Brilliant Future | UC Irvine School of Social Sciences
LETTER FROM THE DEAN
It’s been close to five years since we embarked on our boundaryless journey to promote the passion and purpose driving all we do – from teaching, research, and service to finding new sources of support for our many programs. Our faculty and students have been in the trenches tackling daunting global issues like brain disease and decline, emerging conflicts worldwide, and population research that aims to uncover and unravel inequality’s underpinnings. While we’ve accomplished much in our pursuit to improve the human condition, there is endless opportunity to do more.
With the launch of UCI’s Brilliant Future campaign, we’re taking a cue from our beautiful state as we find inspiration in the natural brilliance of our uniquely Californian canvas – one that’s emboldened generations of mold breakers to make waves, to reach higher, to step up - to do better.
The bold, vibrant hues of the constantly churning Pacific, the myriad pathways winding throughout our beautiful Golden State landscape, and the towering height and extensive reach of our national parks’ giant sequoias are simply stunning sights to behold. And they offer an amazingly awe-inspiring backdrop against which to build our boundaryless focus for the coming years.
Like the ocean waves, the human brain is constantly in motion, changing and learning, developing from before birth through our twilight years. The beautiful pathways lining our parks, beaches, and iconic scenes remind us of our world’s complex human diversity and the many ways in which our journeys intersect. And the ability of California’s quintessential sequoias to withstand the test of time, living more than 3,000 years through elements both natural and man-made, remind us of the resiliency of the human spirit – that if we spread our reach wide, we can achieve amazing heights in our quest to tackle some of the most pressing global issues of our time.
These visual elements are woven throughout our renewed commitment highlighting the ways in which we’re pushing the boundaries of research, teaching, and service in our pursuit to create positive change in our societies, economies, and for human well-being. They also remind us that in our focus and drive to tackle some of the heaviest topics, there is so much beauty to be found.
Join us in our boundaryless pursuit of a more brilliant future.
- Bill Maurer
table of contents
BRAIN AND BEHAVIOR
As Californians, we hear talk of “waves” and our thoughts naturally extend to the surf - past PCH and deep into the swirling, vibrant blues and greens of the white-capped Pacific.
Try to capture the beauty in a picture, and you’ll get a snapshot in time, but you’ll miss the motion, the constant activity, the energy. The same holds true for the human brain - a boundaryless, uncharted territory where different kinds of waves drive our every thought, emotion, and behavior. The brain is constantly changing and learning, developing from before birth through our twilight years. And just like the ocean forming our western border, a picture doesn’t do it justice. To understand the brain, we need to understand the changing brain and its relationship to behavior throughout the entire life course, from every stage of development to the environmental, social, and biological factors that help or hurt its progress.
Doing so requires a bold, boundaryless approach.
UCI’s world-renowned social scientists - highlighted within the following stories - are conducting cognitive neuroscience research with experts in engineering, computer science, and health to help us understand the brain’s inner workings and its relationship to behavior. They are also building and experimenting with new technologies and advances in data analysis that will drive future neuroimaging research.
With your support, we’ll deepen the understanding of the dynamic relationship between brain and behavior and develop new treatments for brain disorders and cognitive decline.
Help us make waves. •
Dirt trails, cracked stairs, paved sidewalks, even moving walkways. Throughout California, myriad pathways mark the way to some of the state's most well-known scenes. At UCI, they wind the campus, encircling Aldrich Park where, on a quick walk through, you’ll experience a microcosm of our world’s wonderfully complex human diversity. Students from 15 to well past 50 years of age representing every race, religion, socioeconomic background, and political belief converge on the southern California campus to pursue an education that opens the door to infinite possibilities.
Their university admission often belies the difficult path many forged to get here - one intertwined with pressing issues like access to healthcare, affordable housing, adequate income, and equal education. Regardless of hometown, country, or continent, these issues span the whole of humanity, from first breath to last, oftentimes running generations deep. They are truly boundaryless, and these lived experiences mark much more than the walkway beneath the traveler's feet.
