Image of Katelyn Ohashi in regalia at the UCLA College Commencement 2022

HONORING THE UCLA COLLEGE CLASS OF 2022

Katelyn Ohashi | © Matt Harbicht


All across campus the second weekend of June, our community — faculty, staff, distinguished alumni, family and friends — came together to celebrate the UCLA College Commencement.

“UCLA is made for leaders, and I want to congratulate each and every one of you on graduating and being here today, because you are all a part of that leadership,” said activist and award-winning gymnast Katelyn Ohashi ’19, who served as the College’s keynote speaker. “To say that we graduated from a place that pushes us to our limits and inspires us to be the best versions of ourselves is an understatement, because we are all the reason it is this way.”

Congratulations again to the entire Bruin family!

We invite you to visit college.ucla.edu/commencement-2022-speakers to meet the 14 incredible alumni speakers who addressed departmental ceremonies:

Neetu S. Badhan-Smith ’99; Susan Baumgarten ’73, M.S. ’76, M.B.A. ’79, Executive Program Certificate ’91; Medell Briggs-Malonson ’01, M.S. ’11; Kamil Ud Deen ’94, Ph.D. ’02; D’Juan Farmer ’10; Jeremi Gorman ’99; Robert S. Harrison ’86; Anthea M. Hartig ’86; Shawn Holley ’84; Donald M. Korn ’65, M.S. ’66, Ph.D. ’71; Chip McLean ’87; Marcellus McRae ’85; Doug Pak ’96; Jakobi Williams M.A. ’02, Ph.D. ’08.


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Portrait of Lisa Montes

Why I Give

By Lisa Montes ’92

Portrait of Lisa Montes

© Stephanie Yantz


I grew up with an activist single parent, and it’s beautiful to honor that work by giving back to UCLA and the Academic Advancement Program. As an undergraduate who felt imposter syndrome, AAP is where I found my confidence, my springboard, my community. It led me to go to medical school and inspired me to make volunteering a lifelong commitment. Now that I’m a Kaiser pediatrician, it feels like I’ve come full circle by serving on AAP’s Advisory Council.

Getting involved at UCLA as an alumna has made a huge difference in my life.

I will never forget my heroes who helped pave the way for me and so many others to become doctors: people like Dr. Bob Montoya, Statewide Health Policy and Development; Dr. David E. Hayes- Bautista, director of UCLA’s Center for the Study of Latino Health and Culture; and the late Dr. Frank Meza, AltaMed Health Systems.

With these giants in health equity and workforce diversity, I was part of a younger group that created MiMentor. After 10 years, we now have 14,000 aspiring health care leaders who will one day serve the underserved. This free app welcomes those with no mentors into a community full of resources and inspiration, where they realize they can achieve their dreams and that people like me want to help them.

UCLA’s alumni magazines are special to me; my late father, who passed of COVID-19, would read every issue, cover to cover. He was a proud dad. UCLA is a place my mother transferred into at a time when she never saw another Latina until the day of her graduation. I am a proud daughter. My abuelita, who lived to 102, wanted to become a nurse but never had the opportunity. We are a proud family.

These are the role models who turned my blood blue and gold, and I think of them every time I mentor a student or give back to UCLA. I want to spread the message that medicine needs diverse voices and there is no shame in overcoming adversities. Adelante!


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Trailblazer’s Gift Honors Role of Women in Politics

Portrait of June Jaffee

© JOHN ABBOTT


By Margaret MacDonald

UCLA’s department of political science received a major boost when June Jaffee ’54 pledged $1 million to establish a prestigious endowed term chair in her home department.

The June and Alexander Jaffee Chair in Women and Politics, which is pending Academic Senate approval, will support a faculty member and further research and teaching in this vital area.

“Our department is so grateful for June Jaffee’s generosity,” says department chair Michael Chwe. “It is wonderfully resonant that June, a constant advocate for women’s participation in the workplace, is supporting research in our department on crucial questions of women’s participation in politics throughout the world.”

Politics wasn’t on Jaffee’s radar when she started at UCLA in 1949. Seeing medicine as a way to help people, she initially chose pre-med as her major. But after her election as vice president of the Associated Students of UCLA, she changed her major to political science.

“Getting pulled into the internal workings of student activities awakened my interest in politics,” she says.

