Black Americans’ COVID vaccine hesitancy stems more from today’s inequities than historical ones

UCLA study urges medical community to pursue changes that build better trust

Woman receives vaccine shot

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


Holly Ober | October 27, 2022

Key takeaways:
• Doctors and distrust.
Black Americans are more likely than whites to report poor interactions with their physicians.
• Not history but here and now.
These personal experiences — rather than wrongs of the past — tend to heighten their distrust of the health care system and lead to skepticism about COVID-19 vaccines.

Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, the vaccination rate in the Black community lagged well behind that of whites, a gap many in the media speculated was the result of fears based on historical health-related injustices like the infamous Tuskegee Syphilis Study.

But new research by UCLA psychologists shows that vaccine hesitancy and mistrust of medical professionals among Black Americans may hinge more on their current unsatisfactory health care experiences than on their knowledge of past wrongs.

The findings, the researchers say, clearly illustrate the need for both broad and specific changes within the medical community to improve experiences and build better trust with Black patients. The research is published in the journal Health Psychology.

“History is important, no doubt, but Black Americans do not have to reach into the past for examples of inequity in health care — many have experienced it themselves,” said Kimberly Martin, who led the research as a UCLA doctoral student and is now a UC President’s Postdoctoral Scholar at UC San Francisco.

In the first of two studies, Martin and her UCLA colleagues surveyed approximately 300 Black and white participants in December 2020, just as vaccines were becoming available. Black respondents expressed less trust in medical professionals and reported significantly less positive experiences with the health care system than their white counterparts. They were also less likely to report an intention to get vaccinated.

Participants were also queried about their familiarity with the 1932–72 Tuskegee Syphilis Study, in which the U.S. government studied Black men with syphilis without their informed consent and intentionally withheld treatment, leading to medical complications, fatalities and transmission of the disease to family members. Some 66% of Black participants and 62% of white participants said they were familiar with the study, though Black participants generally knew more about it. Familiarity, however, was not associated with greater medical mistrust or vaccine hesitancy in either group, the researchers found.

Ultimately, the authors concluded, Black respondents’ trust in medical professionals had been undermined by a lack of positive health care experiences, contributing to a hesitancy to get vaccinated.

“A damaging narrative suggested in popular media has been that Black Americans were less likely to want a COVID-19 vaccination primarily because of the Tuskegee study,” said Martin, who along with her co-researchers found that the study had been mentioned 168 times in TV news reports on vaccine hesitancy between October 2020 and November 2021. “However, Tuskegee is only one of many relevant historical examples of medical mistreatment toward Black Americans, and this framing completely disregards current inequity and injustice in health care.”

Co-author Annette Stanton, a distinguished professor of psychology at UCLA, said implications that Black Americans can and should “get over the past” as a means to reducing health inequities are not only offensive but misguided, given the findings.

“The findings point to Black Americans’ present-day experiences in the medical system as an important factor among multiple contributors to inequities, and physicians and health systems can indeed take action to improve these experiences,” she said. “Respectful, competent and caring medical professionals can be agents of change.”

A second study, conducted several months after the first, surveyed a nationally representative sample of more than 12,750 Black and white Americans and found no statistically significant racial difference in the proportion of those who had been vaccinated or were intending to get vaccinated. But once again, Black participants reported less medical trust than whites. Black respondents also reported feeling less cared-for by their physicians than white respondents, which the researchers said contributes to lower levels of trust.

Among those who were not yet vaccinated, both Black and white participants who had less trust in the medical community and felt less cared-for by their personal physician were also less likely to report an intention to get vaccinated.

The current studies add to an extensive body of research showing that Black Americans have worse health care experiences than whites. And while the vaccination gap between Blacks and whites has decreased, issues of inequitable treatment and medical mistrust remain and need to be addressed in the context of present-day experiences, the researchers emphasized.

“Characterizing race-related disparities in health care experiences as a relic of the past excludes current medical experiences and absolves the current health care system from making needed change,” said co-author Kerri Johnson, a UCLA professor of communication and psychology.

Johnson and the other authors said that going forward, health care professionals and researchers need to identify and implement changes that could provide Black Americans with more equitable and satisfying health care experiences.


This article originally appeared in the UCLA Newsroom. For more news and updates from the UCLA College, visit college.ucla.edu/news.

Shirlee Smith, UCLA alumna and creator of Black Boyle Heights Facebook group

UCLA alumna seeks to preserve history of Black Boyle Heights

Shirlee Smith wants you to know about the Black community that used to live in the neighborhood: ‘We were there.’

Shirlee Smith, UCLA alumna and creator of Black Boyle Heights Facebook group

Shirlee Smith wrote a book about parenting titled “They’re Your Kids, Not Your Friends.” | Courtesy of Shirlee Smith


Nancy Gondo | November 7, 2022

Though Boyle Heights has a storied history as a multi-ethnic enclave of the 20th century, Shirlee Smith has noticed the Black community there often gets overlooked — something the UCLA alumna hopes to change.

