be bold - uci soc sci spring magazine 2016

Page 1




b ec a use b re a ki ng th e mo ld is par t o f yo ur Ant eat er leg acy


be bold

featu red 4 Note from the dean 6 Ever on the go

contents 40

Anthropology’s Medha Asthana may be finishing her (very busy) time at UCI, but the 2016 soc sci commencement speaker has no plans to slow down—or stop learning

8 Testing limits Commencement speaker Aliza Asad encourages new graduates to push themselves past their comfort zones

10 Getting his head in the game Darren Fells, sociology ’14, went from Anteater basketball to the NFL

14 Against the grain

Poli sci alumna Tiara Chiaramonte ’10 worked against the odds—and the advice of others—to forge a successful career in journalism

16 A sunny outlook International studies alumna and ’15 grad speaker now spends her days volunteering with the Peace Corps in Fiji

18 Alumni on the rise ’08 entrepreneurs Andrew Bertolina and Kelsey Minarik illustrate innovation, teamwork, and the power of networking

22 National attention Distinguished Professor Vicki Ruiz receives the National Humanities Medal from President Barack Obama

24 Extending her reach



Kimberly (Snodgrass) Moore ’09 runs nonprofit dedicated to breaking the cycle of homelessness

26 Serious service 2016 SPPS graduate Daniel Cano is determined to make education accessible for minority groups and first gen students like him

28 Motivated by mom 2015 Aldrich award winner makes UCI—and her mother—proud

32 Great giving


Business econ alumnus Sonsern Lin ’13 encourages random acts of kindness through his company, Generosity Gang


uci soc sci 2016

be B O LD

featu re d 36 Born to heal


A Q&A with ’08 Chicano/Latino studies and psychology alumna and therapist Mariana Arcila

a publication of the UCI School of Social Sciences

38 The brain and stroke


Cognitive scientist Greg Hickok studies what happens when words fail

writers, designers, editors & photographers

40 Awesome alumnus

Heather Ashbach, Bria Balliet, Luis Fonseca, Jocelyn Lee, Kristin Salsbury, Peyton Wolonsky, Steven Zylius

Amanda Fowler ’99 makes giving back her job—literally—as Edwards Lifesciences’ executive director of global corporate giving

special thanks to contributing photographers

42 Mipster on the move

Arizona Cardinals, Edwards Lifesciences, Finvoice, Generosity Gang, RejuvaHealth, The Huffington Post, UCI Athletics, UNIAN

From running a tech data company to constructing a NASA robot and challenging societal assumptions about Muslim women, there’s never a dull moment with Layla Shaikley ’07

44 International diplomacy


Serving as the 8th U.S. Ambassador to the Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt ’85 exercises international diplomacy skills born at UCI

School Leadership

46 Politics and polls

Bill Maurer, Dean Kourosh Saberi, Associate Dean Mark Petracca, Associate Dean Dave Leinen, Assistant Dean

Poli sci professor Michael Tesler parses polling data to explain political positions and platforms

48 Alumna and advocate


A class taken on a whim led Franchesca Ocasio ’15 to a change of major and new life direction

50 All in the family Jonathan Lui ’05 (bachelor’s), ’06 (master’s), ’15 (doctorate), is part of an Anteater family legacy

Tracy Arcuri, Executive Director Liz Dahl, Director Rosemarie Swatez, Associate Director Marketing & Communications

53 Get involved From research support to student scholarship and school leadership, there are many ways to stay involved as an Anteater

Heather Ashbach, Executive Director Bria Balliet, Senior Writer Luis Fonseca, Digital Media Production

54 Stay connected Join our Alumni Network to stay in touch with your alma mater



48 99



be bold

from the


When you leave campus today, I challenge each of you to make the world a better place than you’ve found it. Be bold, always break the mold, and be boundarlyess in your pursuit.


ifty years ago, the founders of the UCI School of Social Sciences went rogue. They broke with convention to forge connections with scholars whose different approaches—from quantitative to qualitative, formal to interpretative—would tackle fundamental research questions and pressing social problems.

You, our student body, represent the realization of that maverick spirit.

To steal a term from former GE CEO Jack Welch, they went boundaryless, throwing caution to the wind, scrapping boundaries and bureaucracies to directly enact change.

You’ve been in our groundbreaking behavioral economics labs testing new methods for reducing traffic congestion, creating better online marketplaces, and preventing the spread of disease.

More than half a century later, the school continues putting this approach into practice, breaking down traditional barriers to create change in society, economies and human well-being.

As students of the largest school on campus, you’ve been in the conflict zones of the Middle East with the Olive Tree Initiative, and in Orange County high schools teaching global awareness.

You’ve been in our brain, behavior, and cognitive robotics labs mapping the structure of the human brain to understand how speech works in order to help restore it in victims

of stroke, and building interactive robots aimed at improving social engagement in children with ADHD and autism. You’ve done fieldwork and studied abroad in India, Africa, China—indeed, everywhere on the planet, exploring fundamental issues of peace, politics, population, migration, and cross cultural communication. And I can’t tell you how excited we are knowing that you’re just getting started. As a member of the largest UC Irvine graduating class of 2016, you’re joining an elite network of more than 45,000 soc sci Anteater alumni who have been taking their world-class education from our Irvine classrooms to the halls of justice in D.C.

uci soc sci 2016

and international relations work in capitals around the world. They’ve been making a difference through entrepreneurial endeavors in places from Northgate to Northern Africa, in courtrooms across the nation, boardrooms in some of the world’s top companies, and classrooms around the globe where they’ve been training our next generation of leaders. When you leave campus today, I challenge each of you to join them in pursuing a future that makes the world a better place than you’ve found it. Be bold, always break the mold, and be boundarlyess in your pursuit. Congratulations on all of your wonderful accomplishments,

Bill Maurer Dean



be bold



Anthropology’s Medha Asthana may be finishing her (very busy) time at UCI, but the 2016 soc sci commencement speaker has no plans to slow down—or stop learning


ust try to keep up with Medha Asthana.

One of the School of Social Sciences 2016 commencement speakers, she lives a life of exploration and is always on the move. From her double major in anthropology and business administration to her involvement in a multitude of oncampus organizations and her stints abroad in places like Costa Rica and Chile, she is continuously seeking out new experiences and ways to make an impact in the world. And that’s just how she likes it.

she might have a knack for business, so when it came time to apply for colleges, she looked for schools with strong business and communications programs. UCI’s business administration program made the cut, but by the time Asthana found out she was admitted, she had already committed to another university. Her parents encouraged her to at least visit the UCI campus, so she tentatively agreed. But by the end of her first campus tour, there was no hesitation—she knew she belonged at UCI.

“I’m always absorbing things,” she says, “like a greedy sponge is how I think of it. I’ve always been a curious student, and I’ve just taken that and applied it to the university space.”

“Because of that one tour, the next week I enrolled at UCI,” she says. “I was very impressed by the atmosphere, the friendly feel. I could see myself here.”

This natural curiosity has served Asthana well, and she has received a remarkable number of honors in her time at UCI. She’s been awarded the 2015-16 UCI Alumni Association Distinguished Anteater Award, a 2015 Reward Opportunity Advancing Distinguished Students Scholarship, the 2015 Elena B. and William R. Schonfeld Endowed Scholarship, been named an Undergraduate Research Program Fellow, and more.

With a laundry list of interests and a campus full of opportunities, Asthana wasted no time in getting involved in extracurriculars. Her first order of business was joining the team at Middle Earth student housing as a community programmer. It was a way to meet her first-year peers, and really interact with people from all different backgrounds.

Her inquisitive nature has taken her in all directions as a student as well. Even in high school, she never had a clear-cut idea about what she wanted to do or where she wanted to go. There were simply too many options. She enjoyed English and social studies and was a good writer, but also found herself to be an adept public speaker. Her father suggested that

“Housing really exemplifies UCI,” she says. “You find the most amazing, interesting, and unique individuals there. And it’s a very accepting space. There’s a lot of themes like social justice, community service, LGBTQ and gender friendly halls—everything there is very comfortable and it’s a very open, inclusive space.” She also began to explore in the classroom, taking an introductory

anthropology course out of curiosity. The subject really spoke to her, and she continued taking classes, eventually declaring herself a double major. During her second year—while taking a break from her work with student housing—Asthana packed her schedule with a number of on- and offcampus activities. She joined ASUCI as a Business-Marketing Commission intern, wrote for the off-campus UP Lab blog, served as a senior consultant with Students Consulting for Nonprofit Organizations, and—after being inspired by her own UCI tour guide—joined the UCI Campus Representatives. “My whole UCI career is characterized by me exploring every nook and cranny of the campus,” she says. “Really, it was my way of forming myself and seeing where I fit in.”

uci soc sci 2016

about me sitting back and letting other people tell me their story.”

I started out with the mindset of ‘I’m going to change the world.’ And then I slowly realized that there are millions more people who are doing this work. And I’d rather help them.

While she learned a great deal from each program she was a part of during that year, the one that had the biggest impact was the UCI Costa Rica Program in Global Sustainability and Cultural Immersion. The program involved two quarters of classes on campus, and during spring break of her second year, Asthana jetted off to Costa Rica with fellow students where she studied civic engagement, cultural competency, and sustainability. She later presented her research findings to members of the UCI community at the UCI Costa Rica Program Research Symposium. “I would say Costa Rica marks this moment, in retrospect, when I first started what I call listening to other voices,” she says. “Because up until then mostly everything I was doing was kind of ego-centric. Starting my education as a business major, you kind of seek to find profit and avenues for you to make your space in. But in Costa Rica, I just started absorbing everything.” This experience was a transformative one for her, and ended up affecting her entire outlook on her place in the world. She says that for more than a year after returning from Costa Rica, she took only cold showers. She also began composting in her apartment, and presented ideas about sustainability and composting programs to her housing team when she came back as a programs advisor in her third year. “That was the first time I found myself being really impacted by other people’s realities,” she says. “And that is what really made me delve more into anthropology. It was more

She carried this newfound passion through to her studies in anthropology, getting involved in the department’s honors program and—with the help of her advisor and mentor, associate professor and director of undergraduate students Keith Murphy—carving out her own path to do research abroad for her undergraduate thesis. Then came the hard part; choosing a research topic. For Asthana, whose eyes and ears were always open for the next subject to catch her interest, it was a struggle. Eventually, she ended up choosing to study social movements—specifically the Chilean student movement for public, free, and high-quality education. She set off for Santiago, Chile in June 2015, where she settled in as a student at Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. In addition to her courses in anthropology and entrepreneurship, she was able to witness firsthand the political power dynamics on a very conservative, Catholic university campus. “There are many student political groups that feel unsupported by the university as they engage in everyday politics,” she says. “For example, if the university doesn’t agree with an event’s content, they won’t allow it to happen on campus. These kind of dynamics led to student political organizations proposing new processes of democratization on the university level.” While she conducted her research and immersed herself in Chilean culture, she also interned at Londres 38, an ex-detention center converted into a space of memory for victims of political torture during the Chilean military dictatorship. There, she translated testimonials of survivors. “It was a very real thing,” she says. “That was like my political awakening.” Similar to her experience in Costa Rica, Asthana took her experiences in Chile to heart. “That happens to me,” she says. “I’ll have these experiences that just fundamentally change the way I think about things instantly. It’s a little impulsive, and it’s not even always conscious.” Whether conscious or not, her views have

changed drastically since her first campus tour, and with so many experiences under her belt now, it isn’t hard to see why. She has transitioned from what she calls ‘an entitled millennial’ to ‘a listening ear’ and to a helper to those who are already doing work to change the world. It’s no longer about ego for her. “I started out with the mindset of ‘I’m going to change the world,’” she says. “And then I slowly realized that there are millions more people who are doing this work. And I’d rather help them. That’s where activism and advocacy come in—seeing where my skills can help and how I can be of service to other people.” Since returning from Chile, she has put these skills and desire to serve to use. She traveled to San Diego just this spring as part of the UCI Alternative Spring Break Program, where she participated in community service and learned about the struggle of undocumented immigrant communities. She’s attended the 31st Annual Empowering Women of Color Conference and the UCSA’s Student Lobby Conference; been chosen as the Department of Anthropology’s Outstanding Undergraduate Student; and received the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Research. So what are her plans moving forward? In true Asthana fashion, it’s not set in stone. If she is awarded the Fulbright Scholarship (she is currently an alternate), she will travel to Uruguay next year to continue her education and research. She is also applying to jobs in various community organizations, so whatever she ends up doing, it will be in the interest of the greater good. “My commencement speech is kind of a call to action,” she says. “I’m asking that we take a step back and realize this is a lot bigger than us. Our successes are not just our own—it’s success for our families, it’s success for our generation. I want us to see our education as a privilege and thank ourselves, and realize that we can do so much, if we so choose.”



be bold

t e s t i n g

LIMITS Commencement speaker Aliza Asad encourages new graduates to push themselves past their comfort zones

It’s through opportunities ... where I was given things that I thought were far beyond my potential, that I started to believe that maybe these things are really achievable if I put in the effort and push myself. Asad standing next to the Lennon Wall during a trip to Prague


hen asked what the takeaway from her upcoming commencement address will be, Aliza Asad has a simple yet profound answer.

campus, she was reluctant to make friends, join any clubs or campus organizations, or really step out of her comfort zone at all.