A year or so after graduation, Jaffee moved from her native Los Angeles to New York, drawn by the excitement and promise of the big city. She met Alexander Jaffee, an accountant, at a party, and they married in 1967. An avid reader, Alex shared his wife’s interest in contemporary issues, and their apartment became a lively salon for UCLA alumni.

Jaffee immersed herself in the hustlebustle of city and corporate life during the 1960s and ’70s, a time of cultural upheaval, emerging feminism and political awakening.

“The world was opening up and changing so fast,” she recalls. “It was a terrific, exciting time.”

Jaffee went on to forge a long and successful career working for several international companies in a variety of public relations roles, including 12 years at Revlon Corporation.

In 2004, she was appointed executive director of a foundation started by Muriel “Mickie” Siebert, the first woman to own a seat on the New York Stock Exchange.

“June and Mickie got along so well because both were female trailblazers who were ahead of their time,” says Jaffee’s cousin, Ann Feder. “They always believed in helping young people — especially women — gain confidence to succeed in their careers.”

It comes as no surprise, then, that this endowed chair marks a lovely full circle moment for Jaffee.

“Women have been the backbone of political campaigns and activism for generations,” Jaffee says. “It is incredibly gratifying to know that my gift will contribute to new research and teaching at UCLA about the vital role of women in politics.”


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Portrait of Rafael Romero and Anastasia Lubarsky

A Powerful Tribute to a Legend

Undergraduate scholarships honor Arnold Scheibel

Portrait of Rafael Romero and Anastasia Lubarsky

Rafael Romero and Anastasia Lubarsky | © Stephanie Yantz


By Margaret MacDonald

The late UCLA neuroscience pioneer Arnold “Arne” Scheibel once wrote, “Above all, to be a teacher is to play a very special life role, whose challenges and rewards are beyond price.”

During an eminent career spanning nearly six decades, Scheibel inspired generations of students and helped shape UCLA’s multidisciplinary neuroscience community while making major breakthroughs in his field. He led the UCLA Brain Research Institute from 1987 to 1995 and launched Project Brainstorm, a K–12 outreach program that continues to this day. Among his many honors, Scheibel earned election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences as well as UCLA’s highest teaching honor, the Distinguished Teaching Award.

Today, Scheibel’s remarkable legacy lives on in the form of scholarships for UCLA neuroscience undergraduates.

In 2019, two years after his death at 94, trustees of the Scheibel Foundation Trust established the Scheibel Scholarship; they also recently donated a further $480,000, adding to the trust’s previous donations totaling $1 million. The scholarship — awarded so far to 67 outstanding neuroscience majors — provides financial support, hands-on research experience, mentoring by faculty, career workshops and networking opportunities.

Because neuroscience at UCLA is an interdepartmental major, students have vital access to the expertise of more than 200 faculty members spanning nearly 30 academic departments.

“This scholarship is instrumental to train the next generation of neuroscientists,” says Tracy Johnson, dean of life sciences. “This support is making it possible for our diverse and accomplished undergraduates to participate in research leading to groundbreaking discoveries.”

Scheibel Scholar Anastasia Lubarsky (class of 2023) works in the lab of chemistry professor Alexander Spokoyny conducting independent research on the neurological impacts on nearby populations of certain coal-mining techniques used in Appalachia.

“Working in the lab has been a highlight of my time at UCLA so far,” she says. “Thanks to the scholarship, I am able to work on my research part-time while being financially supported. It is my hope that the scholarship continues for years to come to help up-and-coming students like me to conduct influential research.”

Rafael Romero, instructor and academic administrator for the undergraduate neuroscience major, was a first-year graduate student when he took Scheibel’s neuroanatomy class in 2000.

“Arne Scheibel was deeply inspiring, especially to those of us who were considering teaching careers,” Romero recalls. “His ability to weave dry factual knowledge into beautiful narratives helped us all understand and appreciate the nervous system. He effortlessly commanded our full attention every lecture, and we could not wait to hear what he was going to teach us next.”

Romero adds, “The Scheibel Scholars are keeping his legacy alive by actively engaging in research in a well-mentored and supportive environment, and generating new nuggets of knowledge. Arne would be proud indeed!”

Glen Alpert, a neighbor and close friend, became co-trustee of the Scheibel Foundation Trust after Scheibel’s death.

“Arne had by far the most brilliant mind of anyone I’ve ever met. But he was also without ego, simply a wonderful person who loved his students and believed in humanity,” says Alpert, owner of L.A. business management firm Alpert & Associates. “He wanted more than anything to make a difference and move the field of neuroscience forward.”

