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Commencement and congratulations

June 27, 2022

Commencement is my favorite time of the year. I’m proud of our students, now graduates, who have shown the world what it means to persevere and be resilient in the face of changes wrought by the pandemic. Many of our students are the first in their families to attend, let alone graduate from, college, and they have overcome a number of challenges. 

Like I told them in my first UCI commencement speech, they are in this not just for themselves but also for others. In the face of the pandemic, growing schisms in our country, the threat of war around the world, and risks to the climate, they are determined to be changemakers, and we need changemakers who will refuse to accept the inexplicable or the intolerable as inevitable. If you missed the festivities, check out this recap.

In this awards season, I call your attention to some pretty big accomplishments by our students and faculty:

  • Ph.D. students Carlo Chunga Pizarro and Cameron Ross Wiley have been named Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellows. The honor comes with a total of $81,000 each.
  • Jessica Borelli, associate professor of psychological science, is the winner of two American Psychological Association awards — the Division 43 Distinguished Contribution to Family Psychology Award and the Division 37 Child and Family Citizen Psychologist Award.
  • Valerie Jenness, distinguished professor of criminology, law and society, is the recipient of the 2022 Peterson-Krivo Mentoring Award, which is bestowed by the American Sociological Association's Section on Crime, Law and Deviance and its Section on the Sociology of Law.
  • Roxane Cohen Silver, distinguished professor of psychological science and vice provost for academic planning and institutional research, has been named the 2022-2023 recipient of the Distinguished Senior Faculty Award for Research, the most prestigious award UCI faculty members can receive from their colleagues. As part of this honor, Roxy will present the Distinguished Faculty Lecture in the winter of 2023. Stay tuned for that highly anticipated lecture!
  • Ph.D. student Sara O’Connor has won the Etel Solingen Award for Outstanding Paper in International Relations, which recognizes her for her work on transitioning states.

Kudos for this well-deserved recognition! And, big shout-outs to the following faculty members for securing grants for their important research:

  • Keramet Reiter, professor of criminology, law and society, has been awarded a $450,000 grant from the Jacob and Valeria Langeloth Foundation to conduct a process and outcome evaluation of the Amend-Washington Department of Corrections collaboration to establish a Center of Excellence at Stafford Creek Correctional Facility.
  • Bryan Sykes, UCI Chancellor’s Fellow, Inclusive Excellence Term Chair, associate professor of criminology, law & society, is part of a $766,543 National Institutes of Health program — NextGenPop — that seeks to increase the diversity and research skills of the next generation of population scholars. 
  • The National Science Foundation has awarded a Rapid Response Research grant of nearly $175,000 to Roxane Cohen Silver and fellow UCI researchers seeking to gauge the effect that the reporting of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in traditional and social media outlets has on the mental health of U.S. citizens. 
  • Tony Cheng has received a $30,000 Russell Sage Foundation grant for his project, “How Online Media Shapes Polarization Towards Policing.” 

With this academic year coming to a close, I want to thank the members of the School’s senior academic leadership team. They include Susan Bibler Coutin, associate dean for academic affairs; Richard Matthew, associate dean for research and international programs; Ilona Yim, equity advisor; Susan Charles, chair of the Psychological Science Department; Mona Lynch, chair of the Criminology, Law and Society Department; and Virginia Parks, chair of the Urban Planning and Public Policy Department. 

Next year’s leadership team includes Susan Coutin; Candice Odgers, who is stepping into a new role as director for research and faculty development. Richard Matthew will be moving into a different role — director of strategic engagement — in which he will assist with strategic planning, engagement with high-level donors, and organizing and expanding the School’s capabilities in environmental policy and sustainability. Emily Owens will serve as chair of criminology, law and society; Walter Nicholls will be chair of urban planning and public policy; and Nicholas Scurich will be chair of psychological science in 2023. Ilona Yim will be acting chair until then. Jodi Quas will serve as equity advisor for the year until Ilona returns in 2023.