“Take comfort in discomfort,” she says. “It’s an important step to using your perspective and identity to create some sort of meaningful impact on someone.”

“College campuses can take a little bit of exploration in order for you to find your niche. I don’t think you can just come in and say ‘this is it, this is where I belong.’ There has to be some amount of trial and error that has to go into that.”

The international studies and public health policy double major has faced her fair share of challenging situations, and she firmly believes that these experiences have made her a more well-rounded and compassionate person. That’s why in her commencement address she hopes to inspire her peers to embrace a little discomfort in their lives.

For Asad, the searching paid off when she discovered several groups that helped mold her into the person she is today. The first was New U, UCI’s on-campus, student-run newspaper. She loved that it offered her a space to express herself through written word and it encouraged her to branch out further.

In fact, Asad’s entire first year at UCI could be described as one long, uncomfortable situation. She admits that when she arrived on

She also joined Global Connect, UCI’s student outreach program that allows undergrads to teach current events at local high schools.

“I loved that I was able to take what I was learning at UCI and really apply it somewhere where it had a tangible impact,” she shares. “You can see the kids start to get really interested in these topics throughout the year. It’s really rewarding to see that what you’re doing actually impacts someone.” Around the same time that she joined Global Connect, Asad’s resident advisor brought her to an Olive Tree Initiative (OTI) meeting. She felt at home almost immediately. With her new group, Asad truly came into her own. She became co-president of OTI during her third year, and traveled to Israel and the West Bank as part of the organization’s experiential education program. She also had the opportunity to guest lecture in one of political science associate professor Daniel Brunstetter’s upper division international studies classes, where she presented information on the militant group Boko Haram.

uci soc sci 2016

olive tree INITIATIVE Program sows seeds of peace Asad at Goreme National Park in Cappadocia, Turkey

Experiences like those—where she was able to practically apply what she had been learning about in the real world— were her most valued as an undergrad.

“It was just such a personally enriching experience. It was sort of a test. It forced me to learn to adjust to a new situation and trust myself to figure it out.”

The challenge though, she notes, is that reaching for these opportunities takes quite a bit of courage in itself. She cites the moment Brunstetter asked her to guest lecture as an example. She was shocked and honored, but also felt a wave of self-doubt approach.

Asad gives major credit to the School of Social Sciences faculty and staff for making her UCI career challenging in a way that prepared her for life beyond graduation. “I think it’s because of a lot of the relationships I’ve had with faculty and program directors and peers that I’ve been able to recognize what I have the potential to do. That, as opposed to gliding through, I have the ability to really achieve something.”

It would have been easier to turn him down than to deal with the stress leading up to her moment at the front of the classroom, but Asad decided to let the request expand her thinking: Maybe she And that is precisely the sentiment she was qualified after all. hopes to convey in her commencement “It’s through opportunities like that, where address; that the challenges graduates I was given things that I thought were far may face should not be seen as roadbeyond my potential, that I started to be- blocks, but as chances to grow. And that lieve that maybe these things are really a little discomfort can actually be a huge achievable if I put in the effort and push stepping-stone in the pursuit of one’s goals. myself,” she says. For herself, Asad isn’t quite sure what the future holds yet. She will no doubt arrive at a decision the same way she became co-president of OTI, a guest lecturer at a prestigious university, and her class commencement speaker; with some hard work, a little nudge from friends, and the She had to learn to adapt, especially when thought that maybe comfort is overrated it came to the language barrier, but she after all. found value in the challenge. Asad was finally able to challenge herself in a real-world scenario during the fall quarter of her senior year. She spent that time studying abroad in Istanbul, Turkey, and the experience ended up being a defining moment of her college career.


he Olive Tree Initiative was founded in 2007 by a religiously and ethnically diverse group of UCI students with the goal of promoting education and dialogue on conflict in the Middle East. Each year, participating students travel to the Middle East or the South Caucasus region where they learn from academics, religious authorities, community leaders, politicians, and activists who live in the region. The students gain knowledge beyond mainstream media reports and bring back these unique perspectives. OTI hosts weekly campus dialogue sessions, monthly community forums, an annual education week, a UC-wide student leadership summit, and various events off campus to share their experiences. OTI’s work serves as the foundation of UCI’s undergraduate certificate program in conflict analysis and resolution, which offers students academic credit for work leading up to and following their learning trip. OTI now has active groups operating on UC campuses in Berkeley, Irvine, Los Angeles, and Santa Barbara; a new international chapter at the University of Glasgow, Scotland; and additional branches in the works at other universities nationwide. OTI alumni include Rhodes, Fulbright and Rotary scholars, and some of the program’s first graduates are already cultivating careers at non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and in international politics.



be bold

GETTING HIS HEAD IN THE GAME Darren Fells, sociology ’14, went from Anteater basketball to the NFL—after sports, he hopes to use his degree to pursue a career in counseling

uci soc sci 2016

Darren Fells, #85, squares off against the Eagles’ Malcom Jenkins


be bold


ust remember—football is 80 percent mental, and 40 percent physical.

Though the math doesn’t quite add up in this quote from the 1994 peewee football film, “The Little Giants” (former pro football player Steve Emtman delivered the line), you’d be hard-pressed to find an NFL player today who doesn’t agree that a majority of their beloved game depends heavily on one’s mindset. Just ask 2014 UCI sociology grad—and current tight end for the Arizona Cardinals—Darren Fells. Yes, though UCI does not have a football team, it does have an alumnus in the NFL. The former Anteater basketball star played football in high school before deciding to pursue basketball in college. He later played basketball professionally for five years in Europe and South America before being drafted into the NFL during open tryouts in 2012. But Fells got much more out of his college experience than a career as a professional athlete. His degree in sociology has helped him both on and off the field, and he hopes to pursue counseling when his time in the NFL comes to a close. So what does a sociology degree have to do with professional sports? A lot, according to Fells.

His studies in sociology didn’t just help Fells with his teammates. His interest in the subject extends to interest in other cultures, and he even credits his UCI courses for inspiring him to sign the contract that sent him to Europe to play basketball. One introductory sociology class in particular, which required the students to choose one ethnic group to study and then present to the class, sticks out in his mind. “During the group presentations I remember thinking how interesting all these other cultures were,” he says. “I was jealous of the other groups. That’s one reason why I ended up going and playing basketball overseas—so that I could experience different cultures for myself.” And experience other cultures he did. Fells played in Belgium, Finland, France, Mexico, and Argentina before finally deciding that his heart was with football. So he moved back to the U.S. to pursue a spot in the NFL. It was a tough change, but he says that the biggest challenge was adjusting to the language and game culture more than the physical aspects. Fells (with the ball) takes a shot during a UCI basketball game

“I was always very interested in why people behave the way they do,” he says. “It’s so interesting to me how you can understand people’s mentalities and how different people approach certain situations,” Fells says. Understanding the various factors that affect how a person reacts to a situation is invaluable when playing a team sport like football—especially when there is a lot at stake and tensions can run high. “With sociology, you learn to understand how people act in a certain environment, and in football, you’re in an environment with peers and you’re all trying to get the exact same result,” he says. That understanding can also help one know how to diffuse high-stress situations, and Fells has found himself acting as a “therapist” to some teammates over the years, lending an ear or offering advice when he sees someone who needs it. “It’s an every day, every game situation, but once you do understand a person’s mindset, it’s easier to pick up on when they may be off their game and understand what you need to do to get them back focused to help the team out.”

Photo courtesy of UCI Athletics


uci soc sci 2016

Fells and his family pose for a portrait

Every time I come out of that tunnel, it still feels like a dream.

“Skipping college football and going from playing basketball into the NFL, I definitely missed a huge step in learning,” he says. “To use a math analogy, it was like going from addition straight to statistics.” But the reward of playing a game that he loves definitely makes up for the difficult transition. “Football was one of those things I always knew I loved and wanted to do,” he shares. “Even now, coming out of the tunnel and hearing the roar of the crowd during home games, it’s pretty intense. Every time I come out of that tunnel, it still feels like a dream.”

Team photos courtesy of Arizona Cardinals

For now, Fells’ focus is having as long of a career in the League as possible, and enjoying time with his wife and baby daughter— but he is hoping to start researching a master’s program in counseling soon. “I just love helping people,” he says. “I love understanding why they think a certain way and helping them figure out their problems. I’m considering going into guidance counseling back in college, or maybe marriage counseling. There’s so much to choose from, just choosing the right one is the hardest part.”



be bold

AGAINST THE GRAIN Poli sci alumna Tiara Chiaramonte ’10 worked against the odds—and the advice of others—to forge a successful career in journalism


iara Chiaramonte, poli sci ’10, has always had strong opinions.

The UCI graduate, who now spends her days (and often nights) creating video content and graphics for The Huffington Post, was even voted “most opinionated” in her Yorba Linda high school’s graduating class. “I was always politically active in high school,” she says. “I wrote for the school newspaper, I was in the debate program, I started the Model United Nations club at my high school, and I was always involved in current events and politics really early on. I was super Goth and I hated the establishment—I was kind of a weird kid.” Weird though she may have felt, Chiaramonte’s steadfast approach to life’s various social issues made her quite the student, and an excellent candidate for any college she had her heart set on. The problem was, her longtime dream to study journalism

Chiaramonte is joined by her father and sister on the day of her UCI commencement

was somewhat squashed when the industry took a downward turn in the early 2000s. Instead, her parents nudged her toward law school, and UCI seemed like a great starting point. She went through the motions completing pre-law courses her first year, but she couldn’t ignore the itch to join the journalism world. “Law seemed like a fair compromise with my parents, because I could still be involved in politics somehow, but I could never really kick the fact that I wanted to work in media,” she says. “So I secretly started taking the media classes offered in the political science department.” After that first class, a religion and media course offered by former lecturer and

Professor Brunstetter really helped me conceptualize that there is a lot more out there than just Orange County and how important it is to think about things in a bigger space.

