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Thousands of new UCLA graduates from ages 17 to 60 reveled inside Pauley Pavilion on Friday with cheers, fist pumping and many, many selfies as they officially received their bachelor’s degrees.
Michael Jung, a distinguished professor of chemistry and biochemistry in the UCLA College, and his wife, Alice, have donated $1 million toward the establishment of the Michael and Alice Jung Endowed Chair in Medicinal Chemistry and Drug Discovery.
The gift was matched by the UCLA division of physical sciences for a total contribution of $2 million. The match was made possible by a program established after UCLA sold its royalty interest in Xtandi, a compound developed by Jung and his research team for the treatment of prostate cancer. With its share of the proceeds from the Xtandi transaction, UCLA has also made matching funds available for gifts that support undergraduate scholarships at UCLA.
“Xtandi has not only saved lives; it has been a wonderful boost to UCLA due to the matching program, and we have Mike Jung to thank for that,” said Miguel García-Garibay, dean of physical sciences. “He and Alice have set a terrific example by endowing a chair in Mike’s department, for which we are very grateful.”
Jung is an authority on synthetic organic and medicinal chemistry. He is an inventor on 34 issued patents and 36 patent applications arising from both his consulting activities and his own research. He has more than 15 ongoing academic research collaborations and consults for more than 20 industrial laboratories in both biotech and pharmaceutical settings.
His current research holds promise for the development of new drugs for the treatment of various diseases and conditions, including for breast, lung and prostate cancer; antiviral diseases; muscular dystrophy; multiple sclerosis; osteoporosis; and even hair loss.
“My wife and I hope that our gift will enable UCLA to hire a faculty member who could continue to do similar drug discovery research well into the future, with the hope of producing more useful drugs,” Jung said.
A native of New Orleans, Jung received his B.A. from Rice University in 1969 and, as a National Science Foundation pre-doctoral fellow, went on to earn his Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1973. He completed a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) postdoctoral fellowship at the Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule (ETH) in Zürich before joining the UCLA faculty in 1974.
Jung has published more than 345 research papers and presented more than 600 lectures on his research. He has supervised 92 doctoral and nine master’s theses, and he has taught more than 130 postdoctoral scholars.
Among the awards he has received are the American Chemical Society’s Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award, UCLA’s Glenn T. Seaborg Medal and Gold Shield Faculty Prize, and the 2015 Team Science Award from the American Association for Cancer Research. He also was elected to the National Academy of Inventors.
“Without chemistry, we wouldn’t have life-saving medicines like Xtandi,” said Catherine Clarke, chair of the chemistry and biochemistry department and a professor of biochemistry. “Thanks to Mike and Alice Jung’s gift, the department will be able to pursue more breakthrough research in medicinal chemistry. Who knows how many more lives will be saved?”
The department of chemistry and biochemistry was named No. 7 in the world in chemistry in the 2017 U.S. News & World Report Best Global Universities rankings, and three faculty members and four alumni have been awarded the Nobel Prizes in chemistry. The department has more than 50 faculty, 130 postdoctoral researchers, 350 graduate students and 1,400 undergraduates.
The gift is part of the $4.2 billion UCLA Centennial Campaign, which is scheduled to conclude in December 2019 during UCLA’s 100th anniversary year.
Jessica Watkins, who earned her Ph.D. in geology from UCLA in 2015, has been selected by NASA to join the 2017 astronaut candidate class. She will report to the Johnson Space Center in Houston for duty this August.
Darnell Hunt, a renowned scholar of race, media and culture, chair of sociology and longtime leader of the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA, has been selected as the new dean of social sciences in the UCLA College, effective July 1.
For the last several years, UCLA history professor Kelly Lytle Hernández has been reaching into Los Angeles history, back before the city was even city or California was even a state, to unearth evidence of how local and national governments, police and jail systems operated as a formalized machine of conquest and elimination targeting native, poor and non-white people.
400 children and their families head to campus to celebrate literacy
Every spring Dickson Court rings with the rare laughter and shouts of preschool children chasing one other in a game of tag. UCLA students wearing bright red Jumpstart t-shirts with AmeriCorps logos can be seen reading to little children and painting colorful flowers and dragons on lit-up faces.
