BOLD UCI SOC SCI 2017
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
featu red 4 Note from the dean 6 Bringing it all together
2017 School of Social Sciences commencement speaker Andrew Hallak has spent his UCI career bridging divides and finding interconnectedness in unexpected places
10 Ready for action Yareli Castro Sevilla, 2017 School of Social Sciences commencement speaker, has made it her mission to fight for immigrant rights
12 Lending a hand Graduating senior Shirley Loi plans to make a career out of her passion for giving back
14 Presidential sidekick UCI alumna recounts her time as Obama’s personal assistant
18 Simply unstoppable When times get tough, graduating senior Margarita Rodriguez isn’t one to back down
22 One for the team Alumnus and NBA coach Scott Brooks may be busy coaching the Wizards, but he still makes time for his alma mater
26 Alumni super dada Bobby Barzi ’94 is showcasing the importance of fatherhood through Fodada, his clothing company that gives back
30 Better together John and Michelle Williams, soc sci’s husband and wife Lauds & Laurels honorees, are helping UCI usher in a bright future
31 Dean’s Leadership Society Support scholarships, research and new initiatives through membership in the school’s premier organization for alumni
33 Cross-continental Alumna Ting (Lorina) Deng recruits fresh faces to expand UCI’s growing international community
34 See Jane Go From struggles with homelessness to serving as See Jane Go’s COO, Cassandra Miller ’03 proves that a perfect past isn’t a prerequisite for an ideal future
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featu re d 40 The power of giving
Two UCI grads who met in Uganda have joined forces on intertwined ventures aimed at making the world better
a publication of the UCI School of Social Sciences
46 Raising the bar
Daniela Estrada, graduating senior, Truman and Fulbright Scholar, and aspiring lawyer
writers, designers, editors & photographers
48 Parenting today
Heather Ashbach, Bria Balliet, Luis Fonseca, Roy Rivenburg, Peyton Wolonsky, Steven Zylius
Research: Today’s parents spend more time with their kids than moms and dads did 50 years ago
50 Army strong
special thanks to contributing photographers from:
Veteran and soc sci alumnus Aaron Anderson knows how to thrive no matter what life throws his way
Fodada, See Jane Go, The White House, Washington Wizards
52 Home alone Research: Why are we so afraid to leave children alone?
54 Meet the mentors
UCI professors who were also first-generation students form support system
58 A tangled web
Bill Maurer, Dean Michael McBride, Associate Dean Mark Petracca, Associate Dean Dave Leinen, Assistant Dean
New summer institute at UCI will help scholars tackle tangled legal web of technology, big data and society
60 More than extraordinary Gary Singer ’74 received UCI’s Lauds & Laurels Extraordinarius Award for decades of contributions to his alma mater
62 Family matters Yader Lanuza is named the 2017 Lauds & Laurels Outstanding Graduate Student
64 On fire
Tracy Arcuri, Executive Director Liz Dahl, Director Rosemarie Swatez, Associate Director Melissa Churlonis, Coordinator Marketing & Communications
As a university and among its graduate programs and departments, UCI earns top spots on multiple charts
Heather Ashbach, Executive Director Bria Balliet, Senior Writer Luis Fonseca, Digital Media Production
66 Stay connected Join our Alumni Network and stay in touch
Bill Maurer, Dean
Whether you’re a newly minted alumnus or a more seasoned Anteater, we’d love to stay connected and keep you among our engaged alumni network.
n NBA coach. A homeless, single mom-turned COO of one of the fastest growing rideshare companies in Southern California. Dalai Lama, Truman and Fulbright scholars. More first gen grads than ever before. When your alumni include such outstanding Anteaters, you can’t help but be excited to be a part of the UCI School of Social Sciences network. I’m going to boldly say that we have THE most outstanding students on campus who then become THE most outstanding alumni out there in the world making a difference. And I’m so proud to be part of the school that helps prepare them for the opportunities of tomorrow. Included within these pages are some of the stories of those mentioned above, as well as those of many other mold-breakers who haven’t shied from forging their own paths in search of solutions that create positive change in society, economies and human well-being.
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Like Ferial Govashiri, ’05 political science, who spent three years sitting directly outside the Oval Office keeping then-President Barack Obama on point and on schedule (she even slipped in time to teach the leader of the free world a few dance moves, and how to “Zot!”). And first gen trailblazers Yareli Castro Sevilla, Margarita Rodriguez, Belinda Campos, Anita Casavantes Bradford and Davin Phoenix who are helping students who are the first in their family find success in school. And John and Michelle Williams, the alumni power couple co-chairing our Dean’s Leadership Society this year. I could go on – but instead, I encourage you to take some time to read their stories and learn more about the many ways in which you can get involved. Whether you’re a newly minted alumnus or a more seasoned Anteater, we’d love to stay connected and keep you among our engaged alumni network. Congrats to those graduating this year and to all, enjoy the read and stay in touch!
Bringing it all TOGETHER 2017 social sciences commencement speaker Andrew Hallak has spent his UCI career bridging divides and finding interconnectedness in unexpected places
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hen graduating senior Andrew Hallak began his UCI journey as a pre-med biology student, he never thought that he would be ending it as a student of the social sciences. He also couldn’t have imagined that the choice to become an Anteater would help him rediscover his Palestinian roots and become the first in his family to visit the region in more than 40 years, or that he would one day be addressing thousands of his peers as a School of Social Sciences 2017 commencement speaker. But Hallak’s university career has been full of unexpected twists and turns, and he’s become an expert at taking them all in stride.
have. FIP in particular helped him realize that he could utilize his talents for science in combination with his affinity toward the social sciences to combat global issues.
Since making the switch to international studies in his second year, Hallak has had a full schedule. He’s travelled abroad four times with the university, taught his very own class of 20 undergrads about the importance of water as a resource for peacebuilding (he’s still proud that there were several students on the waitlist), and been awarded the 2016-17 Dalai Lama Endowed Scholarship for his Global Partners for Sustainability project. But while he’s enthusiastically thrown himself into the world of social sciences, he’s also been finding ways to integrate his background in the hard sciences, minoring in both urban planning and earth and atmospheric science. This interconnected approach is one that he’s been able to extend to his other scholarly pursuits, and he hopes to use his commencement address to inspire his classmates to think beyond labels.
Instead of being a doctor as he had originally planned and helping on an individual scale, he realized that a scholar, lawyer, or public servant could affect policies or conduct research that could benefit entire populations. He took that spark and ran with it, joining Olive Tree Initiative (OTI) and Students for Global Peacebuilding. He says that these programs, particularly OTI, were transformative.
Hallak grew up in a close-knit family in Lancaster, CA. His Palestinian heritage was something that always interested him, particularly given that both his mothers’ and fathers’ sides of the family fled Palestine during wartime. But as a teenager he didn’t really know how to address those deeper questions of identity. Instead, he focused on his talent for science. He excelled in physics and math, and after seeing his three siblings earn their degrees in “hard science” fields he chose to follow suit. But once he got to the university, it didn’t take long to realize it wasn’t the right path for him. After joining the on-campus organization Fresh START and programs like the First Year Integrated Program (FIP) on Water as a freshman, Hallak started to think about the larger impacts his future choices could
“One program that was very influential was Water UCI, led by David Feldman, a professor in social ecology. The way he seamlessly spoke between the social policy implications and scientific findings, it opened my eyes to the fact that I didn’t have to settle on one route or another and that I can do something more policy based and still work in coordination with science,” Hallak says. “From there I started thinking about how I could be a bridge between bringing the scientific aspects to the broader community.”
“That’s when I started to think bigger in terms of what I wanted for myself in the future,” he says. “My entire world view started to change. I became really interested in this idea of water as a resource, especially how it can be utilized as a tool for peacebuilding in conflict regions.” This idea of water as an instrument for good became the basis of the rest of Hallak’s university career. He became immersed in the idea of sustainability and how our environment can shape all other aspects of our lives. He also got more involved with OTI, joining the group on three trips to the Middle East including visits to Armenia, Turkey, Palestine, Jordan, and Israel. Though his parents were apprehensive about his trip overseas—after all, they had fled the region to escape war and turmoil—they were thrilled when their son was able to reconnect with long lost family members. For Hallak, it was yet another eye-opening experience that made him think beyond the labels things—and people—are given. “What was most interesting was seeing my cousins around my age in the region and realizing that that could easily have been me,” he says. “But I was privileged to be born in
the United States. It made me think about how different our personal narratives are, simply because of where our parents fled decades ago—especially for my family that lives in Gaza or on the West Bank who have limited access to movement or even fresh water.” These trips were much more than opportunities for family reunions, however. Hallak took full advantage of his time abroad and conducted research on water-based conflicts through the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program. Upon his return to UCI, he was even able to take what he had learned and teach his very own university class through UTeach, titled “Water and Conflict.” As an instructor, he introduced 20 undergraduates to the idea of water as a resource and how it can be utilized in a globalized world. But what can be described as the culmination of all Hallak’s hard work and research didn’t come until last fall, when he received the 2016-17 Dalai Lama Endowed Scholarship. The privately funded scholarship awards one student annually for a project proposal that promotes “compassion in action.” For Hallak, that project was Global Partners for Sustainability (GPS), an on-campus organization that fuses his
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I truly see the School of Social Sciences as a driver for innovation and social change.
@Jerusalem outside the Damascus gate
passions for environmentalism, systems thinking, and community.
The goal of GPS is to not only help students realize that acting sustainably is easier than it seems, but to help others see how the environment is intertwined with all aspects of life and how sustainable practices can benefit everyone. It also hopes to break down labels and emphasize that one doesn’t have to be a “hippie” or fall into any stale stereotypes to do something that is good for our world—they just have to be open to a bit of change.
groups set up “de-stressing stations” in Aldrich Park every other Wednesday, complete with healthy snacks, art projects, hammocks, slacklines, and more. The partnering organizations also take turns leading workshops and discussions on their areas of expertise, and students have a place to meet new people, learn about new resources, and enjoy some time outdoors. Additionally, GPS is working in coordination with the Global Sustainability Resource Center to launch an Environmental Justice Library, not only consisting of books but also honor theses and dissertations researched by UCI graduate and undergraduate students. Finally, the group is working to create a course that will be offered next fall quarter for incoming undergraduates to help them “navigate toward a greener future.”
To reach the most students, they are joining forces with various student groups on campus. Most recently, they’ve teamed up with Active Minds and the UCI Center for Student Wellness and Health Promotion to promote the role that environmental sustainability plays in mental health. The
“I’m excited to see how we can link more parts of campus together because a lot of times we get placed in these silos,” he says. “I want to see how we can continue work brought forth by the UCI Sustainability Initiative and bridge those gaps through environmental sustainability.”
