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Our Neighbors, Our Partners

By UCLA Chancellor Gene Block

Published Jul 1, 2017 8:00 AM

Over the past 100 years, we have reached out to members of our community — and they have responded in kind.


Photo: Amanda Friedman

UCLA and Los Angeles have grown up together over the past 100 years. During that time, the university has been a partner in building a splendid city of innovation and hope. In return, the people of Los Angeles have helped create a world-class university at the forefront of ingenuity, creativity and discovery.

I dedicate this column to our hometown, a truly global city rich in languages and cultures and reaffirm our commitment to ensuring that Los Angeles remains a metropolis of opportunity.

In addition to teaching and research, service is a cornerstone of UCLA’s mission. Many of our faculty and students are working toward solving society’s most pressing challenges, and we know that the only way to make progress is to collaborate with our community. We also know that by encouraging our students to engage with those around us, we instill in them a commitment to citizenship and public service that will benefit them — and us — for generations to come.

That commitment is highlighted by several UCLA programs and activities, all of which leverage our wide-ranging expertise to provide critical health, educational and cultural resources to Angelenos. These efforts in turn provide our students with singular opportunities to learn from our partners while making a meaningful impact in the community.

Service education — or service learning — programs provide our students with credit-bearing internships to work with nonprofits and government agencies in Los Angeles. Through these courses, nearly 1,500 students this year engaged with community partners in 75 sites across Los Angeles. In total, our students provided more than 71,000 hours of service this year alone.

UCLA’s commitment to civic engagement is also evident in the programs and services we provide our military veterans. From family services to wellness resources to substance abuse treatment to ending veteran homelessness, UCLA is committed to caring for the brave men and women who have served our country.

In addition to these programs, UCLA’s Operation Mend, established in 2007, is a groundbreaking partnership with UCLA Health, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System to help heal wounded military personnel. Operation Mend provides free, advanced surgical and medical treatment, as well as comprehensive support for psychological health, to post-9/11 era service members, veterans and their families.

UCLA is unique among its peers in that we are not only outstanding in the sciences, engineering, health and mathematics, but we are equally strong in the arts, humanities and social sciences. This well-rounded portfolio of excellence allows us to extend our civic engagement efforts beyond what many other universities can do.

For example, Design for Sharing, a free K-12 arts education program, has been making the performing arts at UCLA an accessible and inspirational part of children’s lives for more than 40 years. The program creates interactive and educational experiences for more than 16,000 students each year through special performances at UCLA and through arts-residency programs at their own schools.

We know how important it is to expose children to the arts at an early age, and we are proud to do our part to ensure that the beauty and power of creativity are shared with the youngest in our community.

For these initiatives, and so many more, UCLA was awarded the Carnegie Foundation Community Engagement Classification for the second time in 2015, a distinction few research universities have earned.

As UCLA enters its second century, we stand firm in our commitment to Los Angeles: to work hard every day to build an even greater city. And in the process, we hope that our students learn the value of bettering the communities around them, no matter where they are.