By Kent Wong

Director, UCLA Labor Center

The UCLA Labor Center’s Dream Resource Center (DRC), in partnership with Netflix employees and DREAMer’s Roadmap (a program to support undocumented student access to higher education), sponsored a hackathon at the Netflix campus in Silicon Valley, August 10–12, 2018. Through a generous gift from Netflix employees, 40 immigrant youth from across the country spent three days developing innovative online resources and apps to support the rights and needs of immigrants and to address the increasingly hostile policies threatening immigrant communities. The youth were joined by about 20 Netflix and other tech company employees, who served as mentors and coaches throughout the three days.

Silicon Valley is an internationally known center for technology and innovation and serves as a major hub of economic growth and development. What is less known, however, is that tech is an industry that is reliant on immigrant labor. Many of the most successful entrepreneurs and tech engineers are immigrants. In addition, immigrant workers comprise the main workforce who clean the offices, maintain the grounds, provide security, prepare the food, take care of tech employees’ children and elderly relatives, and staff the other service sector jobs that support the tech companies.

Many Silicon Valley companies have invested resources to advocate for immigrant rights and to oppose the anti-immigrant policies of the Trump administration. Silicon Valley companies are also sensitive to their lack of Latino and African American employees, and many are seeking to expand recruitment efforts to underrepresented communities. The August hackathon was a great step forward in advancing a partnership between the tech world and immigrant communities.

This was the second hackathon sponsored by the UCLA DRC. In September 2017, a hackathon was held at CodeSmith in Venice, California, in partnership with UndocuMedia (an immigrant youth media company), FWD.us (an immigrant rights organization founded within the tech community) and others.

In 2016, the DRC also published a breakthrough research report, Immigrant Youth in the Silicon Valley: Together We Rise, which explores the obstacles young immigrants face when trying to access fair wages, housing and higher education in the area.

For the past three years, the DRC has sponsored the Dream Summer program in the Silicon Valley, placing immigrant youth in internships with education, immigrant rights, and social justice organizations in the area. Dream Summer fellows organized a successful conference at San Jose City College in August 2016 to promote educational access for immigrant students. In August 2017, Dream Summer fellows held a conference at the Univision headquarters in San Jose to address employment opportunities for immigrant youth.

The employee-sponsored Netflix hackathon was an inspiring and exciting event. On September 10, Netflix will host a reception to report on the hackathon to their employees, share a video with highlights and discuss next steps. Plans are already underway to hold another hackathon for immigrant youth in 2019.

 

Kent Wong is the director of the UCLA Labor Center, where he teaches courses in labor studies and Asian American studies. He previously served as staff attorney for the Service Employees International Union. He was the founding president of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance and of the United Association for Labor Education and currently is vice president of the California Federation of Teachers.

By Kristella Montiegel

PhD Student, Sociology, UCLA

It’s estimated that California educates 14,000 Deaf or Hard-of-Hearing (D/HH) students annually. D/HH children have unique needs towards the successful development of communication abilities and social skills, and federal and state laws have established guidelines for assisting families and educators in successfully meeting these needs. One guideline is the requirement of a child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP), which involves a team of members assessing children’s communication needs and placing them in the least restrictive educational environment possible. Today, most states have laws mandating hearing screenings and services for newborns. California implemented these requirements in 2000, making all diagnosed children eligible for D/HH education programs.

While there are several options for young children who are deemed eligible for D/HH educational services, two options are considered the main approaches to education: the American Sign Language (ASL) option and the Auditory-Verbal option. However, these approaches have competing ideologies that are commonly at the center of debate about which is the better approach. The ASL approach, rooted in Deaf culture, champions signing as language equality and teaches it as the primary form of communication. Alternatively, the Auditory-Verbal approach does not teach ASL, and instead emphasizes the development of spoken language with the goal of transitioning children into mainstream society.

As a sociology student whose research interests lie primarily in the subfield of language and social interaction, I became interested in what the ASL/Auditory-Verbal approach looks like ‘on the ground,’ or, the ways in which these approaches are accomplished in the institutional setting of a D/HH preschool classroom. I was given the opportunity to pursue these interests in November of 2017, when I gained access as a volunteer and student observer in an Auditory-Verbal preschool classroom of an LA school district. I have been volunteering on a weekly basis, assisting in the daily routines and taking ethnographic notes on the learning activities and naturally occurring interactions between the students and classroom educators.