“With GPS, we use sustainability as an umbrella to connect diverse student groups and centers on campus. We really want to broaden the scope of what environmental sustainability means,” he says.
It’s a prime example of how Hallak hopes to make change in the future; by breaking down barriers and finding common ground between different groups—first as an environmental lawyer and eventually as a professor. It’s a future he says he would not have found without the School of Social Sciences, and he hopes to impress upon his fellow graduates how much potential they have to make the world better. “The opportunities presented to me by UCI, and specifically the School of Social Sciences, have shaped my aspirations for the future but also given me the opportunity to self reflect and envision how I can be the most effective change agent in society,” he says. “I want to show my peers that we’ve developed the critical skills to analyze world events and the responsibility to shape the future. I truly see the School of Social Sciences as a driver for innovation and social change.” •
Working as a soc sci peer advisor has fed Castro Sevilla’s desire to help others.
ready for ACTION
Poli sci student and 2017 School of Social Sciences commencement speaker Yareli Castro Sevilla has made it her mission to fight for immigrant rights
areli Castro Sevilla has never been shy about sharing her story. As a young immigrant who has found success and persevered through many challenges on her way to a diploma (she’s graduating with a degree in political science and history this June), she feels a sense of duty to those who have gone through similar struggles to speak out. And though she is a bit nervous as she prepares to face her biggest audience yet—as a student speaker at the UCI School of Social Sciences 2017 commencement ceremony— she feels ready to convey her message to her peers one last time. “We need to be doing something—we have college degrees, and that’s something that some of our parents don’t have and it’s something that some people within our communities can’t have,” she says. “So we must put ourselves out there for those who can’t.”
It’s a message she can stand behind—she’s been nothing if not an active member of the UCI community and has been “putting herself out there” for the immigrant and undocumented communities for years.
public service have earned her a place at Yale University, where she will head this fall to pursue graduate studies in history. But her accomplishments have not come without struggle.
Castro Sevilla has been a fierce advocate for undocumented student rights on campus since she arrived as a freshman, and has found her voice rallying for such rights and additional resources from the university.
A first generation college student, Castro Sevilla found that navigating the ins and outs of campus life as a new student was especially complex. But it was a feeling she was familiar with. After moving from Sinaloa, Mexico to Southern California in 2005, making the adjustment to life in a new country was challenging.
Her involvements at UCI have been dedicated to taking action for causes she believes in, and she has participated in a plethora of on-campus organizations throughout the years, including DREAMS at UCI, Anteater Ambassadors Network, and ASUCI. She’s even tried her hand at research, having completed a study on the undergraduate student experience at UCI as part of her political science honors thesis. And she has no plans of slowing down. It’s no surprise that her enthusiasm for her education and
“I remember being really stressed when teachers would talk to me and I wouldn’t really understand what they were saying,” she says. “I learned English in about six months, but it was really hard. It was just something I knew I needed because there was a lot of animosity if I spoke Spanish, so I took it upon myself.” Her quick learning and strong math skills
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eventually caught the attention of her teachers, and Castro Sevilla was completing advanced courses within a couple of years. She kept that momentum going throughout high school, and was thrilled when she found out she was admitted to UCI. However, when she arrived on campus, she found that there were few resources for immigrant students like her. Frustrated with having to go from department to department searching for someone who would know how to help her, Castro Sevilla decided to take matters into her own hands.
According to Castro Sevilla, the Dreamer’s coordinator helps get students access to study abroad programs, assists with financial aid, and gives presentations both onand off-campus to educate others on the needs of undocumented students. She was also a resource to Castro Sevilla with her undergraduate research, which assessed the campus climate for undocumented students at UCI by looking at it through four different lenses: deferred action for childhood arrivals, finances, social and emotional factors, and civic and community engagement.
“My first year I got involved in a lot of organizations for undocumented students and this is when I realized that we needed to be asking for more resources.”
This project, which she completed under the guidance of professor Louis DeSipio, was meant to prepare her for a future defending immigrant rights as an immigration lawyer. But after taking courses in UCI’s School of Law last quarter, Castro Sevilla realized that her passion lay elsewhere—behind her. She realized that her success was a culmination of the hard work of those who came before her—from family members’ sacrifices to protestors and activists who made her being at the university a possibility. So, she made the choice to pursue a career as a historian, specifically studying Latin American immigration to the U.S.
Her first request was for the university to hire a point person who could be the main contact and expert resource for undocumented students on campus. By the end of her freshman year, they had made that request a reality with the hiring of the first UCI Dreamers coordinator, who has proven to be a tremendous asset to UCI’s undocumented student population.
Castro Sevilla hopes to pursue a career as a historian where she can bring immigrant stories to the forefront
“I really want to dig up stories of people who have migrated from Latin America. The reasons they did it, their treatment here, how they did it, how they survived, and how they uplifted themselves and the communities they created,” she says. “I feel like when people come here and they don’t have a status, that’s all people see. Being a human being is clouded by their undocumented status. And so I want to use my writing as a historian to put these people at the forefront.” Though she knows the education she will be receiving at Yale will be top-notch, she admits that she was hesitant to move so far away from her family who reside in California. But once she heard about faculty activism that goes on at Yale and knew that there were professors engaging in the same kind of social movements that she believes in, she felt much more confident in her decision. Particularly, she says, after having such incredibly supportive mentors at UCI. “I’ve had great mentors and powerful women role models here,” she says, noting Vicki Ruiz, Distinguished Professor of history and Chicano/Latino studies, who has offered valuable guidance in regards to graduate school and a listening ear whenever Castro Sevilla needed one.
Anita Casavantes Bradford, associate professor of history and Chicano/Latino studies, has also shown tremendous support. Castro Sevilla worked closely with her this past fall on the First Generation First Quarter Challenge which paired incoming first gen students with third and fourth year student mentors from similar backgrounds.
I’ve had great mentors and powerful women role models at UCI.
She served as a peer academic advisor in the School of Social Sciences, and the feeling of helping other students, especially those from backgrounds like hers, has fed her desire to help others in tangible ways. She says that once her career as a historian is over, it’s her dream to open a school specifically for undocumented immigrants. Before that, she also wants to teach at the community college level. “A lot of people ask me why I want to teach community college,” she says. “But for a lot of undocumented and low income students, that’s their first step if they can’t afford a Cal State or UC,” she says. “I feel like that could be a starting place where I can build people up and send them to great places.” It’s obvious to her UCI peers and faculty that Castro Sevilla is doing much more than just “helping” already. She has enacted real change in the way the university approaches undocumented students. And with her new plan to delve into the history of immigration and share immigrant stories with the world, she will surely be challenging the status quo for the foreseeable future. “My goal with earning a college degree is not to make money. It’s to help people,” she says. “So my speech is definitely a call to action for people to get involved and use the power of their degrees to advance others.” •
Social policy and public service soon-to-be alumna Shirley Loi plans to make a career out of her passion for helping others
A simple gesture can really change someone’s life… and I just want to support people in their pursuit for a better life.
hirley Loi, a graduating senior in social policy and public service, knows a good thing when she sees one. And once she finds something that speaks to her, she is confident in her decision to pursue it with everything she’s got. It’s been a theme throughout her time at UCI – Loi was even dead set on attending another institution just because she didn’t want to stay so close to home for college. But when the time came to commit, she couldn’t deny her gut feeling about UCI. So she changed her mind at the last second and never looked back. She made her decision to major in SPPS much in the same way. She knew what she was looking for out of her education - the opportunity to serve the greater community - but not where to find it. She went back and forth between biology, English, psychology, and more trying to find something that fit, but one course was all it took for her to decide SPPS was exactly what she needed.
Shirley Loi is headed to Michigan this fall for a graduate degree in public health.
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“Social science lecturer Jeanette Castellanos gave a presentation about why we were in SPPS,” she says. “She said most of us were in this class because we want to help the community, and my ears perked up because that really spoke to me. It pulled it all together. Right then I knew this was exactly what I wanted to do.” It’s no surprise that class and major appealed to her – helping people is practically in Loi’s DNA. She mostly credits her mother, who early on instilled a very deep appreciation for giving to those less fortunate. She remembers her mom toting a stack of one dollar bills in her purse at all times, ready to hand them out to homeless people she encountered throughout the day. And though their family did not grow up wealthy by any means, her mother always reminded her that there were plenty of people in their Baldwin Park neighborhood who had it much worse. “She always said that even though we don’t have a lot of money, we should give whatever we can. Because that’s how life is, you should help people.” As a teen, Loi joined Key Club International – a community service program for high school students – and knew she wanted to carry that spirit of service into her college career, she just wasn’t quite sure how. But when she arrived at UCI and began looking into majors in the School of Social Sciences and found social policy and public service, she was intrigued. She immediately got into the giving spirit by joining a host of on-campus organizations dedicated to giving back. She found a passion for public health along the way, and was drawn to organizations that focused on providing both physical and mental health support for her UCI peers and those in the broader community. Loi worked with New Narratives to create dialogues about race, disability, and gender issues on campus; she joined ASUCI’s Mental Health Commission to promote the de-stigmatization of mental health; she educated her peers about how to maintain a healthy lifestyle with the Center for Student Wellness and Health Promotion; and created a student network of support for those facing personal challenges while serving as the president of No Strings Attached. She loved all these opportunities to make a difference in others lives, but it wasn’t until Castellanos’ course that she realized how she could really make a change once she left the university.
“I think there’s this misconception that there’s an abundance of resources for people who are struggling,” she says. “I hear people say, ‘oh, someone will help them,’ but it’s really up to us to create those services that help others. Thanks to SPPS I have the tools to be able to do that. I have research experience, experience working with nonprofits and working directly with the community.” The research aspect is what made Loi realize she had the real potential to help others long-term. She developed those skills (and honed in on her passion for public health) while interning at the Costa Mesa-based nonprofit Share Our Selves that provides resources – including medical – for those in need. Her research there focused on the barriers to comprehensive health for lowincome minority women, and she later went on to study the effects of the “model minority myth” on Vietnamese college students’ health under Castellanos. While she worked to strengthen her skills as an academic, Loi also continued her volunteer work in the healthcare community. She volunteered at Hoag Hospital as a health scholar; served on the board of Healing through Humanities, a club dedicated to fostering compassion in healthcare; and served as an enrollment counselor at Community Healthcare Initiative of Orange County. And though she knew what she loved doing and the difference she wanted to make, Loi still wasn’t sure exactly how to make it happen until her mentor casually mentioned graduate school. She hadn’t even considered it prior to that moment, but she happened to be in the Social Science Academic Resource Center one day and picked up a flyer on the various programs available. After seeing that she could pursue a graduate degree in public health, she found herself in the middle of another moment of clarity. In her signature fashion, she just went for it. Despite being convinced that she wouldn’t be accepted, Loi applied to several programs and is thrilled to be heading to the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor – her top choice – this fall. “I’ll be doing health behavior and health education, a program that incorporates community-based participatory research and works directly with the community it serves,” she says. “So it ties my background with SPPS to my interest in public health, and creates this perfect program for me. I’m so excited for it.”
