‘A Lot of Opportunity’ for Luskin Students More than 50 companies and organizations woo students at the UCLA Luskin Career Fair

By Adrian Bijan White

While UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs students represent a wide variety of educational backgrounds and experiences, they share a reputation for motivation and passion for their chosen fields. Recognizing this, more than 50 companies and organizations participated in the school’s 5th annual Career Fair held recently at UCLA’s Ackerman Grand Ballroom.

VC Powe, director of Career Services and Leadership Development at Luskin, spoke highly of the diverse expertise of the students from the Public Policy, Social Welfare and Urban Planning programs offered at Luskin.

“They understand the individual through social work,” Powe said. “They understand how they are impacted through their community with planning. And, with policy, they understand what the economy is like, how it impacts our students, and what  we need to resolve to have healthy communities.”

The Luskin Career Fair, which has grown significantly over the years, partnered with the UCLA Career Center and the School of Public Health to attract a larger crowd from a broader range of disciplines. Both the public and private sectors were represented, with each company seeking students with specific skill sets from the school’s three departments.

With the economy still recovering from the Great Recession, the job market remains competitive for recent graduates. Representatives from local organizations such as Heal the Bay and Tree People attracted students with backgrounds in environmental science and policy. Major U.S. organizations, such as AECOM, that serve clients and countries around the world provided opportunities in urban planning and transportation.

“Urban planning is becoming more and more popular because we start to further urbanize as cities and people are becoming very interested in growth,” explained Rachel Lindt, representing AECOM. “I am optimistic not just because I know we are interested in potentially bringing on some people today, but because just for L.A. in itself, there is a lot of optimism for what the city can be. Locally, there is a lot of opportunity.”

Opportunities and information in the financial sector — from private firms to government agencies — also were available to Luskin students.

Audrey Bazos from the California Department of Finance said it can be challenging to explain exactly what her agency does, “but students are receptive and I can see eyes widen when they realize that it isn’t all about number crunching. That’s exciting and what I’m hoping for when I talk to the students.”

Jimmy Tran, who is pursuing both Master of Urban and Regional Planning (MURP) and Master of Public Health (MPH) degrees at UCLA, said he hoped to find a niche for his studies.

“What I’m hoping to gain from this experience is more about getting information,” Tran said. “One of the things I’m keeping in mind is whether there is an opportunity to apply the skills I’ve learned in public health and urban planning. I’m open to any experience — anything is helpful — but as a person studying two diverse fields, it is good for me to apply what I learn.”

Many Luskin students gain valuable experience in a variety of careers before embarking on their graduate studies. Tae Kang, a second-year Master of Public Policy (MPP) student, began working as a teacher before starting his studies in public policy.

“What I realized by serving as a teacher at the high school and middle school levels, especially in Inglewood, was how much improving our schools on a practical, ground-floor level is necessary for the improvement of our society,” Kang said.

For students in the Master of Social Welfare (MSW) program, gaining information about organizations and companies linked to social work is particularly important as they learn about agencies that work both at the individual level with small companies and on macro-level policy issues with cities.

“When you bring in someone who has that knowledge, ability and the passion to make a change, it impacts the entire organization,” Powe said. “That’s what we bring to the table.”

LA, CA Leaders Discuss Breaking the Stained-Glass Ceiling Luskin Leadership Development Program hosting Diversity in Leadership Conference on April 25.

diversityBy Alejandra Reyes-Velarde
UCLA Luskin Student Writer

On Saturday, April 25, UCLA Luskin hosted a Diversity in Leadership Conference to give students the opportunity to hear from top professionals about how to  break through a multi-colored glass ceiling and develop leadership skills as potential future leaders.

VC Powe, executive director of external relations, hosted the event under her Leadership Development Program. She says the conference was really organized around interest expressed by Luskin students.

“Last year students discussed hosting a women in leadership conference, but when I met with the committee this year, the students expressed a desire to open up the discussion to focus not just on women, but to all underrepresented groups,” Powe said.

Following a welcome address by the Commissions Appointment Secretary from the Office of Governor, Mona Pasquil, students participated in two panels with several Luskin Senior Fellows and leaders in Los Angeles County. The panel discussions were moderated by Val Zavala, the vice president of News and Public Affairs at KCET.

The day’s keynote address was delivered by Congresswoman Karen Bass.

Allyson Ly (MSW ‘15)  who was part of the conference planning committee said it is important for students who want to become advocates, policy makers and leaders to learn how others have been successful in similar areas of interest. The event allows students to learn about how they can be leaders while in a minority group whether that is in terms of race, sexual orientation, or any other combination of factors.

“It is important to learn how to advocate for individuals who may be in the minority, underserved or forgotten about, to help their voices be heard. I think students will come out motivated by the panelists and determined to find ways to acquire skills needed to become leaders in their field,” she said.

Ly said she is interested in learning about the struggles diverse leaders have faced and how their personal identity, values, history and present circumstances have influenced them throughout their careers.

