LASA Learns Public Safety

On November 12, LASA explored justice and public safety in LA via two thought-provoking field trips with law enforcement.

We met in the courtyard of the Huntington and boarded our bus to visit Pasadena police. Lt. Tracey Ibarra greeted us and Chief of Police Phillip Sanchez provided us with helpful thoughts on the education background his is looking for in his department, diversity in policing, and the critical role of community engagement. We passed around a (surprisingly heavy) body camera. For those students interested in pursuing a career in law enforcement, Lt. Ibarra acted as a terrific guide.

Then we went downstairs and met with members of Pasadena’s SWAT team. They explained the wide range of their work duties and we climbed on their vehicle and handled some of their (very heavy) gear. We jumped back on our bus as they headed out to protect Bruins at the football gate at the Rose Bowl later than day.

After a quick
(and delicious) lunch break at the Huntington’s new 1919 café, we boarded the bus and traveled through downtown to LAPD’s Rampart. Sergeant Juan Franco and Senior Lead Officer Victor Gutierrez talked about their career paths and their current work with the Community Relations Office. They conveyed the gravity of the importance of their work and weight they carry day-to-day as they approach every aspect of their jobs. We toured their space from the gym to the holding cells and walked away with a deeper understanding of the humanity of not only police work but of civic engagement more broadly.
We ended the LASA year with these two law enforcement visits and look forward to unpacking new issues and questions in 2017.

Athletics and Angelenos: LASA explores sports and archives in Los Angeles

On October 15, LASA explored sports in Los Angeles (as an industry, as a force reshaping the landscape, and as a cultural experience).

We met inside USC Gate 1 and were joined by Anne-Marie Jones of LA84. Her energy for non-profit work in LA guided us to think about the wide range of possibilities for future work in non-profits but also in sports outside the more obvious contexts of playing and coaching. She planted an impressive number of seeds.

We then walked to the Coliseum for a comprehensive and entertaining tour of the iconic space. From the Court of Honor to the locker room, we learned about the deep history of the Coliseum – as a sports venue (college, professional, and Olympic) and as a space for speaking events and concerts. Much of the history of LA from the 1920s to the present is wrapped up within those stands and on the field. Thanks to Niki Angleton who helped us behind the scenes and to our terrific tour guide, Sheree, for her depth of knowledge and boundless enthusiasm.

After a lunch break in the USC History Department, we visited the LA Archives Bazaar at Doheny Library. The Bazaar draws collectors, institutions, and people interested in LA’s past together. We interviewed many who were present about the scope and contents of their collections and how they got started. And we even participated in a bubble gum blowing contest in connection with a display on baseball and LA. After gathering on the front lawn of Doheny to share our reflections on our archive discoveries, we walked across campus and ended the day exactly where we started it – inside Gate 1 feeling like we had run a marathon on our day of thinking about sports.

Doing Business in L.A.: LASA visits Glenair

LASA kicked off our Saturday sessions on September 10 with a focus on Doing Business in LA. Gathering at the Huntington, our teams of students brainstormed their visions for “doing business” on the whiteboards. Colorful pitches for companies and cross-industry strategies for success impressed everyone. The restaurants and t-shirt manufacturing of tomorrow’s LA prove to be innovative!

We then boarded our bus and visited Glenair Manufacturing in Glendale. As guests of Ron Logan and Rob Tillman, we watched a slide show that provided the perfect context on the company both from a product/services perspective (because most of us didn’t really have previous experience with interconnect manufacturing!) and a corporate values perspective. Rob led a terrific tour of multiple buildings and ground operations of their business. We even met Rose, whose loyal dedication to her work and the company was inspirational. Thank you to Glenair for their hospitality and for providing us with lunch. We suspect the day enticed more than one student to become an engineer.

When we returned to the Huntington, we heard from Rick Wartzman about LA’s wealthy and the businesses they run. From the demographic data about wages to the biographical information, we were super impressed with some of our students’ knowledge about economics and wondered about the future of LA and her workers and businesses.

Finally, we welcomed Kyle Finck from the L.A. Times to explore opportunities for student journalism. Keep your eye on HS Insider (at to see if our students publish their work!

LASA Kicks Off Our 5th Year!


