Freshmen were not the only ones beginning their journeys at UCI this fall. On Sept. 17, a week before classes started, an orientation was held for new faculty. More than 50 fresh faces gathered at Donald Bren Hall to meet colleagues and administrators and learn more about their roles and campus resources.
Enrique Lavernia, UCI provost and executive vice chancellor, addressed the group during a luncheon: “Please know that I have full confidence in your capabilities and that we will do all we can to help you be successful here.”
In recent years, the university has made a strategic-plan commitment to not only increase and diversify its faculty, but also secure the best of the best while doing so. UCI hired 68 faculty members for the 2017-18 school year and then 104 more for 2018-19.
So far, for 2019-20, 94 newcomers have joined the faculty. The School of Medicine, with 17, has seen the biggest increase, followed by The Henry Samueli School of Engineering, with 15, and the School of Biological Sciences, with 11.
In addition, 13 deans came aboard over the past few years – and each was UCI’s first choice, Lavernia says.
Excellence, however, is only part of the campus’s formula for a flourishing faculty. Incoming professors, scholars and mentors need to be “reflective of our diverse student population,” Lavernia says, “as UCI aspires to be a national leader and global model of inclusive excellence.”
Among them are:
- Veronica Berrocal, associate professor of statistics, whose research focuses on developing and applying statistical models to predict social and environmental health risks, particularly in the context of socioeconomic status;
- Bernadette Boden-Albala, director and founding dean of UCI’s planned School of Population Health, who is a world-renowned expert in the social epidemiology of stroke and cardiovascular disease whose strategies to reduce health disparities for America’s disadvantaged set a standard for community-based stroke and heart disease prevention;
- Paulo Brando, assistant professor of Earth system science, whose research explores the degradation of tropical rainforests, bringing attention to the negative influences of climate and land use change on tropical ecosystems;
- Stacy Copp, assistant professor of materials science & engineering, who studies ways to create new materials that generate and/or control light to revolutionize technologies in energy and medicine;
- Jan Hirsch, director and founding dean of UCI’s planned School of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences, who is an acclaimed researcher, pharmacist and organizational leader with experience in bridging academics, scholarship and clinical practice in the private and public sectors;
- Timothy Kern, professor of ophthalmology, who studies the complications of long-term diabetes and develops novel therapeutic approaches to inhibit them;
- Judith Kroll, Distinguished Professor of language science, whose research focuses on the unique way bilingual people juggle the presence of two languages in one mind;
- Joleah Lamb, assistant professor of ecology & evolutionary biology, whose internationally recognized work in marine biology has raised awareness of plastic pollution and overall ocean health;
- David Law, Chancellor’s Professor of law, who is a pioneer in the application of empirical social science methods to the study of legal texts;
- Isabela Quintana, assistant professor of Asian American studies, whose work includes exploring the shared histories of Chinese American and Mexican American neighborhoods in Los Angeles;
- Julian F. Thayer, Distinguished Professor of psychological science, who studies the body’s longest nerve, the vagus, as it relates to compassion, as well as the connection between the heart and the brain; and
- Adriana Villavicencio, assistant professor of education, who has led large-scale studies of efforts to improve schools and outcomes for young men of color.
Earth system scientist Brando says he has admired the quality of work done at UCI since he was an undergraduate in his native Brazil. Now he looks forward to contributing to that work in an interdisciplinary environment he describes as “stimulating, engaging, respectful and fun.”
“I’m more than thrilled to join a university that aggregates such an amazing group of scientists, staff and students,” Brando says. “I’m proud that UCI values – at its core – diversity and inclusion, and I’m humbled by all the accomplishments of my colleagues. But most importantly, I feel welcome and at home.”