With the launch of Creating the Future: UCLA Strategic Plan 2023–28 last fall, we established an ambitious roadmap for UCLA that aims to expand our impact across campus, our city and the world. The plan articulates five goals that will help us achieve this, including one goal focused squarely on deepening our engagement with Los Angeles. As the only major public research university in a global city, UCLA is uniquely positioned to better serve, learn from and connect with Los Angeles.
To further this goal, I am pleased to announce the appointment of Michelle Caswell, professor in the Department of Information Studies, as our inaugural special advisor to the executive vice chancellor and provost on community-engaged scholarship — the research and creative activities that partner us with and positively impact people in our city and region. Among her duties in this role, she will lead efforts to advance the recognition and evaluation of community-engaged and public impact scholarship, as well as creative activity, in academic personnel review; help address institutional barriers to community-engaged research; network with campus colleagues to connect community-engaged scholarship to other institutional priorities and initiatives; and advise on the development of metrics to track the quality and impact of UCLA’s community partnerships.
A member of the UCLA School of Education & Information Studies faculty since 2012, and an affiliated member of the Asian American studies department, Professor Caswell’s research focuses on supporting community-based archives, assessing the public impact of digital memory work and building critical archival theory. She served as interim chair of the information studies department from 2021–22. As founder and co-director of the UCLA Community Archives Lab since 2016, Professor Caswell directs a team of graduate students who support local community archives through paid internships funded by the Mellon Foundation. In 2008, she co-founded the South Asian American Digital Archive, an online repository that documents and provides access to the stories of South Asian Americans. She is the author of two books, Urgent Archives: Enacting Liberatory Memory Work and Archiving the Unspeakable: Silence, Memory and the Photographic Record in Cambodia, as well as more than four dozen peer-reviewed articles.
Professor Caswell has received numerous awards for her research and teaching, including the Chancellor’s Award for Community-Engaged Scholarship in 2021 for “Digital Archives, Communities and Memory,” a project in which undergraduate students completed archival work for two digital community archives: the South Asian American Digital Archive and the Texas After Violence Project. She earned her bachelor’s degree in religion from Columbia University; her master of theological studies in world religions focusing on South Asia from Harvard University; her master of library and information science from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee; and her Ph.D. from the School of Library and Information Studies from the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
Along with Shalom Staub, assistant dean and executive director of the Center for Community Engagement, Professor Caswell will co-chair and convene a new network of Community Engagement Advisors who will help identify, support and coordinate engagement activities within their schools and divisions and across campus:
- Corinne Bendersky – Anderson School of Management
- Maylei Blackwell – Division of Social Sciences
- Anya Booker – School of the Arts and Architecture
- Arleen Brown – David Geffen School of Medicine
- Genevieve Carpio – Institute of American Cultures
- Kristen Choi – School of Nursing
- Alina Dorian – Fielding School of Public Health
- Annamarie Francois – School of Education & Information Studies
- May Hong HaDuong – Library
- Jennifer Jay – Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science
- David Kim – Division of Humanities
- Tracey Parr – School of Law
- Helen Rees – Alpert School of Music
- David Saltzberg – Division of Physical Sciences
- Leah J. Vriesman – Extension
- Fabian Wagmister – School of Theater, Film and Television
- Laura Wray-Lake – Luskin School of Public Affairs
- Fariba Younai – School of Dentistry
- Alden Young – International Institute
This group’s charge includes creating an inventory of community-engaged scholarly work and creative activity happening within their schools or divisions; creating opportunities for colleagues to network and explore areas where their interests intersect; and assembling and disseminating best practices in community-engaged research and creative activity and teaching.
I look forward to all Professor Caswell and the Community Engagement Advisors will accomplish toward our goal of deepening UCLA’s engagement with Los Angeles, and I hope you will partner with them to advance this important effort.
Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost