Bill Maurer

Dear social sciences community,

I’m so thrilled to welcome you all to the start of another school year in the UCI School of Social Sciences!

On Tuesday the 26th, I had the privilege of meeting our 1,500 new social sciences Anteaters at UCI’s all campus convocation and our school’s first-ever welcome BBQ that followed, sponsored by our alumni donors. The excitement these students have about joining one of the nation’s top 10 public universities was palpable and reminded me of the incredibly important role we play as university professors, mentors, teachers and administrators in creating a community where all of our people and programs can thrive. Check out video and photos from our BBQ by the Bren to see what I mean!

This year’s new students come from a record-setting pool of over 143,000 applicants, helping UCI continue its multi year run as a top choice for first-years, in-state first-generation students, underrepresented minority students, and for students who come from low-income families. And in social sciences, we are proud to support more than 6,200 Anteaters among our undergraduate and graduate programs who are pursuing an education that opens the door to infinite possibilities.

Also among this year’s new faces are 13 faculty members coming from universities across the globe representing interests spanning race, social movements, mathematical logic, environmental justice, vision, language, politics, 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.

We are looking ahead to a productive and busy year actively architecting what's next — a future where change is not just foreseen but actively cultivated. We have a number of events planned in conjunction with the university’s thematic “Year of Free Speech and Academic Freedom.” On Oct. 14, in partnership with PEN America, we’re hosting the Free Expression Student Summit where students can attend workshops led by UCI faculty on a variety of topics including international human rights, book bans, educational gag orders, news media literacy, and protest rights in the United States. On Oct. 19, we’re hosting a reading by our current social sciences writer-in-residence Sholeh Wolpé, Iranian-born poet, playwright and librettist, where she’ll discuss her most recent book, a memoir in verse, Abacus of Loss (2022). And on Oct. 25, in partnership with UCI Libraries, we’re hosting a panel discussion on book bans, censorship and citizenship with notable children’s book and young adult fiction and non-fiction authors. We’re also continuing our community-facing Economic Forum, with the fall event set for Nov. 2, and we invite you to mark your calendars early to join us for our annual Lunar New Year Celebration on Feb. 5.

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

  • Belinda Campos, Chicano/Latino studies, is co-leading UC PRIME Pre-Health Pathways, a multipronged training model that will prepare more underrepresented undergraduates for careers in medicine. Funded through a five-year, $3.6 million grant from the California Department of Health Care Access and Information, UCPPP will also establish a select cohort for intensive training, advising and support to increase readiness for medical school.
  • Cognitive scientist Megan Peters is part of a $17 million NIH-funded project - $275,000 to UCI – focused on building an open-source, collaborative online platform that will teach future scientists how to run rigorous, replicable experiments. She’s also part of the critical international conversation that’s shaping how we understand AI and consciousness.
  • Logic & philosophy of science professors Cailin O’Connor, Jim Weatherall and Kyle Stanford are part of a research team that’s discovered moral judgements cloud risk perceptions of COVID-19 exposure, findings that, published in Collabra: Psychology, may help illuminate biases that can be used to improve public health and risk communication.
  • team of researchers from UC Santa Barbara and UCI, including anthropologists Justin Richland and Salvador Zárate – who was also recently named a Hellman Fellow – and Holly Hapke, UCI director of research development in social sciences, has been awarded a $192,869 grant from the National Science Foundation to study wildfire mitigation and management at a regional level, bringing together diverse, Indigenous communities working and living in high-risk areas.
  • The Ethics Center Mentoring Program, led by political scientist Kristen Monroe, created a more meaningful summer for more than 450 high school, college, and graduate student participants this year, covering topics from the use of social media to combat hate and foster tolerance, to when pricing is unethical and/or illegal.
  • UCI economist David Neumark took a deep dive into the large and growing body of evidence on minimum wage effects on health and health-related behaviors, finding that despite assertions from major medical associations that higher minimum wages overall improve public health, the answer is a bit more nuanced.
  • Sociologist Kristin Turney received a $510,000 National Science Foundation grant to provide the nation's first systematic accounting of pandemic-related deaths in U.S. prisons.
  • Long Bui, global and international studies, has ushered in new changes to the school’s longstanding Summer Academic Enrichment Program, widening the reach of the graduate readiness program aimed at first-gen and low-income students.
  • Political scientist Samantha Vorthems received an NSF CAREER award to study globalization and establish the Citizenship Lab at UCI – a formal summer mentorship and professional training program for underrepresented students interested in political methodology and research design.
  • Connor Mayer, language science, is part of a $550,000 NSF-funded research team studying infant language acquisition.
  • UCI Community Credit partnered with nonprofit Abrazar and PhotovoiceWorldwide to capture community stories of financial struggle and resilience in photographs that were on display as part of Santa Ana’s “May Your Mental Health Thrive with H.O.P.E. (Hope Opportunity Progress Equity)” Community Health Fair.
  • More than 70 University of California scholars took part in the All-UC Demography Conference, a two-day event hosted by UCI’s Center for Population, Inequality, and Policy and sponsored by UCI’s Office of Research, that featured an impressive lineup of faculty paper presentations and discussions, an enlightening keynote address, and a competitive graduate student poster contest.
  • Award-winning cognitive scientist Michael Lee is part of a UCI and Beijing Normal University research team developing new approaches to mental health screening and interventions in China, thanks to a $600,000 grant from the Cyrus Tang Foundation.
  • Researchers from UCI's EcoGovLab are collaborating with community stakeholders to address Santa Ana’s cumulative pollution burden.
  • Acclaimed anthropologist, author and professor Leo Chavez was elected to membership in the American Academy of Arts & Sciences; Gregory Hickok, language science and cognitive sciences, was elected a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science; and award-winning author Héctor Tobar, Chicano/Latino studies and English, received a Guggenheim Fellowship.
  • Tiara Na’puti, global and international studies, is working on an Office of Inclusive Excellence Confronting Extremism project addressing the missing narrative of Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities in current data collection and reporting methods.
  • And through the same program, Laura E. Enriquez, Chicano/Latino studies, and Alana LeBrón, Chicano/Latino studies and public health, are leading two new projects aimed at rebuilding, reframing, and transforming community members and institutions for inclusive excellence.

