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Fall 2019

MAGAZINE

Brilliant Future


A Bird’s-Eye View Looking westward over UCI’s ever-changing 1,475-acre campus, which welcomed approximately 37,000 students this fall, one can see Newport Beach, the Pacific Ocean and – on the horizon – Catalina Island.


2017 Fall 2019

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Steve Chang / UCI


Contents

Fall 2019 Vol. 4, No. 3

Brilliant Future

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Funding the Future: UCI campaign seeks to boost

trailblazing research, student scholarships, healthcare advances and cultural endeavors

Turning Grief Into Action:

UCI’s Anti-Cancer Challenge mobilizes Southern California residents

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PRISM

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SPOT L IGHT

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About This Issue: In this edition of UCI Magazine, we highlight the launch of Brilliant Future: the Campaign for UCI – the second such comprehensive

endeavor in the university’s history. Our cover story, “Funding the Future” (page 14), explains UCI’s $2 billion fundraising and alumni engagement effort – and its goals of advancing the American dream, transforming healthcare and wellness, accelerating world-changing research and exploring the human experience – while “Making ‘First Choice’ Possible” (page 25) introduces four of UCI’s best and brightest student scholarship recipients. “Turning Grief Into Action” (page 20) chronicles how Southern California residents are rallying to raise funds through the Anti-Cancer Challenge for UCI research projects, and “Stemming the Tide of Alzheimer’s” (page 34) shares how one philanthropist helped turn an initial donation to UCI in honor of his late wife into a large-scale venture to fight the disease. Finally, “Do Tell” (page 38) describes how literary journalism faculty are creating the UCI Center for Storytelling to help us all better understand ourselves and each other.

On the Cover: The interweaving colors of the “surge” mark for UCI’s Brilliant Future campaign represent “the bold diversity of thoughts and individuals that are opening the world to new paths and perspectives.” The circular motion embodies “the collaboration that drives our constant progression toward a greater tomorrow.” 2

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25 Making ‘First Choice’ Possible: Profiles of four Anteater scholarship recipients and their academic journeys in pursuit of fulfilling their own American dreams

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34 Stemming the Tide of Alzheimer’s: Philanthropist on a mission to help others turns $150,000 into $20 million effort to fight disease at UCI MIND

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R E FLECTIONS

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A NT OURAGE

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Do Tell: UCI’s Center for Storytelling aims to help individuals express their own narratives and make greater sense of the world

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Letter From the Chancellor The academic year we’ve just embarked on will bring with it a new cohort of students, fresh perspectives and continued growth. It is also the start of something extraordinary. On Oct. 4, UCI publicly launched the largest philanthropic campaign in its history and in the history of Orange County – Brilliant Future: The Campaign for UCI. The effort aims to raise $2 billion in support, which will have a tremendous impact on UCI students, faculty research and our growing healthcare enterprise. With support from our alumni and community, the Brilliant Future campaign will help more students achieve the American dream, transform healthcare and wellness, accelerate world-changing research, and allow us to explore the human experience. You can read more about our campaign and the exciting work already occurring at UCI in this special edition of UCI Magazine – from community members joining forces to raise funds for cancer research to literary journalism faculty launching a new storytelling center to help individuals share their own narratives. Additionally, we at UCI are embarking on a mission to engage with you – our alumni – in more meaningful ways. Anteaters are the embodiment of UCI’s “American dream” success stories, and many of you are already UCI’s greatest ambassadors. I want to personally reach out and encourage you to deepen your relationship with us. We have accomplished so much at UCI in the past 54 years. But there is more we can do – together. The time is right for us to expand the ability of this great university to improve lives. I invite you to explore our vision and consider partnering with us so that we can forge a brilliant future – for our region, for our nation, for our world.

UCI Magazine Vol. 4, No. 3 Produced by the University of California, Irvine Office of Strategic Communications & Public Affairs Chancellor Howard Gillman Associate Chancellor, Strategic Communications & Public Affairs Ria Carlson Assistant Vice Chancellor, Public Affairs Sherry Main Managing Editor Marina Dundjerski Design Vince Rini Design Visuals Steve Chang and Steve Zylius Copy Editor Kymberly Doucette Editorial Advisory Committee Jennie Brewton, Will Nagel, Janna Parris (advancement) and Mara Schteinschraber Contributing Writers Greg Hardesty, Cathy Lawhon, Rosemary McClure, Kristin Baird Rattini, Roy Rivenburg, Shari Roan and Jim Washburn Contact Have a comment or suggestion? Address correspondence to: UCI Magazine UCI Office of Strategic Communications & Public Affairs 120 Theory, Ste. 100 Irvine, CA 92697-5615 949-824-6922 • ucimagazine@uci.edu communications.uci.edu/magazine UCI Magazine is a publication for faculty, staff, alumni, students, parents, community members and UCI supporters. Issues are published in winter, spring and fall.

Fiat Lux! Howard Gillman UCI Chancellor

To change your address or receive the electronic version of UCI Magazine, email a request to campusupdates@uci.edu. UCI Magazine is printed with soy-based inks on a recycled paper stock certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. Please recycle.

We Want to Hear From You When submitting a letter to the editor, please include your full name, UCI graduation year or affiliation (if applicable), mailing address, city of residence, phone number and email address. Submissions that do not include this information cannot be published. Contact information is for verification purposes only – not for publication or commercial use. Letters should be 150 words or less and may be edited. They become the property of UCI/the UC Board of Regents and may be republished in any format.

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To submit a letter via email, send to: ucimagazine@uci.edu Include “Letters to the Editor: UCI Magazine” in the subject line. 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

Support UCI University Advancement www.give.uci.edu 949-824-0142 ucifund@uci.edu UCI Alumni Association www.alumni.uci.edu 949-824-2586 alumni@uci.edu


F L A S H B A C K

U

Gateway to Knowledge

UCI Libraries , Special Co llections & Archives

niversity founders placed a priority on having a notable library available from Day One, and UCI’s debuted with an impressive 100,000 books – reportedly an opening-day collection larger than that of any other academic institution at the time. Holdings continued to grow rapidly, and in 1981, the UCI Libraries celebrated its millionth acquisition. Today it has more than 3.9 million volumes and nearly 180,000 periodicals, not to mention millions of digital assets. As the largest research library in Orange County, the UCI Libraries receives 1.8 million visits annually among its four facilities: the Jack Langson Library, the Science Library, the Forest J. Grunigen, M.D. Library and Medical Education Center, and the Gateway Study Center. In addition, the UCI Libraries’ website draws nearly 5.3 million virtual visits per year. While current students may be more likely to cycle on a bike desk or borrow a library laptop than rifle through printed encyclopedias or newspapers, one thing hasn’t changed: The UCI Libraries represents the intellectual heart of the campus. “The libraries help to bring everyone together,” says University Librarian Lorelei Tanji. “They’re like an energy vortex that joins information resources, cutting-edge technologies and personalized instruction with spaces for collaborative work and creative exploration.”

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UCI Is No. 1 Among Money’s ‘Best Colleges’ Money magazine has named UCI No. 1 on its 2019 list of the nation’s “Best Colleges.” Knocking Princeton University off the top spot, UCI is the first public university to achieve No. 1. The ranking is up from No. 3 last year and No. 7 in 2017, acknowledging UCI’s continued growth in providing accessible, high-quality education and fostering alumni success. According to Money (now known as Money.com), UCI scored well across the board but especially in the categories of low-income and Pell Grant enrollment and favorable graduate outcomes. In 2018-19, the campus provided need-based grants to 59 percent of its students. Money.com also included newly available data on how many Pell Grant recipients graduate, seen as a measure of how well a university supports its

low-income students. Over 12,000 UCI enrollees got Pell Grants in 2018-19, and UCI graduated more Pell students than any other college nationwide. The majority of them were first-generation college students – almost half of UCI’s current California-resident freshmen are first-gen, and the ratio is even higher for in-state transfer students. Additionally, according to the survey, UCI graduates’ median debt load was $16,500, much lower than the national average, and their early-career earnings averaged $57,700 per year. “It is our mission and our privilege to ensure that a world-class education is available to talented and ambitious students of all backgrounds and circumstances,” said Chancellor Howard Gillman.

“The radiation problem is, however, perhaps one of the biggest problems we will have to solve for travel beyond our solar system – where the total doses and times of exposure will be greatly magnified.” Charles Limoli, UCI professor of radiation oncology CNN Aug. 5, 2019

A Plant That

Talks Back

Courtesy of YAP Studio

News

P R I S M

“Talking Plant,” an installation at the Romanian Institute of Culture and Humanistic Research for Italy’s 2019 Venice Biennale – one of the oldest cultural festivals in the world – interacts with viewers through touch and voice response. For example, the AI plant may react to a person’s caresses by reciting poetry or, if the plant considers the advances to be inappropriate, by requesting that the human stop. It may even ask for help if the unwanted touching continues. “‘Talking Plant’ is a mirror of ourselves and how we long to interact with others,” said Michael Demirev, a UCI graduate student in computer science who helped implement the project. “But it’s also a reminder of the consequences of treating living beings like objects.” The work’s lifelike actions were programmed by a team of UCI computer scientists led by Distinguished Professor Alexandru Nicolau and Professor Alexander Veidenbaum.

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Health UCI Medical Center Again Rated as One of America’s Best For the 19th consecutive year, UCI Medical Center has been named one of America’s “Best Hospitals” by U.S. News & World Report. The annual ratings analyze how well hospitals treat the most challenging patients. UCI Medical Center was ranked among the 10 best in California and the top five in the Los Angeles metropolitan region. UCI Health’s gynecology program tied for No. 20 in the nation for 2019-20, while gastroenterology and gastrointestinal surgery placed 36th and geriatrics tied for 42nd among similar programs across the country. In addition, UCI Health programs in cancer, diabetes and endocrinology, nephrology, neurology and neurosurgery, orthopedics, pulmonology and lung surgery, and urology were all rated as high-performing. In an effort to make UCI healthcare more accessible to south Orange County residents, the university’s Brilliant Future fundraising campaign includes plans to build a medical center on university property in Irvine.