The UCI School of Social Sciences is home to some of the world’s leading experts, brightest up-and-coming minds, and top-notch research facilities committed to understanding and solving these complex societal issues that impact so many. Massive amounts of data - both qualitative and quantitative - are helping them discover trends that explain the long-term effects of incarceration on families, the causes and consequences of homelessness, and what happens when we increase the minimum wage. From hosting one of only 29 Census Research Data Centers in the country, to fostering studies on immigration and supporting student programs that make education achievable and affordable for first-generation college students, UCI social scientists are dedicated to understanding and addressing the foundations of inequality, and helping advise and design policy that stops it in its tracks. The following stories highlight some of their most recent work.
We're seeking your help to forge new pathways for our students, their families, and the billions of people in our world whose trajectories don't have to be set in stone.
Help us make tracks. •
The giant sequoias of California are an absolutely breathtaking sight to behold. The root system of just one has been known to cover more than an acre of land in an effort to support the iconic Golden State tree. Their resiliency to thrive, weathering thousands of years of natural and man-made elements, is truly miraculous.
The same can be said for the human spirit. In the midst of global conflict and chaos created by power and political struggles, economic and racial inequality, resource scarcity, and religious strife - the sheer magnitude of which affect us all - humanity perseveres. Understanding these roots of conflict and identifying ways to alleviate them while elevating those who are most impacted requires a boundaryless approach.
The following stories spotlight some of our foremost experts on topics like population, policy, and politics in China, global threats posed by misinformation campaigns, warfare and human rights, pollution, and resource scarcity, to name a few. Their research pursuits extend far and wide to understand the volume, causes, and consequences of some of the heaviest global topics. Also featured are the school’s dynamic student programs – from Global Connect and the Diversity, Inclusion, and Racial Healing Ambassador Program to the Deconstructing Diversity Initiative – that take this information and spread it through experiential learning programs that reach populations from local OC high schools to diverse regions around the country.
We're seeking your help in growing our ability to tackle some of the most pressing global issues. Through research and student program support, you will play a critical role in extending the reach of our work that gets to the heart of the human spirit that thrives in every single one of us.
Help us reach higher. •
From climate legislation to technological innovation, California leads the charge in making the world a better place for all. That sentiment is echoed in our Dean’s Challenge to see things in a new way, to change perspective, to build a bold strategy for the future of the school and our complex, interconnected, rapidly changing world. To meet the challenge, we’re seeking an endowment that will name the deanship in perpetuity and provide funding and flexibility for strategic investments and new initiatives in programs, faculty, and students.
The school relies on key leaders from our community to be our ambassadors and advocates.
With help from our community friends via the Dean’s Leadership Society and Alumni Network, the dean supports student scholarships, fellowships, and award-winning programs that are part of our key initiatives, including Mock Trial, which consistently ranks among the top teams in the nation; the Summer Undergraduate Research Program which provides funding for UCI undergrads to pursue formal academic research; the highly successful five-week Summer Academic Enrichment Program for first-gen undergrads aspiring to graduate school; and UCDC, which affords many first-gen students an incredible opportunity to visit and work in our nation’s capital on policy-relevant projects. We presented Crystal Ho earlier who, thanks to SAEP and UCDC, had lifechanging experiences at UCI and in D.C. In the following stories, you’ll learn about Akil and Daniela for whom external funding has been paramount to their educational advancement. You’ll also learn about our Dean’s Leadership Society and Alumni Network which help support students like Crystal, Akil, and Daniela.
Whether they earn a bachelor’s, master’s, or Ph.D., our student alumni - numbering more than 50,000 Anteaters strong - take their world-class education across the globe as they make their mark in courtrooms, boardrooms, classrooms, and entrepreneurial endeavors. With your support for our Dean’s Challenge, we can fund the educational experience of tomorrow’s leaders today.
Help us change lives. •