Loi hopes to pursue a career as a community health educator or perhaps even start her own nonprofit one day. She’s particularly looking forward to a career where she gets to do what she loves and positively impact peoples’ lives every day. “A simple gesture can really change someone’s life,” she says. “And I just want to support people in their pursuit for a better life.” •
UCI alumna recounts her time as Obamaâ€™s personal assistant
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he met the pope and Miss Piggy, kept then-President Obama on schedule and taught the leader of the free world how to “Zot!”
For three years, UCI alumna Ferial Govashiri was a whirlwind at the Oval Office, where she served as the commander in chief’s personal assistant and occasional chess opponent. On Jan. 20, she returned to civilian life and began plotting her next act, which includes writing a book, although not about what you might expect. But first, she’s taking a breather. “It still hasn’t hit me that the job ended,” says Govashiri, a 2005 political science graduate. “Even now, if I take a nap, I wake up in a panic, wondering ‘Where’s my phone? What have I forgotten to do?’” The adventure began in 2007, when her bosses at a Pasadena political consulting firm recommended her to one of their Chicago office’s clients – a senator named Barack Obama. At the request of his staff, Govashiri “flew to Iowa and did a rally there. Then I was invited to New Hampshire and then to South Carolina. Finally, I said, ‘I have to go home to Laguna Hills to get new clothes.’” Soon, the Iranian-born Anteater was helping to manage the future president’s campaign advance team. After the election, she segued to a post at the National Security Council, where her duties included planning Obama’s foreign trips. In May 2014, she became his personal aide, sitting at a desk right outside the Oval Office. From that vantage point, camped beneath an oil painting of the Statue of Liberty, Govashiri directed traffic, steering a parade of politicians and luminaries into and out of the president’s orbit. She obsessively eyed the clock to keep Obama on time, set up his phone calls and scrambled to ensure that he had all the documents needed for meetings.
“There were days I felt like mission control,” Govashiri says. The job had its quirky moments, such as playing chess with the president, meeting Miss Piggy (who stopped by for a Christmas ceremony), watching Obama test a pair of virtual reality goggles and getting bombarded with letters – many from prison inmates – seeking Govashiri’s help. She also once crashed a private meeting between the president and Pope Francis to let them know the pontiff was late for his parade. Other incidents on Govashiri’s highlight reel include: • Dancing with the commander in chief outside the Oval Office • Riding in a 100-car motorcade through Myanmar as thousands of people lined the streets (“Presidential motorcades are the coolest thing ever,” she says. “Seeing one in person is unreal.”) • Encountering actors George Clooney and Leonardo DiCaprio at the White House (“They definitely have auras about them.”) • Accompanying Obama when he delivered UCI’s 50th anniversary commencement address in 2014 (One of the graduating seniors was Govashiri’s brother, Sina. Obama made the trek after UCI students and alumni deluged the White House with 10,000 postcards asking him to speak. The president told the crowd at Angel Stadium of Anaheim, “You had the inside track in getting me here because my personal assistant, Ferial, is a proud Anteater.” He then joked, “Until today, I did not understand why she greets me every morning by shouting ‘Zoot! Zoot! Zoot!’”) • Although the job entailed long hours, Govashiri nevertheless squeezed in time to date, plan a wedding and get married. For her ceremony in Orange County, Obama secretly taped a video message that was played at the reception. “I have no idea how he did that,” she says, “because I tracked everything he did each day.”
It isn’t often you get a front seat to history.
Now that her boss and colleagues have scattered to make way for a new administration, Govashiri hopes to move back to Southern California and find a career in which “media and technology intersect.” She also wants to write a children’s book about the history behind some of the monuments in Washington, D.C. In the meantime, Govashiri has signed up with a speakers’ bureau to give talks about her West Wing exploits and the lessons she learned along the way. Working in the White House will be a tough act to follow, she says: “It isn’t often you get a front seat to history.” •
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s i m p l y
UNSTOPPABLE When times get tough, graduating senior Margarita Rodriguez, psychology, isn’t one to back down
ost college students have a tough time adjusting during their first year. The stress of learning to take care of oneself, making new friends, juggling a heavy class schedule, and being away from family support can take a toll. At the end of the day, though, most persevere and join their peers in tossing their caps at the Bren several years later. Margarita Rodriguez is no exception. A 2017 grad and psychology and education double major, she’s looking forward to her very own commencement, a sweet victory after some tumultuous years. But her success is even more incredible given the other unexpected and gut-wrenching challenges she’s faced since starting her UCI journey. As a freshman, instead of going to parties or school-sponsored activities on the weekends, Rodriguez was spending the night in hospitals with her mother, who was diagnosed with cancer early on in her freshman year. And instead of spending her first college summer at the beach with friends, the first-gen student was preparing for a life-saving double mastectomy that would cause her to put her education on hold for a quarter. Not exactly the typical college
experience. But where others may have – understandably – chosen to give up on school, Rodriguez forged onward, balancing her health and family life while she completed her bachelor’s degree with a double major to boot. Now things are in a more stable place for her and her family, she is set to graduate, and she was just accepted in UCI’s master’s program in teaching. If anything, her crazy whirlwind of a college experience has proven that she is pretty much capable of anything. Rodriguez isn’t a stranger to stress. Even as a high school student, she was coping with various family illnesses while completing AP courses. Things became even more tense her senior year of high school when she and her father were both diagnosed with LiFraumeni syndrome, a disorder that makes one particularly susceptible to various types of cancers. Being only 18 at the time, it was a lot to take on, but she managed to finish high school and get college applications completed – a huge accomplishment as a first-generation student – while working on a treatment plan that included regular visits to an oncologist. With so much weighing on her personally, it’s no wonder that UCI’s calm and picturesque campus appealed to her.
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First gen grad Margarita Rodriguez ’17 isn’t letting cancer or anything else derail her plans to make a difference.
“On my first visit to UCI, I was completely lost the entire time but I still fell in love,” she says. “There was this overwhelming sense of calm. It was a very peaceful and inviting environment. After that I didn’t want to see any other schools. I just knew from that point on that this was where I wanted to be.”
student. But when she got the phone call five weeks into her first quarter that her mother was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, it was almost enough to throw her off completely. In fact, the only thing that kept her going was her mother’s insistence that she not drop out of school.
When she got to campus for her freshman year, she wrestled with the usual, new-student issues as well as those of a first-gen
“It was such a mom thing,” Rodriguez says. “She said, ‘you’re going to take care of yourself and do what you need to do.’”
So she did. Even when it meant spending the night in the hospital in L.A. and driving back to turn in an assignment a day late (her professors were very understanding); even when it meant making up missed tests; and even when her oncologist told her, just as her mom was getting ready to finish her chemo treatments a few months later, that her scan indicated that she had a more than 90% chance of developing breast cancer before the age of 30. She was only 19. The doctor told her that a prophylactic – or preventative – mastectomy was their best recommendation. She didn’t have to do it immediately and they obviously couldn’t force her to do it at all, but he said once she turned 23-25, then it would be an urgent conversation – if she didn’t already have breast cancer. “I started thinking and realized there was never a good time for this, but I figured if there was going to be a time to do it, it would be then,” she says. “Because after that it would mean deferring grad school, plus I would be carrying the risk all those years, wondering, worrying every time I felt something even slightly off. I would have had to go in for checks almost every three months. It was a lot.” To make matters even worse, Rodriguez had a midterm the day after she heard the news (she amazingly did just as well as she had done on previous tests in that class), and she was immediately on the path to finding out how quickly she could be back at school should she go through with the surgery. Ultimately she made the decision to visit the undergrad affairs office and discuss her options for withdrawing temporarily from the university. She says the support she received from the office, especially from academic advisor Kurt Hessinger who helped her outline her options, was what made the whole ordeal just a bit easier.
As she finished out her freshman year and prepared for her surgery that summer, she remembers being a bit in denial about having to withdraw, even temporarily, from UCI. She still remembers the day she went to the registrar’s office to pick up the withdrawal form, which she says had been sitting in her mailbox for weeks because she couldn’t bring herself to turn it in. Eventually, though, she had to put her plan in motion. “It was a very tough thing for me – especially because I was the first in my family to go to college,” she says. “Just getting here had been such an accomplishment, and now to have to withdraw – and I had just gotten here, too. I honestly broke down in the undergrad office.” But Rodriguez wouldn’t be an Anteater if she didn’t have a fighting spirit. She took the summer and fall quarters to recover from her surgery, and came back to UCI for her winter quarter ready to go. In fact, she had a whole new outlook on her educational experience. “Having that time off gave me the perspective I needed – a perspective you don’t often get as a freshman,” she says. “It really did get me to focus on setting goals and figuring out, ‘OK why am I here, why am I at this school, and what am I going to do with my time at UCI?” The answer to that question ended up starting with the Jumpstart UCI program, which she joined at the beginning of her third year. The national early education organization recruits and trains college students and community Corps members to serve preschool children in low-income neighborhoods. She immediately fell in love with teaching, and subsequently decided to add a second major in education. Around the same time, she found herself interested in language, thanks to some inspiring lectures by cognitive sciences professor Virginia Mann, who has since become a mentor for Rodriguez.
Having that time off gave me the perspective I needed – a perspective you don’t often get as a freshman.
Rodriguez is wasting no time in starting her search for the perfect career; in the fall, she’ll begin UCI’s master’s in teaching program.
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She eventually found a way to merge her two areas of study – psychology and education – by researching specifically how learning a language is different for bilingual speakers versus monolingual speakers. She has now completed an honors thesis on the subject under the mentorship of assistant professor Julio Torres and associate professor Lisa Pearl, and discovered a passion for research as well. But her real mission was always to help others, and UCI provided plenty of opportunities there as well. After being elected to the executive board of the Latino/a Student Psychological Association, she was able to help prospective first-generation students of color and their parents with the college process by coordinating the organization’s annual Padre Night. In addition, because of the incredible help she received from the School of Social Sciences Undergraduate Affairs Office throughout her time at the university, she joined the office as a peer academic advisor. And she doesn’t plan to let these kinds of roles get away once she enters the real world. “It’s really about how I’m going to use my time here for the betterment of others,” Rodriguez says. “How am I going to impact others with my career?” To find that out, she’s decided to embark on UCI’s master’s in teaching program in the fall. There, she will not only get more exposure to a classroom environment, but she will be able to see what issues there are in the education field – particularly with regard to bilingual speakers – and what can be done to remedy them. It’s a very researcherlike question, but she is keeping her options open for the time being. “Right now I could start teaching, fall in love with this career and not look back,” she says.
