In the fall, the School of Public Policy welcomed its first graduate students – the culmination of a decade- long effort to establish itself not only as a training ground for policymakers but to also address and solve the most pressing challenges facing the state of California.
“We are like a nation in many ways,” said Anil Deolalikar, founding dean of the School of Public Policy. He noted that California has the eighth-largest economy in the world. “California is a pioneer in adopting innovative policies to address some of its biggest social, economic and environmental challenges,” he added. “Many of California’s successful policies have been adopted by other states and by the federal government. The policy challenges that the Inland Empire faces are not entirely different from those confronting emerging countries like China, Brazil and Mexico.
“So the study of policymaking in California holds great promise not just for the state itself but indeed for the entire world. Within California, the inland region is likely the one where good policy will make the most difference, given that the region is the poorest and most underserved part of the state.”
Deolalikar began planning for the School of Public Policy in 2005; the idea was to “translate” the world-class research done at UCR and turn it into concrete policy solutions that would improve the quality of policymaking — and thereby the lives of people — in the region. He led a task force that met with department chairs, deans, faculty, mayors, public agency heads and policymakers throughout the Inland Empire to develop a proposal that made its way slowly through the UC approval process. Meanwhile, he launched a popular interdisciplinary undergraduate major in public policy, housed within the College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences.
In 2008, the UC Regents approved the School of Public Policy — only a week before Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy and the global financial crisis hit. Plans to launch the school remained on hold until the California state budget stabilized in late 2012. Deolalikar was then appointed founding dean, and in 2014-15, the school recruited its inaugural cohort of 27 Master of Public Policy students, who started the program in fall 2015. Thanks to philanthropic donations, about three- quarters of the students are receiving a full ride, and the remainder have substantial scholarships.
The largest donation to the scholarship fund came from Joseph N. Sanberg, an entrepreneur, investor and philanthropist, who named his scholarship after his grandfather. Sanberg’s grandfather moved from Chicago to Orange County after World War II because of affordable housing and development opportunities. Decades later, Riverside and San Bernardino counties remain the most welcoming places to new Californians for those same reasons.
— ANIL DEOLALIKAR
“The inland region is the key to revitalizing the middle-class California economy, and one step is to create a more robust civic life,” Sanberg said. “The UC Riverside School of Public Policy will produce a steady stream of leaders who will stay in the region and in California, creating civic energy and will lead to economic vitality and a new narrative for the inland region.”
This fall, the school will begin offering a concurrent degree program — a medical degree and a master of public policy — geared toward the university’s medical school, which enrolled its first students in 2013. “Many of these students are very socially conscious,” Deolalikar said.
In the works are possible concurrent degrees with the Graduate School of Education, a doctoral degree in public policy and a master’s degree in global health. “We want to be deliberate in starting new programs,” Deolalikar said.
The school has been actively reaching out to legislators and policymakers in Sacramento and Washington, D.C., helping shape and influence policy with research and technical expertise and also raising the university’s profile— whether in having faculty testify in committee hearings on diversity and student success or by inviting California State Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin de León, Anthony Rendon, speaker of the State Assembly, and Dave Jones, state insurance commissioner, to speak on campus. The school also produces a quarterly policy brief highlighting research on campus, “Policy Matters,” that is disseminated widely to public agencies and policymakers throughout the state.
The school is working with the university’s office of government and community relations to get faculty involved in state boards and commissions. Karthick Ramakrishnan, the school’s associate dean, has served on the state’s Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs since August 2014.
“I’m able to visit different parts of the state to hear about issues that haven’t been on my radar,” said Ramakrishnan, a professor of public policy and political science whose research focuses on civic participation and immigration policy. “I’m able to bring my demographic research to bear on questions we debate on the commission. Having expertise in the room makes a huge difference.”
As Deolalikar put it, “We want to be known as the go-to place for policy research expertise on California. When a policymaker in Sacramento or in Riverside/San Bernardino counties wants advice on a policy issue, we want them to come to us. We’ve already been working extensively with lawmakers and public agencies on immigration, water and environmental issues.”
