December 2019

As the year comes to a close and we disperse from our classrooms and offices for the holiday break, I hope all of us will spend this wonderful season taking time to rest and rejuvenate, celebrate all the good in the world with family and friends, and reinvigorate ourselves for the new year. It has been a terrific year at UCI, and there is much to look back on with thankfulness and pride. Let me share just a few highlights (you can find a more complete overview here and a conversation about the past year and much more here.)

Across the board, our reputation as a world-class public research university has never been stronger. Money magazine ranked us No. 1 on its list of the best colleges in the U.S. for 2019 for our combination of accessible, high-quality education and alumni success. Knocking Princeton University off the top spot, this made UCI the very first public university to achieve No. 1. Also, Forbes named us No. 1 among America’s “Best Value Colleges” in consideration of our tuition costs, school quality, graduation rates, and post-graduation earnings. And highly influential U.S. News & World Report ranked us in the top 10 of all public universities for the fifth straight year.

The pursuit of groundbreaking research is one of our key efforts, and this past year UCI received its largest-ever amount of research funding in a single fiscal year – an astounding $441 million. Awards from federal and state agencies, leading foundations and forward-thinking companies increased 22 percent over the previous year’s totals, reflecting strong and burgeoning support for UCI’s top-ranked faculty, first-rate facilities, diverse and talented student body, and community-based programs.

Sierra magazine named the University of California, Irvine No. 1 in the nation and No. 2 overall in its annual “Cool Schools” ranking of sustainability leaders among U.S. and Canadian colleges, making UCI the only university to score in the top 10 for 10 consecutive years, proof of the strength of our curriculum, research, campus operations and public engagement. We are recognized as a university that moves from research discoveries to solutions with determination, and our sustainability innovations are being adopted across the nation and now in other countries.

We have bolstered our senior management team with several dynamic new leaders. Ken Janda announced his retirement from the School of Physical Sciences last year, and he has been ably succeeded by physics professor James BullockBernadette Boden-Albala was named the founding dean of our planned School of Population Health. Early this year Dr. Steve Goldstein joined us as vice chancellor for health affairs, and we recruited Willie Banks Jr. to serve as vice chancellor for student affairs. Over the summer, Professor Douglas Haynes was appointed as the inaugural vice chancellor for equity, diversity, and inclusion, and Kim Kanatani came from the Guggenheim Museum in New York to be the inaugural museum director of the UCI Institute and Museum of California Art (IMCA). A couple of months ago Tom Andriola joined us as our first vice chancellor of information technology and data, and Larry Anstine became interim chief executive officer of UCI Health. What an outstanding group of proven leaders!

No highlight reel of the past year would be complete without mentioning March Madness and our men’s basketball team! Last season was only the best in our history, with 31 wins, a 17-game winning streak, the Big West Conference championship, and a thrilling NCAA tournament victory, UCI’s first ever win in the Big Dance. Anteaters all over the state and across the nation were jumping up and down with excitement and pride as the best college basketball team in California lived every player’s – and every fan’s – dream. And the spirit lives on this season as our ‘Eaters open conference play on January 11 in the Bren Events Center against Hawai’i.

So that’s a snapshot of some of the highlights of the past year. But we’re not resting on our laurels. We have big, bold, ambitious plans.

Two months ago, we embarked on our Brilliant Future capital campaign, the largest and most significant fundraising effort ever undertaken by UCI – or by any institution in Orange County, for that matter. The effort aims to raise an unprecedented $2 billion in private support and simultaneously engage at least 75,000 alumni. Partnering with our alumni and community, the campaign will build upon UCI’s known strengths within four major pillars: helping more students achieve the American dream, transforming healthcare and wellness, accelerating world-changing research, and exploring the human experience. 

The Brilliant Future campaign is based on values that we hold as members of our Anteater community. It also reflects our optimism about the future – not just for UCI, but for our region, our state, our nation, our world.

And let’s face it: the world needs as many examples as we can find of people working together to make things better. We live at a time when there is much anxiety, frustration, despair, and certainly too much anger and hate. Our response, though, is not to succumb, but to stand up against it. Against the darkness we hold up the light. When others worry about a bleak future, we redouble our commitment to the possibilities of a brilliant future.

I firmly believe in the ability of this great institution, with its great partners, to have a positive impact on the lives of individuals and the well-being of our communities. Please accept my heartfelt gratitude for your optimism, your idealism, your belief in our touchstone values, and most especially for all you do to advance the good in the world. 

All best wishes for a happy holiday season and a healthy and rewarding new year. See you in 2020!