“I’ve spent my adult years closing gaping mouths when asked where I’d grown up and my reply was Boyle Heights,” said Smith, 85. “People saw Boyle Heights as Jewish, as Latina, as Japanese. And so, the feedback has been, ‘Oh yes, the world needs to know: We were there.’”

The former Boyle Heights resident is working on a project to document and preserve the history of the Black people who used to live in the neighborhood. In some ways, Smith’s mother had started the legwork by collecting stories from families and entrusting them to one of her granddaughters.

“I read the 20 or so masterpieces and knew our stories had to be brought to light,” Smith said. She published some of the stories in Brooklyn and Boyle magazine, started the Black Boyle Heights Facebook group and in February, organized a virtual event with more than 50 people gathered online to share memories and honor their elders.

‘I’ll Take You There’

The event, called “I’ll Take You There,” honored four former residents who ranged in age from 93 to 101. Smith plans to turn the event into an annual celebration. She’s also collecting photos and stories, locating people, reviewing census data and getting in touch with local historians. Black Boyle Heights’ goals include publishing a directory of where the Black residents lived, setting up a podcast to tell their stories and creating a museum exhibit.

Boyle Heights drew a diverse mix of people in the early 20th century because the neighborhood east of the Los Angeles River was one of the few without restrictive racial covenants. Smith remembers hearing mariachi music up and down the block and walking past the Japanese Baptist church at the intersection of Evergreen and 2nd Street.

She didn’t think much about the diversity of Boyle Heights as a kid. But “as I grew up and interacted with a wide range of people, I discovered that fond memories were the opportunity to know up close people from so many cultures and be part of their traditions,” Smith said.

The close-knit Black community provided a built-in value system. Her next-door neighbor taught her how to knit and embroider; hairdresser Dolores Jones made house calls with straightening combs and curling irons in hand; Daddy Fred and Ma’ Bessie helped watch the neighborhood kids. But if anyone was caught acting out of line, word spread quickly.

“When you did wrong, it wasn’t just that Shirlee Pickett did wrong. It was the Pickett family,” Smith, née Pickett, said. “So when Dolores Jones came to your house to do your hair, you had to be polite. You may not have wanted to get your hair done, but you had to appreciate her.”

The neighborhood makeup started to change in the back half of the 1900s as racial covenants in Los Angeles lifted and families moved out of Boyle Heights. Today, few Black families remain in the now predominantly Latino neighborhood.

Meeting UCLA

Most minority students in Boyle Heights at the time weren’t being prepped for college, according to Smith. There were four paths, called “tracking” — academic, commercial, shop and home economics. Black and Latino girls were often tracked into home economics and commercial, where they would learn how to file papers. Few were put on the academic track.

“UCLA was not on my menu — there was no history,” Smith said. But in 1969, UCLA established the high potential program (now part of the Academic Advancement Program) to identify Black and Chicano students who might not meet the general entry criteria but are likely to succeed at the university. She applied and was accepted. “And that’s how I met UCLA,” she said.

The program started with a year of preparing students for university life. Smith wasn’t your typical college student fresh out of high school. She was a single mother of five children ranging in age from 7 months to 11 years.

“I was 30 years old when I hit the campus, and I had my youngest child in a stroller,” Smith said. “I took her to class with me, and that did not happen in 1968. There was no old lady on campus with a baby.”

As if that wasn’t tough enough, she got a C- on the first paper she wrote. She went to see the instructor, who told her she could redo the paper and gave her a copy of an A+ paper. That was a pivotal learning moment — Smith went on to graduate in 1973 with the distinction Department Scholar in Sociology.

Smith has since worked as a columnist for the Pasadena Star News, produced and hosted a cable TV show and written a book about parenting.

“Without UCLA, I doubt seriously that I would have had the courage to pursue any of my many accomplishments,” she said. “It’s really the reason I became a writer.”

If you’d like to contact Shirlee Smith regarding the Black Boyle Heights project:
info@blackboyleheights.org
aanbh1896@gmail.com
(626) 296-2777


This article originally appeared in the UCLA Newsroom. For more news and updates from the UCLA College, visit college.ucla.edu/news.

Professor’s book spotlights legacy of Mexican political organizers in the American West

Kelly Lytle Hernández’s ‘Bad Mexicans’ comes at a time when L.A.’s politics reckon with racism

Bad Mexicans book cover and Kelly Lytle Hernández

Kelly Lytle Hernández, author and Thomas E. Lifka Professor of History at UCLA.


Madeline Adamo | November 29, 2022

Editor’s note: This page was updated on Nov. 30 to correct the name of the center that organized the talk.

Written with the pacing and drama of a spy novel, historian Kelly Lytle Hernández’s latest book, “Bad Mexicans: Race, Empire, and Revolution in the Borderlands,” aims to illuminate the far-too-overlooked story of the magonistas, a group of dissidents who were organizing in Mexico at the turn of the 20th century to oust dictator Porfirio Díaz.

Led by radicalized journalist Ricardo Flores Magón, who communicated with his followers through Regeneración, the newspaper he founded in 1900, the magonistas fled Mexico after years of suppression and regrouped in the U.S. borderlands. Most of them set up in Los Angeles, where they relaunched their rebel newspaper and incited an army of migrant workers and cotton pickers — a cause of great concern for governments in the U.S. that had great investments in Díaz’s Mexico.

