UCLA Undergraduate Education Initiatives invites the Bruin community and broader public to participate in a year-long series of events inspired by the UCLA Cluster Program’s model of dynamic, multidisciplinary engagement with a “Big Idea.”

For the 2020-21 academic year, the Big Idea is the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic. All events will be live-streamed and open to everyone.

Upcoming Event

Please check back often for program updates.  Reach out to Dr. Sara Burdorff with any comments or questions about this series.

The goals of this “Big Idea” series include:

To bring people together, to help understand the COVID-19 pandemic from a diverse range of perspectives.

The pandemic has touched every aspect of our lives, in every corner of the world.

Each event in this series will focus on one broad topic related to COVID-19, asking questions and offering insights into key areas of impact—including politics and media; race and social inequality; education and childhood development; mental health; bioscience; the environment; and global culture.

To promote engagement with a particular Big Idea.

Cluster courses at UCLA take our students’ experiences of shared conversation with faculty and other leaders, and build on them to generate impactful, action-driven awareness of important ideas.

Following this model on a larger scale, each event in this Community Cluster series will be accompanied by expert recommendations for further reading, places to learn more, and opportunities to get and stay involved. With these curated resources, we hope to enhance awareness, build connections, and inspire further action among our participants.

To enable broader participation in the UCLA Cluster program experience.

The opportunity to take a Cluster is usually available only to our first-year students. This program will allow all of our students, their families, our alumni, and community members—local, national, and global—unprecedented access to this unique way of learning at UCLA.

For more information about these challenging, dynamic courses, please visit https://www.uei.ucla.edu/academic-programs/ucla-cluster-program/

Our events, like our clusters, will be dialogue-based, and welcome a wide variety of voices into generative and respectful conversation.


The 2020 Election, Public Perspectives, and COVID-19

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How has COVID-19 changed the way Americans approach politics? How do personal beliefs affect the way we behave during the pandemic?  How do we study what ordinary people think and say about COVID-19 in America? Our panel of experts will consider all these questions and more, as they discuss voting and voter behaviors, polling and public opinion, and the spread of internet conspiracy theories during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Special welcome delivered by Adriana Galván, Dean of Undergraduate Education.

A special thank you to our co-sponsors, UCLA Alumni and the UCLA Latino Policy & Politics Initiative Voting Rights Project.


Sonni Waknin

Sonni Waknin is the Managing Law Fellow at the UCLA Voting Rights Project and a UCLA School of Law class of 2020 Graduate and graduate of the David J. Epstein Program in Public Interest Law and Policy Program. Sonni believes that to ensure an equitable democracy, elections must be free, fair, and devoid of systemic racism. Voting is the right that protects all other rights and must be defended. Sonni recently worked on the UCLA Voting Rights Project: Vote-By-Mail: Debunking the Myth of Voter Fraud in Mail Ballots, a report aimed at addressing the concerns associated with vote-by-mail programs. Sonni has wanted to be a voting rights litigator since she was in high school. Sonni currently works on all of the VRP’s project areas and is especially involved in the litigation docket and vote by mail research.  Previously, Sonni interned with the ACLU Voting Rights Project and for Common Cause’s National Redistricting Project.


M. Keith Chen

Keith Chen is a Professor of Behavioral Economics with tenure at the UCLA Anderson School of Management. His research blurs traditional disciplinary boundaries in both subject and methodology, bringing unorthodox tools to bear on problems at the intersection of Economics, Psychology, and Biology.  

Timothy R. Tangherlini

Tim Tangherlini is Professor in the Department of Scandinavian at UC Berkeley, where he also serves as graduate advisor in the Folklore program. He has worked on computational approaches to stories and storytelling over the past three decades. Under the auspices of the NSF’s Institute for Pure and Applied Mathematics, he co-directed a program on Culture Analytics, as well as an NEH Institute on Network Analysis for the Humanities. His current work focuses on generative models of common story genres such as legend, rumor, personal experience narratives, and conspiracy theories.

Lynn Vavreck

Lynn Vavreck is the Marvin Hoffenberg Professor of American Politics at UCLA and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She is a contributing columnist to the New York Times and was a featured speaker at the Aspen Ideas Festival. At UCLA, she teaches courses on campaigns and elections, as well as a Cluster course on the 1960s.

