Page 1

Fall 2021



Welcome Zot! Incoming Anteaters learn the Zot! sign from Rameen Talesh (off camera), assistant vice chancellor for student life & leadership and dean of students, at the New Student Convocation for freshmen and transfers held Sept. 20 on Crawford Field.

Steve Zylius / UCI


Fall 2021 Vol. 6, No. 3




Building Solidarity With Communities

Change as a Constant

UCI researchers across campus take an inclusive, collaborative approach to working in local areas

Students and recent grads use the arts to express themselves and move society




UCI Magazine







34 The Welcome Table Two Anteaters give Black voices a platform through popular podcast and web series









About This Issue: As students, faculty and staff return to campus this fall after 18 months of remote instruction, we highlight a few of UCI’s “Changemakers” – from researchers fostering lasting community partnerships (page 18) to artists using various mediums to move society (page 26) to literary journalism students amplifying Black voices (page 34). Please note that safety standards have continually evolved throughout the pandemic and that photos reflect appropriate standards at the time taken. Some of the photos in this issue predate the pandemic, so practices such as social distancing and using face coverings had not yet been recommended by public health agencies.

Fall 2021


Letters to the Editor Spring 2021: “A New Day”

The article regarding prisoner education (“Lifting Prisoners Into a Brighter Future,” page 30) brought back memories of a program started by UCI professor Robert Newcomb in the early ’70s. Bob went to federal prisons and encouraged inmates to pursue education. Eventually, he started a program at UCI in which I and others succeeded; I went on after graduation to the UCLA School of Law and have spent 40 years as a trial and appellate lawyer. I hope the professors in the article can learn from Bob’s work in their field. John K. Ormond ’75 Clovis


UCI Magazine Vol. 6, No. 3 Produced by the University of California, Irvine Office of Strategic Communications & Public Affairs

Enjoyed the article regarding the Brutalism architectural design of UCI’s original buildings (“Concrete Hope,” page 5). Reminded me of the movies that have used these buildings in some of their scenes: “Conquest of the Planet of the Apes” (1972) – I was a student there at the time, working part-time in one of the buildings – “Poltergeist,” “Ocean’s Eleven” and “Creator.”

Chancellor Howard Gillman Vice Chancellor, Strategic Communications & Public Affairs Ria Carlson Associate Vice Chancellor, Public Affairs Sherry Main Managing Editor Marina Dundjerski

Victoria Groskreutz ’73 Newport Beach

Design Vince Rini Design


Visuals Steve Chang and Steve Zylius Copy Editor Kymberly Doucette

Winter 2020: “Conquering Cancer” I just read the “Conquering Cancer” issue and felt so inspired by the goingson back at campus that I had to let you know. Issues like this always make me kick myself for not being more involved with the university while attending classes there and after graduation. One day when I move back to my home state, I fully intend to pick up where I left off and reconnect and contribute however I can as a proud alumnus. I currently live in Chicago by way of Oregon after growing up in Southern California, so it’s always nice to keep in touch with people and institutions that are important to me. Keep up the good work, and keep UCI Magazine coming! Caesar Armenta, FEMBA ’12 Chicago

Editorial Advisory Committee Jennie Brewton, Mandi Gonzales, Stacey King (athletics), Will Nagel, Brian O’Dea (health) and Janna Parris (alumni/advancement) Contributing Writers Brian Bell, Cathy Lawhon, Rosemary McClure, Kristin Baird Rattini, Roy Rivenburg and Jim Washburn UCI Magazine is a publication for faculty, staff, alumni, students, parents, community members and UCI supporters. Issues are published in winter, spring and fall. Subscriptions Print: For address changes, email Electronic: To receive the e-version, email UCI Magazine is printed with soy-based inks on a recycled paper stock certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. Please recycle. UCI Magazine UCI Office of Strategic Communications & Public Affairs 120 Theory, Ste. 100 Irvine, CA 92697-5615 949-824-6922 •

Together, we can create a Brilliant Future. Through the generosity of alumni, parents and friends – like you – we are transforming healthcare and wellness, advancing the American dream, accelerating world-changing research, and exploring the human experience.

We Want to Hear From You

Ways to Get Involved Make a gift online: By phone: 949-824-0142 By mail: UCI Giving, 100 Theory, Ste. 250, Irvine, CA 92617 Explore alumni opportunities:

To submit a letter via U.S. mail, send to: Letters to the Editor / UCI Magazine UCI Office of Strategic Communications & Public Affairs 120 Theory, Ste. 100 Irvine, CA 92697-5615


UCI Magazine

To submit a letter via email, send to:


New Beginnings: Then and Now


es tions & Archiv Special Collec UCI Libraries’

2021 Steve Zylius / UCI


ifty-six years ago, the first cadre of students ventured onto UCI’s campus. There was just a sprinkling of buildings then. And the trees were mere saplings. But there was a sense of excitement in forging new paths; the pioneering Anteaters were bonded in spirit. For the past year and a half, UCI has been quieter than usual – with the majority of students off campus participating in remote instruction. But this fall, the university welcomed more than 36,000 students back on site. There is an ingrained eagerness in beginning a new school year but, as we grapple with an ongoing pandemic, a certain solemnity as well. “The last 18 months have been difficult, even painful, for members of our community, some of whom suffered through illness or lost loved ones,” Chancellor Howard Gillman wrote in a fall message. “Yet despite the hardships, as a community, we not only persevered, we rallied, we mobilized, we adapted, we continued to do our important work. We met and overcame the profound challenges of this time in history. And we did so on the strength of your resilience, your tenacity, your sense of service and your commitment to a better world. I hope you are proud of how we came together. I will always be inspired and humbled by your efforts. ... And now we are ready to move forward as we begin a new and better chapter. Our return to in-person learning, living and working will be different from what we remember. We have learned a lot over the last 18 months, and we have leveraged the lessons of the pandemic to create a better experience.”

Fall 2021




A Framework for Health UCI Chancellor Howard Gillman (right) looks on as donors Susan and Henry Samueli sign a steel beam as part of a July 29 “topping out” ceremony to mark the completion of framing for the Susan & Henry Samueli College of Health Sciences complex. The 9-acre site – on the corner of Michael Drake Drive and California Avenue, adjacent to UCI Research Park – will include a state-of-the-art, five-story, 108,200-square-foot building for several schools and the Susan Samueli Integrative Health Institute, as well as an adjoining four-story, 71,500-square-foot home for the Sue & Bill Gross School of Nursing.

“Constellations and Grasses,” by Gordon Onslow Ford (1957); casein on mulberry paper, 38 x 56 inches; The Buck Collection at UCI’s Institute and Museum of California Art


Paintings That Play With Perception A free exhibit at UCI’s Institute and Museum of California Art called “The Resonant Surface: Movement, Image, and Sound in California Painting” is on view through Feb. 19. The show features 24 paintings and two films from the early to mid-20th century. “Many of the artists whose works are on display were actively thinking about how to visualize sound and music,” said Erin Stout, a curatorial and research associate who curated the exhibit. “They were engaging in merging tactile experience and music. What was exciting for me was how these pairings could unfold in unexpected ways. These works are really in dialogue with one another.” Shown above is the 1957 work “Constellations and Grasses,” by Gordon Onslow Ford, that’s part of the show’s dynamism and flux section. “It looks like outer space, but it also looks like ripples on a pond that are reverberating outward,” Stout said. “The painting also has these sharp, rhythmic, staccato dashes. It pulls you in but pushes you away at the same time.”


UCI Magazine

Record Research Dollars UCI received a record $592 million in research funding for fiscal 2020-21 – a 12 percent increase over last year. University investigators tallied 1,012 new awards, totaling nearly $275 million (about 46 percent of the entire campus amount, with the remainder coming from renewed funding). The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, which encompasses the National Institutes of Health, was the largest single source of research funding at UCI, accounting for $180 million. The National Science Foundation provided $50 million. And gifts and grants from philanthropic organizations and charitable trusts reached $86 million. Overall, 39 percent of research dollars came from nonfederal entities. “Our faculty, students and staff are truly excelling in an environment of tremendous competition for financial support of research and innovation,” said Pramod Khargonekar, UCI vice chancellor for research. “These results indicate that UCI’s preeminent research enterprise will make even greater and more productive contributions to the state, the nation and the world.”

600 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 500 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 400 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 300 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

2020 - 2021

2019 - 2020

2018 - 2019

2017 - 2018

2016 - 2017

200 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 100 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0

In millions of dollars

Future Pharmacists UCI’s inaugural class of Pharm.D. students began their journey Sept. 24 with a White Coat Ceremony, a rite of passage marking the transition from the study of preclinical to clinical health sciences. The white coat is universally recognized as a symbol of the commitment students are making in joining a trusted health profession. “We are thrilled to welcome the first cohort of Pharm.D. students, who are the next generation of pharmacists who will help people live healthier, better lives,” said Jan Hirsch, founding dean of UCI’s School of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences. “At UCI, we will prepare our future pharmacists to have a strong science background so they can become medication experts for treating complex patients and diseases of the future. Our students will also be trained in an interprofessional environment that will focus on providing cost-effective healthcare as medication experts for patients and healthcare team members.”

