June 2015

In 1966, UCI’s charter graduating class comprised 14 trailblazing students who received their diplomas at a modest ceremony in what is now Gateway Study Center. In just 50 years, our campus and our traditions have dramatically transformed to include ceremonies for each school, as well as ethnic and cultural celebrations. Last weekend, more than 50,000 loved ones gathered on campus to commemorate the tremendous achievements of UCI’s Class of 2015, a group of more than 10,000 students, many of whom are the first in their families to receive a college degree.

UCI’s 50th Commencement ceremonies featured inspiring remarks from notables including four-time Olympic diving champion Greg Louganis ’83, presiding judge of Orange County’s Juvenile Court Maria Hernandez, Blizzard Entertainment president and co-founder Michael Morhaime, and two longtime UCI friends who have helped transform this university, Paul Merage and Dr. Henry Samueli. Each spoke about the transformational power of higher education and the value of pursuing their passions.

The University of California continues to be the state’s best launchpad for talented, ambitious, and idealistic young people, and UCI students are among the country’s most dedicated and accomplished. As our new alumni embark on their brilliant futures, we applaud them for their hard work and wish them well in their endeavors. Congratulations, Class of 2015!

Outstanding alumni

Earlier this month, I traveled to Washington, D.C., to meet with more than 80 alumni for a leadership conference and reception, where I spoke about the important role public research universities play in our nation. I was joined by Assistant Vice Chancellor for Alumni Relations Barney Ellis-Perry, Sustainability Initiative director Abby Reyes, Professor of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology Travis Huxman, Ayala School of Biological Sciences Dean Frank LaFerla, and Professor of Computer Science Nalini Venkatasubramanian. It was a wonderful opportunity to hear first-hand from alumni who are enthusiastic ambassadors for higher education and UCI.

I am continually impressed by our alumni who passionately strive to empower others and make an impact in their communities. One example is Ian Daelucian ’12, founder of a nonprofit organization that provides homeless and low-income individuals with life’s basic necessities as well as opportunities for creative expression and learning. Daelucian’s organization, The Heart of Delight, holds pop-up dining events and serves healthy local-grown, gourmet food to the homeless at the Santa Ana Civic Center. The organization also is working to establish a homeless shelter. For Daelucian, helping those in need is his life’s calling. He says, “To live and exist is to help one another.”

A movable feast for the homeless 

Budding philosophers

One of the most important things we can do to stimulate success in our children is to foster a passion for learning and critical thinking at a young age. Recently, 134 fifth-grade students at Canyon View Elementary School in Irvine received a demystifying introduction to philosophy from UCI faculty and graduate students as part of TH!NK. The four-week program created by Associate Professor of Philosophy Marcello Fiocco exposes school-age children to philosophical thought and discussion with the mission of preparing young minds for future learning and reflective careers. Students examined texts ranging from The True Story of the Three Little Pigs to selections from the Tao Te Ching to discuss issues of fairness, morality, and the difference between dreams and reality. You can watch a video about the program on our YouTube channel.

TH!NK is just one of the many outreach efforts and educational programs from our various schools and units that have such an extraordinary impact on schools in Orange County, helping to ensure that all young people in this region thrive and reach their highest potential.

Budding philosophers 

Research news

Finding the means to cope with the California drought is front and center in the minds of policy makers across the state. It’s also in the forefront of UCI research conducted by Stanley Grant, civil & environmental engineer; David Feldman, professor and chair of planning, policy & design and director of Water UCI; Jean Daniel Saphores, professor of civil & environmental engineering; and Kathleen Low, a civil & environmental engineering doctoral student. Low was lead author of a research article recently published in WIREs Water journal that examines the way the Greater Melbourne area managed to shift cultural practices to conserve water during Australia’s Millennium Drought. It is the first comprehensive examination of what worked and what failed during the decade-long dry spell in Australia. Researchers hope it can serve as a blueprint for California’s future in which water is an increasingly precious resource.

At the Ayala School of Biological Sciences, Sunil Gandhi, an assistant professor of neurobiology & behavior, is studying neuroplasticity to understand if an adult brain can become young again. In the same way that older muscles lose their flexibility, older brains lose their ability to change neural pathways and synapses. Recently, Gandhi was able to reactivate plasticity by transplanting neurons into the brains of adult mice. The study may prove to be important in the creation of new treatments for developmental brain disorders such as autism and schizophrenia.

UC Irvine Health recognized

Recently, UC Irvine Health’s heart failure program was recognized as high performing by U.S. News & World Report as part of the publication’s new Best Hospitals for Common Care rating system. Earlier this year, UCI became the first medical center in Orange County to offer heart failure patients remote monitoring of their pulmonary artery pressure and heart rate measurements. This real-time access to data enables doctors to proactively manage a patient’s condition, reducing the rate of hospital readmission related to heart failure, the leading cause of hospitalization among adults 65 and older in the country. Last year, the program received the Heart Failure Gold Plus Quality Achievement Award for the fourth time from the American Heart Association.

Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month

In May, the campus celebrated Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month with the grand opening of the Orange County & Southeast Asian Archive Center at the UCI Libraries. The new center provides a physical and virtual space for the campus community and public to discover materials related to the resettlement of Southeast Asian refugees and immigrants after the Vietnam War, as well as resources related to Orange County’s local history. As part of the grand opening celebrations, Illuminations, our arts and culture initiative, invited Vietnamese-American artist Hiep Nguyen to lead students in the creation of a mural using his unique circle painting technique.

Anteaters Athletics update

The UCI women’s volleyball team welcomes their new head coach Ashlie Hain, a starting setter on the Anteaters’ 2003 and 2004 NCAA Tournament teams. Hain served as team captain and is the UCI career leader in assists and fifth in career digs. She is the sixth Anteater alum to currently hold a head coach position at UCI.

Last month, men’s golf finished 10th in the NCAA Regional after winning the Big West Conference, and our women’s water polo team advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the fourth time in the last five years. The women’s water polo team finished the season ranked fifth in the nation, the highest in Anteater history. Congratulations to our exceptional student-athletes!

Stay connected this summer

UCI has had a phenomenal academic year thanks to our donors and friends, brilliant faculty, dedicated staff, and tremendous students. Although this month we say goodbye to our graduating seniors, make no mistake – UCI remains a hotbed of ideas, activities, and resources during the summer. More than 12,000 students attend summer school, faculty continue their important research, and departments offer dozens of activities for the local community to get involved.

On July 6-7, the 14th Dalai Lama will celebrate his 80th birthday on campus with the Global Compassion Summit where he’ll speak on climate change; youth leadership; and wisdom, vision, and experience. Throughout the summer, our New Swan Shakespeare Festival will perform Much Ado About Nothing and Macbeth under the stars in a beautiful, open air mini-Elizabethan theater. And, soon after the fall quarter begins, the campus continues its 50th Anniversary festivities with our Founders Celebration, Anteater 5K & Family Fun Run, the Festival of Discovery, and Academic Symposium Series.

New Swan Shakespeare Festival kicks-off July 11 


Additionally, my monthly message will take a hiatus and return to your inbox in October. In the meantime, I invite you to take the opportunity to explore our thriving campus community and stay connected during the summer months by partaking in these outstanding programs and special events.

I hope you have a terrific summer!