Photo Credit: John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

Dr. Kelly Lytle Hernandez, Professor of History and African American Studies at UCLA, has been awarded the 2019 MacArthur Fellowship. The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation honors 26 luminaries, who each receive $625,000 over five years. The Chicago-based foundation has awarded these “genius” grants every year since 1981 to help further the pursuits of people with outstanding talent.

As the Director of the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA, Professor Lytle Hernandez is one of the nation’s leading experts on race, immigration, and mass incarceration. She is also the author of the following award-winning books, Migra! A History of the U.S. Border Patrol and City of Inmates: Conquest, Rebellion, and the Rise of Human Caging in Los Angeles.

Currently, Professor Lytle Hernandez is the principal investigator for Million Dollar Hoods, a university-based, community-driven research project that maps the fiscal and human cost of mass incarceration in Los Angeles.

The following is an excerpt of a LA Social Science interview with Professor Lytle Hernandez reflecting on her significant and impactful research:

LASS:     Why is it important to do this type of research?

KLH:       Well, I’ve now written two books. The first book was a history of the US Border Patrol, so it’s about race and policing on the US Mexico border. And the second book is about the rise of mass incarceration here in Los Angeles. This too was about race and indigeneity and policing in our local area. And what I’ve learned in the last 20 years of study and in the completion of those two books, is that our carceral regime is really geared toward a system of what we call in settler colonial studies is, mass elimination, that this isn’t a responsive system to so called deviancies that are happening out in the community, that on its grand mass scale, in fact, it is geared toward removing, encouraging, i.e. eliminating targeted populations, namely for Black folks or Brown folks and Native communities and queer communities.

So when I came to this really chilling understanding of what’s happening around us, it’s not just the prison industrial complex, that is about generating profits off of our bodies, but it is also about banishment and elimination. One has to ask themselves who they are, not just as a scholar, but as a person, do I simply document what’s happening around us in this world or do I try to intervene? So that’s where Million Dollar Hoods came from. It’s really a community-based research project that we have grounded here at UCLA. I work with a variety of community based organizations to determine what we want to know about the current trends in policing and incarceration, so that we can interrupt them and that we can move us in a new direction.

LASS:     What is the impact you are hoping that your work provides?

KLH:       It’s twofold. So we hope that our research advances the movement not just to end mass incarceration, but to reinvest in education, in healthcare, and employment and housing and counseling, and parks, and so on and so on – that certainly is one aspect of it. The other is that we are highly committed to training a new generation of data analysts and public scholars. So if you look at our team, we probably have one of the most unique data teams in the country, where we are Black and Brown majority, we are residents of million dollar hoods majority. We have a sizable number, notable number of formerly incarcerated students, and what we’re doing is training people up to be the researchers, to put the power of the data in their hands moving forward. We’re really proud of that dimension as well.

So yes, it’s the research, but anyone can do the research and in some ways any team – if they figured out how to work with community – can do the research. We are transforming who has access to the skill set to run those analyses and we’re proud of both of those accomplishments.

LA Social Science would like to congratulate Professor Kelly Lytle Hernandez on this well-deserved honor, and wish her and the other awardees much success as they continue to demonstrate “extraordinary originality.”

By Lara Drasin

What makes someone want to “do good?” Dr. Daniel Fessler of UCLA’s Anthropology department—the inaugural director of the UCLA Bedari Kindness Institute and 2018 recipient of the UCLA Gold Shield Faculty prize—is trying to figure that out, and sat down with LA Social Science to share some thoughts on the subject from an evolutionary perspective.

Fessler and his colleagues are currently conducting research on altruism, or “pro-social behavior.” He says that altruism, or moments in which a person goes out of their way to help another, can actually be “contagious:” witnessing the kindness of others can trigger an emotional reaction in us and inspire us to commit altruistic acts ourselves. The team of researchers are interested investigating what specifically triggers those reaction—or the “machinery inside the mind,” as he puts it, that causes us to make decisions as to whether to be helpful or not. This includes the role that our expectations play in the process. Fessler says that idealists are most likely to be affected, while cynics—or people who are prone to not expect the best from others—are less likely to have this reaction.