uci soc sci 2016

Chiaramonte met Arianna Huffington while photographing a book-signing event in Los Angeles. As they said goodbye, she thanked the startup guru for the invaluable opportunity. But Huffington took her by surprise. “She said, ‘I need you to move to New York and work for my team,” Chiaramonte says. The next thing she knew, she had two months to get her affairs in order and make the move across the country, and so far she’s been thrilled with the choice she made. She was able to transition from graphic design to video editing—her true passion—eight months ago, and creates video shorts on topics ranging from recipes to makeup tips to sexism and catcalling at comic book conventions. She loves the variety of topics she works on and the creative freedom the job allows her. Chiaramonte films a wild food forager for her grad school thesis

alumnus Bill Lobdell, ’82, she was officially hooked—despite being told by Lobdell that journalism was an especially risky career choice. She let her parents believe that she was still interested in a law degree, while in reality she was taking courses from faculty members like Lobdell, lecturer Ricardo Chavira, and associate professor Daniel Brunstetter focused on broader topics. She worked hard to absorb as much information as possible, and says that the multi-disciplinary approach she took while at UCI was instrumental in her success later on in both grad school and the work force. “Professor Brunstetter really helped me conceptualize that there is a lot more out there than just Orange County and how important it is to think about things in a bigger space,” she says. “When I think back to UC Irvine, the classes I remember the best and most fondly are his because he really got me to think outside of the box.” As graduation approached and her love of journalism continued to grow, Chiaramonte knew that it was almost time to drop the law school façade. Though she admits to feeling bad about lying to her parents, she was confident in her decision to pursue a path in journalism. She decided to take a year off after graduating from UCI to hone her skills in graphic design at a local community college, and it wasn’t long before she was admitted into the graduate program in broadcast journalism at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. It was there

that she realized just how well UCI had prepared her when she saw some of the courses fellow students were taking. “A lot of my fellow grad students were taking classes around political reporting and world theory, but I felt like I got a great understanding of all of that at UC Irvine and I was really far ahead of everyone else,” she explains. Such classes led her to a very successful internship at Yahoo! Inc., writing stories and creating visually engaging slideshows to be featured on their homepage. When her stories started to break millions of views, the team decided to hire her on full-time— before she had even finished her master’s degree. After cutting her teeth at Yahoo for a while, she accepted a gig designing graphics for The Advocate and Out Magazine, but it was a mere six months before her work there caught the attention of The Huffington Post. The online news juggernaut offered her a six-month fellowship, and the opportunity was too good to pass up. With no guarantee of a job once her fellowship was over, she threw herself into the work, hoping to impress her new employer. She became the brand’s first social graphics editor, cultivating its Tumblr presence and building graphics and quote cards for breaking news stories from the Huff Post’s Los Angeles offices. As the end of her fellowship approached,

Though she may be settling in to her role in the working world, Chiaramonte continues to utilize the education that she received at UCI. Even the classes she disliked as an undergrad have proven to be essential. “I hated that one year of statistics I had to take as an undergrad,” she admits. “But now, stats is something I use in my job more than anything. Everyday I have a huge dashboard open with social media analytics to see what performs best, what’s trending, etc. to see what I’m going to do for the next video I produce to make it go viral. That one year of social science stats is something I use every day.” Having the experience of following a path she wasn’t passionate about made her want to work that much harder once she discovered journalism, and that experience is what continues to motivate her today. “What motivates me now to go above and beyond and stay in the office until 8 p.m. a lot of nights is just that I love it,” she says. “So now I try to do everything I can to put out work that I am proud of and that reflects how much I love the industry I work in.” Chiaramonte plans to continue with her career in video production and hopes to be at the forefront of the newest trends in the industry, eventually directing a team and producing videos on a larger scale. Whether that means for television, documentaries, or some yet-to-come medium, she doesn’t know, but the UCI family can expect to see her name in the main credits before too long. After all, when this Anteater wants something, she finds a way to make it happen.



be bold

a sunny OUTLOOK Decorated international studies alumna and 2015 commencement speaker now spends her days volunteering with the Peace Corps in Fiji


t’s been a whirlwind of a year for Sunny Liu.

As one of the speakers at the 2015 School of Social Sciences commencement ceremonies, she addressed thousands of her peers and their families, sharing her experiences, her passion for public health, and the value of perseverance. “It was truly an honor to be a representative of my class at last year’s graduation,” she says. “Looking back, it was like a dream, with every moment of my four-year journey at UCI building up to that grand finale.” Since that day, she has barely paused to

catch her breath: she recalls the adrenaline of being on stage, the rush of love and acceptance as her parents embraced her after her speech, the excitement of finally getting the chance to backpack across Europe (checking an item off of her bucket list), and finally, the nerves and exhilaration when it was time to set off for her journey as a peer health educator with the Peace Corps. But in the midst of her post-graduate frenzy, she had found just enough time to be profoundly grateful for her experiences—both at UCI and beyond. “Compared to most of the world, who still live in poverty on less than one dollar a day to sustain their life, I feel very privileged to have received my education,” Liu shares. “And I feel responsible to utilize my opportunities … so I can move on, either to higher education or a future career where I can contribute to helping people.” It’s a sentiment she is passionate about, and she wasted no time in following through with those plans once she graduated. In September of last year—only a few months after she delivered her speech—she left for Fiji on a service mission with the Peace Corps, forgoing several prestigious fellowship opportunities that many graduates would have jumped at. But she is confident in her decision to pursue this volunteer path that aligns with her passion for global health, and maintains that she is learning invaluable skills in her role as a peer health educator. “While most of my friends and family considered my choice to enter the Peace Corps to be noble and sacrificial, what they don’t

uci soc sci 2016

Liu (second from right) at the Peace Corps Volunteer Swearing-in Ceremony in Tahiti

see is how much I’ve learned from the people here, as much they have learned from me,” Liu says.

I feel responsible to utilize my opportunities … so I can move on, either to higher education or a future career where I can contribute to helping people.

After two months of intensive language and cultural training, she began work with the Reproductive and Family Health Association of Fiji and now works closely with primary and secondary school children to empower them and provide reproductive health training. And while she has already been greatly affected by the experience—it’s not necessarily in the way she expected. “Like most people, I envisioned my Peace Corps experience with many grand plans,” she shares. “I believed that with my education and work experience, I would come to this tiny South Pacific island to offer the best of my knowledge—to change the world. In reality, I still have much to learn.” Liu will continue working with the Peace Corps for the time being—she hasn’t decided when she will return home—and hopes that she will continue to gain knowledge and perspectives that will aid her in her

quest to create global health equality. “As I initiate controversial conversations with Fijians, I begin to understand the richness of their culture, their simultaneous but contradictory pursuit of progress and traditional values, as well as their desire for social change,” she says. “I have encountered people who have challenged my world view, and helped me see their world from their perspectives. Every day is a new learning experience.”



be bold

a l u m n i

ON THE RISE ’08 entrepreneurs Andrew Bertolina and Kelsey Minarik illustrate innovation, teamwork, and the power of networking

uci soc sci 2016



be bold


n the world of start-ups, success doesn’t just hinge on the strength of a business plan or the determination of the founder. Oftentimes, who you know and collaborate with speaks volumes to investors and potential clients. And when two alumni from UCI’s School of Social Sciences form a partnership, both companies are one step closer to greatness. That was precisely the case with Andrew Bertolina and Kelsey Minarik. Though they didn’t know each other as students, the budding entrepreneurs were brought together by the UCI family and formed an unexpected collaboration—one that has helped to develop each of their growing start-ups. For Bertolina—whose company, Finvoice, provides a platform for small businesses to auction their invoices—that means generating more clients. For Minarik—who produces fashionable and functional medical supplies through her company, RejuvaHealth—that means finding the capital to run a young business. And with such complementary needs, their partnership was a match made in start-up heaven.


Starting a company wasn’t necessarily at the front of either founder’s mind while at UCI. Bertolina was playing tennis, pursuing a degree in economics and imagining a career with the World Bank while Minarik was busy double majoring in international studies and business management and studying abroad in Europe. But the carefree college life was rudely interrupted for the 21-yearold Minarik just as she was about to begin her junior year. “About a week before the quarter started, I had a trip planned to New York,” she says. “During the flight there I noticed severe swelling in one of my legs. I kind of ignored it and went through the whole week in New York. But it didn’t lessen, it just got worse.” When she arrived back on the west coast, a sore throat brought her to the family physician who saw her leg and immediately sent her to the emergency room. “So, sure enough, I went and they found I had a large deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or a blood clot in my leg,” she says. Part of her treatment plan was to wear compression stockings, which Minarik says offered almost immediate relief from the pain. But as a young and vibrant college student, she was less-than-thrilled with the boring options available. In fact, she admits that sometimes she just wouldn’t wear them because she found them so inconvenient and embarrassing. After an unsuccessful online search for something more stylish, she

I could have stayed in [the finance] field and had a good career and made a decent amount of money, but I felt like there were more opportunities out there.

resigned herself to wearing the bulky stockings for the remainder of her college career. But shortly after graduation—while working as a sales and marketing manager for a private company—Minarik started to wonder what it would take to produce something a little more stylish herself. Her father encouraged her to make a business plan in Microsoft Excel, and after taking a look at the numbers, they realized that this idea could actually work. “Just from kind of a natural curiosity I was like ‘well, maybe I should look at what I could buy these things for if I were to produce them,’” she says. “And it just kind of snowballed.” While Minarik was working on getting RejuvaHealth up and running, Bertolina was cutting his teeth in the finance world. Though he had success in both venture capital and consulting in the few years following his graduation from UCI, he couldn’t shake the desire to make new connections and expand his horizons. “I think I could have stayed in that field and had a good career and made a decent amount of money, but I felt like there were more opportunities out there,” he says. So, he traveled across the pond to complete a specialized graduate program at Cambridge University. While earning his M.A. in finance, he began working for a venture capital firm based in the U.K., which also had a headquarters in San Francisco. This turned into a job stateside once he completed his degree, and it was there— while making cold calls and researching the world’s top entrepreneurs—that Bertolina decided that he wanted to start his own company.

—Andrew Bertolina

He had first considered the idea of small business financing as a UCI student, where he imagined himself working for an organization like the World Bank to help people in emerging markets. So, when the idea came up again at his new firm—after seeing the lack of funding for micro businesses in developing nations like India and Latin America—he knew he was on to something. From there, he decided to morph the concept to aide businesses stateside and Finvoice officially launched just over one year ago.

Minarik’s goal is to make compression stockings that don’t compromise on style

Described by Bertolina as an “eBay for invoices,” Finvoice customers are able to post their invoices to be bid on by investors. This allows the company to keep their doors

uci soc sci 2016 “I spoke to Kelsey about what we were doing and explained that we were looking to test the model, and she agreed to be one of our pilot customers,” he says. “We owe companies like RejuvaHealth and Kelsey a lot, because in the early days people really have to believe in you to work with you. So we’re really thankful for that.” Since then, RejuvaHealth has been a repeat customer, and Finvoice even recently posted a case study about Minarik and her company on its website. Now, both businesses are booming. Finvoice has experienced impressive growth since it incorporated last September, growing both its client base and its team (which even includes another UCI alumnus). As for RejuvaHealth, the company was named one of the “Top 30 Startups to Watch” by Entrepreneur Magazine in 2014 and has recently partnered with Dr. Comfort—a leading orthopedic shoe provider—to expand their products to clinical medical channels. “It’s been amazing and validating,” Minarik says. “I feel really lucky because one of the most rewarding things are the calls we get everyday from people who we’re helping to make their lives a little better.”


Though they have both settled into their roles as founders, there have absolutely been some bumps in the road. But the result is that they both have great advice for up-and-coming entrepreneurs. For Minarik, coming to terms with the fact that things will go wrong was a big part of the learning process.

Bertolina’s company, Finvoice, helps small businesses thrive

“Finvoice is sort of an evolution of this passion I had for helping people through development economics,” Bertolina says. “Small businesses typically get paid in 50 to 60 days according to the Small Business Association. They have to pay their employees every two weeks and they have to buy supplies for their business, so a lot of them don’t have the capital on hand and they go out of business because they’re waiting for payments.” Offers are based on their clientele, and the more times a company uses the service, the less expensive it becomes for them. “This has been an evolution for almost a decade, beginning with studying economics at UC Irvine,” he says.


As their two very different ventures expanded, both Anteaters were looking for the best ways to make their businesses last for the long haul. Minarik was working on fulfilling large orders of her compression stockings for companies like Brookstone, and Bertolina was compiling a dream team to get Finvoice up and running. Then, in 2014, an on-campus alumni panel brought the two together. Organized by UCI social sciences lecturer Seymour Schlosser—mentor to both Minarik and Bertolina, this alumni business panel gave each of them a chance to discuss their experiences in the business world with current students. After hearing Minarik speak on the struggles of financing the large orders during the panel, Bertolina—who was looking for pilot customers at the time—approached her about working together.

