The School of Social Ecology is committed to engaging the community through research, teaching and student service. Faculty and students collaborate and partner with off-campus organizations to address societal challenges and discover opportunities to create a better world.
Leading in experiential learning for students
More than 40 years ago, Social Ecology helped pioneer experiential learning by requiring undergraduates to complete at least 100 hours of field-based learning outside the classroom. Today, the School’s Field Study program pushes students to apply classroom-based learning to real-world problem-solving. Students deepen their understanding of the connections between theory and practice, and grow into more informed community leaders.
Each year, more than 1,000 Social Ecology undergraduate students, under the guidance of faculty, are placed in more than 200 community partner agencies. Community partners include non-profit organizations, public sector agencies and private businesses.
The impact of the program is profound for both students and community partner agencies. Students become better prepared for today’s labor market, and often have life-changing experiences that influence their future career choices. Community partners benefit from the thousands of hours of work offered by energetic, creative, difference-making students.
Regional and National Partnerships
Creating unique collaborations locally and nationally
Dedicated to service regionally and nationally, faculty and students partner and collaborate with community leaders, policymakers and practitioners to deliver to them relevant research. Below are some examples of Social Ecology science driving solutions to critical social problems.
- Metropolitan Futures Initiative - Using big data to inform regional planning
The Metropolitan Futures Initiative (MFI), led by Professor John Hipp, sifts through mountains of data to improve understanding of communities and their potential for integrative and collaborative planning and action. The Initiative brings together an interdisciplinary research team that uses “big data” research to generate insights that are shared with local and regional policymakers and leaders – helping create a brighter future for Southern California.
Metropolitan Futures Initiative website
Spotlight video - John Hipp
- Center for Evidence-Based Corrections - Partners in California prisons
In an effort to put science before politics when managing state correctional populations, the Center for Evidence-Based Corrections evaluates juvenile and adult prison programs – including rehabilitation, parole and reentry programs – and conducts research to help corrections officials make policy decisions based on sound evidence. The Center collaborates with numerous California entities, including the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) and other research institutions to study corrections in California and in all 50 states. Current projects include studying the use of art in corrections and better understanding recidivism.
Center for Evidence Based Corrections website
Spotlight video - Susan Turner
- Irvine Lab for the Study of Space and Crime - Tools for safer communities
The Irvine Laboratory for the Study of Space and Crime (ILSSC) is dedicated to researching the social ecology of crime at various geographic and spatial scales, from street segments to blocks, neighborhoods, cities, counties, and metropolitan areas. Each year in the lab’s annual crime report, the researchers employ a new approach to calculating crime rates in order to better compare changes in crime rates across cities of different sizes. The reports foster meaningful exchanges between researchers, community partners and policymakers and help make cities safer.
Irvine Lab website
Criminology Outreach Program - Mentoring the next generation of students
Established in 1999, the Criminology Outreach Program helps under-served students in the local community by holding a series of educational classes about the legal system. Taught by Social Ecology undergraduate students, many of whom are first generation college students, the program exposes junior high and high school students to the field of criminology and the benefits of attending college, encouraging them to attend.
Criminology Outreach Program website
Global Service Scholars
Approaching complex issues with empathy and compassion
Building upon the Field Study program, the Global Service Scholars program is a collaboration between the UCI Blum Center for Poverty Alleviation and the Living Peace Foundation. This new one-year program offers students a unique opportunity to make a difference in the world by learning to approach issues with empathy and compassion. Through classroom work and a summer field study abroad in Thailand, Peru or Ghana, undergraduate students tackle poverty problems and bring their ingenuity to those in need.
Social Ecology Around the Globe
Expanding connections beyond our borders
Faculty and students go beyond the local and regional communities to address global issues. Below are examples of research centers and initiatives that have amplified Social Ecology’s reach and impact throughout the world.
- Blum Center for Poverty Alleviation
The Blum Center for Poverty Alleviation is part of a larger consortium of Blum Centers across the University of California campuses. The Blum Centers operate on the idea that a world-class university must be a force for tackling the world’s most daunting challenge – poverty. The Center’s mission is to enable a new generation of students and researchers to ask and address critical questions about economic development that are key prerequisites to devising effective and innovative approaches to alleviating contemporary poverty both locally, in Orange County, and abroad.
Blum Center website
- Immersive Field Study
In spring 2015, Social Ecology launched the Immersive Field Study program in collaboration with the Blum Center. By participating in faculty-advised fieldwork for a community organization full-time for 10 weeks, undergraduate students go through a powerful educational experience that gives them the skills and knowledge they need to flourish after college. Past Immersive Field Study work has concentrated on topics such as poverty alleviation and social injustice. Students are placed not only in Orange County, but across the nation.
Immersive Field Study webpage
Past Immersive Field Study participants
- FloodRISE - Bolstering community resilience
FloodRISE focuses on flood and drought disaster risk mitigation in Southern California, Mexico and Africa. An interdisciplinary collaboration between Social Ecology and the School of Engineering, FloodRISE partners with communities to develop sophisticated computer models that incorporate local knowledge and respond to local needs and values. By customizing information for residents, emergency responders, planners, businesses and civic leaders, FloodRISE powerfully reduces risk.
Recent FloodRISE news
- Water UCI - Going beyond the drought
Southern California and communities worldwide face tremendous water resource challenges. Water UCI is facilitating collaboration around questions of fundamental and applied water science, technology, management, and policy to respond to the many challenges cities and countries face when it comes to water resources.
Water UCI website
- Toward a Sustainable 21st Century
For the past ten years, the Toward a Sustainable 21st Century conference series has brought together researchers, practitioners and experts to connect and collaborate on addressing unsolved global problems. Past conferences have covered diverse issues such as marine resource conservation, climate resiliency in coastal communities, clean energy, melting glaciers and green chemistry.
Toward a Sustainable 21st Century website