BEWell Policy Corner: Street Vending in LA

From fresh fruit, tacos, and even Tupperware, all kinds of items are sold by 50,000 street vendors around Los Angeles. Until recently however, most of this activity was considered illegal. On September 18 of 2018, governor Jerry Brown enacted SB 946, Safe Sidewalk Vending Act, which puts the authority to regulate street vendors in the hands of local city governments. The bill goes into effect in January 2019 and effectively legalizes street vending. In response, the Los Angeles City Council unanimously passed its own bill on November 28 to create a permit system vendors can apply through to reserve their own spaces and sell goods. This is the first regulatory measure of its kind in Los Angeles, despite many other cities already having one.


Photo from Ricardo Lara’s Instagram

Although they work all over the city generating $504 million a year collectively, street vendors have been forced to operate under a shadow of doubt. They’ve also been historically overlooked by planners when designing city streets. For example, LADOT’s Complete Streets plan in 2015 seemed to include every factor in relation to smart growth except for vendors. Most of the controversy surrounding street vending stems from its effect on surrounding businesses. Many businesses complain that street vendors unfairly saturate the market because they don’t have to pay taxes or rent. However, street vendors actually benefit local communities in three main ways:

1. Economic Benefits

Street vending is largely a response by those who are excluded by the formal sector, often immigrants and people of color, to earn an income. This is one of the reasons items sold by them are usually cheaper. There is great potential for growth, however, when circulating this income throughout the local economy. As vendors sell more and more food and goods, their demand for supplies will increase as well. If they choose to purchase these goods locally, then those suppliers can also benefit from the increased demand.


Glodavina Lopez, center right, sell fruits and helps her mother Lili Lopez, right, a street vendor for the past 17 years, in the Fashion District in Los Angeles. (Marcus Yam / Caption and Photo from the Los Angeles Times)

2. Activation of Public Space

Aside from providing financial benefits, street vendors also have the potential to activate public spaces. Before massive developments, street markets dominated city landscapes and lives of people who lived in them. According to Ethan Kent, Vice President of the Project for Public Spaces, “when supported and showcased, street vendors, and the life they support, can help create iconic places that are cultural drivers that define cities.” Food has proven to be a great tool for human bonding, so vendors who sell these items are especially helpful to public spaces in cities.

3. Food Security

Food vendors not only activate public spaces, but also help feed underserved communities, especially in food deserts. Food deserts are areas without accessible supermarkets within a 1 mile radius. Typically, these landscapes are dominated by fast food restaurants. As a result, people living in these areas are more likely to be afflicted by public health issues like obesity and heart disease. Vendors, on the other hand, can help fill the void in these areas, especially since there are no current policies encouraging grocery store development and limiting the proliferation of fast food restaurants.


 Photo by Nate Gray

My personal favorite street vendors are fruit stands. They provide healthy options with a local twist. Being from a different part of the county, I had never tried fruit with spices or lime juice on top. Eating at fruit stands also helps me connect with people in my community that I might otherwise not come in contact with. In Westwood I recommend stopping by El Jefe Fresh Fruit usually on Westwood Blvd. and Ashton Ave. or Westwood Blvd. and Le Conte Ave. By supporting street vendors, we help revitalize the local economy, activate public spaces, and increase access to healthy food – in Westwood and beyond.


Try Some Green Space for Your Finals Week Blues

Happy Almost Finals Week Bruins! The end of the quarter can be a stressful time for many of us. Between studying for exams, finishing final projects, and making last-minute preparations for winter break, it often seems like taking care of ourselves is the easiest thing to cross off the list. If you just can’t bring yourself to take time out for that bike ride or bubble bath, a simple change of scenery might provide some stress relief and even help sharpen your mind for those tenth-week to-do tasks. Spending time outdoors in green spaces can help relieve anxiety, sharpen attention, and improve mood. Luckily for us, UCLA has plenty of beautiful natural spaces that are perfect for a last-minute study session. Here are some of my favorites!

Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden

Why it’s awesome: Located in the south-east part of campus between the School of Nursing and the Terasaki Life Sciences Building, the botanical garden is the perfect study oasis. Natural amenities include the cool and shady atmosphere, private benches tucked into leafy nooks, and a soundtrack of birdsong and burbling stream.