Díaz, who called the magonistas “bad” Mexicans (or malos Mexicanos), pursued their leader with the help of the U.S. government. Flores Magón evaded capture until 1907, after which he spent his final years in and out of prison. Though his story isn’t widely known, historians have long credited the magonistas’ efforts with eventually leading to Díaz’s ousting.

“‘Bad Mexicans’ tells the story of how (the magonistas) built their social movement here in the United States,” Lytle Hernández told the audience (some who joined virtually from regions around Mexico) at a recent event focused on her book. “And probably more important, it’s the story of that cross-border counterinsurgency campaign that tried to stop them, but they were successful, and they incited the outbreak of the 1910 Mexican Revolution.”

The UCLA Center for Mexican Studies invited Lytle Hernández, who is the the Thomas E. Lifka Professor of History at UCLA, to speak with Fernando Pérez-Montesinos, assistant professor of history, who dove into why the historian chose to write about Mexican “reveltosos.”

“I’m a border-lander,” said Lytle Hernández, who recalls being alarmed that she was only just learning about the magonistas and their rebel movement as a doctoral student at UCLA. She recognized the importance of their place in American history and was concerned that people currently living in the borderlands — generally people of color, laborers and organizers — didn’t know these stories.

The book’s origin story comes from Lytle Hernández’s previous book, “City of Inmates: Conquest, Rebellion, and the Rise of Human Caging in Los Angeles, 1771–1965,” which was a compelling account that places contemporary issues of mass incarceration and mass deportation within a much broader historical context.

Using archival evidence, Lytle Hernández established that Los Angeles — “a hub of incarceration” that imprisons more people than any other city in the country that imprisons the most people in the world — has been the site of various manifestations of human caging. In documenting how this reality is inextricably bound to conquest, settler colonialism, institutional racism and structural assaults on the working poor, irrespective of race or ethnicity, Lytle Hernández had all the research and material she needed to write “Bad Mexicans.”

While “Bad Mexicans” arose from a personal place for Lytle Hernández, she says the book also served as a response to politics at the time of the project’s genesis. More specifically, the 2016 presidential debate, when former president Donald Trump famously referred to Mexican immigrants as “bad hombres” while speaking about his plan for a southern border wall.

“When Trump made his disparaging remarks about Mexican migrants who are doing nothing but trying to secure a better life for themselves, he was stirring up that rhetorical pot of racial violence,” said Lytle Hernández, who is also the director of the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies.

The historian chose “Bad Mexicans” as the title of her book, playing off Trump’s remark in hope that the general public would understand that by using that kind of language, the former president was setting the stage for anti-Mexican and anti-Latino racial violence.

To connect the reader to a form of racial violence they might be familiar with, Lytle Hernández opens the book with the scene of the 1910 lynching of Antonio Rodríguez in Texas.

“They lit the pyre and watched him burn,” said Lytle Hernández, reciting the first sentence of her book to show how the scene is used as an “anchor” for American readers. She hopes readers use what they know about lynching to make the connections to Mexican themes and experiences and their important place in the “American story,” she said.

The story goes on to use a Hollywood-like approach to smuggle in Mexican history; including armed battles, deciphering of secret codes, betrayals and love affairs. In doing so, Lytle Hernández says that “Bad Mexicans” rebuilds the legacy of Mexican and Mexican American identity in the country’s canon of history.

“Where do Mexicans fit in the U.S. racial dynamics?” said Lytle Hernández. “That has been a contest around whiteness and non-whiteness in particular.”

At the heart of the book, Lytle Hernández invites further conversations on race formations in the U.S., which she says have been largely defined by struggles over land and politics.

“What is the relationship of Mexicanas to Black folks? To Indigenous folks? Where are they going to fall in this historical set of relationships and power?” she said.

Despite the book being published in May, the discussion was particularly relevant because of the recent outcry in Los Angeles over racist comments made by three Latino city council members.

“This crisis is an opportunity for people to get really clear about where they stand in relationship to capitalism and white supremacy, among other things,” said Lytle Hernández, tying the recent politics back to the topics her book engages with.

The second half of the discussion, which was followed by an audience Q&A, explored the history of relations between Blacks and Latinos, focusing on connections between the Black freedom struggle and the suppression of Mexican radicals like the magonistas.

“We share a history. We share a story and no one ever wants to tell us about it,” Lytle Hernández said. “That’s the power of our amnesia, of our forgetting, is that we struggled to build community today because we don’t know how we built it in the past.”


This article originally appeared in the UCLA Newsroom. For more news and updates from the UCLA College, visit college.ucla.edu/news.

An image from the James Webb Space Telescope.

