A Message to the UCLA Education and Information Studies Community

May Day has come and gone and we are racing toward the end of the spring quarter here at UCLA.  While COVID-19 has brought many new challenges, I am immensely proud of how our school has responded. In this week’s issue of Ampersand, we share some insights into our latest efforts.   

Last fall, a time that amid the COVID-19 pandemic seems eons ago, UCLA Education professors John Rogers and Megan Franke joined with colleagues across UCLA to launch a new initiative called Data for Democracy. One of four UCLA Centennial Initiatives marking the 100th anniversary of the University, the aim of the project is to engage K-12 Los Angeles students and their teachers in an exploration of UCLA research addressing issues that matter to their lives and to the well-being of their communities. 

Since then, Data for Democracy has published student-friendly and accessible research briefs around topics such as Parks in Los Angeles, Immigration, and most recently, Housing Inequality. The project invites K-12 students across Los Angeles to examine charts, graphs, tables, maps, interviews, and other research tools around issues impacting equality, opportunity, and social change. Students then share their ideas and work around these topics. 

The Data for Democracy project began as a way to engage Los Angeles students and teachers in UCLA research, but during this COVID-19 pandemic, the project is playing a new role, offering an important and engaging source of content for teachers and students as their classrooms transition to remote learning. It’s a great example of the work of the UCLA Centennial Initiatives to expand public access to UCLA’s scholarly resources and build upon the University’s commitment of service to the community.  You can read about the latest brief in Ampersand here– and find more about the Data for Democracy project here.  

You can also get more insight into our response to the COVID-19 crisis in this story profiling the work of Ron Avi Astor, who has a joint appointment at UCLA’s Graduate School of Education & Information Studies and the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, to help teachers and schools during the pandemic. Astor took part in a UCLA Luskin Virtual Summit this past week entitled, “A New Normal for Schools During the Pandemic.”  Astor and colleagues have been sharing the practice of focused rapid response empowerment modules with schools worldwide and are hoping the strategies will be of help to schools in L.A. and across the nation in responding to the pandemic.

In this week’s Ampersand, we also highlight the work of UCLA Information Studies alumnus Russell Johnson, who is the Curator for History of Medicine and the Sciences, UCLA Library Special Collections. Russell has gathered a collection of letters, diaries, photographs, and other artifacts from the 1918 influenza pandemic, showing us that not only are we not alone in this on the planet, but also in time. Read that story here.

We also note that May is Foster Care Month, and as the month begins, we share a story on how last year’s UCLA Pritzker Center Seed Grants to several UCLA/community projects focusing on foster youth are now bearing fruit, including a new series of inspirational videos produced by the Center for Scholars & Storytellers at UCLA Psychology about life during and after foster care. 

Finally, as the grim toll of the pandemic continues, it is important to note the vital contributions of so many who are providing the essential services that keep us healthy, safe and fed. Many of those frontline workers are immigrants, and thousands of them are recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). I hope you will take a moment to read the new article I wrote for the Rational Middle, expressing my hope that we as a society will rise above the fear that drives any anti-immigrant movements. 

I thank you all and continue to wish you and yours a safe and healthy week. 

Please take care and keep in touch,

Marcelo M. Suárez-Orozco
UCLA Wasserman Dean & Distinguished Professor of Education
UCLA Graduate School of Education & Information Studies