It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to send a NASA mission to Mars — it takes a vast constellation of rocket scientists, astrophysicists, mathematicians, computer scientists and other specialists.
Cailin Crockett ’10 made history as one of UCLA’s first Astin scholars, an undergraduate scholarship program supporting hands-on experience in civic engagement. We featured the Astin scholars in the College Report in 2010 and recently caught up with Cailin to find out what she’s been up to.
Cailin Crockett is out to change the world for the better, particularly on behalf of survivors of domestic and sexual violence—and she credits UCLA with igniting her passion for activism and public service.
“UCLA encouraged me to become a compassionate, conscientious and global citizen,” she said.
Based in Washington, D.C., Crockett has carved out a niche in public service focusing on policy in support of women and girls. The political science alumna most recently served as policy advisor in the Office of Vice President Biden, where she worked to strengthen government policies that address the human rights of underserved trauma survivors in the U.S. and around the world. She has also been a special assistant for gender policy and elder rights for the Department of Health and Human Services, and a gender specialist in the Bureau for Policy and Program Support at the United Nations Development Program.
She said that her UCLA education, both inside and outside the classroom, laid the strongest possible foundation for her career.
“UCLA is where I honed the skills that I use every single day in my work, especially critical thinking and the ability to analyze a large amount of information about an issue, take in the key points, and advocate a defensible position,” she said.
Crockett said that she saw UCLA as a place to immerse herself in learning and discover her passions. She was particularly drawn to the study of political theory for its distillation of concepts such as human rights and equality into a set of logically arguable points. Her political science courses gave her an appreciation for the power of research, data and statistics to inform and persuade.
And she recalled a freshman cluster course on the environment taught by professors from all over campus, who “urged us to use our privilege in getting a top education to make the world a better place.”
During her sophomore year, Crockett was selected to represent UCLA at a forum in France at which youth from NATO-member countries interacted with youth from Afghanistan, in order to deepen understanding about what was at stake in the war against the Taliban. She later went on to earn a master’s degree in Politics from the University of Oxford.
Crockett, who minored in Spanish and studied in Spain for a semester, said that her language proficiency has benefited her international work. But it was her civic engagement experience in her senior year that ignited her passion for activism and feminism.
For her project, Crockett focused on the causes of homelessness, specifically the impact of domestic violence and veterans’ issues. She accompanied community workers providing financial literacy and life skills workshops at the VA and a women’s center in downtown L.A. There, she interviewed scores of people about their journeys in and out of homelessness.
“It was incredible to be immersed in the experiences of these vulnerable populations,” she said. “It’s even more meaningful now because of my work with survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, many of whom are homeless as a result.”
Crockett, an Alumni Scholar and third-generation Bruin, said that having chosen a career in public service, she is particularly proud that she graduated from a highly respected public university with a reputation for local and global leadership.
“No matter where I go in the world, people know about UCLA,” she said.
In the 1962 political thriller “The Manchurian Candidate,” a hostile government uses covert measures and secret agents in an elaborate plot to get its favored candidate elected president of the United States. The scenario seemed fanciful even at the height of the Cold War.
Although Trump’s questioning the “One China” policy may seem like a quick and clever way to get China’s attention, this decades-old policy’s ambiguity actually benefits United States, China and Taiwan.
UCLA graduate and iconic basketball player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was among 21 recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom honored by President Barack Obama at the White House on Tuesday afternoon.
Going into Election Day, all the major polls and news organizations like FiveThirtyEight, the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times predicted that Donald Trump would lose the presidential race by several percentage points to Hillary Clinton in the popular vote, and also, more importantly, lose the Electoral College.
On June 1, 2016, UCLA alumna and NBC4 Southern California reporter Hetty Chang returned to campus to cover the dramatic events of the murder-suicide on campus at UCLA.
As a sociology graduate of the Class of 2000, Chang said covering the story at UCLA hit especially close to home. But the incident also gave Chang an opportunity to reconnect with the campus. She spoke with the UCLA College to discuss her trajectory since graduation and some of the defining moments of her broadcasting career to date.
As a child, Hetty Chang rarely missed the evening news, especially Asian American newscasters whom she saw as role models.
“The reporters I saw were pretty, confident, poised and smart,” Chang said. “And they were Asian, which made me believe I could someday be like them.”
