A Journey of Compassion and Insight: Reflecting on a Trip to Tijuana

Embarking on a trip to Tijuana, Mexico, with Dr. Sabith Khan as an MPPA student was a culmination of anticipation and eagerness, fueled by a yearning to delve into real-world issues and experiences. Having missed out on a previous opportunity due to lacking a passport, I was determined to seize this chance to explore and learn. Little did I know, the journey would profoundly expand my perspectives on the importance of public policies and fuel a desire for meaningful change in an area I knew little about.

Our first stop was at Xquenda Lab at El Colegio de la Frontera Norte, an open space for citizen science focused on the indigenous and migrant populations. Directed by Maximino Matus Ruiz and his team, the lab’s dedication to preserving indigenous languages through digitization was inspiring. Witnessing student research projects and indulging in sopes while overlooking the Mexican Pacific Coast fostered a sense of appreciation for educational initiatives driving social change.

Venturing further, our next stop was at Casa del Migrante, a sanctuary for migrants fleeing violence and seeking refuge. Run by dedicated social workers and volunteers, the facility offered essential services and support to individuals navigating the complexities of migration. Learning about the arduous journey migrants face, coupled with the bureaucratic hurdles of asylum-seeking, underscored the urgent need for policy reform and humanitarian intervention at all levels of the government. The facility can hold up to 200 people for up to 60 days. This conflicts with the 6 to 7 month current wait time for a hearing, so in the interim they help people build lives in Tijuana by securing employment, help to find housing, offer certification programs, and enroll children in school and provide childcare. The facility is funded by the Catholic Church, donations, and fundraising activities, and ran by staff and volunteers.

As a student of public policy and administration, the visit to Casa del Migrante was eye-opening. It shed light on the multifaceted nature of social issues and the imperative for compassionate, multi-dimensional solutions. The passion and dedication of the staff resonated deeply, reaffirming the power of empathy and advocacy in addressing systemic injustices.

Leaving Casa del Migrante, I was filled with a sense of urgency and purpose. The experience really prioritized the need to effect change and advocate for marginalized communities. It reinforced the importance of amplifying voices that are often silenced and the need for centering lived experiences and real stories in policy discourse.2 3 4 Picture1


Our journey concluded with a bittersweet visit to Friendship Park / El Parque de la Amistad in Playa de Tijuana, a binational park at the US -Mexico border. The park was inaugurated on Aug 18, 1971 by First Lady Pat Nixon. There were no border barriers of any kind at Friendship Park for generations. I couldn’t find the exact year that changed, but even after walls were built in 2011 San Diego Border Patrol officials still opened the park for limited hours each weekend through the slats of the wall. Over more recent years, this public access for US residents was restricted and in February of 2020, the park completely closed on the US side. Walking amidst murals and remnants of shared histories, I couldn’t help but feel the weight of missed opportunities for unity and solidarity. We did learn that there is a concentrated effort to reopen the park, and I sincerely hope there are ways for us as students to support it.

In closing, I extend heartfelt gratitude to Dr. Khan for his unwavering dedication to exposing students to diverse perspectives and social issues. His commitment to fostering experiential learning and nurturing compassionate leaders is truly commendable. Here’s to the next adventure, may it also be fueled by empathy, advocacy, and a responsibility and commitment to meaningful change.



MPPA In Action Interview: Public Service Entrepreneurship


Leo Casiple

A highly accomplished alumni, Leo continues to give back through his talents and unique experiences to several organizations, rigorous competitions, and his alma mater CLU. 

1. What motivated you to start Public Value, LLC?

I have always been fascinated by the functions that connect government, business, and the community. 

I grew up under martial law. When I became a Green Beret, I worked in many countries to help stabilize internal security. I offered national level military solutions, but they were not enough. Citizens needed financial, social, and other social safety nets beyond the scope and capabilities of Special Forces Advisors. 

I was fortunate that, when I earned an MBA in Global Management, I began to understand the underlying factors and methodologies that fuel and influence global economic momentum. When I earned a Master of Competitive Intelligence™️, I learned how to uncover blind spots by looking between the lines of annual financial statements, shaded intent based on organizational structure and commitments, and indicators not found in mission statements. 

But, I was still clueless about the public domain and about how policy is negotiated, created, and implemented. After I completed CLU’s MPPA program, I became more confident that with public policy knowledge, training, and passion for innovation I will help solve – in a holistic manner – the world’s most pressing economic, diplomatic, defense, and social challenges.

As it stands today, my company can touch just about every need within a community. I am excited that in my doctoral program, I will focus on solving global water issues. Water touches every community and industry. Public Value LLC will become central to global policies regarding the conservation, distribution, and availability of water. 

2. What is the mission/ vision of your company?

MIssion: We honor those who improve the world by delivering civic solutions where development, diplomacy, defense, and community converge.

Vision: A global organization that helps communities discover its value from within.

3. How do you see yourself contributing to solving some of the problems around us?

I am fortunate to have worked all over the world. Throughout the years, I realized that to solve problems, I have to resonate at the individual, human level by doing the following: 1) Listen and hear what communities explicitly and implicitly communicate; 2) Maintain my strengths so that I can help partners find theirs; and 3) Respect the processes and values of others, just as I would want them to respect mine. Everything else is commentary.

4. What unique perspectives has being a veteran given you?

This is a very good question. First, I want to make it clear I am a first-generation American who joined the Army out of economic necessity, and not out of patriotism. I was too young and self-centered to know what protecting others meant. Second, I lacked self-esteem throughout my life, but through challenges designed to test the individual, the Army taught me to believe in myself. Third, the military instilled discipline, leadership, and honor – traits that display vulnerability and courage, humility and respect, and a reverence for humanity.

Grassroots View. I am grateful for the opportunity to work in many parts of the country and the world. Nothing replaces meeting communities where they are at, resonating with their energy, and listening to their hopes and dreams. 

Decision-Making. The military trained me to plan carefully, assess attentively, and to make decisions prudently.  Some decisions are difficult. The Army taught me to make ethical decisions, even if those decisions are against the prevailing popular opinion.

Agility. My military leaders taught me that plans are tested often by antagonists and supporters. Being agile, not in a physical sense but in the intellectual realm, is a key element to creating sustainable solutions. Agility equates to stillness during chaos, elegance during turbulence, and strength during catastrophe.

