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Q&A: Luskin School interim dean Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris outlines term priorities

Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris was appointed interim dean of the Luskin School of Public Affairs (pictured). She sat down with the Bruin to outline her goals and plans for her term. (Daily Bruin file photo)

By Alexandra Kaiser

Jan. 25, 2023 12:07 a.m.

Correction: The original version of this article’s headline and photo caption misspelled Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris’ name.

This post was updated Jan. 27 at 3:12 p.m.

Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, interim dean of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, sat down with the Daily Bruin to discuss her qualifications, the growth of the school and her priorities as interim dean.

Loukaitou-Sideris was appointed to the position in December following the resignation of Luskin School of Public Affairs Dean Gary Segura and may serve for up to 2 1/2 years. There will be a search for a permanent dean for the school during the 2024-2025 academic year, said Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Darnell Hunt in the press release announcing the appointment. Having begun her term as interim dean Jan. 1, Loukaitou-Sideris said she aims to expand the School of Public Affairs and help it recover from the hardships of recent years.

This interview between Loukaitou-Sideris and the Daily Bruin’s campus politics editor, Alexandra Kaiser, has been edited for length and clarity.

Daily Bruin: What positions have you held at UCLA before this, and how have they prepared you for your new role?

Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris: I have served as a chair of urban planning for six years and as an associate dean of the school for 12 years. For three years, from 2016 to 2019, I was associate provost for academic planning, where I was in charge of leading a group of 81 people to put together a strategic plan for the campus. So that was a great experience because I got to know a lot of people and collaborated with students, alumni, administration, staff and faculty. It was also a privilege to be able to serve 12 years as associate dean of my school because, again, I know a lot about the school and my colleagues and the three departments.

DB: And what’s your research background?

ALS: I’m a scholar of public spaces, and primarily I’m interested in how public spaces in the city can be better planned and designed for different groups of people, with a particular emphasis on vulnerable groups or groups that are often underrepresented. I have looked into children, older adults, different ethnic groups, women, disabled folks, unhoused folks. … My background combines architecture and urban planning, and my area is mostly the field of urban design. But this is not simply large-scale architecture – it is all the social, economic, political and cultural issues that affect urban form and how we should plan and design environments that fit very different needs of people who are in the city.

DB: What current projects is the School of Public Affairs working on?

ALS: There are three projects that I would like to push forward during my term as interim dean. One is a proposal for a free-standing degree for a master’s of real estate development that the department of urban planning has put together. I was part of a three-person committee that created this proposal, and I’m working now with the different UCLA academic units as well as our advisory board, which is very much in support of this proposal, to pass it through the various committees of UCLA and then University of California Office of the President. The second thing is a master’s degree in global public affairs. I have a tremendous interest in both domestic and global issues, and I think a first-tier school of public affairs should have a global profile, and we should be educating global citizens. That’s why I was very much involved in the establishment of some of the global exchanges that the school has, such as a dual degree with the department of urban planning and the Institut d’études politiques de Paris, where the students come for one year at UCLA and the second year go to Paris, and they get two master’s degrees. That’s very popular, so we want to take this one step further and create a master’s degree in global public affairs that will be a schoolwide degree. And the third initiative I would like to start is a certificate or a one-year program in e-governance and digital technologies and public policy, because I feel that there are terrific new digital tools that I think a number of our alums that graduated 10 years ago have not had the privilege of getting educated on, and it would be a useful certificate or degree to give them this knowledge. So these are the three initiatives that I would like to work on in the next two or three years.

DB: How would the student body of the Luskin School grow if these plans were implemented?

ALS: The incoming real estate program cohort is 40 or 50 students, and the global public affairs program may start with 20 to 25 students.

DB: What does the timeline for these new programs look like, and what support is needed from the administration?

ALS: The review of proposals in the UC system is quite time-consuming because it needs to go through various committees. And the global public affairs program will be a state-supported program, so there is a different type of review. The real estate development program is going to be free-standing, not state-supported, and that has additional reviews, and it needs to be ultimately approved by the UCOP and the UC Board of Regents, so it is an even longer process. Usually, they take at least a couple of years at the minimum for all these reviews to go through. They’re very extensive, for good reasons. The UCLA committees want to make sure that what the school wants to offer is of the best possible quality, that there is a market for it and that it doesn’t compete with other UC programs. So the onus is on the school to give evidence that all this is happening.

DB: Is there anything else about your new position or the Luskin School that you think students should know about?

ALS: Number one, I’m very aware that the school and all the student body went through a triple whammy in that we had COVID-19, and then we had the strike and all the disagreements and awkwardness that this brought, and then we had a sudden resignation of a dean. So all this has really affected people in different ways, and so one of my first priorities is morale. I’m initiating town hall meetings with the advisory board, faculty and staff, and students to really start the healing process. The second thing I want to say is we are entering a period of economic hardship because the California budget is not looking great, and financial repercussions on departments as a result of the strike. So on the one hand, it is great that our teaching assistants and graduate student researchers are finally going to get paid better wages and salaries. On the other hand, the departments and schools have to identify places to cut their budgets, which means that we really have to promote initiatives, and we have to promote fundraising. My purpose is, whatever cuts we might have, to protect the quality of the curriculum, but also protect the fellowships for the most vulnerable students. So I don’t want to have any cuts there. This should be the first priority. And of course, I’m hoping that with these new initiatives in combination with the continuing fundraising and accelerating fundraising, we can recover from the very serious economic wounds that we’re facing along with other units on campus.

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Alexandra Kaiser | Campus politics editor
Kaiser is the 2022-2023 campus politics editor. She was previously a News reporter and Opinion columnist. She is also a third-year communication and political science student.
Kaiser is the 2022-2023 campus politics editor. She was previously a News reporter and Opinion columnist. She is also a third-year communication and political science student.
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