November 2014

This time of year, students are putting midterms behind them and we are all adjusting to fall in Irvine, with temperatures plummeting to 72 degrees. In the last month I have had a chance to visit Anteaters in D.C. and New York City, and I want to thank the hundreds of alumni who attended our gatherings. We heard loud and clear that there is great enthusiasm for creating opportunities that allow the dispersed Anteater Nation to get together, support each other, and learn about developments on the campus. I’m looking forward to meeting with other groups of alumni in the weeks and months to come.

Fall has proven to be an exciting, eventful time with many noteworthy accomplishments. Here are some highlights from the last month that I think exemplify UCI’s mission and place in the community.

Calming fears about Ebola

Over the past few weeks, UCI has been recognized as a center of expertise on Ebola, with our faculty receiving prominent attention in national news publications. The State of California announced that UC Irvine Health, along with the four other UC medical centers, would be the first five designated Ebola treatment centers in the unlikely event that a person in the state becomes ill from the virus – an example of the many ways that great research universities serve (and sometimes reassure) their communities. To help our community better understand the issues associated with Ebola, Associate Professor of Public Health Andrew Noymer recently moderated a lively panel discussion on campus for a crowd of more than 700. The discussion featured experts from UCI, Stanford University, University of Hawaii, and UC San Francisco who each sought to calm fears and equip the community with useful information about Ebola. You can watch the full discussion on YouTube.

Attracting even more of the best and brightest

UCI is home to one of the nation’s preeminent stem cell research centers. Last month, leadership at the Sue and Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center was recognized with an $8 million grant from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine to launch a state-of-the-art research clinic in collaboration with UCLA. Led by director Sidney Golub and UCLA’s Dr. Owen Witte, this partnership of experienced personnel will conduct national and international clinical trials and give patients access to new treatment therapies for presently incurable diseases.

UCI, UCLA awarded $8 million to launch stem cell clinic 

Solar panel expansion

Being a leader means continually expanding areas of existing strength. UCI is installing 11,700 additional solar panels atop three parking structures that will generate up to 3.2 megawatts of electricity – enough to power 1,800 homes and reduce campus carbon emissions by 1,500 metric tons every year. The project is just one of many we have undertaken to meet the entire UC system’s goal of carbon neutrality by 2025. It’s also another demonstration of a long-standing campus commitment that led the Sierra Club to rank UCI as the nation’s #1 college on issues relating to climate and sustainability.

Campus increases on-site solar power production fourfold 

Faculty achievements

Fall quarter has proven to be a time of professional development and achievement for many UCI faculty members. Professor of Nursing Science Ellen Olshansky was elected to the American Academy of Nursing board of directors where she will have a hand in healthcare reformation and the professional advancement of nurses in the United States. She also is serving as co-director of our new Interdisciplinary Center on Family Violence and director of community engagement for the UCI Institute for Clinical and Translational Science.

A UCI team led by Weian Zhao, an assistant professor of pharmaceutical sciences, developed a new bloodstream infection test that can speed up diagnosis times, allowing physicians to treat patients with potentially deadly ailments more promptly and effectively. A UCI spinoff, Velox Biosystems, is now further developing the technology.

We also congratulate Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jack Miles, a distinguished professor of English and religious studies, who was featured in The New York Times for his work as editor of The Norton Anthology of World Religions – a 4,400-page inaugural edition that delves into 3,500 years of religious history.

Guest speakers inspire unity and activism

activist Leymah Gbowee
Activist Leymah Gbowee. Steve Zylius/UCI

Last month, our campus was visited by Nobel laureate Leymah Gbowee for the latest installment of the Living Peace Series, a program co-sponsored by UCI and Orange County’s Center for Living Peace. Gbowee inspired our students, faculty, staff, and community members with her stories of perseverance in leading a women’s peace movement that helped put an end to the second Liberian civil war. In her remarks, she said “Living peace is not a day job; it is a calling.”

Unity and activism are important aspects of campus life. This year we celebrate the 40th anniversary of our Cross-Cultural Center, which aims to empower our diverse students. At a special commemorative event for students and campus cultural organizations, Professor Emeritus Joseph L. White, affectionately referred to as the “godfather” of black psychology, shared stories of activism during his 50-year tenure at UCI.

Developing diverse new programs

As a university grows and diversifies it’s imperative that we develop new programs that meet the evolving educational needs of our students and support new directions in research and professional practice. To that end we have now officially launched the UCI Medical Humanities Initiative, which will give students a deeper, holistic understanding of human health, healing, and well-being. It will also facilitate innovative research initiatives among teams of faculty from across the campus. Additionally, the School of Humanities has taken steps to offer a minor in Persian studies beginning next year, thanks to the support of the Farhang Foundation. Students who pursue the minor will take courses in Persian language, culture, and history.

Vice Chancellor Thomas Parham encourages Compton students

This month, high school seniors from all over the world contemplate their futures and send out applications to universities with the hopes of obtaining their dreams. What better time than now to reach out to those students and speak to the value of higher education at a world-class university such as UCI. As one example of that outreach process, Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Thomas Parham and UCI alumnus Tyrone Howard visited Manuel Dominguez High School in Compton to tell students that a UCI education is within reach for those who are dedicated and tenacious. These efforts are part of the reason why we are able to attract such a tremendously talented and diverse student body.

Remarks to the OC Forum

Recently I was invited to the Orange County Forum, a gathering of more than 150 community leaders, where I spoke about the vital role our university plays in the region. You can read my full remarks on here.

UCI is the only Association of American Universities research institution in Orange County, which means we have the privilege of leading the community as an engine of innovation and a magnet for extraordinary talent. When the UC regents decided to establish a campus on the Irvine Ranch some 50 years ago, there was a hope that the university would catalyze development and enhance the quality of life for the people of Orange County for generations to come. I think we have stayed true to that initial vision. As we mark our 50th anniversary, we continue to extend our reach as one of the great centers of education and excellence serving our region, state, nation, and world.

Giving thanks

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I would like to express my gratitude to our many partners, donors, and ambassadors who continue to support the great work that goes on at UCI. Without your help, UCI would not be the world-class institution it is today.

This continues to be a rewarding, productive season for all of us at UCI. I hope you will feel inspired to share our successes with family, friends, and colleagues.

Warm wishes for a happy Thanksgiving.