As only the third school in the UC system to have a public policy school and the only UC to offer an undergraduate degree in public policy, the UCR School of Public Policy brings together the national and international strengths of policy faculty from across the disciplines at UCR to create an exceptional educational experience for students. For more information, please visit spp.ucr.edu
When entrepreneur, investor and Orange County native Joseph N. Sanberg funded seven two-year graduate student scholarships in UCR’s School of Public Policy in February, he named them after his maternal grandfather, Abraham “Manny” Rice. Rice was a successful Orange County businessman born to Ukrainian immigrants, and he lived by a simple code: Work hard. Take risks. Be humble. Give back. Face the unknown with courage. It is this code that summarizes what Sanberg hopes the Master of Public Policy students will use to transform the Inland Empire, the state and the nation.
Sanberg, 36, is an entrepreneur who has made it his life’s goal to eradicate poverty in California.
The scholarships, funded through Sanberg’s quarter- million-dollar investment in the School of Public Policy, were a gift because the SPP is change agent for the Inland Empire, Sanberg said. Its graduates, he said, will have the skills and the passion needed to transform the region as they assume leadership roles in government service. “As more individuals graduate from the M.P.P. program, they will change civic life in the region.”
Ariel Dinar, a professor of environmental economics and policy, is working on ways policymakers can create sustainable water-management practices. If they increase the price of water, policymakers may assume that consumers will use less – but in reality, some users continue in their usual habits and may even increase their consumption.
The policy may become “perverse,” borne of good intentions, but leading to bad results. “With that approach, we waste resources, time and the political support,” Dinar said.
Researchers can test policies in the laboratory, using games and simulations to see how different groups might react to policies before foisting them upon their constituents.
“It’s a much lower investment in terms of time, effort and political losses,” said Dinar, who previously held a post at the World Bank. “I am an empirical person who tries to find relevant results for decision making and improving livelihoods.”
To maximize the impact of his research, he also boils down his complex, 20-page technical papers into briefs aimed at policymakers, helping put his research on their radar screens. In February, he organized a conference in Sacramento that convened legislators, water utilities and agencies, and prominent experts in water economics from countries also facing scarcity.
“It’s to learn what works, what didn’t work, and what could potentially work in California, based on the experiences of other countries,” Dinar said.
The Center for Sustainable Suburban Development conducts research on the social, economic, ecological and political impact of growth.
Helmed by Ronald O. Loveridge, a professor of political science and former mayor of Riverside, the center aims to engage the campus and community with seminars and talks showcasing vital public policy issues. For instance, recent seminars have focused on how Stockton and Vallejo are emerging from bankruptcy; elected officials graded by journalists on vision, effectiveness, courage and transparency; the inequality gap and why fewer Americans today have opportunity for upward mobility.
For representatives from local government – cities, water districts, school districts – across the region, the center holds conferences on sustainability in cities. For students, it’s launching a new executive fellow program. A dozen or so graduates from UC Riverside and California Baptist University will work in a city or county office for a year, starting in September.
For residents, the center investigates local and regional issues and presents findings to policymakers. A recent study advised the Riverside City Council on best practices to integrate more pedestrian-friendly shopping and housing in two older neighborhoods in Riverside.
More broadly, in conjunction with the Brookings Institution, a Washington, D.C., think tank, the center is planning to examine the Inland Empire’s economic future. “What does it want to be when it grows up?” Loveridge said. “How will it use its assets and resources? What are the choices it is going to make? And how are these choices going to affect the growth of stable, middle-class jobs in the region?”
Nearly a half-century ago, Ronald O. Loveridge started setting up internships for students at local government agencies. Today, he’s placed close to 1,500 interns. In 2014, Loveridge founded an internship program specific to the School of Public Policy, which has placed interns in 15 to 17 partner agencies around the region.
In addition to interning eight hours a week, his undergraduate students also write book reviews, take midterms, write field journals and a final paper, and meet weekly to analyze the political process from formulation to adoption to implementation — or, as he puts it, “Who gets what, when and why?”