Webb Space Telescope reveals birth of galaxies, how universe became transparent

UCLA astrophysicists shed light on how hydrogen fog burned away after the Big Bang

An image from the James Webb Space Telescope

An image from the James Webb Space Telescope. A pair of UCLA-led studies demonstrate some of the scientific advances that the telescope is making possible. | NASA


Holly Ober | November 17, 2022

Key takeaways:
• UCLA astrophysicists are among the first scientists to use the James Webb Space Telescope to get a glimpse of the earliest galaxies in the universe.
• The studies reveal unprecedented detail about events that took place within the first billion years after the Big Bang.
• The UCLA projects were among a small number selected by NASA to test the capabilities of the Webb telescope.

The earliest galaxies were cosmic fireballs converting gas into stars at breathtaking speeds across their full extent, reports a UCLA-led study published in a special issue of the Astrophysical Journal.

The research, based on data from the James Webb Space Telescope, is the first study of the shape and structure of those galaxies. It shows that they were nothing like present-day galaxies in which star formation is confined to small regions, such as the constellation of Orion in our own Milky Way galaxy.

“We’re seeing galaxies form new stars at an electrifying pace,” said Tommaso Treu, the study’s lead author, a UCLA professor of physics and astronomy. “Webb’s incredible resolution allows us to study these galaxies in unprecedented detail, and we see all of this star formation occurring within the regions of these galaxies.”

Treu directs the GLASS–JWST Early Release Science Program, whose first results are the subject of the special journal issue. Another UCLA-led study in the issue found that galaxies that formed soon enough after the Big Bang — within less than a billion years — might have begun burning off leftover photon-absorbing hydrogen, bringing light to a dark universe.

“Even our very best telescopes really struggled to confirm the distances to such far away galaxies, so we didn’t know whether they rendered the universe transparent or not,” said Guido Roberts-Borsani, a UCLA postdoctoral researcher who led the study. “Webb is showing us that not only can it do the job, but it can do it with astonishing ease. It’s a game changer.”

Those findings are two of many breathtaking discoveries by UCLA astrophysicists who are among the first to peer through a window to the past newly opened by Webb.

Webb is the largest near-infrared telescope in space, and its remarkable resolution offers an unparalleled view of objects so distant that their light takes billions of years to reach Earth. Although those objects have aged by now, light from only their earliest moments has had enough time to travel through the universe to end up on Webb’s detectors. As a result, not only has the Webb functioned as a sort of time machine — taking scientists back to the period shortly after the Big Bang — but the images it’s producing have become a family album, with snapshots of infant galaxies and stars.

GLASS–JWST was one of 13 Early Release Science projects selected by NASA in 2017 to quickly produce publicly accessible datasets and to demonstrate and test the capabilities of instruments on the Webb.

The project seeks to understand how and when light from the first galaxies burned through the hydrogen fog left over from the Big Bang — a phenomenon and time period called the Epoch of Reionization — and how gas and heavy elements are distributed within and around galaxies over cosmic time. Treu and Roberts-Borsani use three of the Webb’s innovative near-infrared instruments to take detailed measurements of distant galaxies in the early universe.

The Epoch of Reionization is a period that remains poorly understood by scientists. Until now, researchers have not had the extremely sensitive infrared instruments needed to observe galaxies that existed then. Prior to cosmic reionization, the early universe remained devoid of light because ultraviolet photons from early stars were absorbed by the hydrogen atoms that saturated space.

Scientists think that sometime within the universe’s first billion years radiation emitted by the first galaxies and possibly by the first black holes caused the hydrogen atoms to lose electrons, or ionize, preventing photons from “sticking” to them and clearing a pathway for the photons to travel across space. As galaxies began to ionize larger and larger bubbles, the universe became transparent and light traveled freely, as it does today, allowing us to view a brilliant canopy of stars and galaxies each night.

Roberts-Borsani’s finding that galaxies formed faster and earlier than previously thought could confirm that they were the culprits of cosmic reionization. The study also confirms the distances to two of the farthest galaxies known using a new technique that allows astronomers to probe the beginning of cosmic reionization.


This article originally appeared in the UCLA Newsroom. For more news and updates from the UCLA College, visit college.ucla.edu/news.

Dysmus+Kisilu+with+Tony+Pritzker+in+background

Dysmus Kisilu wins UCLA’s Pritzker Award for environmental innovators

Kenyan entrepreneur and his company, Solar Freeze, receive $100,000 prize for reducing food waste

Dysmus Kisilu speaking with Tony Pritzker in background

Dysmus Kisilu was honored for finding an environmentally friendly way to help small Kenyan farms preserve their produce in order to sell it during periods of peak demand. Tony Pritzker looked on while Kisilu spoke at the Nov. 10 award ceremony. | Damon Cirulli


David Colgan | November 11, 2022

Kenyan entrepreneur Dysmus Kisilu and his business, Solar Freeze, received the 2022 Pritzker Emerging Environmental Genius Award from the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability.

Kisilu’s company rents solar-powered coolers to reduce waste, curb carbon emissions and improve the marketability of crops on small, rural farms in Kenya. He was honored during a ceremony at the UCLA Meyer and Renee Luskin Conference Center on Nov. 10.

“To the smallholder farmers that I work with, this is for you,” Kisilu said.

