Celina Avalos Jaramillo headshot

UCLA LPPI Policy Fellows Fight for an Inclusive Democracy During the Midterm Elections and Beyond

By: Alise Brillault

As we approach the 2022 midterm elections, the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Institute (UCLA LPPI) is working to advance an inclusive democracy that reflects the shifting demographics of the United States. At 19% of the population, Latinos are a youthful and diverse demographic group whose votes are consequential and whose perspectives need to be centered. Not only were they responsible for 51% of U.S. population growth in the last decade, but six out of ten Latinos are of Millennial age or younger.

However, increasing attacks on voting rights in key states threaten to dilute the participation of Latinos and other communities of color in our democracy. These assaults will continue until we build the infrastructure needed to ensure everyone who wants to cast a ballot and make their voices heard has the opportunity to do so.

Through its student fellowship program, UCLA LPPI is building a pipeline of young leaders who are taking on the challenge of ensuring our political system works for everyone. Through hands-on training in areas such as voting rights and election data analysis, students are exposed to the policy challenges of today and are provided the tools necessary to inform a better tomorrow. Alumni of the program go on to shape policy making through influential roles in sectors such as state and federal government, civil society organizations and beyond.

Sebastian Cazares in a Santa Clarita Community College District Board of Trustees meeting

UCLA LPPI Policy Fellow Sebastian Cazares in a Santa Clarita Community College District Board of Trustees meeting.

One such leader, Sebastian Cazares, has already made history as Los Angeles County’s youngest elected official – while working as a policy fellow with the UCLA LPPI Voting Rights Project. Having recently graduated from UCLA with a bachelor’s degree in political science and a minor in Chicana/o and Central American studies, Cazares has entered his first year of UCLA’s master of public policy program while serving as a member of the Santa Clarita Community College District Board of Trustees. According to Cazares, knowledge he has gained from UCLA LPPI has provided guidance for his own work as an elected official – and in turn, his on-the-ground perspective has informed his advocacy work within the Voting Rights Project:

“As a governing board member, I approved my own school board district during the recent redistricting process in a manner consistent with defending civil rights and voting rights. I also sued the City of Santa Clarita and won in a landmark victory, defeating one of the last cities in Los Angeles County to utilize an election system that is proven to disenfranchise Latinos. Both of my personal accomplishments came to fruition due to the incredible education provided by UCLA’s Political Science and Chicano Studies undergraduate programs, the UCLA Luskin School and training I gained from the Latino Politics and Policy Institute.”

Celina Avalos Jaramillo headshot

Alumna Celina Avalos Jaramillo

Likewise, the skills and experience that alumna Celina Avalos Jaramillo gained during her fellowship at UCLA LPPI continue to inform her work as a voting rights advocate and master of public policy candidate at UC Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy. While at UCLA LPPI conducting research on topics focused on expanding opportunity for all – from voting rights to health care and criminal justice reform – Avalos Jaramilo co-led an on-campus coalition that increased student voter turnout in the 2018 elections by 500%. Since graduating with her bachelor’s degree in political science from UCLA, she has worked with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and the U.S. Department of Justice to protect the right to vote.

“I understand what it means to be disenfranchised from the political process and excluded from most public policies,” Avalos Jaramillo revealed. “UCLA LPPI gave me the confidence that I needed as a young Latina from the Eastern Coachella Valley to strive to ensure that every American has the right to live a prosperous, healthy and just life – not just a select few.”

Yaritza Gonzalez headshot

Yaritza Gonzalez

In addition to her on- and off-campus leadership roles, policy fellow Yaritza González Rodríguez is currently engaged in expanding access to the ballot box through her work with the UCLA LPPI Voting Rights Project,. A second-year master of public policy student at the UCLA Luskin School, González Rodríguez has supported the Voting Rights Project on key initiatives to understand different demographic groups’ voting behaviors. These analyses have provided the California Secretary of State with important data on patterns of voting, such as which groups tend to vote by mail as opposed to in-person.

González Rodríguez was recently elected as Director of Legislative Affairs for the University of California Graduate and Professional Council. In this capacity, she disseminates information on how to vote for California propositions and advocates for equitable policy changes within the UC System.  She has also organized community events to endorse candidates and educate on the redistricting process through her role as a Board Member for the Los Angeles County Young Democrats.

“UCLA LPPI and the Voting Rights Project have given me the opportunity to work on important voting rights research and cases that aim to promote an inclusive democracy,” González Rodríguez said. “These experiences inform my other leadership roles, including on critical issues such as redistricting.”