“Another path I’ve been contemplating is teaching for a couple years then applying for Ph.D. programs in applied linguistics. From there I could use the classroom experience to see what we need to learn more about in terms of how we teach bilingual children. Right now I’m seeing which one pans out best.” But she’s not worried. She says the one thing that’s helped her make it through these trials – aside from her incredibly supportive family – is her faith and a firm belief that everything is going to work out just as it should. For someone with a very type-A personality, it’s not always easy, but she’s learned to surrender to life’s ups and downs with grace and patience. “Of course plans change and things happen, but I was really given the opportunity to experiment and grow into what I’m doing now,” she says. “This is far from what I imagined in my freshman year, but the biggest thing I’m concerned with is doing what I love. The rest will follow.” •
ONE FOR THE TEAM Alumnus and NBA coach Scott Brooks may be busy coaching the Wizards, but he still makes time for his alma mater
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Opening night at the Bren Center is one of my favorite UCI memories – enjoying the crazy atmosphere from our fans. Anteater alumnus and NBA coach Scott Brooks with Washington Wizards small forward Kelly Oubre Jr.
s one of the Washington Wizards’ most successful seasons in the team’s history winds down, the team’s new head coach and UCI alumnus Scott Brooks is celebrating a personal achievement along with his professional ones—being named UCI’s 2017 Lauds & Laurels Outstanding Alumni Athlete. Brooks played two seasons with the ‘Eaters (1985-87), averaging 23.8 points as a senior in 1986-87 when he was named first team All-PCAA (now Big West). He scored 43 points on opening night of the Bren Events Center Jan. 8, 1987, when UCI defeated Utah State, 118-96. Brooks scored 41 points later that season in a 90-79 victory at Pacific Feb. 21, 1987. He still holds the UCI record for career free-throw percentage at .859 (220 of 256). As a junior in 1985-86, he set what remains the Anteater singleseason record for free-throw percentage at .886 (78 of 88). He went on to play 10 seasons in the NBA, winning a championship with the Houston Rockets in 1994 before moving on to coaching. But despite the decades he’s spent in front of tens of thousands of NBA fans, he says the enthusiasm of UCI basketball supporters stays with him. “Opening night at the Bren Center is one of my favorite UCI memories – enjoying the crazy atmosphere from our fans,” he says. Brooks just joined the Wizards’ coaching staff last year, but he has already led the team to 49 wins as of press time, already ahead of their 41 wins last season. Hopefully, this is just the beginning of a long and prosperous relationship. As for Brooks’ California fans wondering if he’ll ever make his way back to the Golden State, we’ll just have to wait and see. •
Photo courtesy of UCI Athletics
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Team photos courtesy of Arizona Cardinals
Brooks with Peter at the UCI/Scott Brooks Golf Invitational.
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SUPER DADA Bobby Barzi, economics ’94, is showcasing the importance of fatherhood through Fodada, his clothing company that gives back
obby Barzi isn’t ashamed to admit that he sometimes finds himself singing along to Justin Bieber— one of his kids’ favorites—in the car. Sometimes even when his kids aren’t around. “I guess that’s how you know you’re comfortable with yourself,” he jokes. The economics alumnus, entrepreneur, and father of two—Pierce, 7 and Royce, 4—relishes these lighthearted moments; singing along with teen pop stars wasn’t always his M.O. According to Barzi, becoming a dad changed his whole life for the better. But it also allowed him to notice that not all dads were as naturally open to those changes. That’s why in 2012 he founded Fodada, a global for-profit business that’s dedicated to fostering the invaluable relationship between father and child. Even the company’s name reflects that fatherly dedication—it was inspired by Barzi’s older son who, as a toddler, would bring his dad little toys and trinkets with the announcement, “fo’ dada.”
Fodada founder Bobby Barzi with his boys.
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I am nothing like that traditional dad model, and I found so many other dads who weren’t either.
At one Fodada event, dads got to build robots with their kids with UCI’s Department of Cognitive Sciences and the Cognitive Anteater Robotics Laboratory (CARL)
As a clothing company, Fodada creates everyday clothing for men, women, and children in addition to partnering with corporations for purposeful custom productions. But instead of pocketing all the profits, Barzi— known around the office as Chief Dada—has made it his mission to host events and activities for families around the globe that cultivate a community of like-minded dads. The choice to create a company that gives back was not a random one for Barzi. He and his wife—Amanda Fowler, fellow social sciences alumna and executive director of global corporate giving for Edwards Lifesciences—have long made philanthropy a priority. Both of their careers are built on supporting those in need, and they still make time to volunteer as a family. In addition, both husband and wife support their alma mater as executive members of the School of Social Sciences Dean’s Leadership Society. Fodada fit into their lives perfectly.
One of the company’s biggest goals is to completely deconstruct the societal stereotypes around what being a dad looks like. Traditionally, the role is seen as less engaged than the mother—the “stoic breadwinner” as Barzi calls it. But that model is slowly changing. Dads today want to be involved with their kids and childcare tasks are being split more evenly between parents [for more on this, check out a recent study by UCI sociologist Judy Treas featured in this issue]. Still, he says the traditional expectations aren’t gone. “I am nothing like that traditional dad model, and I found so many other dads who weren’t either,” he says. “But I also saw some fathers who were only comfortable being more engaged and involved within the box of their family. I also saw dads who didn’t have a close relationship with their kids, and not only how much their family was missing out, but how much they were missing out as individuals.”
uci soc sci 2017 Barzi finds that by hosting various activities, from yoga, to hiking, to science camps, such fathers are able to find common ground with their children while having fun and learning—an essential piece of the puzzle for him. In fact, there are four characteristics that Fodada strives for when planning activities: social, educational, active, and service oriented. By doing this, Barzi says that kids start to associate these fun and rewarding experiences with dad, which ultimately helps nurture a strong and productive relationship. “The Dad and Me Program is meant to be kind of an excuse,” he says. “It’s a pre-programmed opportunity for dads to hang out with their children where they don’t have to try to come up with something on their own, they just have to show up and interact.” Of course, UCI and the School of Social Sciences get in on the action, and have hosted several Fodada events. The School of Engineering hosted a monster robot-building event for Halloween, and last spring, the company partnered with the Department of Cognitive Sciences and the Cognitive Anteater Robotics Laboratory (CARL) to teach dads and kids how to program robots. “It was so cool because I didn’t know how to do it, my kid didn’t know how to do it, so we learned together on the same level and goofed around, messed up, and had so much fun,” Barzi says. “And now every time we drive by UCI my son brings up that experience. It’s a great memory and in the process he learned and he got exposed to higher education.”
Barzi’s main criterion in choosing community partners is how the organization will help benefit the community. It’s why UCI has been such a solid player in the past; it’s what led to the company’s Red Beanie program— a partnership with the American Heart Association bringing awareness to heart disease and prevention; and it’s why Barzi recently chose to work with the Snakeriver Correctional Institution in Oregon to hold a special two-day camp for incarcerated dads and their kids. It’s estimated that close to 70 percent of children with parents in prison could end up in prison themselves. By giving these men the chance to be dads and role models, he hopes to help change that. Participating fathers had to first complete an 18-month program within the prison, working on parenting and life skills. Those who followed through on their commitments were rewarded with a special visit from their children—some of whom they had not seen in five years. The Fodada-coordinated activities included yoga, face-painting, bread-making, and overall bonding. It was a life-changing experience for both children and fathers, and one that Barzi hopes will help end the cycle of familial incarceration. The program’s first year was a huge success, but Barzi isn’t planning to take a break from the work any time soon. They’re five years in on hosting the Fodada International Women’s Self Defense Day. “The women’s self defense day came about because—as a father, a son, a husband—I care a tremendous amount about the women in my life—my wife, my mom, sister, the daughters of my friends who are almost like my daughters,” Barzi says. “And I wanted to make sure that as fathers and husbands we were advocating for this concept of empowerment and women’s safety.” Each year for the last five years, cities all around the world have joined together to host self-defense courses and seminars with Fodada’s help. From India to Pakistan to Singapore to right here in Orange County, women are learning how to protect themselves while their loved ones are taught the importance of empowerment and respect. It’s an event that fathers can attend with their daughters, families can attend together, or that women can show up to on their own. It’s all about bringing something valuable to the community—even outside of Fodada’s typical demographic—because, as Barzi knows, the father, the family, and the community are all closely connected.
“At the core of it what we wanted to do with Fodada was start something that promoted, celebrated, and supported the role of a great dad,” he says. “Including what that means to everyone involved; the child, the father himself, the family, and the product that comes to the community.” In short, Barzi recognizes the tremendous value in his relationship with his sons and wants to see everyone experience that joy. “If I have a bad day, all I have to do is close my eyes and think about my kids for one minute,” he says. “And then whatever is bothering me doesn’t seem like a big deal any more. At the core of life that’s what it’s all about—that opportunity, that responsibility, that relationship with my family.” •
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TOGETHER John and Michelle Williams, soc sci’s husband and wife Lauds & Laurels honorees, are helping UCI usher in a bright future
UCI soc sci power couple John & Michelle Williams.
t’s said that opposites attract. But a quick look at husband and wife duo John and Michelle Williams will reveal more similarities than differences.
The two met as UCI students and are both proud political science alumni—he graduated in ’85 and she in ’87. They both made the switch from biology to political science at the end of their sophomore years (in Michelle’s case, to the chagrin of her parents). Each later went on to careers in law; he is currently a partner at the firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, and she worked in the world of D.C. politics before choosing to focus her time on charitable efforts. They share passions for philanthropy and the outdoors (particularly fly fishing with the family) and recently, as a couple, took on the role of co-chairing the School of Social Sciences Dean’s Leadership Society (DLS). The cherry on top of this power couple sundae is their most recent joint achievement—being honored as the 2017 Lauds & Laurels Distinguished Alumni from the School of Social Sciences.
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dean’s LEADERSHIP society Support scholarships, research, and new school initiatives The Williams enjoying some family time while fly fishing in Yellowstone National Park.