MPPA Newsletter – Spring 2021

Spring 2021

Message from the Director

Director’s Note
Sabith Khan, Ph.D.

Welcome to yet another Spring term,

The Spring of 2021 is one of the multiple promises – the promise of cure, the promise of economic recovery, and the promise of unity. And like all promises, this season depends on us upholding our end of the bargain, to make all of this work.

The elections in 2020 proved to be not only historic but also saw the most voter engagement ever. We can congratulate ourselves that democracy has prevailed, despite some hiccups and that procedural democracy led to a substantive democracy. The next couple of months will be crucial as we deal with a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic and the aftermath of an election that was both historic and path-breaking. Tackling COVID-19 has been and will continue to be a top priority for all Americans, at the federal and state levels.

This period in American history is also a poignant reminder of the sacrifices that everyday Americans make as we go about our everyday lives. The postman who delivers your mail, the nurse who cares for the sick (and dying), the teachers who show up to work knowing that they may get infected with covid-19, are all reminders that decency and a commitment to making the world a better place exists despite the rancor, noise, and fighting between political groups.

Alexis de Tocqueville wrote about this ‘group solidarity’ in the America of the 1800s when he pointed out the nature of the emergent civil society in America. Writing in “Democracy in America” that “Societies are formed to resist enemies which are exclusive of a moral nature, and to diminish the vice of intemperance in the United States associations are established to promote public order, commerce, industry, morality, and religion; for there is no end which the human will second by the collective exertions of individuals, despairs of attaining (p.214).” Tocqueville spoke highly of the spirit of the Americans to come together to solve problems and address issues that were of common interest.

Fast-forward two centuries, while issues of inequality, access to healthcare have assumed center stage, we must not forget that solving these will require not just facts, but also a bit of imagination and ‘group solidarity’ and a focus on the common issues facing all of us.

How we resolve this will depend on our collective imagination and our ability to link our own experiences to that of the needs of our society. C Wright Mills, a Sociologist called this capacity  one’s ‘sociological imagination,’ i.e., to have a “vivid awareness of the relationship between experience and wider society.’ It seems like we all need to develop more of this to tackle the challenges before us.

The need to address this pandemic on a war footing is not just key, but the most significant policy priority, points out Amitai Etzioni, a political scientist and a scholar, who advocates “communitarianism,” a political philosophy based on the obligations of the individual towards his/ her community. This could also be compared to the concept of Asabiya, or group solidarity as defined by Ibn Khaldun, the 14th-century philosopher considered the father of modern sociology.

As scholars, practitioners, and thinkers, we are responsible for developing our sociological imagination and realizing our responsibility towards others, both as community members and members of a body politic. May our collective imagination bring forth a more healthy, united, and vibrant country.

Finally, I want to welcome our incoming students as well as those who have been with us for a few terms.

I am hoping to see all of you in person, soon!

Education Policy in Action

Loredana Carson, Ed.D.
Often things that happen on the federal level center on issues far from the daily life of college students and recent college graduates, but a looming policy on the horizon is worth following, especially for MPPA students. Joe Biden is proposing a new loan forgiveness program that will provide student debt relief of $10,000 for every year of national or community service, up to a maximum of 5 years or $50,000. Both graduate and undergraduate loans will qualify for the relief. Teachers, government officials, and other non-profit employees would qualify for the program. For more information, you can read the plan on Biden’s website here:

In addition, the President plans to fix the existing but currently non-functional  Public Service Loan Forgiveness program by ensuring the passage of the What You Can Do For Your Country Act of 2019.  The administration plans to have both options open to qualifying individuals. More details are available here

Another platform that President Biden often mentioned on the campaign trail was the concept of eliminating student debt in general. Now that the two seats in Georgia have been turned blue, it is indeed possible that this idea will continue to gain traction and indeed may even someday become a reality.

While the exact amount of the debt relief and the details of the policy implementation remain vague, policy analysts are discussing amounts ranging from $10,000 to $50,000. Support for the initiative is bipartisan but the amount supported appears to follow party lines, with Democrats pushing the amount up  and the Republicans preferring the lower amount if they support the measure at all. Biden appears to favor the $10,000 amount, which the more liberal consider to be too small an amount while the conservatives think it is too much.

The idea of forgiving student debt is not new, but since the pandemic, the need has grown as the economy has stalled and unemployment has become a real issue for many, recent graduates included. Before COVID-19, 25% of all student loans were either delinquent or at risk of default. President Biden has extended the previous administrations’ order to pause monthly loan payments for federally insured student loans until the fall of 2021. When the pause order expires, many more than 25% of the loans could be in jeopardy.

Many who advocate for debt relief comment that enacting this policy could go a long way to close the racial wealth gap as people of color have been more impacted than the general population and are therefore the most at risk of struggling with repayment. Analysts think it unlikely that Biden will propose the debt relief begin until Fall of 2021 when the current pause expires. The delay will also give him time to focus on other pressing matters regarding the pandemic and the economy and also to gather bipartisan support for the measure. There is some optimism that some form of debt relief will allow millions of people carrying student loan debt to be able to start thinking about other goals they have had to put on hold and also allow that money to stimulate the economy.

New Faculty/Courses

Steve Mermell The City manager of City of Pasadena will be teaching Local Economic Development in the MPPA program, starting in the Spring term. Mermell brings over 35 years of experience in City Management and related areas and is also on the advisory board of the MPPA department. Join us in welcoming him to our program.

Meet our New Program Specialist: Rachael Fowler 

Many of you have already met or interacted with Ms.Rachel Fowler, our new Program Specialist. For those of you who haven’t here is a short introduction by Rachael, in her own words:
“Hello all!  I am excited to start work in the MPPA program.  I have three degrees; Associates of Arts in Social Sciences, Associates of Science in Child Development and a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education. I ran a successful Childcare business for 25 years. I love working with children, especially toddlers. I am fortunate to be married to my best friend. Our two sons are married, and we have 4 ½ grandchildren.​”

Interview with Ana Garrett: Foreign Service Officer, State Dept., MPPA Alumna

Ana Garrett graduated from the MPPA program in 2014 and since then has worked for the U.S. State Department in various capacities. Here is a short interview with her that outlines her experience as a U.S. Foreign Service Officer. 