Veronica Calkins, also a planning committee member said she thinks students should think about where they stand in terms of leadership skills to help them set goals as aspiring leaders. As future social workers, students have a lot of potential power to help the community and shape the lives of others, she said.

“Many students who enter the school of public affairs intend to help people who do not have large voices in society,” Calkins said. “ This conference will help individuals learn how to be better leaders for themselves and how to coach clients in our professional careers.”

Below is the breakdown of the panels and its speakers:

Panel 1:  Breaking the Stained-Glass Ceiling

  • Monique Earl, Deputy Controller, Los Angeles Office of the Controller

  • Torie Osborn, Principal Deputy for Policy/Strategy, Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors; Senior Fellow, UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs

  • Jennifer Thomas, Captain, Los Angeles Police Department

  • Alan Toy, Executive Director, Westside Center for Independent Living

Panel 2: Defining Leadership: How to become a great leader

  • Patricia Costales, Executive Director, The Guidance Center

  • Hon. Richard Katz, Founder, Katz Consulting, Former CA Assemblymember; Senior Fellow, UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs

  • Gillian Wright, Vice President, Customer Services, Southern California Gas Company

  • Hon. Betty Yee, CA State Controller

The event will take place from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. in the Luskin School of Public Affairs in rooms 2343 and 2355. Students interested in attending should register here.


Bohnett Fellows Make a Difference in L.A. Mayor’s Office UCLA Luskin's signature executive apprenticeship program provides on-the-job training and networking opportunities, including this visit to Washington, D.C.


By Adeney Zo
UCLA Luskin Student Writer

From L.A. to D.C., students in the David Bohnett Fellowship program are making an impact wherever they go.

This fellowship program, sponsored by the David Bohnett Foundation, gives UCLA Luskin students the unique opportunity to work in the L.A. Mayor’s office.

UCLA Luskin was the first of three schools across the nation to offer the Bohnett Fellowship, followed by the Wagner School of Public Service at New York University and the University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. Since its inception in 2006, fellows have had the chance to apply their studies to local issues, from homelessness to transportation alternatives.

Second-year Social Welfare master’s student Skylar Lenox had the opportunity to form and implement the Mayor’s Volunteer Corps, a group meant to “connect Angelenos with high impact volunteer opportunities . . . with Mayor Garcetti’s vision. It’s about finding opportunities that are high impact and meaningful,” said Lenox.

Kelsey Jessup, a second-year Public Policy student, was already interning at the Mayor’s office when she was accepted into the program, but the fellowship opened the doors to new opportunities within the office.

“Even as an intern they treat you as part of the staff . . . but with the fellowship expectations rose,” said Jessup. “I was there full time, doing bigger projects and more pressing things for the office.”

Jessup works in the Performance Management and Budget & Innovation department. At the start of her fellowship, Jessup became involved in one of the largest projects at the mayor’s office. “When Mayor Garcetti came to office in 2013, he took the role of CEO and planned to interview and evaluate all general managers of the city departments,” Jessup said. “I worked with my team on the analysis, and it was a great opportunity to learn about all the departments.”

Beyond working locally, however, fellows had the opportunity to travel and speak with students and policymakers across America.

In October, Bohnett Fellows from three different cities converged in Detroit to discuss how policy changed and revitalized Michigan’s most populous city. A group of UCLA Bohnett fellows also attended the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Washington, D.C., an annual event for mayors to discuss policy issues. The program was featured in Governing magazine.

“The conference allowed me to get out of academia and in the practical world,” Lenox said. “It has been the link between theory and practice, which allowed me to better get into the mindset of a practitioner.

“I learned what it means to be a leader in your city and evaluate policy in a way that brings in not just [the] ideal,” she said.

The conference allowed for Bohnett fellows to witness the perspectives and ideas of mayors in different areas of the U.S., and facing different challenges, coming together in a cohesive discussion.

“My biggest takeaway was that I felt inspired by what people across the nation are doing. Just being around all these mayors who want to collaborate and serve the public is inspiring,” Jessup said. “It makes me proud to work in a city that’s part of that movement.”

Both Lenox and Jessup will be finishing their work at the Mayor’s Office this year, but their future in policy and social work is just beginning.

Jessup, who studied theater as a UCLA undergraduate and worked in a variety of fields, views the fellowship as a window of opportunity for a career in public policy. “I’m learning skills, but without the experience of the fellowship I would have had a much harder time getting work experience on the field,” said Jessup. “It’s given me the foot in the door that I really didn’t know how I was going to get.”

Lenox is equally optimistic about the path she will take following the end of the fellowship and her studies at UCLA Luskin. “The fellowship is not just funding our education – they are really invested in us as leaders and future change makers,” said Lenox. “I really see social work as one of the most powerful disciplines you can be trained in for creating positive social change and being a service to others.”

VC Powe, executive director of External Programs, has overseen the program since its inception. She says the proof of the program’s promise is that all the graduates of the fellowship have secured full-time jobs in public service fairly quickly after graduation.

More information about the Bohnett Fellowship, including application information for UCLA Luskin students, can be found on the program website.