October 2015

The weather could have been better, but the spirits of Anteaters of all ages could not have been higher as UCI celebrated homecoming and Anteater Family Weekend on February 8-9. Thousands of alumni and their families came to campus to connect with friends and classmates, and enjoy the family fun zone, music performances, art and exhibits, UCI alumni-owned food trucks and even a Ferris wheel, as well as a spectacular fireworks show. A number of classes celebrated their five-year reunions, including our charter class of 1969, the first class whose members had spent all their undergraduate years here at UCI. Most importantly, it was the class of 1969 that gave us the most beloved, revered, and feared mascot in all of higher education, our own Peter the Anteater. The weekend’s festivities were capped off with resounding wins by our women’s basketball team against Cal State Fullerton and our Big West Conference-leading men’s basketball team against Hawaii.

UCI #1 choice for college-bound Californians

UCI has for the first time become the most popular UC campus for the state’s college-bound high school seniors. A total of 70,540 aspiring in-state freshmen applied to attend UCI this fall, more than applied to any of our sister UC undergraduate campuses. Additionally, UCI was the top choice for first-generation students and those from low-income families and underrepresented groups – all of whom have not historically had access to a world-class university education. This exciting news is a result of what we have set out to achieve: sending the message to California residents of all cultural and economic backgrounds that an exceptional education is not only available but affordable at UCI. Twice The New York Times has selected UCI as the college “doing the most for the American dream,” and these applicants exemplify our continued commitment to inclusive excellence.

UCI is No. 1 UC choice for California’s college-bound high school graduates 

Praise for the Merage School

Poets and Quants, an influential voice on business schools around the globe, has cited the Paul Merage School of Business for having the most first generation students of any undergraduate business school in the country. Forty-six percent of its entering fall 2018 class were the first in their family to pursue higher education. The program is also the youngest bachelor’s degree program among ranked business schools and is consistently one of the three top most requested majors, for both freshmen and transfer students, on campus. The Merage School provides services and resources that not only attract first-generation students, but also help ensure they achieve success throughout their academic experience, including outreach programs, mentoring, campus-wide events and support from students, staff, and faculty.

The Financial Times, one of the most important and influential financial newspapers in the world, has ranked the Paul Merage School of Business at No. 8 among all U.S. public university MBA programs – and No. 24 among all U.S. MBA programs, public and private, up from No. 32 last year. These latest rankings reinforce what has been a steady and consistent rise for the Merage School, which has prioritized preparing graduates to lead in today’s digitally driven business world by updating all core classes and adding a raft of specialized courses. Merage School alumni surveyed in the ranking had the seventh highest percentage salary increase in the U.S. from their pre-MBA salaries, demonstrating the value of their UCI MBA degrees.

UCI one of most diverse workplaces

Forbes has named UCI one of the best employers for diversity in the nation. The magazine rated the campus No. 7 overall – the second-highest ranking for both a California employer and an educational institute. UCI is Orange County’s second-largest employer, with 16,400 faculty and staff working on campus and at the UCI Medical Center and affiliate clinics. It embraces the contributions people from different backgrounds and ideologies bring to the university, and strives to maintain an environment and workforce free from discrimination and harassment. We want all our employees to feel supported, valued and a sense of belonging.

America's 10 Best Employers For Diversity In 2019 

Pain Buddy

Physical pain is a terrible thing to endure, especially when you are a child with cancer. Associate Professor Michelle Fortier, a pediatric psychologist in the Sue & Bill Gross School of Nursing who specializes in pain management in children, has been awarded a $3.195 million grant from the National Cancer Institute to continue development of a novel pain and symptom management tool for children with cancer. Pain Buddy is an app that incorporates patient-reported measures of pain and symptoms, delivers child-reported symptom data in real time to healthcare providers, notifies providers when a child has reported clinically significant symptoms, and teaches children cognitive and behavioral skills for pain management. A pilot study demonstrated that Pain Buddy reduces pain severity in children undergoing outpatient cancer treatment. Now, with the NCI grant, Fortier and her colleagues will study Pain Buddy’s effectiveness at two locations: CHOC Children’s Hospital in Orange and the famed St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee.

Fortier Receives $3.2M NCI Research Grant 

Establishment of national R&D center on improving writing

Carol Booth Olson
Carol Booth Olson, professor of education and director of the UCI Writing Project. Steve Zylius/UCI

UCI has received a five-year, $5 million Institute of Education Sciences grant from the U.S. Department of Education to establish the first national research and development center focused on improving the writing skills of middle and high school students. Principal investigator Carol Booth Olson, professor of education and director of the UCI Writing Project, and her team will work with researchers and subjects from the Tustin Unified School District to conduct a study on academic writing in English language arts, science and history – and then create a professional development intervention program for teachers. The ultimate goal is to better prepare high school students to meet the challenges of college or the workplace.