What makes someone idealistic or cynical? In addition to studying altruism, Fessler also looks at media and its effects, including how the messages we consume through media may impact the expectations we have of others. “When you choose to repeatedly consume information about the darker aspects of human behavior,” he said, “you’re shaping your own expectations about how other people will behave. It makes you less likely to respond pro-socially when there’s an opportunity to behave in a cooperative situation with others.”

Fessler says that there’s reason to believe our minds process information presented to us through media as though it’s firsthand experience. For example, people who watch a lot of local news overestimate the likelihood that they’ll become victims of violence.

“I love action movies as much as the next person, but I don’t watch them anymore,” he said. “I intentionally avoid realistic depictions of violence because I think it increases our estimation that other people are hostile and violent toward us, and that’s not an orientation I want to have.”

Fessler admits that it is “early days” when it comes to making definitive claims on the psychological effects of media consumption, but he draws a parallel to tobacco. He notes that though it’s legal to buy tobacco products, one can’t pick up a pack of cigarettes without seeing messages reminding us that it is harmful. “I could see a day when we want the same kind of public information campaigns that we have for tobacco use for media consumption,” he said, suggesting that whether or not to consume certain types of media could then become a matter of personal choice, but informed personal choice. “The best thing we can do as scientists is study these things and inform people,” he said, “so that everyone involved can recognize the consequences of their decisions more fully.”

When it comes to his students, Fessler likes to focus on subjects that the students can connect to in their own lives. Everyday subjects including questions like why women tend to be evaluated based on looks; why physical altercations tend to spur from trivial disagreements; and the relationship between economic inequality and violence are all discussed. “It’s important that I teach students in the way that they understand the personal impact of the information,” he said. Usually, conversations take place in a learning environment that Fessler fosters to invoke the same small-scale, face-to-face interactions in which people normally learn outside the context of formal education. He hosts the “FessLab,” where students are invited to assist Dr. Fessler with research outside of class. “The students named it FessLab,” he said, laughing. “It seems kind of self-aggrandizing to me.”

Fessler says that what he loves about UCLA is that it is full of scholars and students who are excited, interested, collaborative and genuinely want to make the world a better place. “That’s not commonly found,” he said. “There is so much good work being done here.”

 

To learn more about the establishment of the new UCLA Bedari Kindness Institute, please click HERE.

Photo credit: bannosuke/Shutterstock

September 18, 2019

Diversity initiatives have become their own cottage industry in the entertainment industry.  But how much do we really know about what has been working and why?  This report considers some of the more significant past and present diversity initiatives in the industry in order to zero in on the essential practices that seem to differentiate the successful programs from those which are less successful.  Toward this end, we interviewed nearly two dozen industry leaders for this report who currently work on the frontline of efforts to make Hollywood a more diverse and inclusive creative space.  Their insights give rise to a M.E.A.N.S. model of essential practices already employed in isolated pockets of Hollywood that can be transferred throughout the entire industry.

Five key strategies comprise the M.E.A.N.S. model:  MODERNIZE your worldview to reflect changing U.S. demographics; EXPAND the net in routine talent searches; AMPLIFY the voices of women, especially women of color, within organizations; NORMALIZE compensation practices to reduce barriers to entry for marginalized groups; and STRUCTURE incentives for decision makers to prioritize diversity and inclusion.  Action items associated with each essential practice are outlined in this report.

Despite audience yearnings for change, the history of diversity efforts in Hollywood suggests that the industry’s diversity problem will not simply correct itself.  The path forward must be paved with intentions — by industry decision makers who actively embrace the means necessary for achieving the end of a more inclusive creative space.

M.E.A.N.S. Essential Practices

  1. MODERNIZE your worldview to reflect changing U.S. demographics
  2. EXPAND the net in routine talent searches
  3. AMPLIFY the voices of women, especially women of color, within organizations
  4. NORMALIZE compensation practices to reduce barriers to entry for marginalized groups
  5. STRUCTURE incentives for decision makers to prioritize diversity and inclusion.

DOWNLOAD “By All M.E.A.N.S. Necessary: Essential Practices for Transforming Hollywood Diversity and Inclusion” HERE.

For any media inquiries, please contact Jessica Wolf at jwolf@stratcomm.ucla.edu

For donor/sponsor inquiries, please contact Peter Evans at pevans@support.ucla.edu

To download our annual Hollywood Diversity Report series, click HERE.

