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Crucial Connections

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By UCLA Chancellor Gene Block

Published Oct 1, 2019 8:00 AM


Our public outreach keeps UCLA in touch with important issues, influencers and the community.


"People across our community and this country want to ask questions, learn more and hear from those with deep knowledge on these issues," UCLA Chancellor Gene Block says. Photo by Ted Catanzaro '84.

In a city as sprawling and diverse as Los Angeles, and in a country that is arguably more divided than ever, part of our mission as a public university is to bring people together so they can exchange ideas on important issues impacting our lives. While UCLA abounds with expertise in almost every field, we are dedicated to creating spaces where that knowledge can be shared with policymakers, activists, journalists and — not least of all — everyday curious and concerned people.

Our public outreach efforts have led to partnerships with like-minded organizations that help us connect with people who otherwise may never become involved with UCLA. Since 2011, in fact, UCLA has co-sponsored dozens of public discussions in partnership with Zócalo Public Square, a nonprofit that brings together people and ideas to examine important issues. Occasionally, we host these discussions on campus, but we intentionally host most of them off campus in order to connect with people outside of Westwood, across Los Angeles and even beyond. Over the past few years, we have organized forums in downtown L.A., Hollywood and Santa Monica; at the Getty Center; and even in Washington, D.C. In addition to Zócalo, we have partnered with the Artists & Athletes Alliance, a nonprofit that connects policymakers with the creative and sports communities, as well as The New York Times and The Atlantic to host these conversations, which typically feature a moderator and several panelists — including someone from UCLA — and allow audience questions.

In recent years, we have hosted discussions that include many prominent alumni, including Black Panther executive producer Nate Moore ’00 for a discussion about diversity in Hollywood; football legend Troy Aikman ’08 for a forum about the NFL’s presence in L.A.; The Big Bang Theory actress Mayim Bialik ’00, Ph.D. ’07, for a panel on women and science; ESPN’s Cari Champion ’98 for a panel on athletes, activism and Jackie Robinson’s legacy; and singer Randy Newman for a look back at his music career.

UCLA also wants to make sure the research we do on campus makes it into the hands of policymakers locally and nationally. Four years ago, UCLA Strategic Communications and the Luskin School of Public Affairs launched UCLA Blueprint, a magazine helmed by former Los Angeles Times editor at large Jim Newton. Each issue focuses on a different topic, ranging from crime to homelessness to the state of political discourse in America today. For nearly every issue, we’ve hosted a public discussion event featuring people like Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and television sitcom pioneer and activist Norman Lear.

Through public outreach, our goal is to continue to convene critical conversations, to bring people together for reasoned and spirited debate, and to expose new audiences to research coming out of UCLA that is relevant to our lives. So often we hear from people who are appreciative that we brought these events to their community, and we find them hungry for more. In 2017, there was a standing room–only crowd at a discussion I joined on depression and UCLA’s efforts to help ease its burden. People across our community and this country want to ask questions, learn more and hear from those with deep knowledge on these issues.

I hope that each of you will be able to join us for these conversations. To learn more and join our mailing list, please visit our public outreach website at ucla.in/publicoutreach.

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