A photo of the UCLA Court of Sciences.

More than 300 UCLA scientists condemn acts of racist violence

A photo of the UCLA Court of Sciences.

UCLA Court of Sciences (Photo Credit: UCLA Newsroom)

UCLA Newsroom is committed to promoting UCLA news, including faculty members’ research and their appearances in outside media. We typically do not post letters from faculty about current issues or serve as an open forum of ideas. However, given the gravity of this moment, and out of a desire to illustrate how our community is united in showing support on these important issues, we have decided in this rare case to share the following letter from our faculty.

The full letter and a partial list of signers follows; the full list of signers, which has continued to grow, is posted here

Dear Students and Colleagues,

We are enraged and horrified at the murder of George Floyd by a white police officer in Minneapolis. We are enraged and horrified at the murder of Breonna Taylor, the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, and the murder of Nina Pop, murders that have occurred amidst a pandemic that is disproportionately killing Black Americans. We are enraged at the extreme acts of racist violence on display and we are enraged at the everyday operations of a white supremacist society that precipitates and seeks to normalize pervasive suffering and harm targeting Black people.

As scholars dedicated to the study of the sciences, we know that there are intergenerational effects of trauma, and that the longstanding racism and injustice perpetrated against some of our citizens by police and by others in positions of power has worked to hobble the very nation we love. However, just as efforts to reverse the effect of trauma in individuals can reverse even epigenetic impacts, so we see hope for the possibility that dismantling the systems of oppression in our country – our counties, our neighborhoods, and our homes — will bring healing to “we the people” of all races, religions, and creeds.

We also know that complicity with these systems of oppression is deeply rooted in the origins of this country, from the expulsion and murder of Native Americans, the kidnapping and enslavement of Black peoples for almost 250 years, to generations of Black and Brown communities disregarded and destroyed by settler colonialism and the idea of white supremacy. We seek an immediate end to the perpetration of this injustice and a healing of our land.

In the face of recent acts of racist violence, we recommit ourselves to understanding that the wellbeing of all people is interdependent, and that science and our society are made better by a diversity of minds, viewpoints, and approaches participating as a team in a non-threatening, healthy, and welcoming environment. In the words of Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza, “#BlackLivesMatter doesn’t mean your life isn’t important — it means that Black lives, which are seen as without value within White supremacy, are important to your liberation. Given the disproportionate impact state violence has on Black lives, we understand that when Black people in this country get free, the benefits will be wide-reaching and transformative for society as a whole.”

We want you to know that we share your pain, your grief, and your outrage. We will work to ensure that our classrooms and endeavors and workplaces engage and support struggles for racial justice on and off campus, and that our science and teachings will embrace the strength of our diversity.

For those who are looking for resources, we include several below this list of initial signatories.

Signed,

Gina R. Poe, Ph.D. Professor, Department of Integrative Biology and Physiology

Alan D. Grinnell, Ph.D. Professor, Department of Integrative Biology and Physiology

Barney A. Schlinger, Ph.D. Professor, Department of Integrative Biology and Physiology

Ronald M. Harper, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor, Department of Neurobiology

Kelsey C. Martin, M.D., Ph.D., Dean and Professor, David Geffen School of Medicine

Stephanie Correa, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Integrative Biology and Physiology

Stephanie White, Ph.D., Professor, Integrative Biology and Physiology

Liz Koslov, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Institute of the Environment and Sustainability and Department of Urban Planning

Aradhna Tripati, Ph.D., Associate Professor,  Institute of the Environment and Sustainability and Departments of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences & Earth, Planetary, and Space Sciences, American Indian Studies Center, Center for Diverse Leadership in Science

Priyanga Amarasekare, Professor, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Jesse Rissman, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Departments of Psychology and Psychiatry & Biobehavioral Sciences

Deanna Needell, Ph.D., Professor, Mathematics

Michael Hill, Ph.D., Professor, Mathematics

Scott H. Chandler, Ph.D, Professor, Integrative Biology and Physiology

Felix E. Schweizer, Ph.D., Professor Neurobiology, Chair Graduate Interdepartmental Neuroscience Program

David Glanzman, Ph.D., Professor, Integrative Biology and Physiology, and Neurobiology

Mark Frye, Ph.D., Professor, Integrative Biology and Physiology. Department of Neurobiology.