COVID-19 Resources

 COVID-19 Multilingual Resource Hub

(a collaboration between UCLA’s Asian American Studies Center and Fielding School of Public Health)


A UCLA Health Survey to help track (and stop) the spread of COVID-19: https://stopcovid19together.org/

 National Voting Resources

How to Find Polling Place


Apply to be a Poll Worker


More on This Event’s Topics


More on the UCLA Latino Policy & Politics Initiative, including the Voting Rights Project


More on Sonni Waknin’s work with the UCLA’s VRP


Keith Chen’s paper on Stay-at-Home Orders and Political Affiliation


More articles from Professor Chen, especially on partisanship and behavioral effects


Tangherlini, et al.’s published article on COVID-19 Conspiracy Theories


Podcasts about more of Professor Tangherlini’s work on Conspiracy Theories



An article about Tangherlini’s conspiracy mapping


More on Lynn Vavreck’s Nationscape polling


An article by Professor Vavreck on COVID-19 and Voter Choice


More about our Community Event Partners

 Puerto Ricans in Action 


Positive Results Center



Education and Development: Schools, Kids, and COVID-19

Watch Now

What specific effects has the pandemic had on children and adolescents? How are educators rising to the challenges of COVID-19? What impacts have school closures and remote learning had on gaps in educational equity and academic achievement? How might the pandemic be affecting the neurological and socioemotional development of young people?  What can we do to foster resilience in children, adolescents, and families during these difficult times? Our panel of experts will consider all these questions and more, as they discuss coping, trauma, education, and growing up in a global pandemic.


D’Artagnan Scorza, PH.D

Dr. D’Artagnan Scorza believes that education can be used as a tool for civic and social empowerment in order to advance justice in communities. Currently serving as the inaugural Executive Director of Racial Equity for Los Angeles County, Dr. Scorza’s work has centered on building leaders who fight for equity in communities and schools. He founded and was the Executive Director of the Social Justice Learning Institute, and served the Inglewood Unified School District as President of the Board of Education.

Dr. Scorza serves as a lecturer in the Fielding School of Public Health at UCLA, is a UC Regent Emeritus and is the current President of the UCLA Alumni Association. For his work paving the way in advocacy, policy and philanthropy, he was recognized as one of the 40 Emerging Civic Leaders under 40 in 2018 and he received the UCLA Recent Graduate Achievement Award in 2016.


Adriana Galván

Adriana Galván is Dean of Undergraduate Education and Professor of Psychology at UCLA. She is the Co-Executive Director of the Center for the Developing Adolescent and Director of the Adolescent Neuroscience Lab, where she studies the adolescent brain, motivation and learning in youth.

Galván Slides

Sheryl Kataoka

Dr. Sheryl Kataoka is Professor Emeritus in the UCLA Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry where she serves as the Associate Program Director for the Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Fellowship. She is also in the Division of Population Behavioral Health where she leads school-based partnerships to improve prevention of traumatic stress and enhance resilience in school-based services as part of the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health-UCLA Prevention Center of Excellence.

Kataoka Slides

John Rogers

John Rogers is a Professor at UCLA’s Graduate School of Education and Information Studies and the Faculty Director of Center X, which houses UCLA’s Teacher Education Program, Principal Leadership Program, and professional development initiatives. He also serves as the Director of UCLA’s Institute for Democracy, Education, and Access (IDEA).

Rogers Slides

COVID-19 Resources


COVID-19 Multilingual Resource Hub

(collaboration between UCLA’s Asian American Studies Center and Fielding School of Public Health):


 A UCLA Health Survey to help track (and stop) the spread of COVID-19: https://stopcovid19together.org/

 UCLA Geffen School of Medicine #TeamLA Community Resources and Support:




More on This Event’s Topics

 (including links to resources, support, and ways to give and get help)

UCLA Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS):

UCLA Campus and Student Resilience Program:


 More on Dean Galván’s Work

 Center for the Developing Adolescent:


Washington Post article about the adolescent brain:  https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/wellness/what-teenage-brains-can-teach-us-about-thinking-creatively/2020/03/02/c1d96556-574c-11ea-9b35-def5a027d470_story.htm

More on Dr. Kataoka’s Work

DMH+UCLA Prevention Center of Excellence (COE—offering training opportunities and professional resources to sustain systems of care that are both trauma and resilience informed):

COE COVID-19 Resources:

COE Series for Educators During COVID-19:

Students interested in volunteering with the center can contact Shanna Rosenberg

More on Professor Rogers’s Work

Center X (transforming public schools):


UCLA’s Institute for Democracy, Education, and Access (IDEA):


“Learning Lessons: U.S. Public High Schools and the COVID-19 Pandemic in Spring 2020”:


More on Dr. Scorza’s Work

Dr. Scorza’s Website (including community links and volunteer opportunities):


Social Justice Learning Institute:


Business Alliance for Local Living Economies:


PATHS UP Engineering Research Center (changing the paradigm for the health of underserved populations by developing revolutionary and cost-effective technologies and systems):


More on Dr. Lester’s Work

UCLA Nathanson Family Resilience Center:


Family Stress, Trauma and Resilience Clinic at UCLA (parenting resources and find a provider):


FOCUS (Families OverComing Under Stress) Program (resilience training for military families):


EMPWR Program (Promoting Wellbeing & Resilience in LGBTQ Mental Health): https://www.uclahealth.org/empwr/our-team

Dr. Lester on COVID’s impact on Families:

UCLA Division of Population Behavioral Health:


More about our Community Event Partners

Puerto Ricans in Action 


Positive Results Center


Trauma Informed LA



Race, Inequity, and COVID-19

Watch Now

What has COVID-19 taught us about systemic inequity in America? How has the pandemic affected the way we think about race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status, and their relationship to health-outcome disparities? What other issues of racial and social justice has the COVID-19 pandemic emphasized or exacerbated, and what comes next? Our panel of experts will consider these questions and more as they discuss the pandemic’s disproportionate impacts on a number of vulnerable groups in the US, including African Americans, American Indians, Asian Americans, Hispanic Americans, immigrants, and incarcerated populations.