What to know before you go: The botanical garden is a decidedly analogue study spot. Wifi is spotty, and if there are any outlets hidden beneath the leaf litter I have yet to find them! Bring that book that you’ve been struggling to concentrate on or the set of math problems you’ve been meaning to work through.

Nearest coffee: Terasaki Café, Café Med

Franklin D. Murphy Sculpture Garden


Photo Credit:

Why it’s awesome: The sculpture garden is a cool, green north campus retreat with a rolling lawn and a stunning grove of Jacaranda trees. As advertised, it’s also filled with an impressive collection of sculptures to contemplate while paging through your study guide. Secluded seating areas are scattered around the perimeter of the garden, but many students prefer to sprawl out on the lawn instead.

What to know before you go: Shady spots are in short supply, so the sculpture garden may not be the best choice for a hot and sunny day. While this spot has great wifi, the sunlight’s glare may make it difficult to see your computer screen. Recharge your devices at the nearby Charles E. Young Library.

Nearest coffee: Jimmy’s Coffeehouse, Café 451

Dickson Court North

Dickson Court

Photo Credit:

Why it’s awesome: Few places on campus rival the leafy collegiate beauty of Dickson Court North. With its brick accented walkways and shady fig and sycamore trees, Dickson Court is a high traffic area ideal for studiers who prefer a little background noise and people-watching over silence and solitude.

What to know before you go: Dickson Court North is great for lounging on a sun-dappled lawn, but there’s no formal seating in the area. If you’re averse to sharing your study space with ants or suffering the occasional grass stain, Dickson Court may not be the place for you. The court is also a popular spot for campus events, so watch out for the occasional closure.

Nearest coffee: Jimmy’s Coffeehouse

Good luck with your finals! And remember: spending time outdoors can have health benefits, but the benefits don’t outweigh the health risks when the air is smoky from a wildfire. If air quality is poor or the air smells smoky, play it safe and stay indoors.

Rebecca Ferdman is a graduate student at UCLA pursuing dual Master’s degrees in Urban Planning and Public Health. She is the graduate student researcher (GSR) for the BEWell pod of the Healthy Campus Initiative.


Do Scramble Crosswalks Really Save Lives?

One of the City of Los Angeles’ ongoing efforts is VisionZero LA, which is an initiative that aims to end traffic-related death by 2035. One of strategies that has been implemented to accomplish this goal is installation of scramble crosswalks around the city.

Typical crosswalks are designed so that vehicles and pedestrians travel together in the same flow of traffic. For instance, when a walk sign is on for pedestrians traveling in North South direction, vehicles are allowed to travel in North South direction as well. At this time, pedestrians and vehicles traveling in East and West directions must wait.

Scramble crosswalks, on the other hand, allow pedestrians to travel in all directions, including diagonally. When pedestrians are crossing, vehicles are not allowed to travel at all. If you are curious about an example, you don’t have to look far. In Westwood there is a scramble crosswalk on the intersection of Westwood Boulevard and Le Conte Avenue.

This may sound like a great idea to ensure the safety of pedestrians. In fact, Los Angeles Magazine published an article titled L.A.’s New Diagonal Crosswalks Are Literally Saving Lives.

But are they really?

On one hand, yes. Statistical data shows that installation of scramble crosswalks is actually decreasing the number of traffic related injuries. The prime example is the intersection of Hollywood and Highland. According to VisionZero, the intersection used to have in average 13 crashes per year, but after the installation of the scramble crosswalk in November 2015, there have been zero crashes. This is indeed a significant and promising improvement.

However, one vital piece is missing: accessibility for people with disability. Currently there is no measure in place that requires implementation of accessibility features for scramble crosswalks.

First, scramble crosswalks are challenging for those who are blind and visually impaired. The Guidelines for Accessible Pedestrian Signals published by the National Cooperative Highway Research Program states that scramble crossing “makes it difficult for pedestrians who are blind or visually impaired to recognize the onset of the WALK interval, particularly at locations where right on red is permitted.” This is because in a scramble setting, it is not safe to rely on parallel traffic to determine crossing. Also when there is no vehicle movement, it is hard to determine whether it is safe to cross, because it is difficult to tell where vehicles are. The Guidelines for Accessible Pedestrian Signals recommends that accessible pedestrian Signals (APS) provide more detailed information when the button is pushed. For example, the button could say the following: “Wait to cross Howard at Grand. Wait for red light for all vehicles. Right turn on red permitted.” The installation of APS that provide such detailed information will ensure that blind and visually impaired travelers can cross with greater safety and certainty.