The first week of August we kicked off LASA 2016-2017 by mapping, scavenger-hunting, touring, and floating! On Monday, August 1, we welcomed this terrific class and created maps of our Los Angeles(es). Check out our varied and creative renderings of Los Angeles here. We devoted Monday to thinking about the scale of Los Angeles – geographically and demographically. After searching for hidden gems across the grounds of the Huntington Library and interviewing visitors about their trips to the Library, the students discussed race, demography, and the seismic realities of the ground beneath us with guests Allison Varzally (Cal State Fullerton) and Bob De Groot (USGS).


Tuesday we started at the Central Branch of the Los Angeles Public Library – the perfect location for the theme of the day – Los Angeles’ built environment and architecture. We learned about the future plans of the library (and how its numerous and diverse branches serve the surrounding communities) from Head Librarian John Szabo. Eager to move about downtown, Christopher Hawthorne, the architecture critic of the Los Angeles Times, led us on a walking tour after talking about his personal career journey and future work with Bill. We shared lunch in the shade of the Broad and then divided into groups to check out LA’s architecture in Plaza Los Angeles, Union Station, and City Hall. After what turned out to be an exhausting (and warm!) adventure through downtown, we regrouped at the library and Raphe Sonenshein led us through a lively conversation on politics in Los Angeles – the coalitions, histories, and thoughts about student engagement in today’s political landscape.



We returned to the Huntington Library on Wednesday to consider Los Angeles and water. Our teams of students estimated water usage of the different portions of the Huntington’s gardens and then we welcomed John Folsom, the head gardener at the Huntington, to talk about conversation, re-landscaping and re-designing irrigation in the face of drought, and his construction and repairs on the wells that deliver water to the grounds. After thinking about water usage in our immediate surroundings, Bill led Jeffrey Kightlinger, the General Manager of the Metropolitan Water District (MWD), in a discussion of water broadly – from the sourceDSCF3668s Los Angeles draws on to future plans given drought and expanding possibilities for opportunities for recycled water. After lunch, we bused to the massive and impressive MWD water treatment facility in LaVerne. Thanks to the MWD for allowing us this glimpse into where the water that flows from our taps is cleaned and tested. We toured both the chemistry facility (in protective plastic glasses!) and the 1941 Art Deco building. From the roof, we took in the skyline, the progress of the construction of new ozone treatment building, the solar panels that feed electricity into the grid, as well as the pools of water entering from the Colorado River and being treated.


On Thursday, we rested and then kayaked the LA River on Friday! We are excited about continuing our explorations of LA in September. See you then!


LASA Says Hello to Elizabeth Logan and Taryn Haydostian

In our personnel transition leading up to LASA 2016-2017, we welcome two new and energetic people: Elizabeth Logan and Taryn Haydostian.  Elizabeth, holder of both JD and Ph.D. degrees, is a cultural historian of the American West.  She is also currently a Preceptor Instructor in American History at USC, and is partnered as well with Bill Deverell and the Huntington’s Dan Lewis on a fourth grade curriculum project addressing the history of California for our state’s ten year olds.  Known to many of you already, Taryn is Administrative Director of the Institute on California and the West, and an artist whose major medium is photography.  Together, Elizabeth and Taryn will add much to the LASA team and LASA vision, and we are thrilled to bring them aboard as we ramp up another year of fun and learning with LASA’s high school participants.

LASA Thanks Doug Smith for Everything

Six years ago, Doug Smith and Bill Deverell hatched an idea that grew to be the Los Angeles Service Academy.  Together, they worked on lifting the program off the ground, reaching out to experts in the history and workings of metropolitan Los Angeles, raised money, and reached out to an extraordinary group of high school students, teachers, administrators, and others who share in the vision that young people are both our future problem solvers and our future.  Doug has been LASA’s Executive Director since LASA’s inception, and he’s been devoted, organized, thoughtful, and committed every step of the way.  There’s just no way LASA does what it does or reaches the young people it does without Doug’s efforts and energy.  We begin our fifth year of LASA in August of 2016 without Doug, who, besides spending his entire summer in London, is moving onto other obligations, other scholarly and teaching projects, and further work at the Colburn School of Music.  In saying goodbye to Doug – who has promised to remain in a senior advisor capacity, thank goodness – we salute him with deep and sincere thanks.