“One thing that can be a caveat with entrepreneurs is they all think ‘I have the best idea and I know everything,’” Minarik says. “But the beauty about being an entrepreneur is that you quickly learn that you know nothing.” This can be a hard concept for recent graduates to accept, especially at a school like UCI that is home to such high performers. She suggests that undergrads learn as much as they can from faculty while that expertise is easily accessible. But she cautions that no matter how well you prepare, you’re never going to build a successful company without taking a few missteps. “As a student it’s so easy to get caught up in the worry of the grades,” Minarik continues. “But the other thing about being an entrepreneur is that you’re going to screw up even when you give your 100 percent.” Because of the nature of the business world, she notes that it’s important to prepare, but to also let those mistakes and problems that arise act as teaching moments instead of becoming discouraged. Bertolina seconds that sentiment and notes that it takes a special kind of person to build a company from the ground up. “Founders can be wild people at times,” he says. “The term people throw around is ‘irrationally optimistic.’ You have to think that things are going to succeed even when you don’t know where you’re going to find your next customer. There’s a lot of uncertainty. So you have to have a risk tolerance, but you also have to be very optimistic that things will work out.” Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have a network of talented classmates to call upon from time to time. And as both of these alumni will surely be in their businesses for quite awhile, there may be even more Anteater collaborations to come.



be bold

NATIONAL attention

Distinguished Professor Vicki Ruiz receives the National Humanities Medal from President Barack Obama

O I consider this award as one that recognizes the field of Latina history more than me as an individual. That said, I am deeply honored by this once-in-a-lifetime acknowledgement of my work.

n Sept 10, 2015, Vicki Ruiz, Distinguished Professor of history and Chicano/Latino studies at UCI and president of the American Historical Association, was awarded the 2014 National Humanities Medal. She was among 10 honorees from elite universities nationwide who accepted the award from President Barack Obama in a ceremony at the White House. The National Humanities Medal recognizes those who have deepened the country’s understanding of humanities and broadened citizens’ engagement with history, literature, languages, philosophy and other such disciplines. Recipients are selected by the president of the United States in association with the National Endowment for the Humanities. “We couldn’t be prouder of our very deserving Professor Vicki Ruiz,” said UCI Chancellor Howard Gillman. “She is a first-rate academ-

ic, campus leader, and tireless researcher of immigrant women’s stories, and these are the kinds of histories we don’t hear often enough. She has so much to teach us.” “I consider this award as one that recognizes the field of Latina history more than me as an individual,” Ruiz said. “When I was a graduate student, I could not begin to imagine all of the stories awaiting interested scholars in public archives and personal memories. That said, I am deeply honored by this once-in-alifetime acknowledgement of my work.” While earning master’s and doctoral degrees in history at Stanford University in the late ’70s and early ’80s, she spent a transformative summer with Latino civil rights and labor leader Luisa Moreno. “I was transfixed by her stories. On the last day of my stay, I blurted out, ‘I know what I’m going to do for my dissertation. I’m going to write about you,’” Ruiz recalled.

uci soc sci 2016

“But Moreno shook her head and said, ‘No, no. You are going to write your dissertation on the cannery workers in Southern California. You find these women.’” That’s how Ruiz’s life’s work began. An expert in 20th century U.S. history, the softspoken historian has dedicated much of her nearly 40-year academic career to reclaiming the stories of Latinas who have fought for civil and labor rights. “We all know stories about neighborhood women, but if you look at the panorama of their experiences, their names are often hidden in organizational minutes, in government documents, in diaries, in newspapers,” Ruiz said. “Once their stories emerge, you get a sense of their quiet courage.” Ruiz shared their experiences through her research on Mexican American women in the U.S. Southwest and, in the process, pioneered the field of Chicana/Latina history. She began with the direction Moreno set, publishing Cannery Women, Cannery Lives: Mexican Women, Unionization and the California Food Processing Industry, 1930-1950 in 1987. Since then, Ruiz has written or edited several more books, including Latinas in the United States: A Historical Encyclopedia, which she co-edited in 2006. The three-volume set—with more than 600 entries and 300 photographs—documents contributions by Latina women to the economic and cultural development of the United States. The first comprehensive gathering of scholarship on Latinas, it was named a 2007 Best of Reference book by the New York Public Library and an Outstanding Title by the Association of American University Presses. “Vicki Ruiz’s scholarship is a powerful testament to the ways the humanities can deepen and enrich our understanding of the world as well as of the lives of those who have made a difference to how we live in the world. Vicki Ruiz has literally written Latina women and Hispanic civil rights leaders into history. She could not be more deserving of this honor, and we at the School of Humanities remain indelibly proud of her,” said

Georges Van Den Abbeele, humanities dean. In 2000, Ruiz was named “Woman of the Year in Education” by Latina magazine, and in 2009, she was inducted into Stanford’s Multicultural Alumni Hall of Fame, established in 1995 to recognize distinguished alumni of color. In 2012, Ruiz was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, and in 2013, she was named Distinguished Professor of history and Chicano/Latino studies at UCI, an honor considered the campus’s highest for faculty. In 2015, UCI’s Alumni Association bestowed upon her the Lauds & Laurel Faculty Achievement award. Ruiz serves on an advisory board for the Smithsonian National Museum of American History and on the board of Imagining America: Artists & Scholars in Public Life, a national action research consortium. She has been president of four major scholarly groups, including the Organization of American Historians and the American Studies Association. The first in her family to earn an advanced degree, Ruiz joined the UCI faculty in 2001 and was named dean of humanities in 2008. She completed her term in 2012 and now chairs the Department of Chicano/Latino Studies in the School of Social Sciences. “This medal is recognition where it’s due— and at the highest level—I couldn’t be more excited,” said Bill Maurer, social sciences dean. “Professor Ruiz has pioneered the study of Latinas in the United States and has championed Chicano/Latino studies nation-

ally and internationally. She has also been a vibrant and vital academic administrator. Her energy is infectious, and her own story is incredibly inspiring.” Throughout her successful career, Ruiz hasn’t lost sight of her initial plan: to tell the story of civil rights and labor leader Luisa Moreno. “She’s one of the most famous Latinas no one knows about,” Ruiz said. With her Stanford mentor Albert Camarillo, she’s now writing Moreno’s biography, coming full circle to what she sought to write at age 23. Ruiz is UCI’s first National Humanities Medal recipient. Including this year’s awardees, 163 individuals and 12 groups have been honored since 1996, when the first medal was conferred. “The National Endowment for the Humanities is proud to join President Obama in celebrating the achievements of these distinguished medalists,” said NEH Chairman William Adams. “The individuals receiving this medal have sparked our imaginations, ignited our passions and transformed our cultural understanding. They embody how the humanities can serve a common good.”

Catch footage of the ceremony online



be bold

extending her REACH Kimberly (Snodgrass) Moore ’09 runs a nonprofit dedicated to breaking the cycle of homelessness


or Kimberly (Snodgrass) Moore, foster care offered an escape from what seemed an otherwise bleak future. For the first 10 years of her life, she was virtually homeless as her alcoholic, drug-addicted mother shuffled her and her four siblings between motel rooms, shelters and, ultimately, foster care. But that was then. Now, armed with an undergraduate degree in social science from UCI and a master’s in education from Harvard, she’s committed to helping foster youth—just like her—break the cycle of homelessness. The go-getter is five years in on running a nonprofit dedicated to increasing high school graduation rates of foster youth through focused mentorship activities, life skills workshops, college prep coaching, and scholarship funding. The program is

uci soc sci 2016

called Realizing Every Action Creates Hope (REACH), and in 2011, it won first place— and $50,000—in the Pepsi Refresh Project. Moore started the program while she was teaching in the Boston public school system, and it’s since moved to the Bay area and boasts 43 student participants. They’ve also expanded into doing research on mental health of youth—now adults—raised in foster care.

I truly believe in giving back and it’s been an incredible journey to see so many lives changed with the power of mentorship.

“There are roughly 750,000 kids that pass through the U.S. foster care system each year, and there are more than 463,000 kids in foster care on any given day. Many of these children, due to the numerous circumstances of being in care, have high tendencies to have difficulties in school,” she says. “Of these children, only 40-50 percent actually graduate high school, and only 1-2 percent graduate from college.” Moore realizes that without the assistance she received through foster care, great teachers, and a great adoptive family, she could have easily been on the bottom half of these statistics. “Before being placed in foster care, I can remember being left to care for my younger brother and sister for days at a time. That’s how I learned to cook for my siblings,” she says. “I never attended school for more than two weeks at a time because we were always on the run to the next place to sleep.” That all changed when she was 11 and placed with the Snodgrass family, along with her two younger siblings. Through the help of Orangewood Children’s Home in Orange, they joined the couple’s four children and two other foster children, all of whom the couple adopted five years later. With a stable home life and extra help from her teachers, Moore caught up academically with her peers, graduating from high school with honors. She also played in the school band, played club roller hockey with all of her siblings, managed multiple school clubs, all while working at KWD Uniforms across the street from La Habra High School to pay for her own car and other “necessities” of a typical teenager.

She was accepted to UCI where, as an Orangewood Guardian Scholar—a program that helps former foster children pursue a college education—she participated in Global Connect, Jumpstart, and the Community Service Leadership Program, three social sciences programs she says that allowed her to give back to the community while preparing her for a career in public service. She completed the social sciences’ fiveweek, research-intensive Summer Academic Enrichment Program (SAEP) where she pursued in-depth research on the national foster care system, a topic she further explored at Princeton University’s competitive Public Policy and International Affairs Junior Summer Institute program, and through her graduate work at Harvard. Somewhere in all of her free time, she authored a children’s book and her autobiography, I Am a Foster Child, and That’s Okay With Me and Things Happen for a Reason: Even Foster Care and Adoption, while working as a teaching assistant at UCI and the Early Childhood Learning Center, and as an intern with Orangewood’s CEO. “It’s my mission to give back to the community of foster children,” she says. “I have been blessed with so much in my life, and I can only hope to bring inspiration and hope to others.” In addition to running her nonprofit, Moore is currently managing portfolio partnerships at Innovation Endeavors, an early-stage venture capital firm based in Palo Alto and Tel-Aviv backed by Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Alphabet Inc. (formerly Google). “It’s fun to see new technology coming out of the valley and all over the world and to be a part of the growth plan for our entrepreneurs,” she says. She’s also a board member of the California Court Appointed Special Advocate Association (California CASA) where she’s on the Fund Development Committee. “I truly believe in giving back to this population and it’s been an incredible journey to see so many lives changed with the power of mentorship,” she says.



be bold

serious SERVICE

2016 SPPS graduate Daniel Cano is determined to make education more accessible for minority groups and first gen students like him


t’s always refreshing to see a student who is not only passionate about their own education, but about ensuring education for others. Daniel Cano, a 2016 graduate from social policy and public service, is one such individual. The California native understands the struggles many young people face getting access to education—as a first generation student himself, he hadn’t even considered going to college until his junior year in high school when he heard two other students discussing the campus tours they had taken. He draws on those experiences, and those of his friends and peers, to motivate him

to help others. “Everyone is born into different circumstances and everyone starts at a different point in the same race,” he says. “Some people have setbacks, and I want to help break down these barriers and elevate people to a more equitable space so everyone can have that access and that opportunity to achieve their potential.” Through his double major in SPPS and psychology and social behavior, Cano has spent most of his time at UCI finding ways to assist underserved communities with resources and access to higher education. He is particularly passionate about

helping Latino and first generation students, and conducted his field study work (a part of his SPPS curriculum) at the Save Our Youth (SOY) Center in Costa Mesa. The nonprofit agency serves lowincome and at-risk youth and offers a healthy environment for them to access mentoring, tutoring, and college preparedness resources. Since Cano received help from after school programs himself in high school, he was drawn to the thought of mentoring youth and helping them take advantage of educational opportunities. The center’s creative arts program was also a draw for the music-lover.

uci soc sci 2016

I do truly believe that people have this potential for greatness. Different factors will tap into that potential, but from what I’ve seen, I think the biggest factor could be education.



any UCI students choose to dedicate their free time to community and nonprofit organizations, simply because they want to make a difference. It’s an honorable trait that community-minded Anteaters share, and now with the revamped social policy and public service major, they are learning how to turn that desire to serve into a career.