UCLA LPPI is supporting the development of the BIPOC leaders of today and tomorrow who are protecting and expanding voting rights while building a fair and inclusive democracy grounded in equity and justice. These policy fellows backfill the nation’s leadership vacuum by increasing the capacity of new voices to advocate for the needs of underserved communities. This creates new pathways for progress grounded in data and research that ensures no one is left behind.

UCLA LPPI at CHCI Conference

by Alise Brillault

UCLA LPPI experts and policy fellows were well represented at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI) Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C. on September 12-15, 2022. CHCI is a leading national organization that convenes members of Congress and other public officials, corporate executives, nonprofit advocates, and thought leaders to discuss issues facing the nation and the Latino community. Taking place at the onset of Hispanic Heritage Month, the conference sought to highlight Latino excellence through an offering of 26 sessions featuring over 200 thought leaders and elected officials – including remarks from President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.

UCLA LPPI at CHCI Conference

Pictured left to right: Jessie Hernandez-Reyes, Paul Barragan-Monge, Rodrigo Domínguez-Villegas, Nick González, and Bryanna Ruiz Fernandez

Paul Barragan-Monge, director of mobilization at UCLA LPPI, and Rodrigo Domínguez-Villegas, UCLA LPPI director of research, were featured panelists in two different sessions during the week. Barragan-Monge spoke in a breakout session sponsored by UCLA LPPI centered on criminal justice reform. With Latinos accounting for increasingly higher percentages of people in U.S. prisons, the conversation focused on how policymakers and community leaders can pursue comprehensive justice reforms and support formerly incarcerated Latinos in successfully reintegrating back into their communities.

In a breakout session sponsored by Casey Family Programs, Domínguez-Villegas spoke on how to strengthen communities to reduce Latino family separation. From acute crises such as family separation at the border, to longstanding socioeconomic inequities, Domínguez-Villegas discussed with other panelists about the innovative policies and interventions needed to protect Latino families’ holistic safety and well-being.

UCLA LPPI was able to sponsor the attendance of three alumni policy fellows, Bryanna Ruiz Fernandez, Jessie Hernandez-Reyes and Nick González, as well as current policy fellow Rocio Perez.

Ruiz Fernandez had a powerful experience reconnecting with her former UCLA LPPI colleagues in the nation’s capital. Having recently graduated from UCLA with a B.A. in political science and chicana/o studies, Ruiz Fernández is now working as a financial analyst at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) in Washington, D.C.

“Sharing a space filled with Latina/o trailblazers in public policy, as a UCLA LPPI alumni, highlighted the abundance of opportunities I have been granted as a result of mentors like Sonja Diaz and Rodrigo Domínguez-Villegas, who are dedicated to opening doors for young Latinos hoping to enact meaningful change across our communities,” Ruiz Fernández remarked.

González, now a second-year Master of Public Policy student at Georgetown University and intern for U.S. Senator Alex Padilla, was inspired by Latino leaders he met at the conference and the diverse fields they work in.

“Aside from reconnecting with my UCLA LPPI colleagues, my favorite aspect of the conference was networking with so many Latinos in public policy from a broad range of issues and sectors,” said González. “Hearing about the diversity of their work felt like a reminder of LPPI’s mantra that every issue really is a Latino issue.”

Perez, currently a Master of Public Policy student at UCLA, was likewise inspired by the community of Latino leaders with whom she was able to network – and some of the high-profile speakers.

“It was incredible to learn about the journeys of Latinos in different industries and network with empowering individuals, as well as reconnect with friends and mentors,” Perez shared. “One of the highlights was witnessing remarks by both the Vice President and President of the United States – who would have thought I would be there!”

“Latino Policy and Politics Institute Founding Executive Director Sonja Diaz, Center, with past and current institute staff and policy fellows. Photo by James Michael Juarez.”

The UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative has officially become the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Institute (UCLA LPPI), thanks to $3 million in ongoing annual funding from the state of California.

The funding, championed by the Latino Legislative Caucus, was initially secured in 2021 and initiated UCLA LPPI’s transition into a permanent research fixture with a robust fellowship program and a network of nearly 50 affiliated faculty experts across UCLA’s College and professional schools.

Founded in 2017 through a partnership between UCLA’s Luskin School of Public Affairs and division of social sciences, UCLA LPPI was launched to address the most critical domestic policy challenges facing Latinos and other communities of color. Since its inception, the institute has utilized the power of research, advocacy, mobilization and leadership development to propel policy reforms that expand genuine opportunity for all Americans.