LASA Receives Grant from Ann Peppers Foundation

We are thrilled to announce that the Ann Peppers Foundation has recently granted LASA $20,000 in furtherance of our plans for our fifth year of student outreach.  We are immensely grateful for this pledge of support and philanthropic acknowledgment of our work and program.  Thanks as well to colleagues in USC’s Corporate and Foundation Relations office, especially Christopher Wiedey and Ericka Swensson, for their assistance with our proposal to the Ann Peppers Foundation.

LASA Works A Shift at the LA Food Bank

FoodBank 2016 BannerOn Saturday, April 16th, we all gathered early in the morning at the LA Public Library.  Our bus whisked us to the City of Vernon, amidst all the industrial, packing, and other warehouses of this gritty interior core of LA County.  For the second year in a row, we worked a long shift at the Los Angeles Food Bank.  Our task this year was different than last year; last year, we packed boxes for individual families. This year, we took things from the assembly line and boxed items based on that they were: canned vegetables, canned meats, water, snacks, coffee and tea, baking goods, etc.  As with last year, the assembly line set the pace – with our own Mr. Lee as foreman of the line – and everyone pitched in immediately and with the usual LASA teamwork.  “Need a veggie box!” or “Sport drinks ready to go!” rang out as we filled boxes, replaced them with empties, and stacked our work on palates six deep, five high.  It was a long shift of nearly 3 hours – we were exhausted – but we were all gratified by a) Food Bank worker Brian’s praise (“I want you all back every week”) and b) our weight totals: we packed 26,000 pounds of food during our shift! 

The food security crisis in greater LA is real, we all know that.  And there are institutions and people – and volunteers—trying to do what they can to put a dent in the need and the hunger.

We all learned a lot today, and our experience at the Food Bank won’t soon be forgotten.

Next month: our last meeting of this year’s LASA class!



Our huge, and hugely important, Los Angeles Harbor


Our huge, and hugely important, Los Angeles Harbor 

On Saturday March 19th, LASA learned about the Los Angeles harbor.  Our day began “in college.”  Bill lectured to us (at us?) for an hour or so, telling us about the history of the “Free Harbor Fight” in the 1890s.  The story was wrapped up in a package of ambition, secrecy, hydrology, politics, and the hidden archive of a Gilded Age mover and shaker in LA – an archive that got discovered in a public storage facility in Palm Springs twenty-five years ago (and which is now at The Huntington for scholarly study). 

Emboldened by our shared historical knowledge, we trekked to the harbor itself – our two hours aboard the educational vessel Caroline took us through the harbor’s highways and byways, and we saw just how monstrously big this enterprise is.  A beautiful, clear, and calm day: LASA took in the sights and the history of the biggest harbor facility in the United States, and our awareness of its power and meaning was brought home to all.

Happy Spring Break, LASA-ites!  Safe travels on your college visits – see you in April

Getting Around LA

BannerLASA_Union Station 2016

February 20, 2016

On the 20th of February, we turned our attention to transit.  How do people get around the vastness of the LA metropolis?  How do decisions about transit, transit systems, and the future get made? How are the huge infrastructural projects, like light rail and the colored lines of Metro’s trains, paid for?

As usual, we had the experts to help us.  First up was Laura Nelson of the Los Angeles Times.  The paper’s sole transit reporter, Laura is a font of wisdom about all manner of transportation issues, conundrums, and challenges.  She talked with us about her “beat,” about the political processes inherent to making changes in transit funding, planning, building, and what she thinks the future looks like for the LA Basin.  It was, like Laura’s previous visits to LASA, highly informative and accessible.

Next up: Denny Zane.  Activist, visionary, political insider and outsider, Denny is one of the major forces behind Measure R, the sales tax initiative which has re-made the basin in terms of light rail construction and planning.  Evangelical in his support of different paradigms of transporting people and goods around greater Los Angeles, Denny gave us a whirlwind and invigorating tour of new light rail construction.  It was exuberant, informed, entertaining, and Denny’s optimistic predictions about the future of LA – near and far – were exciting to all of us.

We then explored a portion of the transit system first-hand.   Dividing into smaller groups, we made our way from the downtown Central Library to Union Station via the Red Line.  After a tour of Union Station—the rail and bus hub for the region and the proposed terminus of the high-speed rail line that has the potential to connect Los Angeles to San Francisco in three hours—LASA students headed home via the Gold Line to Pasadena and East Los Angeles and via the Red Line back to the Central Library.