At the heart of the program is a 300hour community service requirement. Coupled with the major’s math and statistics focus, students get first-hand experience with real-world tools that will serve them in their future careers. “To their benefit, students come out with both quantitative and qualitative training,” says Jeanett Castellanos, social sciences lecturer and program administrator. “For me, it’s really important that they go into the workforce or grad school with those analytical skills.” Learn more at

“In high school, I would produce music,” he says. “That was one of my hobbies. And, I never showcased that to the world. I just kept it to myself, instead of a diary. So for me to be able to tutor and instruct but also teach them about music composition or writing songs or poems—it let me put two passions together.” Cano was able to channel that passion into a research paper, in which he examined the declining high school graduation rates of Latino males. In fact, that same paper earned him the SPPS Research Award last year, which recognizes SPPS majors who have done outstanding original research that addresses a social issue within education, health or governance. Just this past fall, he was able to take his research interests across the country as a part of the UCDC program where he interned at the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics. As a student and intern, he was able to work hands-on with educational policy related to the Latino community, including writing policy memos. That part of the job, while difficult, offered invaluable writing skills and allowed him to experience the work that goes on behind policy changes. “I definitely gained a lot of skills that I didn’t have previously,” he says. “I attended networking events and met great people through the UCDC dorms—both from other UC schools and schools outside the UC system.” While doing so much work on a larger scale, Cano has been just as active helping his fellow UCI students. He co-founded the Social Policy and Public Service Advocates, an on-campus club that holds weekly meetings on topics such as protest culture, resume building, public speaking and more. The aim of the group is to form a community where various topics can be discussed and help can be offered in a comfortable environment. All students— both in and out of the SPPS major—are encouraged to join. Cano has also been involved with the Student Outreach and Retention Center (SOAR) and was a major player in the recently opened SOAR food pantry on campus. Though not a cause directly related to education, food insecurity is a very real issue for many college students. “When I started looking at data, 1 in 4 students reported being food insecure,”

he says. “That’s a big issue and I think it speaks to the larger issues of increased tuition and housing costs.” These bigger issues are what he hopes his peers will tackle as they all set off for their future careers. For his part, this August he will begin a yearlong fellowship with the Greenlining Institute—a nonprofit institute focused on research advocacy and policy reform, specifically within communities of color and low-income communities in the bay area. “It’s going to get me outside of my comfort zone in terms of public speaking— that’s what they heavily emphasize,” he says. “I’ll be doing research on the side but I’ll also be speaking to audiences and trying to get folks to implement policies and talk about certain issues that we see in the community.” Following his fellowship, the road is still open. His plans now include going back for a master’s degree with an emphasis on policy and education, and while he isn’t sure what form his career will take, he knows the impact he wants to make. “I want to make sure what I do is tied to empowering communities from disadvantaged backgrounds to really seek opportunities to help change their trajectories and their future generation’s trajectories,” he says. “I do truly believe that people have this potential for greatness. Different factors will tap into that potential, but from what I’ve seen, I think the biggest factor could be education.” He hopes that his fellow graduates and incoming UCI students will hold onto that same passion for advocacy and educational equality, and continue trying to make the world a more accessible place for people from all backgrounds. And those who have not yet found their voice should know that it isn’t too late. Cano was not always vocal about his opinions, though he always felt like an advocate in his own mind. It was his time at UCI and his experiences both on and off campus that he says gave him the tools and the confidence to publicly share his opinions. “To my fellow graduates, I would say speak your truth. Advocate for yourself. Advocate for equality,” he says. “And don’t hide your challenges and struggles. They can unify and unite people. Take the activism with you.”



be bold

motivated by


2015 Aldrich award winner makes UCI—and her mother—proud

uci soc sci 2016



be bold


here are very few people who would trade a 15-minute commute each morning for a 75-minute bus ride. Even fewer would voluntarily work after-hours every night for their own self-improvement. But sociology major and 2016 graduate Amy He was happily taking on such inconveniences as a high school student. This dedication to her studies is one of the characteristics that encouraged soc sci faculty members to nominate He for the prestigious Aldrich scholarship during her junior year. Her hard work has earned her more than 20 “A+” grades since arriving at UCI, and she is adamant about making a career for herself helping poor and minority students succeed. But the sociology and education double major is not only intelligent and ambitious, she is incredibly humble and quick to credit others with her successes. And there is no one that she gives more credit to than her mother.


He’s relationship with her mother has always been close. Growing up in Visitacion Valley, one of the poorer areas of San Francisco, she was raised solely by her mom,

Being low-income and getting to go to college is a privilege in itself, and I made it to UCI because a lot of people helped get me here.

who had emigrated from China a few years before He was born. Without a father in the picture, He’s mother worked tirelessly to support their family of two both financially and emotionally, with virtually no education and in a country where she did not speak the language. To pay the bills, she took a job as a janitor at a high-end salon, a position she has held for 15 years now. “She’s a very hard worker,” He explains. “She works at a very affluent salon and the people there only speak English, but she is very accepted there because of her heart.” Her mother’s unwavering support for her was instrumental in encouraging He to pursue academic success. Coupled with her own personal desire for the highest quality education, she made the choice to attend a well-reputed high school in the affluent Pier 39 area of San Francisco—a 75-minute bus ride from the modest home she shared with her mother, aunt, uncle, and cousins. The long commute was well worth it, however. The daily ride took He through all parts of the city—from the wealth of North Beach to the poverty-stricken Visitacion Valley— giving her a clear picture of the wealth disparity in her hometown. Most importantly, experiencing the advantages of attending school in a wealthy neighborhood sparked He’s desire to reform education, so that students like her who grew up in impoverished communities could have access to the same quality education as their financially-sound peers. At her new school, He was introduced to teachers who assisted her with tutoring and allowed her to stay after school to study, since her mother—without an education of her own—couldn’t help her with her homework. It made her realize how, if she didn’t

have instructors who were willing to make an extra effort for her or a mother to support her desire to go to a more distinguished school, it would be nearly impossible for her to make it to college. “Being low-income and getting to go to college is a privilege in itself, and I made it to UCI because a lot of people have helped get me here,” she says. “I have a supportive mother and I had teachers who cared about me enough to introduce me to programs that I could get involved in. I feel like a lot of kids—if they had that extra push—maybe could make it to college as well.”


Upon arriving at UCI, He jumped at countless opportunities to volunteer and get involved, both on and off campus. Her favorite was UCI’s Alternative Break, which she became involved with during her freshman year when she signed up for a trip to a Native American reservation. For He, taking on work and volunteer opportunities in addition to her studies is part

uci soc sci 2016

prenatal HEALTH


e’ve known that prenatal health of a mother is crucial to delivery of a thriving newborn, but new research by sociologist Jennifer B. Kane really puts that pre-natal timeline into perspective. Her work is the first to tie low natal weight to biological and social factors three generations deep. “Low-birth-weight babies are more susceptible to later physical and cognitive difficulties, and these difficulties can sharpen the social divide in the U.S.,” Kane says. “But knowing more about what causes low birth weight can help alleviate the intergenerational perpetuation of social inequality through poor infant health.” In total, she’s looked at 1,580 mother-daughter pairs, focusing on their weight at birth, marital status and education level. “The odds of having a low-birthweight baby are one and a half to two times greater for mothers who themselves were born low birth weight compared to mothers who were not born low birth weight,” she says. “But also important are social factors, including education and marital status. Putting all of these factors—both intergenerational and intragenerational—together in a single model can tell us even more.” For example, education level prepregnancy can be transmitted from mothers to daughters across at least three generations, according to Kane. And, this intergenerational transmission appears to affect birth weight of future generations. This means that causes of low birth weight extend much further back than the time frame that’s typically focused on: pregnancy. Read more about Kane’s work online:

He and her mother at her high school graduation

of being that successful student who makes her mom proud. She is very active as an event coordinator at her church group, and has interned with on-campus organizations like ASUCI, the Summer Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program, the CrossCultural Center, International Center, and has served as a new student orientation staffer through Student Life and Leadership. Though it can sometimes be overwhelming to be stretched so thin, He manages to make it work thanks, once again, to her mom. “She’s always telling me, ‘you can do it, it’s supposed to be hard,’” she says. “She’s been saying that to me since I was in kindergarten and it makes sense. I’m just getting older, and things are getting harder, and that’s OK.”


This past summer, He traveled to Hong Kong to gain insight into the socioeconomic inequality gap in the city through observations and sociological courses taken at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. She found it fascinating to compare her firsthand knowledge of wealth disparity in her hometown to that of a country on the other side of the world. She hopes to be able to use that experience as she moves forward in career. Following graduation, she will begin her summer role as the Dean of Students at Breakthrough

San Juan Capistrano. She hopes to be accepted into a fellowship program later this year, and, eventually, will start the journey toward her master’s in education. “I want to create something for students where they love to learn, where they see the purpose in learning,” she says. Whatever field she ends up in, her priority is not to become wealthy. “I’m not trying to make a lot of money for myself. I could care less about that,” she says. “I just want other minority youth to have the opportunity to go to college.” She would like to be able to move to a nicer neighborhood in the San Francisco area, and her number one goal is to provide a comfortable life for her biggest supporter. “I want to move my mom out to a nicer neighborhood where I won’t be scared if she walks the dog late at night,” she says. “She wants the best for me and I can see that. So I want the best for myself—and her.”



be bold

great GIVING Business econ alumnus Sonsern Lin ’13 encourages random acts of kindness through his company, Generosity Gang

uci soc sci 2016



be bold


ow many people do you know who would literally give a stranger the shirt off their back?

Would you?

It’s a tough question to answer, and many of us would probably have to say no. But Sonsern Lin—an alumnus of the School of Social Sciences business economics program and founder of clothing company Generosity Gang—wants to change that. The Sweatshirt Off Your Back campaign encourages wearers to try their hand at giving

“I wanted to do something that allowed people to experience the feeling of giving,” he explains. “Our brand has always been, not so much focused on a specific cause, but focused on how to inspire the person consuming our product to make generosity a part of their lifestyle.” Generosity Gang hopes to help people appreciate the resources they have access to while encouraging them to live generously in every aspect of their lives. The company’s current initiatives—Choose Hunger, Choose Water, and the Sweatshirt Off Your Back campaign—each boast a unique cause and products to appeal to different people and types of giving. For Lin, the taste for giving was instilled in him by his father when he was young. Looking back, he can see how his dad’s selfless acts of generosity—donating his car to a family in need instead of trading it in, and taking Lin’s old computer and buying his son a new one for example—inspired his future actions. With this legacy of giving in place, Lin arrived at UCI and soon joined The Edge, the college-aged group from Irvine’s Newsong Church. There he was able to meet fellow UCI students and see how his peers

incorporated giving into their daily lives. Then, during his sophomore year, he had the idea to give away half of his belongings. “I was really trying to understand what it means to love others as much as I love myself,” he remembers. “So I started this crazy experiment of giving things away.” Lin started by giving away duplicates of things he already had; a skateboard, extra clothing, even his spare laptop. “I started buying clothing just so I could give it away because it was so fun,” he says. One t-shirt he purchased was particularly popular among his friends, but he couldn’t afford to buy one for each person who requested one. “Instead of just losing money, I realized I could sell the shirts to fund giving other things away,” he says. “So that’s when the idea of a clothing company started. In the beginning I gave people two shirts so they could have one and give one away, and then we transitioned into the new model.” This new model became the Sweatshirt Off Your Back campaign.