This isn’t a school that is stagnating or happy to just rest on its laurels. It’s evolving and changing at exponential levels. And that’s something that people want to be a part of. –Michelle Williams It’s a recognition that’s deserved, particularly given the Williams’ recent efforts with the DLS. As co-chairs, their goals for the school can be whittled down to two things—community engagement and development. And it’s something that Michelle believes will happen organically once people are exposed to the extraordinary things our students and faculty are doing. “This isn’t a school that is stagnating or happy to just rest on its laurels,” she says. “It’s evolving and changing at exponential levels. And that’s something that people want to be a part of.” If one looks at the path the couple has taken to get to where they are today, it becomes evident that this organic growth tactic is one they’re familiar with—both personally and professionally. In terms of their relationship, the two were close friends before they began dating. Both active members of ASUCI (John ran
for president and Michelle served as executive vice president), they were also part of the same student lobbying group that traveled to Sacramento to meet with campus representatives. It was on the 10-hour van ride to the state capital that Michelle says they first became friends and, after letting the friendship develop for six months, John eventually did ask her out on a date—to a UCI basketball game. He says that game, their first time out as a couple, is still one of his fondest memories at UCI. After college they both moved to Washington D.C. for different ventures. Michelle had participated in the UCDC program as an undergrad and snagged a position as a political appointee for the Reagan administration. John took a position at the nonprofit Council for Court Excellence before deciding to pursue his law degree. But even long after they had established themselves as an item, they were both focused on school and their budding careers rather than rushing on to the next phase. They let the relationship evolve naturally, and both
he Dean’s Leadership Society provides an opportunity for alumni, parents, community, faculty and staff to support the school at various commitment levels, while receiving special recognition and opportunities to engage in the school’s growth. Members join an influential network of supporters and like-minded individuals who are deeply committed to enriching the UCI social sciences and university’s national prominence. Gifts to the DLS support specific projects determined annually in consultation with DLS chairs and its Executive Committee. Past gifts have supported scholarships for UCDC students, funds for faculty retention, and renovation and naming of a classroom used by social sciences’ student groups. Members that joined as Charter Members in 201415 received a brick in their name in the plaza outside of Social Science Plaza B, adjacent to the student activities room. If you’re interested in joining, contact Liz Dahl, Director of Development, (949) 824-8079 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Membership levels range from the Young Professional at $1500 to Dean’s Partner at $25,000. Membership gifts directly support scholarships for worthy students, critical school research projects, recruitment and retention of world-class faculty, and new school initiatives.
agree that it helped them build a very solid foundation for their marriage. This relaxed and open approach has helped them thrive as a family (they now have three sons), and is critical to their ability to work together as DLS co-chairs. John also notes that mutual respect is key. But they don’t foresee too many disagreements as they move forward with the School of Social Sciences. Both are thrilled at the opportunity to work with old classmates, community members, and faculty who, in Michelle’s case, changed the course of her future.
I think the significance of a major university right here in the middle of Orange County is often lost on people. It’s so important to the continuing development of the county and the business community. –John Williams
the Lunar New Year celebration as “exactly the kind of thing I love to see the school doing,” because it exposes the university to a much wider audience. “I think the significance of a major university right here in the middle of Orange County is often lost on people,” he says. “It’s so important to the continuing development of the county and the business community. So if I can help to enlighten people about the great things that are being done in the School of Social Sciences at UCI, I think that’s a great thing as well.”
“Before I took [then] dean Schonfeld’s Intro to Political Science my sophomore year, I was intensely focused on biology—I was just taking the class to fulfill a requirement. But during that first class, it was like everything changed,” she says.
It’s for this reason that John hopes to recruit not only alumni, but other community members to the school’s cause. “Because whether you are an alumnus or not, UCI is a very important part of our local community.”
The “no smoking” lecture, as some of Schonfeld’s former students know it, began with the now-professor emeritus entering the lecture hall, standing in front of a “no smoking” sign, and lighting up a cigarette. Though this would surely violate several health codes nowadays, the message that it and the rest of the lecture sent regarding personal freedoms and the societal restrictions imposed upon the public convinced Michelle to completely shift gears academically. She dropped biology for political science later that year, and the rest is history.
The biggest motivation for Michelle and John, and why they are having so much success as co-chairs of the DLS, is that they truly believe in the School of Social Sciences and UCI. They are both believers that education is the key to making a positive impact on the world, something they’ve demonstrated through their longtime support of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, the Ocean Institute, the Boy Scouts of America, and St. Margaret’s Episcopal School. And that passion for education formed during their undergraduate years.
She says that getting to interact with her former professor now feels very full-circle—she even recently told him how much of an impact he had on her life. But as much as she and John enjoy taking a trip down memory lane, they’re even more excited for the future of the school—due in large part to dean Bill Maurer. “Frankly, it’s a privilege to be able to work with him because he’s not only one of the smartest people I’ve ever met but he has this dynamic personality that people are immediately attracted to,” John says. Both John and Michelle note how Maurer’s ability to be an academic but remain approachable is a huge asset to the school, because it engages everyone—exactly what a growing institution needs. In addition, John cites broader community events like
They have such a strong tie to the university that it’s impossible to not be influenced by their enthusiasm. And though they have several other alma maters between them, UCI gets the bulk of their attention because their years here were so formative. They are both grateful for the opportunity for a first rate education that was accessible for their families financially, for the lifelong friends they made (many of whom are in the DLS as well) and, of course, the chance to meet each other. “For all the things we’ve accomplished with our family and professions, we always feel like gosh, we are just two kids from UCI,” Michelle says. Two kids who just want to give back to the school that gave them so much. •
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Economics alumna recruits fresh faces to expand UCI’s growing international community
ince receiving her bachelor’s degree in 2014, economics grad Ting (Lorina) Deng moved back to her home country of China and started her own jewelry business—but that doesn’t mean she left her ties to UCI behind. The Beijing-based designer is working closely with the university to help usher in a new generation of international Anteaters—efforts that helped earn her the distinction of being the 2017 Lauds & Laurels Outstanding Young Alumna.
As an alumni ambassador to China, Deng helps to recruit future students by educating them about the ins and outs of studying abroad, sharing her own experiences as an international student, and singing the praises of UCI from more than 6,000 miles away. And it’s due in large part to alumni like her that UCI’s future is so bright. WHAT MADE YOU WANT TO TRAVEL INTERNATIONALLY FOR COLLEGE? A desire to see a bigger world, and my family’s support.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE UCI? I have family who studied at UCI. I was also attracted to the city’s climate, economic environment, and population.
WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE EXPERIENCE AS AN INTERNATIONAL STUDENT AT UCI? I met my best friends at Middle Earth during my first year. But besides making friends from different backgrounds, my involvements in the arts community (drama shows, dance, exhibitions) at the Claire Trevor School of the Arts were some of my favorite experiences, too.
WHAT DO YOU TELL PROSPECTIVE STUDENTS ABOUT UCI? UCI is a great and vigorous academic institution. You will feel support, opportunities, and kindness all around you. Everything seems possible here.
DID YOUR TIME AT UCI HELP TO PREPARE YOU FOR YOUR CURRENT JOB AS A JEWELRY DESIGNER? Yes! The multicultural education and open art atmosphere fostered my aesthetic and artistic talents. My economics classes gave me a broader perspective and vision for my business development. And my schoolmates are precious resources and offer allaround support. WHAT MADE YOU WANT TO HELP RECRUIT OTHER STUDENTS TO COME TO UCI? It benefits both the students and the university and I like sharing my UCI experience and helping others.
WHAT IS THE MOST COMMON QUESTION PROSPECTIVE STUDENTS ASK YOU? I’m often asked ‘what major I should select?’ or ‘is my major right?’ I want students to know that a major may be right for the employment market, but not for their hearts. The market may change and their heart may change too so there is no “right” major. I don’t want them to be afraid to try. DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE TO CURRENT STUDENTS TO GET THE MOST OUT OF THEIR TIME HERE? Get involved as much as possible. I believe most people will end up switching careers more often than they think and you never know what you will do in the future. Your experiences at the university are like seeds. The more you plant, the more fruits you’ll have to choose from.
From struggles with homelessness to serving as See Jane Go’s COO, Cassandra Miller ’03 proves that a perfect past isn’t a prerequisite for an ideal future
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assandra Miller, economics ’03, has never wanted anyone’s sympathy – even when she was supporting two children and living out of a garage at the age of 19. While struggling to put food on the table, the young mother wouldn’t take welfare, instead opting to work and earn her own money through training programs. Now her kids are grown, she’s earned both her bachelor’s and MBA from UCI, and she’s found success as an entrepreneur in two male-dominated industries – consulting and tech. Miller’s story is evidence that success can stem from struggle. But, even more, it’s an inspiring testament to girl power and the strength of the Anteater spirit. Before coming onboard as the COO of See Jane Go, an all female ride sharing service, Miller was making a living as a “business architect,” saving failing companies and rebuilding them from the ground up. She’s also founded several businesses of her own, and – at UCI’s invitation – has been imparting her knowledge on the next generation of entrepreneurs as an adjunct instructor at the Paul Merage School of Business. She brought that same expertise – plus her experience in IT and tech – to Jane, and she’s been loving every minute since. With the intention of creating a safer way for women to participate in ride sharing platforms, See Jane Go offers an alternative to female drivers and riders who feel more secure riding with other women. They only employ female drivers, and solely women are able to hail rides through the app, which is available now on most smartphones for free. It’s a dream come true for Miller, who is getting to use her position to help other women who may be facing their own challenges.
Miller with her two children her freshman year of college.
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I get to dream things, build things, and help people. I come to work and it’s not work. I have fun every single day doing what we do here.
Miller, COO of See Jane Go.
“It really is a dream job,” she says. “I get to dream things, build things, and help people. I come to work and it’s not work. I have fun every single day doing what we do here.” She’s in such a great place now, but it was hard work getting here – even though she was pretty much born thinking in economic terms. As a child, she remembers always thinking about things in graphs and charts— finding patterns in traffic flow, trying to imagine the trickle down effect of individual decisions, and calculating why certain items in a store were the price they were – before she even knew what economics was. She was constantly analyzing, which made her
naturally gifted in school. But her path to a high school diploma became more complicated during her sophomore year when she found out she was pregnant. Miller gave birth to her daughter at 16 and, having no access to childcare, was forced to put her education on hold. She still managed to graduate high school early, even after missing a year while she looked for a way to afford childcare. Her drive to succeed was unstoppable, even when she had nowhere to live and was forced to take her daughter to live in a homeless shelter in Fullerton. There, she was offered the chance to complete a training program that taught her to build telecommunications systems. Miller took the opportunity to continue to learn and support her daughter, and was managing to get by working and, eventually, living with her boyfriend. However her road became rocky again when she found out she
was pregnant with her second child at 19. Soon after giving birth, Miller was forced to flee the home she was sharing with her son’s father when he became violent. Once again, she was homeless. “So here I was, a single mom, two kids, living in a garage,” she says. “I had applied for grants for childcare, affordable housing, anything I could to get out of the garage and get a stable life.” Eventually, because she refused welfare and had so little income, she was put to the top of the list for a childcare grant and affordable housing in Costa Mesa. Once she was settled and her family was being cared for, the still-teenager immediately set to work on earning her college degree.