Secondly, safety must be ensured also for those who use mobility aides, such as wheelchairs and crutches. According to this study, pedestrians who travel using a wheelchair have a 36% higher risk of dying from a car-related injury as compared to those not using a wheelchair. Scramble crosswalks should be helpful in addressing this alarming statistic. However, the crosswalks must be made accessible in order for them to be effective. Making crosswalks accessible includes installing appropriate curve ramps and level landing, as well as providing sufficient time for crossing.

So, do scramble crosswalks really save lives?

Yes but not completely. Scramble crosswalks may have been proven to be effective in “saving lives” but the city of Los Angeles must do more so that they become accessible for those with different modes of travel such as white canes, wheelchairs, and crutches.

Miso Kwak is an undergraduate student at UCLA majoring in Psychology with a double minor in Disability Studies and Education Studies. In addition to blogging for the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative, she plays the flute with the UCLA Woodwind Chamber Ensemble. Outside of school, she works as a mentor for high school students through Accessible Science, a nonprofit organization that facilitates science camp for blind youth.

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The Built Environment of Studying

As finals week approaches, you may find yourself feeling overwhelmed by the academic demands. From exams to papers to group projects, there’s so much to keep track of! Read on for some tips on how you can optimize the built-environment of your studying so that you can be as productive as possible.

First, the lighting. Lighting may seem somewhat mundane but think about it… lighting plays an important role in setting our moods for different occasions. You may prefer a dim light when you are trying to relax, while you may prefer a brighter lighting when you want to feel energized.

Guess what? Lighting can influence our academic performance too. This study done by Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology demonstrated that lights of varying correlated color temperatures (CCTs) measured in Kelvin can be optimized for different activities.

The study was conducted in a laboratory with adults as well as in a 4th grade classroom. In both contexts, the researchers found that light with 3500K, which emits warm, yellowish white light is optimal for encouraging recess activities while 6500K light, which emits cool, bluish light that is similar to natural light, is optimal for academic performance. The authors explained that this may be because higher CCTs cause higher levels of arousal, although “there might be a point of diminishing returns at which higher CCT no longer improves human performance.”

What about the color of the walls of the room in which you study? In this study, the color of private study spaces was one of the six variations, including vivid red, vivid yellow, vivid blue, pale red, pale yellow, and pale blue. Subjects in the study reported feeling more pleasant and relaxed in the pale colored conditions, but scored significantly higher on the reading comprehension test when they were in the vivid color condition.

In addition to the visual elements, auditory cues can also affect our studying. If you are like me, you may prefer to listen to the music while studying. But is it really effective?

Findings from research in this area have been mixed. This study, which was a comprehensive meta-analysis in this domain of research, showed that background music in general disrupts reading comprehension. However, another study which put subjects through slow and soft; slow and loud; fast and soft; and fast and loud background music found that only fast and loud music resulted in negative performance of reading comprehension. Given the complex results, it may be difficult to reach a firm conclusion. Nonetheless, we should be more mindful of what kind of music we choose to listen to when we are studying. It would be important to find songs that enhance our focus rather than distract our attention.

The concept of built-environment may feel distant at times, but lighting, color, and sound are factors that create our built-environment, and could have direct impact on our academic performance. Do you have favorite study space on campus that include these elements or favorite songs to listen to while studying? Comment below!

Miso Kwak is an undergraduate student at UCLA majoring in Psychology with a double minor in Disability Studies and Education Studies. In addition to blogging for the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative, she plays the flute with the UCLA Woodwind Chamber Ensemble. Outside of school, she works as a mentor for high school students through Accessible Science, a nonprofit organization that facilitates science camp for blind youth.

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How tomorrow’s election could affect your built-environment

Bruins, are you aware that there is an election tomorrow?

It is a local election conducted by the County of Los Angeles. Los Angeles voters will be electing a new mayor, city council, and school board, along with a number of county-wide and city-wide measures. Read on to find out what role you could play in shaping the built-environment of Westwood and city of Los Angeles through your vote.

