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Spring 2003
Why UCLA?
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Still, there are formidable challenges that must be overcome teaching at a state school, rather than an elite private with more resources.

“The biggest challenge here is to hustle up the resources my students need to supplement what the university is able to provide. I have colleagues at private institutions that are resource-rich, and frankly, I have been tempted by some of those institutions,” he says. But instead of making that leap, “I look for creative ways to compensate for the financial limitations by working to identify more funds on campus and off, and by continuing to recognize the benefits of being at UCLA.”

Topping the list of benefits are Allen’s students, particularly undergraduates: “Teaching is the center of everything I do,” says Allen, a winner of UCLA’s Luckman Distinguished Teaching Award. “The students are the main reason I’m here. They are constantly a treat.”

His most gratifying experience, Allen says, “has been to light or fan the intellectual flame among students who have been written off because they were former gang-bangers or Black or poor or recent immigrants. These students most remind me of my own academic and intellectual trajectory, a journey that was boosted by teachers who recognized my potential and encouraged my growth.”

In the end, Allen says, “it is the quality of these students — their promise, all the potential they hold, the excellence they represent — that’s what keeps me going. To watch them blossom in this environment, to work in collaborative relationships and recognize their full potential is what makes UCLA truly special.”

— Harlan Lebo

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