Since 2015, TEDxUCLA has provided a platform for innovative thinkers to share powerful ideas. This year’s event included a talk by Bill Simon, the Co-Founder of UCLA Health Sound Body Sound Mind Foundation through UCLA Health. This organization is dedicated to fighting childhood obesity by providing grants to equip middle and high schools with state-of-the-art fitness programs, a comprehensive curriculum and professional development for physical education teachers.

Bill Simon is an adjunct professor in both the Department of Economics and the Law School at UCLA, recipient of the Marty Skyler My Last Lecture Award, and a former Republican nominee for California governor. In 1988, he and his wife, Cindy, created the foundation to help schools bolster their lagging physical education programs. The organization joined forces with UCLA Health in 2015. To date, the program is in 141 schools nationally (127 in the Los Angeles area) and serves more than 170,000 students each year.

In his Ted Talk, Professor Simon addressed the importance of his Physical Education (PE) along with his plea to prioritize and fund PE at all schools for all children. He addresses the critical gains made if PE was a requirement at schools. Professor Simon implores that not only would regular exercise decrease obesity and future disease, but that it teaches children vital tools such as perseverance and resistance needed to be successful in their future. Professor Simon’s compelling story about his autistic son teaches us that Physical Education is needed as the foundation for a healthy start for children to build their character and connect mind, body, and spirit.

Starting his talk with a Pop-Quiz, Professor Simon moves to inform us of the transcendent value that is often undervalued, including social, intellectual and academic spaces. With parents battling to make sure kids aren’t spending too many hours in front of screens, Professor Simon reminds us that moving more is good for not only our body, but also for our minds. Ultimately, we are encouraged to understand why physical education is a student’s most important subject.

This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. To view the entire talk, click HERE.

Six new UCLA ladder faculty members were presented with the inaugural Chancellor’s Award for Community-Engaged Scholars, supported by both the Chancellor’s Office and the UCLA Center for Community Learning, for the 2019-2020 academic year. Each recipient will receive $10,000 towards supporting their own community-engaged research and design to implement in an undergraduate course. For the purposes of this award, “Community-engaged research, in this context, encompasses research and creative work across all fields that address an agenda of social justice and create reciprocal value with community partners. At its best, community-engaged research both achieves high levels of scholarly recognition within a field and advances efforts to redress social inequalities” (UCLA Internal Funding Opportunities). This is a strong cohort who meets the community-engaged research standards and whose work will be a major contribution to academic scholarship.

This well-deserved honor calls for celebration and congratulations to all the awardees, but especially to the three faculty members from our Division, Drs. Maylei Blackwell, Marissa Lopez, and Meredith Phillips. Below is a list of all the recipients, their department, and a short description of their community-engaged research project.

  • Maylei Blackwell, associate professor of Chicana and Chicano studies. In her course, Blackwell plans to use community archives and oral histories to map the Latin American indigenous diaspora in Los Angeles.
  • Arleen Brown, professor of medicine. In Brown’s course, students will work with community organizations and academic faculty to reduce chronic disease disparities in Los Angeles County through community-engaged collaborative projects.
  • Jenny Jay, professor of civil and environmental engineering. Jay’s course will center around environmental research that engages community members.
  • Marissa Lopez, associate professor of English and Chicana and Chicano studies. In Lopez’s course, students will partner with the Los Angeles Public Library to build a geolocation smartphone app that displays historical images of Mexican Los Angeles.
  • Rashmita Mistry, professor of education, and Karen Quartz, director, UCLA Center for Community Schooling. Their course will have students delve into educational research methodological approaches using an equity and social justice lens.
  • Meredith Phillips, associate professor, public policy and sociology. Phillips’ course will have students use student and staff survey data to improve K-12 education.

For more information, read the UCLA Newsroom story HERE.

Courtesy: SHONAGH RAE

The New York Times recently hosted the New Rules Summit which inspired the article entitled, “From Inclusion to Support: How to Build a Better Workplace”. This piece highlights important conversations and possible solutions on how to move towards a more equitable workplace for women. Many leaders with diverse backgrounds including culture, business, education, and politics came together to further examine women and power in the workplace/workforce. They discussed the countless obstacles working women face and the need for immediate change.

