November 2018

The days are cooler, midterms are over, and this afternoon we start the Thanksgiving break. As always, we at UCI have a lot to be thankful for. Here are a few highlights.

Additions to leadership

Jan Hirsch
Jan Hirsch, director and founding dean of UCI’s planned School of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences. Steve Zylius/UCI

Two accomplished leaders will be joining UCI in January. Jan Hirsch will serve as director and founding dean of the planned School of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences, one of the four existing or planned schools that make up the Susan and Henry Samueli College of Health Sciences. A distinguished researcher and pharmacist with extensive private-sector and academic administrative experience, she comes from our sister campus in San Diego, where she has been the first chair of the Division of Clinical Pharmacy within the Skaggs School of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences. The proposal for UCI’s new school is expected to reach the UC Board of Regents for final review and approval within two or three years. As founding dean, Dr. Hirsch will support the application process and expand the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences and the new Department of Clinical Pharmacy.

Also arriving in January is Lars Walton, who will serve as associate chancellor and chief of staff in my office. He joins us from the California State University system, where he is chief of staff and senior adviser to Chancellor Timothy White, a role with responsibilities quite similar to those he will assume here. He previously held leadership positions at UC Riverside and here at UCI – where he was assistant director, and then director, of federal relations – and staff roles in the federal government.

School of Education in the community

Our School of Education does so much more than simply train new teachers. It is committed to leading the effort to give students the kind of education they will need to succeed and thrive in the world they will inherit. Here are two recent examples of the school’s great work.

For more than 20 years, Professor Carol Booth Olson has led the Pathway to Academic Success Project, which helps close reading and writing achievement gaps among high-need students in grades seven to 11 in 10 Southern California school districts. Now, thanks to a five-year, $14.7 million Education Innovation & Research expansion grant from the U.S. Department of Education, the project will be extended into six additional states. The expansion will involve 240 teachers and 109,200 students, and it includes a two-year field trial of professional development activities, summer institutes for instructors and course modules designed to help English learners grasp writing.

The school has also has been awarded a $5.4 million Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs partnership grant from the U.S. Department of Education to prepare middle school students for college access and success. The seven-year GEAR UP project will provide multiple academic activities and services for sixth- and seventh-graders in the Compton Unified School District that will continue through their high school years and into their freshman year in college. Stephanie Reyes-Tuccio, assistant vice chancellor for educational partnerships, leads the project, which will help 1,000 students succeed in the classroom and beyond. Talk about advancing the American dream!

Faculty honors

Distinguished Professor Alexandru Nicolau, chair of the Department of Computer Science in the Donald Bren School of Information & Computer Sciences, has been elected to the Academia Europaea. The pan-European academy of science, humanities and letters, formed in 1988, has a membership of more than 3,800 eminent scholars, drawn from all countries of Europe and all disciplines, nationalities and geographical locations. Professor Nicolau was selected by his peers for inclusion in the informatics section in recognition of his consistent research excellence in parallelizing computers, high-performance Java, and power-aware and reconfigurable computing. He joins Chancellor’s Professor Gene Tsudik among the 17 U.S.-based academy members in a computing-related field. Congratulations, Professor Nicolau!

Vicki L. Ruiz, Distinguished Professor Emerita of history and Chicano/Latino studies, has been awarded the Apple of Gold for Excellence in Education by the Hispanic Education Endowment Fund. The honor recognizes her nearly four decades of work in illuminating the history of Latinas, particularly in the struggles for civil and labor rights. This is only the latest of the many awards and honors she has received for her groundbreaking studies, including the National Humanities Medal and election to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. Congratulations, Professor Ruiz!

Rise in international research reputation

The international science journal Nature, through its Nature Index, has named UCI as the most improved institution in North America in terms of the number of papers on the physical sciences published in high-quality journals between 2015 and 2017. I congratulate the entire faculty of the School of Physical Sciences on this outstanding recognition of their research efforts.

The Nature Index, which tracks contributions to research articles appearing in natural science publications, calls UCI a “top rising star,” achieving nearly 24 percent growth in its fractional count (relative contribution of each author to an article) over the past three years, with increases in all four of the school’s academic fields. Factors behind UCI’s improvement, according to the index, include an emphasis on building research facilities with advanced equipment, such as the recently dedicated Irvine Materials Research Institute, and our aggressive campaign, highlighted in our 2016 strategic plan, to recruit new faculty; the School of Physical Sciences added nine faculty members this year alone.

Civic engagement

Every year at convocation, I tell the incoming students something to the effect that “this institution was created to do the serious and important work of ... providing you with an education ... that will lead you to live a more satisfying and meaningful life; be a knowledgeable, thoughtful and discerning contributor to your community; and be a force for good in the world.” And in the past few weeks, I saw on campus tremendous evidence that we are succeeding in this goal.

The most important contribution one can make to one’s community and to being a force for good is, I firmly believe, to vote. This fall, we had a number of different registration locations on campus, and whenever I walked by one of them, there would be students there, filling out forms and preparing to participate in our democracy. We also had five separate polling places on campus, and although I have not seen the final figures, it is clear that more students voted on campus this year than in any previous midterm election. Young people are sometimes called out as a group for voting less than other age groups, but I’m proud to say that that certainly wasn’t true on our campus.

I wish you all a happy Thanksgiving celebration and look forward to your participation in the life of this great university as we close out the fall quarter.