Students have a chance to test out their interests and to start building a professional network, gaining confidence and professional experience.
“You can’t talk about public policy in this region without connecting with the principal players in the region that work on economic development and quality of life,” said Loveridge, a former Riverside mayor and councilman with a wealth of contacts at local agencies.
The master’s students at the School of Public Policy will spend the summer between their first and second years in an internship at local, regional and county agencies, which may pave the way for jobs after graduation.
“Students need to know how public policies are made in the real world,” said Anil Deolalikar, dean of the School of Public Policy.
In 1974, Mac Taylor participated in a Loveridge program. He interned with the local county supervisor. That spring, he interned in Sacramento in the office of a state assemblyman. He worked on constituent-related matters, researched different issues and joined meetings. “My interest in public policy blossomed as a result of participating in his internship programs,” Taylor said. “It wasn’t just the theoretical or academic aspect. You got exposure to how government works, how to implement programs efficiently and effectively.” Taylor is now the state’s legislative analyst, providing nonpartisan and fiscal and policy analysis to the California Legislature. “How do you go from someone’s idea on what needs to be done to implementing in a way to achieve results that you want?”
Michael Huerta, head of the Federal Aviation Administration, is another former Loveridge intern.
As a student, he used to dream about working overseas with the State Department. Then he interned, at Loveridge’s suggestion, at the Redevelopment Agency in Riverside in his senior year. “It opened my eyes. I realized I’m someone who enjoys dealing with the nuts-and-bolts operation of how government operates and delivers services. The internship was pivotal,” Huerta said. “Professor Ron Loveridge was a wonderful mentor. He helped me understand that public service is all about making life better for everyday Americans.”
The Presley Center for Crime and Justice Studies examines law enforcement, corrections, recidivism – “anything to do with crime, in terms of preventing it or preventing it again,” said Director Steven Clark.
Since taking charge in 2013, Clark has worked at communicating the research findings of the university by distributing research briefs so that law enforcement, prosecutors, defense attorneys and policymakers can make better-informed decisions. A new multicampus collaborative initiative administered by the center taps into social science and law research across the UC system. “We’re broadening our message so we’re not only academics talking to academics,” said Clark, a professor of psychology.
Take eyewitness identification. In the past two decades, state governments have been mandating reform in eyewitness identification. Five bills in California have been introduced to reform eyewitness procedure, though none have been signed into law. Research has found such reforms haven’t increased accuracy and may even reduce the accuracy of eyewitness identification.
The center also provides financial incentives for researchers to write articles especially for policymakers and law enforcement personnel. This would be something “that doesn’t paper over the dirty details, yet is accessible to practitioners,” Clark said.
The center brings law enforcement and policymakers in the criminal justice system to campus, such as Michael Hestrin, Riverside County district attorney, and Ross Mirkarimi, then-sheriff of San Francisco. “Policymakers can tell us what’s important to them,” Clark said, “and what are the practicalities of implementing in the real world.”
The brand-new Blum initiative on Global and Regional Poverty focuses on research, teaching and outreach to improve the lives of the poor.
“For a long time, I’ve been motivated by the classic question: Why does the United States have more poverty than other rich democracies? I’ve done a lot of work over the years trying to puzzle with this question,” said David Brady, a public policy professor hired last July to lead the initiative.
He has an ambitious set of proposals, including undergraduate and graduate-level classes focused on poverty, as well as a program that would subsidize volunteer and internship activities. “Hypothetically, we can buy a student a plane ticket and they can go to India – or they can go to Indio, California – and volunteer for three months, making a difference with an intellectually rigorous component,” Brady said.
He also aims to provide grants for faculty and students. “We can’t fund for a whole year, but it’s enough money to midwife a research project, to help get them birthed,” he said. “If a faculty member is on the fence about a project with community components, we will get them the resources to fund their summer.”
In the works are conferences centered on pivotal questions about the social science of poverty, such as how to measure income and poverty. Experts will meet with faculty and give public lectures on campus.