Our faculty also published more than a dozen books on topics ranging from mentorship best practices, pandemic politics and social movements to sex trafficking, critical race theory and the Holocaust. Check out our faculty bookshelf online for a full recount including Q&As, podcasts and videos. 

And our emeriti remain active knowledge creators and critical service providers post-retirement, earning well deserved recognition for their work. Among them: award-winning Anteater advocate Jim Danziger, political science, named this year’s Outstanding Emeritus at UCI, and Raul Fernandez, Chicano/Latino studies, named the Constantine Panunzio Distinguished Emeriti Award winner for the entire UC system. 

Collectively, in terms of external grants, our school saw a 57% increase in awarded funding over the previous year. Social scientists received $9,361,547 to pursue research on topics including everything from understanding supply chains in economic statecraft to the short and long- run effects of remote work on housing. In addition to the projects highlighted above, you can learn more on our site about funded projects and ongoing work.

We also had a few school leadership shifts that I’m delighted to share. Anthropologist Angela Jenks has been appointed to the campus-level role of associate vice chancellor for equity, diversity, and inclusion in the UCI Office of Inclusive Excellence where she’ll oversee OIE's educational programs, including directing the DECADE (Diverse Educational Community & Doctoral Experience) mentor program and leading the Inclusive Excellence Certificate Program. Filling her shoes in social sciences as vice associate dean of faculty development and diversity is sociologist and award-winning researcher Rocío Rosales who’s looking forward to focusing on community building among faculty of color, faculty retention, navigating department interactions, and mentorship activities alongside associate dean Anita Casavantes Bradford. Political scientist Jeffrey Kopstein, who studies interethnic violence, voting patterns of minority groups, and anti-liberal tendencies in civil society, is the new director of the UCI Center for Jewish Studies, and political scientist Kamal Sadiq, who specializes in comparative politics, immigration and citizenship in developing countries, is the new director of the Center for Global Peace and Conflict Studies which is celebrating its 40th year engaging in research, teaching and outreach efforts to preserve peace and reduce conflict worldwide.

With more than 62,000 living alumni, social sciences offers a number of opportunities through which our active Anteaters continue to engage with the school and university long past the receipt of their degrees. This year, we welcomed Peter Trepp, ’88 UCI economics and ’98 UCLA Anderson School MBA, as chair of the Board of Councilors, the school’s most senior advisory council to the dean. Our Women of the Dean’s Leadership Society, UCI’s first all-women’s leadership society which launched just last year, is piloting the LeadHER Mentorship Program, a quarterly program designed to nurture and cultivate leadership among outstanding social sciences juniors and seniors within both academic and social contexts. And we've been actively meeting social sciences alumni up and down the coast from San Diego to San Francisco and across the country with key events in New York as we continue offering engagement opportunities for alumni to network and connect.

In terms of fundraising, social sciences has raised more than $25,000,000 in support of UCI’s Brilliant Future campaign and played a significant role in engaging 64,232 Anteaters in the campus’s goal to reach 75,000. Keep an eye on our event calendar for signature events – including the Economic Forum, exclusive Dean’s Leadership Society engagements, and the annual Lunar New Year celebration – that you won’t want to miss!

2023-23 was an amazing academic year. I invite you to check out our featured news feed showcasing all of our outstanding award winners, grant recipients, researchers, featured colleagues, groundbreaking studies and other shout outs from 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 news. Over the past year, 114 faculty, students and programs were featured in more than 500 stories that ran in 231 different media outlets – and that doesn’t include a particularly popular piece that quoted political scientist Tony Smith and ran in over 400 outlets nationwide. Other top hits of the year included The New York Times, MSN, Yahoo News, The Orange County Register, Los Angeles Times, US News & World Report, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Marketplace, NBC News, CalMatters, NPR, The Guardian, ABC News, CNN, USA Today, National Geographic, FiveThirtyEight, and more.

Once again, welcome to all – and thank you in advance for the wonderful contributions you will make in 2023-24!

Bill Maurer, Dean

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