The Pritzker Award, which is presented annually, carries a prize of $100,000 that is funded through a portion of a $20 million gift to UCLA from the Anthony and Jeanne Pritzker Family Foundation. It is the field’s first major honor specifically for innovators under the age of 40 — those whose work stands to benefit most from the prize money and the prestige it conveys.

Kisilu co-founded Solar Freeze in 2018, bringing solar-powered cold storage to small Kenyan farms — enabling them to reduce food waste without increasing carbon emissions. The storage units, which are made using old shipping containers, allow farmers to preserve perishable produce inexpensively, giving them leverage to sell harvests after times of peak production when they command higher prices, which can help maximize their profits.

The company aims to further its mission with a new mobile app and by expanding to other parts of Africa.

Kisilu was nominated by Jaime Carlson, a senior advisor in strategy and investment at Softbank Energy, a business that promotes the spread of renewable energy. Carlson said she was struck by how Kisilu “thinks deeply and thoughtfully” to create solutions that fit local communities and market conditions.

The Pritzker Award was launched in 2017, and for the first time since 2019, the presentation was held in person — the 2020 and 2021 events were streamed online due to the pandemic. The 2022 award celebration was kicked off earlier in the day by a series of discussions among UCLA experts and international environmental leaders.

Marilyn Raphael, director of UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, saluted Kisilu, the other nominees, and the other innovators and scholars who attended the award ceremony.

“You have already touched many lives, and what you do every day will touch lives and inspire environmental heroes for generations to come,” she said.

The other two finalists for the award were Resson Kantai Duff, a conservationist who fosters understanding and stewardship of nature in communities that live among lions; and Tiana Williams-Clausen, director of the Wildlife Department of the Yurok Tribe, who is helping to restore wildlife to Yurok lands around the Klamath River.

From left, Dysmus Kisilu with Marilyn Raphael of the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, Pritzker Award finalist Tiana Williams-Clausen and Tony Pritzker at the 2022 Pritzker Emerging Environmental Genius Award ceremony.

From left, Dysmus Kisilu with Marilyn Raphael of the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, Pritzker Award finalist Tiana Williams-Clausen and Tony Pritzker at the 2022 Pritzker Emerging Environmental Genius Award ceremony. | Damon Cirulli


The distinguished panel of judges who chose Kisilu as this year’s winner was made up of Kara Hurst, head of worldwide sustainability at Amazon; Chanell Fletcher, deputy executive officer of environmental justice at the California Air Resources Board; Lori Garver, CEO of the Earthrise Media; and Ida Levine, lead expert on policy and regulation for the board of Impact Investing Institute.

Kisilu’s honor was presented by Tony Pritzker, who founded the award and is a member of the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability’s advisory board.

“The objective of all this is to honor you at such a great point in your lives — giving you the opportunity to take it to the next level,” Pritzker said.


This article originally appeared in the UCLA Newsroom. For more news and updates from the UCLA College, visit college.ucla.edu/news.

Portraits of Marinza Marzouk - Monica Soliman - Samuel Zamora

3 UCLA undergrads receive prestigious NIH scholarships

Portraits of Marinza Marzouk - Monica Soliman - Samuel Zamora

Marinza Marzouk (left), Monica Soliman and Samuel Zamora will complete summer internships in NIH labs and have full-time jobs there upon graduation. | UCLA


Jonathan Riggs | November 3, 2022

Only 16 students nationally were chosen to receive prestigious National Institutes of Health undergraduate scholarships for 2022–23.

And three of them are Bruins.

Fourth-year students Marinza Marzouk of Covina, California, and Monica Soliman of Los Angeles, and third-year student Samuel Zamora of San Diego were chosen from a national pool of applicants. The scholarship is meant to encourage students from disadvantaged backgrounds to pursue education and career opportunities in biomedical research.

Each of the UCLA honorees will receive up to $20,000 per year for up to four years. In exchange, they will complete 10-week, paid summer internships in NIH laboratories and, after they graduate from UCLA, work as full-time employees in NIH labs for one year per year of scholarship support they receive.

“I am proud of these three remarkable students and all they have accomplished thus far,” said Adriana Galván, UCLA’s dean of undergraduate education. “This scholarship is an inspiring vote of confidence on the national stage for their future potential, and I have no doubt they will exceed all expectations.”

Marzouk is a neuroscience major who transferred to UCLA from Pasadena City College. She moved with her family to the U.S. from Egypt when she was 13.

“It was very overwhelming, especially with the language barrier, and I had a lot of self-doubt — I never even thought I could dream of going to UCLA,” Marzouk said. “But I kept challenging myself to get here.”

Marzouk volunteers in the research lab of Professor Edythe London, a UCLA psychiatrist and biobehavioral scientist. She hopes to continue her studies in medical school, with the goal of becoming a psychologist or neurologist.

“It means a lot to me to have gotten this scholarship,” she said. “I still cannot process that I am where I am, and doing what I am doing, but I am just so happy to be making my parents and myself proud. My parents sacrificed a lot for me, and this scholarship shows them that their efforts were not in vain and that I am taking advantage of all the opportunities available to me here in America.”