“The structures that produce insecurity and harm for individuals and families have only amplified COVID’s relentless impact. In other words, COVID is more like a mirror, one that reflects the contradictions that define who is unsafe in America. … In the U.S., there is no vaccination for inequity or injustice. Only through seeing ourselves in relation to [the unsafe] can we begin to translate our compassion into lasting social change.” Douglas Haynes, UCI vice chancellor for equity, diversity & inclusion Forbes Sept. 8, 2021

Fall 2021


Faster, Higher, Stronger – Together After a year’s delay due to the pandemic, the 2020 Summer Olympic Games were held in Tokyo this summer, and UCI had 17 affiliates representing four countries across eight sports: badminton (men’s doubles), cycling (women’s time trial), men’s swimming, volleyball (men’s, women’s and beach) and water polo (men’s and women’s). Kevin Tillie ’13 struck gold as part of France’s victorious men’s indoor volleyball team. Former Anteater assistant coaches Melissa Seidemann, Kaleigh Gilchrist, Jamie Neushul and Alys Williams were on the U.S. women’s water polo team that snagged its third consecutive gold medal. UCI women’s water polo head coach Dan Klatt ’01 was an assistant coach for the squad. Michelle Bartsch-Hackley, previously a men’s volleyball assistant coach at UCI, helped the U.S. women’s indoor volleyball team capture its first Olympic gold medal. And Dave Durden ’97 was head coach for the U.S. men’s swimming team that captured medals in 12 events: 8 gold, 2 silver and 2 bronze. UCI has had at least four former student-athletes in each of the last 12 Olympic Games.


UCI Magazine

Clockwise from left: Kevin Tillie ’13 shows off his gold medal earned in men’s indoor volleyball with Team France; David Smith ’07 spikes the ball in fierce competition against the People’s Republic of China in his third Olympics; members of the U.S. women’s water polo team pose with their coaches, who are wearing the athletes’ medals, after winning gold – for a third consecutive Games.

Fall 2021


Ed Chan


Vaccines Safeguard UCI Health Staff Against COVID-19 Healthcare workers often mirror the communities they serve when there’s an infectious disease outbreak. Indeed, as 2021 began and cases of the California strain of COVID-19 surged in Orange County, cases rose among UCI Health personnel. But as reported in a study published in JAMA Network Open in July, those trend lines diverged once the employees were inocculated with a two-dose regimen of an mRNA vaccine (Pfizer, Moderna). “By the second dose, we saw a notable decrease in the numbers of symptomatic and asymptomatic cases among UCI healthcare workers,” says Dr. Shruti Gohil, associate medical director for epidemiology & infection prevention in UCI’s School of Medicine. “This rapid and sustained decline was remarkable given the high rates of COVID-19 in the region.” More than 10,000 UCI Health employees were evaluated in the 15-week quality improvement study, which ran from November 2020 through March 2021, with first-dose vaccinations beginning Dec. 16 and subsequent doses

following three or four weeks later, per guidelines. They were screened daily for COVID-19 symptoms, including a temperature check. Those experiencing symptoms received a rapid COVID-19 test. Random testing was conducted on those without symptoms. As second doses began, daily cases fell, on average, from 18 to eight after one week, to three after two weeks and to one after three weeks. “We had sustained weeks with zero cases, which we had never previously seen, especially during the surge,” says Gohil, who is helping to lead UCI Health’s response to the pandemic. The utility of vaccination against asymptomatic cases was equally noteworthy. “There was a lot of skepticism around whether the vaccine would be effective against silent spreaders of the disease,” she says. “We were able to dispel these rumors.” Although cases in Southern California have ticked upward again with the introduction of the delta variant, Gohil says she’s optimistic that Orange County’s higher vaccination rates – combined with the efficacy of the vaccines – will enable the region to weather the variant better than other parts of the country. “Vaccination is key to getting us over the finish line and to opening up society,” she says.

Bullied Youths’ Coping Strategies Can Affect Their Long-Term Health College students don’t arrive on campus as blank slates. Between 20 and 35 percent of school-aged youth experience bullying, and that childhood victimization can impact young people years later. In a paper published in July in Behavioral Medicine, Michael Hoyt, UCI associate professor of public health, explores how the coping strategies used by bullied youths can affect their long-term physical and mental health. For the study, more than 800 college students responded to a questionnaire asking them to recall high school incidents of bullying and their reactions. Coping strategies were categorized as approach-oriented, involving techniques such as problem-solving and seeking social support, or avoidance-oriented, including giving up, denial or disengaging from emotions. “One of the interesting things our findings revealed is that various patterns of past bullying experiences may be differently related to health and in coping with life stressors over time,” Hoyt says. For example, students who suffered high victimization used avoidance techniques more often. This was linked to greater binge drinking and could eventually result in poor resolution of future problems and poorer mental health. The data also showed that students who were moderately bullied – a group often overlooked – didn’t benefit from either coping method in the same way as other groups; they showed a higher risk of depressive symptoms.


UCI Magazine

“We surmise that the way they experienced bullying created a lot more uncertainty for them – they didn’t know when or how it was going to happen – and their attempts to cope might not have been very effective,” Hoyt explains. He hopes that the study helps college health counselors take a longer view of the factors influencing students’ health and behavior. “We might assume that those bullying incidents are behind them,” Hoyt says, “when, in fact, they may have set the student on a trajectory of poor coping skills they will apply to this new setting in college.”

PROTECT YOUR HEALTH Taking control of your health is one of the most valuable things you can do for yourself and your family. Regular visits with your doctor and keeping up with annual exams are two simple steps you can take to prevent illness and maintain good health. Our UCI Health primary care doctors offer convenient virtual appointments and in-person visits at locations throughout Orange County. As part of Orange County’s only academic health system, they work seamlessly with our network of more than 500 specialty care doctors to provide the latest evidence-based care and access to leading-edge clinical trials. As a UCI Health patient, you can expect the most comprehensive, high-quality care in our area. Make your health a priority. Choose a UCI Health primary care doctor today.

Learn more at or call 844-310-9750.

UCI Health



UCI Magazine

Empowering Movement Emerging and established choreographers from across the United States visited UCI for three weeks over the summer as part of the National Choreographers Initiative. The 17-year-old program, founded and led by Molly Lynch, chair of the Claire Trevor School of the Arts’ dance department, creates a workshop setting in which choreographers can initiate new work and experiment with professional dancers, investing in their craft and the future of dance. The unique experience wraps up with a live performance at the Irvine Barclay Theatre. Here, a piece choreographed by Eva Stone titled “Find a Purpose/Lose a Purpose” is brought to life during a work-in-progress showing.

Fall 2021


Dave Friedman


Amazon rainforest



Rainforest Witness Over the past several decades, humans have cleared and burned more than 20 percent of the Amazon rainforest to make room for land speculation; pastures; and farms to grow soybeans, corn and other crops. These activities have led to out-of-control fires in recent years and fundamental changes in rainfall patterns, causing concern among ecosystem scientists such as UCI’s Paulo Brando that the region could reach a tipping point. “My colleagues and I make frequent journeys into the Amazon to witness with our own eyes the impact people are making on the sprawling rainforest,” says Brazil native Brando, a UCI assistant professor of Earth system science. “We want to know if what we’re seeing now are initial signs of collapse or if these forests are tougher than many give them credit for.” He says degradation in the Amazon is particularly threatening because, through photosynthesis, the trees and plants in the rainforest absorb significant amounts of the carbon dioxide humans emit into the atmosphere. At the same time, the vegetation pumps large quantities of water into the atmosphere, promoting the Amazon’s rainfall. Brando’s group is studying a process known as embolism in which the vascular tissues of trees become dysfunctional, preventing the flow of water and nutrients and, in many cases, causing tree death. “Our work extends from the level of individual tree cells all the way up to a rainforest that covers millions of square kilometers,” Brando says. “We need to understand challenges at multiple scales in order to come up with solutions.”

Paulo Brando


UCI Magazine

Fall 2021




Héctor Tobar, M.F.A. ’95, English

Associate professor of English (literary journalism) and Chicano/Latino studies

Steve Zylius / UCI

On the Road Again UCI professor drives across America in search of its Latino soul After loading the trunk of his Volkswagen Jetta with instant oatmeal packets, N95 masks and Tide laundry pods last fall, Héctor Tobar embarked on a 9,000-mile journey across the U.S., visiting various towns for a book on whether the term “Latino” remains relevant in modern America. Driving through moonlit deserts and mist-shrouded mountains, he encountered colorful characters and fascinating insights. “I’ve always loved road stories,” says Tobar, whose 2020 book, The Last Great Road Bum, fictionalized the true tale of an Illinois college dropout who hitchhiked around the globe before joining a band of guerrilla soldiers in El Salvador. A former Los Angeles Times reporter who earned an


UCI Magazine

M.F.A. in fiction writing at UCI in 1995, Tobar has authored five books. He’s best known for Deep Down Dark, which chronicled the miraculous 2010 rescue of trapped Chilean miners and inspired the movie “The 33.” In 2017, Tobar joined UCI’s faculty as an associate professor of English (literary journalism) and Chicano/Latino studies. His new project, tentatively titled A Migrant’s Light: Race, America and the Latino Soul, is a sequel to Translation Nation, his similarly themed 2005 travelogue. Funded partly by a Harvard Radcliffe fellowship, the forthcoming book will probably debut in 2023, he says. A few weeks ago, Tobar spoke with UCI Magazine writer Roy Rivenburg about the evolution of ethnic labels, how the media portray Latinos and the curious migration of Cholula sauce.

Growing up in the 1970s as the son of Guatemalan immigrants, you called yourself a Guatemalan American. In 1980, you’ve said, you checked the Hispanic box on the census. Later, you adopted the Latino label. But you recently wrote that “Latino” and “Latinx” erase your indigenous heritage. So how do you describe yourself now?

that symbolizes a larger shift in the culture. So now, at age 58, when I drive through the South or the Pacific Northwest, it’s like, “Wow, I would kind of fit in here more than I would have earlier.”

I guess I try to avoid the question. The book I’m writing attempts to show how cruel and arbitrary all ethnic and racial identifications are and how they all have roots in histories of exploitation, classism and racism. They were all invented at different times in American history to justify a social order of inequality. When the first colonists arrived in the Americas, they didn’t call themselves white. They called themselves Christians. And the Native Americans were non-Christians or heathens. Once the cotton and tobacco economy got started, the colonists brought in slaves from Africa and invented the ideas of white and black as part of an economic system. I think even “white” is a very cruel term. No one is the color of a piece of paper. And no one is really black; no one is the color of the night sky. There are very dark people, and there are very light people, but essentially, we’re all different shades of brown. So these terms are abstractions.

“Every time I travel across the country, it really sinks in that the United States is a mestizo country. What the U.S. has become and what it will be from this moment forward is something that has been shaped by immigration from Latin America.”

How did the term “Latino” originate? In 1850, if your name was Pio Pico and you were the Mexican governor of California, you called yourself Californio, because that was your racial identity. Then, when the U.S. took over, the Californios got called Mexicans. And they didn’t like “Mexicans,” so they started calling themselves Latinoamericanos, which becomes “Latino” in our era. For me, “Latino” is one term at a moment in history. But it isn’t an adequate term. In an essay for Harper’s Magazine about your recent trip, you wrote: “To call yourself Latino is to resist assimilation, and to be conflicted about who you really are.” But you also said the journey made you feel “more American than ever.” Are those ideas contradictory? Every time I travel across the country, it really sinks in that the United States is a mestizo country. What the U.S. has become and what it will be from this moment forward is something that has been shaped by immigration from Latin America. There’s all this interplay of language and intermarriage. I’ll give you a stupid example, but a funny one. My daughter loves Cholula sauce. So I recently went to the store, and I couldn’t find it because I was looking in the ethnic condiment aisle. But in many stores, Cholula is now next to the ketchup and mustard because the American palate has changed. It’s a crossover success

But still not 100 percent? No, the perception of Latinos is still very much tied to the border. And it’s really sort of maddening to see so much of the writing about the Latino community focused on immigrant detention, because if you ever talk to someone who’s been in immigration detention, you’re talking about a short period of their life that doesn’t necessarily define who they are. On most days, Latino people find ways to assert their humanity and their intelligence and their ambition through their labor or the way they raise their children. In New York, I interviewed a guy on the street who was shoveling snow. He’s the kind of person I find everywhere when I do a story reporting on the Latino community – but that I never see in the U.S. media – which is the working-class intellectual. My father is that kind of person. Yet the border perception hovers over Latino families. When do you think that perception might change? Maybe around the year 2086 – the 100th anniversary of the 1986 immigration reform and amnesty act under Ronald Reagan – the U.S. will start constructing an Ellis Island-type monument run by the National Park Service in San Ysidro or the Sonoran Desert to commemorate all the people who went across or died as they passed through. But for now, that immigration story is still part of the racial fears in this country.

Fall 2021


Building Solidarity With Communities UCI researchers across campus take an inclusive, collaborative approach to working in local areas By Kristin Baird Rattini


or many years, “parachute research” was the modus operandi for many academics. Drop into an area, extract data and help from community members, and then leave without providing them any benefit from the insights and advances they made possible. The glaring and growing holes in that model – namely, the social, economic and racial disparities it perpetuates – have grounded parachute research in favor of a more collaborative approach to engaging with communities, especially communities of color.


UCI Magazine

“There have been broader conversations at universities around the country about how to be more impactful for society,” says June Ahn, UCI associate professor of education. He is one of numerous researchers across the UCI campus, from arts to law to ecology and beyond, who are closely collaborating with local partners to jointly identify their needs and develop equitable, respectful and inclusive solutions that benefit the greater community. A few of their efforts are highlighted on the following pages.

Newkirk Center for Science & Society

Research Justice Shop

Connie McGuire (left) and Victoria Lowerson Bredow

If it’s broken, fix it. Established in 2018, the Research Justice Shop aims to reshape the way scholars engage with the groups they study. “A lot of people see university researchers coming into their community and think, ‘They’re not here for the long run,’” says Victoria Lowerson Bredow, the RJS’s codirector and the Newkirk Center for Science & Society’s director of engaged scholarship. “Yet often the data is coming from them. It’s the water coming out of their faucets, the soil in their neighborhood, even the blood from their bodies, that’s being used for research.” Representing disciplines as disparate as drama and public health, the 10 graduate Newkirk Fellows working through the RJS meet with residents and local organizers to tackle issues predominantly affecting underserved neighborhoods – including water pollution, air quality and COVID-19. “It’s not just how to collaborate with communities,” says Connie McGuire, the RJS’s co-director and the Newkirk Center’s director of community relationships, “but how to work in solidarity with communities that are experiencing the brunt of our social and environmental problems and working on their own behalf to solve those challenges.”

One such RJS collaboration is the Communities Organizing for Better Water PhotoVoice project. Two Newkirk Fellows work with volunteers in central Orange County who have been documenting local water pollution for more than a year. Photos of residents boiling their brownish tap water before drinking it and stagnant puddles of polluted runoff showcase a dim reality invisible to their more affluent neighbors. “It’s so easy to settle into doing research about people instead of with people,” says Ethan Rubin, a UCI doctoral student in education and one of the Newkirk Fellows working on the PhotoVoice project. “But I don’t think that benefits our research or the communities we’re supposed to be helping.” With training from the RJS, UCI researchers add value to community organizations right off the bat, according to Patricia Flores, project director at Orange County Environmental Justice, which runs the PhotoVoice initiative. “The Research Justice Shop provides crucial support,” she says. “Their students come to our projects with a grassroots perspective, ready to work with our organization.”

Fall 2021


Claire Trevor School of the Arts

Creative Connections

When UCI drama students Luciana Valero and Meghan Minguez-Marshall arrived at Santa Ana High School for their Creative Connections internship in spring 2021, “they brought an energy and enthusiasm that was much needed in a difficult school year,” says Terry Schwinge, visual and performing arts coordinator at the school. Creative Connections is a teaching artist internship program that each year sends 15 to 30 UCI arts majors into K-12 classrooms to partner with an educator to develop and implement lesson plans. Past interns have coached musical ensembles, assisted with play productions, taught line drawing themed around Egyptian history, even choreographed a dance to represent states of matter. “We don’t go in with preconceived notions about what that community or teacher needs,” says Megan Belmonte, director of outreach programs for UCI’s Claire Trevor School of Arts. “It begins with a discussion about ‘What gaps are there? What are the strengths of our interns? What can they bring to the table to help fill some of those gaps?’” The proposal by Valero and Minguez-Marshall – then a junior and a senior, respectively – to teach Schwinge’s


UCI Magazine

students how to write monologues dovetailed perfectly with interest from the South Coast Repertory theater company in having Santa Ana High School students create original works reflecting their community and their own lives. “Having students from a lower economic background, as is the case with many families in my community, guest speakers and visiting instructors often mistakenly bring low expectations,” Schwinge says. “From the start, Lucy and Meghan respected my students completely and had a keen sense of how to reach and inspire them.” The resulting work, “Rising Spirits: First Draft,” was written by Santa Ana High School students, performed by UCI’s Brown Bag Theater Company and aired on South Coast Repertory’s social media channels. It featured a diverse range of monologues, some completely in Spanish, that shared the students’ family histories, reflections on social justice issues and the struggles that come with growing up Latino. “I think the final production truly reflected who the students are,” Valero says, “and what their community – and ours – ultimately looks like.”

Amy Abshier (left) and Jane Stoever (below)

School of Law

Orange County Domestic Violence Death Review Team

Third-year law student Amy Abshier has found her legal calling by volunteering in the Domestic Violence Clinic at UCI’s School of Law. In addition to providing direct legal representation for survivors, Abshier is speaking for victims who can no longer speak for themselves through her work on the Orange County Domestic Violence Death Review Team. For the past five years, UCI law students have participated on this collaborative, interagency group under the guidance of its co-chair, Jane Stoever, clinical professor of law and director of the school’s Domestic Violence Clinic. The team collects and analyzes data from domestic violence fatality cases in Orange County to look for trends and overlooked intervention points. “Our work is done with an eye on abuse prevention and fatality prevention in terms of how our county systems, courts and community resources can better coordinate and provide what’s needed for more effective and helpful interventions,” Stoever explains.

Abshier was among three UCI law students who pored over a decade of case narratives – 113 cases in all – to compile a master report that will be released this fall. “We want people to know the severity and prevalence of domestic violence, even here in Orange County, which is generally thought of as a safe area,” she says. Among the team’s key findings: 72 percent of case fatalities involved firearms. “The combination of domestic violence and firearms in the home increases fatality risks by 500 percent,” Stoever says. “California has laws concerning domestic violence and firearm prohibitions, and we need to ensure we don’t have an implementation gap in how those laws are carried out.” Abshier was struck by how often opportunities were missed to interrupt the cycle the violence. “As heavy as it may be to review these cases,” she says, “it can help shed light on the ways we can prevent domestic violence fatalities in the future.”

Fall 2021


Humanities Center

Stories From the Sea

Rehana Morita

“The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.” That quote from Jacques Cousteau captures the inspiration and anchors the website of the Stories From the Sea initiative, a collaboration between the UCI Humanities Center and the Newport Beach Public Library Foundation, as well as the UCI Center for Storytelling, UCI Libraries and the UCI Department of History. A yearlong internship – part of the Humanities Center’s focus in 2020-21 on the theme of oceans – trained UCI students from across numerous degree programs to conduct oral history interviews, digitize photos and other memorabilia, and produce stories through mixed-media methods such as podcasting to preserve important memories of encounters with the sea. “Focusing on oceans offers opportunities to both tackle big issues of our society and provide insight into everyday, intimate interactions and feelings,” says Judy Tzu-Chun Wu, director of the UCI Humanities Center. “[It] can bring us together across research disciplines and across communities.” The students interviewed such fascinating and diverse subjects as the staff of the Pacific Marine Mammal Center, the owners of Seaside Donuts Bakery and the founder of Courage Camps, a nonprofit surfing network for Latina girls. “We managed to connect the community elders with students and capture firsthand accounts of the rich local


UCI Magazine

Background photo: Don Miyada, Crystal Cove State Park, Oral History Collection

coastal history,” says Kunga Wangmo-Upshaw, director of programs for the Newport Beach Public Library Foundation. “These stories are now part of the local history collection and can be found in UCI Libraries’ archives, which are accessible to all.” For Rehana Morita, a UCI junior in Asian American studies and film & media studies, the internship was the perfect opportunity to combine her two areas of interest into one community-based project. She combed through the archives of the Crystal Cove Conservancy to create a photo essay titled “Crystal Cove’s Untold History of Japanese American Farmers.” “With the rise of anti-Asian hate this past year, I wanted to find a way to give back to my community,” Morita explains. “As a Japanese American myself, I wanted to learn more about the community’s history, especially because in Orange County the history we know is mostly about white communities and not about communities of color.” The conservancy was so impressed with Morita that it hired her as a summer intern to expand her photo essay into a virtual history tour for the conservancy’s website. “It was so rewarding to dig deeper into the history of these families,” Morita says, “and learn not only about their day-to-day life but about how their experiences of facing racism and xenophobia 80 to 100 years ago are reflective of the world we live in today.”

Chris Wegemer

School of Education

Orange County Educational Advancement Network

Since launching in 2018, the Orange County Educational Advancement Network is having a significant ripple effect across the county’s schools. OCEAN matches a UCI School of Education faculty member and doctoral student with an Orange County K-12 school. The pair works with school leadership to identify the most urgent needs and goals and then conducts research that informs a plan of action for the school’s priorities. Staff from the partner schools then gather to address shared problems and simultaneously implement effective resolutions across what’s called a Networked Improvement Community. “All of our partners are really enthusiastic and hungry to leverage the resources of our research university for their local projects,” says June Ahn, OCEAN’s founding director and a UCI associate professor of education. Their enthusiasm has been contagious: Over the past three years, OCEAN has grown from six to 25 partnerships. At Samueli Academy, a high school in Santa Ana, doctoral candidate Chris Wegemer has conducted surveys and crunched the data on subjects ranging from student comfort with COVID-19 policies to a gender gap in science, technology, engineering and math class participation.

The findings prompted the academy to adopt a “Women in STEM” initiative, which included hiring a female STEM teacher and increasing recruitment of female students for engineering classes. “Education research often feels disconnected from real impacts or applications,” Wegemer says. “This work is connected to actual policies and practices.” The OCEAN partnership with Samueli Academy, which has a large enrollment of students who are in the foster care system, inspired the creation of a Networked Improvement Community focused on enhancing communication, cooperation and coordination among schools and community agencies that serve the needs of foster children. “That’s been a nice progression of starting with a partner, working from their needs and their expertise, and then building out bigger projects,” Ahn says. “Samueli Academy is proud to be part of the OCEAN initiative,” says Anthony Saba, the school’s executive director. “This collaboration will not only help us better serve our students, but also be a resource to organizations everywhere that are trying to make a difference in the lives of youth.”

Fall 2021


School of Biological Sciences

UCI/OC Parks/Irvine Ranch Conservancy Loma Ridge Partnership

Call it a win-win-win situation. The longtime collaboration at Loma Ridge among UCI scientists, the Irvine Ranch Conservancy and OC Parks has produced numerous benefits over the years for all three partners. For the conservancy, which manages Loma Ridge among its roughly 50,000 acres in Orange County, UCI’s research capacity and focus on answering foundational scientific questions produce knowledge that informs its land management decisions. UCI gains access to an enormous, well-tended outdoor laboratory. And OC Parks, which owns Loma Ridge and the land around it, gets restored habitats within its nature preserves. At any given time, 15 to 20 UCI students, postdoctoral researchers and staff are working on experiments related to Loma Ridge. Someone from UCI is at the site almost every day, especially in springtime. Data is continually collected on temperature fluctuations; wind patterns;


UCI Magazine

types of plants; the levels of pH, carbon and nitrogen in the soil; and other things. Dozens of scientific studies have been published based on experiments at Loma Ridge looking at topics such as how microbe diversity relates to plant diversity and how ecosystems recover after fires. Steven Allison, UCI professor of ecology & evolutionary biology, is conducting a study funded by a $2.7 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to see how soil microbes at Loma Ridge respond to drought. “We work closely with the Irvine Ranch Conservancy,” he says, “and share our results with them to see if we can make these systems more resilient to climate change, more resilient to fire, and if there’s a way we can manage for endangered species or for pollution.”

Christine Byrd and Aaron Orlowski contributed to this article.


A VISION TO CHANGE THE WORLD. A new state-of-the-art medical research facility at the University of California, Irvine will bring together the brightest minds across disciplines to share knowledge, collaborate on research, and enhance the health and wellness of the community, both locally and globally. Supported by a $30 million gift from Professor Robert A. Mah and Dr. Adeline Yen Mah through their philanthropic organization, the Falling Leaves Foundation Medical Innovation Building will be one of the largest facilities of its kind in the West. UCI extends our deepest gratitude to the Mahs and looks forward to advancing our shared vision of a healthier tomorrow.

See the full story at


UCI Magazine

Change as a Constant Students and recent grads use the arts to express themselves and move society By Jim Washburn

Photos by Steve Zylius


wo artists with unique and personal responses to pandemic isolation and climate change. A stage manager who is striving to get more persons of color behind the scenes in the theater. A dancer expressing her Mexican American heritage through movement. A playwright doing everything but writing plays – for now – to document the identity of Chinese immigrants. A pianist/composer who uses his keyboard to say what words can’t. These are just some of the remarkably varied lot of creative changemakers who continually emerge from UCI’s Claire Trevor School of the Arts. From the provocative and slightly bullet-riddled performance artist Chris Burden in the 1970s to the present-day crop of CTSA graduates, UCI has never lacked for those who question the status of the status quo. According to CTSA Dean Stephen Barker, who began teaching at the school in 1987, change is a constant there. “It’s a central goal of the Claire Trevor School of the Arts to encourage our students to be change agents in the world,” he says. “Art’s role, back to the very beginning of cave drawings, has been a double one: to be a mirror of the culture around it and also be a continual disrupter of that culture – to stretch our imaginations, to show what we can become.” Barker says such a role has never been more important than it is today. “The COVID shutdown has only exacerbated a situation already very prevalent around the world, which is a new kind of isolation,” he says. “People are feeling separated and divided from everybody else and from their culture – and that their access to influence their culture is regressing. Our citizen artists are there to speak for those who don’t have a voice, to ask ‘Is this really the way we want to be?’ and to suggest other ways of being.”

Fall 2021


Ivy Guild, M.F.A. ’21


The title of Ivy Guild’s master’s thesis project, “The Keeling,” refers to our society keeling over when faced with climate catastrophes and an enduring pandemic, as well as the Keeling Curve, a scientific graph of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. Among the more striking images in her thesis exhibition in August at the CTSA Contemporary Arts Center were decayed, human-height South African aloe plants (harvested from the UCI Arboretum) held upright by ungainly metal appendages. One of the things her organic/manufactured artworks represent is her own body. “I had a lot of injuries playing sports as a kid,” Guild says. “We just assumed I was a klutz until, in my teens, it was discovered that I was born with split tendons in my ankles, loose joints and other genetic malformations, leading to several reconstructive surgeries.


UCI Magazine

“I’ve got six screws, two metal plates, five anchors, an internal brace and a piece of horse heart,” she continues. “So I do feel an affinity with these aloe and metal creations.” If human invention has enabled her to function and could imbue the dead plants in her “speculative fabulation” (her term for science fiction) exhibition with a reimagined sense of life, Guild says, “maybe we can create an imaginative space in which people reconsider their relationship with our environment and get everybody on board to change what is fast becoming an existential crisis at our doorstep. “I think art is a record of our culture, a sign of where we’ve been, where we are and where we’re going. It’s meant to provoke thoughts, emotions and, occasionally, vivid responses from the people who view it. And maybe that’s where change begins.”

Adam Kormondy ’21

Music and Philosophy

When he was 6 years old, Adam Kormondy had a profound emotional response to his first piano lesson, recalling now that “I despised it so much I actually cried.” How things change: Kormondy recently sat at a CTSA rehearsal hall’s grand piano, which he hadn’t touched since before the pandemic began, and became so engrossed in improvising a lengthy reverie on it that he seemed oblivious to anything else around him. After overcoming his childhood pianophobia, Kormondy spent his youth studying classical music and then, in his teens, was wooed by the freedom of improvisational jazz. His playing style and recent compositions (some on his album, “Eclipse,” released under the nom de plume Albion Kristof) reflect a melding of those genres. It’s all instrumental music. Kormondy says one thing he learned from his parallel major in philosophy is that “there are aspects of the human experience, like love,

that language doesn’t really convey. You want to know what love is? Go listen to Bill Evans play ‘My Foolish Heart.’ “When I write a piece of music, it’s usually me trying to work through feelings or questions that words don’t answer. The ultimate goal is to always try to take my music somewhere better and farther along, which is also what I’d want a listener to get from it: the inspiration to strive for a better world via their own creativity and goals.” It’s his plan to see how he fares in the music field for a few years, but Kormondy hopes to someday return to UCI to seek a graduate degree in composition, saying, “Every professor I’ve had here challenged my assumptions and opened my eyes to new ways of thinking about music. I don’t think I’ll ever be so accomplished that I wouldn’t benefit from that.”

