Rep. Garcia, President Conoley and CLA Dean Thien Host Urban Politics and Policy Center Grand Opening

Beach leaders and alumni

The grand opening of the Long Beach Center for Urban Politics and Policy (LBCUPP) was held yesterday at the Anna Ngai Alumni Center. CSULB leaders, faculty and students, community members, center supporters, and city officials attended the event. Housed within the College of Liberal Arts, the center supports and advances interdisciplinary research focused on Long Beach. 

College of Liberal Arts Dean Dr. Deborah Thien, President Jane Close Conoley, and Rep. Robert Garcia, a CSULB alumnus, co-hosted the opening. Political science major Sheyla Villagrana also shared some words surrounding the importance of research to the larger community.  

“Interdisciplinary and community-focused scholarship and service are at the heart of the college’s mission, so the CLA is the perfect place for the center,” said Dean Thien. “I’m looking forward to seeing the results of the innovative scholarship already underway with the center’s support and to see this work uplift our Long Beach community in partnership with many collaborators.” 

The LBCUPP was founded to support and encourage faculty, undergraduate, and graduate students to treat Long Beach as a site of research for politics and policy. Its promotion of scholarly cross-disciplinary research in the city of Long Beach allows scholars to sharpen their research skills and shed light on important communal issues. Although officially launched in 2021, the center had not been formally introduced to the broader community as a result of health protocols, prolonged reopening, and public facing projects being put on hold. A substantial gift from CLA alumnus John Molina funds many of the center’s activities. 

Prior to the grand opening, the CLA constructed an internal support structure that includes an advisory committee of faculty and community members, as well as the development of surveys surrounding the 2022 elections.  

Another LBCUPP effort was their stipend awards, a distinguished accolade distributed this past spring. Stipends are worth $5,000 and can be used by recipients to transform their research into a publishable manuscript. The Center honored 10 recipients with stipends during the spring. Recipient topics included a comparative study of Long Beach's climate policies, the racialization of gaming spaces, health disparities and public policy understood through the lens of immigrant legality, and multiracial organizing and public budgeting. 

Professor of journalism and public relations, Dr. Gwen Shaffer, was one of the 10 recipients. Funded through NSF’s Smart & Connected Communities program, her project centers around the design and deployment of a “digital rights platform.” The platform focuses on the city’s vision to use data in ethical ways that avoid reinforcing existing racial biases and discriminatory decision-making. Her work aims to visually convey how Long Beach uses specific technologies, what data devices collect, and how the city utilizes that data. 

“I value LBCUPP’s focus on civic engagement, policy, and equity in Long Beach. Each of these areas closely align with my own academic interests, and I’m honored to receive a research stipend from the center. The funds will help support my current project centered on digital rights in Long Beach,” said Dr. Shaffer. 

The first of its kind, the LBCUPP focuses on the unique political dynamics surrounding our community. Potential research topics include, but are not limited to, voting behavior, public budgeting, campaigns, policing, social movements, international trade, housing policy, gentrification, youth activism, environmental policy or activism, and urban political economy. 

"The Long Beach Center for Urban Politics and Policy is proud to be a part of CSULB's efforts to further integrate the university with the broader community. We're just getting started but our goal of utilizing campus resources, such as faculty expertise and our students' boundless intellectual potential to better illuminate political reality, has already yielded some exciting research,” said Executive Director of Long Beach Center for Urban Politics and Policy and Assistant Professor of Political Science, Dr. Matthew Mendez Garcia

The center also breaks barriers and equips CSULB for the future. Scholars’ elevation of our community will advance the public good. The LBCUPP also expands into Beach 2030’s strategic priorities by promoting intellectual achievement and cultivating resilience, propelling CSULB into a future-ready campus of civically engaged students, staff, and faculty.