Among the New Summit Rules attendees was Dr. Safiya Umoja Noble, an Associate Professor at UCLA in Information Studies and African American Studies. She is best known for her interests and expertise in algorithmic discrimination and technology bias. In fact, Dr. Noble wrote the best-selling book Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism. Much of her work looks at race, gender, culture, and technology and its influence in digital media.

As an expert in her field, Dr. Noble contributed to the conversation around how artificial intelligence (A.I.) can be biased, hence disregarding women and other underrepresented groups. She stated, “We can’t let the machines overdetermine the future. Human beings must always be in charge of machines, not the machines in charge of the women, the people, the society. That seemed to be a through line in our discussion. The question is: How will the largess or the profits and resources that accrue from increasing automation be redirected back into society to benefit society?” This is a realistic concern to consider. Although, A.I. is groundbreaking work, it is important to understand that the values guiding it remain unbiased and just in order for true, progressive transformation to happen.

Some of the other proposed changes for more equity in the workplace emphasize the necessity to recruit more women workers to hold both senior and junior positions as well as create an environment that is family-friendly and values women. Similarly, focusing on retaining women workers by offering more autonomy, flexibility, and balance as options. Additional suggestions mention child-care services, paid family leave, men as allies, building an empowering office space culture, and disrupting socialized gender roles. The article continues to make very critical points that hopefully we will see implemented sooner than later.

UCLA professors Abigail C. Saguy and Juliet A. Williams recently published a piece in the Scientific American titled, “Why We Should All Use They/Them Pronouns.” They sparked a conversation around the idea that gendered identifiers can lead to more bias and discrimination, so instead, maybe we should all use gender neutral pronouns: they/them. This article received a range of responses, which led to a follow-up piece written in the Scientific American by Drs. Saguy and Williams as well as Drs. Robin Dembroff (Yale University) and Daniel Wodak (University of Pennsylvania).

Their article, “We Should All Use They/Them Pronouns…Eventually,” responds to critics who may not fully understand the recommendation to why gender-neutral language should be universal. The authors further explain their research and perspectives by countering critiques that bring up concerns addressing gender equality, gender justice, gendered language, Western-centric language, trans perspective, misgendering, grammatical gender and how gendering avoidance can be a form of violence.

The authors realize that moving towards using gender-neutral pronouns will not happen overnight, however, as we begin to comprehend the importance of the change to use gender-neutral pronouns as default, then we can truly move closer to gender equality. To read more details about the significance of gender neutrality, click HERE.

The LA Social Science e-forum is kicking off the summer by announcing our brand new search tool on the website.

Do you need an expert in the social sciences?  Find any of our amazing UCLA faculty members in the Division of Social Sciences in one place by simply entering a search term (e.g., name, department, or research specialty).  Check out this new search tool HERE or click on “Expert Search” in the menu at the top of the page.

We look forward to hearing from you!

#LightingTheWay #ChangingLA #ChangingTheWorld #UCLA100

 

The California Latino Legislative Caucus and UCLA LPPI staff gather for a photo that commemorates the second year of their partnership which aims to increase access to pertinent data science on Latinos.

By Celina Avalos and Sonja Diaz

On May 20, 2019, the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative (LPPI) hosted its second annual California Latino Legislative Policy Briefing in Sacramento. The policy briefing, co-hosted by the California Latino Legislative Caucus and UCLA Government & Community Relations, featured research presentations by three LPPI faculty experts: Dean Gary Segura, Dr. Melissa Chinchilla and Dr. Arturo Vargas Bustamante.

The policy briefing was attended by 50 guests who are policy advocates, legislative staff, and community leaders. The meeting convened at La Cosecha in Sacramento where the group learned more about LPPI’s latest research findings and discussed policy interventions that could improve the lives of California residents.

LPPI expert Dr. Melissa Chinchilla and LPPI Executive Director Sonja Diaz introduce LPPI’s recent report on Latino homelessness to a packed house in La Cosecha.

Attendees heard from the LPPI faculty experts on a wide-range of domestic policy issues including voting, housing, and health. The issues discussed in the briefing are critical policy challenges that the California legislature is addressing through new lawmaking. Each issue has unique impacts on California’s plurality. Fortunately, LPPI’s legislative briefing provided a space for policy leaders to understand more clearly which policy solutions are better suited to address the disparities faced by Latinos.

