Dear social sciences students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends,
The students are arriving, the seasons—such as they are in southern California—are changing: Welcome back from summer break! I’m looking forward to a terrific start to the 2015-16 academic year, with plenty of events to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the campus and lots of exciting news to share.
We have such an incredibly accomplished faculty that there is always too much good news to report. But to list just a few highlights: Distinguished Professor of history and Chicano/Latino studies chair Vicki Ruiz was awarded the National Humanities Medal by President Obama at the White House on September 10. It is a well-deserved achievement for our remarkable colleague, and you can see some great coverage here. We will be hosting a celebration in her honor soon—stay tuned. Meanwhile, former dean and Distinguished Professor of cognitive sciences Barbara Dosher was just awarded a $1.1M grant from the NIH for her research on perceptual learning, and many of our other colleagues in cognitive sciences have had terrific grant-getting success this summer. Chancellor’s Professor of economics David Neumark received a $1.3M award from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation to create an economic self-sufficiency policy institute here at UC Irvine. LPS emeritus Distinguished Professor David Malament won the Lakatos Award for outstanding contributions to the philosophy of science, and Penelope Maddy, LPS Distinguished Professor, was awarded the 2014 Phi Beta Kappa Romanell Professorship. Anthropologist Tom Boellstorff just received a $277K grant from the NSF to study how people with disabilities make use of new online technologies, and he’ll be going virtual into Second Life for part of his research. Our sociologists just returned from their annual meetings with at least 6 awards, including 3 best paper awards for professors Judy Treas, Kristin Turney and chair Matt Huffman. In addition, David Smith has been elected president of the Society for the Study of Social Problems. At least 8 other faculty members were elected to chairships or councils of American Sociological Association sections. Speaking of elections, political science associate professor Kamal Sadiq was elected co-president of the Migration and Citizenship section of the American Political Science Association. Many other faculty members have received additional grants, awards, and other forms of recognition too numerous to list individually here, but watch our website – and the news - for press releases and updates. Our faculty and students continue to be some of the most media-cited on campus. From op-eds and comments featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, NBC, LA Times and a host of others, our faculty provide expert perspective on topics that truly matter to society. Congratulations and thank you, one and all.
Our graduate students have kept up our tradition of research excellence and extramural support, generating three quarters of a million dollars in NSF funding, as well as two Ford Foundation fellowships and five honorable mentions—surpassing our nearest competitors Berkeley, Columbia and UCLA. And on the 21st, we welcomed in 94 new graduate students who join 320 others pursuing cutting edge research here in social sciences.
You have probably seen by now that UC Irvine ranks 9th among public research universities—tying UC San Diego—and, more significantly, I think, ranked first in the nation in The New York Times’ College Access Index, which measures access, affordability and student success. With an incoming class consisting of over 50% first-generation college students, we can all be proud of our role in contributing to economic opportunity while minimizing student debt burdens. We also just learned that the School of Social Sciences was ranked 12th by Diverse Issues in Higher Education for graduating the most Hispanic bachelor’s students and 15th for master’s degrees awarded to Hispanic students. I am delighted to announce that we are working together with the Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning on a series of new initiatives to help support our first-generation students.
We are also collaborating with the Office of Global Engagement on a number of fronts—including the historic opportunity to engage our colleagues and peers in Cuba. Associate professor Anita Casavantes-Bradford is in Cuba right now, in fact, with others from UC Irvine who are laying the groundwork for a larger, UC-systemwide delegation later in the academic year.
We welcome a total of 10 new faculty to the School of Social Sciences this year. You can learn more about them and their research by watching this short video, prepared by our phenomenal communications team. Please join me in welcoming them at our big beginning of the year bash, our “Zotoberfest,” on October 5.
Let’s also take a moment to congratulate our terrific staff on their achievements and to thank them for everything they will do for us in the year ahead. Shelly Bennett-Burns was promoted to the position of director of our Business and Finance Office and Jin Chae is now our contracts & grants manager. They are joined by a number of new staff across our departments and programs. And congratulations again to Helen Morgan ’92 for winning the Excellence in Leadership Award from the Staff Assembly, and Kurt Hessinger ’97 for winning the Order of the Laurel Award for his commitment to students affiliated with the campus’ Greek system. Two other staff members hit significant marks in length of service to UCI—Edna Mejia (44 years) and Norma Miranda (36 years).
The past year has been an exciting time for me as dean for a whole host of reasons, not least of which is the completion of our first fundraising campaign through the Dean’s Leadership Society. Now standing at 58 members strong, the DLS completed its “Pave the Way” campaign with a celebration on September 18 and a dedication of the named bricks adjacent to SSPB 1208. Funds raised last year will support UCDC students traveling to Washington under the direction and mentorship of our very own political science professor Matt Beckmann. The funds were also helpful in faculty recruitment and retention. Speaking of Washington, DC, we’re honored to have three distinguished visitors who have devoted a large chunk of their lives to public service: Former Representative John Campbell will be with us for the year, lecturing in political science. Former Representative Barney Frank will be visiting us later this fall. And Rosie Rios, Treasurer of the United States, will be coming to campus October 29. I had the pleasure of meeting her during a roundtable discussion in Washington, D.C. about which female face should adorn the next $10 bill, and she’s really excited to come see us in Irvine. As always, details will be available at www.socsci.uci.edu. I’ll also be making my first ever trip to Capitol Hill to lobby our representatives on behalf of the importance of social and behavioral research, and to build relationships with our friends and supporters in various federal agencies.
Finally—last but not least—I am still beside myself with the news that for the first time, the School of Social Sciences has won the Zot Award!! Now, I understand many of you have never heard of this before. Suffice it to say, it is a prize most coveted by the deans. Every year at commencement, each dean leads his or her school in a resounding “Zot! Zot! Zot!” cheer. Through a completely opaque and mysterious process, a secret committee confers the Zot Award upon the school with the loudest, most enthusiastic Zot! The dean of that school is informed of the award the following fall, at convocation, with a surprise announcement that morning, and the ensuing obligation to lead the incoming freshmen and transfer students in their first-ever “Zot!” That noble duty fell to me this year. You can see it here. And you can visit our marvelous trophy in the Social Sciences Dean’s Suite. We’re so happy to be welcoming in 834 new freshman and 511 new transfers who, together with our 4168 current student body, make up the largest undergrad population on campus.
I’m looking forward to sharing more exciting stories about our accomplishments as we activate the talents of the social sciences community and the wider Anteater Nation to enlighten, inspire and make a difference in the world. Let’s have a great year! Zot, zot, zot!
Dean, School of Social Sciences