City Measure S — This is a measure that aims to increase regulation of general planning and development of housing in Los Angeles. Passing of Measure S would impose moratorium on constructions of many development projects and increase restrictions on getting new projects approved in the city of Los Angeles. Proponents argue that this will strengthen the integrity of the process in which development projects are approved. Opponents of Measure S, on the other hand, argue that moratorium and greater restrictions on development projects will result in housing shortages, exacerbating homelessness and decreasing tax revenues for public services.

While development projects – both for business and housing – may seem solely like a social issue, it is an important factor for the built-environment and consequently for the well-being of our city. For example, a study has shown that housing insecurity is associated with poor health, lower weight, and greater developmental risk for young children. The study further recommends that policymakers should prioritize policies that promote greater housing security.

In another study, researchers surveyed 68,111 adults in twelve different states, and found that housing insecurity significantly increases the risk of frequent insufficient sleep and frequent mental distress.

Thus, whether or not Measure S passes could have a long-term consequence for the well-being of Angelinos. Make sure to read more about this initiative and vote mindfully.

Another issue that is particularly relevant for Westwood residents is election of a council member for District 5, which includes Westwood. There are three candidates running for this position: Paul Koretz, Jesse Creed, and Mark Herd. While each candidate has a number of campaign agendas, this post focuses on each candidate’s position on bike lanes, public transit, and pedestrian safety.

Paul Coretz — Coretz has been a council member for District 5 since 2009. His response to the survey conducted by Bike the Vote indicates his efforts to promote biking for District 5 as well as his support for biking, more efficient transit, and pedestrian safety. However, it appears that his position on supporting Vision Zero seems inconsistent. Vision Zero aims to eliminate traffic-related death in Los Angeles in the next 20 years. Coretz states that he will continue to advocate for the safety of walkers and bikers. However, he is opposed to installing bike lanes on Westwood Boulevard, a project supported by UCLA and the Westwood Village Improvement Association. Westwood Boulevard has been identified as one of most dangerous streets by the L.A. Department of Transportation’s High Injury Network. Coretz’s proposed alternative is to put a bike lane on Gayley Avenue instead.

Jesse Creed — Like Coretz, Creed is also in support of safety. However, his concrete plans are different. First, he has expressed his commitment to continuing the study for bike safety, which has been abandoned by Coretz. On the survey conducted by Bike The Vote, he stated, “The City’s job is to make it not dangerous” regarding the current status of Westwood Boulevard. In addition, Creed also highlights ensuring safety for all people regardless of their age, ability, and mode of transportation.

Mark Herd — Based on the Bike The Vote survey, Herd appears to support “the community’s needs.” However, compared to Coretz and Creed, his stance does not seem clear and knowledge on the issue limited.

While bike lane, public transit, and pedestrian safety reflect only partial vision of each candidates, these are issues that can influence our daily commute and long-term health and safety. Ensuring that we elect a council member who advocates for and prioritizes the mobility of their constituents is a vital step to making our community healthier. If you’re unsure of your polling place, you can find it here.

Miso Kwak is an undergraduate student at UCLA majoring in Psychology with a double minor in Disability Studies and Education Studies. In addition to blogging for the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative, she plays the flute with the UCLA Woodwind Chamber Ensemble. Outside of school, she works as a mentor for high school students through Accessible Science, a nonprofit organization that facilitates science camp for blind youth.


How Sidewalks Can Dis/Able Us

Whether you are walking to class, going to the gym, or getting groceries, the sidewalk may be something you take for granted. Many of the different parts that make up our daily built-environment go unnoticed. For some people, however, the built-environment can be a significantly limiting factor that literally “disables” them.