Under the leadership of Sonja Diaz, UCLA LPPI’s founding director, the institute has gained national standing as a leading Latino policy think tank. Further, it has become a critical piece of infrastructure in UCLA’s march toward achieving federal designation as a Hispanic-Serving Institution by 2025.

Some of UCLA LPPI’s key stakeholders shared the following thoughts on the significance of the institute’s work and the transition from an initiative to an institute with long-term sustainability:

“As chair of the Latino Legislative Caucus, I am so grateful for the Latino-centric research from UCLA LPPI that has helped us formulate the policies our communities need most. Latinos play an essential role in California, yet we are disproportionately impacted by issues like the gender pay gap and disparate health outcomes. It is critical that we have a Latino-focused think tank with readily available data on the various topics that Latinos care about most.”State Sen. María Elena Durazo

“It would stand to reason that the state with the largest number of Latinos in the country would recognize the need for a permanent voice on these matters, especially at UCLA – a vanguard of public higher education. This transition reflects the hard work of UCLA LPPI’s original founders and the growing influence of our ‘gente’ in academia and beyond. I applaud UCLA and the staff of UCLA LPPI, and I look forward to greater things and continued collaboration.”Juan Cartagena, UCLA LPPI advisory board member and president emeritus of LatinoJustice PRLDEF

“As a member of the California Latino Legislative Caucus, we refer to data from UCLA LPPI to inform our policymaking on the issues that directly impact California’s diverse Latino communities. I’m especially appreciative of the gender lens that UCLA LPPI applies in its research products, which has played a key role in our Unseen Latinas Initiative. UCLA LPPI’s transition to an established research institute will ensure we are pushing for the right legislative solutions for years to come.”State Sen. Lena Gonzalez

“The Chicano Studies Research Center shares a strong alignment with UCLA LPPI’s scholarly research on the most pressing social and political issues affecting diverse Latinx communities in the U.S. As UCLA LPPI transitions into an institute, we look forward to deepening our partnership and bolstering our shared commitment to raise the profile of Latino scholarship on campus and beyond.”Veronica Terriquez, director of the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center.

This story and photo were submitted to L.A. Social Science by Alise Brillault (she/her), Communications Manager of the Latino Policy & Politics Institute.

 

Join the UCLA Center for the Study of Women (CSW) for a special virtual event on Wednesday, May 18th to honor the center’s accomplishments, student award recipients, and this year’s Distinguished Leader in Feminism Award honoree.

FEATURING THE KEYNOTE ADDRESS

Trans Latina Resilience: Past, Present, and Future

by

Bamby Salcedo

President and CEO of the TransLatin@ Coalition

This year, CSW has selected Bamby Salcedo as the recipient of the Center for the Study of Women’s 2022 Distinguished Leader in Feminism Award. Bamby is the President and CEO of the TransLatin@ Coalition, a national organization that focuses on addressing the issues of transgender Latin@s in the US. Bamby developed the Center for Violence Prevention & Transgender Wellness, a multipurpose, multiservice space for transgender people in Los Angeles.

Her talk will highlight historical and intergenerational institutional violence against Trans, Gender Nonconforming and Intersex (TGI) people. She will also address the current state of TGI people and how she envisions a better world for the TGI community.

 

To find out more about this award ceremony and the outstanding keynote speaker, click HERE.

By Alise Brillault

April 26, 2022

Some of the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative’s (UCLA LPPI) most sought-after research products are its analyses of Latino voters. As the nation’s second-largest ethnic group, Latinos are consequential in determining the outcome of elections. Thus, understanding the size and voting behavior of Latino communities across the country is critical to mobilizing this growing electorate.

Dr. Rodrigo Domínguez-Villegas, UCLA LPPI’s co-director of research, has spearheaded several reports that analyze the size of the Latino population that is eligible to vote, the number of Latinos who register to vote, and the actual candidates and ballot measures that Latinos support. With these studies, UCLA LPPI is debunking the myth of Latinos as a monolithic voting bloc and asking questions to understand the nuances of this diverse electorate.

UCLA LPPI understands that while the Latino vote is consequential, when voters of color come together they can wield significant influence. That is why UCLA LPPI prioritizes working in multiracial coalition to understand the collective power of voters of color. As such, UCLA LPPI has affiliations with faculty experts like Dr. Natalie Masuoka, UCLA professor of political science and Asian American studies, to study the voting behavior of Asian Americans and Latinos in conjunction.

“Latino voters and Asian voters are the two demographic groups growing fastest in the country,” Dr. Domínguez-Villegas explained. “Their impact on deciding elections has grown in the past decade, and it will only keep growing.”

