2021 reflections: In an amazing year of achievements, nothing topped the return to campus – UCLA Newsroom

Posted: December 17, 2021 at 11:11 am

As we approach the end of December, its a natural time to look back at the year that was. In 2021, UCLA welcomed students, faculty, staff, alumni and visitors back to our home in Westwood, though of course it wasnt exactly the way things had been.

Different from pre-pandemic times: Masks remain present. Better (much better): UCLA officially opened the Black Bruin Resource Center.

Even with all the changes, UCLA persisted as a force for public good, guided by our mission of teaching, research and service. In the past year,professors continued helping us better understand our world with their research, students kept excelling in ways that make us proud and UCLA showed how it helpsmake Los Angeles a world-class city.

Here we present a look back at some of the most memorable UCLA moments and stories from 2021.

Reed Hutchinson/UCLA

UCLA Chancellor Gene Block welcomed students, faculty and staff back to campus for in-person classes after nearly a year and a half of remote learning with both a hopeful message and a surprise on Bruin Plaza. UCLA also opened two new residence halls, coming closer to fulfilling its promise of providing four years of housing to any first-year student who wants it or two years to any transfer student.

Christina House/Los Angeles Times. Photo use with permission.

UCLA Health oversees the largest adult ECMO program on the West Coast, treating up to 160 people per year. With the only ECMO ambulance in the region, UCLAs mobile team regularly stabilizes and transports patients from every hospital in Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino and Ventura counties.

Blanca is a miracle of medicine, said Dr. Peyman Benharash, the surgical director who led the mobile ECMO team that sped a gravely ill Lopez from Glendale to UCLA in mid-August. After so much sorrow and loss, tonight was something we really needed to see.

Reed Hutchinson/UCLA

Seeing how many people showed up today to a two-hour program gives me so much excitement and hope for what the center is going to be like, said Amanda Finzi-Smith, interim program director of the center, or BBRC. I hope this is the trend: Were happy, excited, we love each other, come into the center and hang out. Thats what I hope is going to happen the rest of the week. If this is just the first one, I can only imagine what the rest of the weeks events are going to be like.

The opening of the Black Bruin Resource Center was the most public of the many ways UCLA furthered its progress toward fulfilling its previously announced commitment to making improving the campus environment for Black Bruins, which were detailed in its Rising to the Challenge announcement in 2020. Also, this yearstaff and faculty in the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies collaborated across campus to build an infrastructure that willsupport faculty hiring, seed grants, graduate student fellowships andpostdoctoral scholarships for scholars whose research serves the study of Black life.

Abraham Ramirez/UCLA

Ivy Reynolds

In 2021, Monti and colleagues reported that two more patients with severe brain injuries both had been in what scientists call a long-term minimally conscious state had made impressive progress thanks to the same technique.

I consider this new result much more significant because these chronic patients were much less likely to recover spontaneously than the acute patient we treated in 2016 and any recovery typically occurs slowly over several months and more typically years, not over days and weeks, as we show, said Monti, a professor of psychology and neurosurgery. Its very unlikely that our findings are simply due to spontaneous recovery.

Les Dunseith/UCLA

Over the next seven years, UCLA will provide 15 new faculty lines balanced across north and south campus for individuals whose teaching, scholarship and/or mentoring has ties to Latinx experiences. Deans of schools and divisions may match these appointments for a total of up to 30 new scholars. In addition, UCLA will support 20 two-year postdoctoral fellowships over the next five years, again balanced across north and south campus, for work related to Latinx issues. We will also establish a new funding pool of $250,000 per year over five years for seed research grants for basic and applied scholarship on Latinx populations.

The Chicano Studies Research Center, led by director Veronica Terriquez, will administer the hiring of faculty and fellows and will manage the seed research grants in collaboration with the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Creative Activities.


For the 202021 fiscal year, UCLA received more than 75,000 gifts, nearly 95% of which were less than $10,000. Donors made 34,680 online gifts, and 24,353 alumni gave back to their alma mater. The campus also received 84 gifts of $1 million or more.

From meeting immediate needs to seeding recovery and rejuvenation, UCLAs diversity of donors and their passions and gifts are sustaining and advancing our invaluable work, said Rhea Turteltaub, UCLAs vice chancellor for external affairs. Thanks to their generous support, students, faculty and the campus stand ready to help society reemerge from the pandemic stronger than ever.

Meiko Arquillos

UCLA is also leading the rest of the University of California system in the number of employers registered at its virtual events. While other career centers have seen a decline in events and job offerings, the UCLA Career Center is thriving, scheduling multiple career fairs in various industries from business consulting and management to engineering and technology and registering almost double the number of employers at its events compared to the other UCs.

