When UCLA hosted the Special Olympic World Games this summer, a positive message of inclusion and acceptance was amplified. But unfortunately for many people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in other parts of the world, this message doesn’t resonate in their countries, where there are no pathways for them to learn work and social skills or gain independence.
Cheers filled UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion on Friday as seniors in the Class of 2015 graduated. More than 5,500 graduates — decked out in academic regalia modified by glittery words on mortarboards, fragrant leis, novelty sunglasses and more — celebrated the completion of their degrees in person at two ceremonies hosted by the UCLA College, the university’s primary undergraduate unit. The split celebrations, at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., each packed the famed arena to near-capacity.
For UCLA biochemistry Ph.D. student Jeffrey Vinokur, science is better when shared.
To share his favorite subject broadly, Vinokur leads a dual life as complex as some of the enzymes he is studying. When he’s not looking deep into the structural analysis of mevalonate-3-kinase in the quiet of his lab, he’s a nationally known chemist-meets-hip-hop dancer named the Dancing Scientist, running a one-man-show that automatically converts every stage into a classroom for zany science experiments.
As UCLA graduate student Bryan Kirschen tried to start his weekly class in Judeo-Spanish at the Skirball Cultural Center, his unruly students, all in their golden years, were getting out of hand, vying for his attention.
White House immigration staff members attended a briefing Friday on the economic impact of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which President Obama passed by executive order in 2012 and expanded this year.
For Martin Monti, a cognitive neuroscientist and assistant professor of psychology at UCLA, time is always in short supply, depleted by his teaching load, office hours and his research, for which he regularly sees comatose patients who’ve suffered severe brain trauma.
Baby boomers remember actor Henry Winkler as “The Fonz” in the long-running 1970s sitcom “Happy Days,” but their children and grandchildren may know him best for a popular series of 29 children’s books that he hashes out with co-author Lin Oliver.
For years, Walter Mancia searched for a chance to discover his talents. As the child of a single mother in rural Honduras, Mancia quit school at 13, in part because his family was unable to afford school materials for him and his three younger siblings. It seemed as though his formal education might be over.
UCLA Geography and Political Science student Logan Linnane isn’t having a typical summer.
The fourth-year student is spending his break in the communities that border the Ban Mai Nai Soi refugee camp in Northern Thailand, where a diverse group of international organizations provides aid to Karenni refugees from Myanmar.
The recipient of an Irving and Jean Stone Research Award, Linnane is conducting original research on the vocational environmental education programs made available to refugees by aid organizations. The field work is enabling him to explore the effectiveness of these environmental education programs from the perspectives of those they seek to serve.
This kind of opportunity is a key facet of a revolution unfolding within higher educational practice that Honors Program Assistant Vice Provost G. Jennifer Wilson characterizes as “teaching people to become the thing you want them to learn, rather than telling them what you want them to learn.”
While the UCLA College Honors Program distributes its summer stipends to 22 honors students throughout the College, Wilson says that students in the social sciences are particularly well prepared by their faculty to write and conduct compelling research proposals. They make up a large proportion of grantees each year. Seven students traveled abroad this year, including to Iran, China and Germany.
While Linnane’s research is connected to his Honors Thesis, he’s also thinking of the broader impact. He hopes that his work “will serve as a potential resource for environmental organizations as they continue to adjust and improve the curricula for programs that serve communities of displaced people.”
Professor Eric Sheppard, Linnane’s faculty advisor in the Geography Department, said the research his student is doing this summer is furthering Western scholars’ understanding of Myanmar and the topic of refugees in general.
Recipients must be part of the College Honors Program or a departmental honors program. Preparation is intense: students work closely with a faculty advisor and are required to gain Internal Review Board approval, a process most students don’t encounter until the graduate level.
But the hard work is worth it.
“It’s easy to sit on campus and dream about working in the developing world, but planning a project and living amongst the communities you strive to work with is truly the only way to even remotely understand what a career in development entails,” Linnane said.
Sheppard personally meets with his undergraduate researchers several times to help them develop appropriate research questions and methodologies.
“We talk about whether they need language skills and how to acquire these,” he said. “We discuss the country itself so they appreciate what they will be faced with. We set up a procedure for adjusting the research design if necessary. I also discuss with them basic travel preparations such as vaccinations, medicines to have with them, travel insurance, and what to do in an emergency.”
Honors Program research stipends are supported by four private donors. Despite this generous support, the need is growing as global knowledge becomes increasingly important.
“All undergraduates need to broaden their understanding of and perspective on the world if they are to become thoughtful world citizens,” Sheppard said. “The opportunity to do research on the ground, to be thrown into a situation where you work with locals and learn their views, is a vital opportunity that should be utilized more than it is.”
1309 Murphy Hall
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1413
(t) (310) 206-1953
(f) (310) 267-2343