I quickly learned that a key component of the Auditory-Verbal approach is a hyper-emphasis on vocalization. Speech permeates all activities of the school day: free play, meals, and lessons. The educators encourage the students to “talk through” any activity in which they’re engaged, whether speech would be strictly necessary or not, including episodes of bad behavior. Vocalization is not only prioritized, it’s also managed with preferences, such as using complete sentences, avoiding baby-talk, and knowing the appropriate times to say certain things. Talk is the desired means for students to adequately participate and demonstrate their competence in lessons, even if their understanding of something is or could be made clear nonverbally. My curiosity grew: What does all of this vocalization in the D/HH preschool do for the children and their families?            

Students’ spoken language is monitored by the class educators and school specialists who gather assessments for periodic IEP reviews. Thus, the value of a student’s use of speech in the class transcends beyond the immediate context in that it’s consequential for their overall IEP progress. Upon graduation from preschool, parents and the IEP team must decide among options for kindergarten, which typically involves general education integration to various degrees. I began to wonder: If the Auditory-Verbal class is specialized for children who are eligible for D/HH services, yet conducts learning and literacy development according to social life in mainstream society, then how do the educators facilitate student participation in a way that is sensitive to the children’s needs while also preparing for mainstreaming?

I’m exploring these questions on talk in an Auditory-Verbal class as an ethnographic project for my Master’s thesis, keeping an emic (or participant) perspective toward the cultural context of the Auditory-Verbal classroom, so I try to always consider what things mean for the educators and children themselves. Importantly, in conducting this research, I by no means am claiming the Auditory-Verbal approach as somehow more advantageous than the ASL approach. Rather, for purposes of time, I’ve chosen not to make this a comparative research project, and am choosing to focus on the Auditory-Verbal approach since I’m already a volunteer. I’ll continue volunteering in the class for the 2018-2019 academic year, and will ideally extend the study into a larger project involving video-recorded classroom interactions, as well as video-recorded home visits to explore how and to what extent the children are participating in family interactions. I hope the impact of my research will address important factors that influence the language practices and social-skill development of D/HH children, in order to develop a communicative framework for educational support both in the classroom and in their homes.

Meeting the needs of D/HH children anywhere has its challenges. In LA, some of these challenges are exacerbated by the fact that the LA Unified School district is large, services providers are spread out across the district, and the cost of living is high. Parents are often working across town, and thus getting to all of the relevant appointments (including school IEPs) is challenging. Teachers face an extremely heterogeneous class with multiple language backgrounds, and different socioeconomic statuses and understandings of the situation. In my future work, I hope to explore how the unique LA context shapes the D/HH classroom.

 

Kristella Montiegel (BA Department of Communication, Media and Culture at Coastal Carolina University; MS, Department of Communication at Portland State University) is a PhD student in UCLA’s Department of Sociology, and the Coordinator for the UCLA Center for Language, Interaction, and Culture (CLIC).

By George Chacon

Dream Resource Center Project Manager, UCLA Labor Center

When people are allowed to tell their own stories, they can provide insight into and connection with groups of people we may not ordinarily interact with. But when other people tell those stories, they can be used to paint a negative and unfair picture. No one has done this more, and with more disregard for facts and hatred toward the immigrant community, than Donald Trump. Not a week goes by where he does not say something inflammatory about immigrants, and his supporters echo those stories. Thankfully, working for the UCLA Labor Center’s Dream Resource Center (DRC) has provided me with opportunities to hear positive stories and experiences from my coworkers and community partners. Some of these stories are featured in the DRC’s Undocumented Stories exhibit, hosted by the Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA) in Long Beach.

MOLAA will be showcasing Undocumented Stories, a multimedia exhibit that lifts up the personal stories and experiences of immigrant youth, from August 4 to September 9. Undocumented Stories was curated by UCLA students, staff from the UCLA Labor Center and the DRC, and SolArt Media & Design. It includes personal stories, video, and photographs of unaccompanied minors and undocumented youth who built a movement to change US policies on access to higher education, immigration, and deportation. The exhibit aims to humanize the undocumented immigrant experience, empower the immigrant community, and incite critical conversations about the future of US immigration law and policy. Undocumented Stories has traveled to various locations around the country, including Washington, DC, and Boston through a partnership with the National Education Association.