Parents and teachers look on, smiling as their little ones run up to them with arts and crafts projects they’ve made with their Jumpstart teacher. Along the perimeter of Dickson Court, professors and staff look briefly lost as they navigate around UCLA’s biggest early education literacy fair.
This scene will be replayed at the third annual Jumpstart UCLA Literacy Fair on May 17. More than 400 preschool children, families and teachers from eight preschools are set to join UCLA students and staff in fun-filled games and interactive activities.
The event celebrates local preschoolers’ achievements and features various interactive literacy activities, all of which are free for the families in attendance. Jumpstart’s Senior Director of Programming for California, Truyen Truan, says that this campus event is a “top priority” and is what makes the UCLA Jumpstart program so unique.
“UCLA really feels that it is valuable to bring [Jumpstart] children and families to the campus so that the children can see where the corps members go to school,” Truan said. “Corps members instill in the children early-on that anything is possible and that they can be UCLA students one day.”
The upcoming literacy celebration is just one of the ways that Jumpstart UCLA connects with the local community. Throughout the academic year, AmeriCorps members in the program work in local low-income classrooms to help children develop language, literacy and social skills crucial for success in kindergarten and beyond.
Jumpstart UCLA: Where coursework meets community work
As a “super-site,” UCLA currently has two site managers and 80-85 corps members, who complete a total of 25,500 service hours each year. Working out of the UCLA Center for Community Learning, students travel to eight local preschools in Santa Monica, Venice, Los Angeles and Culver City to teach in classrooms in low-income neighborhoods.
Dr. Kathy O’Byrne, director at the UCLA Center for Community Learning, says that civic engagement programs like Jumpstart UCLA not only address social issues like literacy and poverty in Los Angeles, but are key to students’ undergraduate education.
“Students see firsthand the power of ‘learning by doing’ and thinking critically as hallmarks of a 21st century college education,” O’Byrne said. “By working in low-income communities of Los Angeles, students learn about issues of diversity, income inequality, and policy that impacts the futures of our preschoolers.”
It was the “hands-on” nature of the work-study program that caught the attention of Angelica Castro, a third-year political science major with a double minor in education and labor and workplace studies. For Castro, the idea of sitting behind a desk for a work-study job did not appeal to her. She was looking for a work experience that would give her the opportunity to work off-campus.
“Jumpstart UCLA gives me opportunity to get out into the local community and apply what I am learning in ‘theory’ from my education minor courses,” Castro said. “It has given me a better idea of the various issues in our education system and how I can help be a part of the solution to help students, who like me come from low-income and immigrant families.”
Growing up in Santa Maria, California, an agricultural community, Castro gained special insight into educational disparities facing immigrants and first-generation students. She saw that many of the kids she grew up with were placed in remedial courses and were rarely offered the necessary resources to graduate. The educational inequities she witnessed often derailed the academic ambitions of many of her peers growing up.
“Every student should have the opportunity to achieve their goals, but there is so much work to be done.” Castro said. “I want to go to graduate school for education and conduct research to find ways to ensure that in the future, the kids I work with will be a part of an education system that not only focuses on promoting equality, but equity as well.”
Although looking toward the future, students like Castro are working every day to remove literacy barriers for children in low-income neighborhoods, many of whom “start kindergarten 60 percent behind their peers from more affluent communities,” according to Jumpstart.
The Bessie and David Pregerson Child Development Center (BPCDC) is one site that partners with UCLA’s Jumpstart program. Located in Westwood, the BPCDC serves low-income children, 95 percent of whom are homeless. BPCDC is adjacent to a transitional village and sees many children who are part of families that ‘double-up,’ which is when four to five families share one house and each family lives in one room.
Guadalupe Placencia, director of BPCDC, gives credit to Jumpstart UCLA students for giving children the rare advantage that they need to succeed in the classroom and beyond.
