Deborah Lowe Vandell, chair of UC Irvine’s Department of Education since 2006, has been appointed the first dean of the UCI School of Education, effective immediately. The school was officially established July 18 by vote of the University of California Board of Regents.

Vandell is widely credited with leading the unit’s transformation from a department to a school by attracting top-flight talent and creating a rigorous program that prepares more teachers than any other UC campus. UCI’s education students are intensely recruited, with more than 90 percent placed in California classrooms upon graduation.

The highly selective doctoral program graduated its first cohort last spring. With 1,700 students, educational studies is UCI’s largest undergraduate minor. The unit became the highest-ranked department of education – surpassing many renowned schools – on U.S. News & World Report’s listing of the top 50 graduate schools.

“Deborah Vandell was the clear choice for dean,” UCI Chancellor Michael Drake said. “She is a preeminent scholar and an outstanding leader. She has contributed greatly to our campus during her six years with us. We look forward to continued excellence in research, scholarship and community engagement from the new School of Education under her guidance.”

“This is the start of a very exciting chapter for UC Irvine,” added Susan Bryant, interim executive vice chancellor & provost. “It is a credit to the vision of our former EVCP, Mike Gottfredson, and it recognizes the superb faculty in the School of Education, and the outstanding leadership of Deborah Vandell.”

Vandell said the evolution from department to school was validation of years of diligent, high-quality work: “The faculty, students and staff at UCI have been united in our mission to build an education school for the future, one that brings together early childhood development, after-school and summer programs, technology and online learning, along with our strengths in K-12 and higher education. I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to serve as the founding dean for a school of education that’s taking this comprehensive approach.”

An internationally recognized scholar on the effects of early child care, K-12 education, after-school programs and families on children’s social, behavioral and academic functioning, Vandell was a principal investigator with the National Institute of Child Health & Human Development Study of Early Child Care & Youth Development (SECCYD). As part of that study, she conducted an intensive evaluation of 1,300 children from birth through high school.

The SECCYD is viewed by many social scientists as one of the most comprehensive investigations of the short- and long-term effects of pre-K education, schooling and the family on child development. Other research projects have examined the effects of after-school programs, extracurricular activities and unsupervised time on academic and social outcomes. This work underscored the importance of out-of-school time as a factor in classroom success.

In addition, Vandell developed an online assessment tool in use by the state of California to measure quality and student performance in after-school and summer learning programs. The author of more than 150 articles and three books, she is a member of the governing council for the Society for Research in Child Development and a fellow of the American Educational Research Association, the American Psychological Association and the Association for Psychological Science.

Vandell started her career as an elementary school teacher while earning a master’s degree in education at Harvard University. She later received a Ph.D. in psychology from Boston University. Before arriving at UCI, she was the Sears-Bascom Professor of Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

About the University of California, Irvine:
Founded in 1965, UCI is a top-ranked university dedicated to research, scholarship and community service. Led by Chancellor Michael Drake since 2005, UCI is among the most dynamic campuses in the University of California system, with nearly 28,000 undergraduate and graduate students, 1,100 faculty and 9,000 staff. Orange County’s second-largest employer, UCI contributes an annual economic impact of $4 billion. For more UCI news, visit

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