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Skin in the Game Dr. Bogi Andersen was working in endocrinology, seeing patients with diabetes and other hormonal disorders, when he made an unexpected finding in his lab involving the role of stem cells in the circadian clock regulation in skin. That was almost 25 years ago, and Andersen is now in possession of a nearly $4 million grant from the National Institute of Arthritis & Musculoskeletal & Skin Diseases to establish the UCI Skin Biology Resource-based Center. The facility, one of only six in the country, will tap experts across a wide variety of math and science fields to investigate skin biology and diseases. Skin, Andersen says, doesn’t get the attention it deserves, and he hopes the center can help remedy that. Skin is, after all, the largest organ in the human body. Each of us has about 20 square feet of skin, which performs numerous functions, such as protecting us from germs and cold. We tend to care more about how it looks and feels than how it acts. But there are about 3,000 types of skin disorders. “It’s one of those organs that has been totally left out,” Andersen acknowledges. “But skin problems are very common. As we get older, stem cells in the epidermis lose some of their ability to regenerate. Skin gets thinner and weaker and is easily torn. There are increased wrinkles and chronic wounds.” But the new center is about much more than just dermatology. The UCI Skin Biology Resource-based Center encourages interdisciplinary collaboration among scientists from five schools across the campus: physical sciences, information & computer sciences, biological sciences,

engineering and medicine, along with several individual departments. That’s a major reason why UCI snared the impressive grant, Andersen notes. “We showed that UCI is already interactive and that we appreciate a multidisciplinary approach to research,” he says. “We want to get people who are not necessarily biologists to work on problems in skin biology and skin diseases.” Among other projects, UCI researchers will study how the sun impacts skin and its stem cells, accelerating aging and damaging DNA. That, Andersen says, “is something people in California should care about.”

In addition to holding the largest collection of stem cells in the body, skin packs in a lot of other elements: Per 1 square inch of skin

19 million skin cells 650 sweat glands 20 blood vessels 60,000 melanocytes (which give skin color) 1,000 nerve endings Source: American Academy of Dermatology

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S P O T L I G H T

Will Tee Yang

Drawing Up a College Portfolio

M

ore than 120 local high school students – and future college applicants – attended UCI’s 2019 Summer Academies in the Arts. Their objective: to develop and finesse their techniques in order to complete portfolios and become audition-ready for university admission. Students receive scholarships to attend the intensive, one- to three-week-long college prep courses in art, dance, drama or music. Here, artists in the advanced drawing/painting session create their showcase pieces for final presentation. “Not only do the academies prepare students for the next stage in their art careers,” says Kaysie José, the Claire Trevor School of the Arts’ outreach programs manager, “but they build self-confidence and leadership skills for life.”

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UCI is on the Money. #1 U.S. College. #1 Public University. For the first time ever, Money magazine named a public school—the University of California, Irvine—the best college in the country, based on graduation rates, affordability and alumni salaries. With real-world results being given greater importance, UCI stands out. That’s what happens when you’re breaking new ground and leading the way in helping students, alumni, faculty, staff and our community Shine Brighter.

University of California, Irvine m.uci.edu/one


S P E C T R U M

South Pole

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Fire and Ice To make better predictions about future wildfires around the world, climate scientists want to know the prevalence and intensity of past outbreaks. It may sound counterintuitive, but a good place to look is in ice. Melinda Nicewonger, a UCI graduate student in Earth system science and a Chancellor’s Club Fellowship recipient who earned her Ph.D. in June, examined ice cores taken from the South Pole (at right) and from Greenland to measure changes in emissions of ethane, a telltale sign of biomass burning, during preindustrial eras. Tiny gas bubbles trapped in the frozen water showed that ethane levels were elevated during the medieval period (1000-1500) and lower during a period of global cooling known as the Little Ice Age (1600-1800). The findings, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, demonstrate a clear connection between biomass burning and prevailing climate conditions. “Are the fires we are presently seeing at record levels? We can try to answer that question by comparing biomass burning in the past to what we know about it today,” says Nicewonger, who was also awarded a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. “Ideally, we want to make these ice core measurements much further back in time to see just how much fire can vary naturally. This will give us a good sense of what we may expect in the future.” Video: m.uci.edu/ice

Melinda Nicewonger

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Q&A

P E R S P E C T I V E Karen Isble Campaign Director Associate Vice Chancellor for University Advancement

Steve Zylius / UCI

Leading an ‘Anteater Awakening’ The mammoth whiteboard in Karen Isble’s office in early August bears a timely message: 61 days. It represents the countdown to the Oct. 4 launch of UCI’s $2 billion Brilliant Future fundraising campaign – which Isble, associate vice chancellor for university advancement, is charged with planning and executing. There’s something tangible about erasing yesterday’s number and posting today’s on that board each morning. Something a little bit daunting, because there’s much to do working with development staff, deans, faculty members, senior administrative and volunteer leadership, and trustees to build consensus. Something exciting as well, because the campaign is UCI’s chance to share and garner support for its rich academic, research and healthcare expertise – a chance for the campus and the larger community to be brilliant together. Isble, 51, was ready for a career move when she heard about UCI’s fledgling endeavor in 2017. She’d spent 11

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years managing the prospect development, data and technology teams for two multibillion-dollar fundraising campaigns at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor; she’d also acquired an interest in frontline fundraising and volunteer management. Another factor: Isble and her husband were facing an empty nest since the younger of two children had just graduated from high school. She hadn’t considered a move to California, but UCI’s campus leadership, national visibility and accolades, and substantial donor support convinced her that she belonged in Anteater Nation. With a B.A. in music from Harvard University and a master’s degree in voice performance from the University of Michigan, Isble is uniquely qualified to create harmony from the many voices of a university fundraising campaign. She met recently with UCI Magazine contributor Cathy Lawhon to share her strategy and goals.


Q. Why UCI? And what is your most exciting challenge here? After meeting with Brian Hervey, vice chancellor for university advancement and alumni relations, and then Chancellor Howard Gillman, I had already decided I wanted to be here. They are such high-energy people that I went home from the interview and felt like I wanted to get right to work, before I was offered the job. The challenge has been how to take the distinct messages from all corners of the campus and roll them up into a singular story that covers the breadth of our academic, research and health enterprise. I see it as creating order out of complexity. I’ve worked in fundraising at the Chamber Music Society of Detroit, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chicago’s Goodman Theatre, and arts organizations have a more singular message. At a university, there’s a cornucopia of opportunities, and we can match donors’ passions to what we do – whether it’s music, astronomy, social justice, the economy – and bring those passions to life through our work. It’s exciting to invite the community to help us transform healthcare, enhance the human experience, advance and accelerate research, and improve the chance for thousands of students to achieve the American dream. Q. So with all this synthesizing of messages, what have you come up with? We want to honor those who have made UCI what it is today, who took the uncharted path and followed it to what has evolved. We want to encourage more partners to join us in our efforts to make the world a better place, and to do that, we have several major objectives beyond the actual stated campaign goals. We want UCI to go from being the “plucky young upstart” to being recognized for its huge impact. We will no longer be the “best-kept secret” but will be known for our prowess and potential. We will acknowledge having celebrated 50 years of achievement and focus on looking forward. Our impact will be felt here in Orange County and beyond – worldwide. It’s crucial that we broaden our base of donors over time. Just as important, we must connect with our UCI alumni to create an active community, building lifelong relationships with one another and the university. Q. How does UCI best go about inspiring alumni? That’s an important question. Beyond the $2 billion goal, we have a public goal of engaging 75,000 unique alumni to come back to UCI for events, to speak to and mentor current students, or to otherwise participate in the trajectory of the campus. The Alumni Association board is committed to meeting with alumni where they live to

update them on the latest information about UCI. It’s an opportunity for an “Anteater awakening,” to paraphrase one of our alumni board members. And if that translates to them giving back, that’s icing on the cake. Q. Were you always interested in fundraising? Actually, I was pre-med when I started at Harvard. I decided quite quickly that I wanted to major in music instead. That was a fun conversation to have with my parents. Then I started working in arts administration and, from there, fundraising.

“We want to encourage more partners to join us in our efforts to make the world a better place.”

Q. What do you like to do with your free time, if you have any? We have two children – a son, 21, who has decided he’d like to give California living a try, and a daughter, 29. We have a high-energy border collie mix and a laid-back mutt. We’re exploring all that Southern California and the West Coast have to offer. And even though my early aspirations for a career in opera didn’t come to pass, I still love to sing. I haven’t had time to find my singing home here yet; I sang for many years with a large choir that performed with the Detroit Symphony. But music keeps me sane. If I’m stressed, I can put on “Happy,” by Pharrell Williams, and it’s transformational. I guess I’d have to say I’m a huge sci-fi nut too. I’m a “Star Wars” nerd. If my husband and I are watching TV and a “Harry Potter” movie comes on, we’re watching it. Q. It sounds like you love a good story. Yes, and UCI has its own rich and unique story. We celebrated homecoming this year with the charter class, and I listened to all the history – about how UCI was nothing but mud fields and a handful of buildings when they arrived, about how the pro-anteater guys pushed for Peter as a mascot (I love Peter!), about the stellar founding faculty. And now a new generation can look around and see how it all paid off, can see itself reflected in that story – and it’s one that I know alumni, donors, trustees, faculty, staff and students can get excited about.

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Funding the

Future

UCI campaign seeks to boost trailblazing research, student scholarships, healthcare advances and cultural endeavors By Roy Rivenburg

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nside a laboratory at UCI Medical Center, an oncologist will test a chemotherapy-free leukemia cure that harnesses patients’ immune systems to defeat the disease. On a patch of land near the Irvine Barclay Theatre, construction crews will erect a stunning museum to house UCI’s renowned collection of California art. In apartments and homes around the state, incoming UCI freshmen who are the first in their families to attend college will receive newly funded scholarships to help them achieve the American dream. These and dozens of other scenarios will begin unfolding under Brilliant Future, a $2 billion UCI fundraising and engagement effort that formally kicked off Oct. 4. Billed as the largest philanthropic campaign in Orange County history, the eight-year drive is designed to transform the campus and fuel groundbreaking discoveries.

