Beginning fall 2018, Jeanett Castellanos, social sciences teaching professor, is the new associate dean of undergraduate studies in the School of Social Sciences at UCI. The administrative and leadership role puts the ’94 psychology and sociology alumna in charge of more than 6,000 undergrads who call the social sciences home, marking the university’s largest group of bachelor’s degree-seeking students.

“I was thrilled when Dr. C—as all the students know her—accepted my invitation to serve as associate dean. She has a real commitment to undergraduate education and is a legendary mentor. She also understands the challenges many of our students face,” says Bill Maurer, social sciences dean. “I am deeply grateful to the ad hoc committee, headed by associate dean Belinda Robnett, who assisted in selecting Jeanett from among the school’s most outstanding faculty. And I am proud that she will build on our strong tradition of leadership in undergraduate affairs and access for all our students.”


Castellanos grew up in southeast Los Angeles. The only child of Cuban refugees, she was raised to value education, something neither of her parents had a chance to pursue.

“They didn’t finish high school, so for me, getting a high school diploma was quite an achievement,” she says. When she was accepted to UCI, her parents were ecstatic. Her psychology classes drew her attention, and she completed her bachelor’s in sociology and psychology at UCI in 1994 with honors. She was heavily influenced by Joseph White – the renowned “godfather of black psychology” (who passed away Nov 2017) – and credits much of her success and desire to help others to his outstanding mentorship.

She received her master’s in counseling and doctorate in educational administration at Washington State University and earned a competitive post-doctoral fellowship at Indiana University, Bloomington. She returned home to UCI to work for the dean of students and Center for Educational Partnerships in 1998. The role offered Castellanos her first taste of the other side of the mentorship relationship as she led the campus’s Pre-Graduate Mentorship Program. The next year, she joined the School of Social Sciences as director of the Social Sciences Academic Resource Center (SSARC) and as a lecturer in the school.

Her nationally recognized research merges the fields of counseling and higher education with a particular focus on Latina/os. She has published widely on the topics including multiple studies in peer-review journals and two books, The Minority in the Majority: Expanding the Representation of Latina/o Faculty, Administrators and Students in Higher Education and The Latina/o Pathway to the Ph.D.: Abriendo Caminos.

Castellanos applies her research to the hundreds of undergraduate lives she has touched through her tireless passion to help students succeed. She mentors dozens of racial ethnic minority undergrads each year on how to conduct individual, data-oriented research projects, many of which have resulted in published articles and book chapters. 

She counts, among her numerous accomplishments, having helped place more than 175 students in graduate school – a third of who have been at the doctoral level. Her efforts have also resulted in thousands of dollars in grant funding that have allowed students who otherwise may not have been able to afford it, the opportunity to travel and participate in research conferences and competitive programs across the nation in preparation for graduate school. 

At the state and national level, Castellanos has served on the executive boards of both the National and California Latina/o Psychology Associations. Her work with NLPA led to the establishment of local student chapters on campuses at UCI and CSUF, both of which remain actively involved in providing Latina/o students with guidance and preparation for graduate training and careers in psychology. 

Over her 20-year career as a leader on the Irvine campus, she’s racked up 5 awards highlighting her service beyond the classroom. In 2007, she received the Samuel M. Turner MENTOR (Minority Education, Nurturing, Training, Organizational advocacy, and Research) Award from the American Psychological Association; in 2008, she received the Star Vega Community Service Award from the National Latina/o Psychological Association; and in 2012 she received the Outstanding Support of Hispanics in Higher Education Award from the American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education (AAHEE). In 2014, she received the prestigious UCI Living Our Values award. And her most recent honor: UCI’s 2016-17 Academic Senate Distinguished Faculty Award for Mentorship, an award which highlights faculty who have made outstanding contributions through mentoring of students or other faculty that takes place outside of a traditional teaching or research relationship and beyond their formal advising duties.

Castellanos’s appointment follows the one-quarter term of Michael Lee, cognitive sciences professor, as acting-associate dean. Since 2011, Mark Petracca, political science associate professor, held the role of associate dean and during his tenure, the school reversed declining student enrollments and developed a number of new, interdisciplinary certificate programs, including cultural competency and entrepreneurship. He also led the charge to refocus efforts of the Social Sciences Academic Resource Center and expand services provided by the school’s top-notch Office of Undergraduate Student Affairs. In his time as associate dean, Petracca led the successful nomination process of more than five Fulbright scholars, six Aldrich scholars (UCI’s outstanding junior), six Aeberhard Memorial Awards (UCI’s outstanding freshman), five Lauds and Laurels Awards for Outstanding Undergraduate, and a Truman scholar, while coordinating and supporting the school’s efforts for all Lauds and Laurels and Academic Senate awards.


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