Soliman is majoring in human biology and society and minoring in Arabic studies. Like Marzouk, she came to the U.S. from Egypt at a young age; Soliman was 10, and her family was seeking religious asylum after the 2011 revolution there.

“Coming from a country where women do not always have the opportunity to pursue higher education, I was determined to become one of the first in my family to receive a college degree,” she said. “Coming to UCLA helped me find community and a sense of belonging.”

Soliman hopes to enroll in an M.D.–Ph.D. program in sports medicine. An intern with the UCLA Athletics sports medicine staff, Soliman has also served as a field research assistant for the UCLA Steve Tisch BrainSPORT Program and an NIH-funded project to improve concussion assessment and treatment in children and teens.

“I feel honored to have been selected to earn such a competitive scholarship and to have the opportunity to work at the NIH and develop skills that are necessary for my journey,” Soliman said. “UCLA provided an environment that has allowed me to grow, and I’m grateful.”

Zamora, who’s majoring in microbiology, immunology and molecular genetics, moved to California with his family from Tijuana, Mexico, when he was 10.

“Like many other first-generation students, my parents didn’t attend college and knew nothing about the process, which meant I had no sense of direction and struggled to find resources,” he said.

Key to helping him adjust to campus life and find his path, Zamora said, was his involvement with Hermanos Unidos de UCLA, a student organization that helps male Latino and Chicano students bond over their academic successes, community service and personal growth.

Zamora has gained experience in multiple research labs on campus. He’s currently a research intern in the lab of Professor Xiaojiang Cui, where he’s studying the implications of RNA splicing on breast cancer development. Although he hasn’t ruled out medical school, he also has an interest in continuing his clinical laboratory research.

“Earning this scholarship gives me a feeling of victory,” Zamora said. “Aspiring to make a change in this world through the beauty of science is the reason I push myself.”


This article originally appeared in the UCLA Newsroom. For more of Our Stories at the College, click here.

Miguel García-Garibay in the Royce Hall portico

Miguel García-Garibay appointed senior dean of UCLA College

The longtime faculty member will continue to lead the division of physical sciences

Miguel García-Garibay

UCLA Newsroom | November 1, 2022

Miguel García-Garibay, dean of physical sciences, has been appointed senior dean of the UCLA College, UCLA Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Darnell Hunt announced. García-Garibay’s two-year term begins today, as current senior dean David Schaberg steps down.

The five deans of the UCLA College lead their respective divisions — physical sciences, life sciences, social sciences, humanities and undergraduate education — and share responsibility for college-wide issues and functions. García-Garibay will continue in his role as physical sciences dean, and as senior dean will be responsible for coordinating planning, budgeting, activities and decisions related to staffing, policies and development across the college. He will also represent the college at meetings and events on campus, systemwide and externally.

García-Garibay joined the UCLA chemistry and biochemistry faculty in 1992 and became dean of physical sciences in 2016. As dean, he has provided thoughtful and strategic leadership and developed a culture of cooperation and inclusion. Over the past six years, he has expanded the division’s academic offerings, led multiple collaborations in research and inclusive teaching, invested in the student experience, and had great success in recruiting and retaining exceptional faculty.

“Chancellor Block and I look forward to working with Dean García-Garibay in this additional role for the benefit of the college and UCLA as a whole,” Hunt said.


This article originally appeared in the UCLA Newsroom. For more news and updates from the UCLA College, visit college.ucla.edu/news.

Lamia Balafrej

Lamia Balafrej named Getty Research Institute scholar

Manon Snyder | October 24, 2022

Lamia Balafrej, an associate professor in the UCLA Department of Art History, has been selected as a Getty Research Institute scholar for the 2022-23 cycle. Balafrej, who specializes in arts of the Islamic world, will be conducting research on this year’s themes — Art and Migration, and the Levant and the Classical World.

Annually since 1985, the Getty Scholars Program at the Villa has selected cultural figures, researchers and artists to pursue an area of their own research that falls under the theme selected for that year. The scholars work in residence at the Getty Villa and have access to collections.

Balafrej’s research focuses on topics ranging from medieval studies and the history of global slavery to historical intersections of labor and technology. Her work has been supported by institutions such as the Metropolitan Museum of New York and the Smithsonian Institute.


This article originally appeared in the UCLA Newsroom. For more news and updates from the UCLA College, visit college.ucla.edu/news.

Inaugural faculty recipients of Mellon Foundation “Data, Justice and Society” grants

Collage image of UCLA professors David MacFadyen, Davide Panagia, Miriam Posner, Nick Shapiro and Veronica Terriquez, recipients of the inaugural “Data, Justice and Society” course development grants from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

From left to right: UCLA professors David MacFadyen, Davide Panagia, Miriam Posner, Nick Shapiro and Veronica Terriquez, recipients of the inaugural “Data, Justice and Society” course development grants from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.


By Munia Bhaumik

The following UCLA faculty members are the inaugural recipients of “Data, Justice and Society” course development grants from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation:

This remarkable cohort of innovative UCLA faculty proposed to develop courses across the humanities, social sciences and life sciences to enhance teaching at the intersection of data, justice and society and to augment curricular offerings engaged with data ethics and justice, community-engaged teaching and digital humanities. These courses will be offered either this academic year or next.