uci soc sci 2016

Lin (far left) and friends model the Choose Water necklaces

Once a sweatshirt from that campaign is purchased, the customer is encouraged to give it away to someone who may need it more. If the original customer writes in with the story of how they gave it away and why, Generosity Gang will replace their item free of charge. These stories are truly motivating for Lin, and they show just how far his movement has traveled. In fact, one of the first stories he received was all the way from the east coast. A young woman wrote in about how she had been standing in the cold, waiting for her after-school ride. A stranger walking by noticed and took off his sweatshirt and handed it to her. After he explained the meaning behind the movement, she was very touched and a few weeks later, she passed it on to a homeless man in the park near her home. “That was one of the first stories we received and it was really inspiring,” Lin says. Some could argue that by replacing the item, the act of giving is tainted, but Lin hopes that by offering people the opportunity to try giving risk-free, they will realize how rewarding it is and be encouraged to make it a part of their every day life. “If we are honest, a very small minority of us would be selfless enough to give away

the sweatshirt we just paid $50 for,” he says. “This is because we have not yet experienced the joy of giving. We want to create that first taste because we know that once people understand it, generosity will become a lifestyle.” Generosity Gang’s other initiatives, Choose Hunger and Choose Water, offer equally stylish products for purchase, but ask that the wearer use the products as a daily reminder to make conscious choices regarding what they eat and drink. The wearer can then reallocate any money saved to a related cause. Customers who Choose Hunger purchase a specially designed street-style sweatshirt. They are then encouraged to mark their names and a number on one of the spaces on the shirtsleeve. This number represents the number of times that the wearer pledges to “choose hunger”—meaning reallocating funds from a meal to donate to those in need. The Choose Water initiative utilizes the same concept, but offers a necklace instead and asks wearers to “choose water” when dining out. Soda or iced tea typically runs for around three dollars in a restaurant, so one person could raise more than $20 in a single week just by choosing water for one meal

Those little things, if we get a lot of people doing them, can add up to have a great impact. per day. Lin’s goal is to raise approximately $10,000 to build a well through Charity Water. “You’re not spending any more money than you would normally, you’re just making a choice to give up something small to start helping people. Those little things, if we get a lot of people doing them, can add up to have a great impact.” Lin hopes that in time, he will be able to make an even greater impact with Generosity Gang. He plans to keep evolving the company, offering new products and new initiatives to keep customers intrigued and also to keep his creative mind working. “I’m all over the place—always having new ideas or new inspirations. So I think the heart of Generosity Gang, to inspire generosity, will always stay the same, but the initiatives we’re running will always be changing with the season.”



be bold

born to HEAL

A Q&A with ’08 Chicano/Latino studies and psychology alumna and therapist Mariana Arcila


hen Mariana Arcila was growing up in Colombia, she never imagined that she would one day be a therapist serving underprivileged communities in the United States. Instead, she dreamt of becoming a doctor. After moving to the U.S. at the age of 9 with her mother and brother—leaving her father and extended family behind—she held onto that dream, even completing her first two years at UCI as a student in biological sciences. However, after taking a class in Chicano/Latino studies to fulfill breadth requirements, she became fascinated by the subject. It wasn’t long before she had switched to a double major

in CLS and cognitive psychology, and she hasn’t looked back since. She became involved with related organizations on campus, such as PALS (Pan American Latino Society) and Paleros—a Latin dance group associated with PALS. In addition, she served as a campus representative, was a mentor for WYSE (Women and Youth Supporting Each other), and participated in intramural sports on campus. Now a therapist for the non-profit organization The Guidance Center, Arcila helps underprivileged communities in Long Beach and its surrounding areas by providing therapeutic services to children and their families. Here she shares about her time at UCI, and what makes her current career path so worthwhile.

uci soc sci 2016 WHAT MADE YOU DECIDE TO COME TO UCI? MARIANA ARCILA: There were two contributing factors to my de-

cision to attend UCI; my older brother, who was attending UCI at the time, and CAMP (California Alliance for Minority Participation). CAMP was a summer program geared toward helping minority students in math and science to begin their college careers the summer before their freshman year. As an aspiring doctor, I began my college career in the field of biological sciences, and continued in this major for two years before transitioning into a double major in Chicano/ Latino studies and cognitive psychology. WHAT DREW YOU TO CLS? WAS THERE A PARTICULAR MOMENT YOU KNEW IT WAS THE RIGHT MAJOR FOR YOU?

The turning point for me in making the decision to change majors came when I began to take CLS classes to fulfill some of my breadth requirements. As I gained knowledge of Chicano/Latino history, and dug deeper into the injustices that Latinos have had to face throughout history in the United States, I knew that I wanted to gain more knowledge and potentially work toward using this knowledge to empower and create change in our society. WERE THERE ANY CLASSES OR FACULTY THAT WERE PARTICULARLY INFLUENTIAL FOR YOU?

Professor Ana Rosas was one of my favorite professors, and definitely the most influential in the turn that my career-path took at UCI. Professor Rosas’ passion for her field was contagious, and she had an ability to make her classes relevant and relatable, which in turn drew a lot of my interest into the study of Chicano/Latino studies. HOW HAVE YOU COMBINED YOUR DEGREES IN CLS AND PSYCHOLOGY IN YOUR CURRENT CAREER AS A THERAPIST?

As a therapist, I have to be culturally sensitive to the population I serve in order to understand their backgrounds and the system that they live in as a whole. Without my background in cognitive psychology, I would lack the skills and knowledge of theory and child development. Without CLS, I would lack the cultural sensitivity and knowledge of the communities I serve (which are composed of mostly Central American clients). WHAT WAS YOUR INSPIRATION TO BECOME A THERAPIST?

As I became involved with troubled and underprivileged youth through WYSE, I realized that I could help others make positive changes in their lives through a mixture of compassion, understanding, and a positive influence and support system. After three years of being a mentor for WYSE, it was pretty clear that I wanted to become a therapist. DID YOU FIND THAT YOUR TIME AT UCI HELPED TO PREPARE YOU FOR YOUR CURRENT CAREER?

UCI provided an array of opportunities that allowed me to venture out of my comfort zone, and explore different possibilities outside of my expectations. The people that I met, the professors that influenced my career path, and the extracurricular activities and organizations that inspired me to explore and experience things outside of my comfort zone, were a perfect combination to get me where I am now. WHAT DO YOU HOPE TO DO NEXT?

At this point in time, my goal is to pass the Law and Ethics and Clinical exams so that I can become a licensed clinical social worker. In the future, I would love to go back to my roots and implement social work and psychology into doing work with underprivileged communities in Colombia and other Latin American countries. I would also love to go back to working with victims of human trafficking. ANY ADVICE FOR GRADUATING SENIORS?

My best piece of advice is to follow a career path that you absolutely love, and give it your best. There will always be obstacles and roadblocks that will present themselves, but you will get through them and you will persevere with hard work and passion for what you do. Love what you do. It will translate into your work.

fi rs t gen s tu dent


Mentoring program pairs students with upperclassmen who also are first in their families to go to college Anita Casavantes Bradford, associate professor of history and Chicano/Latino studies at UCI, likes to show new students pictures of herself graduating from a community college near Vancouver, British Columbia, where she grew up. It’s a proud moment in Casavantes Bradford’s life, and her purpose in sharing it is to let undergraduates who are first in their families to attend college know that, although they may feel out of place, they’re not alone. They can succeed at a competitive university. They’ve got this. “I speak as the first woman in my family to finish high school,” says Casavantes Bradford, who went on to earn a doctorate in U.S. and Latino/Latin American history at UC San Diego but never forgot those awkward early days of college. “Back then, I didn’t know about other first-generation students. All I knew was that I was the daughter of a single, welfaredependent mother, and we had no money, and all of these kids had parents who were professors, doctors and accountants. I’d only seen those kind of people on TV.” “If there had been some kind of group for students like me— oh, what a weight that would have taken off my shoulders.” Her desire to ensure that UCI students don’t feel as isolated as she once did prompted her to instigate a new mentorship program, the First Generation First Quarter Challenge, which will pair freshmen and transfer students with thirdand fourth-year undergraduates and faculty whose parents also did not earn a college degree. Read more:



be bold

THE BRAIN and stroke Cognitive scientist Greg Hickok studies what happens when words fail


t can be heart-wrenching to watch a loved one struggle to verbally express him- or herself after suffering strokeinduced brain damage.

Known as conduction aphasia, the disorder produces lesions that interfere with the neurological process of translating thought into speech, according to UCI cognitive neuroscientist Greg Hickok. The interference is believed to occur in the Sylvian fissure dividing the brain’s parietal and temporal lobes. The same region, he says, could help explain why some people

stutter and how schizophrenics can misinterpret their internal thoughts as external voices. To date, Hickok has received more than $16 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health to support 15 years of continued research on how neural abnormalities affect speech and language in an area of the brain tied to autism, schizophrenia and stroke-induced aphasia. “The act of speech involves coordination between auditory and motor functions in the brain,” Hickok says.

uci soc sci 2016

“This is obvious in visuomotor tasks like reaching for a cup, where we use visual information about its shape and location to guide our reach. It’s less obvious in language, but studies have shown that in the same way, a word’s sound guides our speech.” The director of UCI’s Center for Language Science, Hickok first began seeing this in action at a neural level when utilizing fMRI to study brain processes related to speech production. He noticed that, in addition to the expected motor regions, auditory areas of the brain “lit up,” or activated, when participants named pictures—even if they only thought about, and didn’t actually vocalize, the words. “Stroke-based research found that these activations reflected the critical involvement of auditory areas in speaking. When these regions are damaged, patients tend to struggle to come up with words, and when they do speak, they make a lot of errors,” says Hickok.

He has since been using fMRI and stroke-based methods to zero in on the Sylvian parietaltemporal (SPT) region of the brain, in which he believes the regulation of auditory and motor processes occurs. “In people with schizophrenia or aphasia and those who stutter, the coordination between perception and production is dysfunctional, and it appears to be happening in the SPT region,” Hickok says. “Depending on exactly how the process misfires, the result can be speech errors, stuttering or auditory hallucinations.” While Hickok explains that it’s generally accepted in the cognitive neuroscience community that auditory and motor functions work together, the details are not well understood. He is currently working to close this knowledge gap. His findings have been published in journals such as Neuron, Cognition, the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, the Journal of Neuroscience, and

others. He has also created a multi-university consortium for this type of research. Hickok’s hope is that by conducting studies and sharing findings, he and others will contribute to the development of better therapies for people with brain damage, lesions or neural abnormalities.

The act of speech involves coordination between auditory and motor functions in the brain...a word’s sound guides our speech.



be bold

awesome ALUMNUS

Amanda Fowler, class of ’99, makes giving back her job—literally—as the executive director of global corporate giving at Edwards Lifesciences


very heartbeat matters. In that vein, Amanda Fowler ’99 is leading a global beat to spread knowledge, screening and treatment of heart valve disease to one million underserved people by 2020. The goal is a large one, backed by Edwards Lifesciences where Fowler is the executive director of global corporate giving.

Amanda portrait?

