New UCI faculty gather at the Student Center after a welcome ceremony that emphasized the importance of research and academic creativity. Steve Zylius / UCI

On Oct. 11, Enrique Lavernia, provost and executive vice chancellor, welcomed new faculty members – one of the larger cohorts in recent history – to UCI for the 2017-18 year.

The influx of 57 academic minds marks a major milestone in achieving Chancellor Howard Gillman’s goal of hiring an additional 250 permanent faculty members by 2021 – a goal laid out in the UCI strategic plan released last year. The School of Social Sciences, with 13 newcomers, saw the biggest increase, followed by the School of Social Ecology, with eight, and the School of Humanities and Henry Samueli School of Engineering, with six each.

“Academic hiring is one of the most important decisions we make on the campus, and I am impressed with the creativity, academic rigor and research pursuits of the new faculty joining us this fall,” Lavernia said. “As outlined in our strategic plan, faculty growth has allowed UCI to expand our life-enhancing discoveries and make great strides in solving the world’s grand challenges.”

The diverse, high-impact hires were recruited from an elite pool of accomplished scholars from across the country and around the globe. They include:

  • Kyriacos “Kerry” Athanasiou, Distinguished Professor of biomedical engineering, who is an international authority on translating engineering innovations into commercially available medical instruments and devices;
  • Japanese violinist Mari Kimura – an influential composer, performer and researcher in the field of interactive computer music – who is now a professor in the Department of Music;
  • A professor of cognitive sciences and the Falmagne Endowed Chair in Mathematical Psychology & Cognitive Sciences, Zygmunt Pizlo, a pioneer in human and machine three-dimensional vision studies; and
  • Kim Fortun, a leader in the study of environmental risk and disaster, and Virginia Parks, an expert on urban racial and employment inequality, who have been welcomed by the departments of anthropology and urban planning & public policy, respectively, as professors and chairs.

Some of the new faculty joining UCI through the Midcareer Professor Hiring Initiative are:

  • Bambi Haggins, associate professor of film & media studies. Her research focuses on the role of black comics in 20th– and 21st-century American culture, and she has worked as a writer for Showtime’s “Why We Laugh: Funny Women.”
  • Nancy Rodriguez, professor of criminology, law & society. A nationally recognized scholar in race, crime and juvenile justice, she directed the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Institute of Justice from 2015 to 2017.
  • Hector Tobar, associate professor of English and Chicano/Latino studies. A Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter with the Los Angeles Times for many years, Tobar earned an M.F.A. in creative writing at UCI and wrote the critically acclaimed best-seller Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine & the Miracle That Set Them Free.

A native Angeleno who comes to UCI from the University of Oregon, Tobar says: “It was great to be enticed back.

“And UCI does so much outreach. It’s a Hispanic-serving institution, and it’s the college ‘doing the most for the American dream,’ according to The New York Times’ College Access Index. I’m really impressed by that. And I think the future is in California.”