentives,” such as converting units to condos to become exempt from rent control — and consequently decreasing rental housing supply. But rent control also protects tenants, she said, noting that it encourages longer-term and elderly residents to stay in place, protecting them from displacement.

“I think the takeaway from the study is it puts too much power in the hands of landlords,” she said.  “I think there are ways to have rent control and maybe we can think of more creative ways on how it’s implemented.”

Waggoner is a proponent of rent control but said the strategy should be regional and not just within the city. “If we want to stem the pipeline of people moving onto our streets, we have to come up with solutions that keep people in place, and that’s a moral issue, it’s a humanitarian issue, and it doesn’t rest with individual owners, it rests with all of us,” she said.

Keynote speaker Kathy Nyland made her point succinctly: “Put people first, share the power, and let people be part of the solution.”

As director of Seattle’s Department of Neighborhoods, Nyland oversaw the overhaul of the neighborhood council system to emphasize inclusive outreach, equity and community engagement. She said she has looked at affordable housing from several vantage points, having also served as chief of staff to a Seattle City Council member and as a senior policy advisor to the city’s mayor.

Audience members had the opportunity to join the discussion, during the panels and at a reception that followed the conference.One of them was Tham Nguyen, a 2005 alumna of the Luskin Urban Planning master’s program, who is now a senior manager in transportation planning for LA Metro’s Office of Extraordinary Innovation.

“It’s certainly a very important component of transportation, looking at the housing and land use aspect,” Nguyen said. “This is a really great learning experience to see the conversations that are happening and unfolding around affordable housing.”

Brian Taylor, professor of urban planning and outgoing director of the Lewis Center, closed the conference with this observation: “I thought transportation planning was complicated, but you’ve got me humbled here.”

Taylor, who also serves as director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at UCLA Luskin, said he often hears comments that emphasize both connections and contradictions in transportation: “Traffic is terrible. We have to stop development. Let’s build a lot of rail and have transit-oriented development, but we’re really worried about gentrification.”

While the “enormously complex” affordable housing crisis has been manifested over years and solutions may be slow in coming, “that doesn’t mean they’re not worth pursuing,” he said. “But what it does mean is that the person that has been displaced today is not going to benefit from that immediately. …

“These problems are visceral and they’re current, and the needs to address them are immediate and pressing,” he said, adding that bridging the gap between slow market changes and urgent needs on the streets of L.A. “is really going to be the challenge as we move forward.”

View additional photos from the conference on Flickr:

DTLA 2018

Diplomacy at Work Luskin School-based Diplomat in Residence Heather Joy Thompson speaks to students about the prospects and joys of working for the U.S. State Department.

By Zev Hurwitz

Students looking to pursue careers in diplomacy had a firsthand look at working in the field during a lunchtime talk with Diplomat in Residence Heather Joy Thompson.

In her talk, titled “Careers in Diplomacy: An Insider’s Perspective,” Thompson walked through her own journey to the diplomatic corps as well as what it takes to join the Foreign Service.

The first step is taking the Foreign Service Officers Test, which has both exam and essay components, Thompson said. Applicants with high enough scores are invited to Washington, D.C., for an in-person interview that can take an entire day.

“This was the toughest interview I ever had in my life,” Thompson told the crowd of about 40 undergraduate and graduate students at the May 24, 2018, talk.

Successful applicants are placed into a pool of prospective diplomatic officers. If selected for assignment, they spend six to eight weeks in what Thompson calls “Diplomacy University” in Arlington, Va., learning foreign languages and developing professional skills for their careers in the service—all the while receiving salary to do so.

“I have never heard of a job where you are in school full-time and don’t have to report to an office but still get paid,” Thompson said.

Prospective diplomatic officers choose a desired track, including economics, politics, management and media relations, Thompson said. They remain in the pool for up to 18 months, after which they must apply again.

Thompson said her path to the Foreign Service was “unique.” Originally a Peace Corps volunteer in Burkina Faso, Thompson’s experience working in a region with no plumbing or electricity forced her to do a “deep dive” into her education.