To make a gift to support undergraduate students in need of funding to pursue neuroscience research, please click here.

Learn more about the Life Science Dean’s Award for Neuroscience Research – Scheibel Scholars.

Portrait of Arnold “Arne” Scheibel

Arnold “Arne” Scheibel

Born in New York City in 1923, Arnold “Arne” Scheibel received his M.D. from the Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1946. After a year of psychiatric residency training at Washington University in St. Louis, he entered the Army as a medical officer and received further training while on active duty at Brooke General Hospital in San Antonio, Texas. Scheibel then joined the neurophysiology laboratory of Warren McCulloch at Illinois Neuropsychiatric Institute. He subsequently became a faculty member in the UCLA departments of anatomy and psychiatry in 1955.

Scheibel’s research focused on psychiatry and the neural foundations of behavior. His laboratory studied the reticular core of the brain stem and thalamus, the organization of neural modules, and the structural correlation between aging and psychosis. His Golgi studies of human brain tissue extended the knowledge about the nature of neuronal changes in senile brain disease and in schizophrenia.

Scheibel led the UCLA Brain Research Institute from 1987 to 1995. Under his leadership, the institute’s culture of multidisciplinary, team-based collaboration was cemented. He launched the institute’s outreach program, Project Brainstorm, which to this day connects UCLA undergraduates, graduate students and faculty with local K-12 schools to offer hands-on introductory workshops and interactive demonstrations on neuroscience.

Among his many honors, Scheibel earned election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences as well as UCLA’s highest teaching honor, the Distinguished Teaching Award.

In 2016, in tribute to his parents, Scheibel established the Ethel Scheibel Endowed Chair in Neuroscience in the Department of Neurobiology at the David Geffen School of Medicine and the William Scheibel Endowed Chair in Neuroscience at the Brain Research Institute.


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Portrait of Marcia Howard

The Ripple Effect

Well-considered estate plans make it possible to establish
deeply personal and highly impactful legacies in the UCLA College

By Margaret MacDonald

Creative compassion

Portrait of Marcia Howard

Marcia Howard | © Alyssa Bierce


When alumna Marcia Howard passed away in 2019, no one who knew her was surprised by her final act of generosity to UCLA: a bequest of $2 million.

The gift was split equally between two initiatives. The first, the English department’s Author in Residence program, brings eminent writers to campus to teach, introduce students to new perspectives and share their work through lectures and readings. The second is the Laboratory for Environmental Narrative Strategies, or LENS, in the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability. Through research and collaboration on storytelling, communications and media, LENS faculty and students explore how today’s environmental challenges connect to longer histories of imagining the natural world.

A retired insurance broker, Howard considered UCLA her second home — no fewer than 20 campus committees and organizations benefited from her leadership, advocacy and philanthropy during her more than 60 years of engagement. In addition to the humanities, during her lifetime she supported many other units and initiatives on campus.

Howard was particularly passionate about the importance of a humanities education. In 2014, she gave $1 million to establish the Marcia H. Howard Term Chair in Literary Studies in the English department, currently held by Ursula K. Heise, chair of the English department and interim director of LENS.

“The study of humanities is essential to all aspects of life,” Howard said at the time. “It teaches us to think, reason, write and explore the meaning of what it is to be human.”

A history major, Howard studied in France during her junior year, igniting a lifelong love of travel and European history and literature. After graduating, she worked as an activist in the Deep South during the budding civil rights movement before returning to Los Angeles in 1961. She received the 1998 Alumni Association’s University Service Award.

Learn more:

The Laboratory for Environmental Narrative Strategies
Through research and collaboration on storytelling, communications and media, LENS faculty and students explore how today’s environmental challenges — which are as much cultural and political as they are scientific and technological — connect to longer histories of imagining the natural world.

Author in Residence
The Author in Residence program brings eminent writers to campus to teach creative writing in genres such as fiction, poetry and screenwriting. Authors-in-residence introduce students to new perspectives and approaches to writing and share their work through public lectures and readings.

Spiritual journeys

Portrait of Robert and Christina Buswell

Robert and Christina Buswell | © Yarell Castellanos


Eminent UCLA scholar of Buddhist studies Robert E. Buswell Jr. and his wife, Christina Lee Buswell, fulfilled a longstanding dream when they established the first permanent endowed chair in Korean Buddhist studies outside of Korea.