“No matter what issue you care about – climate change, health, the arts, clean energy, educating the next generation – UCI is working on it,” says Brian T. Hervey, vice chancellor for university advancement and alumni relations. “This campaign expands our capacity for trailblazing research and student success.” It also illustrates the growing importance of private donations at public institutions across the country. At UCI, state funding accounts for about 9 percent of UCI’s annual operating budget. Some of the most creative scientific investigations and innovative buildings on campus are now powered by foundations and philanthropists. “UCI’s mission is to change lives for the better, and a vital part of accomplishing that involves support from community partners, patients, alumni and parents who share our vision,” says UCI Chancellor Howard Gillman.

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Jimmy and Sheila Peterson

An Ambitious Agenda Leading the charge for UCI’s Brilliant Future campaign are Jimmy Peterson, former CEO of Microsemi Corp., and his wife, Sheila, president of Beachside Books, a boutique publishing house. Both are UCI Foundation trustees. They are joined by Broadcom co-founder Henry Samueli and his wife, Susan, also a foundation trustee, who are serving as honorary chairs for UCI Health in the campaign. As the Petersons see it, the best avenue to making a difference in the world is through supporting a university,

“because that’s where the bright minds are,” Sheila Peterson says. UCI’s stellar academics and research make it “one of the greatest resources on the planet,” Jimmy Peterson adds. “I’ve raised money for other organizations, but this campaign has more heart appeal – it’s something that benefits not only Orange County but the world.” Encompassing everything from artificial intelligence in medicine to xylophones for UCI’s jazz program, Brilliant Future proposes an ambitious agenda for the campus. The list of priorities and projects was developed over several years in consultation with faculty, students, staff and community leaders, Hervey says. Brilliant Future is UCI’s second comprehensive funding campaign. Its predecessor, a decadelong initiative launched in 2005, raised more than $1 billion that was used to finance pioneering autism research, establish 50 endowed professorships and create the internationally renowned Gavin Herbert Eye Institute, among other achievements. The new campaign began as soon as the last one ended, in August 2015, but remained in a “quiet phase” until this fall. Typically, university drives don’t go public until about 40 percent of the overall target has been raised. As of Aug. 31, shortly before UCI Magazine went to press, Brilliant Future had tallied $762 million toward its $2 billion goal. Quiet-phase donations included: a $40 million commitment from Bill Gross and Sue Gross in 2016 to establish a school of nursing; a $200 million pledge in 2017 from the Samuelis – the largest gift in UCI history – to found a new college of health sciences focused on integrative health; and two troves of artwork valued in the tens of millions of dollars each from The Irvine

Campaign Goal: $2 billion

$762 M

# of donors

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92%

of gifts have been

$1,000 or less


Museum (2016) and the estate of Orange County developer Gerald Buck (2017). For the public phase of the campaign, UCI officials will solicit contributions toward four overarching objectives: advancing the American dream, transforming healthcare and wellness, accelerating world-changing research and exploring the human experience. The American dream category aims to fortify UCI’s nationally recognized effort to enroll outstanding students regardless of socioeconomic status or background by providing more scholarships and support to low-income, first-generation and other underserved groups. To revolutionize healthcare, UCI plans to expand its clinical trials and research; erect cutting-edge patient treatment centers; and pioneer a new paradigm in personalized, integrative medicine. On the research front, UCI promises to hasten groundbreaking discoveries by opening multidisciplinary laboratories, recruiting top scientists and encouraging more cross-department collaboration. The fourth pillar calls for exploring the human experience and reimagining creativity via arts programs; humanities research; and projects to address some of society’s most vexing challenges, such as homelessness and environmental sustainability.

Boosting Alumni Relations The campaign also includes a parallel objective: strengthening connections with UCI alumni. The goal is to entice at least 75,000 Anteaters – about a third of UCI’s alumni population – to attend an event, mentor a current student or otherwise engage with

Alumni Engagement Goal: 75,000

“No matter what issue you care about – climate change, health, the arts, clean energy, educating the next generation – UCI is working on it.”

their alma mater, says Jack Toan ’95, MBA ’02, president of UCI’s Alumni Association. Bolstering alumni involvement can be a challenge. “When I went to UCI in the 1990s, it was more of a commuter school, so I didn’t feel as connected to the campus,” Toan says. A stronger alumni network would be a boon, in part because UCI graduates represent an increasing number of first-generation students and those from low-income backgrounds, who often don’t have as many social and career support systems. Says Toan: “I would love to see more of our alumni ‘pay it forward’ on the opportunities they received here.” That, in turn, could improve the university’s financial picture and academic prestige by boosting its U.S. News & World Report ranking, which is partially based on the percentage of former students who give to the campus. “We invest where our hearts are,” Toan says. Hoping to fortify emotional ties to UCI, officials are planning regional and family-focused programming, as well as virtual events for alumni to participate in wherever they may live.

What have gifts funded? Program and Instruction Support

55%

Research 17% Campus Improvement 16% Student Support 6%

27,834

Academic Chairs

4%

Unrestricted

1%

Other 1%

All figures as of Aug. 31, 2019 Source: UCI University Advancement & Alumni Relations

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And the association wants to form additional special interest chapters so that Anteaters can engage with each other based on their cultural or industry affiliations.

Reshaping the Campus and Community The big-ticket items on Brilliant Future’s list of funding priorities include a medical center to be built on university property (bringing UCI’s innovative brand of healthcare to south Orange County), a world-class museum and institute devoted to the university’s acclaimed collection of California art, new research buildings, and naming gifts to support existing structures and programs. Generous contributions are also being sought to create endowed faculty chairs and scholarships, improving the university’s ability to recruit top professors and students. Together, such donations promise to transform the campus physically and academically. “They will also widen UCI’s beneficial impacts for Orange County and beyond,” says campaign director Karen Isble, associate vice chancellor for university advancement. Because nine out of 10 UCI graduates stay in California, the university plays a critical role in the state’s economic

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“This campaign has more heart appeal – it’s something that benefits not only Orange County but the world.”

well-being, Isble notes. UCI is a catalyst for research and entrepreneurship that create jobs and pay off exponentially, she adds. And the Brilliant Future campaign will enable the university to multiply that payoff in ways large and small. As Joshua Grill, director of the renowned UCI Institute for Memory Impairments and Neurological Disorders, puts it: “We are at the forefront of finding solutions, but we need the help of the community to make these promising studies as successful as possible.” To read more about UCI’s efforts to advance the American dream, transform healthcare and wellness, accelerate world-changing research and explore the human experience, see pages 20-41.


Anteater alumni, you make UCI brilliant. Through events, volunteering, networking and giving, your participation benefits not only you but the entire UCI community.

1,900+

Anteaters connected on the Anteater Network, UCI’s very own online mentorship platform

40%

138+

of gifts to the campaign are from alumni

Alumni Events around the world

36

Alumni Chapters and growing

How will you engage? Serve. Experience. Connect. Give. BrilliantFuture.uci.edu/alumni


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T R A N S F OR M I N G H E A LT HC A R E

A N D

W E L L N E S S

Turning Grief Into Action UCI’s Anti-Cancer Challenge mobilizes Southern California residents in push for new treatments By Shari Roan

T

he loss of a loved one from cancer is an experience far too many people understand. But rare are the individuals who channel their grief into action. Shawn Miller and Ronit Benjamin are two such people. As executive council co-chairs of the annual UCI Anti-Cancer Challenge, Miller and Benjamin not only donate to the cause but ask others to do the same. The Anti-Cancer Challenge is a community movement culminating in an annual bike ride and run/walk to raise money for UCI Health’s Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center and its pediatric affiliate, CHOC Children’s Hospital. The peer-to-peer nature of the event means that people sign up and pledge to solicit donations from their friends, family members, and business and social contacts. “I beg my friends to give money – which I hate – but they know I’m doing it in my father-in-law’s honor,” says Benjamin, 49, who joined the Anti-Cancer Challenge two years ago after her husband’s father, Dror Benjamin, died of leukemia three weeks shy of his 80th birthday. He had been planning to take his entire extended family on a vacation later that year.

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“He was larger than life,” says Benjamin, who has three children with her husband, Gil. “He was a very good person. He helped a lot of people quietly. He did a lot in his life. Then cancer took him.” Such stories of love and loss abound at the AntiCancer Challenge. The fundraiser, which began in 2017, includes 14-, 35-, 60- and 100-mile bicycle rides and 5K and 10K run/walks. It was founded by Dr. Richard Van Etten, a UCI Health hematologist-oncologist and director of the Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center, arising from his concern over cutbacks in the amount of federal funding for cancer research. Cancer is the secondleading cause of death in the United States, responsible for about 21 percent of deaths. All money raised by the event, which was held on campus June 8 (and will be held next year on June 6), goes directly to support cancer research at UCI, including translational projects that can lead to rapid improvements in treatment. Modest grants are allocated for the kind of high-risk, high-reward research that’s often overlooked by the federal government and other funding organizations, Van Etten says. These studies “are really the only way to move the needle forward in finding better ways to care for cancer patients,” he notes. “They generate critical preliminary data that will draw larger awards from elsewhere.” In fact, Van Etten adds, the small grants “have a return on investment of about 20 to 1. So every dollar that somebody contributes has the impact of $20. I think that’s a very powerful message.”

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“We wanted to build something at UCI that will have its own legs and will stand without us at some point. To me, the most important thing is to get other people involved.”

Expanding the Challenge That message impressed Miller, a successful businessman who organized the largest 2019 team and became the first person in Anti-Cancer Challenge history to raise more than $100,000. The 53-year-old CEO of 5 Arch Funding Corp. has also been buffeted by cancer, losing his mother and several other family members to various forms of the disease. Recently, his wife, Marci, learned that a relative has breast cancer. On Miller’s 50th birthday, Marci’s gift to him was to establish the Miller Family Research Fund. It was a way, he says, to commit to a cause over a long period of time, nurturing the fund’s growth and involving his four children. While searching for worthy recipients of their philanthropy, Miller met with Van Etten and Caroline Pereira, executive director of development for cancer programs at UCI, and vowed to work with them in launching a movement. “We told Richard we’re can-do people,” he says. “Giving money is one thing, but helping build an enterprise is more important to us. We wanted to build something at UCI that will have its own legs and will stand without us at some point. To me, the most important thing is to get other people involved.” And he has – in a big way. Miller tapped into his network of employees, friends and relatives to put together this year’s 169-person Miller family team, which sported orange-and-white “Kick Cancer” T-shirts. “The best part, to me, was just walking and seeing all of our friends,” he says of the empowering occasion, “and knowing they were all there for an important cause.” Benjamin was unable to attend this year’s event but co-hosted, with Miller, a pre-event Anti-Cancer Challenge fundraiser sponsored by the Monarch Beach Resort in Dana Point, bringing in nearly $100,000. The dinner was prepared by celebrity chef Michael Mina, with support from the Monarch Beach Resort and other benefactors.


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“It was beautiful,” Benjamin says. “I feel like the Anti-Cancer Challenge is in a baby stage, and we can continue to grow it.”

Translating Research Into Patient Care Both Miller and Benjamin say they direct their philanthropy to UCI because of the high quality of research, the scientists who conduct it and the way donations are handled. Miller notes that every $40,000 raised is enough to fund a promising research project. To date, Anti-Cancer Challenge grants have supported more than two dozen original research approaches to preventing, diagnosing or treating cancer. Some of the trials will be open to UCI Health patients, giving them early access to treatments that may well represent the future standard of care. Among the 2018 recipients is Rémi Buisson, assistant professor of biological chemistry, who is looking at a substance known as A3B that’s a major driver of gene mutations in ovarian cancer. Understanding how A3B does this could lead to new strategies for targeting those types of ovarian tumors. Late-stage ovarian cancer has one of the poorest survival rates of all cancers.

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Another project, under the direction of Dr. Krishnansu Tewari, a gynecological oncologist, will explore the gut microbiome in patients with gynecological cancers being treated with immunotherapy to identify which bacteria may be associated with better responses to the protocol. Immunotherapy has revolutionized the treatment of some kinds of cancer, but the technique still doesn’t work for a majority of patients. These sorts of studies – and the scientists themselves – are inspirational, Benjamin says. “I’m very proud to be a part of the Anti-Cancer Challenge,” she says. “I really hope we make a change. I know that sometimes with fundraisers, you don’t know where the money goes. Here, I know it goes to innovative research that may lead to better treatments.” And when one of those research projects results in a major discovery – and one or more will – the thousands of Anti-Cancer Challenge participants, volunteers and donors will have had a hand in it, Miller notes. That’s the payoff, he says, adding: “Everyone needs to support this cause.”

By the Numbers: 2019 Anti-Cancer Challenge

185

2,800

$635,000

teams

participants

raised

$101,035

18

28

largest single-team total

research projects slated for funding in 2019

additional research projects funded to date

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LIVE YO

LIFE ST

ALTH E H R I E U

Start by choosing a UCI Health doctor We will stop at nothing to give you the care you deserve. By choosing a UCI Health primary care doctor, you gain access to more than 500 specialists at Orange County’s only academic health system. They work together to provide you and your family with compassionate, science-based care. Your convenience matters, too. With locations across the region and the ability to message your doctor 24/7, we are here to help you become a healthier you.

Visit ucihealth.org/choose or call 844-310-9750.


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Making ‘First Choice’ Possible

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By Greg Hardesty

CI achieved a first last fall when it received more freshman applications from California residents (some 72,000) than any other college in the state. And it was third in the nation for total applicants when transfer students and those living out of state were added to the mix. Just this August, UCI became the first public university to be named No. 1 in Money magazine’s annual ranking of the nation’s “Best Colleges.” The accolade acknowledges UCI’s continued growth in providing accessible, highquality education and fostering alumni success. And twice in recent years, UCI has topped The New York Times’ College Access Index of U.S. universities best enabling students to achieve the American dream, based in part on the number of low- and middle-income students they enroll and the price they’re charged. Fulfilling the dream of a world-class university degree, however, often requires the assistance of scholarships – not just those awarded by the university or the government, but scholarships provided by a philanthropist, company or foundation. Despite being one of the most sought-after college destinations in the country, UCI – compared to other UC

campuses – trails in dollars raised for scholarships from donors. UCI competes with private colleges and universities across the U.S. for the most talented students, who, while they list UCI as their No. 1 choice, may not be able to afford to turn down a large scholarship offered by another institution. As part of UCI’s new Brilliant Future campaign, the university hopes to increase the amount of philanthropic funding available to help outstanding prospective students make UCI their home. “We want to fulfill our mission of educating California’s best and brightest, regardless of their economic circumstances or background, by significantly expanding our scholarship resources,” says Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Enrique J. Lavernia. “We want to make ‘first choice’ possible.” What follows are the stories of four UCI scholarship recipients – from a military veteran on his way to reentering the workforce to the daughter of immigrants from Africa who is studying U.S. infant mortality rates – all of whom agree that no matter the level of financial assistance, it was critical to their academic journeys in pursuit of their own American dreams.

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Emily Nicole Barragan

Junior, Chemical Engineering Reward Opportunity Advancing Distinguished Students Scholarship

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hen she was a young girl growing up in the Chino/Ontario area, Emily Barragan would pester her mother to buy her a toy microscope. “I was around 8 or 9,” says Barragan, whose parents separated when she was young and who was raised by her mother, who is from Mexico. “We would be at Toys R Us, and I would see a little toy microscope. I just thought it was so cool. I was like: ‘I want to do that. I want to look at insects, leaves, hair – everything.’” That microscope sparked in Barragan a lifelong curiosity about all things scientific, as well as math. Today, she’s a third-year chemical engineering major with plans for a career dedicated to ensuring a healthy planet for future generations. A sticker on her stainless steel water bottle spells it out clearly: “Engineers for a Sustainable World.” Her passion for the environment explains, in part, why Barragan, 20, was the recipient this past academic year of a Reward Opportunity Advancing Distinguished Students Scholarship. The ROADS Scholarship assists outstanding UCI students, particularly those who are currently or have been recently involved in green projects or initiatives on or off campus. “It covered food and random lab fees that my financial aid didn’t pay for,” says Barragan, an avid vegetarian for most of her life and a vegan for the last two years. “Knowing that I didn’t really have to worry too much about paying for food or begging my parents for money gave me a sense of independence.” She says the scholarship has also helped her live in an apartment close to campus, which allows her to remain involved in extracurricular activities. “By not having to take out loans for housing,” Barragan adds, “the likelihood that I’ll be able to afford graduate school has increased.” At UCI, she’s a board member of the campus chapter of Engineers for a Sustainable World and an “Earth rep” for Student Housing. During spring break last year, she joined 13 other students to conduct sustainability research in Costa Rica. “We studied soil health in various forests based on different agricultural techniques that were being used,” Barragan says.

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Her interest in improving the environment began back in high school. While learning Mandarin at Ruben S. Ayala High School in Chino Hills, she and some classmates took a cultural immersion trip to China, where she was alarmed by the high level of pollution. “After having to wear surgical masks in certain regions to avoid lung damage, I knew there needed to be a revolutionary change in how we obtain our energy,” Barragan recalls. “I decided to become a chemical engineer and dedicate my education toward cultivating sustainable processes for our society. I believe that we, the human race, bear full responsibility for ensuring that future generations of living organisms have a healthy planet to dwell in.” A gifted student throughout elementary, junior and high school – and on the Dean’s Honor List at UCI – Barragan is spending a chunk of this summer working with Shane Ardo, assistant professor of chemistry. “I’m conducting research,” she says. I’m getting a stipend for helping create a small-scale, thermally powered water desalination unit. I was just reading a story about how India needs small-scale power devices for clean water, and that’s exactly what I’m doing!” STEM-related smarts run in Barragan’s family. Her older brother, Seth, is studying biomedical engineering at UC San Diego. His first choice of colleges had been UCI, and he was the one who encouraged Barragan to apply. She was also attracted to UCI because of its reputation as one of the greenest universities in the nation. Barragan loves the practical aspects of engineering and plans to eventually earn a Ph.D. She has an interest in solid oxide fuel cells, or hydrogen fuel cells, and their application as an alternative to fossil fuels in powering vehicles. “Hydrogen fuel cells exist now but aren’t being used on a commercial basis because they’re deemed not as efficient or reliable as traditional fossil fuel motors in terms of mass marketing,” Barragan says. “I want to help make them a bit more efficient through the possible use of different materials.”


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“I believe that we, the human race, bear full responsibility for ensuring that future generations of living organisms have a healthy planet to dwell in.�

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Bridgette Blebu, Ph.D. ’19 Public Health Chancellor’s Club Fellowship

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s Bridgette Blebu can attest, the last year of a Ph.D. program can be pretty crazy. The 31-year-old completed a doctorate in public health this spring. Her dissertation focused on neighborhood social context and prematurity among infants born to black immigrants in California. Blebu says her fifth year was a little easier thanks to a Chancellor’s Club Fellowship, which provided her with a $12,000 stipend over the final two quarters of her doctoral program. During the award period, her academic department covered tuition and fees. “It helped in a lot of ways,” Blebu says of the fellowship, named for the group founded in 1972 by UCI Chancellor Daniel G. Aldrich Jr. Chancellor’s Club members – alumni, community residents, current and past parents, as well as faculty and staff – support first-generation undergraduate scholarships and graduate fellowships. “The final year of your Ph.D. program can be really intense, because you’re trying to finish your dissertation but also preparing to go into the workforce,” Blebu says. “So your time is very split. It was nice not to have to be a teaching assistant on top of everything else. This fellowship allowed me to focus on my research.” She found that upon their arrival, black immigrant women were less likely to have a premature infant than U.S.-born black women. “It’s interesting, especially since the racial disparity in birth outcomes is so pervasive in the United States,” Blebu says. “But it wasn’t necessarily surprising because I grew up in a family that made deliberate decisions – including migrating to the United States – to better our social and economic standing. By default, our health kind of followed along.” The daughter of immigrants from Ghana, in West Africa – her mother was a bank teller, and her father is a systems engineer – Blebu was born and lived in the San Fernando Valley before her family moved to Marin County when she was 9. She initially went to the University of Southern California to become a pharmacist. “But I took a class that looked at population health and fell in love with it,” she says. “Just the idea of being able to understand trends at a population level intrigued me.”

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Blebu earned a bachelor’s degree in health promotion & disease prevention studies and a master’s degree in public health, with a concentration in biostatistics/epidemiology, at USC. After spending a couple of years at a nonprofit in Los Angeles – where she studied the social determinants of health and tried to understand inequity in neighborhoods and health outcomes – Blebu came to UCI in the fall of 2014 to work with Annie Ro, an assistant professor of public health and a health demographer. “Her research was really in line with what I was interested in exploring, and so I wanted to train under her,” Blebu says. “She ended up being my content mentor, and she really pushed me to think long-term and to develop questions that could serve as foundations for a career in academic research.” Ro also taught Blebu how to navigate academia. “It’s challenging, especially when you’re someone who thought that they were going to end up in industry or nonprofit research,” Blebu says. “So just having guidance along those lines was really helpful.” She and five others were the first students to join the then-fledgling doctoral program in public health, which made it a particularly unique experience, Blebu says. While at UCI, she fostered inclusive campus experiences for graduate students through her role with the DECADE Student Council. Since July, Blebu has been in a postdoctoral program in UC San Francisco’s Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences. She hopes to land a full-time professorship in two or three years. “One of the things that appeals to me is to be a role model for other women of color,” Blebu says. “I want to help remove barriers for people like me in accessing academia.” “When prospective graduate students go online and don’t see people who look like them or who are conducting research that resonates with them, they can be deterred from pursuing an advanced degree,” she adds. “For that reason, I think it’s important to continue on this journey of academia and to open doors for other students of color.”


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“One of the things that appeals to me is to be a role model for other women of color. I want to help remove barriers for people like me in accessing academia.�

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Shaun Whitecavage

Senior, Social Policy & Public Service and Public Health Policy Brython P. Davis Scholarship

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nitially, college wasn’t in the cards for Shaun Whitecavage. Now it’s his lifeline. Whitecavage was a decent student and athlete (football, wrestling, volleyball) at Foothill High School in Santa Ana. But coming from a broken home in which he largely was raised by his older brother and grandparents, Whitecavage – who lived in Moreno Valley before moving to Santa Ana when he was 10 – felt a little aimless when he graduated in 2003. “I was kind of all over the place,” he says. “I didn’t really have structure.” Now the discipline and determination he learned in the U.S. Marine Corps, which Whitecavage joined after high school, is paying off for the married father of two boys, ages 6 and 2. Whitecavage, 35, is on track to earn two bachelor’s degrees – one in social policy & public service and one in public health policy – at UCI in spring 2020. He hopes to find a job as a social worker, or perhaps as a nurse or physical therapist. He’s still mulling the possibilities. “I always wanted to go into physical therapy or something related because I spent so much time [in physical therapy] after undergoing three surgeries,” Whitecavage says. “I’m looking at different options.” Considering his life path and adapting to challenges are nothing new for Whitecavage. A devastating knee injury during a rugby match ended his military career in 2014, when he was deemed medically unfit to reenlist after serving for 11 years as an expeditionary airfield systems technician and aircraft recovery specialist. Whitecavage, who reached the rank of staff sergeant, had planned on making the Marine Corps a career, but his injury abruptly ended that notion. The timing couldn’t have been worse. Whitecavage and his Japanese wife, Naoko, whom he met while at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, had a son just under a year old. With money very tight, they moved into his father’s house in Moreno Valley. “My wife wasn’t working, and after I got out of the military, I needed to find a way to be able to provide for my wife and kids,” Whitecavage says. “I came to the conclusion that going to college would be the best opportunity to do that.”

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Whitecavage spent three years at Moreno Valley College, initially focusing on business classes, before transferring to UCI in fall 2017. “UCI was the only school I could find that had guaranteed housing for veterans,” Whitecavage says, noting what a huge help that is as he transitions into a new, post-military career. He and his family live in a two-bedroom campus apartment. His wife is enrolled in the registered dental assisting program at Orange Coast College. “I love it here,” Whitecavage says of UCI. “The campus is beautiful, and the students are nice – although most of them probably think I’m the teaching assistant when I initially enter the classroom.” A private scholarship has helped pay the bills as the family gets by on Whitecavage’s veteran’s disability income and support from the GI Bill, which covers tuition and books and provides a housing stipend. This past academic year, Whitecavage received the Brython P. Davis Scholarship, reserved for applicants with a parent who served, or is serving, in the Navy or the Marine Corps. Whitecavage’s father, a retired deputy in the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, was in the Marines, as was his grandfather. “A [scholarship] of this level keeps me focused and driven and helps me stay the course,” Whitecavage wrote in a letter to Brython P. Davis Scholarship officials. “Thank you for aiding me in this journey to complete my education and allowing me to continue providing a positive role model for my sons to look up to.” Whitecavage – a diehard Philadelphia Phillies baseball fan (his dad is from the City of Brotherly Love) who often wears a special-edition Memorial Day Phillies cap – no longer plays rugby. For now, academics remain his center of attention. He has also been involved in research projects and has held several internships, with hopes that all his hard work at UCI will distinguish him as he prepares to enter the job market. “Being able to add a degree from a top university to the skills I already have from the military will help me stand out among my peers,” Whitecavage says. He also advises others in his situation to use the GI Bill and to urge their veteran friends to use it as well: “It’s an awesome benefit that you earned, and not enough veterans utilize it.”


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“After I got out of the military, I needed to find a way to be able to provide for my wife and kids. I came to the conclusion that going to college would be the best opportunity to do that.�

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Gordon Wong

Junior, Psychological Science Gordon E. Hein Scholarship

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ordon Wong walks around chairs outside Humanities Hall and grabs a spot at a table in the shade. He’s just another student killing some time on a recent summer day. One thing about Wong stands out, though: He’s wearing a necktie for an interview about an internship in a research lab. Look a little closer, and something else stands out: Propped up against the table is a long, white cane that comes up to Wong’s nose – the ideal height to maximize his ability to navigate. “It allows me to move around quicker,” he says. Wong, 21, isn’t completely blind. He can’t see faces but can make out shapes, especially when in contrast to light. He can’t see fingers but can recognize hand motions. And he isn’t letting his disability prevent him from thriving as a psychological science major entering his third year this fall. Born in Los Angeles, Wong moved with his family to Mission Viejo right before he started kindergarten. He began losing his eyesight when he was a senior at Mission Viejo High School, where he was among his class’s top 25 students and in the International Baccalaureate program. There is, unfortunately, a genetic eye disease on his mother’s side: Leber’s hereditary optic neuropathy, which tends to manifest in young adult males. When he got the news he was going blind, Wong was too busy planning for college to let the diagnosis completely derail him. And he had strong role models: two cousins who also had Leber’s and were working on their master’s degrees. “People always ask me what it was like losing my vision,” says Wong, who started at UCI in fall 2017. “I was just trying to graduate from high school and make sure I would be able to get into college. I didn’t really have time to worry about it.” After accepting him as a freshman for fall 2016, UCI allowed Wong to delay his entry a year so he could undergo nine-month “adjustment training” at the Louisiana Center for the Blind, a residential facility that his cousins had attended. In Louisiana, Wong learned how to perform everyday tasks without his vision while also completing projects such as using power tools to build a chest in woodshop, cooking a meal for 40 people and creating a PowerPoint presentation.

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At UCI, Wong received a Gordon E. Hein Scholarship, which assists academically eligible students who are blind or have severe visual impairment. “It basically paid my tuition the first year,” Wong says. “The second year was a little lower. It was a relief to not have to worry about money for the first two years.” Thanks to advances in technology and support from UCI’s Disability Services Center, Wong and other sightless or low-vision students are able to flourish on campus pretty much on their own. UCI’s Disability Services Center turns textbooks into documents that Wong can access on his laptop – which then converts them into audio files. The center also offers note takers, but Wong memorized his keyboard before losing his vision, so he takes his own notes in class. Some of Wong’s academic papers at UCI – where his current GPA is 3.89 – have examined how blindness is viewed in society and literature. “We perceive it very negatively,” Wong says. “And blind people have negative views on the blind too. They don’t have high expectations for themselves. The medical model is that people with disabilities need to be fixed. The social model says that if you get people the right accommodations, they’ll be able to succeed.” Wong’s father, Gary, a chemist, works in Irvine and is able to take him to and from UCI. But once here, Wong eschews the Ring Road golf-cart rides offered by the disability center, preferring to navigate the campus independently. He takes pride in the numerous shortcuts through Aldrich Park that he has learned. Off campus, Wong volunteers once a week at the Braille Institute in Anaheim to help others adjust as he has. That volunteer service meshes perfectly with his longterm ambition. After graduation, Wong plans to earn a master’s degree and pursue a counseling career in a university-based rehabilitation program. He hopes to draw on his own experiences to show students with disabilities how to get “the most out of life,” he says. Wong is looking forward to fresh challenges. “Since I’ve already been doing this for two years now, the school part has gotten pretty easy,” he says. “The newer stuff, like doing job interviews, will be more difficult. It’s all about getting other people to believe that I can succeed.”


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“The medical model is that people with disabilities need to be fixed. The social model says that if you get people the right accommodations, they’ll be able to succeed.”

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AC C E L E R AT I N G WOR L D - C H A N G I N G

R E S E A RC H

Stemming the Tide of Alzheimer’s Philanthropist on a mission to help others turns $150,000 into $20 million effort to fight disease at UCI MIND By Rosemary McClure

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eith Swayne has a magic touch when it comes to fundraising. “I guess I could go to anyone and get them to write some kind of check just so I would go away,” he says, laughing. “However, that’s not what I want to accomplish. I want to connect people to causes and needs that they can relate to and then help them find a way to help out.” Swayne is so adroit at soliciting donations, in fact, that a campus project he undertook has left people shaking their heads in amazement: His efforts led to a $20 million windfall for investigators at the UCI Institute for Memory Impairments and Neurological Disorders. “Keith’s passionate commitment to supporting our research has been tireless and nothing short of transformative,” says Joshua Grill, director of UCI MIND. It all started with a $150,000 gift the Laguna Beach philanthropist made to the research facility in honor of his late wife, Judy, whom he lost to Alzheimer’s disease in 2014. He also issued a challenge to the community at the time that boosted the donation to $300,000. The UCI MIND team then leveraged that seed money to secure a total of $20 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health.

Steve Zylius / UCI

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“Our research is blazing new trails into understanding the genetic, molecular and cellular underpinnings of disease and is poised to lead to identification of new treatment targets and candidates,” Grill says. “Keith’s initial challenge-gift enabled an exponential impact in terms of research support.”

Doing What He Can His late wife would have liked that, Swayne says. “The fact that some good came from this terrible disease – Judy would certainly want that,” he says. “And I wanted that too.” The couple, married 50 years, were best friends and committed partners. Judy Swayne, like her husband, was intent on making a difference in her community. Among other contributions, in 1989, she founded the Orange County Community Foundation, which became a major philanthropic institution in the region. Keith Swayne has carried on her legacy as a member of its board, stepping down in September after a stint as chairman. In addition, Judy Swayne served on numerous nonprofit boards, acted as a role model and mentor to many throughout the philanthropic community, and was the mother of two: a daughter, Anne Keir, who lives in Hawaii, and a son, Kirk Swayne, of Orange County. “The disease was hard on my kids,” Keith Swayne says. “It’s a tough disease.” It was also hard on Swayne himself, Grill notes: “Alzheimer’s is an insidious disorder that robs patients

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of their most human characteristics – language, decisionmaking and, of course, memory.” Ultimately, it also robs patients of their independence, putting a strain on family members. “Keith was a caregiver to his beloved Judy, a costly and taxing role,” Grill says. “He watched her progress until she succumbed to this unrelenting disease, helpless to do anything to slow or stop its course. He decided to do what he could to prevent others from suffering her fate.”

Issuing a Challenge Frank M. LaFerla, dean of the UCI School of Biological Sciences, also recalls Swayne’s struggles. “Alzheimer’s disease really impacted his family,” he says. “Judy was a very special woman. He wanted to make sure future generations wouldn’t experience the pain his wife did.” At the time, LaFerla was director of UCI MIND and talked with Swayne about ways he could make a difference in the search for a cure. One field of research involved stem cells, which experts believe may offer great promise for new medical treatments. “My lab had started getting involved with stem cells many years ago, and about this time a new technology was created using stem cells from your skin, not embryos,” LaFerla says. “You could take some of a patient’s skin cells by biopsy and reprogram them to become pluripotent – meaning they have the ability to give rise to many different types of cells found in the body, such as brain cells or more skin cells or kidney cells.” Swayne likes innovation and taking chances, LaFerla says: “I told him this opportunity was high-risk but had high potential.” That was when Swayne issued his challenge to the community and set about rounding up donors. He held salons at his hillside home, inviting LaFerla and other UCI staffers to speak to local residents. They explained how pluripotent stem cell technology could be used as a tool in Alzheimer’s research. “I went to people who knew my wife or to people I knew who also had a vested interest in Alzheimer’s research because they had the disease in their own families,” Swayne says. He found many community members who were willing to contribute. “The odds are that if you live to be 85, there’s a 1-in-2 chance you’re going to have Alzheimer’s. A lot of my friends are in my age bracket,” says Swayne, 79. “The message was compelling.”


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High Risk and High Potential One thing he learned was that individuals were familiar with the Alzheimer’s Association but not UCI MIND. “In some respects, UCI MIND is one of the best-kept secrets in Orange County,” Swayne says. “Many people didn’t know that it’s one of only 30 NIH-designated Alzheimer’s research centers in the country.” His fundraising zeal – and efforts to involve the Orange County community in the effort – eventually paid off. As LaFerla says, “It worked better than we could ever have dreamed.” When the time came to renew funding for the stem cell research program from the National Institute on Aging, UCI MIND won a five-year commitment to continue its research. One reason behind the NIA’s decision: local philanthropic contributions. With charitable and federal funding in place, UCI established a bank of induced pluripotent stem cells, now a valuable resource for Alzheimer’s researchers globally. Today, hundreds of cell samples have been provided to investigators at UCI and 10 other research universities around the world, and UCI MIND scientists and their partners have received more than $20 million in grants.

R E S E A RC H

“And all of that stemmed, ultimately, from the initial gift we received from Keith,” LaFerla says. Adds Swayne: “We grew $150,000 to $20 million. It blows me away.” He’s not resting on his laurels, though. Swayne continues to connect more donors to UCI MIND so that research can progress. “The UCI MIND team is devoted to this cause,” he says. “It’s reassuring to know you’ve got people with this talent trying to find answers to this disease.” So Swayne writes letters to business and community leaders urging their backing, chairs a panel that seeks new opportunities for philanthropic gifts, speaks on behalf of the institute at public events, and co-leads a caregiver support group for men whose spouses have Alzheimer’s. “Keith gives a voice to the nearly 6 million Americans with Alzheimer’s and the more than 15 million caregivers like him,” Grill wrote earlier this year in a letter nominating Swayne for the Outstanding Philanthropist Award, which will be conferred on Nov. 14 by the Association of Fundraising Professionals of Orange County in celebration of National Philanthropy Day. “UCI MIND would not be the organization it is without the leadership of Keith Swayne.”

Alzheimer’s Disease: An Escalating Public Health Crisis UNITED STATES

ORANGE COUNTY

By 2050

5.8 million with Alzheimer’s

84,000 with Alzheimer’s

16 million with

6th leading cause of death

3rd leading cause of death

Alzheimer’s in the U.S.

$290 billion cost to the

74% projected increase

$1 trillion cost to the

healthcare system

16 million unpaid caregivers 2 out of every 3

people with Alzheimer’s disease are women

in Alzheimer’s cases in the next decade

U.S. healthcare system

1 in 3 Medicare dollars spent on Alzheimer’s alone

Source: UCI MIND

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Do Tell

UCI’s Center for Storytelling Aims to Help Individuals Express Their Own Narratives By Jim Washburn

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he word “storytelling” may bring to mind images of pastel-hued Hollywood fairy tales or of early humans around a campfire, concocting myths to make sense of the world and their place in it. The people envisioning the UCI Center for Storytelling, however, have a fantasy-free brand of storytelling in mind. It’s the brainchild of the School of Humanities’ literary journalism faculty, including director Barry Siegel, who describes the center as a public extension of their program in narrative nonfiction writing. “What we teach is journalism founded on boots-onthe-ground, crammed-notebook reporting but told using the techniques of the finest fiction – using the elements of storytelling to engage readers,” Siegel says. Aside from rooting the tales in facts, he says, the aim isn’t that different from what our distant relatives did around the campfire. “Humans are hard-wired for storytelling, and we here believe very much in the power and effectiveness of it,” Siegel says. “Telling true stories helps us to understand ourselves and connect with others, to shape our memories, and to make sense of our world – especially today, when stories are also being used to divide us.” It’s the sort of writing that earned him a Pulitzer Prize and numerous other awards over an illustrious career, much of it with the Los Angeles Times. He has directed UCI’s literary journalism program – the first of its kind in the nation – since its inception more than 15 years ago.

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Hayasaki’s first published story, penned in high school, was certainly on a subject close to her: the murder of a friend. She subsequently wrote for a teen newspaper published by The Seattle Times, majored in journalism at the University of Illinois, and wound her way to the Los Angeles Times and then to UCI. Much of her award-laden career has entailed covering medical and scientific subjects seemingly unlikely to catch a reader’s interest. Hayasaki says the trick is to approach such stories the same way one would a novel: “You look for the fundamental things: the voice you use, the characters involved, how you interview and use quotes, a moment of insight, the path of how you’re moving through the timeline to some sort of climax or ending point – all those kind of things.”

An Introductory Event “Telling true stories helps us to understand ourselves and connect with others,” says literary journalism director Barry Siegel.

A Place for Everyone The intent of the Center for Storytelling is to make the insights and tools he and the faculty impart to students available to others on campus and to the community at large. “I see it as a place where we’re sharing some of the lessons we teach on a daily basis with anybody who’s interested in telling a story that matters to them,” Siegel says. “How can a scientist convey her research to the public in a way that captures the importance of her work? Great scientists aren’t necessarily natural storytellers, but we can help with that. How does a public health worker illuminate a local crisis in a manner that evokes empathy and urgency? How can ordinary individuals – students, retirees, schoolteachers, parents – express themselves in ways that engage the public on issues that they’re passionate about? We can help,” he says. The center will also be there for people who wish to compose their memoirs or family histories or to create a record of what they’re going through and feeling at this turbulent point in history. Whatever is making headlines is also rippling through everyday life, notes Erika Hayasaki, an associate professor in the literary journalism program. “Whether it’s hunger, homelessness, race relations, immigration or other issues, people on campus and in the community are experiencing a lot of it, and they want to write about it,” she says. 40

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Siegel says the center will likely launch in stages, with the first one being a “drop-in storytelling lab” on campus, where anyone with something to say can find help saying it. Ideally, he notes, it will have two adjoining rooms – one with computers, projectors, tablet docks, work tables for design projects and other tools; and the other with the equipment and soundproofing materials necessary for creating podcasts, oral histories, livestreams and other nonprint media. But at this juncture, the center is more of a story in the making than a finished manuscript: “We mainly exist on paper right now,” Siegel says. The facility’s corporeal form is dependent upon donor funding (the goal is to raise $500,000) and that near-mythical thing on the UCI campus: available space in which to locate. On the financial front, the literary journalism program will host an Oct. 26 event for the public and potential Erika Hayasaki, an associate professor in the literary journalism program, says the center will help writers “part the curtain on humanity.”