Leroy Hamilton

Archiving the Age of Mass Incarceration is being funded in part by a three-year, $3.65 million grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and it will bring together expertise from the UCLA Institute of American Cultures four ethnic studies centers and their established connections to local advocacy groups.

The project builds off of the work of the award-winning UCLA-based Million Dollar Hoods research project, a community-driven initiative that began in 2016 to map the fiscal and human cost of mass incarceration in Los Angeles.

Ryan Young

But this is not only a story about health disparities between whites and racial and ethnic minorities in the United States. A deeper look at the data reveals that NHPIs are suffering disproportionately compared not only to white people but also compared to other Asians. In fact, the infection and mortality rates for Pacific Islanders are alarmingly singular.

There are 1.4 million Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders living in the United States. In 11 of the 16 states that track their death rates separately from other Asians, NHPIs are dying at the highest rates of any racial or ethnic group. For doctors, public health experts and, most importantly, the people in those communities, the questions are why, and what can be done?

At UCLA, a groundbreaking study on the tragic impact of COVID-19 on Pacific Islander communities may help researchers and clinicians better understand the viruss effects on this population and provide more focused treatment as the battle against the disease enters a decisive phase.

Photo courtesy of Catharyn Hayne


The initiative is being backed by an initial three-year, $10 million commitment. One of the first manifestations of that investment will be a campuswide organizational structure called DataX Homeworld.

Through DataX Homeworld, UCLA will hire 18 new faculty members whose appointments will be shared with existing academic departments and will create six interdisciplinary DataX cluster courses on topics of societal or scientific importance that will be accessible to students without extensive technical backgrounds. The campus also will support 18 new interdisciplinary postdoctoral fellowships, as well as graduate student researchers and research working groups.

They seek to shine a light on the brutality and inhumanity experienced by Native people at Californias missions during Spanish colonization and beyond. To tell truths about trauma, enslavement, genocide and abuse. The truth around centuries of intentional obfuscations. Truth about the ongoing impact of settler colonialism.

Also:For a bellwether of progress in LGBTQ rights, look to UCLAs Williams Institute

Brett Affrunti

Changes are afoot that could maybe just maybe enable the village to evolve into a lively, college-friendly, 21st-century neighborhood. They range from the pandemic-induced loosening of city restrictions on outdoor dining to the Metro Purple Line stop coming to the intersection of Westwood and Wilshire boulevards. The Hammer Museum at UCLA is remodeling to become more inviting. UCLA is transforming the historic Crest Westwood Theatre south of Wilshire into the Nimoy Theater for live performances. And the Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games are coming in 2028.


The indignities and humiliations Black men even those who have made it regularly endure have long been seen as part and parcel of life in the United States among the Black community, a sort of Black tax that takes a heavy toll on physical and mental health.

A UCLA-led study reveals these hidden costs of being Black in America. Researchers who analyzed a national sample of the views of Black men and white men found that Black men of all income levels reported experiencing higher levels of discrimination than their white counterparts.

Black men face constant experiences of discrimination and disappointment when they try to contribute. They are treated like criminals in a society where they often are not allowed to achieve their full potential, said the studys co-senior author, Vickie Mays, a professor of psychology in the UCLA College and of health policy and management at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health.


The study found that the number of COVID-19 cases doubled and the number of deaths attributable to the disease increased fivefold in the four-month period after eviction moratoriums expired.

Those figures suggest that during the summer of 2020, there were 433,700 more COVID-19 cases and 10,700 more deaths in the U.S. than there would have been had moratoriums continued.


The new department brings together the existing departments of Germanic languages, French and Francophone studies, Italian and Scandinavian, but aims to offer a wider and more holistic course of study, focusing on the breadth of languages and cultures across Europe.

The term transcultural emphasizes shared European roots and an expanded focus on the perspectives of filmmakers, writers and theorists from Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Central and South America, and elsewhere. This approach allows for a more pointed, rigorous and comprehensive understanding of history and a more accurate contextualization of the European experience and legacy in the world.

Show Imaging

We build machines based on the materials we have, and steel and rubber have actually worked very well, says Qibing Pei, professor of materials science and engineering. However, were also limited by our materials, and certain jobs are impossible for robots [that exist] right now. So people like me are looking at developing soft materials and devices.

Todays innovators envision soft robots capable of performing tasks that benefit human health and well-being and that advance the discovery of the unknown. Pei and his colleagues are beginning to figure out what those soft robots will be made of, and how they will move.


Rong Fu, a UCLA professor of atmospheric and oceanic sciences and the studys corresponding author, said the trend is likely to worsen in the years ahead. I am afraid that the record fire seasons in recent years are only the beginning of what will come, due to climate change, and our society is not prepared for the rapid increase of weather contributing to wildfires in the American West.

