Earlier this week, I had the privilege of welcoming our new social sciences undergraduates to campus. They number 1,661 strong – 18% of the campus total – and the energy was terrific! They are among the most economically and ethnically diverse class ever admitted, and they come from a pool of over 98,000 UCI applicants. We truly got the best of the best and it’s looking to be a great year! I also greeted our 105 incoming graduate students – M.A. and Ph.D. – who join our outstanding community of intellect and investigation. We have a number of new faculty members joining us for fall quarter, coming from institutions ranging from UC Santa Barbara to Duke - and you can learn more about them here. And with the start of the fall quarter, our “First Gen, First Quarter Challenge” has officially begun. Led by professors Anita Casavantes-Bradford (Chicano/Latino studies) and Davin Phoenix (political science), the program is designed to help our large number of students who are the first in their family to attend college transition to campus life.

With all of the newness the academic year brings, it’s a perfect time to reflect on our accomplishments this past year…and we have a lot to celebrate. We successfully launched the undergraduate entrepreneurship certificate, which attracted over 100 students in its first year. We re-opened the Department of Linguistics and have proposed a newly structured major in language sciences. We received Senate approval for a new M.S./Ph.D. in statistics and cognitive sciences, in collaboration with the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences. And we received approval for a new M.S. in cognitive neuroscience, a graduate emphasis in monetary policy and central banking and a graduate emphasis in international studies.

We significantly increased our fundraising, from $2.8M to $4.2M. This includes part of a $2.75M gift from the John and Marilyn Long Foundation for the Long US-China Institute at UCI, now with an expanded mandate to include social sciences faculty and graduate students. We drew over 1000 people to campus for our first (but not last!) Lunar New Year festival, and 600 alumni to our tent at Homecoming. Our Dean’s Leadership Society, a fundraising and support network which began two years ago with 8 members, now stands at 78.

We also increased extramural grant funded research by 50%, totaling $7M. Profs Batchelder, Dosher, Hickok, Srinivasan, Steyvers, and Vandekerckhove (cognitive sciences) earned key funding from national agencies including the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health and National Eye Institute; David Neumark (economics) secured a $1.3M award from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation to establish the Economic Self-Sufficiency Policy Research Institute; and Kai Wehmeier (logic and philosophy of science) earned a prestigious National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship.

Our graduate students brought in their fair share of grants and fellowships, too. Last year, social sciences tied physical sciences for the largest number of the prestigious NSF Graduate Research Fellows Program (GRFP) awards received at UCI. Three went to anthropology, making it the top recipient of GRFP awards among all anthropology departments in the U.S.

Among our many community partnerships, we launched a project with the United Way on homelessness in Orange County. We are finalizing a partnership with Asian Americans Advancing Justice to run an OC Asian American needs assessment. We successfully partnered with the Irvine Chamber of Commerce to host the annual Business Outlook Breakfast.

Our undergraduate student groups, like the Dean’s Ambassadors Council, continue to enhance the educational experience for all of our students, and our participation in activities ranging from the Dreamers fundraising gala to the Black Leadership Advancement Coalition, the Veterans Services Center, La Raza Graduation, and the newly launched Indigenous Students Graduation exemplifies our commitment to an inclusive environment for all students.

In terms of honors and awards for our faculty, this has been an absolutely stellar year. Herewith, a sampling: Vicki Ruiz (Chicano/Latino studies) was awarded the National Humanities Medal. She also received the World Historical Association Lifetime Award. Kristin Turney (sociology) was selected as a William T. Grant Fellow. She also received the Distinguished Early Career Award from the Children and Youth Section of the American Sociological Association. Nina Bandelj, David Meyer and Evan Schofer (sociology) were elected to the Sociological Research Association. Other sociology faculty received major book and article awards (profs. Bean, Brown, Huffman, Lee, Treas, Penner). Kris Peterson (anthropology) received two book awards (Gold Medal—Independent Publishers’ National Book Awards and the Anthony Leeds Book Prize of the American Anthropological Association). Sara Goodman (political science) won the European Politics and Society Best Book Award from the American Political Science Association. Jeremy Heis (logic and philosophy of science) was named the Bertrand Russell Professor, a visiting position at McMaster University, and emeritus professor David Malament received the Lakatos Award, a premier award in the philosophy of science. Again, this list is partial. Congrats to all!

On the staff side, our very own John Sommerhauser (grad studies), who celebrated his 28th year on campus, was named the UCI Lauds & Laurels Staff Achievement award recipient for his commitment to grad student success. And Kurt Hessinger (undergrad studies) was awarded the Order of the Laurel by UCI’s Greek honor society, Order of Omega, in recognition of his outstanding commitment to the students affiliated with UCI’s Greek system. We also had a number of staff receive five-year incremental service awards at the annual Staff Assembly recognition breakfast. Topping the list for the school with 25 years were Gerald Langiewicz (computing services) and Sheila Mercer (human resources). Kudos to all of our dedicated and hardworking staff, without whom we would not be able to achieve our research, teaching and service successes.

The school continues to lead the campus in the media attention its work receives. We maintain a database of media hits on our website. In 2015-16, our faculty and students were featured in 225 media publications, comprising 495 stories. The top venues in which UC Irvine social scientists appeared were The Washington Post, Orange County Register, The New York Times, and Los Angeles Times.

We will once again be welcoming our new faculty and staff members at our annual Zotoberfest! 

Please join me on September 29 @ 3:00 p.m. in SBSG 1517 to celebrate the start of the new academic year!

Zot, zot, zot!

Bill Maurer

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