Social sciences peer academic advisors welcome new students

Dear social sciences community,

I am so incredibly excited to welcome everyone back for our fall 2021 quarter! Many of you are returning in person – some for the first time as part of our incoming classes of 2020 and 2021 first-year, transfer and graduate students and new faculty, and others for the first time in some 18 months. Still others are remaining remote or in a hybrid model as we all learned new ways of learning, teaching and working throughout the pandemic that we’re carrying over into our new normal. Wherever you fall in this continuum, welcome back!

While excitement about the new academic year is palpable as we encounter students on campus and enjoy bumping into each other in the halls and plazas again, we are also cognizant of the life altering changes COVID has wrought and continues to bring to our families, friends, and fellow global citizens. We are coming back changed, so let us take a moment to remember those whom we have lost. And, within the school, let’s recommit ourselves to creating positive change in societies, economies and for human well-being, particularly within communities where the pandemic made painfully clear the impact of racial inequity and socioeconomic injustice.

UCI set a new record this year as nearly 134,000 students applied for fall 2021 admission. A total of 107,939 aspiring first-year students applied for fall, an increase of more than 10,000 from last year. Another 25,936 applications came from transfer students, the second-highest number among UC campuses. The Irvine campus was also the top UC choice for in-state, first-generation students for the third consecutive year, with 47 percent of its California-resident applications coming from students who will be the first in their families to attend college. Overall, UCI was No. 2 in the UC system for in-state applications from both underrepresented minorities and low-income families.

And as the largest academic unit on campus, social sciences plays a vital role in serving this diverse student population. We’re proud to welcome 1090 new first-years, 875 new transfers, and 87 new grad students to their first year as UCI Anteaters. They join our 4,608 returning undergrads and 408 grad students to make up a total social sciences student population of 7,068.

Again this year, nearly half of our entering undergrads – 46.4% – are the first in their family to go to college. As some of the best, brightest, and most determined of our undergrads, these students bring diverse experiences and perspectives to our school, helping to forge new pathways and leading the process of generational change. Social sciences will play a critical role in their journey. Here to help are the amazing student programs – SSARC, FGFQ SAEP, and DAC, to name a few – that social sciences provides, plus our faculty mentors, the undergraduate student affairs office, and our dynamic outreach programs that give students an opportunity to connect.

Among this year’s new faces are 9 faculty members coming from universities across the globe representing interests spanning Black social movements; Indigenous communities; biological, psychological and cultural factors that influence women’s reproductive health; human language; environmental and energy economics; and more. Learn more about their expertise and experience online where you can hear from each their passion for research and mentorship and their enthusiasm about joining the top-notch faculty at UCI.

We’re proud to have within social sciences a number of on-going research, teaching and outreach programs aimed confronting some of the biggest challenges of our time. To name but a few: This year, Davin Phoenix, political science, was named an inaugural UCI Inclusive Excellence Term Chair Professor, a three-year appointment that recognizes him for work the addresses anti-Black racism and advances understanding about the Black experience at UCI and beyond. Three members of the social sciences faculty – Kim Fortun, anthropology, Alana LeBrón, Chicano/Latino studies, and Salvador Zárate, anthropology - are part of a multidisciplinary UCI research team that's received funding to address environmental health disparities in southern California’s Black communities. Laura Enriquez, Chicano/Latino studies, championed and completed a two-year study on the struggles and successes of undocumented students in California’s public universities. As wildfires intensify and continue to surpass records, Salvador Zárate, anthropology, is pursuing a study on alternative solutions that involve consultation with the weed abatement workers who are one of the first lines of defense. Claire Kim, political science, provided expert commentary to numerous media outlets on the rising rate of violence against Asian Americans and race relations in the U.S., while Long Bui, global and international studies, provided expert commentary on refugee policy following the U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. Vellore Arthi, economics, is spearheading a National Science Foundation-funded study to understand economic crises across history, looking at, among other things, the intergenerational impact of graduating during a recession and the evolution of racial wealth gaps. As the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol began to break out, Igor Bobic ’10, political science, caught historic footage while reporting for the Huffington Post. A new book by Cailin O'Connor, logic and philosophy of science, explores the origins of unfairness, how inequities emerge and why they persist. Kristin Turney, sociology, is working with cross campus colleagues to share personal stories of COVID conditions inside California's state prisons in order to raise awareness and action. Anneeth Kaur Hundle, anthropology, helped give the campus perspective on the April mass shooting in California in which four of the eight victims were Sikh community members. Our Diversity, Inclusion & Racial Healing Ambassador Program (DIRHA) and Deconstructing Diversity Initiative (DDI), which both seek to build empathy, cultural competency, and reduce stereotypes, have collectively reached thousands of teens and young college students with messages of inclusion, hope and healing.  