“In a lot of ways, it settled me in a way that other positions probably couldn’t,” she said.

Following the Peace Corps, Thompson earned her law degree but decided against pursuing a career at a firm. A mutual acquaintance introduced her to a diplomat who steered her toward the State Department.

Thompson also once worked for Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs after winning a YouTube competition to be the rapper’s assistant.

In the Foreign Service since 2008, Thompson has been stationed in Johannesburg, South Africa, and Washington, D.C., and most recently worked as an economic officer in Mexico City’s U.S. Embassy.

At the UCLA Luskin talk, the final event of the 2017-2018 Senior Fellows Speaker Series, Thompson said the current political environment is somewhat challenging to the goals of her team. Nonetheless, she believes it is important to persevere.

“We are still here to do the work of the American people,” Thompson said. “Unless you are self-employed, it’s hard to find an employer with whom you agree 100 percent of the time.”

On the whole, Thompson said she very much enjoys her work as a diplomat.

“I think I have the best job on the planet,” she said. “The experience my colleagues in Foreign Service and I have are unparalleled in the private and public sector.”

Thompson is this year’s Diplomat in Residence for the State Department’s Southern California region, which includes Hawaii and Nevada. Diplomats in Residence are housed at UCLA Luskin, where they often engage with students through the Senior Fellows Program.

“Working for the U.S. State Department can be an outstanding career for the right person,” VC Powe, director of career services and leadership development at UCLA Luskin, said after Thompson’s talk. “UCLA Luskin is fortunate annually to host a Diplomat in Residence for the benefit of the greater UCLA community.”

 

Social Welfare Honors Alumna of the Year, Bestows Lifetime Achievement Award Large crowd from UCLA Luskin gathers in Hollywood to recognize achievements of Helene Creager MSW ’85 and Wilfred “Bill” Coggins MSW ’55

By Stan Paul

During the annual gathering to present Helene Creager MSW ’85 with its Alumna of the Year award, UCLA Luskin Social Welfare also recognized a lifetime of achievement by Wilfred “Bill” Coggins, a member of the Social Welfare graduating class 30 years earlier, in 1955.

Friends, family, faculty and coworkers jammed Loteria Grill in Hollywood on May 19, 2018, to celebrate Creager, a supervising U.S. probation officer, and Coggins, founder of the Kaiser Permanente Watts Counseling and Learning Center.

Since 2007, a Master of Social Welfare (MSW) graduate has received the alumni award named after the former vice chair and longtime director of field education at UCLA Luskin, Joseph A. Nunn MSW ’70 PhD ’90. He was on hand to congratulate both awardees and to introduce Coggins, who was the first-ever recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award.

Distinguished at Every Level

Creager received her award from Professor Emeritus Alex Norman DSW ’74, who had nominated her and is also the person who first encouraged Creager to pursue an MSW at UCLA. “She has distinguished herself at every level of her professional employment,” Norman said.

In 1995, Creager joined the U.S. Probation Office for the Central District of California. Creager has served in a number of roles bringing a social justice emphasis to posts ranging from clinical director of a youth center for wards of the court and the Los Angeles County Probation Department.

During her time as an undergraduate psychology major at UCLA, she enrolled in a class taught by Norman — her first exposure to social work. “Meeting Dr. Norman and taking that class motivated me to obtain my master’s in social welfare instead of psychology,” she recalled.

Creager has served as a field instructor for UCLA students, and her career includes work as a treatment team leader of the supervising and treatment staff at Dorothy Kirby Center. Since 1995, Creager – who plans to retire this year – has been serving with the U.S. Court Office, Central District of California. There she has led the implementation of STARR (Staff Training Aimed at Reducing Re-Arrest), which is a set of skills that U.S. Probation Officers can use in their interactions with the individuals they supervise in the community. She has also provided training and assisted in other districts in implementing STARR.

“I am receiving this award as I am about to retire, by the man who helped me start my career,” said Creager, who is married to another alum.