The exhibit features the stories of people like Set Rongkilyo, who does communications for the ICE Out of LA coalition. Set and his family migrated to the United States with the hope of naturalizing their status through an employer. Unfortunately, Set’s family could not fulfill the extensive requirements, became undocumented, and were eventually separated. Set’s father had to return to the Philippines to care for his sick mother and will have great difficulty ever returning to the United States because of his undocumented status.

Then there’s Diego Sepulveda, currently the director of the DRC. I met Diego in 2009 when I was an undergraduate student at UCLA, and I remember how fearless and persistent he was as an undocumented student. The exhibit chronicles his experience as a transfer student attending UCLA and his advocacy efforts in LGBTQ and environmental issues.

My experience working at the DRC and with MOLAA has strengthened my commitment to the movement to ensure that all immigrants are treated with respect and humanity. By uplifting the stories and leadership of immigrants in these unfortunate times, the Undocumented Stories exhibit functions as a necessary and vital counter to the falsehoods coming out of the White House.

 

George Chacon is the Immigrant Justice Project Manager at the Dream Resource Center, where he guides immigrant leaders in developing rapid response networks for immigrant communities as they face increased threats of detention and deportation. He graduated from UCLA in 2010 with a BA in international development studies and a minor in education studies. He is an LA native and has worked on issues such as workforce development, health and wellness, and college readiness.

Credit: UCLA PubAffairs

UCLA looks forward to welcoming a diverse and inter-generational group of about 100 scholars to UCLA for its 2-day Collaborative Multiracial Post-Election Survey (CMPS) Summer Research Workshop and Planning Meeting This Workshop will be held at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, August 8-10, 2018.

The 2016 CMPS was the first cooperative, 100% user content driven, multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, post-election online survey in race, ethnicity and politics (REP) in the United States. Researchers queried more than 10,000 people in five languages — English, Spanish, Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese. To include the most comprehensive list of over 350 electoral, civic and policy-related survey questions, a team of 86 contributors from 55 colleges and universities across 18 academic disciplines contributed question content.

This Workshop will provide CMPS users with an outlet to present their research to a broad group of researchers both inside and outside of academia. Workshop events will range from research presentations as well as planning and brainstorming sessions as we gear up for the CMPS 2020. Presentations will feature cross-racial comparative data analysis, from a diverse and inter-generational group of CMPS users from across the country.

UCLA Co-Principal Investigator, Professor Lorrie Frasure-Yokley says, “We encourage collaboration to strengthen the academic pipeline in the study of race, ethnicity and immigration, through co-authorships and research opportunities, particularly for graduate students, post-docs and junior faculty. This 2-day meeting will serve as a professional development and networking opportunity for scholars of race, ethnicity and immigration in the United States. The CMPS is changing the way high-quality survey data is collected among racial and ethnic groups in the U.S.  Through collaboration and inclusiveness, the CMPS broadens the scope of who has access to high-quality survey data in academia and beyond!”

For more information, please visit the CMPS website, http://cmpsurvey.org/.

Diagram by Berto Solis; Art files courtesy of the Noun Project and the following designers: arejoenah and Elena Rimelkaite.

By Berto Solis, UCLA Master of Social Science, 2018

First-generation, or “first-gen,” students are the first in their families to go to college. When a first-gen student graduates from college and gets into a graduate program it’s a cause for celebration, but the story doesn’t end there.

Using focus groups conducted with first-gen students in grad school, I gained insight into the challenges these students face on their way to academic success—insights we can use to make sure that these high-potential students thrive.

I reached 4 main findings:

  1. First-gen students don’t always know how graduate school works. What’s worse, people in the university often make assumptions about what these students know: for example, about how to get financial support, find academic support, or fit into their programs socially and culturally. This often places first-gen students in an awkward position: they must admit that they don’t know these things and face the shame that comes with that admission, or hide their ignorance and constantly feel like they’re lost.
  2. First-gen students often feel like they’re stuck between worlds: the culture that they come from and the culture of academia, which is new to them. Since they often don’t feel like they fully belong to either world, graduate school can be a lonely experience for them.
  3. It turns out that their length of time in graduate school influences how first-gen students feel about the experience. Contrary to my initial expectations, the longer first-gen students are in graduate school, the more they may feel like they don’t belong, in contrast to other students whom first-gen students feel “always knew they’d be there.”
  4. To address these issues, first-gen students build community and support systems among themselves and institutions are often eager to help. Despite their good intentions, institutions are often not equipped to address first-gen graduate student challenges, since there is little research into these issues.