I loved UCI for so many reasons. The professors were phenomenal. I would have questions and go to office hours and the professors would sit and talk through concepts and theories with me for as long as I needed.
Miller with Mark Thiessen, president of See Jane Go.
“I refused to have my children experience the poverty that I lived with growing up; building a stable and happy life for my children is what drove me to keep going, even when the tasks at hand seemed impossible.” That’s how she found herself, not even 20 years old and with two kids at home, sitting in an intro to economics class and knowing – with complete certainty – that it was the path for her. “The professor had these graphs up on the screen and I was thinking, ‘these graphs have been in my head since I was a child,’” she says of her first economics class ever. “I fell in love that first day. I was so excited. So at that moment I knew I was studying economics and that was it.” After finishing her prerequisites, she transferred to UCI and fell even more in love with economics thanks to the classes and professors. She went on to found her own consulting businesses – she coined the term “business architect” to describe what she does – and has worked for more than a decade building businesses for growth and rebuilding failing ones into lucrative operations. She is quick to credit her UCI
education as instrumental in helping her develop the necessary skills to succeed in such a competitive market. “I loved UCI for so many reasons,” Miller says. “The professors were phenomenal. I would have questions and go to office hours and the professors would sit and talk through concepts and theories with me for as long as I needed.” She says those talks prepared her for her future career as a business consultant because they helped her gain the confidence to go toe-to-toe with other powerful entrepreneurs. Many of the offices she worked with early on were doctors’ offices, and she had to be able to convince some very intelligent, very educated people that she knew how to run their office better than they did. “On a higher level with my consulting, those professors helped to teach me to not only ask questions, but ask the right questions of someone who’s very smart,” she says. Beyond her formal education, Miller owes her ability to save struggling companies to the same tenacity she utilized back when she was a teenage mother struggling to
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make ends meet. She isn’t one to give up easily, and she loves a good project. It’s one of the reasons she began creating her own companies on the side in addition to her consulting work (she’s got one – Callgistics – on the backburner right now), and it’s what brought her to See Jane Go, her current passion project and a business she thinks will revolutionize the way women experience ride sharing services. With their all female driving team, it’s an option that many Southern California women are drawn to, especially following reports of female riders on other apps being sexually assaulted by male drivers, even as close as Newport Beach. “I’m thrilled to be a part of a company that is coming out to help women access the freedom of a ride hail service without having to worry about what will happen to them in the car,” Miller says. “With Jane, they can ride without having the stress and anxiety of ‘I’m getting into a car with a strange man
and he’s going to see where I live.’ That goes against everything we know, as girls, to be safe.” But in addition to protecting women from potentially dangerous situations, it’s a way for Miller to help women drivers make ends meet, some of whom could be struggling as she was all those years ago. “When I think about it, if I were back in the day and had the chance to drive for Jane and earn some extra money when I didn’t even have money for groceries, that would have been amazing,” she says.
plans that will be announced in the coming months that Miller says will really set Jane apart from the competition. The main mission of the app, however – and the backbone of any company she is a part of in the future – will never change: helping people. “I always have some idea about how to make things better for businesses and for people,” she says, “and that’s really what we do as businesspeople. We help to improve the lives of others by solving problems, and I think that’s a really noble cause.” •
As COO of the company, she’s delighted to be doing what she loves and helping to build a new business from scratch – and she’s got plenty of exciting developments in the works. The company is already operating in Orange County and will be expanding across Southern California by the end of 2017. In addition, there are some
Her children showed up to support Miller when she completed her MBA at UCI.
the power of
Reza Jahangiri ’00 and Kelsey Galaway ’10 – UCI grads who met in Uganda – have joined forces on intertwined ventures aimed at making the world better
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ith years separating their stints at UCI, education separating their fields, and – at the time – continents separating them geographically, it’s really a wonder that Reza Jahangiri, economics ’00 and Kelsey Galaway, international studies ’10 ever met. Even more surprising is that, when they finally did meet in 2011, it wasn’t through their shared alma mater, or even in the United States at all. They were introduced at a safe house for human trafficking victims operated by the nonprofit Willow International – in Uganda.
Galaway, who had always known she wanted to be on the ground making a difference, was working as the country director for a nonprofit organization that offered rehabilitation and support for victims of human trafficking. Jahangiri, whose friend was working with said organization, paid a visit to Uganda with his wife to see the group in action. It was a transformative trip for him, and he remembers being genuinely shocked by what he learned and witnessed. “According to studies, 20.9 to 46 million people are affected by human trafficking
globally,” he says. “That’s a very shocking statistic for a lot of people and there’s a lack of awareness around that. And what really hit home for me was that most of the victims are children.” That experience in the safe house made Jahangiri want to get involved immediately, so he took the concept of corporate sponsorship back home to American Advisors Group (AAG), a leading company in the reverse mortgage industry that he had founded in 2005. With helping seniors already a part of the company’s DNA, it only
made sense to expand on that spirit of giving by taking Willow under its wing. AAG sponsored Willow International for two years following that meeting. During that time, Galaway took the reins as executive director of the nonprofit on the ground in Uganda. But when Jahangiri chose to expand the philanthropic efforts of his company and start the AAG Foundation, an official charitable branch dedicated to giving back, he knew she would be the perfect person to lead it. So, in 2015 Galaway found herself back in California for her new role with AAG. Galaway (center) with Jahangiri and his wife, Kate Levering
Now the two Anteaters work together on both organizations – he as the CEO of AAG and chairman of the Willow International board, and she as the director of the AAG Foundation in addition to her role as executive director of Willow. For Galaway, it’s been incredible to see this cause she’s been advocating for get the attention it deserves. “Human trafficking in Africa doesn’t get a lot of attention but it’s an issue that affects millions and is only growing,” she says. “And because of the extreme levels of poverty, there is a large population that’s at risk and being affected with absolutely no support services. In Uganda, if we didn’t exist, victims that were rescued would have nowhere to go but prison. There’s not a single bed in the country available to them.” But with the support of AAG, Willow has been able to grow at an incredible rate and is doing everything in its power to combat these issues. Originally, the group was solely focused on the rescue and rehabilitation of children who had been sold into the sex trade, but has recently taken steps to expand its efforts into prevention – a piece of the puzzle that Jahangiri holds very near and dear to his heart. “We’re getting broader in our mission, not just dealing with aftercare. That’s a big part of my efforts in regard to the foundation,
Galaway (top left) with her staff at Willow International, Uganda.
We’re getting broader in our mission, not just dealing with aftercare. There’s a lot of opportunity to positively impact human life. -Reza Jahangiri and I’m very passionate about it,” he says. “There’s a lot of opportunity to positively impact human life.” While the team is still dedicated to rehabilitating victims of sex trafficking – they have two homes in Uganda dedicated to healing and have partnered with the nonprofit International Sanctuary to offer survivors jobs – they have recently taken their efforts to the government level, advocating for the complete implementation of the law and policies that support and protect victims. They are currently working with the Pepperdine University School of Law and the Human Trafficking Institute to hold a conference with the Chief Justice of Uganda’s Justice, Law, and Order sector.
Between 20.9 to 46 million people are affected by human trafficking globally. Willow International works to rehabilitate individuals in Uganda and beyond.
There, they plan to advocate for more regulations and amendments to certain laws that make prosecuting traffickers particularly difficult. In that same vein, the group hired a lawyer to act as a victim advocate. She is able to advise rescued victims on their options for testifying against traffickers, and she goes to court when needed. Right now, they have seven cases pending, and they hope the victim advocate will help many more make it to the courtroom.
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good work, but no one was communicating with each other. As a result, two organizations may spend funds and time on the same research or training. By starting this coalition that meets monthly, they have been able to take a more “divide and conquer” approach and have already made connections that have saved at least a year’s worth of work. There’s a lot happening with Willow, but helping others is not a foreign concept to the AAG community. On top of the work the company does to provide a growing senior population with reverse mortgage loans that will see them through retirement, the AAG Foundation also provides support for seniors and AAG employees in need, supporting those going through family or health crises and providing company-wide opportunities to volunteer at homes for the elderly. It’s a part of the company culture that Jahangiri feels is critical to running a successful business, but he also feels that it’s his duty to give back. “It’s a very important part, both for our organization and from a duty standpoint,” he says. “It’s the responsibility of people that can give to find avenues to give back – in this case, avenues that resonate with the employees that they feel passionate about. It makes for a better place to work because you can see how you are making a difference.”
“Without these laws and without real consequences, we’re just taking in all these survivors while the traffickers are moving on to the next victim,” Galaway says. “They don’t care if we rescue because they’re still out there making money. We have to tackle the issue from all sides. Victims need aftercare and criminals need to be convicted.” In addition, the group has spearheaded efforts to start a coalition with other anti-trafficking organizations in Uganda. According to Galaway, she and Jahangiri realized that there were many organizations doing
The foundation’s three pillars – Willow, the senior community, and the Care Fund for AAG employees – offer plenty of chances for the company community to get involved. Locally, they work with the Orange Senior Center, deliver Meals on Wheels, and hold various fundraising events that Galaway organizes. Jahangiri is also very involved with the Anteater community and is a member of both the School of Social Sciences Dean’s Leadership Society and UCI’s Chief Executive Roundtable. It makes for a packed schedule, but also a wonderfully rewarding place to work. And Galaway is quick to credit her boss for making it all possible. “It all goes back to Reza,” Galaway says. “He has one of the biggest hearts I’ve ever encountered and he genuinely cares about every single one of his employees. He frequently checks in on the team to make sure that every survivor and staff member are taken care of. He wants to know what the employees that benefit from the Care Fund are going through and how we can help more. It all goes back to the leadership and that culture trickles down.” •
Daniela Estrada, political science ’17, Truman and Fulbright Scholar, and aspiring lawyer
n the 1992 film “My Cousin Vinny,” a bumbling and incompetent public defender is appointed to represent two students in a murder trial, who – after seeing him perform horribly in court – resort to hiring their eccentric cousin instead. For Daniela Estrada, a soon to be political science honors alumna, the stereotypical portrayal of and general negative stigma attached to public defenders is indicative of systemic failures rather than poor lawyering.