Shanna Shaked, Ph.D., M.A.T., Senior Associate Director, Center for Education Innovation and Learning in the Sciences

Robert Eagle, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Stephanie Pincetl, Institute of the Environment and Sustainability

Roy Wollman, Associate Professor, Departments of Integrative Biology and Physiology and Chemistry and Biochemistry

Caroline Beghein, Associate Professor, Department of Earth, Planetary, and Space Sciences

Rebecca Shipe, Institute of the Environment and Sustainability

Deepak Rajagopal, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Institute of the Environment and Sustainability and Department of Urban Planning

Thomas B. Smith, Ph.D., Professor,Institute of the Environment and Sustainability and Department of Ecology and Evolution

Alan Barreca, Associate Professor, Institute of the Environment and Sustainability

Karen McKinnon, Assistant Professor, Institute of the Environment and Sustainability and Department of Statistics

Jacob Bortnik, Professor, Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences

Avital Harari, M.D., M.Sc., Associate Professor, Department of Surgery

Larone Ellison, Department of Integrative Biology and Physiology

Justin Wagner, M.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Surgery

Brian E. Kadera, M.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Surgery

Kevin Y. Njabo, Institute of the Environment and Sustainability

Tonya Kane, Ph.D., Lecturer, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

Marco Iacoboni, M.D. Ph.D., Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences

Chao Peng, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Neurology

Dean Buonomano, Ph.D., Professor, Departments of Neurobiology and Psychology

Jack L. Feldman, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Neurobiology

Weizhe Hong, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Departments of Biological Chemistry and Neurobiology

Zili Liu, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Psychology

Dr. Hasan Yersiz, David Geffen School of Medicine, Department of Surgery, Division of Liver and Pancreas Transplant

Rachel Kennison, Ph.D., Interim Director, Center for Education, Innovation and Learning in the Sciences

Daniel T. Blumstein, Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and Professor in the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability

Morgan W. Tingley, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Lawren Sack, Professor, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and Institute of the Environment and Sustainability

William Boyd, J.D., Ph.D, Professor, UCLA School of Law, and Institute of the Environment and Sustainability

Guido Eibl, M.D., Professor, Department of Surgery, David Geffen School of Medicine

Pablo Saide, Assistant Professor, Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, and Institute of the Environment and Sustainability

Jasper Kok, Associate Professor, Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences

Marco Velli, Professor of Space Physics Earth, Planetary and Space Sciences

Elaine Y. Hsiao, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Integrative Biology and Physiology

Patricia E. Phelps, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Integrative Biology and Physiology

Pavak K Shah, Ph.D, Assistant Professor, Department of Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology

Hakwan Lau, D.Phil, Professor, Department of Psychology

Andrew Wikenheiser, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Psychology

X. William Yang, M.D., Ph.D., Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Science

Yi-Rong Peng, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Ophthalmology and Stein Eye Institute

Michael S Fanselow, Distinguished Professor, Departments of Psychology and Psychiatry.

Gal Bitan, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Neurology.

Catia Sternini, M.D., Professor, Division of Digestive Diseases, Departments of Medicine and Neurobiology

Vickie M. Mays, Ph.D., MSPH, Distinguished Professor, Departments of Psychology and Health Policy & Management and Director, UCLA BRITE Center for Science, Research & Policy

Nicholas Brecha, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor, Departments of Neurobiology, Ophthalmology and Medicine.

Kate Wassum, Ph.D., Psychology

Riccardo Olcese, Ph.D., Professor, Departments of Anesthesiology and Physiology

Pamela Kennedy, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Dept of Psychology

Nanthia Suthana, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Departments of Psychiatry, Neurosurgery, Psychology, and Bioengineering

M. Belinda Tucker, Ph.D., Professor Emerita, Department of Psychiatry & Biobehavioral Sciences

Mark S. Cohen, Ph.D., Professor, Staglin Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, Departments of Psychiatry & Biobehavioral Sciences, Neurology, Radiology, Biomedical Physics, Psychology and Bioengineering.