The courses enrich our understanding of how data technologies are increasingly a part of our everyday lives. When you buy something on Amazon, friend someone on Facebook or search on Google, data is being gathered about your choices. These courses mobilize the space of the classroom at the nation’s top public university to invite conversation and thought about social consequences and the need for justice in our data-saturated world.

Thanks to the generous contribution of the Mellon Foundation, these grants are increasing the number of course offerings across the UCLA campus for both graduate and undergraduate students to learn from professors who are working at the intersection of multiple fields. Many of the new courses will also allow students to engage with and learn from community organizations across Southern California.

The faculty grant recipients are not only world-renowned scholars in their respective fields, but also committed instructors eager to engage students around issues of academic and social relevance. They were selected by the Mellon Social Justice Curricular Initiatives steering committee, comprised of Todd Presner, professor and chair of the department of European languages and transcultural studies; Shalom Staub, director of the Center for Community Engagement; Juliet Williams, professor and chair of the social science interdepartmental program; and Munia Bhaumik, program director of Mellon Social Justice Curricular Initiatives.



Course Descriptions

David MacFadyen
“Freedom of Speech in Russia: Decentralized Tools for Musicians and Journalists”
Goal: To create a blockchain-based and anonymized publishing platform, using NFTs to protect the rights of both journalists and musicians, currently under significant pressure from state censorship during the war with Ukraine.

Davide Panagia
#datapolitik: or, the Political Theory of Data”
This course looks to the changing nature of political thinking and judgment given the emergence of data and algorithms as the principal media in contemporary democratic life. The course introduces students to developments of new forms of critical thinking for the study of data and society by interrogating familiar concepts in the history of political thought (freedom, justice, equality, race, ethnicity, gender) in relationship to new and emerging media, and the expectations and claims these media place on users. The learning objective of the course is to study political ideas in relationship to, and embedded with, the specific medium of data.

Miriam Posner
“Data from the Margins”
Data has a long tradition as a weapon of discrimination — but oppressed communities have an equally long tradition of reconceiving, reworking and remaking data in order to fight back. We’ll consult with and hear from activists and scholars who are making change for their communities as they challenge everyone to rethink what data can do.

Nick Shapiro
“Science, Mass Incarceration and Accountability”
The course will be split into two complementary halves. First, an introduction to the extractive data practices of science that have both advanced and profited off of mass incarceration. This half of the course will facilitate the subject matter expertise needed to understand the context and critiques that the work of the second half of the course is attempting to overcome or counteract. The topics of the first half will include a general introduction to mass incarceration and what data can and can’t tell us about this archipelago of nearly 7,000 carceral facilities as well as the unethical scientific knowledge extraction from incarcerated people.

Veronica Terriquez
“Community-Engaged Research Methods:  Surveying Racially Diverse Youth and Workers”
This course will train students in designing, drafting, piloting, and administering a new survey focused on transitions to adulthood. Written in collaboration with community partners, this survey will gather data on the workforce development, labor rights, education, health, mental health, and civic engagement of young people residing in BIPOC communities disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The course will expose students to the historical development of racial statistics, the role of racial statistics in contemporary life, and critical quantitative science. It will also include testing questions on racial identity and attitudes; gender identity; workforce development; labor rights; healing and wellness; and other topics determined by community partners serving Latinx, AAPI, Black, and Indigenous youth. Additionally, students will learn about the strengths and weaknesses of different survey sampling methodologies aimed at gathering data from BIPOC youth, low-wage workers, and students.

Bridgerton cast photo

Women and people of color still less likely to helm big-budget TV shows

Latest Hollywood Diversity Report from UCLA signals potential challenges ahead in writers’ rooms

Bridgerton cast photo

Netflix’s period romance “Bridgerton” enjoyed broad appeal among Asian, Black, Latino and white households in 2020–21; it also generated plenty of buzz on Instagram and Twitter. | Image credit: Netflix


Jessica Wolf | October 27, 2022

UCLA researchers see signs that could foretell a retreat in the industry’s gender and racial diversity — especially on big-budget shows and in writing positions.

That’s among the conclusions of a study of the 2020–21 TV season in the new Hollywood Diversity Report, which is produced by the Entertainment and Media Research Initiative at UCLA.

“The next few years may be a true test of whether Hollywood is truly committed to the changes they promised during the nation’s reckoning on race following the murder of George Floyd,” said Ana-Christina Ramón, director of the initiative.

The report did also find that shows with diverse casts — such as “FBI” on CBS, “Snowpiercer” on TNT and “Bridgerton” on Netflix — continued to draw large, diverse audiences.

But with programmers increasingly shelling out big bucks for high-concept shows, the UCLA report reveals that those opportunities weren’t equal for women and people of color — despite the fact there were more minority and women show creators across all distribution platforms than there were during the 2019–20 season.

“We saw an uptick in opportunity for people of color and women having their shows greenlit, which should be a marker of progress,” Ramón said. “However, when we examined the episodic budgets of all the TV series, we see a strong pattern indicating that shows created by people of color and women tended to receive smaller budgets than those created by white men, particularly in the digital arena.”