“There’s this notion that these lawyers are from low-quality universities and can’t find a job, so they just become public defenders,” she says. But it’s much more complicated than that.” She should know. A Truman and Fulbright scholarship recipient, she’s done extensive research on the subject and found that public defenders are bogged down by unmanageable caseloads, are paid low salaries and often don’t have enough investigators to assist them.
Accomplished Anteater Daniela Estrada will spend next year teaching in Colombia on a Fulbright scholarship.
The Sweatshirt Off Your Back campaign encourages wearers to try their hand at giving
“How are you supposed to defend someone when you literally can’t investigate the incident?” she asks. “How do we expect these lawyers to perform if they’re not given the resources or time to do it?” Through a future career as a public defender, she dreams of one day representing underprivileged individuals charged with crimes while she pursues policy to help fix a broken system. The biggest change she’d like to see is a reduction in the number of cases allotted to each attorney, which she believes would greatly improve the system. It’s clearly a topic close to her heart, as is public service in general. In fact, Estrada has dedicated much of her free time in college to groups that aid lowincome and first-generation students. And with good reason: Her parents are both immigrants from low-income backgrounds, and she has benefited firsthand from such support. “I account my achievements to the public servants and professors who have mentored me throughout my time in higher education, as well as the assistance I’ve received from public service organizations I’ve been a part of,” she says. “If it wasn’t for that, I wouldn’t be here. And I think that has motivated me to help others and to be a public servant – because I see how powerful it is.” As an undergrad, Estrada focused on inspiring and educating her peers and younger
students through programs such as UCI’s SAGE Scholars, which she says was a tremendous aid to her when she first arrived on campus. She notes that first-generation students often have no guidance when it comes to opportunities on campus and how to build a strong resume, and SAGE – which stands for Student Achievement Guided by Experience – offers that support and more. Estrada also volunteered as a teaching assistant with UCI’s Saturday Academy of Law, which exposes local at-risk youth to the legal profession. “We have lawyers and judges come in from backgrounds similar to these students, and I think it’s really important for them to see people that look like them in these high positions,” she says. “These kids will probably be the first in their families to go to college, so we help them see these possibilities and kind of say, ‘Look, these are people like you, and they are doing this amazing work.’” By educating and guiding them, Estrada hopes she’s had an impact and will continue to make one in the public defense field. Her path toward that end included interning with the Orange County district attorney’s office. A prospective public defender working with the D.A. may seem contradictory, but in fact, Estrada says, her time there – while invaluable – only strengthened her desire to be on the other side of the courtroom.
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Lin (far left) and friends model the Choose Water necklaces
“As a public defender, I think, you get to be outside the system, and that’s something that’s very attractive to me,” she explains. “I don’t just want to be a part of the system and accept it; I want to question authority.” Estrada credits UCI sociology professor David Meyer for instilling the notion in her that yes, change is possible. “People can be so cynical, but he’s optimistic about the future and the individual’s potential to initiate change,” she says. “Being in his class made me believe that you can be a change agent – we’ve seen it in past social movements. So I was really inspired by his class and his work.” Estrada is also adamant that she wouldn’t be on the trajectory she is without the assistance of her mentor, Mark Petracca, associate dean of social sciences. After being notified of both her Truman and Fulbright Scholarships, she called her family, but he was the very next person she wanted to inform. Aside from nominating Estrada for the scholarship, Petracca has helped her conduct research (which she was able to get funded), a skill that will be vital in her future work. After she graduates in June, Estrada will board a plane bound for Colombia where she’ll spend a year teaching college students. While it may seem like a slight detour, she
believes the opportunity will only help her grow as a public servant. “There is a lot of change occurring in Colombia and I am eager to immerse myself and learn from a society that is undergoing great change,” she says. “I believe volunteering for such organizations will better prepare me for my future as a public defender by learning how to best serve and interact with people from unfamiliar backgrounds and experiences.” She also has plans to volunteer for a nonprofit organization that advocates for and provides legal services to victims that have been affected by armed conflict in the country. In fact, the past conflicts and ongoing peace talks in Colombia are what initially drew her to that location, and she plans to use everything she learns in her pursuit of a career in public defense. So it seems that Estrada has taken advantage of every resource available at UCI, an approach she recommends to students like her. And what advice would she give to those wanting to follow in her accomplished Anteater tracks? “Pursue your passions,” she says. “Know that, with conviction, you can achieve anything you set your mind to.” •
Pursue your passions. Know that, with conviction, you can achieve anything you set your mind to.
parenting TODAY Today’s parents spend more time with their kids than moms and dads did 50 years ago
Lead researcher Judith Treas, UCI sociologist
uilt-ridden busy moms and dads take heart: Mothers – and fathers – across most Western countries are spending more time with their children than parents did in the mid-’60s, according to a University of California, Irvine study. And time spent with kids is highest among better-educated parents – a finding that somewhat surprised study co-author Judith Treas, UCI Chancellor’s Professor of sociology. “According to economic theory, higher wages should discourage well-educated parents from foregoing work to spend extra time with youngsters,” she said. “Also, they have the money to pay others to care for their children.”
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The time parents spend with children is regarded as critical for positive cognitive, behavioral and academic outcomes.
Treas and co-author Giulia M. Dotti Sani, a postdoctoral fellow at Collegio Carlo Alberto in Turin, Italy, found that between 1965 and 2012, all but one of 11 Western nations showed an increase in the amount of time both parents spent with their kids. The study was published online in the August issue of the Journal of Marriage and Family. In 1965, mothers spent a daily average of 54 minutes on child care activities, while moms in 2012 averaged almost twice that at 104 minutes per day. Fathers’ time with children nearly quadrupled – 1965 dads spent a daily average of just 16 minutes with their kids, while today’s fathers spend about 59 minutes a day caring for them. These numbers include parents from all education levels. When the researchers broke out the 2012 data into two categories – parents with a college education versus parents without – they found quite a difference. College-educated moms spent an estimated 123 minutes daily on child care, compared with 94 minutes spent by less educated mothers. Fathers with a college degree spent about 74 minutes a day with their kids, while less educated dads averaged 50 minutes. Study findings were based on the Multinational Time Use Study Harmonized Simple Files, which focused on parents between the ages of 18 and 65 living in households with at least one child under the age of 13. From 1965 to 2012, the 122,271 parents (68,532 mothers, 53,739 fathers) in Canada, the U.K, the U.S., Denmark, Norway, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, Spain and Slovenia were asked to keep a diary of all their daily activities. Researchers analyzed differences by randomly selecting one day
from each diary and tabulating the amount of time recorded for both interactive and routine child care activities. “Time spent with children involved everything from preparing their meals and snacks to feeding and bathing them, changing diapers and clothes, putting them to bed, getting up in the middle of the night, unpaid babysitting, providing medical care, reading and playing with them, as well as supervising and helping with homework,” Treas said. France was the only country that showed a decrease in mothers’ child care time. The decline was not as steep for college-educated moms as it was for less educated French mothers, while for dads, both education levels saw an increase in parenting time. According to Treas, the study results – aside from France – are in line with an “intensive parenting” ideology that has become a cultural child rearing trend. “The time parents spend with children is regarded as critical for positive cognitive, behavioral and academic outcomes,” she said. “Contemporary fathers – having more egalitarian gender views – want to be more involved in their children’s lives than their own dads were. These beliefs have taken hold among the best-educated residents of Western countries and are also diffusing to their counterparts who have less schooling.” As for the difference in France, Treas said, “No one is certain why the French are exceptional. Public spending on child care is fairly high in France, lightening parental responsibilities. Some experts speculate that the French simply believe children can accommodate successfully without parents making big changes to their lifestyles.” •
army STRONG Veteran and soc sci alumnus Aaron Anderson knows how to thrive no matter what life throws his way
n an instant, Aaron Anderson’s entire world was changed.
The Humvee he and his Special Forces team had been riding through the Afghan desert was hit by an IED, ejecting Anderson and his comrades from the vehicle. “I knew what had happened almost immediately,” he says. “As I was suspended in the air, I didn’t know if I was going to survive.” But he did. Despite the force from the blast and the subsequent gunfire, he made it through that day. He was seriously injured, but the realization that he was alive was a profound and life shifting moment. “When I hit the ground all the air escaped my lungs, but when I realized I was still alive, it was like, ‘OK. Everything is good.’”
The international studies alumnus and MBA student has been sure to, in his words, ‘live as richly as possible’ since then. He’s founded the Green Beret Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to helping Special Forces soldiers and their families. He was called out by name during then-President Obama’s 2014 UCI commencement address, and later met face-to-face with the Commander in Chief to discuss foreign policy and veterans’ issues. He’s gotten married, started a family, and now works on the trading floor at PIMCO, a global investment management firm. And though the path he’s taken looks very different from anything he expected prior to that day in Afghanistan, he’s used that experience to motivate him to make the world a better place than he found it.
Anderson grew up as a rebellious Southern California teen—a far cry from the “quiet professionals” who are Army Special Forces soldiers. Familial issues—including a lessthan-present father and a mother who was battling cancer—led to acting out and eventually being kicked out of the house. “It was tough love, but as a single mother I think that is the best thing she could have done for me,” he says. “If she hadn’t I probably wouldn’t be the man I am today. I wouldn’t have had to chart a different course.” Eventually, he got his act together. He finished high school, was attending community college, and was working toward a career in the music industry. Then Sept. 11 happened. Joining the military immediately following a harrowing terrorist attack is something few people have the courage to do. But a desire to test his mettle combined with his personal convictions made the decision clear to him. By the end of October 2001, Anderson enlisted. He jokes that when the Army recruiter first mentioned the Green Berets (another name for Army Special Forces soldiers based on their unique headgear), his first thought was of the famed fictional character, Rambo. But a bit of research revealed the level of intelligence, as well as the physical and mental toughness, required for the job, and he felt up for the challenge. He had aspirations to eventually serve in other elite special operations units in the Army. But four and a half years into his service, the IED in Afghanistan cut those dreams short.