Catherine M Cahill, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences

Daniel H Geschwind M.D., Ph.D., Distinguished Professor, Senior Associate Dean and Associate Vice Chancellor, Precision Health

Christopher C. Giza, M.D., Professor, Departments of Pediatrics and Neurosurgery, Interdepartmental Programs for Neuroscience and Biomedical Engineering

Onyebuchi A. Arah, M.D., Ph.D., Professor, Department of Epidemiology

Tracy Johnson, Ph.D., Professor, Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology

Brenda Larison, Ph.D., Adjunct Professor, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Allen Gehret, Ph.D., Adjunct Professor, Department of Mathematics

Michael J. Andrews, Ph.D., PIC, Adjunct Professor, Department of Mathematics

Albert J. Courey, Professor, Ph.D., Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry

Michelle Basso, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences

Jerome Engel Jr. M.D., Ph.D., Professor of Neurology, Neurobiology, and Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences

Robert M. Bilder, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry & Biobehavioral Sciences and Psychology; Co-Lead, MindWell pod, Semel UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative

Larry Zipursky, Ph.D., Department of Biological Chemistry

Igor Spigelman, Ph.D., Professor & Chair, Section of Oral Biology, School of Dentistry

Emeran A. Mayer, M.D., Distinguished Professor, Departments of Medicine, Physiology and Psychiatry

Gaston M. U. Pfluegl, Ph.D., Director Life Sciences Core Education Laboratory

Peyman Golshani, M.D., Ph.D., Professor, Departments of Neurology and Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior,

Ye Zhang, Ph.D. Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral sciences.

Abby Kavner, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Earth, Planetary, and Space Sciences

Nader Pouratian, M.D., Ph.D., Professor, Department of Neurosurgery

Melissa Sharpe, Ph.D, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology

Lara Ray, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry

Pamela Yeh, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Michael Alfaro, PhD, Professor, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Mikhail Hlushchanka, Ph.D., Adjunct Professor, Department of Mathematics

Michael Gandal, M.D., Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences

Ron Brookmeyer, Ph.D., Dean and Professor, Fielding School of Public Health

Van Savage, Ph.D., Professor, Departments of Computational Medicine and of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Marilyn Raphael, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Geography

Ladan Shams, Ph.D., Professor, Departments of Psychology and BioEngineering

Laura DeNardo, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Physiology

Diane M. Papazian, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Physiology

Rolando de Santiago, Ph.D., Assistant Adjunct Instructor and UC Presidential Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Mathematics

Alison Lipman, Ph.D., Lecturer, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Greg Grether, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Elissa Hallem, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics

Palina Salanevich, Ph.D., Assistant Adjunct Professor, Department of Mathematics

Marcelo Chamecki, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences

Jeffrey Donlea, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Neurobiology

William I. Newman, Ph.D., Professor, Departments of Earth, Planetary, and Space Sciences; Physics and Astronomy; and Mathematics

Howard C. Jen, M.D., M.S., Assistant Professor, Department of Surgery

Diana G. Rickard, M.D., M.S., Assistant Professor, Department of Pediatrics

Thomas J. O’Dell, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Physiology

Gregory A. Miller, Distinguished Professor, Psychology and Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences

Xian-Jie Yang, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Ophthalmology

Diana Azurdia, Ph.D., Director for Inclusion, Graduate Programs in Bioscience

Bogdan Pasaniuc, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Human Genetics, Computational Medicine.

Kirk E. Lohmueller, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Dept. of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Sylvester Eriksson-Bique, Ph.D., NSF Assistant Adjunct Professor, Department of Mathematics

Asgar Jamneshan, Ph.D., Visiting Assistant Professor, Department of Mathematics

Artem Chernikov, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Mathematics

Ricardo Salazar, Ph. D., Assistant Adjunct Professor, Department of Mathematics.