“You can see how our preschoolers are progressing because of the Jumpstart UCLA students,” Palencia said. “The college kids come in wearing their jeans, t-shirts and sneakers ready to go. They get to know all of the children. They come in and sit on the carpet and get dirty with them, which is great because you don’t see a lot of that with teachers.”
This “all-in” approach has been a success. Placencia says that the children who work with UCLA students are not just going into transitional kindergarten or kindergarten, but some even exceed expectations and go directly into the first grade.
Palencia also notes that because BPCDC operates on a limited budget, the services provided by the program are essential to her student’s literacy achievements and social success. If UCLA students were not present in the classroom, the student-teacher ratio would increase, decreasing the one-on-one time students need. An absence of corps members would also severely reduce the assistance given to dual-language learners, who make up a large percentage of her student population.
Jumpstart UCLA: Benefiting students and the community alike
Jumpstart impacts UCLA students just much as it does the community they work within.
“Jumpstart exemplifies the idea of ‘reciprocal benefit’ in that UCLA students ‘get’ as much as they ‘give,’” O’Byrne said.
Throughout the year, students get extensive training and some, like Castro, are selected to be team-leaders who manage a group of five other students in the classroom setting. Team leaders undergo additional leadership training and are responsible for everything from running team meetings to creating supplemental classroom materials and working closely with preschool teachers to organize sessions in the schools.
“We are not only looking for students who can work well with children, but can also work well in a team of their peers,” said Maria Monarrez, Jumpstart UCLA site manager. “Team leaders are selected because they have great attention to detail, event planning, communication and conflict resolution skills.”
In addition to training, many students find there are financial benefits as well. The UCLA Center for Community Learning reports that since the start of Jumpstart in 2009, close to 98 percent of students have been recipients of work-study.
The UCLA Financial Aid Office Financial Aid confirms that, on average, students receive between $1,500 and $2,000 in work-study monies. However, students who work under “community service” work-study positions like Jumpstart, can potentially get upwards of $5,000 in aid.
“Education is important; however, professional training and being prepared for the work force is also fundamental, because that’s the next step in the student’s life,” said Victor Cisneros, work-study coordinator with the Financial Aid office. “A lot of students use this experience and they go on to put it on their CV or resume and that gets them a foot in the door to other possibilities after school.”
Castro shares that she has received practical training, professional experience and financial aid assistance, and that Jumpstart UCLA has done just as much for her as it has done for the children she works with. She says that her experience in the program has been as a defining part of her undergraduate education. She admits that her first year and a half at UCLA were a struggle. As a first generation student and being away from her family, there were many times she wanted to give up.
“There were times when I thought college wasn’t for me,” Castro said. “I would think, ‘What am I doing here?’ I felt very lost and didn’t feel like I was a part of something to keep me rooted here. And then I joined Jumpstart and felt so relieved. I was a part of something.”
It is that feeling of belonging that Castro wants each of her young students to feel as soon as they step off the bus to attend this year’s Literacy Fair. She gets excited thinking about one of her students who recently told her, “When I grow up, I’m going to wear a Jumpstart t-shirt and be a part of you guys.”
After this year’s event, Castro hopes that more of the children she works with can picture themselves in the same red Jumpstart t-shirts that she and the other corps members wear. But most of all, she hopes that they can see themselves donning UCLA’s iconic blue and gold.
It is through fundraising that the Jumpstart UCLA Literacy Fair is made possible. Those who are interested in volunteering for the event, or donating books, food or in-kind services can contact the Jumpstart UCLA’s Site Manager, Maria Monarrez at firstname.lastname@example.org.
UCLA College faculty members Judith Carney and Stephanie Jamison have been selected as members of the 237th class of American Academy of Arts and Sciences fellows.
“What makes a genius?” National Geographic asks on the cover of its May 2017 issue. In the accompanying article, writer Claudia Kalb observes, “Throughout history rare individuals have stood out for their meteoric contributions to a field.”
Developed by UCLA’s Urban Humanities Initiative (UHI), this new institute brings forth theories, methods and design perspective for tomorrow’s generation of urban thinkers, dwellers and practitioners.
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