It is my hope that research like this will help close that knowledge gap. This research is also important to me because I’m a first-generation student myself and I experienced much of this firsthand.

I recently completed my own graduate school journey along with thousands of other Bruins. However, the findings in this project raise the possibility that education alone isn’t the great social equalizer it’s so often framed to be. Sure, it’s a start. But there are many hazards along the way that we still need to address and I feel fortunate to have learned the tools of social science research in the MaSS program to understand, address, and contribute to this massive undertaking. After all, the best social science is the kind that brings people together.

 

Berto Solis became obsessed with higher education the moment he left for UC Santa Barbara in 2003. Though he’s changed institutions a few times, he has worked in college campuses for nearly 15 years. You can contact him at berto.solis@ucla.edu or through his website bertosolis.com.

For more information about UC and UCLA efforts to provide support for first-generation undergraduate students, click HERE.

By Abel Valenzuela Jr.

Professor and Director of the UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment

The increased ICE raids, daily attacks on immigrants, children separated from their parents at the border, and a host of other mean-spirited, chaotic, and destructive directives from the White House often leave me feeling numb and helpless. Then I get angry, I remind myself that elections matter, and I double down on the work I do at UCLA. The impact of the research we undertake at UCLA proves that facts, data, and empiricism matter in our search for solutions to the most vexing problems that confront us. At UCLA, we nurture tomorrow’s leaders, who draw on their UCLA experience and training to better our country and our world. I am proud and inspired to teach, work, and research alongside some of the best and brightest that UCLA has to offer.

On June 18th, the Dream Resource Center launched the 8th annual national Dream Summer Program, showcasing the power of young immigrants and their allies coming together to grow and sustain the national immigrant youth movement. More than 600 Dream Summer alumni are working hard to build an intersectional immigrant rights movement, and many are leading national organizations. These leaders employ sophisticated social media tools, power mapping, network building with labor and faith-based organizations, storytelling, and cultural interventions and performance to push an agenda of immigrant inclusivity beyond just “dreamers” — to include undocumented families, new arrivals, and the working poor.

Last week’s opening retreat convened 60 participants to workshop, caucus, and network with Dream Summer alumni and immigrant rights leaders, activists, and workers. Presentations by alumni, national leaders, and elected officials provided first-hand insights into the legislative process, political landscape, and the inner workings of the electoral process. Interns participated in workshops on wellness and self-care, which is vital in an era of increased hostility toward immigrants, uncertainty, and political unpredictability. Other workshops focused on the deconstruction of mass incarceration and detention/deportation, gender and reproductive justice, and freedom cities that draw on the principles of sanctuary to ensure safe geographic spaces. Participants learned about community organizing, social justice research, legal advocacy and access, and social and digital media organizing. Leadership training also included job skills like public speaking, networking for introverts, cover letter writing and resume building, event planning, and strategic communications.

Following this retreat, participants disbursed to their respective community-based organizations and labor unions to begin their hands-on training on issues that directly impact immigrant communities.

It is both historic and fitting that UCLA hosts this summer fellowship program, and it reflects well on our unique and historical relationship to immigrant and undocumented students. We are, after all in Los Angeles, home to one of the largest concentration of immigrants in the country. UCLA was also home to Tam Tran and Cynthia Felix, champions of undocumented students in higher education, whose lives where tragically cut short in an automobile accident. They demonstrated the impact of engaging with public and elected officials, pushing a broader and more inclusive immigrant rights narrative, and empowering other young immigrants to collectively organize for social change.

The Dream Summer Program provides me with a great deal of hope and excitement, witnessing young immigrants challenging and changing our country for the better.