Creager cites Nunn as a mentor during her studies and throughout her career.

“Being selected for this award is exponentially more meaningful to me because it is named after someone I admire and respect,” said Creager, who also worked with Nunn when she became a field instructor for MSW interns and served with him on the Social Welfare Alumni Board in the 1980s. “We both also share that we worked in the criminal justice system and value what social workers bring to criminal justice agencies.”

Commenting on her early training in social welfare, Creager said, “I have been very fortunate that all of my life’s work has been in line with my social work values, knowledge, skills and education. I have had a career that has been fulfilling and meaningful, and it all began with my graduate social work education and experience.”

A Chance to Develop Something Important

At one time Coggins, trained as a psychiatric social worker, contemplated working in private practice, but his life took a different path shortly after the New York native and U.S. Army veteran returned to the United States in 1966 from a Fulbright Scholar post in London.

Recalling his decision to take a job in South Los Angeles in the wake of the Watts riots, Coggins recalled thinking, “Here’s a chance to develop something for the community.”

Since 1967, Coggins has been known for his work in Watts and for founding and serving as director of the Kaiser Permanente Watts Counseling and Learning Center. Through his leadership and clinical experience, a center that started as a “loosely defined program” for children and their parents became the important community service that today continues to provide counseling and educational services to the Watts community.

“I am reminded of the contribution of Bill Coggins every single day as I work in Watts,” commented Jorja Leap MSW ’80, adjunct professor of Social Welfare at Luskin and director of the UCLA Watts Leadership Institute. “He rolled up his sleeves and got involved in the community.”

Leap said Coggins focused his efforts on the strengths of the people who live in Watts. “Every Monday morning at the Watts Gang Task Force, when the staff of Kaiser gets up to present on their latest efforts, we are all (silently) reminded of the work Bill did — it lives forever,” she said.

Alice Harris, an institution in Watts herself, has carried on the tradition of Coggins. “Sweet Alice,” as she is known in the community, met Coggins through a program he established through the Watts Counseling and Learning Center. Harris is one of the original Core Mothers, a group of parents who attended the center with their children and went on to serve as advisers to new parents and their children. Today, Harris continues to serve as executive director of Parents of Watts, a social services agency that she started out of her own home more than 50 years ago.

Harris, who was on hand to see Coggins receive his honor, said, “I went on to college, and then I started a program because I wanted to be like Bill Coggins. I wanted to help the people out like he was helping the people; that’s exactly what I did, and I have been doing that ever since.”

Coggins describes his MSW education as “priceless and valuable,” adding, “skills you develop … can be applied to a variety of settings that can be nonmedical, nonclinical.”

Coggins’ wide-ranging career has included stints as a psychiatric social worker for the Suicide Prevention Center in Los Angeles, providing therapeutic treatment for patients at the Wells Medical Group in Arcadia and serving as a senior psychiatric social worker for the Veteran’s Administration. He has also done work assisting the developmentally disabled.

He has applied his education and training well. “I’ve had a very rich career, and I’ve worked in a variety of quality places. I’ve been lucky, but at the same time, when the luck broke, I had the tools to deal with the situation that was being presented to me.”

This year Coggins will also be inducted into the California Social Work Hall of Distinction along with alumni Kathy Kubota MSW ’82, John Oliver MSW ’69 and Yasuko Sakamoto MSW ’83.

Other UCLA Luskin speakers at this year’s Social Welfare gathering included Dean Gary Segura, Alumni Relations and Social Media Director Marisa Lemorande, and Gerry Laviña MSW ’88, director of field education. Toby Hur MSW ’93, a Social Welfare field faculty member, introduced this year’s Social Welfare Alumni Fellowship Fund recipient, Jennifer Weill, a second-year MSW student.

If you would like to donate to the UCLA Luskin Social Welfare Fellowship Fund which provides support for student fellowship opportunities, click here to learn more.

