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Cultural anthropologist will head UCI’s largest academic unit
After a nationwide search, UC Irvine anthropology professor Bill Maurer has been named dean of the campus’s largest academic unit, the School of Social Sciences.
“It’s gratifying when we find that the very best person for the position in the country is already right here,” said Chancellor Michael Drake. “I’m delighted that my distinguished faculty colleague, Bill Maurer, has agreed to assume this important role in the life of our university.”
Maurer is known widely for his research in the anthropology of law, money and finance. He has served in a number of administrative roles at UC Irvine while founding two major research centers and collaborating across campus, with the business community and with the nonprofit sector.
In 2008, he received a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to create the Institute for Money, Technology & Financial Inclusion at UC Irvine. IMTFI focuses on the growing popularity of mobile banking technology in the developing world. It has also received support from corporate, government and nongovernmental organizations, bringing institute funding to date to more than $6 million.
The institute’s research has shed light on the use of mobile phone money transfers to circumvent bribery in Afghanistan, the use of phones to deliver financial services in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake, and the creation of interfaces for mobile money use by the visually impaired in Kenya.
In 2011, Maurer was named co-director of UC Irvine’s newly established Intel Science & Technology Center for Social Computing, funded with a $12.5 million grant from Intel. He’s exploring the history of payment infrastructures and transactional record keeping, from ancient accounting to “big data,” and how these practices shape payment innovation today.
In his role as dean, Maurer hopes to build on the School of Social Sciences’ rich interdisciplinary research strengths and foster new collaborations.
The school “is a powerhouse for the methods and concepts we need to understand our globally interconnected world,” he said. “From the brain and behavior to national and international politics and economics, UC Irvine social scientists are at the forefront of using the tools of all the social sciences – and making new ones too – to do the basic and applied science that will help us understand the human condition in the digital age.
“I am honored to have been selected to serve the school as dean and look forward to working with faculty, staff, graduate students, undergraduates, alumni and community friends as we carry out our mission of teaching, research and service.”
As social sciences dean, Maurer will oversee seven academic departments, 15 research centers, 139 faculty members, 65 staff and a student population nearing 5,000. Preceding him was Barbara Dosher, Distinguished Professor of cognitive sciences. During her 11-year tenure as dean, she helped the undergraduate and graduate programs grow by 44 percent and 35 percent, respectively; increased the number of degrees conferred by 47 percent; and led the recruitment of 90 additional faculty members. Under Dosher’s leadership, extramural grant funding for faculty research expanded by more than 115 percent.
“She’s an absolute inspiration and leaves very, very big shoes to fill,” Maurer said.
He joined UC Irvine in 1996 as an assistant professor of anthropology. Maurer served as chair from 2006 to 2010, during which time he hired new faculty members and built the department’s impressive research profile. He devised innovative collaborations with industry, the philanthropic sector and traditional funding agencies to better support graduate student research, and his efforts paid off. The anthropology department finished at the top of the field in the 2010 National Research Council rankings, alongside programs at Stanford University, Harvard University, the University of Chicago and UC Berkeley, solidifying its standing among the most prestigious cultural anthropology programs in the country.
In July 2011, Maurer became the school’s associate dean of research and graduate studies, re-launching the Junior Fellows program to give recent doctoral graduates an opportunity to continue their research while job hunting. He worked to ensure more applications to the National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowships Program, and as a result, eight social sciences students received the award over the past two years.
During his short time as associate dean, social sciences graduate students secured more than $2 million in research funding, exceeding all previous years’ funding and awards garnered since the school’s graduate programs were founded.
“Bill Maurer is an unusual talent, both as a scholar and as an administrator,” Dosher said. “I am thrilled that he will bring all these talents to the school as the next dean.”
Maurer’s research has been consistently supported by the National Science Foundation. His most recent funded project examines how new digital payment infrastructures work with or against existing social relationships and the shifting regulatory and legal debate over mobile phone-based payment services.
He’s the author of three books, including “Mutual Life, Limited: Islamic Banking, Alternative Currencies, Lateral Reason,” which won the Victor Turner Prize in Ethnographic Writing in 2005. Maurer is also the editor of six collections and serves on a number of editorial boards. He has recently been helping the British Museum collect and curate artifacts related to digital and mobile money.
Maurer earned a master’s degree and a doctorate at Stanford University. He holds courtesy appointments in the UC Irvine School of Law and the School of Social Ecology’s Department of Criminology, Law & Society.
-Heather Ashbach, Social Sciences Communications
-photo by Kristy Salsbury, Social Sciences: In addition to his research interests, Maurer is involved in projects to create more livable and sustainable communities.