As summer is upon us, you might be looking for a reading list. I suggest you read the latest books and articles by our own Social Ecology faculty, students and alumni:

Enjoy your summer!


Most hopeful thing to do is help one another

May 25, 2022

I am simultaneously heartbroken and furious with what happened in Texas yesterday and in Buffalo last week. No one should send their child to school in the morning and then have to collect them at a morgue in the afternoon. No one should have to worry about a white supremacist gunning them down in a supermarket. It doesn’t have to be this way. As the editor of an upcoming book on empirical criminal justice reform, I know of many common sense firearm measures that are also consistent with the Second Amendment. 

But, that’s not my greater concern. I’m more worried about all of us – especially this next generation we’re educating – throwing up our hands in hopelessness about normalized violence, pandemic fatigue, a possible world war, and many other problems that social media regularly pushes past us. First we were exhausted from the pandemic, and now there is the fear that nothing can change. 

As I wrote to students today (see inset), the most dangerous decision is to give up hope, and the most hopeful thing to do is to help another. That act alone is the first step on the path to change. We in academe are in the hope business, and the School of Social Ecology seeks to translate that hope into building changemakers.

So, please join me today in deciding to act, to do something to help someone else. It doesn’t need to be big, just something that connects us with others and makes a difference in the corner of the world we control. It will give hope and provide comfort. And, who knows, perhaps it will be the seed for further action and change.


Congratulations to all our award winners!

April 28, 2022

I am proud to announce that Michael Méndez, assistant professor of urban planning and public policy, has been named a 2022 Andrew Carnegie Fellow. This prestigious honor comes with a $200,000 prize to support his research on climate-induced disasters and their impact on underrepresented communities. Please join me in congratulating Dr. Méndez.

Let’s also congratulate Douglas Houston, associate professor of urban planning and public policy, and Sora Han, associate professor of criminology, law and society, for leading the two winning proposals selected for the UCI Black Thriving Initiative Faculty Cluster Hiring Program. Their programs will recruit at least six new faculty members whose work elevates Black communities. In addition to addressing crucial issues and paving new paths for research, teaching and creative expression, these proposals bring special pride and tangible rewards for the School of Social Ecology. First, we will see new faculty lines in the School as a result of the winning initiatives. Second, our faculty have been recognized as campus leaders on these issues. There were eight proposals considered, spanning more than 20 departments and including more than 60 faculty across campus. For our faculty to win out over such talented competition is a real boon to Social Ecology’s reputation and a tangible sign that we are serious about continuing to attack structural racism and further diversify our faculty.

More kudos are in order for the following faculty members and student on their recent honors:

  • Kate Ryan Kuhlman, assistant professor of psychological science, for her Academy of Behavioral Medicine Early Stage Investigator Award for being an exceptional early career scientist. 
  • Oliver Sng, assistant professor of psychological science, for his Association for Psychological Science Rising Star designation.
  • Brandon Golob, assistant professor of teaching in criminology, law and society for receiving two campuswide honors — the Excellence in Digital Learning Award and the Learning Experience Design and Online Education Award — at the recent Celebration of Teaching event.
  • Hillary Berk, also was recognized at the Celebration of Teaching event as our 2022 School of Social Ecology Dean’s Honoree.
  • Yasmin Barrientos Kofman, Ph.D. candidate in psychological science, for winning a UCI Most Promising Future Faculty Award as well as for landing a postdoctoral research fellowship on the NIMH T32 Program on Biobehavioral Issues in Mental and Physical Health at UCLA.

The entire school is applauding you!

In my last blog post, I promised you details for my welcome reception. I hope to see you all there May 3, 5-7 p.m. at the Irvine Barclay Theater. RSVP here.

Other upcoming events worth attending include:


Spring quarter has sprung, let’s meet

March 28, 2022

Welcome to spring quarter! As classes commenced today, life on campus is returning to a closer resemblance of “normal.” Most classes are being taught in person, and masks, while recommended, are no longer required.