Fall 2021


Eugenia Barbuc, M.F.A. ’21

A projected blue sky appears on one of the screens of Eugenia Barbuc’s multifaceted thesis exhibition, titled “Transfer &&, & Reassembled,” recently housed at the CTSA’s Room Gallery. Soon the sky is overlaid with doodles of different hues and sizes, appearing to be the work of different hands, which indeed they are. Amid the pandemic distancing and societal fracturing of the past 18 months, Barbuc chose to make aspects of the exhibition into a ludic oasis of cooperation. “In a time where it was so difficult to manage in isolation, it became really imperative for me to reach out and work with fellow artists to de-center an individual narrative or sense of authorship and move toward collaboration and coalition-building, even if it had to be done online,” Barbuc says. As for what an observer might get from it, the artist says: “I never like to create a closed-off reading of what


UCI Magazine


something might mean. In this case, I just hope it shares a sense of cooperative openness, warmth and generosity.” Barbuc has engaged with art since childhood, explaining, “I was kind of a shy kid and didn’t really talk a lot. I guess I used drawing and painting to make the world make sense and to create my inner worlds, as well as a way to communicate.” Can art prompt change? Says Barbuc: “I see what art does as less a source of change so much as it’s an exchange, an open dialogue and a process that has no real goal other than to be a source for meditation and an exchange of thoughtfulness. But, that said, experiencing and making art has definitely changed and shaped my life, providing opportunities for agency and choice and experimentation and play. It has shaped the way I approach the world and others.”

Avery James Evans, M.F.A. ’22

What does a stage manager do? A whole lot of everything, to hear M.F.A. student Avery James Evans tell it: The manager is the first to show up at the theater and the last to leave, from the initial rehearsal until the run’s final curtain. During every performance, the manager is calling the shots via headset to the backstage, lighting, props and sound crews; making the show run like clockwork; and, when it doesn’t, improvising solutions. But, Evans says, one thing a stage manager can’t do so handily, if he or she is a person of color, is get a foot in the theater door. “Backstage and at conferences,” he says, “I look around, and I’m often the only Black person there – and nearly the only person of color. I would like to see that change. The people running these companies, shows and tours, I think, should take a deeper look at their practices.”

Stage Management

Not content to stand in the wings and opine, Evans applied for and was awarded a Medici Circle scholarship, and he’s using it to research and seek solutions for the lack of diversity and equity in theater productions. “My Medici work coincides with my thesis work, and I hope to get excerpts of it published in magazines and places where it might be a vessel to create some change,” he says. As for his own goals, Evans hopes to someday stage-manage a Cirque du Soleil production – “because I’m attracted to the challenge of doing something that huge and complex” – and to have his own communitybased production company. “There was nothing like that where I grew up,” he says, “and I love the idea of establishing a place where new playwrights, local kids and others get a chance to create something new.”

Fall 2021


Qianru Li, Ph.D. ’23

Drama & Theatre

Since enrolling at UCI in 2018, doctoral student Qianru Li has straddled the roles of researcher, documentarian, archivist and writer. “I want to be someone whose work is always in between, in that space between being a scholar, intellectual, activist and artist. That’s the someone I want to become,” Li says. “As an international student and first-generation immigrant, I want to understand who I am in this country. That’s how I got to my project of trying to articulate, in a relational way, the formation of Chinese American identity.” Li is using a Medici Circle scholarship in an ongoing project to document the lives of elderly, local Chinese Americans. “I ask them about their experiences with migration and also the challenges they’ve faced, both long ago and


UCI Magazine

today,” Li says. “After a year and a half of lockdown, a lot of the seniors feel very isolated, especially ones with language barriers. One of them told me, ‘I feel like I’ve aged 20 years here, because there’s no one to talk to.’ “For me, talking with them has taught me to be less categorical about things, to realize that things can be bad and good at the same time – how people can live under oppression, face tremendous struggles and still be trying their best, so that they can believe tomorrow still matters.” Though trained as a playwright at the Shanghai Theatre Academy, Li hasn’t been writing plays lately. “I will one day,” Li says. “Being with these seniors is something very close to my heart and has changed my thinking about different ways of storytelling. But it has also made me feel that I don’t understand life and the world enough to do that yet.”

Andrea Ordaz ’15, M.F.A. ’19

Though of limited means, Andrea Ordaz’ parents managed to provide dance lessons for her as a child. Years of enthusiasm and training – in ballet and other Eurocentric modes – led her to a UCI B.A. in dance. “Then I returned to get my M.F.A. because I felt there was something missing,” she says. “When you’re firstgeneration, your world is different. I wasn’t seeing many people on stages who looked like me or seeing works that I could relate to. There wasn’t anything that felt like me, and I decided the only way I’d experience something that did was to make it myself. If you want to change things, sometimes you have to start with yourself.” Ordaz says the M.F.A. program crystallized her artistic identity. “It helped me to feel what it means to be a dancer and choreographer within my own culture and ethnicity – and to make sense of my own art.”


The result was her thesis, “Mexican-American Female Identity in Choreographic Process,” and its accompanying dance piece, “Agave Americana,” which debuted at the Claire Trevor Theatre in April 2019. Since then, she formed A.Ordaz Dance, in Los Angeles. She also serves on the faculty of The Wooden Floor, a Santa Ana nonprofit that helps underserved youths have agency over their bodies, minds and futures via a 10-year program of dance lessons, college prep and other training. To Ordaz, it isn’t always grand projects that create change. “I see it in taking the skills I learned at UCI and being able to share them with students, to help them determine their life’s path,” she says. “I see it in getting individuals in an audience to react, to feel more of what it is to be human. I believe that’s where change in people can come from.”

Fall 2021


Guramrit Malhotra

Sydney Charles (left) and Tatum Larsen

The Welcome Table Two Anteaters give Black voices a platform through popular podcast and web series


By Rosemary McClure

hen opportunity knocks, you can’t say, “Come back later.” Consequently, two UCI undergrads – both aspiring journalists – didn’t waste any time when given the chance to try something innovative. They jumped at the opportunity to host a podcast delineating the Black experience on campus. The women, Sydney Charles and Tatum Larsen, found quick success when their “Black Fam 2.5” broadcast began to air in 2019. It struck a nerve with the campus community and was soon supplemented by “The Welcome Table With Sydney and Tatum,” a prize-winning web series sponsored by the School of Humanities. In both the podcast and the web series, the co-hosts interviewed scholars, activists and leaders in the Black community about a range of topics, including


UCI Magazine

entrepreneurship, the Black Lives Matter movement and mental health. The web series additionally focused on accomplishments and pivotal moments in the lives of UCI’s Black faculty, students, staff and alumni. Initially, “we just wanted to have open, candid conversations about issues on a college campus – how we’re all interconnected in a way,” Larsen says. “The goal was to make Black students feel like they weren’t alone on campus.” The podcast and web series came at a particularly fraught moment in history when many people were reeling from the COVID-19 situation and ongoing problems of inequality and racial injustice. UCI, with an undergrad population that’s just 3.4 percent Black, can be a lonely place for people of color, the women say. The campus “can be isolating because

there are so few of us,” Charles says. “We’d hoped having this kind of platform would make people feel less alone.” They knew they were on the right track, she adds, “when a Black student stopped me in a grocery store near campus after our first episode and said, ‘Oh, my God, I saw you on the video. I love it!’ Just having that reaction – from the demographic we were targeting – meant so much to us.” The women, who earned bachelor’s degrees in literary journalism at UCI this year, are now pursuing master’s degrees at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Both hope to eventually work in broadcasting or some other journalistic field. Their two-year stint in the livestreaming limelight would qualify as a dream come true for many career-oriented students. It certainly was for them. “I didn’t see myself as a podcaster or broadcaster until faculty and staff at UCI stepped in to support me and my creative endeavors,” Charles says. “My time at UCI gave me the framework for my current life trajectory, and for that I will be forever grateful.” It all began when literary journalism instructor Amy DePaul introduced the pair after she noticed they each shared a passion for diversity reporting. “I was impressed by some of the things they were working on,” notes DePaul, who knew Larsen and Charles from her reporting class. “They were both hard workers, knowledgeable and mature,” she says. “Podcasting seemed like a perfect platform for them. But I don’t want to take credit for their success. They did the work

themselves. I like and respect them very much for the time and effort they put into the project.” On their website, the women describe “Black Fam 2.5” as a “student-run podcast focused on redefining the minority experience by ensuring to represent it accurately. By featuring Black stories and accomplishments, we aim to address topics that reflect the complexities and vibrancies of the Black community on campus.” They add: “Our goal is to not only encourage minorities to tell their stories, but also pledge to tell narratives that inform others and inspire difficult conversations that matter.” The first podcast, on Black entrepreneurship, received rave reviews. “It was crazy,” Charles recalls. “We got so many followers so quickly. It just blew up.”

Podcasting became a favorite tool. Charles says they “jumped on this train at just the right time.” And they enjoyed gaining expertise in it, polishing their interviewing skills and learning how to engage an audience. “With podcasting, you can add more of your personality than you can with newswriting,” Larsen adds. “People can literally hear your passion, your voice, your drive.” Their early podcasts drew the attention of Annabel Adams, executive director of marketing and communications for the School of Humanities. By the summer of 2020, “The Welcome Table With Sydney and Tatum” was underway; it was a production of the school, funded by the dean’s office. Eventually, Adams secured a grant from the UCI Office of Inclusive Excellence to fund the project.

“By featuring Black stories and accomplishments, we aim to address topics that reflect the complexities and vibrancies of the Black community on campus.”

In the beginning, they planned to feature only campus subjects – such as the low percentage of Black students at UCI – but national incidents intervened, such as the shooting death of jogger Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia and the killing of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis. “We expanded our coverage from more school-related topics to more wide-reaching ones,” Charles says. Among those were Black womanhood, the disparities Black communities have faced during the COVID-19 pandemic and the lack of Black representation in the media.

