Dear social sciences students, faculty, staff and alumni,

Welcome to the 2013-14 academic year! It has been a summer of transition, with a new provost, Howard Gillman, who is a faculty member in our very own school, a new associate dean of graduate studies, Kourosh Saberi, and a new dean (myself), as well as some important milestones and achievements for the social sciences community at UC Irvine.

Over the summer, Vicki Ruiz, Chicano/Latino studies professor, was named Distinguished Professor. Etel Solingen, political science professor, was appointed to the Thomas T. and Elizabeth C. Tierney Chair in Peace Studies. And Stergios Skaperdas, economics professor, was named the Clifford T. Heinz Chair, effective October 1. Linda Cohen, economics professor, has been elected faculty chair for the School of Social Sciences.

All of our research centers that were up for renewal succeeded with flying colors. Under the new directorship of Jeff Krichmar, cognitive sciences professor, the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience is becoming the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience and Engineering. Kai Wehmeier, logic and philosophy of science professor, was successful in creating the Center for the Advancement of Logic, its Philosophy, History & Applications (C-ALPHA). And after lengthy negotiations with the U.S. Census Bureau, I am pleased to report that, under the direction of Marianne Bitler, economics professor, the school will open the UC Irvine branch of the California Census Research Data Center during the academic year, giving researchers across the campus access to non-public census microdata. Working together with sociology Chancellor’s Professor Frank Bean, David Neumark, also a Chancellor’s Professor (economics), will be reorganizing and accelerating population research this year by bringing together scholars from across the campus to tackle questions of population, policy and demography in the U.S. and beyond. You'll hear more about these new centers as they get up and running this year, and we can expect a rewarding and busy year ahead thanks to the efforts of our research center directors and other faculty-driven activity in the school. To that end, we welcome, in addition to provost and professor of political science Howard Gillman, six other new faculty members.

The school was fortunate to receive a major gift this summer, as well: Jean-Claude Falmagne, cognitive sciences emeritus professor, and his wife Dina have endowed three named chairs in mathematical psychology in honor of the late R. Duncan Luce. This remarkably generous gift will build on the school’s long tradition of excellence in cognitive sciences and the understanding of the brain and behavior.

Over the summer, I worked with my colleagues in the senior academic and staff administration to launch several new initiatives. The school will support visiting scholars under two new programs, a Visiting Professor Program for senior and distinguished scholars, and the 21st Century America Scholars Program, which will support more junior professors whose research activities work to promote and enhance diversity. In collaboration with the school’s executive committee, the dean’s office will be offering additional research and travel funds through a match program for faculty members who receive regular R&T funds, and a backstop program for faculty members with no current sources of research support.

It has been a good summer for grant funded research, too. Many of our faculty members have been receiving grants and fellowships from institutions ranging from the National Institutes of Health to the Spencer Foundation. I would like to highlight one in particular: Professors Nina Bandelj (sociology), Julia Elyachar (anthropology), Gary Richardson (economics) and Jim Weatherall (logic and philosophy of science) working in collaboration were successful in their bid for an NSF Interdisciplinary Behavioral and Social Sciences grant, a new initiative that seeks to foster interdisciplinarity in methods and outcomes in the social sciences, and to work at the edges of the conventional disciplines. What better example of the school’s historical emphasis on exactly those novel cross-boundary scholarly activities than this award. Stay tuned to the School of Social Sciences website for more on this exciting research project and the many other grants and awards that our faculty members have received.

In terms of undergraduate education, the school has been enhancing its online offerings but doing so with care and diligence, to ensure quality and to track student learning outcomes as we explore novel forms of pedagogy. I’ve launched a Mobile Social Science Task Force that will be examining how our students are currently using mobile devices in their learning process and seeking opportunities to experiment with how we teach an always-online generation. At the same time, we continue to shoulder the lion’s share of undergraduate education on the campus, and we will all have to work hard this year to reexamine our undergraduate offerings as we continue to serve this important role for the university and this important public function for California and the world.

This fall, we welcome a class of 700 freshmen and 600 transfer students in the social sciences. We also welcome a class of 79 graduate students, joining us from institutions ranging from Johns Hopkins to the University of Delhi, and from states and countries from Hawaii to Greece. Our graduate students continue to win an impressive number of highly competitive grants and awards including fellowships from organizations as diverse as the National Science Foundation and the American Institute of Physics.

Our events calendar is already filling up: I encourage everyone to visit the school’s webpage regularly to see what’s going on and to get involved in school and campus activities. We’re collaborating with the Claire Trevor School of the Arts on an exhibition on October 14 featuring Argentine artist Maximo Gonzalez exploring the interface of art and economics. We’re also collaborating with Langson Library on a panel discussion and “upload-a-thon” on October 21 to discuss—and start implementing—the University of California’s new Open Access Policy, which Irvine is piloting this year. Our first Expert Speaker Series event will take place on November 18 and feature Greg Hickok, cognitive sciences professor, and Kourosh Saberi, associate dean of graduate studies and research, as well as Carl MacInytre discussing aphasia and brain science.

In short: There’s a lot going on, and there will be a lot more. This is an exciting time for social sciences at UC Irvine. I look forward to working with everyone during this academic year!

Bill Maurer, Dean

PS: And yes, it’s true: We’ve made a Promise for Education. Live long and prosper!

 

 

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