Dr. Masuoka emphasized that researchers also learn the most when thinking comparatively. “We cannot analyze a population in isolation,” she said. “We therefore can’t understand the impact of race on voting by only looking at one group – we need to look at how it’s constructed vis-a-vis other groups.”

Some of the projects that UCLA LPPI has worked on in collaboration with Dr. Masuoka and the UCLA Asian American Studies Center include an analysis of Latino and Asian voters in the 2020 primary elections and a study of racial differences in the support of California propositions that same year.

The innovative method of conducting this research was originally conceptualized by Dr. Matt Barreto and is unique to UCLA LPPI. Rather than relying on traditional exit polls, wherein surveyors only interview small numbers of voters, UCLA LPPI analyzes actual ballots cast in all precincts and matches that data to demographic information. This allows researchers to more accurately understand the choices of Latinos and other voters of color.

Furthermore, going beyond party choice to focus on ballot propositions allows researchers to gain a more granular understanding of the diversity of political views within communities.

Another distinctive facet of this work is the hands-on engagement of  policy fellows in the research. Graduate students use their quantitative skills to gather and present data to research analysts therbey by helping to draw substantive conclusions. These graduate fellows in turn train undergraduate students such as Bryanna Ruiz Fernández, which facilitates unique mentorship opportunities.

“As a first-generation college student, higher education has been a difficult space to navigate, and research even more difficult,” said Ruiz Fernández. “However, having the opportunity to be guided by individuals like Michael Herndon and Daisy Vazquez Vera who faced similar challenges as myself, I was able to receive individualized support and guidance in order to build the skills that will ensure I am successful in whichever research-focused role I find myself in.”

Policy fellows also bring to the table key insights from their lived experiences growing up and working in Latino communities.

“Many of these students have participated in voter mobilization efforts,” Dr. Domínguez-Villegas explained. “They can understand the needs of the Latino community and voters’ priorities through an organizer’s perspective.”

UCLA LPPI is now gearing up for the 2022 midterm elections, with research that will focus on key states like Arizona, Florida and Georgia where Latino and other voters of color will be consequential to election outcomes

As summer 2022 approaches, LA Social Science had the opportunity to interview Harold Lewis, summer lecturer in Communications, about his course on film finance. Mr. Lewis is the Founder of Pitch2Me.com, an Online Film Finance Portal that brings filmmakers and professional film financiers together.

Interview Chapters:

00:00 – Intro

01:54 – Why did you develop this course and why is it important?

03:21 – Who should take this course, and do they need a background in Finance?

05:19 – What subjects does the course cover?

06:43 – What will the students get out of the course?

07:18 – How can this course advance the students’ academic and career outcomes?

09:05 – What would you say to all potential students?

 

To learn more about this summer course, click HERE.  To enroll in this course, click HERE.

To learn more about all the summer courses offered by the UCLA Department of Communication, click HERE.

You may also learn more about all of UCLA’s summer courses HERE.

 

Subscribe to LA Social Science and be the first to learn more insight and knowledge from UCLA’s Division of Social Science experts and other faculty about upcoming video/audio sessions and posts about current issues.

LA Social Science interviewed Dr. Marcus Hunter, Scott Waugh Endowed Chair in the UCLA Division of Social Sciences, Professor of Sociology and African American Studies, and Mr. Christian D. Green, M.A. in African American Studies at UCLA and current adjunct professor. They discussed their role on the national, local, and regional events celebrating the legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. that took place on January 18. Dr. Hunter participated in the 4th Annual National Day of Racial Healing. They discussed their work with legislators, media, and community-based organizations.  Specifically, they discuss the educational resources they are advocating to be part of the U.S. Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation (TRHT) Commission and Reparations for African Americans and at the local level.

Learn more about the January 18 events HERE.

 

Subscribe to LA Social Science and be the first to learn more insight and knowledge from UCLA’s Division of Social Science experts and other faculty about upcoming video/audio sessions and posts about current issues.

UCLA Alum Rafael Agustín (’03 & ’04), TV Writer (Jane the Virgin) and CEO of the Latino Film Institute (LFI), discusses writing and bringing Latinx stories and characters to film and TV; his experience at UCLA; and helping the next generation of Latinx filmmakers.

Interview Chapters:

0:00 – Intro

0:33 – What got you interested in theater and television?

1:38 – What was your experience at UCLA?

3:16 – Why is it important to tell Latinx stories in TV and film?

5:05 – New projects, and advice on breaking into TV and film.