Larsen and Charles ultimately interviewed 25 UCI-affiliated individuals, including faculty, staff, undergraduates, graduate students and alumni. The name of the series, “Welcome Table,” comes from a slavery-era gospel song that became a theme for the civil rights movement in the 1950s and ’60s and was popularized in a short story by Pulitzer Prizewinning novelist Alice Walker. Also, Charles says, it references the period when slaves couldn’t eat at the table with the masters of the house, so they created a “welcome table” for themselves. Fall 2021


As the women outlined and developed the project, they decided to begin each episode of the series with a show-and-tell segment. Adams notes that the technique “helped put guests at ease before diving into the formal interview” and provided “inside glimpses into the interviewees’ lives that we would otherwise not get.” Charles once brought a photo of her great-grandmother; guests brought such items as a beloved guitar or favorite camera. In addition to being popular with the campus community, the series won a gold award from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. It also spurred journalistic interest outside the campus. In April, Charles and Larsen went from interviewers to interviewees in a KABC-TV news segment about their accomplishments. “By giving [people] a mouthpiece, [the series] gives them the space to actually tell the truth that might

not be so digestible,” Larsen told the station. “It’s just what it is. It’s the truth and might actually bridge some understanding in the long run.” The duo’s broadcasting and podcasting experiences have also helped them narrow their career choices. “Before this, I didn’t realize I wanted to go into journalism,” Larsen says, laughing. “I changed my major five times.” Now they’re sold on becoming part of the media. They’re also sold on continuing their collaborations. They’ve become best friends, business partners and USC roommates who are beginning the next phase of their journey. Says Larsen: “I’m not sure what the future has in store, but the UCI community has given me the confidence to move forward, so I am hopeful.”

AMPLIFYING BLACK VOICES AND STORIES The award-winning video web series “The Welcome Table With Sydney and Tatum” spotlights pivotal moments in the lives of 25 of UCI’s Black faculty, staff, students and alumni. “We’re creating spaces for in-depth conversations, and obviously, as the title of the series implies, we want our guests and our viewers to feel welcome,” said literary journalism major Tatum Larsen in 2020. Below and on the pages that follow are edited excerpts from four interviews.

Zani Meaders ’22, English Larsen: So on the topic of being an English major, I think as fellow humanities majors, we know that the literary canon isn’t very inclusive sometimes. It mainly focuses on white men. Let’s be real: There’s not a lot of people of color and female representation. Has that been your observation as well? Meaders: I believe there should be less tokenism. As far as my experience so far, it wasn’t until recently that I really realized how many books on this campus were by white men. I mainly took the creative writing courses, and within those courses, I got to read a wide variety of different perspectives from different people. I was really shocked when I first came to this campus, and I was like, “What do you mean this wasn’t written by a white, straight guy?” I was so surprised. Then I started taking more English courses, and I was like, “Oh, these are all the stories I was expecting.”


UCI Magazine

Charles: If you could choose any Black author or poet to add to the traditional canon of literature that’s circulated, who would it be and why?

Alonso Nichols, M.A. ’99, Spanish Chief of photography, Tufts University

Meaders: Let’s see. I would actually pick an author I have not read yet. She’s a fantasy writer, and I have really wanted to read her books. She’s been a New York Times bestseller for two years: Tomi Adeyemi. Charles: I’ve heard a lot of good things about her work. Meaders: I definitely want her to be on the canon roster, because not only do we need more diversity, but we need more diversity within genres as well. I want to be a fantasy writer, and we don’t really get to read a lot of fantasy books. We’re told to just go read Tolkien or George R.R. Martin. I’m like, “No, I’m good. I want to read different books.” Larsen: What do you hope to add to the fantasy genre with your own writing? Meaders: I just want to tell fun stories and allow people to enjoy them. I want to tackle important issues, but I honestly want that to be the background of my stories. I want readers to not even realize they’re learning something as they go through my fun story and just experience the world and characters I created. Charles: On the subject of representation, what areas do you feel that UCI excels in? Have you found any safe spaces on campus? Meaders: UCI excels in being willing to learn. From my other college friends on different campuses, it seems like those colleges aren’t as willing to listen to those students and work on those shortcomings as this school is. I’m not going to say UCI’s perfect because I don’t think any place can truly be perfect in terms of safe spaces and diversity. But I definitely think the school is trying to head in the right direction, and I really appreciate that. As far as safe spaces on campus, there’s actually this creative writing club I go to every Wednesday. It’s so much fun. As a writer, I feel so safe there, just because no one’s forcing ideas down me. They’re not like, “Oh, because you’re African American, part of the Black community, you have to write this.” They’re like, “Oh, you’re working on this? That’s cool. How can I help you with that?” or “I’m also working on this; let’s work together.” So it’s just a real nice place, and I don’t feel like I’m judged based on my race.

Larsen: What was your experience as a person of color, both in the realm of academia and also professionally? Did you have any significant challenges that you faced? Nichols: UCI’s Spanish department is its own cultural space. That was kind of amazing to have an alternative space, as a person of color, where everything is shifted in a way. On the one hand, we’re still referencing ideas of Western culture in the Spanish language, but we’re also addressing the ways that Latin America, for example, has been transformed by colonialism. We’re addressing indigenous ideas that remain in that culture and that literature but also African ideas and elements of culture that have migrated to the Americas. To have those things form in a different way was really wonderful for me and very freeing. Professionally, a lot of the challenges that I’ve faced are similar to challenges that other professionals of color face. You’re always trying to understand the context of the workplace and who you’re working with. We’re dealing with structural inequality. I live in Boston, where, I think, there’s a lot less structural racism than there was where I grew up, in Louisville, Kentucky. On the other hand, it exists. Working with systems so that they’re more accountable is a challenge. Trying to be heard can sometimes be a challenge. As a man of color, there are times when I wonder, “If I’m being assertive, does that mean to someone that I’m being aggressive?”

Fall 2021


If that’s the case, how do I manage my own feelings and resolve conflicts without being misinterpreted? There are things that I can’t get away with, right? This is also where, again, working in the humanities has really been an advantage, because it’s forced me to develop communication skills and interpersonal skills. Studying language and writing has been a critical tool for me to express my ideas.


Tiffany Willoughby-Herard Associate professor of African American studies Larsen: What was the moment that you got really interested in some of your most prevalent research topics, like diaspora and feminist pedagogy? Willoughby-Herard: So I was raised by activists. On my mother’s side, they were housing activists who are responsible for people being able to integrate public housing in Long Island, New York, after decades of sustained protest. My mom used to tell these stories about how, before they won, the Black people in Long Island lived in shacks. I mean, they just had terrible, terrible, terrible, terrible housing. On my father’s side, they were third-world leftists. My stepfather left Haiti, where he was from, to escape the Duvalier regime. They were doing things to activists like my stepfather like putting them in coffins for two weeks at a time to try to just kill and torture and frighten people. So he left and was able to escape Haiti, and his whole family came with him, and then he moved to France and was able to pursue his education at the Sorbonne, so I am not a first-generation student. I went to my mother’s undergraduate graduation when I was in third grade. Like, I took the picture of her walking across the stage. So some of the things that shaped my experience and the kind of work that I do have to do with being raised by activists and actually watching them. I didn’t come to it by accident, I didn’t fall into it, and I didn’t get recruited into it at college. My family struggled for education; they believed in education. They thought education was really important, and they were not willing to have the whiteness and white supremacy of higher education stop them from getting what they needed, because their idea was always, “We’re fighting because we’re trying to change conditions for our people.” I mean, that’s why I do what I do.


UCI Magazine

Larsen: We wanted to talk about your new role as the School of Humanities’ equity adviser for UCI’s ADVANCE Program for Equity & Diversity. What does that role entail, and why is it so important that you have this position at UCI? Willoughby-Herard: The equity adviser has two different genealogies, or lineages, on this campus. One comes through a National Science Foundation grant for the ADVANCE Program, which is trying to expand gender equity and make sure that women earning Ph.D.s are not deprived of the opportunities to study and research and have tenure-track jobs and get tenured. The second genealogy – and I say this with all sincerity – comes out of the heart of Vice Chancellor Doug Haynes. I wasn’t here when he came here, because he hired me, but he just had a heart for transforming this place and making sure that there are faculty members who actually give a damn about Black people. He had to fight for that, and he’s built this incredible infrastructure that has to figure out how to respond to the false constraints and limitations that were put in place when Proposition 209 was passed.

So what VC Haynes did was set up programs, programs, programs, programs. If the law is written like this, what can we do to still create pathways that recruit people who will finish their training and stay in higher education – so that when you go into your classes, your professors have more experiences with or commitment to students who are the actual student body of the state of California? And I’m just down to be in the struggle around that. I’m really serious about making sure people don’t get denied the opportunity to study what they came here to study.


Felix Jean-Louis III 2020-21 American Council of Learned Societies Emerging Voices Fellow Department of European Languages & Studies Larsen: I feel like we tend to just focus on American history, but there’s a whole other world out there for Black history that goes beyond the bounds of the Americas. Jean-Louis: And this is actually what I teach. I’m applying for jobs now because in academia, you have to apply the year before. So I’ve written so many times that I’m a historian of the African diaspora, looking at people of African descent in various locations. Because we do think a lot, especially in this country, about the United States’ African Americans. Just the term “African American” says that there’s more than just people in the United States. The Americas are North America, South America, Mesoamerica. So all of these people of African descent are African Americans. So there’s some tension.