Nicholas Ramsey, Hedrick Assistant Adjunct Professor, Department of Mathematics

Alan Garfinkel, Ph.D., Professor of Medicine and Integrative Biology and Physiology

Jorge Torres, Ph.D., Professor, Chemistry and Biochemistry

Hangjie Ji, Ph.D., PIC Adjunct Professor, Department of Mathematics

Susan D. Cochran, Ph.D., M.S., Professor, Epidemiology and Statistics

Stefano Filipazzi, Ph.D., Hedrick Assistant Adjunct Professor, Department of Mathematics

Daniel Hoff, Ph.D., Assistant Adjunct Professor, Department of Mathematics

Allison Carruth, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of English, Institute of the Environment and Sustainability

Nina Otter, PhD, Assistant Adjunct Professor, Department of Mathematics

Benjamin Harrop-Griffiths, Ph.D., Hedrick Assistant Adjunct Professor, Department of Mathematics

Peter Petersen, Professor, Department of Mathematics.

Gregory S. Payne, Ph.D., Professor, Biological Chemistry

Clover May, Ph.D., Assistant Adjunct Professor, Department of Mathematics

Jochen Stutz, Professor, Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences

Terence Tao, James and Carol Collins Chair, Department of Mathematics

Paul Micevych, Plumb Professor and Chair, Department of Neurobiology

Wilfrid Gangbo, Professor, Department of Mathematics

Heather Zinn Brooks, Ph.D., CAM Assistant Adjunct Professor, Department of Mathematics

Daniele Bianchi, Assistant Professor, Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences

James Bisley, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Neurobiology

Daniel McKenzie, Ph.D., Assistant Adjunct Professor, Department of Mathematics

Leif Zinn-Brooks, Ph.D., Assistant Adjunct Professor, Department of Mathematics

Joshua Trachtenberg, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Neurobiology

Matt Jacobs, Ph. D., Assistant Adjunct Professor, Department of Mathematics.

TIm Austin, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Mathematics

Anna Lau, Professor, Department of Psychology

Ziva Cooper  Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences

Melissa Paquette-Smith, Assistant Professor of Teaching, Department of Psychology

Jennifer Sumner, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology

Alicia Izquierdo, Professor, Department of Psychology

Jennifer Silvers, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology

James Cameron, Ph.D., Hedrick Assistant Adjunct Professor, Department of Mathematics

Craig Enders, Professor, Department of Psychology

Bridget Callaghan, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology

Jonathan C King, M.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Surgery

Adriana Galvan, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Psychology

Sorin Popa, Professor, Mathematics

Noah White, Assistant Adjunct Professor, Department of Mathematics

Michelle G. Craske, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor, Department of Psychology & Psychiatry & Biobehavioral Sciences

Theodore F. Robles, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Psychology

Samy Wu Fung, Ph.D., Assistant Adjunct Professor, Department of Mathematics

Douglas Black, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics

Noa Pinter-Wollman, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Roger Woods, M.D., Professor, Departments of Neurology and of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences

Paul Mathews, Ph.D., Assistant Professor in Residence, Department of Neurology and The Lundquist Institute

Matthias Wink, DPhil, Hedrick Assistant Adjunct Professor, Department of Mathematics

Samantha Butler, Ph.D. Professor, Department of Neurobiology

Bennett Novitch, Ph.D. Professor, Department of Neurobiology

Jonathan Mitchell, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences and Earth, Planetary and Space Sciences

Lauren Ng, Ph.D. Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology

Stan Schein, M.D., Ph.D., Professor, Department of Psychology

Carolyn Houser, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Neurobiology

Katherine Karlsgodt, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Departments of Psychology and Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences

Yiannis N. Moschovakis, Professor Emeritus and Distinguished Research Professor, Department of Mathematics

Carrie E Bearden Ph.D., Professor, Departments of Psychiatry & Biobehavioral Sciences and Psychology

Steve S. Lee, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Psychology

Istvan Mody, Ph.D., Professor, Departments of Neurology and Physiology

Tina Treude, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Earth, Planetary, and Space Science, Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Science

