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UCLA Magazine Fall 2002
The Little Marias
Coming Home
The Scholar and The Poet
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Man on The Street
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Fall 2002
Man on the Street
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Gilliam, 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.

Gilliam spoke with UCLA Magazine Associate Editor Cynthia Lee.

Q: UCLA has always been involved in community service. What is the need to expand the university’s efforts now?
A: 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.

Q: How did the UCLA in LA initiative evolve?
A:
It 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.

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