Three years ago in Spring 2006, a group of students in the Urban Planning Department at UCLA decided to create a student-intiated course. This goal of this course was to create a space where students could dialogue about revolutionary planning.

During this course, the students realized they never addressed  race and racism- the so-called “white elephant” in the room. After the course finished a few students decided they needed to face the most frustrating thing about their departments head on.

The students began to partner with UCLA’s Law School because the Law School already had a Critical Race Studies concentration. The Planners of Color for Social Equity (PCSE), an urban planning graduate student group, hosted a “coffee night”. This was an informal gathering that created a space for students to learn and explore the possibility of  organizing a course similar to the “Revolutionary Planning” course.

This led to the inception of the Critical Race Studies (CRS) student-led course within the School of Public Affairs (SPA) at UCLA.  The School of Public Affairs is made up of three departments: Social Welfare, Public Policy, and Urban Planning. The need to talk about race and to create a safe space to do so was widely realized across disciplines especially among the students of color.

Now in 2009, the student-led CRS course is still in existence. It continues to transform, and has brought forth a leadership of students that have made it their mission to institutionalize CRS into the core curriculum within each of the three departments in SPA.

It is also important to mention the three faculty that have been sponsors of the student initiated course. Each of them allowed the students to navigate their own journey of learning which proved to be empowering for the students involved in the course. These three faculty were :

Leo Estrada, Dept. of  Urban Planning

Jacqueline Leavitt, Dept. of Urban Planning

Laura Abrams, Dept. of  Social Welfare

It has been our pleasure to continue these relationships with supportive faculty that understand our goal as students who are working against racism. It is our hope that we will encounter a faculty that has knowledge of the Public Affairs fields and CRS that can be a permanent sponsor for our course.

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