These are but a few examples of the research and many programs our students, faculty, staff and alumni champion as we all work to create a more inclusive, equitable environment on campus and beyond.

We also had a few key leadership shifts this past year that I’m delighted to share. Our school’s Office of the Associate Dean of Faculty Development and Diversity, established in 2018 to build a more inclusive school, is now helmed by Anita Casavantes-Bradford, Chicano/Latino studies, as associate dean, and Angela Jenks, anthropology, as vice associate dean. Serving as interim associate dean for the past year was Barbara Sarnecka, cognitive sciences, who is now taking the reins as our new associate dean of the Office of Research and Graduate Studies. I want to thank our out-going associate dean of graduate studies, Mike McBride, economics, for his five years of service. And David John Frank, sociology, is our newly named chair of sociology, succeeding Judith Stepan-Norris who served in the role for the past year during an important and challenging time. We’re looking forward to continued and new innovative programming from all to serve our students and faculty.

In keeping with tradition, I like using this time each year to highlight some of our outstanding accomplishments from the year past, and because the list always seems to get longer and at risk of missing anyone, I’m only going to hit on a few highlights.

In terms of external grant funding, I’m happy to report that being remote for the full academic 2020-21 year did not deter the research enterprise of social sciences. Our school received nearly $5.3 million in funding to pursue research on topics ranging from a study of memory decline due to natural aging and disease to the impact donors have in elections and political representation. Overall, we received 36 new awards and 37 faculty of our 169 total faculty members received funding during the year.

A few key highlights:

  • Our newest prORU – the Center for Population, Inequality, and Policy - received over $650k.
  • Chicano/Latino studies received nearly $130k, up significantly from the year prior.
  • Economics federal awards increased from $63k to over $181k, a 190% increase over the previous year.
  • Logic & philosophy of science received over $45k in awards from non-profit granting agencies, representing a substantial increase in this area.
  • Fellowship awards in anthropology increased 230% from $34k to over $112k.
  • And awards from charitable organizations increased 51%.

Even though we remained remote throughout the 2020-21 year, our alumni and donor community remained active and engaged. Nearly 4,000 guests attended 37 virtual events hosted by our dynamic development team – including everything from our signature Lunar New Year celebration to our more intimate Dean’s Leadership Society Coffee Chats and be BOLD 2.0 & 2.1 Alumni Networking series. UCI is in the middle of its Brilliant Future fundraising campaign, and to date, the school has raised $22.29 million via 3,643 unique gifts from 1,970 unique donors. And the university is well on its way to meet its goal to engage 75,000 alumni; that count currently tops 47,669, and social sciences has played a significant role in this work.

It has also been an amazing year in terms of honors and awards for our faculty. Rather than list them all and risk missing one, I invite you to check out our featured news highlights showcasing all of our outstanding award winners, grant recipients, researchers, featured colleagues, ground breaking studies and new books published in the last year. You’ll also find listed there a number of undergraduate, graduate and alumni stories highlighting outstanding achievements and awards including our Lauds and Laurels recipients, alumni and community partners making their mark, and outstanding staff honored for service both on and off campus. Kudos to all of our dedicated and hardworking faculty, staff and students who help us each day in achieving our research, teaching and service successes.

As always, you can keep up with our never-ending cycle of excellent news online and via our enews (email or sign up here to be added to our distribution list). And while you’re on our site, check out our running list of soc sci in the media. Last year alone, 111 faculty, students and programs were cited and/or featured in 486 stories that ran in 225 different media outlets in top venues including The New York Times, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Yahoo News, MSN, The Guardian, Bloomberg, Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, CalMatters, NPR, CNN, Newsweek, Science, USA Today, National Geographic, NBC and more.

As we begin welcoming more and more of you in person on campus this year, we want to remind you that we expect everyone to follow all public health protocols. Students, faculty and staff, please be sure you’ve uploaded your vaccine confirmations online, and mask accordingly in required spaces. To learn more about the many ways UCI is working to ensure the safest in-person environment possible, check out UCI Forward, the campus site dedicated to need-to-know info regarding COVID-19. We know that there's still a lot of uncertainty about the upcoming year but, we'll work to support each other as a community.

And let me again say a hearty welcome back to all – we can’t wait to see you and to come together in all our multiple in-person and online modalities to make this a terrific year!

Zot, zot, zot!

Bill Maurer, Dean

-photo courtesy of Estela Magaña, UCI social sciences


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