November 3, 2021

Retirement of Ria Carlson

Dear Colleagues:

Vice Chancellor for Strategic Communications & Public Affairs Ria Carlson has informed me that she plans to retire early next year, closing ten years of extraordinary service to this university.

Ria joined UCI in March 2012 as our chief communications, marketing and public affairs officer after spending 25 years as a top communications and strategy executive at Fortune 100 corporations. She made a lasting impact almost immediately. She aimed high with our 50th anniversary, making the bold recommendation that we kick off the anniversary celebration with a visit from the President of the United States. She played a critical role in developing the messaging and strategy that convinced President Barack Obama to address our 2014 graduates at Anaheim Stadium.

Understanding that UCI needs a powerful, consistent voice for the dynamic media environment, Ria also drove an enterprise-wide brand initiative that provided a structure for our messaging, positioning, advertising and graphic standards. The new brand strategy was steeped in research and performance measurement, helping us craft influential stories that engaged constituents with demonstrable success. As a result, our university is far better known as a premier, international leader today than it was a few years ago.

The record of Ria’s accomplishments is voluminous, too long to list, but two recent efforts deserve special mention. Her oversight of the integration of all our health and campus marketing efforts has brought the important role played by UCI Health in the life of Orange County to the fore and set the stage for the dramatic expansion of our health facilities and patient care capability in the Irvine-Newport Beach area. And of particular note is her exceptional leadership in support of UCI Health’s work during the COVID-19 pandemic. Under her guidance and supervision, UCI became the most widely used and comprehensive provider of accurate and timely information about the virus and its treatment in the region.

Her most important role, however, has been as my trusted strategic advisor. I have always been able to count on her to provide sound, often passionate counsel on a variety of issues, from accepting accolades to managing crises, guiding us along a path designed to enhance and protect our reputation and relationships. She has been an integral part of our leadership team and we are incredibly grateful for her many contributions to UCI. Even though we still have good work to do together, I will miss her when she steps down.

We will shortly begin a nationwide search to identify and recruit a new chief communications and external relations officer.

I hope you will join me in thanking her for all she has done on behalf of this great university.

Chancellor Howard Gillman