Biography: I was born in Wisconsin and got my BA in legal studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  In 1998 I joined the Wisconsin Air National Guard and served 7 years including 2 years of active duty after 9/11 for Operation Enduring Freedom. I also have a paralegal certificate in Corporate Law from UCLA. I worked in the Auto Industry for Volkswagen of America as a factory representative in California and then in Washington state.  In 2018 I joined the State Department as a Foreign Service Officer with a specialization (cone) in Management.  I am currently posted in Nouakchott Mauritania in Africa.  My next post will be in Amsterdam Holland. I have three adult children and two lovely grandchildren.  I enjoy painting, pottery, working out and walking my sweet Australian-Shepherd Luna.

1. Tell us about what you do and how you got to the State Department?
I currently work in Nouakchott Mauritania at the United States Embassy. I am a General Services Officer and I specialize in six areas of responsibility.  An American Embassy, whose main purpose is to represent and promote American interests abroad is a complex operation.  I focus on supporting the logistical needs of the Embassy and its staff. On a daily basis I might be locating housing for new incoming families, ensuring items are ordered and received according to Federal Procurement laws, confirming motor pool schedules are efficient and drivers have all of their training classes, or helping to ensure travelers have a smooth arrival or departure.  I oversee a large team of over 65 locally employed staff. It is truly the most challenging and difficult job I have ever had.  However, knowing I am representing my country overseas and playing a small part of a greater mission makes it all worth it.

2. What is your motivation for public service?
My motivation is two-fold, firstly I believe fully in the ideals of our country. I am happy to know that when I meet people overseas, I am a representative of the United States. I take great pride in knowing that I have been trusted with ensuring that the taxpayer’s money is spent wisely. Secondly, I really enjoy traveling and meeting people from other countries. It is one thing to travel, but to become immersed in another country is enlightening and often humbling. I also really enjoy languages and the State Department actually pays us to learn new languages.  I spent 9 months learning French full-time at the Foreign Service Institute so I could communicate here in Mauritania (a former French colony).

3. How did the MPPA program prepare you for your career? 
I was working almost 15 years in the Auto Industry before I got my MPPA. I knew that I wanted to serve either overseas or in local government.  The MPPA program was invaluable in allowing me to have the skills that made me an attractive candidate for the Foreign Service. There were several professors that encouraged me and even offered to review my personal statement for my application.  I will be forever grateful for the mentorship offered by both Dr. Herbert Gooch and Dr. Valeria Makarova.  For anyone considering a job in public service, I say without a doubt that the MPPA program was critical in my success.

4. What advice would you give to those in the program preparing for their Foreign Services Exam? 
I would suggest that you start off by taking the exam without much preparation. That will give you a baseline to get a feel for the test and to show you which categories to focus on. It is a difficult test, but you can absolutely study for it.  There are several books and sites online that can assist.  There is also a reddit group and yahoo groups where you can chat with other test takers. After passing the test, you will write essays demonstrating your leadership abilities.  If you are invited to the oral assessment in Washington D.C., I suggest you find a group of potential test takers and practice weekly for the assessment. This practice was invaluable, and I made friends with people who later also passed the test and became my colleagues.

5. Any other tips/suggestions on how to prepare for a public service, either locally or globally?
I suggest you focus on what you are passionate about. If you follow what you love, you will always have satisfaction and I promise the money will follow. On a practical note, educate yourself through good news sources about what is happening in the world. Learn who the key issues and players are on a global, National, or local scale.  Get involved in something that interests you and make connections.  Just be aware that although the world is a big place, we are all part of the community and more alike than different.

Student & Alumni news/ updates:

Matthew Standsberry was nominated to present at the annual Ventura County Public Works Agency State of the Union.

“It was an honor to be nominated and present at the annual Ventura County Public Works Agency State of the Union on behalf of Ventura County Water and Sanitation. This year’s theme was “Embracing Change, A Better Way Every day, The VCPWA Way”. This event required a lot of time and preparation, but was extremely rewarding to present the work that our agency does for our community.”

Erin Niemi, a current MPPA student has secured a public service internship with the County of Ventura. Erin’s internship is geared towards social media, public relations, policy implementation, research, and marketing and I’ll be working to do a bit of everything.

Matthew Gammariello clears CA Bar exam!

My journey through this MPPA program has not been far from traditional. It has not been traditional because on Friday, January 8, 2020, I passed the California Bar examination all the while still needing to complete two classes to finish my MPPA studies. Usually, when someone completes their undergraduate studies they start either in the workforce or decide for more education. My story might seem strange because I graduated from Loyola Law School and then decided to do this MPPA program. This is because it was not until my final year at Loyola that I found my passion which was public administration and service. I vividly remember taking Healthcare Law, Administrative Law, and Land Use Controls (think Urban Planning) at Loyola and from these classes, I knew that my calling was in public administration and service.

After I graduated from law school, I enrolled in this MPPA program. I can not tell you how much I learned from this program that will help me move up the ranks within a governmental agency. This program after law school helped refine my writing while I learned more about the history and complexities of public administration procedure and implementation.

While I took this October 2020 examination during a pandemic and after being twice postponed (from July to September than to finally October). I did this while completing my MPPA studies taking one class a term. If anything this whole process has taught me that perseverance and determination come from within yourself. I know this because I have been blessed to have had classes with a majority of the future graduates in this Program.  I still am amazed at what the future has in store after hearing your personal stories. Also, how a majority of you have jobs already in public administration but you have a thirst for wanting more in your career. This Program will give it to you in spades. “

Greg Sefain’s capstone project featured in San Fernando Valley Business Journal! 

Current student, Greg Sefain recently completed his capstone project focusing on the revitalization of the restaurant industry in the City of Pasadena. His project was featured in the San Fernando Valley Business Journal in January. Here is a snapshot.

Maram Alzahrani
Maram Alzahrani,  MPPA class of 2019 has been admitted to the PhD in Organizational Leadership program at Pepperdine University.

Kevin Young
Kevin Young, MPPA class of 2019 has joined as a US Probation and Pretrial Services Officer at United States Courts, LA Metropolitan Area

Faculty updates :

Prof. Chris Beck

Prof. Beck was appointed as the City Attorney for the City of Palmdale, beginning on September 1, 2020. Prof. Beck has been an adjunct professor with Cal Lutheran since 2016 and teaches Law & Public Policy.