Through a “blended” gift with a portion paid over five years and the balance as a deferred gift from their estate, the couple committed $3.7 million to the UCLA Department of Asian Languages and Cultures. Their commitments created the Chinul Endowed Chair in Korean Buddhist Studies (pending Academic Senate approval) — named for Puril Pojo Chinul (1158-1210), the most influential monk in Korean Buddhist history — as well as the Robert E. and Christina L . Buswell Fellowship in Buddhist Studies in support of graduate students in the department.

Robert Buswell, who recently retired from UCLA after 36 years, holds the Irving and Jean Stone Endowed Chair in Humanities at UCLA and is considered the premier Western scholar on Korean Buddhism and one of the world’s top specialists in the meditative traditions of Buddhism. He founded UCLA’s Center for Korean Studies in 1993 and Center for Buddhist Studies in 2000, and served as this year’s UCLA Humanities commencement speaker.

“Robert’s impact on the fields of Buddhist studies and Korean studies has been unparalleled,” says David Schaberg, senior dean of the College and dean of humanities. “Not only has he built, here at UCLA, the nation’s largest programs in these two areas, he has also trained dozens of scholars now teaching and studying at academic institutions all over the world. I am immensely grateful for his leadership and for his and Christina’s extraordinary generosity.”

The fellowship gift was augmented by $25,000 by the Humanities Division Centennial Matching Program (made possible by the Kaplan/Panzer Humanities Endowment).

Buswell says that careful estate planning and creative philanthropy can allow faculty, who have devoted their careers to building academic programs as he has done, to ensure their scholarly legacy continues far into the future.

His path to UCLA began with a search for life’s meaning that led him to drop out of college in 1972 and serve for seven years as an ordained Buddhist monk in Thailand, Hong Kong and Korea. Drawn to the scholarly study of the Buddhist tradition, he returned to the U.S. and resumed his university education, eventually earning his Ph.D. in Buddhist studies from UC Berkeley in 1985.

Christina Buswell’s embrace of Buddhism also arose from her search for answers: Raised a Catholic in Korea, she immigrated to the U.S. at the age of 13, an experience that later led to much reflection about her cultural identity. She earned a B.A. in religious studies from the State University of New York at Stony Brook and an M.A. in Korean studies from Columbia, and went on to become a translator of Korean religious scriptures.

“It was important to both of us that there be at least one U.S. university with a permanent faculty chair specifically devoted to Korean Buddhism,” she says. “UCLA is the ideal place since it has played such an important role in developing Korean and Buddhist studies as fields.”

“Buddhist studies is one of the department’s traditional strengths, but this new chair and graduate fellowship will make us that much stronger,” says Seiji Lippit, department chair and professor of Asian Languages & Cultures. “The chair provides a solid faculty presence to support the field and train graduate students, so the two gifts really go hand in hand.”

Learn more: Department of Asian Languages & Cultures receives $3.7 million in gift commitments

A better future for all

Portrait of Richard and Linda Turco

Richard and Linda Turco


“When you are lucky in life, it feels good to spread the luck around.” This pronouncement by Richard Turco, founding director of the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, underpins a recent $1.5-million pledge to the institute from him and his wife, Linda Turco, in support of graduate and undergraduate students. The couple’s gift commitment was augmented by $750,000 from the UCLA dean of physical sciences’ gift matching program, bringing the total to $2.25 million.

“Thanks in large part to the dedication and pioneering efforts of Richard Turco, the institute has evolved to become a real force for environmental truth and equity,” says current IoES director Marilyn Raphael. “And now we add our deep gratitude for the Turcos’ generous gift commitment, which will provide the resources to effectively recruit, retain and empower generations of students eager to become change agents for a sustainable environment.”

The initial gift funds will be contributed over the next five years, with the deferred balance coming from the couple’s estate. When fully funded, the endowment will support an annual lecture, publication awards and fellowships for graduate students, and research awards for undergraduates, with priority given to first-generation students and those with demonstrated financial need.

An atmospheric chemist, Richard Turco joined UCLA’s faculty in 1988 and built a multidisciplinary research group focused on pressing environmental problems, including ozone depletion, urban air pollution and the impact of aerosols on climate. Those efforts eventually led to the establishment of the IoES in 1997, which Turco oversaw until 2003. He retired from UCLA in 2011.