Learn more about Mr. Rafael Agustín and the Latino Film Institute (LFI) by visiting their website at https://latinofilm.org/.

Read about LFI’s advocacy of the UCLA Hollywood Diversity Report series HERE.

Read about LFI naming Dr. Ana-Christina Ramón their inaugural LFI Scholar in 2021 HERE.

 

Subscribe to LA Social Science and be the first to learn more insight and knowledge from UCLA’s Division of Social Science experts and other faculty about upcoming video/audio sessions and posts about current issues.

The UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative has supported the efforts of California’s Unseen Latinas Initiative headed by UCLA Alumna and California Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez (UCLA Law ‘99)

By Nick Gonzalez, Latino Policy & Politics Initiative (LPPI) Policy Analyst

 

Latinas make less than their male and female counterparts, have never served in a statewide elected position and remain underrepresented in corporate leadership positions. A new two-year effort launched by Asm. Lorena Gonzalez (UCLA Law ‘99) and the California Latino Caucus seeks to tackle the inequities that the state’s Latinas face.

UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative faculty and staff have been at the forefront of “Unseen Latinas” by providing expert testimony in its first year of public hearings to identify problems and solutions. Through cross-sectoral research, a team of UCLA LPPI female experts have been putting a data-driven lens on the educational, economic and career barriers that Latinas must overcome.

“By launching the Unseen Latinas initiative, California’s leaders are making it clear that they understand that the state’s continued economic prowess requires that Latinas have a fair chance to succeed and thrive,” said Sonja Diaz, UCLA LPPI founding director, who participated in the October 2020 launch event. “Especially as we emerge from the pandemic, it’s time to make sure that no one gets left behind in the recovery and bright future that lies ahead.”

Latinas make up nearly 20% of Californians, and Latina participation in the U.S. workforce was expected to grow by 26% in the next 10 years. Yet, new research from LPPI shows that Latinas exited the workforce amid the pandemic at higher rates than any other demographic amid the pandemic, making it clear that recovery efforts should provide specific assistance to help them recover financially and get back on their feet.

“California has an opportunity and responsibility to lead what it means to have a just and equal economy,” said Asm. Gonzalez. “UCLA LPPI has been a valuable partner on the Unseen Latinas Initiative. LPPI experts have shared key testimony by shining a light on the inequalities Latinas continue to face, as well as the opportunities that exist to make sure Latinas are no longer unseen and can participate in the state’s prosperous future.”

In an October conversation about the Latina wage gap, Diaz urged action to address the childcare and family obligations that pushed Latinas out of the workforce during the pandemic. Without a clear plan to bring them back into the labor market, the repercussions could be devastating for Latino families and for the state’s economy, she said.

UCLA LPPI expert Dr. Mary Lopez, an economics professor at Occidental College continued the conversation  in a January hearing on the labor market, testifying that policy solutions such as affordable childcare and job training would be essential in reducing workforce inequities for Latinas.

Part of the invisibility of the needs and strengths of the state’s Latinas comes from the lack of representation in media and popular culture. At an April hearing, UCLA LPPI expert Dr. Ana-Christina Ramón provided testimony from the UCLA Hollywood Diversity Report, which she co-founded and co-authors. Latinos and women are among the groups that remain underrepresented in film relative to their population size.

“We know that Hollywood plays a meaningful role in shaping how people perceive others around them,” Ramón said, who is also the director of research and civic engagement at the UCLA Division of Social Sciences. “When Latinas do not have starring roles or they are not seen as doctors, lawyers, or CEOs, that perpetuates the barriers that they face in achieving their full potential.”

The Unseen Latinas public hearings series also discussed the challenges that Latinas face in breaking into the legal field, with expert testimony from UCLA LPPI expert Jennifer Chacon. For example, the California Supreme Court is another glass ceiling for Latinas, where one has never served as a justice.

For information about the legislators leading Unseen Latinas and for details on upcoming hearings, please visit the Assembly website for the state’s Select Committee on Latina Inequities.

Here at UCLA, community engaged scholarship is not an option – it is an imperative. Los Angeles is a profoundly diverse, multicultural city and a gateway to the rest of the planet. In the Division of Social Sciences, we take our location and our embeddedness in Los Angeles very seriously. The findings that come out of our research are findings that can be applied to real world community problems. In this sense, we are engaging LA to change the world.

 

LA Social Science is pleased to share this video highlighting two researchers, Dr. Jason De León and Dr. Jessica Cattelino, and the important community engaged scholarship they are leading in the social sciences.

As a public institution, our work is ultimately in service of you, our community. By engaging LA, we are changing the world.