Kicking off the policy briefing was Dean Segura, who presented his research on public opinion trends leading to the 2020 presidential election. In 2018, LPPI’s research documented a 77% increase in Latino votes cast. This increase was configured by looking at and comparing the midterm elections from 2014 to 2018. Dean Segura’s presentation expanded on trends identifying leading public opinion sentiments that influenced voters of color (Asian Americans, Blacks, and Latinos) on issues involving immigration, #MeToo, access to affordable health care, and support for gun laws. Largely, the 2018 election illustrated the upward potential of Latino vote growth in and beyond California. The numbers showed voters of color embraced Democratic positions on guns, health care, and immigration at higher rates than their white peers.

Next, Dr. Chinchilla followed with her research on homelessness in Los Angeles County. In her policy presentation on Latino homelessness, Dr. Chinchilla cemented the lack of accurate data on Latinos facing housing insecurity and reiterated the fact that this demographic group remains undercounted.

LPPI Policy Fellow Celina Avalos met UFW leader and advocate Dolores Huerta during visits to the State Capital discussing LPPI’s work on housing and health.

Highlighting findings from her LPPI report, Stemming the Rise of Latino Homelessness, Dr. Chinchilla shared that homelessness is not a one size fits all narrative. She stated, “Many factors contribute to the undercount of Latinos facing housing insecurity, like immigration status, economic vulnerability, and cultural and language barriers.”

Dr. Vargas Bustamante concluded the policy briefing with his work on the California Latino physician crisis, which addresses a key issue facing the state—the shortage of healthcare workers. Dr. Vargas Bustamante’s policy presentation integrated findings from his report, Latino Physician Shortage in California: The Provider Perspective. He shared, “As California’s plurality, Latinos will represent 44.5% of California’s population by 2050. However, currently only 4.7% of physicians in California are Latino.”

According to Dr. Vargas Bustamante, the contributing factors to the Latino physician shortage include: lack of financial support and opportunity, academic disadvantages, navigation, underrepresentation, and citizenship.

LPPI’s briefing provided a novel opportunity for leading policy stakeholders to engage in timely policy issues centered on the needs of the state’s plurality. This briefing builds upon LPPI’s legislative portfolio of engaging elected and appointed officials on critical policy issues with data and facts, breeding new research-practice partnerships and accelerating the capacity for evidence-based policy.

Photo Credit: https://supplychainbeyond.com/winning-in-an-era-of-tariffs-and-trade-wars/

UCLA Associate Professor Pablo Fajgelbaum‘s fascinating research has been recently highlighted in the press by the following top news outlets: Vanity Fair Hive, Fortune, Rolling Stone, Bloomberg, CBS News, CNN Politics, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Economist, and The NBER Digest. Dr. Fajgelbaum studied at Princeton University where he cultivated his skills as a trade economist with an emphasis in international trade. In addition, he is a research associate under the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) for their International Trade and Investment Program.

The media coverage has referenced the newly published article Dr. Fajgelbaum co-authored with Pinelopi K. Goldberg, Patrick J. Kennedy, and Amit K. Khandelwal titled, Return to Protectionism. This study is an analysis of the trade war between the United States and other countries during 2018. The current trade war began when the U.S. imposed tariffs on imported goods and in response other countries did the same to the U.S.’s imported goods. Consequently, the research reveals that this trade war has had a negative effect on the U.S. economy causing prices and costs for U.S. businesses to increase. In addition, patterns showed that counties across the U.S. that lean mostly Republican, were impacted more than others. Last year, the United States experienced a devastating loss of about $7.8 billion since the implementation of tariffs on China and other countries.

The findings from this research counters the claims President Trump has made ensuring that Americans will benefit from imposing tariffs on imported goods from other countries. The research has left many companies, and citizens outraged and fearful of the continual impact this trade war will have on the U.S.

 

Pablo Fajgelbaum is an Associate Professor of Economics at UCLA. He is a trade economist. His recent research includes the distributional impact of international trade and the effects of regional policies on the spatial distribution of economic activity. He has published in the Quarterly Journal of Economics, Review of Economic Studies, and Journal of Political Economy.