As director of social sciences undergraduate affairs, Helen Morgan's job is anything but a walk in the park. Nearly 40% of all undergrads leave UCI with a major from the social sciences, and it is Morgan who organizes, manages and leads a team of staff who help these students achieve academic success.  Simply put, says social science dean, Barbara Dosher: “Helen Morgan is the epicenter of student services on the UCI campus.” 

It may seem ironic, then, that Morgan’s professional career at UCI began with numerous treks through the tree-lined trails of Aldrich Park.  A sociology alumnus, Morgan ’92 worked her way through school as a campus tour guide and later as an academic peer advisor and graduate student recruiter.

“I’ve always been interested in helping people,” she says.  “Giving tours to prospective students and their parents, discussing UCI and what the campus had to offer, helping new students navigate their college experiences – these were all really rewarding opportunities that ended up steering me into a full time career here,” she says. 

“Plus,” she adds in her trademark sense of humor, “I love all the trees here.”

After finishing her degree, Morgan continued on at UCI as a student services coordinator with the Office of Research and Graduate Studies (which has since split into two appropriately named campus divisions).  Among her many accomplishments there, she counts meeting her husband, who currently directs the Office of Research, as the best. 

In 1997, Morgan returned to social sciences as an academic counselor where she quickly moved up the ranks to office manager and in 2001, was promoted to her current post as director. 

“Because of my incredible experiences as a student, I feel a personal obligation to ensure that the students I advise understand how to navigate the campus and that they have confidence in the major they select,” she says.  “I love UCI and the School of Social Sciences, and I would like every student to feel like I do - that UCI is an amazing place that offers many people opportunities if you are willing to seek them out.”

Mark Petracca, political science department chair and interim associate dean of undergraduate studies, remembers Morgan from her days as an active undergrad conducting research and serving as a peer advisor.  He now counts her as one of his most valuable resources on campus policy interpretation, conflict resolution and undergraduate issues.

“Helen is consistently the first person nearly everyone in the School of Social Sciences turns to for advice and assistance,” he says. “She is knowledgeable, well connected to current campus happenings, responsive, dependable and always makes time for people.” 

Her staff agrees, says Chika Kono, social sciences associate director and academic advisor. 

“Helen is a master at the art of multitasking and is a highly dedicated professional.  She does everything – answers phones, takes student walk-ins, coordinates faculty evaluations; she even comes in on the weekends to clean if necessary.”

Despite her numerous responsibilities, Morgan manages to keep a cool head in times of stress and a very wry sense of humor that is admired by many, including her cross-campus colleagues.

“Meetings that she attends are always sprinkled with the sounds of her spontaneous and exuberant laughter,” says physical sciences student affairs director Cindy Fern.  “While always business-like and professional, Helen reminds us that we should keep our sense of humor and enjoy our work.”

In appreciation of hers, the campus will be honoring Morgan at the 2011 UCI Alumni Association annual Lauds & Laurels banquet as the university’s Outstanding Staff Member.   Learn more at

-Heather Wuebker, Social Sciences Communications
-photo by Kristy Harris, Social Sciences

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