Verunt. Ficto deles reperchit, sin consere dolorio rporaeperor ra ime labVidebit,

“Every Heartbeat Matters is a promise to the most underserved heart valve patients that we will fight this disease with them and give them hope to continue doing what they love most in life,” she says. An economics alumnus, Fowler joined the Edwards team in 2000 to help build the company’s investor relations department, drawing upon her previous experience with PacifiCare Health Systems. “Amanda was a key player in managing our transition as we became a publicly traded company on the New York Stock Exchange,” says Michael Mussallem, Edwards’ chairman and CEO.

uci soc sci 2016

Amanda Fowler, Executive Director, Global Corporate Giving for Edwards LIfesciences, spreading smiles with the hospitalized children of a cardiac surgery medical mission in the Dominican Republic

After a brief time away to New Century Financial, Fowler returned to Edwards in 2007 as part of the global communications department where she became involved with the Edwards Lifesciences Foundation. She now oversees all of the company’s corporate giving activities around the world as executive director of the foundation. Since its inception in 2004, the foundation has gifted more than $36 million to nonprofit organizations around the world. “Philanthropy is unique in that it seeks to solve some of our world’s most challenging issues,” she says. “And the best part of philanthropy is that it is contagious—once you start and you see the difference in the eyes of a hopeful child, a grateful parent, or an inspired surgeon, there’s just no stopping.” Fowler’s employer encourages its workers to participate in at least one charitable activity a year, and she and her team help coordinate volunteerism and teambuilding activities in support of that goal. Due

in part to her efforts, more than 70 percent of Edwards’ 9000 employees give back to their communities through service or donations each year—including herself. Fowler volunteers frequently at community events and serves on the board of directors of the Association for Corporate Contributions Professionals and the Orange County Funders Roundtable. She has also served in leadership roles with the local chapter of the American Heart Association for the Go Red For Women Movement and the OC Heart and Stroke Ball.

The best part of philanthropy is that it is contagious - once you start and you see the difference in the eyes of a hopeful child, a grateful parent, or an inspired surgeon, there’s just no stopping.

She also hasn’t forgotten her UCI ties. The 2015 UCI Alumni Association Lauds & Laurels Outstanding Alumnus in the School of Social Sciences can often be found on campus talking with new soc sci undergrads and serving on career panels for those getting ready to go out and make a difference, just like her. Listen in to what Amanda had to say to our in-coming class of Anteaters.



be bold

m ip ster on t he


From running a tech data company to constructing a NASA robot and challenging societal assumptions about Muslim women, there’s never a dull moment with Layla Shaikley ’07

the United Nations Human Settlements Programme. She eventually co-founded Wise Systems—a company that helps businesses make more streamlined and efficient delivery decisions—in 2014. But one of her most widely publicized ventures was the “Somewhere in America” video she produced and styled with the group Mipsterz, an online community of self-proclaimed Muslim ‘hipsters’ who hope to change the perception of Muslims in America.


s a Southern California native, Layla Shaikly was never at a loss as to how to spend her free time. As an Anteater undergrad, the political science major could be found anywhere from the slopes to the surf, soaking in the outdoors when she wasn’t busy with the Associated Students or coming up with new creations for her digital arts minor. Now that she’s been out of UCI for nearly 10 years, however (she graduated with her bachelor’s in 2007), such free time is harder to come by.

Checkout Shaikley’s video

Post-UCI, Shaikley jumped right into more schooling and earned two graduate degrees in architecture—one from California Polytechnic University and one from MIT— in addition to completing various internships for organizations such as NASA. She later worked as a research affiliate at MIT, co-founded TEDxBaghdad, and worked for

The video, set to Jay-Z’s song of the same name, depicts stylish young Muslim women, donning hijabs while participating in various “hip” activities—skateboarding, hanging out with friends, posing for selfies, etc. Seemingly overnight it garnered international attention, inspiring news outlets such as CNN, Huffington Post, Jezebel, NPR, and more to participate in the discussion about what it means to be Muslim in this country. The original posting has been deleted and re-uploaded numerous times so the total view count has been lost, but to date more than 1,600 articles have been written globally to address the video. While the attention was uncomfortable at first, Shaikley is thrilled with the conversation that it sparked. We sat down with the multi-talented mogul to find out exactly what motivates her—and how she hopes Mipsterz will change the world.

uci soc sci 2016

WHAT PERSONAL ATTRIBUTES DO YOU THINK ALLOW YOU TO BE SUCCESSFUL IN SO MANY VENTURES? Curiosity—and extreme focus. HOW DID YOU MAKE THE JUMP FROM POLITICAL SCIENCE TO ARCHITECTURE AND THEN STARTING YOUR OWN TECH COMPANY? I’ve always had a creative edge and have been drawn to high impact professions. During my undergrad I wanted to work in post-conflict zones. After earning my graduate degrees I focused heavily on post-conflict zones and worked on the ground before realizing that I was fascinated by patterns of data. This realization occurred in Baghdad, while I was helping a UN agency develop housing. Car bombings would happen daily. I wondered, why wasn’t the violence tracked? The data from smartphones could generate patterns and insights around the violence to keep people safer. So, I transitioned my career from architecture to tech. And after a series of experiences and steps (and meeting the right people at the right time), I started a company that focused around big data. HOW DID YOU GET INVOLVED IN MIPSTERZ? Mipsterz started out when a core group of my friends started a tongue-in-cheek list serve. It was an organic way to connect, get together, and exchange ideas over email for young, American Muslims. We realized there was a deficiency in spaces for young American Muslims to connect on issues like poetry, music, pop culture, alternative culture, politics, etc. WHAT DID YOU WANT TO SHOW AND ILLUSTRATE WITH THE VIDEO? I was sick of telling “my story” as a Muslim woman. It had become a defensive correction of popularly perpetuated myths related to violence and oppression rather than my own personal narrative. I realized that conversations about my identity had been consumed by reclaiming my personal narrative from Islamophobes and terrorists alike, who had equally hijacked it. So, in producing and serving as fashion director for this film, I wanted to show an honest depiction of the women that form a majority of my Muslim American circle: confident, ambitious, stylish, trailblazing ladies—a diverse group of people, with many stories and contributions to society. HOW DID YOU FEEL ABOUT SOME OF THE MORE NEGATIVE REACTIONS TO THE VIDEO? (SOME CLAIMING THAT THE VIDEO IS NOT AN ACCURATE DEPICTION OF THEM OR THE AMERICAN MUSLIMS THEY KNOW) The negative feedback has been wonderful in the sense that it has represented my thesis exactly: Muslims are not a monolith. We are a multi-faceted people, with different opinions and representations.

I was on a UN Mission abroad when we went viral … Instantly, I knew that this video had grown much larger than I had anticipated. There was something surreal about having such a global dialogue on my identity. WHAT WAS YOUR INITIAL REACTION WHEN THE VIDEO WENT VIRAL? I was on a UN Mission abroad when we went viral. I logged into social media to see more than 200 notifications. Instantly, I knew that this video had grown much larger than I had anticipated. There was something surreal about having such a global dialogue on my identity. It was uncomfortable, but liberating. The hype that this video generated really showcased the stark underrepresentation of Muslims in the West. WHAT’S NEXT FOR THE MIPSTERZ? Amazing things are generally coming out of the group, such as ishqr. com, a matrimonial site founded by a few Mipsterz after a heated dialogue on the challenges of marriage in America within the listserv. I anticipate a continuous flow of projects that meet the needs of young Muslims in the West. WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE CURRENT UNDERGRADUATES—PARTICULARLY WOMEN—WHO HOPE TO START THEIR OWN COMPANIES ONE DAY? Don’t be afraid and do it ASAP! Starting a company is humbling—and daunting at first. There is a lot to learn and mistakes are inevitable. Anybody who gets a head start on the mistakes in a low-risk environment has a leg up. Find a mentor and figure out what resources are available for young student founders. There are tons of business plan competitions with free money for students. There are also free legal services for students that will help you incorporate, etc. Take advantage of them! IS THERE ANYTHING YOU’D LIKE TO EMPHASIZE ABOUT THE PROJECT? Let’s keep the dialogue on identity going and feel empowered—as women—to represent ourselves.


be bold

i n t e r n a t i o n a l


Serving as the 8th U.S. Ambassador to the Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt ’85 exercises international diplomacy skills born at UCI


hen Geoffrey Pyatt ’85 arrived in Kiev in August 2013, he soon found himself at the epicenter of one of the world’s most dangerous conflicts since the Cold War. Ukraine’s president, Viktor Yanukovych, was ousted seven months into Pyatt’s term amidst a series of violent protests sparked by the failed leader’s refusal to sign an agreement that would have solidified closer ties with the European Union. Pro-Russian insurgents seized the opportunity created by the political and economic fallout of the revolution, and took control of the Crimea region in eastern Ukraine—a situation that remains quite tenuous. As the 8th U.S. Ambassador to the Ukraine, Pyatt has served as a voice for reason and de-escalation at a critical time in the contested region, says social sciences dean Bill Maurer. “He’s had to walk a very delicate line between calling for greater accountability on the part of Ukraine’s new leaders while deftly challenging separatists in the east, earning both the enmity and respect of multiple sides in the conflict,” he says. While the tumultuous Eastern European post is a far cry from his days as an Anteater in the early 80s, the same character traits that serve him well in dealing with foreign diplomats were evident when he was a teaching assistant at his alma mater, says Claudia Keller ’87, who currently cochairs the School of Social Sciences Dean’s Leadership Society. The former classmate of

Pyatt’s notes that he was “always fair and diplomatic—even then—when imparting tough feedback.”

through which he was the chief operating officer for one of the United States’ largest and fastest growing foreign missions.

“He balanced academic rigor with a genuine love of life,” she says. “He was always up for a good conversation on the day’s news, the campus goings-on or classwork, especially if you needed help. His mentorship was a big reason behind my change of major to political science, and I’ve never regretted it.”

Prior to his India assignment, he served at the American Consulate General in Hong Kong, managing the trade and export control dialogue with the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China. He also served as Political Officer in New Delhi, India; Economic Officer and Vice-Consul in Tegucigalpa, Honduras; and Principal Officer of the American Consulate in Lahore—representing the United States in Pakistan’s largest and politically most important province.

When Pyatt left UCI with his undergraduate degree in political science, he went on to earn a master’s degree in international relations at Yale. He began his career at the Inter-American Dialogue, a Washington-based think tank that tackles issues of social equity and democratic governance in the Western Hemisphere. He then joined the Foreign Service and is going on 26 years in an exceptional career with the U.S. State Department in posts ranging from Asia to Europe to Latin America. His diplomatic service includes Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the South and Central Asia Affairs Bureau where he lead the State Department’s newest geographic bureau and helped manage U.S. relations in a region that stretches from Kazakhstan to the Indian Ocean. He was Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Mission to International Organizations in Vienna where he represented the United States to the International Atomic Energy Agency and other UN technical agencies. He served at the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi, first as Minister Counselor for Political Affairs and then as Deputy Chief of Mission

His Washington assignments included Director for Latin America on the National Security Council staff, Special Assistant to the Deputy Secretary of State, and Staff Assistant to the Assistant Secretary of State for Latin America. Even before assuming his most recent post in Kiev, Pyatt’s career-long contributions to international diplomacy, conflict resolution and international security earned him admiration and praise from his alma mater, says Maurer. “Today, at the center of one of the world’s hotspots, Ambassador Pyatt is a shining example of the values UCI instills in its students: a commitment to service, to dialogue, and to the truth,” he adds. For his efforts, Pyatt was named the 2016 UCI Alumni Association Lauds & Laurels Outstanding Alumnus in the School of Social Sciences.

Photo courtesy of Yevhen Kraws (UNIAN)


uci soc sci 2016

Today, at the center of one of the world’s hotspots, Ambassador Pyatt is a shining example of the values UCI instills in its students: a commitment to service, to dialogue, and to the truth. -Dean Maurer



be bold

POLITICS and polls Poli sci professor parses polling data to explain political positions and platforms If you follow politics and are an avid Washington Post reader, you’ve likely seen Michael Tesler’s name in at least a few bylines. An assistant professor in political science at UCI, he’s a frequent op-ed contributor on hot topics in politics and elections including race, gender, immigration, partisanship, and the issue of marijuana legalization.

expressed anti-Muslim beliefs and strikingly dissimilar worldviews on race among Democrats and Republicans. Tesler joined the UCI faculty in 2014 after spending three years in an assistant professorship at Brown University.

In a November 2015 article he penned for The Washington Post, Tesler broke down Trump’s surge in support among the conservative base using newly available data, crediting the real estate tycoon’s stance on immigration for the boost. Throughout the year, he’s provided perspective on topics ranging from President Obama’s use of the n-word following racial violence in Charleston, to Republican candidates’

Watch Tesler discuss his research here

uci soc sci 2016



be bold

alumna and ADVOCATE A class taken on a whim led Chicano/Latino studies alumna Franchesca Ocasio ’15 to a change of major and new life direction


ranchesca Ocasio admits that her reasons for coming to UCI as an undergrad were not what one would call ‘purely academic.’

love for education and community organizing,” she says. “When I found my community, I found a home, making my decision to attend UCI one of the best I’ve ever made.”