The dramatic increase in destruction caused by wildfires is borne out by U.S. Geological Survey data. In the 17 years from 1984 to 2000, the average burned area in 11 western states was 1.69 million acres per year. For the next 17 years, through 2018, the average burned area was approximately 3.35 million acres per year. And in 2020, according to a National Interagency Coordination Center report, the amount of land burned by wildfires in the West reached 8.8 million acres an area larger than the state of Maryland.

UCLA Athletics

As we honor distinguished African Americans during Black History Month, the UCLA Division of Physical Sciences and the UCLA Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry have established a fund to support the departments efforts to advance equity, diversity and inclusion, especially through supporting students from underrepresented backgrounds. To recognize his embodiment of true Bruin spirit, they have named it the James. E. LuValle Fund for Excellence in Chemistry. The division and the department will each match donations to the fund.

Jon Stich

In the beginning, things were working pretty well in terms of outreach, but retention became a big concern, says Charles Alexander, AAP director and associate vice provost for student diversity. At that time, students were getting in, but they werent staying. You can recruit people, but if theyre not prepared to do the work or theyre not able to do the work, then you have to provide some support.

As a result, AAP is an expansive program with a multifaceted mission. The program advocates and facilitates access for students who have been historically underrepresented in higher education through the Vice-Provosts Initiative for Pre-College Scholars program. A partnership between UCLA and Los Angeles County school districts, VIPS assists high school students in becoming competitively eligible for admission to UCLA and other top universities. In addition, AAPs Center for Community College Partnerships works with California community colleges to assist transfer students with academic preparation and competitiveness.

iStock.com/Ian Dyball

Not a chance: Animals laugh too, researchers have observed. In an article published in the journal Bioacoustics, graduate student Sasha Winkler and Professor Greg Bryant take a closer look at the phenomenon of laughter across the animal kingdom.

They found such vocal play behavior documented in at least 65 species. That list includes a variety of primates, domestic cows and dogs, foxes, seals, and mongooses, as well as three bird species, including parakeets and Australian magpies.

Courtesy of Scripps Research Institute (Patapoutian), Andrew Brodhead (Imbens)

Alumnus Ardem Patapoutian (pictured at left), a professor of neuroscience at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, shared the prize in physiology or medicine with David Julius, a UC San Francisco professor of physiology, for their discoveries of receptors in the body that respond to temperature and touch.

Patapoutian, who was born in Beirut, Lebanon, in 1967, came to the United States in 1986 and earned his bachelors degree in molecular, cell and developmental biology at UCLA in 1990. His advisor was the late Judith Lengyel, herself a UCLA alumna, who was a professor at UCLA from 1976 to 2004. It was as a UCLA undergraduate that Patapoutian began working in a research laboratory.

Former UCLA faculty member Guido Imbens, right, shared half the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences with Joshua Angrist, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Now a Stanford University professor, Imbens taught at UCLA from 1997 to 2001.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences presented the award to Imbens and Angrist for their methodological contributions to the analysis of causal relationships. The other half of the prize went to David Card of UC Berkeley for his empirical contributions to labour economics.

David Greenwald/The Peoples Vanguard of Davis

Paul Abramson, a UCLA professor of psychology who was hired as an expert by Caldwells legal team to assess the psychological harm Caldwell suffered, conducted 20 extensive interviews with Caldwell between 2015 and 2020, in addition to interviewing prison correctional officers and reviewing court hearings and decisions, depositions, psychological testing results and experts reports.

In a paper published in the peer-reviewed Wrongful Conviction Law Review, Abramson provides an overview of the case and a comprehensive psychological analysis detailing the devastating and ongoing effects of Caldwells wrongful conviction and imprisonment. He also examines the historically contentious relations between police and communities of color and asks why corrupt and abusive officers rarely face punishment for their actions.

Verlena Johnson

But outside of her day job, Johnson is a mixed-media visual artist who creates vivid acrylic and watercolor paintings filled with symbolism. She has a spiritual practice that incorporates Reiki and meditation, has published a childrens book starring her 11-year-old son, Kai, and has been active in promoting diversity on college campuses.

Johnsons paintings are often self-portraits, and many feature her son. She weaves in symbols that relate to her African ancestry, such as Adinkra symbols from Ghana, which are often printed onto fabrics or carved into pottery and carry proverbial meaning.

I remember being in sculpture school as an undergraduate and one of the students, or several of them, asked me why all my subjects were Black. And I looked at them and I said, Well, why are all your subjects white? To which of course they didnt even have a response or answer. But because most of my portraiture are self-portraits, of course theyre going to be Black, she said. Johnson says she recognizes the power of representation and loves celebrating Blackness and Black lives.

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2021 reflections: In an amazing year of achievements, nothing topped the return to campus - UCLA Newsroom

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