100 Ways: Public Service


Published May 15, 2019 10:24 AM

Stories on women in STEM, dentistry and Henry Samueli.

For the People

UCLA and Democracy

Phal Sok, born to a Cambodian family in a Thai refugee camp, arrived in the U.S. before his first birthday. He now helps immigrant families and underserved youth in Los Angeles. Last year, UCLA law students helped Sok obtain a pardon from then-Gov. Jerry Brown for a conviction dating back to Sok’s teen years. Sok is one of five people to be pardoned by the governor because of the work of UCLA law students.

On October. 10, 2019 — the eve of National Coming Out Day — the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and the Human Rights Campaign Foundation (the educational arm of the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer [LGBTQ] civil rights organization) will co-host a forum for the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates. Part of the Luskin Lecture Series, the conversation will take place in Royce Hall and will give candidates an opportunity to speak about their policy platforms and plans to move LGBTQ equality forward.

It’s one of the latest examples (and they are legion) of the university’s ongoing contribution to the national dialogue on the meaning and promise of democracy. Providing an open forum for the exchange of ideas on how we should govern and be governed, in fact, lies at the very heart of a public university’s mission. Even more importantly, UCLA also serves as a launching pad for turning those ideas into action.

“For me and for society, having an outstanding and successful public university enhances the democratic concept,” says Meyer Luskin ’49, the philanthropist for whom the public affairs school and lecture series, among other campus entities, are named, adding that a “successful and creative public university” is, itself, an indication of a healthy democracy.

The university has been particularly powerful in advocating for those whose voices have historically had difficulty being heard.

In 2000, Graduate School of Education & Information Studies Professors Jeannie Oakes Ph.D. ’80 and John Rogers founded UCLA’s Institute for Democracy, Education, and Access (IDEA), with the goal of using UCLA’s research capacity and commitment to confront what may be the most pressing public issue in Los Angeles and in California today: bringing communities together to address the critical problems of public education. IDEA faculty,postdoctoral scholars, staff and graduate students partner with young people, parents, teachers and grassroots organizations to conduct research on the conditions of education and the challenges to educational change.

At UCLA Luskin, the Institute on Inequality and Democracy aims to understand and transform the divides and dispossessions, the color lines, of the 21st century. At a time of unprecedented income inequality in the United States, the institute is part of a growing effort of rigorous analysis of the processes through which such inequality has been produced.

The university also can serve as an inspiration for others to realize their version of the American Dream. Every winter since 1995,former Democratic candidate for president and former governor of Massachusetts Michael Dukakis has headed west to teach two courses at UCLA: “California Policy Issues” with Professor Emeritus Daniel J.B. Mitchell, and “Institutional Leadership and the Public Manager.”

One of many students Dukakis has mentored is Jimmy Gomez ’99, now a California congressman. After graduating from high school, Gomez found himself at a dead end and working at Subway, until a friend dragged him to Riverside Community College. Then he transferred to UCLA just as Dukakis became a visiting professor. Gomez took “California Policy Issues” and, at Dukakis’ encouragement, went on to earn a master’s degree in public policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School. Returning to California, he won three terms as an assemblyman and was elected to Congress in 2017. “I think our course had a major impact on his decision to pursue public service,” Dukakis says.

State-of-the-Art Workspace

UCLA Margo Leavin Graduate Art Studios

With internationally-renowned faculty and alumni, the UCLA Graduate Art Program has long been a standard-bearer in training the next generation of thoughtful, provocative and influential artists. Currently ranked No. 2 in the nation by U.S. News and World Report, the program continues to be the most competitive M.F.A. program on the West Coast.

The UCLA Margo Leavin Graduate Art Studios in Culver City will provide artists fully equipped spaces in which to work and give visitors a look behind the scenes.

By this fall, graduate students will be making work in studios commensurate with the stature of their program when the new UCLA Margo Leavin Graduate Art Studios in Culver City open. Designed by Los Angeles-based architectural firm Johnston Marklee and Associates and jump-started with a generous $20-million lead gift from alumna and art dealer Margo Leavin ’58, the new space offers 42 individual studios; flexible fabrication spaces, outfitted with the tools and technology to make art within the department’s six areas (ceramics, interdisciplinary studio, new genres, painting and drawing, photography and sculpture); an entry garden and gallery; and an artist-in-residence live/work space, where visiting artist faculty will teach,

live and work within the facility. The 48,000-square-foot facility is located in Culver City’s Hayden Tract, long a destination for architecture buffs because of its many buildings designed by Eric Owen Moss ’65. Of late, the area has become a hub for tech companies and buzzy restaurants, so no doubt L.A.’s culturally curious will turn out in droves for the next graduate student open studios to see these spiffy new student workspaces and experience a behind-the-scenes look at the practice of art-making.

The studios will help UCLA’s graduate fine arts program sustain its preeminence, continuing to deliver the highest caliber education to some of tomorrow’s most important artists.



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