It’s an exciting time, as applications to our school are up 15% over last year. We had 4,500 applications this year.

In an effort to strengthen our sense of community, the School is initiating several activities, including:

  • On Thursday, March 31 at noon, the School is hosting a spring quarter welcome lunch for faculty and staff in SBSG-1517. 
  • Earlier on the same day (March 31 at 10 a.m. in SBSG-1517), we are hosting an in-person visit by an editor of The Conversation. Faculty and graduate students interested in publishing articles and op-eds in The Conversation are urged to attend.
  • Throughout spring quarter, I am hosting a series of breakfasts and lunches for faculty and staff, and I am looking forward to chatting with you.
  • Professor Ilona Yim, the School’s Equity Advisor, is organizing a “writers’ retreat” for SE faculty, in which folks will gather for a couple of hours at a time to write together. The School will be supporting these activities with space and food afterward to spur conversation. 

I’m hoping that we can strengthen the personal connections across the School and help people explore opportunities for collaboration. The pandemic has taken a lot from us. It’s time that we recover more of what we have missed.

To that end, don’t miss Water UCI’s in-person Speaking of Water event March 30 at The Cove. Experts will discuss how water agencies and the industry, in general, can better promote a more diverse and inclusive workforce that reflects the needs and aspirations of the society it serves.

I also invite you all to my welcome reception May 3 at the Barclay. I look forward to seeing you in person there. Details to follow in my next Digest.

Now, I call your attention to the dozen faculty winners — Lee Cabatingan, Sora Han, Dewayne Williams, Kate Kuhlman, Angela Lukowski, Maria Rendón, Amanda Geller, Nicole Iturriaga, Nícola Ulibarrí, Ajay Garde, Avipsa Roy and Tony Cheng — of the University’s Interim COVID-19 Research Recovery Program grants. Collectively, they were awarded a total of $181,661 in grants. Congratulations!  

I also commend Hillary Berk, our 2022 School of Social Ecology Dean’s Honoree for the Celebration of Teaching Award.

As Women’s Month comes to a close, I would also like to commend Ilona Yim for helping organize the second annual cohort of Elevate Women, a campus-wide program funded through a grant from the UC Office of the President (Advancing Faculty Diversity). She and Nina Bandelj bring together underrepresented minority faculty women at the assistant and associate professor levels for community building and programming surrounding leadership development. Kudos!

In case you missed it, watch Roxane Cohen Silver deliver a powerful “What Matters to Me and Why” talk. Just wow!  

Last, but no less important, the Office of Inclusive Excellence would like for us to share our thoughts about UCI’s community safety through this short anonymous survey by April 29. Survey respondents will be entered into weekly drawings for $75 Amazon gift cards. More importantly, responses are essential in understanding the state of community safety efforts and directing attention to areas that require improvement.


A blog, featuring the School of Social Ecology goings-on by Dean Jon Gould

March 7, 2022

Welcome to Dean’s Digest, my blog where I will inform and brag about faculty, students, staff and alumni doing good work in our school and out in the world.

When I started my deanship on Jan. 1, I pledged to meet at least 90 people of Social Ecology in 90 days. Each day, I feature a different person I’ve met on my Twitter account. It’s been fun meeting folks and getting to know you better. Through this challenge, I have been learning more about the remarkable work being done in our school. 

