June 2019


There are two occasions in each academic year that stand out for everyone at UCI. One is convocation at the beginning of the year, when we welcome our new students as they set out on one of the great adventures of their lives. The other is commencement, when we say farewell to them as they begin the journey of fulfilling their individual dreams.

In our largest commencement celebration ever, UCI granted 10,323 degrees to 9,403 undergraduates in 11 ceremonies over four days earlier this month. You can see each ceremony and share in the joy by clicking here.

Testament to this campus’s dedication to access and affordability, more than half of those bachelor’s degrees were awarded to first-generation college students; 3,001 were awarded to community college transfer students; and 4,390 were awarded to recipients of federal Pell Grants that helped pay for their education. These large numbers of traditionally underserved students demonstrate why UCI has twice earned the No. 1 spot in a New York Times ranking of universities “doing the most for the American dream.”

Our greatest product is our students, and their success is our success, both during their time here and in the years to come. Here are some of their compelling personal stories. We recently celebrated our 50th anniversary with the slogan “Bright Past. Brilliant Future.” Our students are the most brilliant part of our brilliant future, and we are so proud of them. Best wishes to the class of 2019!

Leadership changes

A central keystone of the UCI experience and culture is our steadfast commitment to inclusive excellence. In order to advance our efforts to create a diverse, inclusive and welcoming environment for all students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members both across campus and throughout our health enterprise, we have established the new position of vice chancellor for equity, diversity and inclusion. Douglas M. Haynes, who most recently was vice provost for academic equity, diversity and inclusion, is serving in this senior leadership role, reporting directly to me.

In his new and expanded position, Vice Chancellor Haynes provides universitywide leadership in realizing the full potential of current and future programs as we build a community where all expect equity, support diversity, practice inclusion and honor free speech through intention, communication, cooperation and collaboration. Our goal is to be a national leader and global model of inclusive excellence.

Kim Kanatani has been appointed the first museum director of the UCI Institute and Museum for California Art. A nationally renowned museum leader, she will join UCI in August from the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, where she serves as deputy director and the Gail Engelberg Director of Education. Before joining the Guggenheim in 2001, she was the director of education at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.

Ms. Kanatani’s leadership will be key in realizing our vision for establishing UCI IMCA as a comprehensive center for the study, research, and exhibition of the distinctive work of California’s artists from the early 19th century to the present.

After an extensive search, Paula Smith has been appointed as our director of intercollegiate athletics. She brings to this position a strong record of excellence in athletic administration, a national reputation as an energetic leader, and an unmatched history of supporting UCI’s student-athletes.

Twice UCI’s interim athletic director – first in 2007-08 and, most recently, since July 2018 – Paula Smith has served as deputy director of intercollegiate athletics since 2012. Prior to that, she was executive associate athletic director (2008 to 2012), senior associate athletic director (2006 to 2008) and assistant athletic director for academic and student services (2000 to 2001). She served as associate athletics director at our sister campus UC Riverside from 2001 to 2006. She began her career at the Big West Conference, rising from compliance intern to director of compliance to, for six years, assistant commissioner.

Honor for Distinguished Professor Jacquelynne Eccles

Distinguished Professor of Education Jacquelynne S. Eccles is one of the leading developmental scientists of her generation, the author of seminal contributions to the study of achievement-related decisions and development. Before coming to UCI, she spent many years at the University of Michigan, where she was the McKeachie/Pintrich Distinguished University Professor of Psychology and Education. Recently one of her former Michigan colleagues paid her a unique and lasting tribute.

Katie Jodl, a lecturer in the Department of Psychology at the University of Michigan, received the prestigious and coveted designation of “collegiate lecturer,” one of only four lecturers on the entire campus to be so honored this year. Collegiate lecturers are allowed to name their lectureship after another current or former Michigan faculty member, and Dr. Jodl has decided that her title will be the Jacquelynne S. Eccles Collegiate Lecturer of Psychology. Dr. Jodl will retain this title for the rest of her career at the University of Michigan. Congratulations, Professor Eccles, on this very special recognition.

An interdisciplinary scholar of rare distinction

I am always impressed by students who pursue two or more courses of study widely separated across the academic landscape. This is not uncommon at the undergraduate level; each year we graduate several hundred students with dual degrees. But it is much rarer at the graduate level, where the depth of the subject matter requires intense concentration and focus, for a student to pursue degrees in disciplines with no common ground. Our Medical Scientist Training Program which lets students earn a joint M.D./Ph.D., is mostly for future physicians who want to also engage in biomedical research. But one MSTP student has a different idea. Sarah O’Dell, a second-year medical student, will this fall start working toward a Ph.D. in English. The first medical student at UCI to pursue a doctorate in the humanities, she believes her literature studies will make her a better and more responsive physician. She hopes someday to practice medicine, teach and write in a university setting. Congratulations, Sarah, on this unique and ambitious double doctorate program!

Technology and art on display

The Venice Biennale, which is held in Italy every other year, is the world’s oldest and arguably foremost exhibition of contemporary visual art. The creation of art has always been an essential element of our mission, so it’s not surprising that UCI is represented at the 2019 Biennale. Alexandru Nicolau, Distinguished Professor and chair of computer science, and Alexander Veidenbaum, professor of computer science, led a team that collaborated with prominent Israeli-Romanian artist Belu-Simion Fainaru to create three art installations for the event. The art works combine computer-generated imagery and speech, using artificial intelligence to create an interactive experience for the viewer. Hundreds of thousands of visitors to the exhibition will each have the opportunity to create their own unique participation with the art.

Passing of Chancellor Emerita Laurel Wilkening

Laurel Wilkening, UCI’s chancellor from 1993 to 1998, passed away earlier this month after a long illness. A renowned planetary scientist and expert on comets and meteorites, she came to UCI after a distinguished career at the University of Arizona and the University of Washington. During her five-year tenure the campus received its first two Nobel Prizes, contributed more than $1 billion per year to the local economy, completed 250,000 square-feet of construction, and attracted increased private, state and federal funding. UCI also achieved Chancellor Emerita Wilkening’s goal of moving into the ranks of America’s top 50 research universities (1995) and was elected to membership in the prestigious American Association of Universities (1996). In spring 2005 Chancellor Ralph Cicerone dedicated the Laurel L. Wilkening Rose Garden in front of the Irvine Barclay Theatre in her honor. In 2009 she was awarded the UCI Medal, our campus’s highest honor, in recognition of her extraordinary contributions to the advancement of this institution. A celebration of Chancellor Emerita Wilkening’s life will be held on Friday, July 12, at the Irvine Barclay Theatre.

Stay connected

This is my last monthly message of the academic year, but that does not mean the campus is quiet. UCI has something to offer for everyone. Summer session is in full swing, the Los Angeles Rams will soon be here for their annual training camp, youth sport and educational programs are offered, and you can get a close-up look at a Shakespeare First Folio. I hope you’ll come to campus often to enjoy these and myriad other opportunities to enrich your summer.