Sonja Diaz

Sonja Diaz is a practicing civil rights attorney and policy advisor. As Founding Director of UCLA Latino Policy & Politics Initiative (LPPI), Diaz co-founded the first multi-issue policy think tank focused on Latinos in the University of California. Diaz is responsible for overseeing all aspects of LPPI, including strategy, research, mobilization, and leadership.Diaz routinely briefs state legislators and local elected officials from across the U.S. on evidence-based governance and emerging trends in domestic policy. 

Prior to LPPI, Diaz served as policy counsel to U.S. Sen. Kamala D. Harris during her first and second terms as California’s attorney general, managing legal and policy issues of statewide and national importance, including civil rights, consumer protection, criminal justice, immigration, and privacy and technology policy. 


Laura Abrams

Laura Abrams is Professor and Chair of the Department of Social Welfare, in the Luskin School of Public Affairs. Her scholarship focuses on improving the well being of youth and young adults with histories of incarceration. Her ethnographic studies have examined youths’ experiences of criminality, risk, and institutions seeking to reshape their identities through both therapeutic and punitive practices. She is currently involved in several studies concerning juvenile justice, reentry, and transition age youth both locally and globally.

Randall Akee

Randall Akee is an associate professor in the Department of Public Policy and American Indian Studies at UCLA. Previously, he served as a David M. Rubenstein Fellow in Economic Studies at the Brookings Institution. Dr. Akee completed his doctorate at Harvard University in June 2006 and is an applied microeconomist by training.

Courtney S. Thomas Tobin

Courtney S. Thomas Tobin is an assistant professor in the Department of Community Health Sciences in the Fielding School of Public Health at the University of California–Los Angeles. Her research examines the social, psychological, and biological pathways that contribute to the health and longevity of Black Americans. As a medical sociologist, she integrates traditional sociological theories with perspectives from public health, social psychology, medicine, and the biological sciences to better understand the causes and consequences of long-standing Black–White differences in health. She also considers the multiple ways that racial minority status shapes the everyday experiences and health trajectories of Black Americans across the life course.

COVID-19 Resources


COVID-19 Multilingual Resource Hub

(collaboration between UCLA’s Asian American Studies Center and Fielding School of Public Health):


 A UCLA Health Survey to help track (and stop) the spread of COVID-19: https://stopcovid19together.org/

 UCLA Geffen School of Medicine #TeamLA Community Resources and Support:


CDC National COVID-19 Vaccine Information


 California COVID-19 Vaccine Information


More on This Event’s Topics

CDC on COVID-19 and Race


CDC on Health Equity


Article on Vaccinations by Race/Ethnicity


UCLA’s Center for the Study of Racism, Social Justice & Health, COVID-19 Task Force


 More on Professor Abrams’s Work

Interviews with UCLA Alumni Social Workers on the Front Lines of COVID-19


Article about the Luskin Interviews


Professor Abrams on the COVID-19 Heroes Podcast



More on Professor Akee’s Work

Marketplace Podcast, on COVID-19 Outreach to Native American Communities 


Co-Authored Brookings Article, “Natives are dying of COVID-19 at shocking rates”


EconoFact Article, on disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on Indigenous Peoples in the US


Featured interview on Turtle Talk, American Indian Reservations and COVID-19 


Open Letter on Inequities and the COVID-19 Response, with Chandra Ford, et al.


 More on Dr. Thomas Tobin’s Work

Sunshine Parenting Podcast, Race-Based Stress of Black Americans and Coping Strategies


SPQ Podcast on Co-Authored Article, “Race and SES Differences in Psychosocial Resources”


California Initiative for Health Equity & Action


More on Director Diaz’s Work

 UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative (LPPI)


California Health Report, co-authored opinion article, “How to Right the Injustices of COVID-19”


Governing Q&A on Immigrant Rights, Social Justice and Post-Pandemic Planning


Links to three articles on vaccine distribution disparities, and prioritizing disadvantaged communities


Study by LPPI: Examination of Prevalence/Impact of COVID-19 by Race/Ethnicity in LA and NYC 


Featured Interview, NYT Article on COVID-19 Health Disparities 


LPPI Webinar, COVID-19’s Impacts on California’s most vulnerable communities


LPPI Research Library, for numerous other articles, interviews, and resources on COVID-19


More about our Community Event Partners

 Puerto Ricans in Action 


 Positive Results Center


 Trauma Informed LA


Please check back often for program updates. Reach out to Dr. Sara Burdorff with any comments or questions about this series.