UCI gets $5 million to establish first national R&D center on improving writing skills 

Support for promising Huntington’s disease treatment

Leslie Thompson
Neurobiology and Behavior & Psychiatry and Human Behavior Chancellor’s Professor Leslie Thompson.

Leslie Thompson, Chancellor’s Professor of neurobiology & behavior and psychiatry & human behavior, has been awarded $6 million by the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine to advance her team’s Huntington’s disease stem cell therapy through the late stage testing needed to apply to the Food and Drug Administration. Once approved by the FDA, the therapy can begin early clinical trials in patients. HD is a fatal genetic disorder that breaks down nerve cells and erodes the ability to control body movement and speech, and Thompson’s lab is at the forefront of the effort to use stem cells to slow the progression of the disease by strengthening the body’s existing neurons.

California Institute Awards UCI BioSci Professor 

Faculty honors

Significant honors were bestowed on a number of our faculty over the past few weeks. Chancellor’s Professor of Law Ken Simons received the 2019 William L. Prosser Award at the annual meeting of the Association of American Law Schools. The Prosser Award recognizes “outstanding contributions of law teachers in scholarship, teaching and service” related to tort law and compensation systems. Professor Simons is nationally known for his leadership in torts research and education.

Amir AghaKouchak, associate professor of civil & environmental engineering, is one of only 10 scientists worldwide – and the sole researcher from the U.S. – to be recognized by the International Union of Geodesy & Geophysics with its Early Career Scientist Award. The honor acknowledges outstanding research in Earth and space sciences as well as international research cooperation. Professor AghaKouchak’s interdisciplinary research traverses hydrology, climatology, statistics and remote sensing to address critical global water resource issues.

Marc Madou, Chancellor’s Professor of mechanical & aerospace engineering, has been invited to join the Mexican Academy of Sciences as a corresponding member. A leading specialist in the application of miniaturization technology to chemical and biological problems, Professor Madou is a prolific international collaborator and currently has projects with colleagues at Tecnologico de Monterrey and Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico.

Donald Saari, Distinguished Professor emeritus of economics, has been elected as a foreign member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, an accomplishment accompanied by an honorary doctorate. He has made important contributions to the n-body problem, the Borda count voting system and the application of mathematics to the social sciences. Saari is a fellow of the National Academy of Sciences and American Academy of Arts & Sciences and a foreign member of the Finnish Academy of Science and Letters.

Haithem Taha, assistant professor of mechanical & aerospace engineering, has won a National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development Award. Among the NSF’s most prestigious, this award supports early career faculty who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education. Taha’s multidisciplinary research focuses on understanding the fundamental aspects and mechanisms of the dynamic interaction between the wing-body and fluid dynamics during flight, with the aim of boosting the design capabilities of micro air vehicles and other drones.

Emily Rosenberg, professor emerita of history and former chair of that department, has been given the highest honor in the field of U.S. foreign relations – the Norman and Laura Graebner Award – by the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations. The Graebner Award recognizes the lifetime achievement of a senior historian of U.S. foreign relations who has significantly contributed to the field through scholarship, teaching and/or service over his or her career. The award committee cited Rosenberg’s profound impact on her discipline with her pioneering work on the history of globalization.

Finally, nearly 150 of our UCI Health physicians were named as Orange County physicians of excellence by the Orange County Medical Association – more than were named from any other Orange County healthcare provider. The complete list can be found in the January 2019 issue of Orange Coast magazine. This year, UCI Health also received a ninth consecutive top grade for patient safety from The Leapfrog Group and was listed among America’s Best Hospitals for the 18th year in a row by U.S. News & World Report. These rankings confirm UCI Health’s preeminence in providing innovative and compassionate care at the highest level.

Congratulations to you all on these well-deserved honors.

A star is born!

Ron Song is our normally mild-mannered senior director of prospect development within the University Advancement & Alumni Relations division, responsible for leading the effort to identify potential donors to the university. This is a serious and important job, and he does it very well. But it turns out he has another side, which he recently displayed on national television for all to enjoy. He participated as a contestant on Ellen DeGeneres’s “Game of Games” show. Best of all – he won the whole competition! He attributes his victory to his education at our sister campus, UC Santa Barbara. Congratulations, Ron!