“The future of human civilization will best be served by education — at all levels, in all places — and the world’s great universities will be called on to provide an unshakable foundation for global progress, equity and prosperity,” says Turco, a distinguished professor emeritus and former chair of UCLA’s department of atmospheric and oceanic sciences. “Those who have benefited most from past access to education should be among the most willing to support future access for others, with generosity and hope.”

Miguel García-Garibay, dean of the UCLA Division of Physical Sciences, which houses the IoES, lauded the Turcos’ ongoing support: “Not only has Richard been instrumental in building UCLA’s excellence in researching environmental solutions, but he and Linda have chosen to establish a lasting legacy of financial support for this area, helping to ensure the institute’s impact for years to come.”

Learn more: UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability receives $1.5 million pledge from founding director

UCLA’s Office of Gift Planning provides flexible, accessible ways to set up an impactful legacy gift. This includes gifts through a will or living trust (bequests); charitable gift annuities or charitable trusts; and using a variety of assets such as real estate, cash, appreciated securities, or retirement accounts. Some options provide fixed, lifetime income and/or significant income tax advantages, while others result in estate tax savings.


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Image of Angela Deaver Campbell talking with a student.

IN BRIEF

 

THE SCHOLARSHIP RESOURCE CENTER

25 YEARS OF HELPING UCLA STUDENTS GRADUATE WITH LESS DEBT

Image of four people (Angela Deaver Campbell and three UCLA students) standing together and talking.

© Alyssa Bierce/UCLA College
Angela Deaver Campbell talks with students at the UCLA Scholarship Resource Center.


To get a sense of its profound impact, ask any of the hundreds of students whom Angela Deaver Campbell and the UCLA Scholarship Resource Center have helped since she launched it in 1996.

“I absolutely would not be where I am today without Angela’s and the SRC’s support,” said Aleksandr Katsnelson, a 2009 graduate who went on to earn a law degree from Harvard University. “Angela wore many hats during our interactions: role model, emotional support provider and hero.”

The center’s legacy keeps growing thanks to Deaver Campbell, who still serves as director, and assistant director Rebecca Blustein, student affairs officer Mac Harris and a group of graduate students who act as student affairs advisors. And while its scope has expanded, the center’s core mission remains unchanged: to provide free scholarship information, resources, mentoring and support to all UCLA students, regardless of their financial aid eligibility.

“We would love for a donor to step in and provide permanent funding, so that no economic downturn could ever affect our ability to help change lives,” Deaver Campbell said. “Every year, more students and families come to us for solutions. Our work is too important to be vulnerable.” [Read More]

—JONATHAN RIGGS


 

Image of the mural, “La Memoria de la Tierra: UCLA,” with the middle panel showing Toypurina, Angela Davis, and Dolores Huerta.

© DON LIEBIG/ASUCLA

Created by Judy Baca, professor emerita of Chicana/o and Central American studies, the nearly 80-foot mural “La Memoria de la Tierra: UCLA” on Ackerman Union was unveiled April 1. The central panel (above) is built around Toypurina, a Tongva woman who opposed the colonial rule by Spanish missionaries in California in the late 1700s; Angela Davis, civil rights activist and former UCLA faculty member; and Dolores Huerta, the iconic labor leader. [Read More]

—MIKE FRICANO


Image of a large quotation in blue text that reads:"“It’s a tribute to the legacy of the Black women astronauts who have come before me, as well as to the exciting future ahead.” —Jessica Watkins

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Portrait of Jessica Watkins, UCLA alumna and astronaut, in her NASA flight suit

© NASA/BILL INGALLS

 

Jessica Watkins, who earned a
doctorate in geology from UCLA in
2015, is currently spending six months on the International Space Station as part of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-4 mission; she has also already been selected for NASA’s Artemis program, which plans to return explorers to the moon by 2024. [Read More]
—ELIZABETH KIVOWITZ
and STUART WOLPERT

 


Image of Meyer and Renee Luskin standing with Bob Woodward in front of a blue background.

© DON LIEBIG/ASUCLA

Meyer and Renee Luskin with legendary journalist Bob Woodward, who delivered the 2022 Luskin Lecture for Thought Leadership on May 9. The event connects the UCLA community to some of the most visionary figures of our time, inspiring attendees to change the world for the better. [Read More]


Image of Farwiza Farhan alongside a baby elephant.