Carole H. Browner, Distinguished Research Professor, Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior and Departments of Anthropology and Gender Studies

Karen H. Gylys, Ph.D., R.N., Professor, School of Nursing

Christina Palmer, Ph.D., Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, Department of Human Genetics, Institute for Society and Genetics

Jessica Gregg, M.Ed., Associate Director for Educational Development, Center for Education Innovation and Learning in the Sciences (CEILS)

Katherine Narr, Professor, Departments of Neurology and Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences

Alex Hall, Professor, Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences

Baljit S. Khakh, Ph.D., Professor of Physiology

Sandra K. Loo, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences

Mackenzie Day, Assistant Professor, Department of Earth, Planetary, and Space Sciences

Ursula K. Heise, Professor and Chair, Department of English

Carolyn Parkinson, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology

Marcia Meldrum, Ph.D., Adjunct Associate Professor, Center for Social Medicine and the Humanities, Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences

Joel Braslow, M.D., Ph.D., Professor, Departments of Psychiatry and History, Center for Social Medicine and Humanities

Laura Cladek, Ph.D., Assistant Adjunct Professor, NSF Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Mathematics

Joseph DiNorcia, M.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Surgery

Minna K. Lee, M.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Surgery

Michael Willis, Ph.D., Assistant Adjunct Professor, Department of Mathematics

Yuen Huo, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Psychology

Thomas Bradbury, Distinguished Professor, Department of Psychology

Marco Marengon, Ph.D., Assistant Adjunct Professor, Department of Mathematics

Wotao Yin, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Mathematics

Nathan Kraft, Ph.D. Associate Professor, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Ippolytos Kalofonos, M.D., Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatry, Center for Social Medicine and Humanities, International Institute, West LA VAMC

Please see this webpage for the full, current list of signers. The page also includes links to books, websites and articles chosen by the authors about racism. It also lists resources for members of the UCLA campus community:

●      UCLA Counseling and Psychological Services (310-825-0768)

●      For mental health related concerns, consider signing up for STAND. An online questionnaire is followed by professional care if necessary.

●      Wellness resources for UCLA graduate students

●      Behavioral Wellness Center for confidential counseling for biosciences graduate students (310-825-9605)

The faculty members also provide links for donating to the NAACPACLU, and SPLC.

This article originally appeared in the UCLA Newsroom.

Image on the bottom left: A painting by Ambrogio Lorenzetti is an example of art in Europe before the bubonic plague. Other images show how art changed after the plague.

Faculty get creative to teach perspectives on the COVID-19 pandemic

Image on the bottom left: A painting by Ambrogio Lorenzetti is an example of art in Europe before the bubonic plague. Other images show how art changed after the plague.

Art historian Charlene Villaseñor Black showed her class how art changed before and after the bubonic plague struck Europe to help her students see how artists might adapt their work to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo Credit: UCLA)

The screen shows the familiar grid of small faces but everyone’s focused on the guest speaker, a student joining the class from his home in Wuhan, China, eager for their chances to ask questions.

“Can you describe the Chinese health care system and any differences you have experienced between its workings and that of the U.S. health care system?” Jonathan Gong asked Shengan Zhan. The UCLA geography graduate student was joining geography professor Michael Shin’s seminar class called “Global Experiences and Perspectives on COVID-19” via Zoom.

“It is usually very easy to see a doctor,” Zhan said. “However, with the coronavirus outbreak, the system was just flooded and overwhelmed by the high number of people seeking treatment.”

Gurugowtham Ulaganathan asked, “How has this affected you and your family personally?”

“The lock-down is inconvenient but most people are coping,” Zhan said. “My parents are professors at the university in Wuhan, and they are teaching online like we are here at UCLA.”

Hearing directly from Zhan the students see how COVID-19 has connected experiences around the world.

Opportunities like this, to participate in intimate conversations with someone who can share what it’s like to live in the global ground zero of the novel coronavirus pandemic are part of what make a UCLA education so special.

As the world grapples with COVID-19 and governments, institutions and individuals adapt to meet this moment, UCLA has been forced to change not only how it teaches — since late March, all courses have been conducted remotely — but just as importantly, what it teaches.

A shining example of how UCLA fulfills its mission

UCLA’s Fiat Lux seminar program has provided a platform to give faculty and students a global, multidisciplinary perspective of the pandemic, continuing a long tradition of teaching students to better understand the complexities of the world and forming community around current events. Founded in 2001, Fiat Lux seminars (named after the University of California’s Latin motto “Let there be Light”) were born in the wake of 9/11 as a way for students and faculty to explore, discuss and make sense of the terrorist attack.

Patricia Turner, dean and vice provost of undergraduate education and one of UCLA’s biggest Fiat Lux champions, said educators are always looking for teachable moments. Offering seminars about events like 9/11 and now COVID-19 provides students with an opportunity to research, discuss and make sense of these events.

A photo of Patricia Turner.

Patricia Turner (Photo Credit: UCLA)

“Each Fiat Lux provides its own lens through which to understand the virus’s impact on the world, whether the subject is public health, nutrition, sustainability or something else entirely,” Turner said. “Ideally, students will feel like they are in a caring academic community and come away with a perspective from which to examine their own feelings about the virus and its impact. It’s just one of the ways UCLA supports students in tumultuous times.”

With the support of Fiat Lux’s faculty advisory committee, a call for proposals went out at the end of winter quarter, but with a strict deadline: seminars would be taught the very next quarter which would begin in just a few weeks.

Pia Palomo, academic coordinator for undergraduate education initiatives in the UCLA College, and Scott Chandler, faculty advisory committee chair, said they thought they’d be lucky to receive 10 proposals. Instead, they got 25.

“Ray Knapp, professor of musicology, had talked with some other colleagues about, ‘Hey, this is a great opportunity to use the spirit of Fiat Lux to build community to talk about what’s happening, and there’s already a mechanism to do it,’” Palomo said. Faculty in other schools, including Kyle McJunkin in the Fielding School of Public Health, were also eager to begin teaching about COVID-19 as soon as possible.

The topics were as varied as the faculty who submitted them — from political science and public policy professor Susanne Lohman’s “The Ethics of Pandemics” to music professor Frank Heuser’s “Responding to Coronavirus Through Song.” Faculty in departments spanning English, gender studies, African American studies, sociology and education all taught COVID-19 seminars. Chancellor Gene Block even led a seminar titled “University Leadership During Pandemics.”

More than just classes

For faculty and students, the Fiat Lux COVID-19 seminars were not just an opportunity to study the pandemic. In fact, building community around this unprecedented and at times frightening crisis as Bruins are scattered across the world under quarantine and stay-at-home orders was equally if not more important.

Art history professor Charlene Villaseñor Black is a veteran in teaching Fiat Lux seminars and jumped at the chance to teach “Art in Times of Contagion,” which examines artistic responses to pandemics of past and present.

A photo of Charlene Villaseñor Black.

Charlene Villaseñor Black (Photo Credit: UCLA)

The course has included examinations of historical art, such as Mexican art in the 16th and 17th centuries during the wave of epidemics brought by European colonizers and artistic responses to the medieval European plague of the 14th century. Students also looked at modern examples including the 2013 film “World War Z” and engaged in a writing exercise to create their own artistic response to COVID-19.

“I want students to have an awareness that we’ve been here before and an awareness of how the arts can provide sustenance, respite, and hope for us,” Black said. “This is the moment to really think about how the humanities and the arts make us more human.”

As faculty-in-residence in Sproul Hall, it was the sight of her students moving out of their dorms as the campus shut down that most profoundly affected Black and motivated her to think about what she could do to help them.

“We couldn’t even help them move out really because of social distancing. So it was heartbreaking. I didn’t get to say goodbye to a lot of people,” Black said. “I was thinking deeply about what is the role of the faculty-in residence in the current pandemic? How are we going to reach out to our students?”

She thought the idea to offer COVID-19-themed Fiat Lux seminars was “perfect.”