What I like to do is draw connections and divergences. In one of the classes I teach, I start off by saying there’s no such thing as being Black. There are many ways to be Black. It’s not only in this country that you have Black people from different regions and in different classes; it’s transnational as well. And within each country, there are multiple ways of being Black, or being of African descent. African Americans in this country have a lot of power. They have the power of the United States behind them, whatever the level of oppression we face in this country. We still have a Barack Obama, a Colin Powell, a Condoleezza Rice – with all that power. Same thing, you could say, with Martin Luther King. So it’s important for us to sort of look out, because we can look to Brazil and see a similar reality to what we’re living here. Larsen: What do you hope to do in the future, both personally and professionally? Jean-Louis: Personally, to become a better guitar player, be a better dad to my daughter. Professionally, I come to academia as a form of activism. I tell my students that the people at Harvard are not smarter than you. They just got better training. My job here is to get you better trained, because we want you in those positions, because that’s how we can create the society that we want. If more people of color are in positions of power, some of the issues that we have will resolve themselves. If more women are in positions of power, some of those issues will resolve themselves. And so this is what I’m trying to do. We need all kinds of change. We need the people who are going to protest in the street, the people who are going to build unions and the professors who are going to say to students, “Hey, wake up to your reality. Hey, learn to make your voice clearer, sharper, more informed. Hey, this is how you write.” These things, I think, will make a better citizen to help change the world – at least how I want to see it. That’s my power, you know. Larsen: That’s beautiful.

“The Welcome Table” video web series “Black Fam 2.5” podcast

Fall 2021


Lift Off! Catcher Jacob Castro ’21 connects on a first-inning RBI single for the Anteaters during an 18-3 win over North Dakota State at the Stanford Regional in the NCAA Tournament on June 6. UCI baseball clinched the Big West Conference title and recorded a 43-win season in 2021, culminating in four Anteaters being selected and signed by Major League Baseball clubs: Trenton Denholm (Cleveland Indians), Peter Van Loon (Baltimore Orioles), Dillon Tatum (Minnesota Twins) and Mike Peabody (Los Angeles Angels).

Robert Huskey


Steve Zylius / UCI

Out of the Darkness ..............................................................................................................


By Tyrus Miller

ante Alighieri closed Inferno, his poetic vision of hell and the first canticle of his 14th-century epic The Divine Comedy, with a luminous line: “And then we came

out again to see the stars.” For Dante, the exit path is poetry itself – he seeks consolation in his own poetry and in the classical poetry of his Roman master,

Virgil, who guides Dante the pilgrim among the dead souls of hell and directs his journey toward the lights above. Dante tells us plainly that without reading and writing to lift our spirits and enlighten us, we are doomed to perdition. And let’s be honest: Who of us hasn’t, during the long months of the COVID-19 pandemic, felt that we’d been trapped in an infernal circle without exit? How many people are now asking themselves the same fundamental questions that Dante posed to himself: Is my life meaningful? Is my work well-directed? Must I continue doing the same things, or should I make a change? Current employment statistics suggest that many have already chosen not to go on as before. As the dean of UCI’s School of Humanities, I’ve often thought during this time how humanities disciplines –


UCI Magazine

history, literature, philosophy, art history, film and media, and cultural studies – shed light on our present situation and help us find our way through these dark days. I have thought, thus, of Dante. Alongside extraordinary contributions from science, technology and medicine, humanistic knowledge and modes of thinking help us make sense of the uncertainty, fear and suffering we’ve experienced and direct us toward paths of promise for the future. For the pandemic is not just a natural or medical phenomenon. It is also a powerful social and cultural event, shaped by divergent histories, geographies and ways of life. The humanities are multifaceted, but their different

“The humanities are a centuries-rich archive of ways to interpret human experience in all its maddening perversity and stunning ingenuity. We ought to engage humanists before crises become tragic, rather than keep them in reserve as the unhappy chroniclers of the resulting mess.”

branches have one thing in common: All focus on the meaning-making capacities of human beings, who across millennia have striven to understand our world and transform it with fresh creations of the mind. From the humblest manifestations of everyday culture to the grand edifices of art, literature and conceptual thought, the humanities investigate how humans make meaning as individuals and as communities. And today we share an urgent need to understand the meaning of what we’ve experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic. Amid the lockdown, I launched an interview series with School of Humanities faculty called “COVID-19: The Humanities Respond.” We spoke about literary and artistic responses to historic plagues, from classical Greece to medieval Italy to New York and San Francisco during the AIDS crisis; how industrial food production has been disrupted by the pandemic; how people have formed new media-viewing communities to overcome pandemic loneliness; how misinformation has been propagated about the pandemic and the vaccines; and how racial, ethnic and class inequities have taken new shape during our modern plague. These discussions contribute crucially to UCI’s many-sided engagement with the evolving pandemic. The humanities, I submit, are not for the faint of heart. They start from an unflinching, critical posture of mind that from the outset acknowledges that error, delusion, cruelty, failure and folly are as characteristic of the human animal as creativity, discovery, goodness and justice. Dante, after all, didn’t just launch himself straight to paradise and start conversing with the saints and angels! He took his time wending his way through hell, in the process bearing witness to the myriad falsehoods, betrayals and evils of which the human heart is capable. And if Dante sought his examples in medieval Christian and classical pagan cultures, we should not believe his world was so distant from ours as not to share many of the same devilish traits. During the pandemic, we were compelled to confront uncomfortable questions: Why are there such disparate

impacts of COVID-19 in the U.S. North and South? Why have Black, Hispanic and Native American communities been so disproportionately affected? If we have vaccines that could ensure the safety of individuals, families and whole communities, why are huge numbers of Americans now refusing to take them? Seeking explanations – and searching for effective ways of addressing such disparities – we have encountered long histories of racism and discrimination in housing, work and education, along with more recent forces influencing Americans’ attitudes about government, medicine and media information. We see how conflicting notions of “personal liberty” and “obligation to others” powerfully affect the progress of the pandemic. Freedom and care are not natural or biomedical facts – they are complex dispositions tied to individual and community histories, religious beliefs, ethnic and economic ways of life, family roles and ethical questions that have occupied humans since ancient times. Yet today they have also become literal matters of life and death for hundreds of thousands of people in the U.S. alone. If we could learn one lesson from this terrible crisis, I hope it would be this: Let’s not leave humanistic perspectives to an afterthought, as if they were just unfortunate friction in the otherwise efficient machinery of technical, scientific solutions to our collective problems. The humanities are a centuries-rich archive of ways to interpret human experience in all its maddening perversity and stunning ingenuity. We ought to engage humanists before crises become tragic, rather than keep them in reserve as the unhappy chroniclers of the resulting mess. The humanities, I believe, remain perennial resources of insight and hope in dark times. Even in their most biting criticism, they do not fail to remind us that imagining a better future is a constant human need. In different voices, at different times, they tell us: Step out, look up; the stars are coming out. Miller is the dean of the UCI School of Humanities.

Fall 2021


Paw Patrol Cliff joined the UCI Police Department in July as its first K-9 patrol dog. The 2-year-old chocolate Labrador retriever has been taught to detect firearms and explosive-related materials and will help conduct security sweeps before large campus events. In the future, Cliff will also be trained in tracking to assist in missing- and lost-person calls. Here, the good boy takes a break near the Infinity Fountain with his handler, Officer Jordan Leyland, who attended UCI on a baseball scholarship and played professionally before turning to public safety.

Steve Zylius / UCI


Tyler Robinson / UCI

Superwoman Ambition UCIAA President Melissa Beck seeks to engage alumni and prompt recognizable change in the world .............................................................................................................. By Cathy Lawhon

Melissa Beck is adding a new skill to her ever-growing list of accomplishments and responsibilities: shepherding Anteaters. From Chicago to Shanghai and beyond, UCI Alumni Association chapters celebrate and support their allegiance to the university. As the new UCIAA president, Beck expects to increase membership and provide programming that keeps members proudly engaged. She also aims to reach the alumni campaign goal of 75,000 individual interactions within the next two years. “A large and engaged alumni base leads to school pride, which is exciting for prospective and current students,” Beck says. “They feel that much more supported and unified, both as students and after graduation in terms of jobs and mentorship. A strong alumni association can help attract fantastic students. And, of course, it helps with fundraising and annual giving.”


UCI Magazine

Beck’s leadership of UCIAA seems almost preordained, given her background. A 2012 graduate of the executive MBA program in The Paul Merage School of Business, she joined the Dean’s Advisory Board, which she now chairs. Beck served on the search committee for the school’s new dean, Ian O. Williamson, who took the helm in January. “I’m excited to be part of his transition to UCI and to help him get acclimated and develop his vision,” she says. Her affinity for UCI is also deeply anchored in her affection and advocacy for first-generation college students. For 2021-22, the campus was the top UC choice of in-state, first-generation students for the third consecutive year. Beck can relate. “My parents worked hard to make sure I would go to college; it was always expected of me. But as a first-gen student, so many complicated questions arose – how to select the right school, completing the essays and

application process,” she says. “One of the reasons I’m such a vocal ambassador for UCI is its commitment to these students.” Beck successfully navigated the application process and landed at Northern Arizona University. She graduated in 2001 with a degree in accounting – and a minor in economics – and worked in that field in Northern California before accepting a position as the first executive director of the Center for Investment and Wealth Management in the Merage School. She moved from there to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Orange County & the Inland Empire. As CEO, Beck oversaw a 300 percent increase in the revenue and the reach of the philanthropic organization, which pairs children with volunteer mentors. She remains a supporter of that work. Her career path ignited a passion for solving world problems. She identifies climate change along with financial equity and inclusion for women and communities of color as her top two causes and says UCI excels in them. And although she can’t save the planet by herself, she can empower those with the philanthropic muscle to effect change. Enter Anonymous LLC, where Beck now serves as president. With 30 associates and offices in Laguna Beach, Laguna Hills and Franklin, Tennessee, Anonymous LLC works with philanthropists to hone their interests, set goals and maximize the impact of their gifts. “Philanthropy is the area most in need of innovation and disruption,” Beck says. “We help clients set audacious goals to solve problems. For example, if someone wants to tackle food insecurity, we set quantifiable goals and develop a strategic plan around that problem,

sometimes working with those who already have experience in that philanthropic space. Some clients come to us with a strong idea of the population they want to support. Others are brand-new at this, and we spend as much time as it takes to identify their passion.”

adding more geographic and specialinterest chapters to the nearly 40 chartered today. Beck also wants to better integrate individual schools’ alumni leadership with the broader association to add value to activities such as homecoming and Lauds & Laurels.