Alex Balkin

In September 2020, Alex Balkin became the Director of Command Reviews and Investigations (CR&I) at Naval Sea Systems Command, Naval Surface Warfare Center Port Hueneme Division (NSWC-PHD).  The CR&I Office is the local representative of the Naval Inspector General and  objectively evaluates the effectiveness and efficiency of the Command.  Additionally the office is responsible for the identification, prevention, and remediation of fraud, waste, abuse and mismanagement.
Prof. Balkin teaches a course in Program Evaluation in the MPPA program.

Prof. Sandy Smith appointed to the Ventura County Workforce Development Task Force

Sandy Smith is a project manager of Sespe Consulting, Inc. in Ventura. He is responsible for providing strategic analysis and counseling in land use planning and project planning. He is a former mayor for the City of Ventura, past chair and current policy chair for the Ventura County Economic Development Association, and a senior adjunct instructor in the California Lutheran Universities Masters Program in Public Policy and Administration. “Huge sections of our workforce have been impacted by the coronavirus, especially in specific socio-demographic sectors,” says Smith. “The virus further compounded the divide between the haves and the have-nots. The workplace is changing, and we must find ways to retrain workers to help the county reemerge economically. I believe Ventura County is well-positioned. We have a history of working collaboratively across sectors, and we are a small enough county so that innovative programs can have an impact.”

Khan’s book wins national research Award at Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action (ARNOVA)

Dr. Sabith Khan’s book (co-authored with Dr. Shariq Siddiqui) “Islamic Education in the US and Evolution of American Muslim Nonprofit institutions” won the prestigious Virginia Hodgkinson Research Book Prize, ARNOVA 2020 in November 2020.

Founded in 1971 as the Association of Voluntary Action Scholars, ARNOVA is a neutral, open forum committed to strengthening the research about and helping shape better practice in these realms. For more information, visit www.arnova.org

Khan’s book release 

Dr. Sabith Khan and his co-author, Dr. Daisha Merritt also released their book, “Remittances and International Development-The Invisible Force Shaping Community,” in August 2020 (Routledge Press). This book is an examination of remittance flows between USA-Mexico and India-Saudi Arabia.

Events :

The MPPA program hosted two career events (see posters and links to recordings below). 

View the recording at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rhMHStZhelQ&t=2503s

View the recording at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tMa2YlPY8bo&t=3s

What we are reading : 

The MPPA program would love to feature you and your career and education updates. Please email us if you would like to share an event from your life. Send text and photos to sabkhan@callutheran.edu OR carson@callutheran.edu 

Connecting@CalLutheran – At this time, as we move along our gradual path to repopulating, there are no plans to continue the Connecting@CalLutheran webinar series. To view recorded episodes of the webinar, which was launched in March to bring us together while we were separated physically, click here.

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How to tackle disinformation – the single biggest challenge of public administration?

Sabith Khan, PhD


Imagine being in a once in a century pandemic. And miraculously, a group of scientists discovers a vaccine that actually works, all in a matter of months. Then, the vaccine starts to roll out. But there is one problem: a good segment of the population refuses to take it.

This imaginary situation is not so imaginary, as it is playing out across the U.S., today.

“I really don’t think it’ll work,” they say.

“I get sick every time I get vaccinated,” others point out.

Of course, you want to address their concerns and anxieties, given we are living in a real scenario and not an imaginary one, as mentioned above.

Dr. Gil Ayal, a professor who studies the sociology of expertise asks the question: “In an age when the federal government has attacked every conceivable norm, with anti-maskers questioning the legitimacy of all forms of expertise, how relevant is expertise in our world?” (Ayal, 2019).

In the U.S, this tension was manifest in the tug of war between Dr. Fauci and our past President, Mr. Trump. While the former represented science, credibility, and trust; the latter represented everything that was the opposite of that. The disinformation spread by Trump has caused lasting damage to the credibility of science – think back to his comments about drinking Clorox, Hydroxychloroquine, and a dozen other claims that had absolutely no claim in science. Here was a man, who was supposed to lead the country through a horrendous epidemic, making false claims on national TV.

If the crisis in science communication needed a metaphor, this moment was it. Thankfully, we seem to have moved past it, although in a small way. The skepticism that was sown in the minds of millions of people will bear fruit in the coming weeks and months.

So, how does one tackle disinformation and lack of trust in science?

The problem is not these anti-vaxxers don’t trust science in its entirety. The problem is the mismatch between science and politics, with each one moving at its own pace and priorities. Science is slow, deliberate, and thoughtful, while politics is fast, rapidly changing, and demands loyalty. Policy, on the other hand, is somewhere in the middle (Ayal,p.8).

The other tension that needs to be resolved to address this skepticism of science is also to tackle the issue of democracy and technocracy.

Building public trust in science and scientific expertise is also at the heart of this enterprise.

One approach, which has been pointed out by those who study expertise is to let people figure out what is a good approach for them.

Increasing transparency, inclusion, and participation in scientific consensus-building could be an idea worth exploring, he suggests.

As someone who teaches research methods, I try to impress upon students the need for understanding the skepticism that exists in some communities, that have been abused by scientists. Think of the Tuskegee syphilis study and other instances of gross abuse of scientific expertise.  This could well explain why some Latinx and African American communities today don’t want to get vaccinated.

With such historical precedents, it is easy for a clever politician to exploit the mistrust in science to push their agendas.

So, what is one to do?

The answer may be a complicated one. It involves building trust, working slowly but surely to make the scientific process open to the public, involve them in aspects of decision making and communicate to build trust.

MPPA Fall 2020 Newsletter


Fall 2020

Message from the Director

Welcome to yet another Fall term! This new academic year and Fall term promises to be both sombre and challenging given the surge of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. & around the world.

I want to take a moment to welcome the newly admitted students. While on the one hand, this is a very challenging time to be a student, given restrictions on in-person meetings etc., on the other, this is also a great time to be a student – you are witnessing how government agencies, civil society organizations and groups of people, including our university, are responding in creative ways to the challenges before us. This pandemic is a once in a lifetime event and will surely offer us many lessons, while it lasts.

With an election looming over us and a policy landscape that is confusing at best, this could be an important moment to both study and teach about public policy & public administration. States and counties seem to have taken on the healthcare and economic challenges and the lessons we learn from local government may be far more enduring than the ones we learn from national level policy making.

As of this writing, the U.S. has more than 5 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 – and experts suggest possibly many times more that are undetected – which means that we are nowhere near getting out of this pandemic anytime soon.