The California native and current foster youth liaison for the Pasadena Unified School District had moved to Chicago as a teenager, and she saw college as the perfect opportunity to come back to the friends and family she had left behind upon her move to the Midwest.

The organization soon brought her to other programs both on and off campus, such as UCI’s Raza Youth Conference, a day for Southern California high school students to explore UCI and participate in workshops; Mes de la Raza, a month-long series of cultural and political events; and La Escuelita, an after-school program for Santa Ana high school students. The more she connected with peers who shared similar cultures and interests, the more it became clear to her that science might not be the best field for her after all. Instead, she began to consider a career in education.

“Of course, UCI’s reputation as a leading research institution didn’t hurt,” she says. As a freshman, Ocasio declared herself a biology major, planning on a potential future as a veterinarian. However after taking a Chicano studies class for fun, she realized the passion that she had for the subject. She became involved in student organizations such a M.E.Ch.A (Movimiento Estudiantil Chican@ de Azatlan), and felt like she had found a place she belonged. “In M.E.Ch.A I found a second family and a

Still, she took her time deliberating before making the leap from biology to Chicano/ Latino studies. It was a bold choice—one that went against her parents’ wishes—but Ocasio knew it was the right one for her, and in her third year, she officially changed majors.

uci soc sci 2016

Having made the choice to pursue this degree, Ocasio fully immersed herself in the Chicano/Latino studies community. She counts the people she met there as some of her closest friends and mentors, and she is still involved with the Raza Youth Conference today. She also still performs as an Aztec dancer during UCI’s annual Dia de los Muertos celebration with fellow alumni. It was—and still is—these outside the classroom activities that made the most lasting impact on Ocasio. She encourages current students to be proactive in both seeking out their own places in the campus community, and in taking advantage of the resources and information that are out there for students. “I feel that my time at UCI prepared me for my current career, but partly because I took advantage of the opportunities to work outside of the classroom and to get to know some of my professors,” she says. “Many students don’t learn until it’s too late that doing well in class is only one aspect of a successful college career. I would advise graduating seniors to take advantage of as many opportunities they can find to assist in research on campus, as well as look for internship opportunities and get to know their professors if they haven’t already. Those connections will have more value than they can imagine once they leave college and begin looking for a job.” For Ocasio, one such connection is Chicano/ Latino studies undergraduate director and associate professor, Ana Rosas. “As a student in her class I felt that she pushed me to be the best academic I could be,” she says. “Her classes were tough. They forced us to read—which college students hate—and encouraged us to think critically. There are essays I wrote for her class that I continue to use as writing samples to this day. Not only is she a tough educator, in the best way, she is empathetic and caring. In the years since I graduated I have kept in touch with Professor Rosas and continue to feel supported and encouraged by her.”

Ocasio (left) performs Son Jarocho, a traditional style of music from Veracruz, Mexico with indigenous Mexican, African, and European roots

These same traits—support, empathy, and caring—are vital in Ocasio’s role with the Pasadena Unified School District today. She currently serves as their foster youth liaison, and works with foster children in the school system to ensure that they are succeeding academically. Conducting her work means collaborating with social workers, foster parents, group homes, and community partners. But she didn’t know that she wanted to work with the foster children until she began working with the Children Youth and Family Collaborative a few years ago. As a youth education specialist, she served as a mentor and tutor for foster children at high school and elementary school campuses. The work was challenging, but it was apparent to Ocasio how much these kids needed an advocate. “These are young people who have experienced many traumas and, for many of them, school is the only constant in their lives,” she says. “Oftentimes, foster youth’s history of trauma and inconsistency in multiple aspects of their lives make it difficult to do well in school and other areas of their lives. The overwhelming majority of these young people are Black, Latino and Native American youth, the majority of whom become homeless or incarcerated upon emancipation due to a lack to resources and access to employment and higher education. Through this work

at CYFC I became passionate about being an advocate for foster youth rights and educational access.” Recently she has been able to open foster youth resource centers at several campuses, which will soon be present at all schools in the Pasadena Unified School District. She hopes that these centers serve as a safe place for foster youth to go for information, community, and support. She will be returning to school in the fall, beginning a master’s program in education, and hopes to continue working with foster youth at the district level. For her part, especially having seen the struggles of students in foster care, she doesn’t take the opportunity to receive an education for granted. She hopes that recent graduates will keep this in mind as well. “Don’t forget where you came from,” she says. “Remember that obtaining a college degree is a huge privilege that many before you had to fight for. It’s our responsibility to continue that legacy by taking the knowledge we gain from a college education back to our communities to give back and help others.”



be bold

all in the


Jonathan Lui, ’05 (bachelor’s), ’06 (master’s), and ’15 (doctorate) is part of an Anteater family legacy

uci soc sci 2016


onathan Lui may not have realized it when he decided to attend UCI for his undergraduate education, but the recent Ph.D. recipient in sociology would be spending the better part of a decade getting to know the ins and outs of this campus. In fact, he wasn’t the first person in his family to have “University of California, Irvine” printed on a diploma—Jonathan, his father Gee Lup Lui, and his youngest brother Kenneth Lui all earned degrees as Anteaters. The trio has spent nearly two decades on campus between them, earning a total of five degrees and two teaching assistant of the year awards—one for Jonathan and one for his father. But what brought three members from the same family—all with very different research interests—to the same university? Jonathan believes it has a lot to do with UCI’s impressive academic programs and quality faculty. “All we wanted out of a college was a place to learn and study,” Jonathan says. “So we looked for the best environment for that. Though he only vaguely remembers his father’s graduation day (he was five years old at the time), he thinks being exposed to higher education at a young age influenced him on a subconscious level.

“My dad wasn’t big into forcing us to do anything and he was a pretty hands-off parent, but at the same time education was a big thing,” he says. “I think most fathers and sons connect by talking about sports and throwing a ball around in the backyard, but growing up my dad would give us logic and math problems to solve—that was just kind of his thing.” Even with their father’s quizzing, neither Kenneth—who earned his bachelor’s in biological sciences—nor Jonathan followed in Gee’s career footsteps. However, Jonathan still found himself influenced by his father when choosing an area of study—specifically the relationship dynamic between him and Jonathan’s mother. Jonathan explains that the couple maintained more “traditional” gender roles, with Gee being the breadwinner and his wife taking on the household chores and childcare responsibilities. And as a child, Jonathan remembers being puzzled, even annoyed, by that dynamic. “You have more bargaining power in a relationship when you are investing in paid labor versus household labor,” he says. “And it kind of bothered me a little bit that my mother was doing most of the housework.” So, when he got the chance, he decided to delve into those

dynamics head on as a social science major, eventually morphing his studies to focus on the ways that couples spend time, both together and apart. Though education was a constant presence in his childhood, Jonathan wasn’t necessarily a dedicated student from the get-go—nor was Kenneth. Both received less than stellar grades during high school and had to change their habits before being accepted to UCI.

Jonathan Lui and his father at his UCI commencement



be bold

Most fathers and sons connect by talking about sports and throwing a ball around in the backyard, but growing up my dad would give us logic and math problems to solve.

It actually wasn’t until his senior year that Jonathan experienced his “aha” moment. At that point it was too late to make up the grades to get in a good school right away, but the teenager decided that he needed to make a change if he wanted to succeed academically. Once he finished high school, he enrolled in community college and took a job at a mortgage company that, fatefully enough, boasted a view of the UCI campus. “I remember seeing the campus and thinking, ‘one day I’m going to go there,’” he says. Jonathan’s hard work paid off in the fall of 2001, when he transferred to UCI to complete his undergraduate degree in social science. After receiving his bachelor’s, Jonathan went straight to work to earn his master’s degree in the Demographic and Social Analysis program. Once again, his family took their seats at the Bren Center while Jonathan crossed the stage. With his M.A. in tow, he packed up and headed to Los Angeles for a job at a dotcom, but a little less than two years later, school was calling his name again. By the fall of 2008 he was back at the familiar campus—his third round as a UCI student. “I think for me, it made the transition a lot easier,” he says, explaining why he chose to attend UCI for a third degree program. “I didn’t have to worry about things like getting to know the faculty again, getting to know the resources on campus—and I could really just focus on what I came here to do.”

One thing was different about this round at UCI, though. Kenneth, who had completed community college and transferred to UCI as an undergrad in biological sciences in 2007, was also roaming the campus. For a few years, the brothers crossed paths on campus until Kenneth graduated in 2011. The youngest of the Lui Anteaters now works as a microbiologist here in Irvine and even paid a visit to his alma mater as Jonathan was recognized in a traditional, graduate hooding ceremony—nearly 30 years after their father’s took place. “The morning of my graduation for my doctorate, my dad whipped out his dissertation,” Jonathan says. “He was looking at pictures from his hooding ceremony and he brought out his diploma. He’s not a very sentimental guy—but I think he’s pretty happy.” Even though Jonathan believes he’s the last in his family to attend UCI as a student, the Lui family’s legacy at the campus isn’t over yet. Jonathan has recently accepted a lecturer position in the School of Social Sciences, so there are plenty more UCI memories in the family’s future.

uci soc sci 2016

get INVOLVED From research support to student scholarship and school leadership, there are many ways to stay connected with uci social sciences


here are more than 7 billion people on this planet, and while territorial boundaries matter, pressing issues like health, education, poverty, disease, and conflict aren’t contained within thinly drawn lines on a map. They cross races, religions, economies and political systems, spanning the human life cycle, going generations deep. Home to some of the world’s leading experts—and some of the brightest up-andcoming minds, the UCI School of Social Sciences is dedicated to tackling some of the most pressing of these global issues. Our population, neuroscience and emerging conflict initiatives are helping to fill research gaps on these and other global challenges facing our increasingly interconnected world.

Just imagine—a world without Alzheimer’s. A world without Parkinson’s. The demise of cancer. The eradication of AIDS. A world where access to education, health information and increased employment opportunities could mean an end to the word “poverty” as we know it. Advances in population, neuroscience and emerging conflict research are allowing us to study these issues in real time using new technologies and approaches in data and human analysis. Support for this important work comes from many funding sources—from national agencies like the National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health to private foundations like the John and Linda Arnold Foundation and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, to corporate and private donors, many of whom belong to our Board

of Councilors, Dean’s Leadership Society, Alumni Network, or one of our other community involvement organizations. Their support, no matter how big or small, helps us push the boundaries of research on issues that touch every single one of the world’s 7 billion. To learn more about supporting our ongoing initiatives, or to get involved in one of our community leadership opportunities, contact Tracy Arcuri, or 949.824.8093.



be bold

s tay


Join our Alumni Network to stay in touch with your alma mater

Our bonds as Anteaters are lifelong —I encourage you to play an active role in shaping UCI’s future and deepening your connection with our UCI community here and around the world.


he Social Sciences Alumni Network encompasses all 45,000+ Anteaters who once called the UCI School of Social Sciences home. We hope that you will take an interest in learning more about the school’s priorities, ways you can connect with our students, and/ or give back to the school so that you, too, can make a difference. “Our bonds as Anteaters are lifelong—I encourage you to play an active role in shaping UCI’s future and deepening your connection with our UCI community here

and around the world,” says Larry Tenney, Alumni Network chair. “My life has been enriched by it— yours will be too!” Connect with Rosemarie Swatez,, to get involved.

Keep your UCI email to keep in touch! Scan to learn more

connect with us online

@ucisocsci @ucisocialsciences @uc-irvine-social-science email phone 949.824.2766 in person Social & Behavioral Sciences Gateway 5th Floor Dean’s Suite mail UCI School of Social Sciences 3151 Social Science Plaza Irvine, CA 92697-5100




Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.