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An innovative program brings students
in UCLA's policy school together with civic and business leaders
to glean the lessons of
their real-world experience
By Ajay Singh
Illustration by Hadley Hooper
Three fresh-faced 20-somethings have shown up
for an early breakfast at Jerry's Famous Deli in Westwood. They
are casually dressed in slacks and sweatshirts, attentively receiving
what they call "life's lesson of the week" from a stocky,
bespectacled, middle-aged man wearing a brown suit but no tie.
"You have people with $200,000 to $1 million running around
on the Westside not knowing where to live," he proposes. "Now
let's say there's a living space with the right population density
and ambience for $250,000 to $300,000. Would you live there?"
His listeners nod. "But how would you sell it?" asks the
man, quickly adding: "You wouldn't sell it as housing. You'd
sell it as lifestyle!"
The man is business leader Steve Soboroff, and he is talking with
graduate students from the UCLA School of Public Policy and Social
Research. What brings them together for bagels and eggs this morning
is a top-notch initiative, the Senior Fellows Program, created by
the policy school to give its students access to policymakers from
the public, private and nonprofit sectors. These are people who
have successfully addressed major issues — in Soboroff's case
issues involving housing policy — at the local, state, national
and global levels.