While much has been written about the pandemic and much more will be written about it, the fact remains that the study and practice of public policy and public administration has become more urgent than ever as we navigate this crisis – both individually and collectively.

If there are any heroes that we have come across, then they are the ‘street level bureaucrats,’ – teachers, nurses and millions of other public servants, who risk their lives to make sure that the rest of us stay healthy.

The current scenario reminds me of the famous scholarly debate initiated by public administration scholar Kenneth Meier, that we need ‘more bureaucracy and less democracy,’ meaning that bureaucrats are often more equipped to bring about ‘real’ change and are able to make sound decisions based on evidence, rather than politicians who are often swayed by electoral calculations and other motives that may not have a solid basis in fact. We are seeing this play out in the public sphere, on a daily basis.

With no certainty of how the pandemic will play out and with the world looking like a scary place, all we can do is carry on our tasks, no matter how insignificant or significant, to achieve common good. For students, scholars and practitioners of public administration, public policy and those who want to pursue the ‘common good,’ a good daily reminder is the oath of the Athenian city-state, which is embodied in my alma-mater, the Maxwell School of Syracuse University.

It reads “We will ever strive for the sacred things of the city. Both alone and with many, we will unceasingly seek to quicken the sense of public duty. We will revere and obey the city’s laws, we will transmit this city not only less but greater and more beautiful than it was transmitted to us.”

Sabith Khan

Master of Public Policy and Administration Program Director

MPPA Department Celebrates Our 2020 Graduates

2020 is a year we will never forget. Everyone scheduled to graduate in 2020 shares the distinction of being part of this unforgettable group of students who completed their studies in the middle of the global pandemic. While we look forward to celebrating in person in the future, whenever that time will be, we wanted to take a moment to honor our class of 2020. Congratulations on your remarkable achievement. We look forward to seeing all the wonderful things you will accomplish and all the ways in which you will put your degree to work! Best wishes for all of your future experiences! #MPPAForever

Douaa Addawu
Majd Al Malki
Sultan Al Zaidan
Jesus Alaniz
Abdulla Alkaabi
Mohammed Alshenafy
Kelsey Alter
Asatur Asatryan
Lauren Bueling
Crawford Coates
Audrey Darrett
Josiah Gonzales
Kimberly Dellacort
Lindsay Granger
Ashley Humes
Clara Magana
Haili Matsukawa
Christino Olivo
Miguel Rodriguez
Claudia Romero
Rachel Smith
Alexis Villegas


Teaching During the Pandemic

Loredana, Carson, Ed.D
The virtual classroom has become the new normal. Prior to March 2020, I had not ever taught a class in an on-line environment. However, once the decision was made that our Spring term was going to continue virtually, I learned the way every other teacher in the United States did, by jumping in and doing it. While teachers were scrambling to provide good content, our students had to deal with problematic technology and find a quiet place to go to school from home. I can’t say it was a seamless jump from the in-person classroom to the virtual world, but we made it through the spring and at least in summer had some idea what we were doing. I taught over the summer and will teach online again in the fall, using what I have learned to enhance and improve my virtual classes.

The mantra that I used over and over to myself and others was “Consider the alternative: no school at all.” Without the benefit of the internet and platforms such as Zoom, which allow screen sharing and breakout rooms and sufficient bandwidth, all academic progress would have been halted or classes would have been much less robust and perhaps even more self-directed and less interactive. Students were able to receive credit for courses and no one has had to pause or put their academic plans on hold while the world sorted out how to cope with a pandemic.

Along the way, several good points in favor of on-line learning have emerged. To my surprise, as much as I really enjoy in-person teaching and the energy of an active, engaged classroom, I have found it possible to recreate the relationships I had with my live students with my virtual class. It takes some work and everyone needs to be onboard, but once the strangeness of speaking to each other from our homes wears off, we can have good discussions and I can offer the students the chance to interact through the breakout room feature so they feel more connected to those small boxes on the computer screen. If students are willing to interact with me and with each other, they have even more options to participate through the chat feature and the easy polling function allows for periodic check-ins for comprehension and opinion. For students who sometimes feel dominated by enthusiastic extroverted voices, these alternative means of participation allow for more participation.

Higher education has taken the whole summer to decide how to cope with fall, and although some campuses in other states are opting for hybrid instruction, none that I know of are going for 100% in-person. Graduate programs such as ours are in a different space as we do not have residential students and the majority of our students are mature enough to understand the reason for the rules and regulations.

My students have shared with me the pros and cons of attending class virtually and they feel the same way as I do, for the most part. We all miss the in-class energy and time to get to know each other but we all benefit from less commuting, less time spent away from home and not having to be on our feet and out of the house from 8:00am to 10:00pm if we have full-time day jobs. For those students whose schedules are less taxing, they still enjoy the comfort of not having to arrange childcare for older children or not having to be on campus so late in the evening.

This new experience is what we make it. If we take it as an opportunity to become proficient in this new way of relating, we will be ahead of the pack as the world becomes increasingly dependent on virtual communication. Businesses are finding the same benefits, and additional cost savings, and are unlikely to abandon virtual meetings even after the pandemic has been contained. There are additionally environmental benefits that may improve life in our communities as we have less traffic and less pollution.

While it is not easy to embrace change and new ways of being together, it is necessary in order to keep on track with our academic goals and make progress towards planned degrees and future opportunities. Just like an in-person experience, you will get out of the virtual classroom what you put into it. If you go to class and don’t engage with your professor or other students, you will not get as much out of the experience as if you go in with the attitude that this can have value all around. If you attend class with the intent to meet and engage, you may find that a decade later you still are in touch with classmates (Hello Kim Rodrigues, Laura Romano, Yvette Redmon, Chris Collier, Gary Cushing, Ken Black, Carl Petersen, Raul Zapata, Marjorie Diehl, Tina Strange and others who I went through the MPPA program with 2008-2011).

I urge you to enjoy the experience and get good at virtual communication and participation. Although it came upon us in an unwelcome way, it may remain with us in such a way that we will not be able to imagine life without it. I’ll see you (virtually) in the fall of 2020 and look forward to hearing your experiences with virtual learning. Take the time to learn a few things about camera angles and lighting (light should be in front of you, not behind you; camera should be at eye level) and stay safe!