In the fall quarter of my sophomore year, I took Disability Studies 101: Perspectives on Disability Studies. It was an introductory course to Disability Studies exposing students to different perspectives that frame people’s understandings of disability. One of the angles the class used in discussing disability was social and policy perspectives, which covered a wide range of topics including aging with disability, chronic illness, and the built-environment. I still vividly remember one of articles I read for the class that discussed how the built-environment affects persons with a disability almost two years later. The author, Christopher Baswell, was a visiting professor from the University of York who uses a wheelchair. Baswell’s main point in the article was how certain buildings in his university make him “crippled” more than other buildings do. For example, in the British Library, he was “able-bodied” because he could “move about as easily as other library users.” In Bodleian Library of the Oxford University however, he was “crippled, reduced to begging for help on the pavement outside.” Although it is not explicitly mentioned in the article, we can infer that the British Library was build such that wheelchair users can navigate the library independently, whereas the Bodleian Library lacked facilities such as ramps and elevators that would enable wheelchair users to move around easily. In sum, the article was a clear example of how our environment constructs how we experience disability.

As a blind student, I could relate to Baswell on a personal level, and I could immediately think of a number of areas on UCLA campus that “disable” mobility for people with different physical challenges. One such area was a sidewalk in front of Schoenberg Music Building near the Inverted Fountain. As shown in the picture below, the sidewalk was narrow and bumpy because of tree roots that were sticking out of the ground.


Before construction. Photo via Sanna Alas

As I write this post, however, I am happy and grateful to say that this area is no longer “disabling.” A construction project took place at the end of the 2016 winter quarter, making this part of the sidewalk safe and accessible. Every time I walk by this place, I feel hopeful because it is a proof that UCLA is taking the right steps toward making the campus welcoming and accessible to everyone.


After construction. Photo via Ana Bonilla.

One of projects in progress for the BE-Well pod this academic year is Sidewalk Campaign. Through this project, the BE-Well pod hopes to address the importance of having safe and accessible sidewalks on and around the campus. A study has shown that having a well-maintained walking surface was the main functional factor that is associated with people getting out and walking. Addressing the issue of accessibility and safety of sidewalks on and around the campus will not only make our built-environment “non-disabling,” but also encourage the UCLA community to engage in walking more, thereby living healthier.

Can you think of any areas on and around campus where the quality of sidewalk could be improved? Share on social media or comment below if there’s an area on UCLA’s campus you’d like to see improved by the Sidewalk Campaign!

Miso Kwak is an undergraduate student at UCLA majoring in Psychology with a double minor in Disability Studies and Education Studies. In addition to blogging for the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative, she plays the flute with the UCLA Woodwind Chamber Ensemble. Outside of school, she works as a mentor for high school students through Accessible Science, a nonprofit organization that facilitates science camp for blind youth.

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UCLA To Experience a New Level of Bikeability

By Jimmy Tran, UCLA Transportation Bike and Pedestrian Planner

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Santa Monica’s Bike Share hub at City Hall. Photo via UCLA Transportation.

Short term bike rentals, popularly known as bike share, are appearing across Los Angeles County. From the green Hulu bikes in Santa Monica to the blue bikes in Long Beach, bike share programs give residents and visitors alike a new way to experience a sustainable and healthy mode of transportation. UCLA is gearing up to join the ride with the launch of its bike share program this spring! Like many of the Westside cities, UCLA will work with the vendor CycleHop to bring a bike share program to campus. The bikes and hubs will be located on key parts of the campus and in Westwood Village where there is already a significant amount of foot traffic. There will be 16 hub locations, including Powell Library, Luskin Conference Center, UCLA Ronald Reagan Medical Center, and Broxton Avenue in Westwood Village.

A major appeal of existing bike share programs are their user-friendliness. CycleHop utilizes ‘smart bikes’ where real-time information is available to report bike and hub availability, remaining rental time, and distance biked. UCLA students, staff, and visitors will be able to rent these bikes using smart phones, Metro TAP cards, or via the kiosks at larger bike hubs. Flexible memberships and pay-as-you-go options will accommodate the needs of riders. CycleHop summarizes the rental process in four steps: Reserve, Release, Ride and Return.


The process for renting out bikes from CycleHop Bike Share Programs; Photo Credit: Santa Monica Breeze Bike Share

With this user-friendly bike share program, UCLA continues it’s efforts to improve and upgrade campus infrastructure. In 2015, UCLA attained Silver status in the League of American Bicyclists’ Bike Friendly University program by increasing the number and quality of bike lanes. This is important as UCLA aims to attract riders who are interested in biking, but concerned about the availability of protected bike lanes. Additionally, UCLA provides numerous amenities and programs across campus including: the UCLA Bike Shop, numerous bike racks and repair stands, shower access for commuters, benefits for members of the Bruin Commuter Club, bicycle traffic safety classes, a new bicycle citation diversion process, and an Earn-A-Bike program. Implementing a bike share program will further strengthen the University’s role as a leader in promoting bike culture and safety.