“This will be a place where important conversations are happening,” Brady said, “serving as an incubator and idea generator for the social science of poverty.”
Meet the Inaugural Class Of the Master of Public Policy Program
These world travelers, entrepreneurs, full-time workers and parents are passionate about making a difference in the Inland Empire. Meet five students from the inaugural class.
From childhood, twin brothers Daniel and Darrell Peeden have never left each other’s side.
“Being identical twins, [that] comes with the territory. We’ve never had plans that were separate from one another,” said Darrell. “When one of us has an idea, the other jumps on board because we fit right in with that plan or goal,” Daniel added.
With several friends, the Peeden brothers started Sigma Beta Xi, a nonprofit mentoring program for disadvantaged youth in Moreno Valley, and launched a DIY technology company called Briko.
As Inland Empire natives, the Peedens hope to make an impact on the region. “We need people that are not only passionate but are educated to make really strong decisions on where we need to go as a region. With the education that we get from the graduate program here, we believe that we can make that impact,” said Darrell.
Darrell hopes to be elected mayor of Moreno Valley in November, the first time the position will be decided by voters. Daniel is supporting his brother every step of the way.
“As we take on these new projects, we hope to continue to carry on as we have been doing — in sync and glued together,” said Daniel. “Being a twin is an advantage and we try to utilize that fully.”
Violeta Aguilar-Wyrick came to California from Mexico at 15. A first-generation student, Aguilar-Wyrick credits her migration with helping find her voice. In pursuing her master’s in public policy, her goal is to provide that voice for others.
“People don’t realize how powerful our voice can be in making a difference,” she said. “That’s why it is important for me as an immigrant to bring a voice to underserved communities.”
Aguilar-Wyrick, who graduated from UCR with a B.A. in women’s studies in 2008 and is a mother of two boys, has run multiple political campaigns. She was part of California State Senator Richard D. Roth’s district staff for three years and is now a health and safety specialist for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU 121RN). Aguilar-Wyrick is the voice of nurses in the private sector throughout Southern California. She represents them and helps ensure that hospitals follow regulatory guidelines, train staff on handling health and safety concerns and provide support for the Safe Standard Campaign, which addresses workplace violence prevention.
Marianne Melleka graduated from UCR with a B.A. in public policy in 2015, but returning to campus to study the same topic in graduate school — even in the same place — is a completely different experience.
“In undergrad, there’s lecturers and Power Points, but now it’s much more hands-on,” said Melleka. “You have to take a much higher leadership role in the classroom, and there’s a lot more critical thinking, discussions and debating.”
Melleka chose the Master of Public Policy program because of the school’s unique mission of “thinking globally and acting locally,” a mission that resonates strongly with Melleka. An avid world traveler, Melleka distributed over 100 water purification straws to residents in Egypt in 2015. As she taught Egyptians health education, she realized that she could apply what she learned abroad at home. “My ultimate goal with public policy is to lower the discrepancy between the rich and the poor when it comes to health. Poor people, after all, aren’t just found in other countries. They’re right here in Riverside, too.”
From 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., Jesse Melgar is in Los Angeles, working for the California State Senate. He then commutes to Riverside, goes to a three-hour class at 5:40 p.m., then goes back home to study. The next day, he does it all over again.
Welcome to Melgar’s typical and busy routine as the communications director for State Sen. Ricardo Lara and an M.P.P. student.
“I have the privilege to access higher education and the opportunity to work. That’s my motivation through those long commutes and late hours of studying,” said Melgar, a Riverside native and first-generation student.
Although it can be tough managing both a full-time work and school schedule, Melgar says his roles supplement each other. Using his networks, he has been able to incorporate his job to benefit his classmates’ education. He brought California State Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin de León to deliver the keynote address at the M.P.P. launch event, and he founded the M.P.P. Sacramento Seminar, where the students will travel to the Capitol to meet with high-level policy practitioners and elected officials. “I am fortunate to participate in strategy meetings on legislation that directly impacts people’s lives, particularly low-income, underserved and immigrant communities.”