Farwiza Farhan, who works to sustainably protect the Leuser Ecosystem — the last place where tigers, elephants, rhinos and orangutans live together in the wild — won the Pritzker Emerging Environmental Genius Award from the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability. [Read More]


 

Image of Professor David Kaplan seated in front of a bookshelf.

© CARLA RICHMOND COFFING

David Kaplan, the Hans Reichenbach Professor of Scientific Philosophy, won the 2022 Rolf Schock Prize in Logic and Philosophy “for his contributions to the understanding of the role played by the extralinguistic context for the semantics of natural language, for the logic of natural language sentences, and for the nature of belief.”


Portrait of Alexandra Minna Stern.

 

“I look forward to providing creative and responsive leadership at UCLA, and partnering with all of the excellent and diverse units and communities within and beyond the division,” said Alexandra Minna Stern, who comes from the University of Michigan and will become dean of the UCLA Division of Humanities Nov. 1.
[Read More]

 


BEHERE / 1942”: A LIFE-CHANGING EXHIBITION

© LIBRARY OF CONGRESS/
RUSSELL LEE

During World War II, the U.S. government forcibly removed Japanese Americans from the West Coast, incarcerating 120,000 in concentration camps. Starting this May, an exhibition at the Japanese American National Museum lets visitors step into those dark days of 1942 through an augmented reality re-creation at the very site where thousands of Angelenos reported before being taken to the camps.

“BeHere / 1942: A New Lens on the Japanese American Incarceration,” which runs until Oct. 9, is presented by the Yanai Initiative for Globalizing Japanese Humanities, a joint project of UCLA and Japan’s Waseda University, in collaboration with the museum.

“On one level, it is about what happened here in Little Tokyo and all along the West Coast in 1942, but it is also about the present,” said UCLA Professor Michael Emmerich, director of the Yanai Initiative. “Even 80 years later, we are still grappling with anti-Asian violence and racism and still dealing as a society with the same civil rights issues.” [Read More]

—ALISON HEWITT


 

THE NATURE OF INNOVATION

© JADE NELSON
UC Grad Slam finalist Kelsi Rutledge holds a preserved museum specimen of Pseudobatos buthi, a new species of ray she discovered and named.

Marine scientist Kelsi Rutledge wants you to understand the world from a stingray’s perspective — and for good reason. Rays and their relatives have a little-known sensory superpower: a curiously shaped, powerful nose that can track a scent like a bloodhound.

Rutledge, a doctoral student in UCLA’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, is researching these fishes’ potential to lead the way to a more sustainable future. Odors are chemicals, and monitoring their presence is vital in protecting our seas, which provide nearly three-quarters of our oxygen. While current methods are expensive and tech-heavy, the rays’ form and function may inspire efficient, energy-conscious alternatives.

“Through thousands of years of evolution, nature often provides innovative solutions to complex problems,” says Rutledge, whose findings are already being used by U.S. Navy engineers. “If we can mimic what animals do so elegantly, we can advance our own technology.” After graduation, Rutledge will go on to Caltech to continue exploring the world of fishes, our fascinating evolutionary ancestors. “There’s so much we can learn about them,” she says. “There’s still so much to be discovered.”
[Read More]

—LUCY BERBEO


HASTE YE BACK

This summer, Margaret MacDonald, senior associate director of communications, retired. The co-founder of UCLA’s first women’s soccer club, a political science alumna and a longtime pillar of College Development, she has been the College’s heart, memory and voice for more than 12 years. Whether or not you knew it — and those of us lucky to have worked with her know it well — she’s been a guiding light and a good friend beyond measure to UCLA. Thank you for everything, Margaret. Lang may yer lum reek!


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Portrait of Nanibaa’ Garrison

First, do no harm

She’s helping create a more equitable biomedical research future for all

Stephanie Yantz


By Jonathan Riggs

Native Americans and Alaska Natives have long experienced disproportionate negative health outcomes, including lower life expectancy. Born and raised on the Navajo Nation, Nanibaa’ Garrison saw these disparities firsthand and vowed as a child to do something about them. Today, she is an associate professor at UCLA who holds appointments in the Institute for Society and Genetics, the Institute for Precision Health and the Division of General Internal Medicine & Health Services Research. Garrison also teaches bioethics for UCLA’s new genetic counseling program.