Earlier this year, the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) released a report that found bike share programs in seven different U.S. cities experienced increases in the amount of cycling and decreases in the risk of death or injury for each individual rider. The report highlighted how bike share programs improve the visibility of cyclists, which makes bike riding safer for everyone. NACTO emphasized that bike share programs fared better for safety outcomes when coupled with protected bike lanes.

Good bike infrastructure already exists at UCLA with more to come in time for the launch of its bike share. UCLA will install several protected bike lanes on campus including westbound on Strathmore Place, on Westwood Plaza between the Gonda building and the Westwood/Strathmore intersection, and on Charles E. Young Dr. South near the Center for Health Sciences. In addition, supplementing ongoing Bike Friendly University efforts with bicycling awareness and education programs will be key to tackling safety issues and making bike share enjoyable to all Bruins.


National Public Health Week participants begin the 2016 tour of UCLA’s bike infrastructure led by Stantec Engineer Rock Miller (picture far right). Photo via UCLA Fielding School of Public Health.


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Loud Yet Easily Overlooked: Noise Pollution in Dorms and Apartments


It was about 11 PM, and, after a long day of moving in, I was more than ready to sleep. However, the street just outside my window was booming with loud music and sounds of people chatting, putting a good night’s sleep just out of reach. It was only the first night in my apartment and I could not help but worry that I might have to deal with sleep-disrupting loud noise throughout the school year.

Whether you are living on the Hill or in an off-campus housing arrangement, my experience may sound familiar to you. According to this study, one of the top five reasons why college students lack sleep was dorm noise. In addition to lack of sleep, living in a noisy environment can negatively affect our health in other ways as well. However, there are many strategies to combat noise pollution and prevent it from negatively affecting our health.

What is noise pollution?

Noise pollution is unwanted or disturbing sound. It can include anything from the loud music coming from your neighbor’s room to the sound of a lawn mower to audible conversations down the hallway. While it may not be something many people think about seriously, noise around us is a part of our daily built-environment that can threaten our health and disrupts our quality of life.

Noise pollution and physical health

Noise may be a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. This research found that exposure to noise pollution increases blood pressure, changes heart rate, and causes release of stress hormone. This may be because of the emotional stress reaction as body perceives discomfort from the noise and nonconscious physiological stress resulting from the interaction between the central auditory system and other regions of the central nervous system.

Noise pollution and mental health

Noise also may affect mental health. While there is no direct association between exposure to noise and mental health conditions, it may contribute to a wide range of symptoms such as anxiety, stress, nervousness, and emotional instability. Another study demonstrated an association between noise level and aggressive behavior.

Noise pollution and sleep

Lastly, yet perhaps most importantly, noise disturbs a good night of sleep. More specifically, noise may cause difficulty falling asleep and frequent awakening, which lead to sleep deprivation and number of other negative health consequences such as depressed mood, decreased cognitive performance, and fatigue.

What Can We Do?

One option is wearing ear plugs when you are sleeping. You can grab them for free from the Powell Reading Room behind the CLICC desk.

Another option is to communicate with your roommates and/or neighbors. Discuss with your roommate(s) about each other’s sleeping and studying habits and what each other’s comfort level is. Agree on what works for you and your roommate(s). If neighbors next door or upstairs are the source of loud noise, let them know as well. I personally had an instance in which I had to talk with neighbor upstairs about their noise level and was able to resolve the issue by opening up a discussion.

Noise pollution, especially in college living environment, is a loud problem, yet often overlooked. Being mindful and respectful of people around you could be a great first step. When we communicate with one another and are intentional about our behaviors, we could easily make our living space quieter and healthier.

Miso Kwak is an undergraduate student at UCLA majoring in Psychology with a double minor in Disability Studies and Education Studies. In addition to blogging for the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative, she plays the flute with the UCLA Woodwind Chamber Ensemble. Outside of school, she works as a mentor for high school students through Accessible Science, a nonprofit organization that facilitates science camp for blind youth.