Meredith Phillips, chair of undergraduate affairs at UCLA Luskin, has received an inaugural Chancellor’s Award for Community-Engaged Research. Phillips will use the $10,000 grant to develop a new undergraduate course that will bring students and local organizations into a research partnership for the benefit of the wider community. Titled “Making Data Useful for Educational Improvement,” Phillips’ course will equip students to analyze student and staff survey data from elementary, middle and high schools, and present those data to educators and administrators who are seeking to improve their schools. “Community-engaged research creates outstanding learning opportunities for undergraduate students, advances the research of our faculty and benefits our community,” Chancellor Gene Block said in announcing the six faculty recipients of the new award, which is co-sponsored by the UCLA Center for Community Learning. In the coming year, the award recipients will work together to establish guidelines for elevating the learning experience for undergraduates. Their courses, which will be offered in the 2020-21 or 2021-22 academic years, will cover a range of issues, including minority communities, health disparities, environmental justice and education. “This award recognizes faculty for their community-engaged research efforts and at the same time creates a new set of community-engaged course offerings for undergraduates,” said Phillips, associate professor of public policy and sociology. “This first set of courses is just the beginning of what I expect will eventually be an extensive suite of courses, across a wide range of disciplines, that will connect UCLA students’ research training with the needs of our local community.”
Local high school students spend the day with UCLA Luskin undergraduate students and staff. Photo by Mary Braswell
Fifty students from four local high schools spent a day with UCLA Luskin undergrads to hear how they can use a college education to improve their own communities. The May 23 visit was organized in conjunction with Gear Up 4 LA, a federally funded program to put underserved students on the road to college. The visiting 10th- and 11th-graders came from four schools: Bernstein High in Hollywood, STEM Academy of Hollywood, West Adams Preparatory High in Pico-Union and Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools in Koreatown. Students and staff from the Luskin School’s undergraduate program led the visitors on a campus tour and answered questions about UCLA and its new Public Affairs major. They also guided group discussions about what unites and divides the visitors’ communities. The alumni host for the day was Kevin Johnson MURP ’17 of Alta Planning + Design, which sponsored the visit.
View photos from the visit on Flickr.
Assistant Secretary of State Michelle Giuda speaks to UCLA Luskin undergraduate students at a Learn-at-Lunch on March 15. Photo by Axel Lopez / Daily Bruin
UCLA Luskin’s just-launched undergraduate program is off to an exciting start. A month into the new academic year, 90 students have declared public affairs as a pre-major, and dozens more have reached out. The ambitious program combines critical thinking, social science methodology and deep engagement in the community. Freshman Callie Nance was immediately attracted to the public service ethos at the heart of the major. “This major doesn’t just expand knowledge,” she said. “It shows us how to do something with that knowledge, to make an impact.” That sentiment is reflected in the undergraduate program’s motto: Developing Leaders Engaged in Social Change. “Our students are developing knowledge and skills in the service of solving society’s most pressing problems, which is really what distinguishes this major from others,” said Undergraduate Affairs Chair Meredith Phillips, who is also an associate professor of public policy and sociology. The energy surrounding the major was on display during an undergraduate open house during the first week of school. Phillips led the welcoming committee, along with more than 20 faculty from across the School and Dean Gary Segura, who noted that he too will teach an undergraduate course this year, Foundations and Debates in Public Thought. The event offered a glimpse of the resources available to students pursuing the B.A. in Public Affairs. Freshman and sophomores freely mingled with professors who teach graduate-level courses and conduct cutting-edge research. And the undergraduate staff, who came together this summer to ensure the major was launched without a hitch, was out in force to answer questions and offer encouragement.
View more photos from the Undergraduate Open House.
By Stan Paul
Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris has spent a career researching the city of Los Angeles — from its physical aspects and aesthetics to its meaning and impact on those who live there.
The professor of Urban Planning and associate dean at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs will now help lead and plan the future of education for graduate and undergraduate students at UCLA. Loukaitou-Sideris, a UCLA Luskin faculty member since 1990, has been named UCLA’s Associate Provost for Academic Planning by Scott Waugh, UCLA’s executive vice chancellor and provost.
“Her administrative experience, expertise in planning and understanding of communities and complex organizations will make her a tremendous resource in this position,” said Waugh, who cited Loukaitou-Sideris’ vast experience as an academic leader and as a consultant to several organizations including the Transportation Research Board, the Federal Transit Administration, the Southern California Association of Governments, the Los Angeles Neighborhood Initiative and the Greek Ministry of Education.
For Loukaitou Sideris, the new post is both a privilege and a challenge.
“UCLA is a very big and complex organization, with many different parts doing many interesting things that the other parts do not necessarily know about,” she said. “Finding the right synergies and coordinating these different pieces towards some common goals is certainly challenging.”
One of her major tasks will be the development of a strategic plan for the whole campus for the next five to 10 years, Loukaitou-Sideris said. “We are going to establish task forces on certain issues and themes, and, these should be very inclusive in the sense they are going to have members from not only faculty and administration but staff and students,” she said.
Loukaitou-Sideris said the challenge would be to make sure that the process represents the aspirations of these groups as well as alumni.
Another significant effort that she will lead will be looking at instructional space at UCLA: “What the needs are, what do we need to do to bring the University into the 21st century in regards to classrooms and labs, but also in terms of what developments in online education may mean in terms of space. Basically, how could UCLA provide the best possible space to accommodate the changing educational and teaching needs?” A committee of deans, vice chancellors, students and staff has already been created to study this issue, she said.
Loukaitou-Sideris explained that a first-tier university like UCLA — a top 10 university in the world — should have a plan for its future.
“We do need to have a guide, for everyone who is a part of this community, as to what we want to focus on in order to have educational impact, research impact, global and social impacts and how these relate to innovation,” she said.
Loukaitou-Sideris said she plans to meet with every dean on campus as well as key administrators and academic leaders to hear their thoughts and to review and build on their unit’s strategic plans.
“The idea is that we are in this together, and what is good for UCLA is good for all of us,” she said. “So that is the spirit that we want to convey.”
Loukaitou-Sideris, who will continue as associate dean at Luskin as well as continue to teach and conduct research, said, “It is a real privilege to be able to work with a wide spectrum of the UCLA community to plan the University’s future. For me it is very important that the plan’s suggestions are followed by action and implementation.”
Loukaitou-Sideris, a core faculty member of the UCLA Urban Humanities Initiative, has published more than 100 articles and chapters, and has co-authored or co-edited five books, most recently “The Informal American City: Beyond Taco Trucks and Day Labor.” Her research has been funded by the California Department of Transportation, the California Air Resources Board, the California Department of Parks and Recreation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the John Randolph Haynes Foundation, the Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation, the Archstone Foundation, the Mineta Transportation Institute and the AARP.
She has also conducted academic reviews of units at several universities, including UC Berkeley, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of Colorado, Boulder, the University of Toronto, University of Auckland New Zealand and National Technical University of Athens.