 

Filling a Gap in Housing Justice Institute on Inequality and Democracy receives $486,784, four-year NSF grant to study housing precarity

By Cristina Barrera

The Institute on Inequality and Democracy (II&D) at UCLA Luskin has been awarded a four-year, $486,784 National Science Foundation grant.

The award (NSF BCS #1758774) will support the establishment of a research coordination network — Housing Justice in Unequal Cities — housed at the II&D at UCLA Luskin to address the housing crisis in a variety of cities in the United States and will include partnerships with key research entities in Brazil, India, South Africa and Spain.

The network will advance research on housing precarity such as evictions, homelessness and displacement, with plans to study these issues in tandem with forms of racial segregation and discrimination.

“As the recent headlines indicate, the United States is in the midst of an evictions epidemic. And yet, there is very little systematic data and data visualization on evictions and related forms of housing precarity,” said Ananya Roy, director of the Institute on Inequality and Democracy and professor of urban planning, social welfare and geography. “There is also much work to be done on conceptualizing the main instruments of displacement and evictions that are currently underway in black and brown communities.”

According to Roy, the network will fill a gap in research by systematically analyzing community and policy responses that seek to create housing access and housing justice through legal frameworks, cooperative models of land and housing, and collective action (e.g. rent control, community land trusts). An important aspect of the project is its coordination at the intersection of social movements, universities and policy. Paying close attention to housing movements and policy interventions, the network will synthesize the primary modalities of housing justice and its conceptual underpinnings into a housing justice handbook that will be broadly disseminated.

“A global and comparative approach is important because there are important lessons to be learned from housing research in other parts of the world, including sophisticated conceptualizations and measurements of displaceability,” Roy said. “Similarly, there is much to be learned from housing movements in different parts of the world and how they have been institutionalized in progressive forms of urban planning and policy change.”

Riverside Mayor ‘Rusty’ Bailey Named Commencement Speaker The 1999 Public Policy alumnus will give keynote address at UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs ceremony on June 15

By George Foulsham

William R. “Rusty” Bailey, the mayor of Riverside, California, has been named the 2018 Commencement speaker for the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.

Bailey, a 1999 Public Policy graduate of the Luskin School and the school’s Public Policy Alumnus of the Year in 2013, will speak during the Luskin ceremony at 9 a.m. on June 15 at Royce Hall on the UCLA campus.

“The Honorable Rusty Bailey is a distinguished leader, an innovator and a model of the sort of informed and compassionate elected official which reflects our best nature,” Luskin School Dean Gary Segura said. “As the leader of the 12th-largest city of California, Rusty has a deep understanding of the challenges and opportunities which face our state and its amazing, diverse population. We are proud to call him a Luskin alum and even prouder that he will join us as our commencement speaker this year.”

Bailey is a Riverside native who has served as mayor of his hometown since 2012, having previously been a member of the city council. His family came to Riverside in 1914 and has a long history of service to the community.

After graduating from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point with a degree in political science in 1994, Bailey worked in a variety of public service positions locally and in Washington, D.C.

Bailey was elected to the Riverside City Council in 2007, representing Ward 3, and took office on Dec 11, 2007. He was re-elected in 2011 and served in that role until he was elected mayor in November 2012. He took office on Dec 11, 2012, and was re-elected in June 2016.

Bailey is a member of the Western Riverside Council of Governments and its executive committee. He also serves on the Southern California Association of Governments Regional Council 68 and on its Transportation Committee.

Bailey’s accomplishments include serving as a helicopter pilot, platoon leader and company executive officer in the U.S. Army; earning a two-year Presidential Management Fellowship; and working for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Executive Office of the President in Washington D.C.  Bailey also served as a legislative aide for County Supervisor John F. Tavaglione and worked at the Riverside County Economic Development Agency. He spent more than a decade as a teacher at Poly High School in Riverside and served as a member of Riverside’s Cultural Heritage Board.

Bailey lives in Riverside with his wife, Judy, a former elementary and middle school teacher, and his daughters, Elizabeth and Julia.

Learn more about the 2018 Commencement at UCLA Luskin.