New Student Bootcamp Includes Focus on Watts
Photos courtesy Cynthia Gonzalez/Pardee RAND
September 28, 2023
The students of Cohort '23 arrived last week for their orientation and "policy bootcamp." For the second year, Pardee RAND took the new cohort to Watts to immerse them in community-based participatory research.
Students met with project partners from the Watts Rising Collaborative, toured the historic neighborhood, and unpacked critical questions related to policy implementation. They were welcomed with lunch from local restaurants Tamales Elena and Tamales Naborina, a new culinary experience for many of the students.
Watts Rising is a collaboration of Watts residents, more than 40 organizations, the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles, the Mayor’s Office, and Council District 15 committed to improving the quality of life in Watts.
The group convened at the Watts Labor Community Action Committee (WLCAC), one of the oldest nonprofits in the country and a pillar of community advocacy in Watts. The agency offered the group a meeting space and also presented students with its “civil rights tour,” taking a stroll through history.
In their meeting with Watts Rising partners, the students learned that—with community input, leadership, and participation, as well as a $33.25 million grant from the State of California—the collaborative is implementing 24 infrastructure projects to expand urban agriculture and access to healthy organic produce, provide more affordable and sustainable housing, increase low- and no-carbon transportation options, increase community green space, expand the tree canopy, and make streets safer for walking and biking.
For several years, Pardee RAND’s annual bootcamp experience has offered much more than a traditional academic orientation and administrative onboarding for newly admitted incoming students. Aside from the Watts visit, this year's bootcamp included five days of activities and workshops: introductory sessions to their math and economics courses; discussions on ethics and DEI; metings with Pardee staff and RAND researchers, and more. Bringing it all together, the “immersive” experience in Watts allowed them to learn about policy in action and how it impacts the most vulnerable communities.