Barbara Sarnecka

Barbara Sarnecka, professor of cognitive sciences and former interim associate dean of faculty development and diversity, has been appointed as the new associate dean of graduate studies and research in the School of Social Sciences.

Sarnecka has been a member of the UCI faculty since 2005, following one year spent as a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University. Her research has focused on how young children acquire number concepts, how they reason about the social world, and how they make decisions. She's also conducted studies on adult moral psychology and the development of expertise in adults. Most recently, she's turned her attention to studying how Ph.D. students can increase their writing productivity and become expert scientific writers, a topic she explores in her book, The Writing Workshop: Write More, Write Better, Be Happier in Academia, which recently won a commendation from the Society for the Improvement of Psychological Science. She's looking forward to putting plans in motion for new graduate fellowships and training opportunities in this realm as associate dean. Additionally, she's interested in models of cascading mentorship, where graduate students form mentoring relationships not only with faculty, but also with a rich network of their senior and junior peers. She looks forward to creating an infrastructure of cascading mentorship to support the well-being and professional success of all graduate students in social sciences.

Sarnecka completed her bachelor’s in Russian and Japanese at the University of Iowa. Then she lived and worked in Russia for a year as an interpreter, and then in Japan for three years as an English teacher, before returning to the U.S. to earn her master’s in anthropology and social work and Ph.D. in psychology at the University of Michigan. For the past year, she's served as interim associate dean of faculty development and diversity in social sciences where she's guided programming to foster inclusivity within the school and university.

Her new role leading the research and graduate studies division in social sciences will build upon work that exiting associate dean Mike McBride has put in motion during his five-year term (2016-21), a period in which graduate enrollment increased roughly 20% through competitive, high quality recruitment and expansion in programs including the addition of two new master's programs, several cross-campus interdisciplinary master's programs and emphases, and two new Ph.D. programs in language science and global and international studies. Research funding also saw a marked increase during McBride's tenure, and the school looks forward to continuing this upward trajectory with Sarnecka at the helm.

connect with us


© UC Irvine School of Social Sciences - 3151 Social Sciences Plaza, Irvine, CA 92697-5100 - 949.824.2766