 

Abel Valenzuela Jr. is Professor of Urban Planning and Chicana/o Studies, Director of UCLA’s Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, and Special Advisor to the Chancellor on Immigration Policy. Professor Valenzuela is one of the leading national experts on day labor and has published numerous articles and technical reports on the subject. His research interests include precarious labor markets, worker centers, immigrant workers, and Los Angeles. His academic base is urban sociology, planning, and labor studies. 

 

 

By Drew Westmoreland, MSPH, PhD

2018 Thinking Gender Coordinator

Thinking Gender, now in its 28th year, is an annual graduate student research conference organized by the UCLA Center for the Study of Women (CSW) that features original student research on gender and sexuality. This year’s conference theme, Pre-existing Conditions, explored ongoing discussions around the connections between gender, health, and healthcare.

Academic graduate student research presentations—including panels and posters—have been the staples of past and present Thinking Gender conferences, highlighting research being done within UCLA and beyond. This year, however, we wanted to do something new, and we incorporated the first-ever Thinking Gender, Pre-existing Conditions Art Exhibition into our proceedings. This week-long exhibition was held in Kerckhoff Gallery from February 23rd to March 2nd and featured works that use artistic expression to further conversations about health and well-being. To celebrate this artistic exploration of health—and the successful completion of our first day of our conference—we invited presenters, faculty, students, and other guests to join us for an Art Reception and Film Screenings networking event on the evening of March 1.

We partnered with a number of UCLA organizations to extend this event’s local impact. The UCLA Art and Global Health Center kicked off the evening with a performance piece called Sexophonic Choir, which invited volunteers to vocalize lessons about sexual health. Then, they led us on an interactive art walk from the main conference venue at the UCLA Faculty Center to Kerckhoff Grand Salon and Gallery. At Kerckhoff, we were joined by our partners from the UCLA Cultural Affairs Commission who helped us curate the exhibit and connect with students across campus.

Our week-long exhibition included a photography exhibit (Guarded) by Taylor Yocom, featuring images of women and the objects they would use to defend themselves from sexual assault; a fiber art piece (No.Stop.Help.) by Sarah Fahmy about sexual assault victim blaming; public health-themed poetry (data entry and statistics) by Uyen Hoang; and abstracted photographs of body skin impressions (Suspicious Warping: Close to the Skin) by Cecily Fergeson. We also featured digital installations and experimental art pieces. One life-size, digital installation piece (inter-I) by Elí Joteva explored physical body movement through light reflections and refractions off of water. Two other pieces offered attendees an interactive experience to expand understanding of neurodiversity and mental health: Breathe, by Christina Curlee, was a video game that let players experience life with an anxiety disorder; and Kristin McWharter’s The Chameleon Spacesuit invited viewers to engage with the artist, who was clad in a robot-like costume meant to represent the challenge of interacting with the world as an autistic woman.  

Our two films showcased untold stories: one, for example, provided commentary on queer Filipino college students’ mental and physical health as a motivating factor for Alaskan Natives’ environmental justice activism.

This year’s Thinking Gender art show told stories designed to expand and challenge how people conceptualize health. From women “Guarded” and prepared to defend themselves from sexual assault, to the relative intimacy of data entry and cold perceptions of statistics, to alien feelings of being unable to express yourself emotionally (The Chameleon Spacesuit), our artists tackled topics of mental and sexual health, reproductive justice and body imagery as art and health collided.

Pieces from the first-ever Thinking Gender Visual Arts Exhibition that was on display from February 25 through March 2 at the Kerckhoff Gallery

Art walk participants collaborated on haikus that explored the question “what do women need to be healthy?” (Written by Jackie Curnick and Sheila Maingi)

UCLA Art|Sci Center Director Victoria Vesna welcomes attendees to the Thinking Gender Visual Arts Reception

Visitors enjoy viewing and interacting with visual art on display at Kerckhoff Gallery during the reception

Conference presenter Sav Schlauderaff and guest. In the background: inter-I, a digital installation by Elí Joteva

CSW Director Rachel Lee interacts with Kit Kirby, who is performing The Chameleon Spacesuit: Autism in Women and Girls

Arielle Bagood introduces her film, Queer Filipino American Students and Mental Health?

The UCLA Center for the Study of Women is an internationally recognized center for research on gender, sexuality, and women’s issues and the first organized research unit of its kind in the University of California system. Though CSW is funded by the Division of Social Sciences, it serves the entire university.  Read more about its Mission HERE.

