Spring 2023 Update

Photo by Melissa Woo

Our commitment to access, service and excellence is on full display in my Spring 2023 Update.

I am excited to share the launch of our UCLA Affordability Initiative, a $25.3 million grant from the state of California that is expanding the work of the UCLA Health Homeless Healthcare Collaborative, and new arts projects — including the recently completed transformation of the Hammer Museum.

In this issue

01. Alumnus Gift Launches UCLA Affordability Initiative

02. State Grant Supports UCLA Homeless Healthcare Collaborative

03. Arts Reimagined in the Neighborhood

Alumnus Gift Launches UCLA Affordability Initiative

With a commitment of $15 million for undergraduate scholarships, alumnus Peter Merlone is helping launch the UCLA Affordability Initiative. This gift will make it possible for our university to award new scholarships of approximately $20,000 over four years and impact the lives of about 700 students. The scholarships will first be awarded in 2024.

UCLA was founded on the idea that a top-tier education should be available to all those with talent and drive, regardless of their background or financial circumstances. The UCLA Affordability Initiative will help make this ideal a reality for more students. New Bruins who are California residents will be eligible for these scholarships — which will reduce, or possibly even eliminate, the need for recipients to take on college loan debt. 

Indeed, while the cost to attend UCLA is low compared to our private peers, it can still be prohibitively expensive for some — especially when you consider expenses beyond tuition. Alleviating the financial burden of college is critical to students and their families. By offering scholarships like the ones funded by Merlone, UCLA can help students reduce out-of-pocket costs and the amount of debt they have when they graduate. This reduces stress on families, allows students to focus on their studies, and sets them up for success after graduation. 

Covering the total cost of education is a challenge for students and their families in a volatile economy, and Merlone — a 1979 graduate, California native and former Regents Scholar —  hopes the scholarship will provide today’s Bruins with the kind of financial freedom he enjoyed. In addition to his most recent gift, he funds other UCLA scholarships that support many students each year.

While the benefits of scholarships to their recipients is certain, the awards also benefit California. By helping us to attract and enroll the state’s top students, we are encouraging them to build their lives here — and contribute to our economy.

The UCLA Affordability Initiative will help us create a college experience that allows students to make the most of everything UCLA has to offer without the stress of taking on student debt. In the coming months, we will work to expand the initiative by securing additional donors to fund more scholarships with the ultimate goal of removing all financial barriers to a UCLA education. Nearly a third of our students are Pell Grant recipients — which means we educate roughly as many low-income students as every institution in the Ivy League combined. With the support of donors like Peter, we can help these and our many other talented students succeed, and make UCLA the number one choice for every admitted Californian.

State Grant Supports UCLA Homeless Healthcare Collaborative

Seven days a week, three specially equipped vans and a team of UCLA Health doctors, nurses and social workers travel to homeless encampments, shelters and other locations throughout Los Angeles County. They extend not only free comprehensive medical and behavioral care to those they come across, but also offer clothing, food and social services. Since the launch of the UCLA Health Homeless Healthcare Collaborative (HHC) in January 2022, its teams have had more than 9,000 encounters with people experiencing homelessness in the region.

Thanks to a recent $25.3 million, two-year grant from the state of California, this impactful initiative will be broadened in the coming months. The additional funding will allow the HHC to  expand staff and equipment and enhance continuity of care, communications systems and records management. The grant will ensure that the collaborative is more holistically addressing the health needs of those experiencing homelessness or housing insecurity.

Programs like the HHC bring to life UCLA’s public service mission and reinforce our commitment and deep ties to our surrounding communities. The collaborative was launched with an anonymous philanthropic gift, given with a desire to extend care to our most vulnerable neighbors. According to a 2022 federal government report, California tops the list when it comes to people experiencing homelessness (PDF): 44 people experience homelessness out of every 10,000 in the state. 

The program represents an innovative method of supporting public health and providing cost-effective prevention and treatment, but importantly, it also eases strain on other components of our healthcare infrastructure. A UCLA Health study found that about 85% of emergency room visits made by unhoused people are for primary or urgent care conditions that could be prevented or treated outside of hospitals.

As a public university, it is our responsibility to uplift the community around us. The HHC has pledged support and services to Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass and her housing initiative, Inside Safe. Additionally, the collaborative has partnered with numerous community organizations, nonprofits and agencies throughout the county; everything from the Salvation Army and Los Angeles Mission to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority and the Homeless Outreach Program Integrated Care System.

What makes the HHC so effective is that it has no walls or boundaries. The collaborative can go anywhere where there is need within the county to provide high-quality, equitable whole-person care. It is providing hope as well as healing by improving both the quality of health and quality of life in Los Angeles. 

Arts Reimagined in the Neighborhood

If you frequently drive through the intersection that marks the southern border of the UCLA campus — one of the most heavily trafficked in the county — you’ve likely noticed a transformation unfolding.

UCLA’s Hammer Museum now stretches the length of the entire block of Wilshire Boulevard between Westwood Boulevard and Glendon Avenue, with bold, eye-catching sculptures and street-level exhibitions visible from the outside.  

The new Lynda and Stewart Resnick Cultural Center, which was unveiled last month, caps off a two-decade-long reimagining of the Hammer Museum’s physical spaces, led by longtime director Annie Philbin. And there’s more transformation in store as UCLA’s arts institutions continue to build Westwood and our campus into a premier arts destination and space for gathering, seeing and learning. 

A few hundred feet south of the Hammer Museum on Westwood Boulevard, UCLA’s Center for the Art of Performance (CAP) is in the final phases of a sweeping restoration of the historic Crest Theater that will result in a new, state-of-the art performance venue. Opening this September, the UCLA Nimoy Theater will be a game-changer for CAP UCLA, and along with the transformed Hammer Museum, a force in reinvigorating the neighborhood.

The Nimoy will create new opportunities for emerging and established artists of all kinds. In this space, we will bring diverse city and campus audiences together to share exhilarating live performances that span dance, music, theater and spoken word — as well as interdisciplinary collaborations.

The theater also fills an important need for a venue of its size on the west side of Los Angeles. It will increase access to our programs by bringing them off campus and closer to the communities we serve. Read more about The Nimoy and stay up to date on when to buy tickets to its first season of programming on the CAP website. 

In addition to the importance of revitalizing arts spaces and expanding access for the community, at UCLA we believe it is critical to advance arts and arts-related scholarship. We recently announced our third-annual cohort of seed grant funding administered by the Chancellor’s Council on the Arts and the office of the vice chancellor for research and creative activities. This year’s group represents our largest-ever collection of faculty-led projects, and includes important and topical works of film, music, visual art and digital media that tackle issues of race, language, memory, belonging, climate change and cultural heritage.

Finally, engaging with the arts is an important part of understanding ourselves, our communities and our world — and thus opportunities to explore the arts should be available to all. With this in mind, UCLA brought creativity and artistry to the streets of Westwood Village for our First Thursdays event this month, which was themed “Arts Avenue.” Campus and community members experienced visual art, dance performance, music, and live poetry, as well as a special presentation of the innovative piece “Machine Simulations: Nature” from renowned UCLA alum Refik Anadol. And, of course, there were plenty of opportunities for attendees to make art themselves, some of which will become part of the May 4 edition of First Thursdays, “JoyFest.”

Photo by Ashley Kruythoff