Reflections from an ASPA Founders Fellow

Josiah Gonzales, MPPA
I was accepted as an ASPA Founders’ Fellow for 2020 and was scheduled to present my topic at the Annual Conference, which was to be held right in our backyard…Anaheim, California. Obviously, things changed for this and everything else once SARS-Cov-2/COVID-19 emerged. The conference was canceled and everything was moved online. I’d like to say that I wasn’t affected by this, but that would be a gross understatement. There are always good and bad that transpire in and out of all change. For me, the change weighed heavier on the negative.

I did attend the conference and introductions online with ASPA Mentors and other Fellows. While there was definitely no shortage of passion, knowledge and experience on the part of both Fellows and Mentors. There was a gap that I was unable to hurdle once the conference and everything else that could be shifted online, went virtual. I made no eye contact. Shook no hands. Read little to no body language outside of facial expressions when meeting the other fellows and my mentor. This can be difficult even when there is not twenty faces on a laptop screen shrunk into a small square.

Although, what was easier for me to do was discuss the nature of my topic (Closing the Disparity Gap) with my Mentor, Maria Aristigueta, the Director and Charles P. Messick Professor of Public Administration at University of Delaware. Initially, I thought that my topic or policy proposal would be assessed and scrutinized as if I was submitting a Thesis paper. However, this was not the case. Maria did more listening, than I ever anticipated. Once she read my policy proposal and expressed her support of such an idea, I expected her to share some inside secrets about public administration that only a person with her experience would have. Secrets and knowledge of how feasible and how best to get it done. But, that was not the case. She just listened and asked more questions.

It was at that point that I realized, I had learned all (well not literally, but principally) that I needed to know in order to submit proposals, implement and administrate policies that reflected a need (politically or legally) that I perceived as important in an individual and society…closing the disparity gap.

Poverty and inequality, are arguably the greatest societal challenge(s) facing advanced societies such as the US. Indicators of such large-scale societal burdens are evident in the reduction of median wages, increases in families without health insurance, rising homelessness, and a lack of affordable housing. What is perhaps the most appalling discrepancy of inequality is not only of financial-economic concern, but those of principle. Personal tax evasion and corporate tax avoidance through offshore tax havens have contributed to a significant reduction of effective taxes. Worldwide, eight-percent of the world’s personal-fiscal-wealth is held in offshore accounts, costing governments over $200 billion every year, despite ambitious policy initiatives.

Now, how do individuals like me, who have defaulted on a mortgage during the last recession; went back to school during the recession; was a part of the transient-homeless-student population while acquiring a bachelor’s degree and simultaneously racking up student debt make sense of the future? Especially, when understanding that the homeless population by and large consists of the working poor? And I can’t top it off there, because I also live in the state of California, where I need to earn 3.6 times the state minimum wage to afford the median California asking rent of $2,225. Yet, corporate tax cuts have blocked 15,000 affordable homes in 2020 alone.

My policy proposal (if it actually was made into policy) would do the reverse and utilize corporate wealth to build what people want most according to Former Chair of The Gallup, Jim Clifton, which is create good jobs on a local level. This experiment should, in my mind, be conducted in states like California…where many of the largest and most profitable corporations are based. Ironically, California cities such as Los Angeles have the highest poverty rates, and, the state has the highest poverty rates in the nation depending on how poverty is assessed.

Although, I wonder…will another policy that the masses don’t know about and perhaps can’t care to know about, while they struggle to live, have any effect when considering the average citizen has no influence on policy in contrast to economic elites? Can a litany of laws and for lack of a better term “policizing” everything create more equality and reduce poverty? If so, why have things gotten worse rather than better? That’s a story that can only be told with a broader scope. At some point, there is only so much that can be done from a policy/legal standpoint. The key to changing the world, which is what MPPA students and practitioners hope for in some way or another, is to understand it and adapt accordingly. That doesn’t necessarily mean doing the same procedure, using the same tools or remaining within a particular field. For me, the changes that are important to me do not lie in the policy arena alone, but beyond as well.

MPPA Alumna Releases Memoir

The year 2020 marks three decades since 25-year-old Maria VanderKolk was elected to the Ventura County, California Board of Supervisors in what local media referred to as a political miracle. VanderKolk has now published a memoir of her four years in office: Mrs. VanderKolk Goes to Ventura County: How a 25-year-old neophyte took on Bob Hope, developers, environmentalists, and the political establishment.

The book documents how one of California’s largest parkland acquisitions came about, beginning with Bob Hope’s desire to develop his Jordan Ranch property (now Palo Camado Canyon National Park); through VanderKolk’s election in 1990 and her negotiations to secure a compromise; and ultimately to the acquisition of not only Jordan Ranch but also Ahmanson Ranch (now Upper Las Virgenes Canyon), Runkle Ranch (now Rocky Peak Park), and Corral Canyon. It is also an intimate account of a naive young woman propelled into the public eye, dealing with a painfully controversial land use issue.

“Often charming, sometimes biting, but always insightful, Maria VanderKolk tells the story of Southern California’s last great development battle of the 20th Century,” states Joseph T. Edmiston, Executive Director of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy. “Those who thought she was a doe-eyed waïf were soon disabused when she defeated a powerfully entrenched county supervisor and turned Bob Hope’s development nightmare into a National Park.”
Mrs. VanderKolk Goes to Ventura County is available through Amazon in both e-book and paperback.

About Maria VanderKolk
Maria VanderKolk was elected in 1990 to the Ventura County Board of Supervisors. During her one term in office she helped author one of the largest acquisitions of parkland in California history. After returning to her native Colorado she spent 20 years as the Communications Manager for the City of Arvada. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science, a Bachelor of Science in Business, and a Masters in Public Administration. She lives in Arvada, Colorado with her husband Mike.


COVID-19 in the City of Pasadena
On April 24, the MPPA program hosted Steve Mermell, the City Manager of Pasadena for a webinar on how the city is dealing with COVID-19 and related challenges. You can watch a recording of the webinar here.