“I thought a lot about the arts at this moment,” she said. “We’ve seen so many arts offerings on social media, Facebook Live broadcasts, artists doing workshops, artists doing live talks about their practice. So I was struck by how the arts became a refuge for us.”

Seminars connect students forced into separation

Aileen Carey, a senior English major, took three Fiat Lux seminars including Black’s from her apartment in Westwood, where she decided to stay for her final quarter instead of going home to New Jersey. She also took Robert Kim-Farley’s “COVID-19 From the Perspective of a Public Health Medical Epidemiologist” and Caroline Streeter’s “Viral Media During a Viral Pandemic: Social Media, Music and COVID-19.”

Carey said listening to her professors discuss the pandemic from an academic point of view helped her get a more objective perspective on what she hears on the news every day. And it’s “oddly soothing” to spend time with fellow Bruins discussing the issues.

“It highlights that this is a collective experience because everyone in the class is here and wants to talk about it,” Carey said. “It’s surreal seeing my classmates sitting in their houses on Zoom but it helps show that these people are all going through the exact same thing I’m going through.”

Her art history seminar in particular has made Carey more aware of how art — including her own — is influenced by major events in history.

“That fascinates me because I wonder how my writing will change after COVID-19 and I wonder how mainstream media will change, because every industry is different now,” she said.

An image of COVID-19 cases in China as of April 9, 2020

COVID-19 cases in China as of April 9, 2020 (Photo Credit: Photo by KOBU Agency on Unsplash)

In his seminar about global experiences on COVID-19, Shin wanted to offer students the opportunity to meet people from around the world and hear directly from them about how their lives have been affected by the pandemic. He invited guest speakers including Zhan who is his former teaching assistant and professors at the University of Milan and Hong Kong University to share their experiences with the class and answer students’ questions.

Freshman human biology major Victoria Li was interested in taking Shin’s seminar to gain a more global perspective of COVID-19. The seminar has already inspired her to continue pursuing public health in her studies.

“In the U.S. we get a very one-sided story of this epidemic and we don’t get to hear how real people are living through the same thing but in a different way around the world,” Li said. “With this whole situation and the class on COVID, it’s reaffirmed my interest in public health and how to deal with situations like this.”

Both Li and Carey said they’re proud and grateful that, through Fiat Lux, UCLA is offering students the opportunity to learn about the COVID-19 pandemic, to think critically and lean on each other to get through it.

“Having this moment to appreciate the staff who are excited to talk about these issues and the students who are volunteering to learn shows the best of academia and what this institution could be,” Carey said.

Fiat Lux has always offered students and faculty alike a way to explore new areas of interest and expand their perspectives, said history professor Vinay Lal, who is teaching a Fiat Lux seminar on pandemics throughout history. As we all grapple with COVID-19 together, the Fiat Lux mission seems to adopt a new and urgent meaning.

“Fiat Lux is a way for the faculty to engage themselves, to indulge their intellectual curiosity. And for the students, it’s a chance to say, let me see if I can become intellectually aware of the world around me,” Lal said. “Coronavirus is something that is out of our realm of experience. And so we need to be able to find some way to comprehend it.”

This article originally appeared in the UCLA Newsroom.

A photo of Priscilla Stephanie Molina.

Thanks to family, graduating senior is driven to bridge cultural gaps

Growing up in Los Angeles, Priscilla Stephanie Molina would frequently go to work with her parents, doing homework while her mom cleaned houses or her father fixed someone’s leaky pipes. While some may have seen them as laborers, she saw leaders.

A photo of Priscilla Stephanie Molina.

Priscilla Stephanie Molina (Photo Credit: Idriss Njike)

“My parents are both immigrants from Guatemala and I’m very proud of that,” said Molina, a first-generation college student graduating from UCLA June 12. “My mom runs her own housekeeping business. She has people who work for her and she organizes everything. My dad didn’t know much about plumbing, but he learned by working with his cousin, and then he started teaching people who now work under him.”