“As a first-gen student, so many complicated questions arose. ... One of the reasons I’m such a vocal ambassador for UCI is its commitment to these students.”

She adds: “I feel like this company and position are the culmination of every position and every skill from every job I’ve ever had. It’s the best work I’ve ever done.” Her expertise in social entrepreneurship and organizational growth provides a strong foundation for her role as president of the alumni association, says her predecessor, Jack Toan ’95, MBA ’02. “Melissa understands growth, and she has amazing energy,” he says. “We’ve had a goal of 75,000 unique alumni engagements, and we’re about halfway there. The last half is always the hardest, but she’s going to hit it during her term. The timing is perfect for her leadership.” Beck praises UCIAA leadership for fostering recent substantial growth. Statistics covering alumni activity from 2017 to the first half of 2021 tell the story. Alumni engagements more than doubled to over 47,000; hosted events hit 180, up from 92; and UCIAA scholarship and fellowship funding rose 50 percent to $150,000. The new UCIAA president expects that trajectory to continue by

“We’re still a relatively young campus and are at a bit of a disadvantage because we don’t have a football team,” she says, “but we’ve developed a breadth of events and strategies that don’t include tailgate parties.” When she’s not solving world problems or expanding UCIAA, Beck, 42, is something of a homebody. She lives in San Juan Capistrano with her husband of 19 years, Harry, whom she met in college. They have three boys: Harrison, 14, Oliver, 12, and Luke, 10. “I spend most of my spare time doing fun things with my kids,” Beck says. “I also enjoy gardening and cooking. I cook every single night – mostly Italian food or curries and stews.” On the windowsill behind her desk at home is a testament to how her sons see their social entrepreneur, UCI-boosting, world-changing, curry-cooking mom. It’s an origami Mother’s Day card folded in the shape of a Superwoman costume. Beck smiles: “I framed it.”

Fall 2021


Class Notes

Bob Altman ’79, engineering He travels back in time to the mid-1800s, armed with an electric piano amid a sea of muskets, bayonets and period costumes. After three decades of designing flight simulators and cockpit instruments for McDonnell Douglas and Boeing aircraft, Bob Altman is now a fixture at reenactments of 19th-century battles and Victorian dance balls. While he and his band perform, revelers waltz, polka and do the fandango. Altman’s other post-aerospace-era activities include singing and arranging music for his Orange County synagogue and helping to run Indigo Health, a startup company that offers diagnostic screening and treatment software for mental health professionals. He and his wife are also avid folk dancers, a hobby he picked up at UCI and eventually turned into a semiprofessional sideline, traveling to Eastern Europe twice as a performer and to Taiwan as an instructor.

..................................................... Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval ’93, history and Spanish, M.A. ’95, Spanish, Ph.D. ’01, Spanish Fun facts about Cal State Fresno’s new president, Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval: He zips around campus on a Razor scooter and keeps a piano in his office. Born in Zacatecas, Mexico, he came to the U.S. at age 9 and is the first immigrant to lead the university. His father ran a tomato farm near Fowler, California. At UCI, he danced with Ballet Folklórico and met his future wife, Mariana Anagnostopoulos (M.A. ’99 and Ph.D. ’01, philosophy), when they both taught a Humanities Core course as grad students. In true multicultural fashion, the couple honeymooned in Oaxaca, Mexico, after “a big fat Greek wedding with a French dinner in a Japanese garden.” Jiménez-Sandoval speaks four languages (Portuguese, French, Spanish and English), says he cooks fantastic crepes and is handy around the house, installing his own sprinkler system and doublepane windows. Before taking the reins at Fresno, he served as provost, a dean, a department chair and a professor.



UCI Magazine

Jim Klipfel ’93, teaching credential Laura Gómez ’94, humanities, ’96, teaching credential Each fall, California selects five K-12 teachers of the year. If a UCI alum makes the cut, it’s a point of pride on campus. But if two Anteaters are picked in the same year? Strike up the band, ring the school bell and break out a case of cafeteria chocolate milk. Introducing 2021’s UCI-pedigreed state teachers of the year: Jim Klipfel and Laura Gómez. Klipfel, the youngest of eight siblings, is an 11th-grade U.S. history teacher and swimming coach at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita. Gómez, a Tijuana native who came to the U.S. at age 12, teaches third-graders at Santa Ana’s Glenn L. Martin Elementary School.

..................................................... Cyrus Shahpar, M.D. ’07, MBA ’07 President Biden’s COVID-19 statistics wizard, Cyrus Shahpar, is a globe-trotting ER doctor and epidemiologist who previously helped the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention respond to everything from Ebola outbreaks in Africa to monsoon-fueled illnesses in Pakistan. He also led Prevent Epidemics, a nonprofit program to combat health threats around the world. Now working remotely from Northern California for the White House, Shahpar strives to “make sure we have good data” to guide the fight against COVID-19. Despite the often tragic situations he encounters overseas, Shahpar never loses hope. Recalling the smiles of malnourished kids in refugee camps, he says, “Even when people have nothing, they remain resilient and happy. It’s reassuring to see the human spirit.”

Samantha Tan ’20, economics

Shabnam Kalbasi ’10, music G. Thomas Allen, M.F.A. ’14, music And the Grammy for best orchestral performance goes to … “Charles Ives: Complete Symphonies,” conducted by Gustavo Dudamel and featuring soloist Shabnam Kalbasi with the Los Angeles Master Chorale. Kalbasi, a classical vocalist, has also worked with the Santa Fe Opera. Another Anteater in the 2021 Grammy limelight was G. Thomas Allen, who sang on “Choirmaster,” by Ricky Dillard, which was nominated for best gospel album. Allen is a multi-genre singer-songwriter and instructor whose self-titled 2020 record topped the iTunes jazz charts.

..................................................... Sitara Nayudu ’11, environmental engineering Doorbells and deep-sea diving figure into Sitara Nayudu’s pandemic-era life. As a senior product manager for Ring, she works to make the company’s video doorbell and home security apps more user-friendly for customers who don’t speak English or who have disabilities. Off duty, she took up scuba diving shortly after COVID-19 hit and recently posted GoPro footage of a sea lion chomping on her fins. Hailing from Diamond Bar, Nayudu served as Associated Students of UCI president as an undergraduate, then passed the baton to her younger brother, Vikram, which made the duo the first siblings in campus history to lead UCI’s student body government. Nayudu was also the first student appointed to the UCI Foundation board. After graduation, she became founding president of the UCI Engineering Alumni Society and was on the UCI Alumni Association board of directors. In 2019, she received the Lauds & Laurels award for distinguished young alumna.


To submit a Class Notes update, email

A motorized miniature jeep received on her fifth birthday awakened Samantha Tan’s inner speed demon. She drove the toy so fast and furiously that she drifted all over the driveway. By age 14, before she even had a learner’s permit, the Canada native had enrolled in a Ferrari course at Quebec’s Le Circuit Mont-Tremblant track. And she began racing at 16. At UCI, Tan juggled academics with 24-hour endurance competitions in Dubai and Texas, as well as sprint races in the U.S. and Canada. Since graduation, her Samantha Tan Racing team has won or placed in contests around the globe. Tan also recently joined forces with the nonprofit Hate Is a Virus to counter anti-Asian violence. “Although racing is my passion, I feel that it’s my responsibility to inspire and empower others to pursue their dreams and help improve our community for future generations,” she says.


In Memoriam Jorg Meyer, physical sciences staff Jorg Meyer, UCI’s glass blower and a longtime staff member of the School of Physical Sciences, died May 4. He was 80. Through his work fabricating glassware and stainless steel solvent purification systems for research laboratories, Meyer made enormous contributions to the safety of chemical laboratories at UCI and around the world. He was an expert in the design and construction of highly complex, one-of-akind technical apparatus. Meyer was hired in 1965 as one of UCI’s first employees by F. Sherwood “Sherry” Rowland, founding chair of the Department of Chemistry (and a future Nobel laureate). He also became a global leader in the production of equipment used to dry solvents used in research. Born in Berlin, Meyer was a third-generation glass blower who perfected his trade at his father’s shop. When asked in an interview about his most rewarding collaboration, he said: “I’d have to say with Mario Molina [who shared Rowland’s Nobel Prize in chemistry] and Sherry Rowland and their work on the ozone hole. In those days, they collected a lot of air samples in glass vacuum lines.” Meyer enjoyed spending time at the ocean and was an expert free diver. He died pursuing his love of the sea in his boat anchored off Catalina Island.

Fall 2021



Z O T !

Natural Engineering UCI ecology & evolutionary biology Ph.D. student Andie Nugent holds up a prime example of Mother Nature’s ingenuity, a self-burrowing filaree seed (a flowering plant related to geraniums), found while conducting fieldwork in the spring at Loma Ridge – an area near the 241 toll road that had been burned in the 2020 Silverado Fire.


UCI Magazine

Steve Zylius / UCI

Brilliant Possibilities Thanks to the generosity of alumni and friends, the University of California, Irvine has already raised more than $1 billion, propelling it past the halfway mark in its bold philanthropic effort BRILLIANT FUTURE: The Campaign for UCI. Student support, groundbreaking research, world-class patient care and educational facilities have all benefited. But there is more to do. Now is the time to take the next leap and make UCI a part of your legacy. No matter the size, every gift makes a difference.

To learn more about how your support is helping us change the world, please visit

“We are thrilled that you are part of UCI’s largest and most ambitious philanthropic campaign in its history. Thank you for sharing your pride in this extraordinary place and its mission and for becoming active partners in charting UCI’s future path.” — Jimmy Peterson, co-chair, Brilliant Future campaign