For example, did you know that:

  • Two of our students — Qi Song and Karma Rose Zavita — were UCI Grad Slam 2022 finalists. Watch them present their dissertation research in just three minutes. 
  • Nícola Ulibarrí has been invited to present to the U.S. Department of Energy on a roundtable briefing on “Environmental Justice and Social Equity Considerations for Consent-Based Siting of Nuclear Waste.” She also has been invited to serve on a statewide Advisory Board on the Economic Impacts of Drought, which over the next couple years will be developing research reports and advisory documents regarding drought impacts with a focus on agricultural communities.
  • Elizabeth Cauffman is the new president of the Society for Research on Adolescence.
  • Emily Owens will be presenting later this month at the Association of Public Policy Analysis and Management annual meeting.
  • Kristine Molina has been awarded the American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education’s 2022 University Faculty Award for demonstrated excellence in research and teaching and for providing significant contributions to her academic discipline.
  • Alumnus Maurice Sanchez, who has a B.A. in social ecology, has made history as the first Latino and first person of color to become an associate justice on the Fourth District Court of Appeal, Division 3. We will be honoring him at the university’s Lauds & Laurels event on May 26. 
  • Alumna Shari McMahan, who served as Peter the Anteater when she was a student earning her B.A. and Ph.D. in social ecology, has been chosen to serve as president of Eastern Washington University. We honored her at Lauds & Laurels in 2021.
  • Undergrad Katie Wang Freiberg has won three awards: the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Research, the School of Social Ecology Dean’s Scholar Award, and School of Social Ecology Award for Exceptional Achievement in Undergraduate Research for her outstanding research on “How can cities promote accessible green spaces? A comparative case study between Melbourne and San Francisco.”
  • Graduate student Renata Langis received the 2021 Orange County-American Planning Association Award of Merit, for her Professional Report on “Bicycle Facilities and Safety Hazards Associated with Active Transportation: A Corridor-Level Analysis of Collisions in Long Beach, CA.” 
  • Undergrad Isis Haynes, president of the Urban Studies Students Association, received a Black Thriving Scholar Award.
  • The UCI Academic Senate is recognizing Keramet Reiter with its 2021-2022 Distinguished Mid-Career Faculty Award for Service.
  • Brandon Golob has been selected by the UCI’s Office of the Vice Provost of Teaching and Learning and the Office of Inclusive Excellence as one of the inaugural winners of the UCI Inclusive Excellence Teaching Award. 
  • Nicole Iturriaga just published her first book, “Exhuming Violent Histories: Forensics, Memory, and Rewriting Spain’s Past,” which shines a light on how Spanish human rights activists have turned to science and technology to keep the memory of dictator Francisco Franco’s terror alive.  
  • Fudge Scholar Andrew Norman battled cancer and all its debilitating side effects twice and now is graduating with his B.A. in psychological science.
  • Our Master of Advanced Study in criminology, law & society has been named the nation’s best online criminal justice master’s program by U.S. News & World Report for the third year in a row.
  • Since the year commenced, our faculty have won nearly $1 million in grants to carry out important research. They include: 
    • Nancy Rodriguez, $400,000 from the MacArthur Foundation for “Expanding the Evidence Base on Latinos/as in Local Criminal Justice System”
    • Susan Turner, $359,044 from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation for “Parole Violation Decision making instrument Revalidation”
    • Valerie Jenness, $215,492 from Office of Justice Programs for “Research and Evaluation of Policing
    • Avipsa Roy, $17,600 from the Haynes Foundation for “Assessing the role of housing affordability in characterizing COVID-19 spread among vulnerable populations in the LA region”
  • In January and February alone, our school has been represented in the media 30 times, much thanks to Charis Kubrin, Roxane Cohen Silver, Michael Méndez, Stephen Schueller and Jessica Borelli, who took the time to chat with journalists multiple times.  
  • The Social Ecology Undergraduate Advising office has created a referral form that can be used by faculty and staff members to help students, who are struggling in class and could benefit from academic advising or assistance accessing appropriate campus resources.

To say this quarter has been unusual and challenging hardly scratches the surface. It has been all the more impressive, then, to join the School during this period and observe how dedicated our faculty and staff are to the educational mission and how much our students have been able to adapt and keep moving forward. I’m certain I speak for all of us in saying that I look forward to a spring term that more closely resembles “normality,” and I am excited for more opportunities to interact in ways that will strengthen our academic community. 

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