Whether at home, work or church, she saw her parents stepping in to lead the community and help those in need. Molina, who plans to attend medical school, has done the same at UCLA. She created cultural sensitivity training for her classmates before leading them on medical missions to Mexico, and she helped form a tutoring and mentorship program for K-12 students at her church who would be the first in their families to go to college. She served as a resident assistant for two themed floors in UCLA residence halls, helping build communities with activities like organizing empowering events for other first-generation college students one year, and cultural celebrations like a Dia de los Muertos event for the Chicanx/Latinx floor another year.

“My parents were a great example,” Molina said. “This is what we do. If my parents can lead, then I can, as well.”

Molina plans to become a psychiatrist so she can research and find better ways to support underserved communities that often lack psychiatric resources. Born and raised in Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley, she’s seen how obstacles like language barriers, poor cultural awareness by doctors, and a lack of access can harm families. One of her older brothers was diagnosed with schizophrenia not long after she turned 10, and her parents didn’t know where to turn. Molina would join her mother at her brother’s doctor appointments to translate.

“They would give her information without explaining what it meant,” Molina said. “That has to change, and I want to help change it. We didn’t know what resources to connect to, what medicine to trust, or how to help my brother. I think a lot of that was because of cultural barriers. Public health, prevention and resources have to be culturally appropriate and meaningful to reach people. I want to be a doctor who is culturally sensitive.”

Molina’s sense of navigating and uniting two distinct worlds is apparent even in her name. Her parents and family friends know her by her middle name, Stephanie, while places that rely on registration forms use her first name, Priscilla.

“I always think of myself as Stephanie,” she said. “While Priscilla has always been my school-self. I enjoy it.”

By majoring in psychobiology and double-minoring in public health and in Latin American studies, Molina hopes to unite the three disciplines to address the problems she encountered growing up.

She already put her skills to use a few times with the Global Medical Missions Alliance. Her studies, combined with regular family summer trips to Guatemala, prepared her well to lead medical missions to Mexico. Though her friends in the university’s GMMA chapter prepared by studying Spanish, she didn’t see enough emphasis on learning about — and from — the people they were helping. She created cultural-sensitivity training for the group that was soon adopted by Global Medical Missions Alliance chapters in the United States, Australia and Canada.

“I wanted to emphasize how important it is to value the local people’s mindset, culture and knowledge, and not go in thinking we know better than they do,” Molina said. “There are things we can learn from them. The most important thing I advocated for was staying connected to the community’s leaders. They know best what their community needs.”

For her senior research project, she was able to combine all three of her academic interests in UCLA’s Psychology Research Opportunity Programs. Molina used a fotonovela, or graphic novel, in which a Latina character experiences symptoms of depression, and talks about it with her family and friends. She hoped that using this creative, culture-specific approach would make the Latino population she worked with more likely to seek out treatment themselves.

A photo of the Molina Family.

Courtesy of the Molina family

Her research found that people were more comfortable with the idea of seeking treatment if they had read the fotonovella showing someone from their culture. Unfortunately, she also found that readers with more barriers to mental health treatment still weren’t as likely to reach out for services as people who had fewer pre-existing barriers.

It’s an issue she hopes to research more. This summer, she has a paid position in a summer program with AltaMed Health Services, a health care provider that works in underserved communities. She hopes to either continue working with AltaMed or become an assistant resident director at UCLA while she takes some time off from school, and then apply to medical school.

Her parents always emphasized the importance of education, and encouraged her to think early on about a job that required education, she said.

“They always told me they didn’t want me to work a job the way they have to where they’re laborers,” she said. “And when I was little, I saw doctors as people who helped, and who made me feel better. So I wanted to be a doctor, but for a long time I didn’t really think I could.”

Living in the Valley, her schools had field trips to UCLA, and the university quickly became her goal. Though she’s disappointed that the current coronavirus pandemic and quarantine means there will be no graduation ceremony in Pauley Pavilion this June for her family to attend, she knows they are excited and proud of her for graduating.

“UCLA was my dream school,” Molina said. “I heard about all the optimistic goals. I knew I wanted to go into medicine, and you always hear that UCLA is one of the top schools for science and medicine and research. I felt like I belonged here. When I got in, it was a very happy moment for me and my family.”