“I really found my place in bioethics exploring anthropological, sociological and historical questions of genetic research,” she says. “Most recently, I’ve been engaged in a lot of policy-related discussions with tribes to think through how to strengthen tribal governance over Indigenous data, how to ensure that tribes have the capacity to evaluate genetic research protocols and how to deliver more educational opportunities to tribes.”

Key to Garrison’s mission is building bioethical bridges between researchers working on world-changing science and communities who can benefit from it. This often involves restoring trust, explaining complicated concepts in layperson’s terms and navigating cultural differences to ensure that appropriate guidelines are mutually established, understood, agreed upon and followed. (A cautionary tale occurred in 2003, when the Havasupai Tribe successfully sued Arizona State University over misuse of their genetic samples. They won a settlement and the return of their DNA.)

“While my main focus has been with Indigenous communities, this work bleeds over into others as well,” she adds. “I identify barriers and then work with different teams to create solutions or pathways to reduce those barriers and move toward a more equitable future for all, with regard to genetics.”

It has been a special point of pride for Garrison that she can tackle certain aspects of her work with her father, a retired biology professor, and her mother, a Navajo language scholar, who both taught for many years at Diné College, the first tribally controlled and accredited collegiate institution in the United States. It’s important to her, too, that she can continue her work in Los Angeles, home to a large population of Native Americans and Alaska Natives, and at a university like UCLA.

Garrison remains equally excited about engaging with students, who approach these topics in ways that inspire and reaffirm her enduring passion for her work.

“Students often come in with grandiose ideas for change. Sometimes they aren’t achievable, but that’s OK, because I have big ideas, too,” she says. “This is a field where you face a lot of pushback, because we’re trying to accomplish very lofty goals. But I don’t look at my work as something to get done in a year or two — I see it as a lifelong commitment.”

 


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Portrait of Herman Luis Chavez

Music of the Heart

He won the Marshall Scholarship by honoring his Bolivian heritage and transfer experience

Portrait of Herman Luis Chavez

© Steven Ruiz


By Jonathan Riggs 

Herman Luis Chavez found his destiny inside his aunt’s piano bench while visiting her in Bolivia. Leafing through sheet music to perform for his family, Chavez happened upon the score to “6 Danzas Bolivianas delciclo Runas para violín y piano” by Atiliano Auza León.

“I had been playing classical music my whole life, but I was trained in an entirely European tradition,” says Chavez, who was born in Utah to immigrant parents. “When I realized this was a Bolivian art music composer, it changed everything for me.”

Determined to explore classical music beyond the European canon, Chavez decided he needed to transfer from Colorado State University to UCLA — one of the only U.S. institutions to hold compositions by León. Once at UCLA, he completed 20-plus units of coursework every quarter to earn a double major in comparative literature and ethnomusicology, received the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship and even taught his own course, “Latinx the Word: Discourse and Expression.”

“The incredible UCLA community that I have found here has empowered me to know that I can continue into the academy myself one day as a queer Latinx scholar,” Chavez says. “My dream is to become a professor at a public university engaged in my own research and teaching while also paying forward the remarkable mentorship I’ve received at UCLA.”

In fact, Chavez says that his status as a transfer Bruin helped him to become one of the 41 American students honored as Marshall Scholars. Crediting the Scholarship Resource Center’s assistance, Chavez will follow his predecessor Leia Yen to King’s College London, where the Marshall Scholarship will cover the cost of his graduate work in musicology and cultural policy research.

“It means so much to be the third UCLA student in more than a decade — and the second UCLA transfer student ever — to earn this honor,” Chavez says. “I hope I’m an example of how driven transfer students are to get as much as possible out of their UCLA experience. No matter what school we come from or what unique path we take, we come here to seek knowledge and make a difference.”

Wherever his journey takes him, Chavez will always draw much strength and inspiration from his Bolivian roots. He especially wants to ensure that the home country of his parents — and of Auza León, his senior thesis subject — receives its due consideration across the board in global academic conversations.

“I’m so excited to take this next step with the Marshall Scholarship to look into cultural policy, and how music both shapes and is shaped by it, specifically in terms of Bolivia and the Andes,” Chavez says. “Music can tell us about policy, the environment, social movements and ourselves. I owe everything to my transfer journey, and I’m proud to say it’s just beginning.”