CSW

By Gracen Brilmyer, Graduate Student Researcher, UCLA Center for the Study of Women; Alexandra Apolloni, Program Coordinator, UCLA Center for the Study of Women; Rachel Lee, Director, UCLA Center for the Study of Women

Eating a Tide Pod might make for a good YouTube clip, but we all know that it’s dangerous.

However, it’s not just eating  detergent that’s harmful. Many of the ingredients in common detergents and fabric softeners have not been rigorously tested for safety–and yet, we’re exposed to them through daily physical and respiratory contact.

Commonly used laundry, cleaning and personal care products contain endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs), which can mimic hormones and disrupt one’s metabolism, even at low levels. EDCs are present in synthetic fragrances, which can cause more immediate adverse reactions including headaches, respiratory difficulty and difficulty concentrating.

Exposure to these chemicals is actually a feminist social justice issue. Since women perform a disproportionate amount of domestic labor (such as housekeeping, laundry, etc.) and use more personal care products, they are more exposed. Additionally, environmental pollution is often concentrated near where people of lower economic status or people of color live.

There has been little effective chemical regulation in the United States, but feminist environmental and disability activists are pushing for change on this issue through organizations like Women’s Voices for the Earth, Canaries Collective, and others. Women scientists have also been innovators in this area: UCLA’s the Center for the Study of Women (CSW) is currently building on Anne Steinemann’s work on consumer product emissions, Ana Soto’s discoveries on the endocrine-disrupting potential of BPA and Claudia Miller’s research on illness caused by exposure.

CSW’s Chemical Entanglements initiative is mobilizing UCLA students and faculty to be leaders in these efforts. Chemical Entanglements is a multi-pronged initiative that involves public events; undergraduate and graduate mentorship, writing and research; and collaboration across departments and communities. We’ve created original artwork for educational materials with artist/activist Peggy Munson; we’ve gathered researchers and activists from across the country at an innovative symposium that explored new approaches to public health and education; we’ve begun to document the social and cultural histories of chemicals and the people whom they’ve harmed; and we’re surveying UCLA students to assess how much of an issue chemical sensitivity is on our campus. Ultimately, we want to change policy so that our communities can be safer and healthier, and we want to raise public awareness so that people can better protect themselves and others from exposure to toxins.

Our CSW Undergraduate Research Group is on the front lines of this work. Students Vivian Anigbogu and Sophia Sidhu have been using UCLA’s archives to document the history of scent and fragrance in manufacturing. Sophia has created an interactive timeline that traces the development of synthetic detergent and the introduction of the carcinogenic additive 1,4-Dioxane in Tide products, while Vivian has shown how the history of racism ties to the history of soap advertising. Undergraduates are also leading the way to make campus healthier. Hannah Bullock has developed a survey that we are beginning to roll out across campus. The survey will help us understand how UCLA students are impacted by chemical exposures, including, for instance, whether the smells of fragrances make it more difficult for them to concentrate while taking tests or live safely in their dorms. Our students are also developing outreach and education resources, including a short film produced by members of last year’s undergraduate group. It depicts the kinds of exposures a UCLA student might encounter on an average day.

You may be wondering, other than avoiding the temptation of a deliciously colorful tide pod, what can you do to keep yourself safe?

  • Use products that are labeled “fragrance free”
  • Avoid products that have “parfum” or “fragrance” in their ingredient list (these are prevalent in scented shampoos, lotions, deodorants, etc.)

But this kind of consumer activism can only go so far: exposure to EDCs is an issue that impacts everyone, and disproportionately impacts people who are the most marginalized and can’t afford “safer” “green” products or move to less polluted neighborhoods. Through Chemical Entanglements, we hope to build toward policy change that will support the health of people of all genders.

For more resources and information visit CSW’s Share the Air website.

Learn more about the Chemical Entanglements project.

Watch videos from the Chemical Entanglements symposium.

Participate in a survey to help CSW learn more about the impact of fragranced products on UCLA students.

By Lara Drasin

UCLA’s new Master of Social Science (MaSS) degree may seem to have materialized one summer day in 2016 as a sudden addition to the university’s already-robust social science graduate degree offerings, but this state-of-the-art program was actually a labor of love many years in the making.