Nearly 1 in 2 shows for which white men were credited as show creators enjoyed a budget of more than $3 million per episode, but far fewer women or people of color reached that level.

In broadcast, 71.4% of show creators of color (both men and women) had per-episode budgets of less than $3 million; among white women creators, 86.9% did so; and among white men, just 58.5% worked with less than $3 million per-episode budgets. The discrepancies were similar for streaming and cable series.

Netflix’s “The Crown” and other high-profile projects continued to make streaming services the industry’s biggest-budget playground. There, too, white men show creators received the biggest sums for their projects.

Among streaming series, 21% of those created by white men enjoyed per-episode budgets of $7 million or more. Just 11.1% of streaming shows created by people of color had budgets in that range, and only 2.9% of shows created by white women did. (Disney+’s “WandaVision” was the lone member of that group.)

Overall, in the digital arena, a plurality of white women (42.9%) show creators had budgets between $3 million and $4.99 million; among people of color, the greatest number of show creators (66.6%) had budgets below $3 million per episode.

The report also tracks the gender and racial profile for those who held key jobs for 107 broadcast, 109 cable and 191 digital scripted shows from the 2020–21 season. Women made up 31.8% of show creators in broadcast, 31.2% in cable and 36.1% in digital. People of color held 13.1% percent of those roles in broadcast, 26.6% in cable, and 25.6% in digital. All six of those figures were improvements over the prior year, but they still fall short of proportionate representation for either group.

Darnell Hunt, UCLA’s executive vice chancellor and provost, and co-founder of the Hollywood Diversity Report, said there are ominous signs for the future of the industry’s diversity efforts.

“Diversity initiatives traditionally are the first to be sacrificed when there are economic downturns,” Hunt said. “We’re already seeing it start with cutbacks at Warner and HBO. But rolling back efforts before equity has been truly achieved for women and people of color would be a major miscalculation.

“Any cost-savings studios realize now will come at the expense of alienating increasingly diverse viewers who expect increased representation in their TV shows, and do not make good business sense in the long term.”

Over the course of 11 TV seasons, the report has repeatedly drawn correlations between shows’ ratings and the diversity of their casts and writers. For example, ratings in 2020–21 were highest for cable scripted shows with casts made up of at least 41% minority actors. In digital, ratings were highest for shows with casts that were 21% to 30% minorities.

Representation in writers’ rooms for both women and people of color improved in 2020–21. Women made up about 45% of writers, and minorities made up more than 30% of writers, both small increases from previous TV seasons.

But that progress could be tenuous given the TV industry’s continued shift to releasing more content on digital platforms, which typically have shorter seasons — and therefore fewer slots for all writers.

“Like other industry watchers, we are closely monitoring these trends and exploring what impact they might have on opportunities for women and people of color to tell authentic stories,” said Michael Tran, a UCLA graduate student studying sociology and a co-author of the report. “The racial and gender dynamics in a collaborative writers’ room have an enormous impact on the types of stories that are told.”

The Hollywood Diversity Report uses independently gathered information about the race, ethnicity and gender identity of actors, writers, directors and show creators. The Entertainment and Media Research Initiative, which was formed in September, is under the auspices of the UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment. The initiative will expand UCLA’s study of the entertainment industry to explore equity and access issues affecting industry workers with other underrepresented identities — based on their disability status, sexual orientation and religion, and how those identities intersect with race, ethnicity and gender.

“With a continued focus on workers’ rights, we are currently working with partners to examine ways to gather information and uncover the experiences of those from other underrepresented communities that are often overlooked,” Ramón said.

Other findings from the new report:

Diversity of TV casts continued to improve, extending a longstanding trend. In the 2020–21 season, 34.9% of broadcast, 35.8% of cable and 30.7% of digital featured majority-minority casts.
Women were well represented in lead acting roles on scripted shows on cable, as well as on digital platforms.
Actors of color were underrepresented in lead roles on broadcast TV (just 27.4%), but were nearly proportionally represented — relative to the U.S. population overall — in lead roles on cable (39.6%) and digital (37.6%).
Women of color made gains as writers for broadcast shows, holding 17.8% in 2020-21, up from 13.6% in 2019-20.
A higher percentage of TV directors were women of color than in the previous year, across all three platform types.
Social media engagement was highest for digital shows that had diverse casts. Netflix’s “The Chair,” Disney+’s “Loki” and “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Netflix’s “Bridgerton,” Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” and HBO Max’s “Hacks” all generated major buzz on Instagram and Twitter.
Transgender and nonbinary actors had nominal representation. The report tracked five transgender and two nonbinary actors in broadcast shows; three transgender and five nonbinary actors among cable TV casts. In digital, just one transgender and seven nonbinary actors appeared across all shows tracked.

Budget per episode of digital TV programs, segmented by race and gender of show creator; click each image for full description and download:


This article originally appeared in the UCLA Newsroom. For more news and updates from the UCLA College, visit college.ucla.edu/news.