Man on the Street
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a professor of political science, is an expert in race relations,
racial and ethnic politics, African-American studies and the influence
of mass communications in society. A faculty member since 1986 and
director of UCLA’s Center for Communications and Community,
which he will continue to lead, Gilliam has worked with grassroots
and nonprofit organizations, journalists and policymakers to build
alliances to strengthen community development.
spoke with UCLA Magazine Associate Editor Cynthia Lee.
UCLA has always been involved in
community service. What is the need to expand the university’s
We’re a great university. We could continue exactly
as we’re doing and stay in our comfort zone. But at the end
of the day, we have to ask ourselves: If we’re a world-class
university, what can we be the best in the world at? Think of the
handful of top public universities — Berkeley, Michigan, the
University of Texas. Among those schools in our league, we are the
only one located in a major American city. So we are uniquely positioned
to make a defining statement about the role of a major public university
operating in an urban landscape. We can be the best in the world
at that. We can define it.
How did the UCLA in LA initiative
is one of the chancellor’s three major initiatives
areas in genetics, information technology and community engagement.
Under former Executive Vice Chancellor Rory Hume, a dialogue began
between the university and a wide range of community leaders, asking
them what they expected from a public university and what UCLA could
offer them through a partnership. The campus has consulted broadly
with external groups and faculty, students and staff to help shape
the parameters of the initiative. We needed to identify our particular
strengths and to begin to see where synergy exists or could exist.
The creation of this position is another phase, an expanded and
more focused phase, in that process to build stronger ties.