Jeanne Holm has worked for decades to make data and technology more accessible to the public.
Holm, a third-generation Angeleno and UCLA graduate, balances her time between teaching at UCLA Extension and guiding technological development for the city of Los Angeles.
She started working for the city as as deputy chief information officer in April, and became senior technology advisor to Mayor Eric Garcetti in July. Previously she managed data and information for NASA and the federal government.
Holm said her work with the city and UCLA Extension helped her understand the impacts of expanding access to both education and technology in underserved communities of Los Angeles.
At UCLA Extension, Holm taught a class on how Los Angeles residents can improve their neighborhoods. She helped students develop ideas into concrete ways they can improve their communities. Some of her students, for instance, are working to create incubators for migrants and African-Americans and to rehabilitate public parks.
In one class, Holm reassured a homeless student who told her he didn’t feel he deserved to attend the class. A month after the class concluded, the student called Holm to tell her he hung his UCLA Extension certificate on the wall of his first apartment.
“The more I worked with communities, the more I realized education needs to be in the hands of every single person,” she said.
In line with that goal, Holm has been working with the city to bring broadband internet access to all of Los Angeles and improve digital literacy skills. The city is developing a program that will allow people to check out internet hotspots from the library.
“My hope is that we will create digital inclusion,” she said. “All parts of Los Angeles will be connected in a way that empowers people.”
Part of Holm’s vision of digital inclusion is making information and data more accessible to citizens and city officials. The city partnered with UCLA, UCLA Extension and other local universities to aggregate data that allows students to participate in city hall internships. The data federation also lets students analyze city data in classes to address municipal issues, Holm said.
In addition to her work with the city and UCLA Extension, Holm works with a not-for-profit organization called United Earth, which hosts concerts featuring music performed by refugees to raise money for education programs. Holm said the organization used concert proceeds to help to help low-income students pay for UCLA Extension courses.
Roger Torneden, director of business, management and legal programs at UCLA Extension, said he thinks Holm is effective in working with international students, who take classes with her on business data and management, because she has a wide perspective on information and technology.
“She has a perspective that goes from the period before the world had the printing press to the world now where knowledge spreads very quickly,” Torneden said. “She understands how economies have transitioned into the knowledge era.”
UCLA Extension Dean Wayne Smutz said he thinks Holm’s work with the city gives the school insight into which technological courses are needed to serve different communities – from international businesspeople to low-income Angelenos.
Holm said she is happy to work with officials who share her vision. She said she thinks Garcetti’s plans focus more on technology than previous Los Angeles city government initiatives.
Holm added being able to engage with the public and respond to its concerns motivates her work at both the city and UCLA Extension.
“I felt the need to transfer technology and data to people’s lives and help them build their communities,” Holm said. “I couldn’t think of a better place to help than Los Angeles.”