Key takeaways

  • The UCLA Downtown Programming Committee has selected 31 UCLA programs to move into space at the new UCLA Downtown site.
  • Programs were chosen for their potential to foster community engagement and cross-campus collaboration and to make a difference in the lives of Bruins and Angelenos.
  • Seven of the 31 selected programs are scheduled to begin operating in the downtown space by June.

With the purchase of the historic Trust Building in downtown Los Angeles last June, UCLA signaled its commitment to strengthening its engagement with the city’s diverse communities and creating positive change for the people of Southern California. The campus has wasted no time making that a reality.

Over the next few months, the 11-story UCLA Downtown property in the Historic Core will begin to come to life as a collaborative hub where Bruins partner with local community members and organizations on a range of academic, research, arts-related and outreach initiatives, many of them focused on social justice and advocacy on behalf of underserved and vulnerable populations.

Among the 31 newly selected occupants of UCLA Downtown are programs addressing climate change and environmental justice, education for incarcerated individuals, labor and employment, housing and homelessness, immigration, public health, voting rights, LGBTQ issues, criminal justice reform, and the history of Los Angeles, along with a robust slate of community-focused arts and cultural projects.

“We are thrilled that this initial cohort of programs will engage members of the local community, position UCLA as a trusted leader and collaborator in our global city, and have a positive impact that will be felt in downtown and far beyond,” Chancellor Gene Block and Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Darnell Hunt wrote in a message to campus.

Program particulars

The seven programs below are set to begin operations at UCLA Downtown by June.

► Read about all 31 programs and their plans for the downtown space.

Advancing Worker Justice in Los Angeles

Center for Justice and UCLA Prison Education Program

UCLA Voting Rights Project

UCLA Law Centers and Institutes Downtown Engagement Space

UCLA Pritzker Center DTLA Community Catalyst

Division of Continuing Education and UCLA Extension

UCLA Government and Community Relations satellite office

Of the programs green-lighted by UCLA’s Downtown Programming Committee, seven are expected to be operational by June, with most of the others scheduled to begin moving into the space in 2025.

The 12-member committee selected the inaugural programs from among about 50 proposals based on their potential to foster community engagement — one of the key pillars of UCLA’s Strategic Plan — to promote collaboration across UCLA schools, departments and units, and to make a significant difference in the lives of both Bruins and Angelenos. A request for proposals for additional programs will be issued this fall.

“The diversity of downtown and its neighborhoods offers students and scholars unprecedented opportunities to learn from that diversity, to engage with L.A.’s civic institutions and to help find solutions to some of the city’s most pressing problems,” said Eric Avila, the programming committee’s chair and a professor of history, Chicana/o and Central American studies, and urban planning.

Being enmeshed in the heart of the city not only makes it easier than it might be in Westwood to forge links with diverse communities, he said, but the proximity of vital resources will be a boon for learning, research and service.

For programs focused on the crisis of the city’s unhoused, for instance, Skid Row is just blocks away. City Hall is a five-minute walk. The neighborhood is also home to a vibrant arts community and the main branch of the Los Angeles Public Library. The city’s court system, the Twin Towers Correctional Facility and key historical archives are all nearby.

“Being in closer proximity to the courts and law firms will provide additional opportunities for our students,” said Michael Waterstone, dean of UCLA School of Law, which had two programs selected to move into the building. And by providing a welcoming central space in which students and faculty can meet with and provide legal services to local residents and communities, UCLA Downtown “will enable us to strengthen our clinical programs, helping to bridge the access-to-justice gap and train the next generation of lawyers serving the public interest,” he said.

Acacia Warren, managing director of the Center for Justice and UCLA Prison Education Program, which is among the first moving in, emphasized that being downtown gives the program an advantage in visibility, developing partnerships, exploring networking opportunities and drawing on the vast expertise of those directly impacted by systemic injustice. “Being situated in the heart of the city,” she said, “conveys a strong message of solidarity and accessibility to our system-impacted and formerly incarcerated community partners.”

A new type of collaborative hub

Many of the new UCLA Downtown programs have common emphases and areas of overlap — in either subject matter, approach or both — and the programming committee and Office of the Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost are keen to encourage the type of flexible, fluid collaboration among participants that can lead to synergistic outcomes.

That will be a major focus of a March 12 UCLA Downtown workshop for the selected programs. Hunt said he envisions the space as an “incubator” where new programs continue to roll in and where scholars, students and community members can freely engage across topics and projects, compare notes and develop creative new approaches to scholarship and problem-solving.

With community-focused activities in downtown now beginning to ramp up, Hunt said he’s encouraged that UCLA is expanding outside of Westwood, connecting more broadly with the city and region, and continuing to deliver “on the opportunity and promise that a great university like UCLA offers.”