 

 

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Portrait of Efrén Pérez

A More Perfect Union

He’s coaching the next generation of skilled social scientists

Portrait of Efrén Pérez

© Stephanie Yantz


By Jonathan Riggs 

UCLA Professor Efrén Pérez made a surprising New Year’s resolution: learn the accordion. Surprising because, well, accordion, but also because his previous musical history was limited to a teenage attempt to master the alto sax that traumatized his loved ones’ ears.

It makes sense that Pérez, a professor of political science and of psychology, has a unique hobby — he’s carved out a unique career bridging two fields. As a political psychologist, his research explores how demographic changes are unleashing new political forces in the nation.

“Having a joint appointment in two such strong departments is intellectually exhilarating,” Pérez says. “As our country continues toward minority-majority status, we need to better understand what these trends imply. I believe that our UCLA undergraduates are uniquely positioned to provide some of the answers.”

A native Angeleno, Pérez worked in local politics before earning his Ph.D. in political science from Duke University. After spending 10 years as a professor at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee,  he joined UCLA. Growing up, he’d never set foot on the campus, believing it was out of reach, so he began his tenure here with a mission.

“Someone with my profile is not the pony you’re going to bet on to make it through a grueling doctoral program,” he says. “The fact that I did was strongly related to the mentoring I received. I learned firsthand if you want to see real change in academia, active support and mentorship of folks who come from nontraditional backgrounds are crucial.”

And so Pérez was inspired to found the Race, Ethnicity, Politics & Society Lab. Its mission is twofold: to further his systematic research into the effects of demographic diversity on U.S. society as well as to offer a training ground and pipeline for gifted undergraduate and graduate students from nontraditional backgrounds to gain the footing they need to pursue academic careers in the social sciences.

“There are plenty of directions I could be taking my career in, but empowering students is so gratifying. It feeds into what the UC system prides itself on: generating future leaders and upward mobility,” he says. “And if we want to keep California’s reputation as a paragon of innovation, we need to be investing more in the skill set that our undergraduates take with them once they leave our campus.”

It all comes back to that accordion (as everything should). Pérez was able to succeed where he once failed because he thoughtfully took the time not only to see the instrument’s potential but also to do the work to master it.

“When it comes to the art of making music or growing talent, it’s a long process,” Pérez says. “But it pays off.”


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Portrait of Ariel Hart

Seed to Harvest

This Black feminist futurist is working to create more equitable medical care for all

Portrait of Ariel Hart

Stephanie Yantz


By Jonathan Riggs 

Ariel Hart grew up in Pasadena, grateful for the love and care of their family, especially their grandmother, a former nurse at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center. However, Hart realized at a young age how the lives of Black people were unfairly marked when several of their beloved family members suffered untimely deaths.

“As a child, I felt injustice on such a personal level I couldn’t even see a movie with someone hurt comedically because I was so sensitive,” Hart says. “Losing those loved ones opened my eyes and made me determined to work against racialized premature death.”

Interested in exploring public health as well as medicine, Hart (who uses they/them pronouns) earned their M.P.H. from the University of Washington while working as a local community organizer resisting the construction of a new Seattle juvenile incarceration facility. Today, they are in the UCLA-Caltech Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP), earning their Ph.D. in sociology from UCLA and their M.D. from the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science, a historically Black institution founded after the 1965 Watts Rebellion.

“I was lucky to start with people who are committed to addressing structural problems within medicine and bringing high-quality care to places like Watts,” Hart says. “I wanted space to dig into a deeper understanding of the ways health inequities continued to be produced within health ‘care’ systems. UCLA’s MSTP program allowed me that space.”

Of particular interest to Hart is the resurgence of Black birth workers, whose critical contributions were systematically erased by racist public health campaigns criminalizing Black midwifery. Seeing how activists have worked tirelessly to reclaim this traditional healing practice in direct response to the modern maternal health crisis inspires Hart to make sure these and other in­valuable voices are not lost to medical history.

“I want to be a part of conversations and actions that create models of deep care and healing that enhance and support Black people’s well-being,” Hart says. “That requires us as health care professionals to honor the knowledge that every person has about their own body and the history of their people.”

While the road ahead is long — both to complete their two doctoral degrees and to begin their chosen work — Hart remains purposeful and passionate.

“I was able to take formative classes to explore issues of Black women and Black queer people’s health and bodies in a historical context,” Hart says. “Black feminist thought provides a long history of embodied critiques of medical harm that is compelling and necessary for actors within medical spaces. I want to keep engaging with this history and learning from Black birth workers about possibilities for building more caring spaces, systems and worlds.”


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