Today, the UCLA alumna has her own television role as a reporter for NBC4 Southern California, where she can be seen weekdays during the 5 p.m., 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. newscasts, breaking the big stories of the day. Chang covers much of Southern California and, in particular, Long Beach, the South Bay and Orange County.
She has also covered national stories such as the hunt for ex-LAPD officer Christopher Dorner and the O.J. Simpson robbery case. She has received an Emmy Award, and is the first recipient of the Asian American Journalist Association New Media Fellowship as part of a pilot program with NBC4.
Before she set her sights on journalism, Chang dreamed of attending UCLA; however, after graduating from Whitney High School, one of the top public high schools in the country, the Cerritos native did not get into UCLA the first time around. She was undeterred and after two years of tenacious study at UC Irvine, she was accepted to UCLA in 1998 as a transfer student majoring in sociology and Asian American Studies.
“When people hear UCLA, it’s a tremendous honor,” Chang said. “So I kept my eye on the prize.”
After graduation, she had a brief stint as an intern with Channel 35 News, L.A.’s cable station. She soon realized that she would need to move to a smaller city to get her big break.
“Journalism is a unique field in the sense that you have to move to a smaller market to gain experience,” she said. “Very few reporters actually start out in a large city.”
Chang worked at KRNV, an NBC affiliate in Reno, for nearly four years before landing a job at the NBC affiliate in Las Vegas. There, she covered one of her most memorable stories, an interview with then-Senator Barak Obama—10 days before he won the 2008 presidential election.
“That was an unforgettable experience, to have a precious few minutes with the future president,” Chang said. “It was getting a front row to history being made.”
After covering several major stories in Las Vegas, Chang earned sufficient recognition to be a competitive candidate as a reporter in Los Angeles, the second-largest media market in the country. She was hired by NBC4 in 2013.
Getting to meet individuals from all walks of life is Chang’s favorite part of the job at NBC4. In addition to breaking news, she often tells inspiring stories through NBC4’s Life Connected series that airs every Sunday during the NBC4 News at 11 p.m., where she reports on the many unique ways people and communities come together.
Chang recently covered a 94-year-old Torrance, California resident who holds the Guinness Book of World Records title for most Olympics attended, with the Rio Olympics being his 19th.
“I get to meet all these interesting and inspiring people I would never cross paths with in any other industry,” Chang said. “I also feel a great responsibility for telling their stories.”
Chang said her studies at UCLA prepared her to approach every story with sensitivity and authenticity.
“I cover a very large swath of Southern California, which is so tremendously diverse, as is UCLA,” she said. “UCLA really gave me a great foundation from which to approach the news stories that I come across every day.”
She said UCLA’s competitive academic environment also helped her learn to face every challenge head-on and never to take ‘no’ for an answer.
“There were a lot of people who told me, ‘This is a very competitive field; you’ll never make it back to L.A.,’” Chang said. “But if I’d listened to them I wouldn’t be here. You have to be persistent.”
Even in the most challenging moments, Chang said she always remembers where she came from to keep her moving forward.
“I want to make my alma mater proud, much like I want to make my hometown proud and my family proud,” Chang said. “I think it really comes down to that great sense of pride.”
Twenty-first century social science research increasingly cuts across disciplines, but most undergraduate-level training in the social sciences continues to be organized along disciplinary boundaries. The UCLA MaSS program will address the need for new approaches to social science education by offering interdisciplinary training in problem-based social science research.
Working closely with faculty mentors, students will learn the nuts and bolts of social science research, including how to: identify and frame complex social problems; conduct, interpret and evaluate relevant research; analyze research data generated from different theoretical, methodological and disciplinary approaches; and present findings in clear and compelling ways.
“This is an ideal way for students to ‘activate’ their undergraduate degree and be highly competitive for desirable professional opportunities or top doctoral programs,” said MaSS chair Juliet Williams.
The MaSS program plans to enroll twenty-five students each year, and merit and need-based aid is available. Along with core courses and electives, each student will design and submit a major research paper, gaining hands-on research experience outside the classroom. Also on offer will be practical workshops on how to apply to Ph.D. programs, conduct scholarly research online, use data management and analysis programs, and ace job interviews.
For more information please go to http://mass.ss.ucla.edu/
November 30, 2016 4-6 p.m.: MaSS Open House (registration required)
January 6, 2017: early admission application deadline
April 30, 2017: final application deadline
UCLA faculty, visiting scholars and political thinkers continue to grapple with a contentious presidential campaign that includes “two of the most unpopular candidates in American history,” as Bill Schneider, longtime political analyst and current visiting professor in the UCLA Department of Communication Studies put it during a recent campus event related to the election.
Nickoll Family Chair to be awarded to renowned history scholar and UCLA faculty member
History alumnus Ben Nickoll ’86 was brought up in a family in which helping others and giving back were the norm. Now, he has given back to his alma mater by establishing the Nickoll Family Endowed Chair in History, which will have a focus on women’s history. The inaugural holder will be renowned scholar and writer Brenda Stevenson, who will be formally installed on October 24.
“I am proud to have known Ben Nickoll since my days as Dean of Social Sciences,” said Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Scott Waugh. “His professional career, values and character are testaments to the importance of a liberal arts education.”
He said that the gift would help to ensure the quality and relevance of UCLA’s history department for decades to come.
“As a historian myself, I am deeply touched.” He said.
History chair Stephen Aron said that the gift would bolster the department’s efforts to attract and retain world-class faculty like Stevenson, whose research focuses on the history of slavery in the U.S. and Atlantic World, particularly of enslaved women.
“With this wonderful gift, Ben Nickoll has signaled his belief in the enduring value of a history degree, of excellent teaching, and of studying the past to shape a better future,” Aron said.
Nickoll grew up near UCLA, so it was a familiar fixture in his childhood. He recalled skateboarding through the campus, hanging out in Westwood with friends and attending basketball games with his dad at Pauley Pavilion. His parents were actively involved in the local community and in politics.
“They stood up for what they believed and gave to causes where they could have an impact,” he said.
When he first enrolled at UCLA, he had no idea what he wanted to study.
“Then I took a class taught by Prof. Roger McGrath, a gifted storyteller who brought historical characters and events to life in the classroom,” Nickoll said. “I was hooked and became a history major soon after that.”
After graduation, despite a lack of investment experience, Nickoll moved across country and talked his way into a job on Wall Street. He held high-level positions at top investment banks before co-founding investment firm Ore Hill in 2002. After that firm was sold in 2011, he founded El Faro Partners, an investment firm focused on real estate, private equity, credit and agriculture.
Nickoll is a member of the history department’s Board of Advisors and gave the commencement address at the department’s graduation ceremony in 2008. He is also a founding member of the board of the Fink Center for Finance and Investments at the Anderson School of Business.
“My wife, Chrissy, and I acknowledge that there are many worthy causes and organizations,” Nickoll said. “We believe in focusing the majority of our energy in our local communities, not just financially but also with action when possible.”
And he said he felt the time was right to make a major gift to his home department at UCLA.
If the liberal arts and subjects like history continue to be overlooked in favor of the sciences and engineering, he said, students might not develop a sufficiently broad, informed world view.
“I believe that the study of history is relevant to all aspects of life,” he said. “Take the investment world—an investor needs to understand context and how elements affecting past performance can affect a company today and in the future.”
For her part, Stevenson said that the Nickoll chair would allow her to take her work to a different level.
“Thanks to the Nickoll chair, I will now have the resources to undertake larger projects more efficiently and expediently,” Stevenson said. “I’m also going to be hiring some undergraduates to do a long-term project that deals with the history of racial violence in America. Private funding is so important for research initiatives that really do make positive contributions to our lives and to the world and to educating students.”
A professor of history and of African American studies at UCLA, she is the author of several books, including Life in Black and White: Family and Community in the Slave South.
Although most of Stevenson’s work focuses on the 19th century, and particularly the Southern U.S., she received the Ida B. Wells Award for Bravery in Journalism award for her 2013 book about more recent events in Los Angeles, The Contested Murder of Latasha Harlins: Justice, Gender and the Origins of the L.A. Riots. Stevenson has been awarded several fellowships, including a Guggenheim in 2015.
Stevenson is at work on two new books: a history of the slave family from the colonial through the antebellum eras and a history of slave women. Her work continues to shed light—on the page and in the classroom—on important parts of human history with a view to creating a more just society.