COVID- 19 in Asia
On Monday, June 22, the Cal Lutheran School of Management hosted Dr. Rafiq Dossani from the RAND Corporation, Santa Monica on challenges and impacts on healthcare and economy, and lessons learned from COVID-19 in Asia.
Some key highlights from Dr. Dossani’s talk:
Regime type doesn’t matter, as much as the level of trust. The legitimacy lies in their ability to control COVID-19. In countries such as India, Pakistan, etc the level of trust in govt is low and the government reciprocates. The crisis with internal migration and lockdowns shows how this lack of trust has caused massive chaos
In Korea, national elections were held in the middle of a pandemic and people showed up; this was possible due to the trust.
The government did a wise thing in the U.S by opening the taps on liquidity and there was sustainability to the economy. That has continued as payments through the PPE program are ongoing. It would have succeeded in preventing a big crash. If the US government can bring down the virus, then we have a game-changer. If the breakouts continue, then the economy may be in for a tumble
Sri Lanka, a small country in South Asia has managed to effectively manage the crisis. They haven’t made public their work, the public healthcare worker system is in place. The contact tracing mechanism is in place in that country, which seems to have worked well. In India, there is a similar system.
You can watch the recording here.

Student Projects & Research

Maya Hoholick’s thesis is a case study on the Fox Canyon Groundwater Trading Pilot, which explores the statistical determinants of excessive groundwater pumping, along with better basin plans and actions for bringing California into sustainability. She presented at the Public Administration Theory 2020 Conference on June 11th, which was supposed to be held in Malmo, Sweden, but was rescheduled for a zoom presentation. She also accepted a fellowship from George Mason University, the Don Lavoie Fellowship for Fall of 2020, which explores key ideas in political economy and utilizes these ideas in academic and policy research. She will also present at the Third Annual Western Groundwater Congress on September 15th. Her presentation, The Fox Canyon Groundwater Pilot: Case Study of a California Water, will be featured on the Hot Topics Track.

Greg Sefain’s Capstone project seeks to find policy solutions for restaurants in the City of Pasadena. 

On March 19, 2019, in the wake of the Coronavirus Pandemic, California Governor Gavin Newsom ordered  40 million residents into lock down. The “stay at home” order came as the nation’s total COVID-19 cases rose to over 122,000 cases. Since the call was made by Governor Newsom, California has remained on “lock down” to control the spread of the virus. The orders have negatively impacted the state’s local economies.

In the City of Pasadena, the restaurant industry, is a considerable concern for the city during the recovery period. The effect of the “lock down” has caused a dramatic decline in revenue, forcing many restaurant owners to close and lay off employees temporarily. For example, a study conducted by the National Restaurant Association projected that the restaurant industry could reach a net loss of over 240 billion dollars by the end of 2020. In addition to the city’s business environment, the effects of the COVID-19 “lock down” could negatively impact the city’s fiscal year. The city of Pasadena relies on the restaurant industry as a contributor to property and sales taxes. This tax revenue stream is a crucial driver for the city’s revenues and the loss may have negative consequences for Pasadena’s revenue.

Recently, California has begun to issue guidelines for the restaurant industry to start reopening. The city of Pasadena will need to evaluate what restaurants will close permanently and which programs can be released to maintain the business that will remain open to the public.

Greg Sefain, an MPPA student at CLU, is working together with the City of Pasadena to create a solution. Mr. Sefain’s study carefully examines how reopening policies have affected the ability of restaurants to operate. The study also analyzes the impact of the virus on Pasadena consumers and their feelings towards supporting restaurants. In concluding the investigation, Mr. Sefain will present his findings to the Pasadena City Manager and City Council to support the restaurant industry’s financial survival. Mr. Sefain’s study will be the first nationwide to closely examine the economic impact of the COVID-19 virus on a city. As COVID-19 recovery continues to evolve, this study will aid cities across the nation to sustain their restaurant industry.

Student & Alumni Achievements

Cristina Nissen

MPPA Alumna (2019) has been appointed as the Development Manager, Special Events and Volunteers at Foothill Family, Pasadena. Congratulations Cristina! 

Sara Rivera

Has been promoted to the Public Health Program Coordinator position with the Ventura County Public Health Department. Sara is an alumna of California Lutheran University’s Professionals Program, and soon to be a graduate of the MPPA program in 2021. Congratulations Sara!

Should we flee the city to suburbia?

Joel Hayes, MPPA 

In late March, a new norm took over America’s cities. What were once thriving shopping centers and busy city streets became lifeless and empty as the new way of living in lock down became apparent. Freeways that once were the dismay of workers on their commute to the office were finally free of traffic as remote work became a quick response by companies and corporations to continue business and keep the economy open. In a global pandemic, not seen on this scale in a century, many Americans realized an opportunity to flee the cities (which had become the most dangerous places to be during COVID-19) and move to suburbia. This new movement became a new dream for some; a suburban lifestyle more closely attached to nature with parks and trees that provided a more idyllic escape from cramped quarters where rent for studios ran upwards of three thousand dollars a month. 

When COVID-19 eventually ends, what will happen to cities? Is this just a short term way of living for some? How do public policy makers adapt to such changes to make cities safe and sustainable? I will try to answer a few of these challenges for public policy makers in a short post.

A  New York Times article explains how, “For the first time since the tech crash of 2000, housing vacancies in San Francisco are skyrocketing, and rents for one-bedroom apartments are down by 11 percent. It’s not just in San Francisco. Real estate services in Florida and Arizona are reporting similar patterns”. Housing affordability, a serious problem in many U.S. cities, has had public policy makers scrambling for solutions. Different policies such as constructing more affordable housing and rent control immediately became divisive topics fought in city council and public meetings around the country. In a trending environment where affordability and lack of housing is no longer a problem, policy makers have a challenge to promote urban safety and sustainability and prove that cities are a place to live, do work and enjoy entertainment.

The same New York Times article points out how,” in the early 1900’s during industrialization many large cities were suffering from the side effects of rapid industrialization: they were polluted, full of high-density housing with bad sanitation.  In response, a new wave of utopian thinkers proposed moving to what Ebenezer Howard, a British urban planner, called “the garden city” in his 1902 manifesto “Garden Cities of To-morrow.” Currently, as cities struggle with entertainment venues, dining and offices shuttered, the movement of some to suburban communities is reminiscent of the “garden city” ideas during the early 1900’s. Yet for public policy makers, the allure of cities can be aided by technology, sustainable ideas, and the promotion of wellness values.

The Wall Street Journal predicts that “70% of the global population will be expected to live in urban areas by 2050”. With an increasing urban density, public policy makers will have to create adjustments to daily life such as providing public transportation that efficiently moves people through the city. As evidenced in the same Wall Street Journal video, if We-Work and other open space offices are the future of business, technology can be used to book conferences and social distancing cubicles and tables become the norm. After using a conference room, workers could disinfect and give people an added sense of safety.