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LaVonne Smith ’94 donated seed funding that will equip a “drop-in storytelling lab” to get the center off the ground.

benefactors called “Telling Stories That Matter,” with Siegel, Hayasaki and fellow faculty members Amy Wilentz, Miles Corwin, Hector Tobar and Amy DePaul participating. “Rather than just sitting on a stage and talking, we’re going to offer something like a one-day university,” Siegel promises, “running workshops to show some of the techniques we use and teach in our programs, such as memoir writing, profile writing, opinion writing, the art of interviewing and archival research.” Though rooted in the factual world, the Center for Storytelling does have a fairy godmother, in the form of LaVonne Smith ’94. A longtime supporter of UCI’s School of Humanities, she gave the facility its initial $10,000, which Siegel says can go a long way toward equipping the drop-in lab. Smith had left college in the early 1960s to work, marry and raise five children before enrolling at UCI three decades later. She has a hearing loss of more than 90 percent, and at the time, many universities made no accommodation for that. UCI, however, arranged for honor students to augment Smith’s lip-reading skills by

taking notes for her in class, enabling her to earn a B.A. in humanities. She has remained engaged with the campus ever since, serving on boards, supporting a variety of programs and endowments, hosting events in her home and more. “I am a proud, proud Anteater,” Smith says. “I get more from UCI than I ever give it. The School of Humanities has been so successful in helping people from all walks of life. “The storytelling center is right in line with that. Everyone has a story to tell, and writing it changes a person, and it’s always possible that their story can begin to change the world.” Hayasaki voices a similar sentiment: “One of my editors said all you can do is just part the curtain on humanity a little. If you start writing with the thought ‘I’m going to save the world,’ or even affect policy, with your story, you’ll probably be disappointed. But writers can sometimes create little moments in stories that resonate with people. They remember them. They think about them, and maybe that at least opens the door to the possibility of making things better.”

“Everyone has a story to tell, and writing it changes a person, and it’s always possible that their story can begin to change the world.”

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Making a Splash Bryant Joudrie, a senior in international studies from Calgary, has helped the UCI men’s water polo team to a top 10 national ranking in each of the past three years and a No. 13 position to start the 2019 season. The former Canadian Junior National Team player, who has earned All-Golden Coast Conference honors for his performance in the pool and in the classroom, is an Anteater leader in assists, steals and goals.


Duke Burchell / UCI Athletics


R E F L E C T I O N S

Steve Zylius / UCI

Your Voice Counts

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By Gary J. Singer

y undergraduate years at UCI (1970-74) not only helped shape my future, but instilled values and inspired a lifelong desire to learn. I remember those days fondly, with stimulating and diverse classes led by such professors as British naval historian Arthur Marder; information & computer sciences

founding faculty member Julian Feldman, who in the early 1970s predicted that the computer

would be the atomic bomb of the 21st century (and who forced us to queue up at midnight for space in the computer lab); and School of Engineering Dean Robert Saunders, who taught engineering for nonmajors (and who wisely advised me that engineering should not be my major). I owe special thanks to my social sciences and social ecology professors who helped guide me toward a legal career (and have remained supportive ever since). UCI had just about 3,000 students when I entered, and there was a strong feeling of being part of a new venture with a close community.

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As many of you know, UCI is a very special place. And today there are a growing number of opportunities for you to become involved, to keep informed, to pursue intellectual and other interests, and to witness firsthand the many successes being achieved by our current students, faculty and researchers and many others associated with our Anteater community. Like many Anteaters, I lived in Mesa Court my freshman year. I also had the great pleasure of participating for four years on UCI’s golf team, an NCAA Division II contender at the time. There are memories to last a lifetime. I will never forget the informal conversations I had with Chancellor Daniel J. Aldrich Jr. on the track outside Crawford Hall where he practiced throwing the javelin in the early 1970s. (Aldrich was an avid competitor in javelin, discus, hammer throw and shot put.) When I think of UCI, I think of Chancellor Dan and his personal commitment to the university, his leadership and his recruiting abilities – all critical in setting the stage for the future. UCI has grown tenfold over the 45 years since my graduation, achieving national rankings in so many areas and commencing and growing graduate programs in business, law and health sciences, among others – and all the while making the university so vital to the community. With my bachelor’s degree in social sciences in hand, and realizing that I would probably not be the next Jack Nicklaus, I entered Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. Law school was rigorous, but no more so than many of the courses I had taken at UCI. My professors had prepared me well. I later joined the law firm of O’Melveny & Myers, first in Los Angeles and later in Orange County, where I practiced corporate and business law for many years. At the same time, I was drawn back to UCI shortly after law school graduation, primarily because of the positive experiences during my undergraduate days. I became involved in the Chancellor’s Club, the athletics advisory board, the School of Social Sciences and the UCI Alumni Association board. Currently, I am a member of the UCI Foundation board of trustees, on which I have served for over 15 years. I’ve been especially delighted to be active with the UCI School of Law, which in a short decade has already achieved unprecedented national prominence. I have had the privilege of teaching a course at the law school and have been extremely impressed by the caliber of the law students. I’ve connected with the leadership of the School of Social Sciences. I was always grateful for

the athletic scholarship that helped me afford UCI (from the Tony Lema Scholarship Fund), and I wanted to give back in a similar way, so in 2004, my wife, Melanie, and I endowed a scholarship for social sciences undergraduates who are also active athletes. As many of you know, UCI is a very special place. And today there are a growing number of opportunities for you to become involved, to keep informed, to pursue intellectual and other interests, and to witness firsthand the many successes being achieved by our current students, faculty and researchers and many others associated with our Anteater community. In the year 2000, I was honored to be a commencement speaker for the School of Social Sciences. In congratulating the students, I let them know that with each passing year, it was getting harder and harder to get into UCI; that their time on campus helped form the university as it stands; and that they were also the future. And I suggested that as they embarked upon new challenges and careers, they not drift away from their alma mater: “Find a way to continue to contribute to the university. Please communicate with your professors and deans, attend campus events, join the alumni association, assist in recruiting new students, write articles or give speeches about your experiences as a UCI student. It is those contributions by each of us that will improve the quality of life and the education of students at the university. I ask that you help make this a real priority in your lives.” Two decades later, I bring that same message – equally important, if not more so – to all alumni as the university launches its Brilliant Future campaign. Your voice and your participation really do make a difference. There is a special culture, feeling and warmth about UCI – amid its rapid growth – that will always be here for you. Let’s harness that and share it with the next generation. Singer ’74, a two-time All-American with the Anteater men’s golf team, is senior vice president and general counsel at RSI Holding. He is a founder of the UCI School of Law and a trustee of the UCI Foundation.

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Express Yourself Undeclared sophomore Donny Chen leads a hip-hop class for local schoolchildren in UCI’s William Gillespie Performance Studios as part of Shining Stars, a program created by alumni and supported by the Claire Trevor School of the Arts. The summer dance workshop is geared to 5- to 12-year-olds from underserved neighborhoods in Orange County. Anteaters teach classes ranging from ballet to jazz, providing a creative outlet for personal expression.

Steve Zylius / UCI


A N T O U R A G E

A Commanding Presence Maj. Gen. Laura Yeager’s unwavering work ethic propelled her to unprecedented heights in the Army, making her a role model for women and girls .............................................................................................................. By Kristin Baird Rattini When Laura (Brandt) Yeager joined the U.S. Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps during her freshman year at UCI in 1983, she viewed it as a means to an end, rather than an end in itself. The daughter of an Army helicopter pilot and Vietnam War veteran, Yeager had no intention of following her father’s footsteps into a military career; she simply needed money to pay her tuition – and the ROTC offers college scholarships in exchange for service after graduation. Since UCI didn’t yet have an ROTC program, she joined the one at nearby Cal State Long Beach. “The more Army training I did, though, the more I found that I really liked it and I was good at it,” Yeager says. “So I thought, ‘Why not just do this for my job?’” Her ascent through the ranks to major general over her 36-year Army career is proof that she’s not just good but exceptional. A helicopter pilot with more than 1,500 flight hours and a veteran commander with experience battling everything from forest fires to drug trafficking, Yeager has earned a raft of ribbons and medals for leadership. But her latest promotion caught the world’s attention, when she shattered the Army’s brass ceiling and became the first woman to head an Army infantry division. At a ceremony this June in Los Alamitos, upon the formal passing of the regimental flags, Yeager, 55, took command of the California National Guard’s 40th Infantry Division, which has fought on fronts ranging from Kosovo to Korea and from France to the Philippines during its storied 102-year history. “As I held the colors,” she says, “I was imagining how many hands they had passed through prior to getting to me and how important it is for me to live up to that legacy.” While Yeager’s decision to join the military may not have been directly inspired by her father, retired California National Guard Maj. Gen. Robert Brandt, her approach since entering the Army certainly has been. “He instilled values that have made me successful not just on the career side but in managing all the different things you have going on in your life,” she says. Punctuality is a priority, Yeager learned, as is an unwavering work ethic. “There are many people smarter than me,” she says, “but I will outwork pretty much anybody.” 48

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Likewise, Yeager has found her degree in psychology, which she earned at UCI in 1986, an advantage since her first command out of college, as a platoon leader. “Someone told me, ‘A psychology degree is not very useful,’” she remembers. “I thought, ‘Wow, you really don’t understand what leadership is all about.’” Yeager was accepted to helicopter flight school within her first two years of active duty, at a time when few women were earning their wings, let alone flying choppers. “I love the feeling when you pick up off the ground to a hover and the ability to maneuver in closely to the terrain,” she says. “It’s just magical.” While in flight school at Fort Rucker, Alabama, she met her copilot for life, an Army officer named Curtis Yeager. Their first years of marriage were tough but typical for military spouses, with deployments keeping them apart for about four of their first eight years together. When the opportunity arose to transition out of active duty and into the Army National Guard reserves back home in California, Yeager seized it to spend more time with their growing family. “Our quality of life was so much better,” she says. Their four sons are all now grown; Scott, 24, is a specialist in the Army Reserve. When her husband retired in 2005, Yeager resumed full-time active duty with the California National Guard, which responds to not only military emergencies but natural disasters. For example, in 2008, Yeager coordinated the air response to severe wildfires in Northern California. “We were so overwhelmed with requests for helicopters that we had to reach out to other states,” she says. “My job was to find crews, get them out here, and get them everything they needed.” In all, crews from 14 states came to California’s aid.

In fall 2010, Yeager deployed to Iraq as assistant commander of the California National Guard’s 40th Combat Aviation Brigade. She battled blistering heat and blustering dust storms while flying seven- to eight-hour shifts in a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter. “I loved it,” she says. “I was doing what I had been

to prevent illicit drugs from entering the country. “It’s very important work,” Yeager says, “and with the opioid crisis, it’s needed now probably more than ever.” Today, with her groundbreaking leadership of the 40th Infantry Division, she recognizes that she’s regarded as a role model not only

“People would say, ‘You’re the first female’ in this role or that role. I didn’t really notice. To me, it was just my next job.” trained to do as part of a great organization that was doing its mission well. Our brigade had more than 260 aircraft in Iraq and flew over 100,000 hours, and we brought everyone home safely. That deployment is the highlight of my career.” It was at this point, as a colonel, that Yeager started garnering attention for being among the few female officers in the room – if not the only one. “People would say, ‘You’re the first female’ in this role or that role,” she says. “I didn’t really notice. To me, it was just my next job.” Her next promotion – to commander of the 40th Combat Aviation Brigade – placed Yeager in treasured company: Her father once held the same position. “In the hallway at brigade headquarters in Fresno are pictures of previous commanders,” she says. “I love the fact that my dad’s picture is up there and then, so many pictures later, there’s mine.” Yeager set an Army precedent in 2017, when she became the first female commander of Joint Task Force North at Fort Bliss, Texas. The task force draws on all branches of the military to provide support for federal law enforcement operations

for her own troops but also for the women already in the armed forces (they account for 16 percent of personnel) and those contemplating a military career. “I tell people, ‘It’s very simple. The Army tells you exactly what it needs you to do. You achieve that objective, and you’ll be successful,’” Yeager says. “It’s a great career that pays well and has fantastic benefits, and you get to work with the best people.” She has reached out to younger females through presentations about STEM and military careers to Girl Scouts and Whirly-Girls, a nonprofit dedicated to advancing women in helicopter aviation. “Dads will bring their little girls up to me and say, ‘Look, honey, you could do this,’” Yeager says. “I love that [my position] is meaningful for them.” Her new command involves keeping more than 10,000 troops – scattered among nine states and territories – equipped and prepared for deployment to places unknown. “The world is in such a state of disarray right now, with so many threats out there,” Yeager says. “It’s important for me to continue to take this organization forward and, frankly, be ready for whatever comes down the pike.” Fall 2019

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Class Notes

Crystal Kochendorfer ’68, teaching credential

Rachel (Rubenstein) LaMar ’90, social ecology

When she arrived in 1967 as one of UCI’s first three teacher education students, Crystal Kochendorfer encountered a campus vista like none she’d ever seen: a “vast and bare” landscape of unpaved parking lots, stark trees and futuristic concrete buildings. But the faculty and administrators were warm, she recalls, and nurtured her passion for teaching. After she and her two classmates graduated, Kochendorfer worked at elementary schools in Placentia and Laguna Beach before detouring into interior design following the birth of her first child. In 1988, she formally returned to the education field, winning an open seat on the Capistrano Unified School District board of trustees, where she served until 2006, including three terms as president. She was also president of the Orange County School Boards Association. Now retired, she hosts charity fundraisers at her house and volunteers in a widow support group, Relay for Life and a book club for former PTA parents.

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Kristoffer Quiaoit ’07, economics

Chester J. Fontenot Jr., Ph.D. ’75, comparative cultures En route to becoming a Baptist minister, university professor and expert on African American literature, Chester Fontenot ran a theatrical company, sang in a gospel choir and played college basketball. A Louisiana Creole by birth, he grew up in Compton and didn’t speak standard English until elementary school. After high school, he studied math and physics at Whittier College – and led the Black Student Union – then came to UCI, where he earned a doctorate and developed a University Without Walls program that offered courses to low-income Santa Ana residents. Now living in Georgia, Fontenot teaches English and directs the Africana studies program at Mercer University. He also preaches at various churches, writes books, and toils on a research project to digitize slave records and other historical documents that shed light on black life and culture in Georgia.

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What do you do for an encore after publishing a guide for homeowners facing foreclosure? If you’re Rachel LaMar, you write a children’s book about a sanguine teddy bear and donate a portion of the proceeds to foster care agencies. Bennie Bear’s Dream tells the tale of a stuffed animal yearning to be adopted by a little boy or girl. LaMar, an attorney and real estate broker based in Carlsbad, says she hopes the illustrated storybook will inspire empathy for children seeking their own “forever” homes. An adoptee herself, LaMar grew up in L.A.’s Woodland Hills neighborhood and originally wanted to be a criminal prosecutor. After working as a civil attorney, getting married and taking time off to raise her two children, she followed her mother’s footsteps into real estate. She’s currently writing a young adult novel and a children’s book series.

“Warm and buttery” is how Kristoffer Quiaoit (at left, below) closes his emails, which seems apt for a cookie company co-founder. But basketball, not baking, was his original dream. After graduating from UCI, the Anaheim resident spent a year in the Philippines trying to become a professional hoops player. Two obstacles thwarted that goal: his 5-foot-8 height and a knee injury that sidelined him back to California. Upon his return, Quiaoit launched a math and science tutoring company. Later, inspired by a popular diet regimen, he and business partner Victor Macias developed Keto Kookie, a low-carb, low-sugar snack that eventually landed them on ABC’s “Shark Tank” show. Last year, the pair renamed their company Nui Foods, after a Maori word meaning great or abundant. With plans to expand the product line to non-cookie items, Quiaoit hopes Nui will become “the Nabisco of low-carb snacks.”


Benny Luo ’10, psychology “Idiot Travels to Taiwan, Pays $329 for the World’s Most Expensive Beef Noodle Soup.” That was the headline on one of Benny Luo’s culinary adventure stories for NextShark.com, an Asian news and entertainment website he founded in 2013. On another trip, he wrote about eating ants and reindeer tongue at Noma, a Copenhagen, Denmark, restaurant that many consider the best in the world. But Luo and his site also have a serious side, publishing articles on such topics as racism; tidiness guru Marie Kondo; and Parkland, Florida, school shooting victim Peter Wang. Launched on a $3,000 budget, NextShark was originally geared toward millennial entrepreneurs but changed direction after Luo – whose parents are Chinese immigrants – noticed that Asian-related posts were more popular. Now boasting 5 million unique visitors per month and 19 full-time employees, the website propelled Luo onto Forbes magazine’s “30 Under 30” list of media leaders and innovators for 2018.

..................................................... Vanessa Garcia, M.A. ’11, English, Ph.D. ’15, English Cuban liquor takes center stage in Vanessa Garcia’s new experiential play, “Amparo,” in which audience members sample cocktails and move from room to room as various scenes unfold from the storied past of Havana Club rum and its exiled creators. After a trial run in New York City, the production opened earlier this year in Miami. Garcia, the daughter of Cuban refugees, creates in multiple genres, including journalism, fiction, painting and poetry. She has also spent time as a Sesame Street Writers’ Room Fellow and penned copy for Pepsi and Burger King. In 2015, her debut novel, White Light, won praise from NPR as one of that year’s best books. More recently, the Florida-born wordsmith began teaching writing at the Savannah College of Art & Design in Georgia and formed a company with “Amparo” director Victoria Collado to develop future theatrical projects.

In Memoriam Laurel L. Wilkening, Chancellor Emerita Renowned planetary scientist Laurel L. Wilkening, who influenced U.S. space policy and led UCI from 1993 to 1998, died June 4. She was 74. Wilkening arrived on campus as UCI’s third chief executive after holding leadership posts at the University of Arizona and the University of Washington. She was the third woman to serve as chancellor in the University of California system. During Wilkening’s tenure, UCI received its first two Nobel Prizes; completed 250,000 square feet of construction; and increased private, state and federal funding. Her goal to move UCI into the ranks of America’s top 50 research universities was realized in 1995. A year later, the campus was invited to join the prestigious Association of American Universities. Wilkening was also instrumental in creating University Research Park, which became a national model for collaboration between the private sector and university researchers. “She was a terrific leader who set clear priorities to build and expand research programs throughout the university,” said Sidney Golub, who served as Wilkening’s executive vice chancellor before returning to teaching and research in the School of Medicine. In addition, she was “a very dedicated teacher” who regularly taught a freshman seminar and required other top administrators to do the same, Golub said: “She felt strongly that leadership needed to be involved in the community and the classroom.” Born in Richland, Washington, and raised in Socorro, New Mexico, Wilkening developed an interest in science that was influenced, in part, by her father, who worked on the first atomic bomb and later taught college physics. She earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry in 1966 at Reed College in Oregon, followed by a Ph.D. in 1970 at UC San Diego, where she examined the first lunar rock released from quarantine after Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. Wilkening would later go on to serve as vice chair of the National Commission on Space under President Ronald Reagan. After retiring from UCI in 1998, Wilkening returned to Arizona, where her husband (who died in 2007) operated a vineyard near Tucson. She remained active as a board member for the Planetary Society, the University of Arizona Commission on the Status of Women, and various environmental groups. In 2005, Chancellor Ralph Cicerone dedicated the Laurel L. Wilkening Rose Garden in front of the Irvine Barclay Theatre in her honor.

To submit or view additional Class Notes, go to engage.alumni.uci.edu/classnote.

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P A R T I N G

Z O T !

Beyond 5G A new wireless transceiver invented by a UCI electrical engineering team boosts radio frequencies into 100-gigahertz territory, quadruple the speed of the upcoming fifth-generation wireless communications standard. The 4.4-millimeter-square silicon chip is capable of processing digital signals significantly faster and more energy-efficiently because of its unique digital-analog architecture.

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Steve Zylius / UCI


Profile for UCI Magazine

UCI Magazine Fall 2019 -- Brilliant Future  

In this edition of UCI Magazine, we highlight the launch of Brilliant Future: the Campaign for UCI – the second such comprehensive endeavor...

UCI Magazine Fall 2019 -- Brilliant Future  

In this edition of UCI Magazine, we highlight the launch of Brilliant Future: the Campaign for UCI – the second such comprehensive endeavor...