The MaSS program, which welcomed its first cohort of students to campus in Fall 2017, first was envisioned by former Dean of Social Sciences Dr. Alessandro Duranti, who convened a faculty steering committee, led by Social Science Interdepartmental Program Chair, Dr. Juliet Williams, to explore the idea. Dr. Williams worked closely with Director of Academic Programs for the Social Sciences Dr. Tamar Kremer-Sadlik, who now serves as MaSS Academic Director, and with a team of divisional faculty, to develop a one-of-a-kind program for students interested in research-oriented careers. To lay the groundwork for graduates’ success after the degree, Drs. Williams and Kremer-Sadlik interviewed prominent leaders in the business and NGO sectors, conducted focus groups with alumni from the social sciences, and even developed a professional advisory board to make sure that the skill sets they planned to cultivate in students would translate to the job market – and make graduates of the program more attractive to PhD programs, should they choose that route.

“We wanted people who want to enter the workforce but are lacking some skills,” said Kremer-Sadlik, citing feedback she had received from businesses that they were looking for candidates with better critical thinking, reading, writing and data research skills, as well as an ability to think creatively, be flexible and work well in teams. She also reinforced that the program is for “people who are thinking that they want to go do a PhD but need either to prepare better or really think it through with better tools.”

As part of the three-quarter-long program, students take newly designed courses in qualitative and quantitative methods for social research, two electives, and a course introducing them to different theoretical frameworks used in the social sciences. MaSS students also benefit from class visits by members of UCLA’s world-class faculty.

“It was an amazing experience to hear about their work and then allow time for an in-depth question and answer session after each one,” said current MaSS student Jill Giardino, about faculty class visits. “This was for the MaSS program only so it was a very intimate setting – we learned a lot about topics such as cultural politics in LA, the model minority myth of Asian Americans, diversity in Hollywood and the first-ever study of day laborers.”

But what’s especially unique about the program’s curriculum is its focus on application: teaching students how to use their newfound social science skills to understand and think about potential solutions to larger, more systemic social problems.

“The MaSS program,” says Dean of Social Sciences Dr. Darnell Hunt, “exemplifies the UCLA Division of Social Science’s commitment to empowering students to put social science knowledge to work in addressing challenges and engaging communities.”

The program culminates in each student’s completion of a Major Research Paper (often referred to as the “MRP”), which is an empirical analysis of a pre-existing data set that is relevant to each student’s research question. Research questions are based on student research interests and developed under the guidance of faculty instructors. Each student is also paired with a “faculty reader” – a UCLA faculty member whose research interests line up with the topic of the student’s MRP.

There are 20 students in the inaugural year of the MaSS program, all with diverse research interests and from as far as Brazil, China and Singapore. “I truly appreciate all of the intelligent and diverse characters that have gathered to pioneer this program,” said Sarah Gavish, another member of the current MaSS cohort. “There is never a class without laughter.”

Students are encouraged to take individual approaches to their MRP, employing both quantitative and qualitative and, in some cases, mixed methods approaches. Current student projects explore a broad range of topics, including: factors that influence the acceptance of corruption in Brazil; motivation for voting in authoritarian elections; internet censorship and digital activism; cross-cultural analyses of military leadership; Asian American pan-ethnic identity; race and gender-based inequality in subprime lending; and media studies on documentary film, tween television programming and the relationship between television news and fear.

“The MaSS program solidified for me that I was passionate about doing research,” said Monica Lee, another current student. “I also find that even though I came into the program with no prior research experience, I now feel confident in my ability to be able to conduct research that can have a meaningful impact in policy and on society.”

A commencement ceremony for the inaugural class of MaSS graduates will be held on June 15th, 2018 at the Fowler Museum.

For more information on the MaSS program, visit http://mass.ss.ucla.edu/.

John Vande Wege/UCLA

May 16, 2018

Dr. Lorrie Frasure-Yokley, Associate Professor of Political Science, was recently profiled by the PBS NewsHour to discuss her important work with UCLA’s first-generation college students.  This new retention initiative connects first-generation faculty with first-generation college students to guide them along their educational pathways.  In this effort, Professor Frasure-Yokley teaches Fiat Lux courses and mentors first-generation students, in order to increase their persistence, improve their sense of belonging, and ensure that they graduate.  Watch the full interview and news segment HERE.