During my trip to Asia in 2019, I was impressed by the cleanliness in a large city such as Singapore where public bathrooms displayed tablets where you could rate on a scale how clean the bathroom was. In some large buildings, air quality monitors provided trust as the air outside was heavily polluted. Cities can and will eventually bounce back; by providing visual measures of safety, citizens can feel a sense of security. The collapse of garden cities, as evidenced by the New York Times article, presents a strong argument that cities heavily reliant on automobiles lack the ability to have everything a person needs in a short distance. Urban planners can adapt to changing needs of the populace keeping green spaces to provide air and solace while being just a bike ride away from shops, dining and more.

Cities filled with diversity, culture and great ideas that transpire in their streets keep the economy growing and communities thriving. The pandemic, in the short term, gives those who can work remotely the option to flee city living, yet that way of living cannot be done by all. With rising housing prices in suburban areas, public policy makers have their work cut out for them.  There is a way for cities to bounce back and it will be with the new ideas that emerge from public administrators across the country that spur forward a new and better quality of life for city living.


The National Association of Health Services Executives (NAHSE), Southern California Chapter Aims to Clear $1.5 Million in Medical Debt for Los Angeles County Families with Community Fundraiser

NAHSE SoCal is launching a digital campaign with national nonprofit RIP Medical Debt (RIP) to help eradicate medical debt in LA County. Every $100 donated forgives $10,000 of medical debt. Individuals, organizations, and businesses can participate by learning more and donating here.

Here’s how it works. With every donation, RIP Medical Debt uses its precise data analytics to pinpoint the medical debt of those Americans most in need of relief: households whose income is less than two times the federal poverty level, whose debts are five percent or more of their gross annual income, and/or are insolvent. RIP Medical Debt uses donated funds to buy debt in bundled portfolios at a fraction of their original cost. Recipients of relief in Los Angeles County then receive a letter that their debt is forgiven. It’s that easy.

Since 2014, RIP Medical Debt has been providing this gift across the country and most recently in Southern California back in 2019. Christian Assembly Church in Eagle Rock was able to cancel $5.3 million worth of unpaid medical debt with over $50,000 donated during their campaign. RIP Medical Debt also works with credit agencies to restore credit scores after debts have been erased. Unfortunately, at this time RIP’s relief is random and one cannot request financial help. 

For more information visit https://ripmedicaldebt.org

School Response for Fall: Rules for campus

After much deliberation and observing the dynamics of changing public health guidelines, Cal Lutheran University has put in place guidelines for working on campus, including limited in-person teaching. You may access the entire information here. Given the dynamic nature of this information, the most updated information will be available on Cal Lutheran website. We encourage you to check guidelines and email the responsible people, if you plan to visit campus. 

IOREM Launches

The International Organization for Remittances & Migration (IOREM), a global collaborative of scholars studying migration and remittances was launched in August in Florida. You can become a member, if you are student or scholar, with interest in these topics. Membership will give you access to free events, publications and opportunities to network. Email Jennifer Holguin at jennifer@theplatinum.net  for more. For more information click here.

Book Corner

1. Precision Community Health: Four Innovations for Well-being – Bechara Choucair.

You can read a review at: 



2. Evicted – Poverty and Profit in the American City by Desmond – Matthew

For more information please visit the link below:


3. Ethics for Social Impact – Femida Handy and Alison R. Russell. Palgave Macmillan. 

MPPA Social Media

How can public servants help promote equity and justice?

With the recent protests against the killing of George Floyd, the focus is back on a segment of the population that is at the heart of this issue: the public servant. The police force is part of the machinery that has been, is, and will be a part of our daily lives, whether we like it or not. How they behave and treat the public will determine the future we will for ourselves. So, can we ensure that they are better ‘servants,’ to the public? If so, how?


My own training in public administration was at the Maxwell School of Syracuse University, the nation’s oldest and most prestigious school of public affairs. The school has shaped the study of public administration and one of the founding credos of the school is that administration is not value-neutral. Dwight Waldo, one of the most influential PA scholars to have lived in this century taught at the Maxwell School and pushed forth the idea that bureaucrats come to work with a value framework and they are not ‘neutral’ executors of policy. Using this insight, we may well face the world as it is, rather than how we want it to be. How these bureaucrats manage these values in their public dealings may well determine what kind of society we live in.

If we look at many of the problems that we face: environmental issues, housing, employment; there is usually an issue involving power & the use of discretion in how one uses it. The notion of how ‘street-level bureaucrats’ exercise this power has been studied quite a bit in PA. The concept of administrative discretion originated with Michael Lipsky and has remained a robust one. As many scholars have argued, offering bureaucrats some discretion allows them to make better decisions, based on client needs.

If one looks around, there are instances when abuse of power is often a result of this discretion. Whether a cop pulls a gun on someone or restrains himself/herself, whether an arrest is made or a warning issued, these are instances when the bureaucrat at the street level is making conscious choices – either to escalate a situation or to de-escalate. This is also the case when the work-load on pubic employees is quite high. As Lipsky points out “Employees must use their personal discretion to become ‘inventive strategists’ by developing ways of working to resolve excessive workload, complex cases, and ambiguous performance targets.” One can suggest that this exercise of administrative discretion can also help address issues of discrimination and in equal treatment that many minorities receive when it comes to public health or other related issues. There are definite health disparities between African Americans and other minorities. As the Center for Diseases Control points out “African Americans aged 18-49 are two times as likely to die from heart disease than whites,” and also “African Americans aged 35-64 are 50% more likely to have a high blood pressure than whites.” This is due to a combination of factors, including lack of access to insurance, policies that do not let African Americans access health services, and sometimes, outright discrimination in the system, that keeps them out of reach of healthcare providers.

Some of the recommendations of the CDC are to: encourage healthcare providers to eliminate cultural barriers to care, to connect patients to community resources to help them take medications on time, and to do follow-up visits. With COVID-19 exposing the cracks in healthcare delivery in the U.S., there is an urgent need to address access to healthcare, access to insurance, and also empowering states to offer services to those who are marginalized. One of the steps could be to empower the street-level bureaucrats to do more, to address the inequities that exist. This may mean offering more resources to teachers, doctors, and other frontline workers, who are often in the best position to address inequities. It also means educating and enlightening them to do what is right.