Welcome Week

Dear social sciences community,

Welcome back, Anteaters! And to those of you new to UCI and the School of Social Sciences, welcome home. Whether you are beginning the last year of your degree program, starting your career as a new member of the faculty, celebrating 20+ years as a member of the staff, or making your mark in the world as an active alumnus, we are so proud to have you among our valued community – one that emboldens mold breakers to create positive change and improve the human condition. 

As I welcomed our new students at convocation, I couldn’t help but smile thinking about how much I love this time of year. Seeing the excited faces of our new and returning students - many of whom are the first in their family to go to college – reminds me of the important role we play as university professors, mentors, teachers and administrators in creating a community where all of our students thrive. Being physically together, in the Bren for convocation and then the SST Plaza where Helen Morgan and I greeted the new social sciences students, made it even more special.

This year, we’re welcoming 665 new first-years, 673 new transfers, and 84 new grad students to their first year as UCI Anteaters. They come from a record-setting pool of over 142,000 applicants, helping UCI continue its multiyear run as the top UC choice for in-state, first-generation students and as the #2 choice in the UC system for in-state applications from both underrepresented minority students and low-income families. Our new students join our 4,560 returning undergrads and 430 grad students to make up a total social sciences student population just over 6,400 Anteaters strong.

Also among this year’s new faces are 11 faculty members coming from universities across the globe representing interests spanning racism and social justice, Indigenous studies, educational inequality, and much more. Learn more about their expertise and experience online where you can hear from each their passion for research, teaching and mentorship that makes a difference and their enthusiasm about connecting and collaborating with their new colleagues at UCI.

True to our motto, this past year, social sciences’ research, teaching and outreach has continued its bold and boundaryless course. To highlight but a few examples:

Logic and philosophy of science associate professor Lauren Ross, MD, Ph.D., launched the LPS Summer Diversity Program.  Funded by the National Science Foundation and the UCI School of Social Sciences, the one-week residential program at UCI exposes students from underrepresented backgrounds to graduate-level topics in philosophy. Ramesh Srinivasan and Jeffrey Rouder, cognitive sciences professors, are leveraging their STEM-focused research expertise through an NSF-funded collaborative with California State University San Bernardino-Palm Desert Campus (PDC) to enhance STEM opportunities for underserved students at PDC. Holly Hapke, Ph.D., UCI social sciences research development director, created the NSF-funded California Alliance for Hispanic-Serving Social Science Advancement (CAHSSA) in coordination with UC Santa Barbara, California State University Channel Islands (CSUCI), and the Chancellor’s Office of the California State University to remove barriers and build research success among faculty at minority-serving institutions. Megan Peters, cognitive sciences assistant professor, is chairing and leading Neuromatch Academy, an inclusive summer school experience that spans the entire globe and provides students a fundamental education in modern computational neuroscience, and Sara Mednick, cognitive sciences professor, got to break down upstate and downstate biological rhythms and activities that improve health and well-being on an episode of The TODAY Show. Ana Rosas, Chicano/Latino studies and history associate professor, is leading a research team dedicated to telling El Sol Academy's rich history. Kristen Monroe, political science Distinguished professor and director of the UCI Interdisciplinary Center for the Scientific Study of Ethics and Morality, closed out another successful year of her summer internship program aimed at teaching high school students and undergrads about a multitude of topics in ethics while providing participants a hands-on collegiate research experience. Eric Swanson, economics professor, has been an active voice in media, providing expert perspective on inflation, interest rates and impacts economic measures have on households and businesses, and Tony Smith and Michael Tesler, political science professors, have been doing the same for issues involving Supreme Court rulings, women’s rights, voting and the future of democracy. Damien Sojoyner, anthropology associate professor, and Yousuf Al-Bulushi, global and international studies assistant professor, received a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to create a yearlong UCI series examining complex structural and social issues, focusing on the transformative role Black Americans played in reconstructing American society following the Civil War. Glenda Flores, Chicano/Latino studies associate professor, is part of an NSF-funded research team that's created The Institute for Meaningful Engagement, an education project that will explore the environmental factors prompting underrepresented students to leave STEM programs and investigate how faculty can foster better classroom cultures to retain them. Alana M.W. LeBrón, Chicano/Latino studies and public health assistant professor, is co-leading the newly launched Center for Environmental Health Disparities Research dedicated to addressing environmental justice through community-based research and promotion of equitable environmental health policies locally and nationally. Richard Futrell, language science associate professor, penned a popular piece for The Conversation on when talking was invented and how this uniquely human trait evolved, and it’s among UCI’s top five most clicked on Conversation articles. Kristin Turney, sociology dean’s professor, through PrisonPandemic, is continuing to shine light on the pandemic experiences of incarcerated individuals, and David S. Meyer, sociology professor, with funding from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, is organizing scholars with critical expertise on past social movements to help create an organizational, advocacy, and tactical toolkit activists may use to influence policies on peace. And our emeriti continue to make vital contributions and earn well deserved recognition for their work, including Russell Dalton, political science, who was ranked by Research.com as the 25th most cited professor of law and political science in the U.S., and the #1 most cited political scientist in the UC system.

We also had a few departmental leadership shifts this past year that I’m delighted to share. Justin Richland is our newly named chair of anthropology; Virginia Richards, cognitive sciences; Gregory Hickok, language science; and Jim Weatherall, logic & philosophy of science. They succeed outgoing chairs Leo Chavez (anthropology), Ramesh Srinivasan (cognitive sciences), Lisa Pearl (language science), and Simon Huttegger (LPS). I want to thank our former chairs for helping lead our top-ranked departments during their chairships, and 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 celebrate 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.

In terms of external grants, our school saw a 12% increase in awarded funding over the previous year. Social scientists received $5,954,694 million to pursue research on topics aimed at everything from understanding side effects of neurosurgical treatment for brain disorders to studies on how economic policies impact jobs and incomes. Overall, we received 25 new awards and 31 faculty members received funding.

A few highlights:

  • The Social Sciences Dean’s Office received over $950k in awards, including a new NSF Convergence Accelerator Grant to pilot mechanisms to bring minoritized communities’ input into the credit union product design process.
  • Sociology saw a 970% increase in grant funding over the prior year, totaling $450k.
  • Political science grant awards increased from $62k to $127k, a 104% increase over the previous year.
  • Awards from charitable organizations neared $1mil again this year.

With more than 60,000 living alumni, social sciences offers a number of opportunities through which our active Anteaters continue to engage with social sciences and UCI long past the receipt of their degrees. This year, we proudly launched UCI’s first Women’s Leadership Society - the Women of the Dean’s Leadership Society – with 39 founding members. And we've been actively meeting social sciences alumni up and down the coast from San Diego to San Francisco, across the country with key events in New York, and around the world as we continue offering hybrid engagement opportunities for alumni to network and connect.

In terms of fundraising, social sciences has raised $24,162,051 through 4,585 unique gifts from 2,471 unique donors, with 30% raised for endowment. UCI is well on its way to meet its goal to engage 75,000 alumni; that count currently tops 52,318, and social sciences has played a significant role in achieving that reach. In the coming year, we have 10 events planned with our Dean's Leadership Society, 7 for our Women of the Dean's Leadership Society, and we're excited to engage in person this year for our traditional signature events - including our Lunar New Year celebration, planned for January 17. Mark your calendars - this is an event you won't want to miss!

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 communications@socsci.uci.edu 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 news. Over the past year, 104 faculty, students and programs were featured in 479 stories that ran in 244 different media outlets. Top hits included the TODAY show, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Yahoo News, MSN, FiveThirtyEight, Bloomberg, The Wall Street Journal, CalMatters, NPR, Marketplace, The Guardian, Science, USA Today, National Geographic, NBC and more.

Once again, I want to say welcome to all – we’re looking forward to a terrific year!

Zot, zot, zot!

Bill Maurer, Dean


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