UCLA Luskin congratulated the graduating class of 2014 this morning, welcoming 51 Public Policy students, 93 Social Welfare students, and 71 Urban and Regional Planning students into the ranks of its alumni during a ceremony at Royce Hall.
Dean Franklin D. Gilliam, Jr., quoted the recently departed author Maya Angelou in his opening address to the assembled students, faculty, staff and friends of the School. “‘You can only become truly accomplished at something you love,’” Dean Gilliam said. “‘Don’t make money your goal.’
“‘Instead, pursue the things you love doing and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off of you.’”
Social Welfare graduate Brianna McCullough, earning her second degree as a Bruin, spoke of the growth she and her fellow students had undergone during their time at UCLA Luskin. “Most people think it is how we start that holds the most importance, but the piece that holds the most meaning, really, is where we end,” she said.
She highlighted the ability of individuals to instigate change in their communities, citing the founding members of the field of social welfare to show one person’s potential. “We as the future social workers of tomorrow must reflect on the foundation of our past,” she said. “What will be our legacy?”
In the audience were members of UCLA Luskin’s first graduating class of students earning certificates in Global Public Affairs. Formed in 2012, Global Public Affairs is a Luskin initiative that seeks to examine global policy issues through lectures, research opportunities, and international internships and exchanges. The students were Urban Planning’s Ana Luna, Vicente Romero de Avila Serrano, Rupinder Bolaria, Nicole Walter, Sean F. Kennedy, Catherine M. Oloo and Luis Artieda Moncada; and Public Policy’s Gabriela F. Cardozo, Corinne N. Stubbs, Ika Anindya Putri, Yaqiu Chen and Debbie Iamranond.
The keynote speech was delivered by Congresswoman Karen Bass, Democrat from the 37th District of California and the first African American woman to serve as Speaker of the California Assembly. Like many of the graduating students, Bass has advocated for foster youth and children in need, serving as co-chair of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption and co-founding the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth. Her roots in Los Angeles go deep; she founded the Community Coalition in 1990, bringing together residents of the city to fight against the crack cocaine epidemic.
Representative Bass offered warm wishes of congratulations to the students and called upon them to remember their commitment to instigating positive change. Drawing on her own experience as a community organizer, she made clear that policy victories are not the final goal — true change requires sustained effort.
She shared the story of her work to get lawmakers in Sacramento to understand the role of relative caregivers — aunts and uncles, grandparents and other family members — in the lives of foster children. When colleagues were dismissive of the positive influence these relatives can have, she organized face-to-face meetings with foster children and their families so that lawmakers could hear their struggles in person. The tactic worked, and the legislation passed.
Bass said the experience taught her a lesson on the value of listening to one’s constituents. “Never lose your connection to the communities, the people and to the emotions of their struggle,” she said. “If you lose touch with the very people you are supposed to serve, you can do harm.”
Throughout, she hailed the students’ commitment to making the world a better place. “While some at other schools are earning their degrees and thinking about their own individual advancements, you have decided to change the world,” she said.
“And let me be clear, the world needs you.”
DVDs of the commencement ceremony are available for purchase through Take One Productions.