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“I remember the conversation we were having right before we were hit. We were joking about how everyone on the vehicle was from California at some point or another, including our interpreter who was born in Afghanistan. And in a split second—boom.” The Green Beret who had been driving, a 19-year veteran who would have retired after that deployment, was killed. He had traded seats with Anderson before they set out on their mission that morning. “If we hadn’t switched places, I wouldn’t be here,” he says. His life was spared, but Anderson was badly wounded by the blast. He nearly lost his left leg and his right foot, and spent seven months in Walter Reed Army Medical Center undergoing dozens of surgeries. As soon as he was able, he returned to his unit. But the realization that his injury was going to prevent him from being able to do the same job or continue on the same career path forced him to make the difficult decision to leave the military. “I really wanted to push myself,” he says. “I wanted to go further in Special Forces and I knew I wasn’t going to be able to do that. So I figured I could go out into the civilian world and do other things. I didn’t really have any big plans—I just decided to try to make the most of it.” And make the most of it he did. As he transitioned back into civilian life, he began to think about his experiences at Walter Reed. He thought about the other injured soldiers, their families and the struggles they faced. While he’d been at Walter Reed for those seven months, Anderson noticed a particular lack of funding and resources when it came to helping veterans and their families during transitional phases—whether that meant dealing with injury, illness, or a return to civilian life. So, he decided to take matters into his own hands, and in 2009, the Green Beret Foundation was born. Some of the Green Beret Foundation’s first projects are the ones that stand out the most for Anderson. For instance, a friend of his was unable to conceive a child naturally because of injuries sustained on the battlefield. The government would not cover the full cost of in vitro fertilization, so Anderson made it his passion project to fund the procedure. That family’s child has been endearingly referred to as the “GBF baby.” Another friend of his has been wounded four times in
combat and has seven children to support. The Green Beret Foundation has provided college scholarships for several of his kids. Foundation support can be granted in multiple ways. When a Green Beret is wounded, the GBF sends them financial resources to address the immediate needs, and a rucksack of necessary supplies for their stay while in the hospital. Soldiers with more severe injuries can apply for specialized treatments that the foundation will directly finance, such as stem cell procedures in other countries. Wives and family members of Green Berets that are killed in action may receive help with funeral costs (those not covered by the government), take part in “reconnect weekends” to spend time together as a family away from the stresses of daily life, as well as a network to help them through whatever challenges they may be facing. “The things that happen to these guys overseas, their families have to deal with that, too,” Anderson says. “So you can’t just put them in a microcosm.” In the seven years since he founded the organization, he’s slowly transitioned from a central role to a more supportive one. He didn’t want to become the face of the GBF or become overly involved to the point that it took over other aspects of his life. Instead, he is strategic about the engagements he attends and is available to answer questions or needs from the board as they arise. “This is the Special Forces community’s foundation—this isn’t the Aaron Anderson foundation,” he says. “It is all about something bigger than myself and that’s why I think it’s become so successful.” In 2015, the GBF allocated more than $1.8 million toward the health and wellness of the Special Forces community and saw 87 percent of every dollar spent go directly to support of that mission. Anderson promises to do even better this year. Now, his focus is on his family, his career at PIMCO, and school—he just started his MBA program at UCI in September. But the veteran community is never far from his mind. He currently serves on the PIMCO Veterans steering committee doing community outreach and helping veterans within the firm with professional development, and last year he began partnering with Vice Chancellor Parham’s office and the UCI Veterans Services Center to bring veteran
resources to the UCI campus. Just this summer, he was involved in organizing an oncampus veteran talent recruitment boot camp for HR professionals. Spring 2017 saw two more programs aimed at making veterans successful in their post-military careers; a resume-writing workshop and a job fair. “I like to get involved with things that are results oriented—that have a tangible end state,” he says. “What we’re trying to do with these programs is tangible—we want to get veterans in the workplace and I want our school to be an institution that’s a great place for veterans to go and grow. It creates increased diversity on campus, which is something I already love and respect about UCI.” He also encourages the UCI community— particularly students—to be more open to interacting with the veterans on campus. When he arrived here for his undergraduate degree, he was close to 30 and found the attitudes of the less tactful 18-year-olds to be frustrating (“you don’t ask a veteran how many people they’ve killed”). But he wishes that more of his classmates engaged with him in a genuine and thoughtful way. “Students don’t need to treat veterans differently,” he emphasizes. “They can be curious about their experience, ask them questions—because they probably have a lot more life experience than most students and that’s a great resource. You’re not supposed to go to college just to learn from your professors—you’re supposed to learn from your peers, too.” Anderson maintains that mindset even now. He is constantly learning, growing, and trying to better himself—he says it’s the way of the Green Berets to always strive for the best. Still, it’s remarkable for someone who has gone through so much difficulty in his life to maintain such positivity and motivation. But he says it’s in fact because of those difficulties that he is the person he is today. “You have a choice. You can let the things that happen to you tear you down, or build you up—there’s no in between,” he explains. “I want to live a life where I am constantly making the choice to take the hard right over the easy wrong. It’s exactly why I went into the military; to make the world a better place, but also to make myself a better person.” •
HOME ALONE Why are we so afraid to leave children alone? UCI social scientists find that moral judgments about parents affect perceptions of risk to unsupervised children
lthough American children are safer than ever, leaving a child unattended is considered taboo in today’s intensive parenting atmosphere. Why do today’s parents deny their children the same freedom and independence that they themselves enjoyed as children? A new study by a group of UCI social scientists suggests that our fears of leaving children alone have become systematically exaggerated in recent decades, not because the practice has become more dangerous, but because it has become socially unacceptable. In the survey-based study, they found that children whose parents left them alone on purpose – to go to work, help out a charity, relax or meet an illicit lover – were perceived to be in greater danger than those whose parents were separated from them involuntarily.
Chiaramonte is joined by her father and sister on the day of her UCI commencement
“Without realizing it, we have consistently increased our estimates of the amount of danger facing children left alone in order to better justify or rationalize the moral disapproval we feel toward parents who violate this relatively new social norm,” says Ashley Thomas, cognitive sciences graduate student and lead author of the study. The researchers presented survey participants with five different scenarios in which a child was left alone for brief periods under an hour long. Situations ranged from a 10-month-old who was left asleep for 15-minutes in a cool car parked in a gym’s underground garage to an 8-year-old reading a book alone at a coffee shop a block from home for 45-minutes. “Within a given scenario, the only thing that varied was the reason for the parent’s
Exaggerating the risks of allowing children some unsupervised time has significant costs besides the loss of children’s independence, freedom, and opportunity to learn how to solve problems on their own.
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absence, ” says Kyle Stanford, logic and philosophy of science professor and department chair. These included an unintentional absence – caused by a fictitious accident when the mother was hit by a car and briefly knocked unconscious – and four planned: leaving for work, volunteering for a charity, relaxing, or meeting an illicit lover. After reading each scenario and the reason behind each child being left alone, the participants ranked on a scale of 1 to 10 how much estimated danger the child was in while the parent was out, 10 being the most risk. Overall, survey participants saw all of these situations as quite dangerous for children: the average risk estimate was 6.99 and the most common ranking in all scenarios was 10. Despite identical descriptions of each set of circumstances in which children were alone, however, they found that children whose parents left them alone on purpose were estimated to be in greater danger than those whose parents left them unintentionally. “In fact, children left alone on purpose are almost certainly safer than those left alone by accident, because parents can take steps to make the situation safer like giving the child a phone or reviewing safety rules,” says Barbara Sarnecka, co-author and associate professor of cognitive sciences. “The fact that people make the opposite judgment strongly suggests that they morally disapprove of parents who leave their children alone, and that disapproval inflates their estimate of the risk.”
Most of the experiments also found that children left alone by a parent who goes to meet an illicit lover are seen as being in significantly more danger than children left alone in precisely the same circumstances by a parent who leaves in order to work, volunteer for charity, or just relax. When the researchers allowed participants to judge not only how much danger the child was facing, but also whether they felt the mother in the story had done something morally wrong, they thought that the perceived risk ranking might be lowered. “We thought giving people an alternative way to express their moral disapproval of the parent’s action would reduce the extent moral judgments influenced perceptions of risk,” says Thomas. “But in fact, just the opposite happened. When people gave an explicit moral judgment about the parent’s conduct, estimates of risk to the child were even more inflated by moral disapproval of the parent’s reason for leaving.” In fact, people’s risk estimates closely followed their judgments of whether mothers in the stories had done something morally wrong. Even parents who left children alone involuntarily were not held morally blameless, receiving an average ‘moral wrongness’ judgment of 3.05 on a 10-point scale. The authors found another interesting pattern when they replaced mothers in the stories with fathers: for fathers - but not mothers - a work-related absence was treated
more like an involuntary absence. This difference might arise because work is viewed as more obligatory and less of a voluntary choice for men, Stanford says. “Exaggerating the risks of allowing children some unsupervised time has significant costs besides the loss of children’s independence, freedom, and opportunity to learn how to solve problems on their own,” says Sarnecka. “As people have adopted the idea that children must never be alone, parents increasingly face the possibility of arrest, charges of abuse or neglect, and even incarceration for allowing their children to play in parks, walk to school, or wait in a car for a few minutes without them.” “At a minimum, these findings should caution those who make and enforce the law to distinguish evidence-based and rational assessments of risk to children from intuitive moral judgments about parents, and to avoid investing the latter with the force of law.” The study involved survey responses of 1328 participants on Amazon Mechanical Turk ranging in age from 18 to 75 years old with a fairly even split of men and women, and those with and without children. Females accounted for 52% of respondents while 48% were male; 56.43% had children and 43.57% did not. More than 80% of the participants were white and two-thirds had completed at least some college. Findings are published online in the open access journal Collabra. •
meet the MENTORS
UCI professors who were also first-generation students form support system
rofessors at the University of California, Irvine, in an effort to support the 60 percent of students who are the first in their families to go to college, don distinctive shirts and buttons identifying themselves as first-generation graduates. They are part of an initiative started two years ago by Anita Casavantes Bradford, UC Irvine associate professor of Chicano/Latino studies, that aims to train relatable faculty as mentors and allies of undergraduates unfamiliar with college culture. While these faculty members have a
common mission, their stories are unique. Featured here are three soc sci professors who play key roles supporting students facing the same challenges they once overcame. Anita Casavantes Bradford, associate professor of Chicano/Latino studies “By the time I was 8, I had figured out we were poor,” says Anita Casavantes Bradford, a UC Irvine associate professor of Chicano/ Latino studies. A monthly ritual brought it home for her.
Hot Dog Day was a big treat at her Vancouver, Canada, elementary school. She longed for the multiple hot dogs and other goodies. Instead, “my mom got a scared and sad look on her face when she would sit down to pencil out the calculations for one hot dog and one milk. No doughnut,” Casavantes Bradford recalls. “It was always a time of anxiety and sadness.” That same year, she won the annual scholastic medal, awarded to the child with the best academic performance. “I had a very kind third-grade teacher who made me feel special,” she says. Casavantes Bradford did her own math and realized right then that education was the way out of hunger and poverty. “If I didn’t want to be poor and afraid, I needed to be good at school,” she says.
First gen faculty mentors gear up to help first gen undergrads navigate UCI.
She decided to be the first in her family to earn a high school diploma and a college degree. It was no easy journey. As a community college student, Casavantes Braford worked full time as a live-in housekeeper
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Anita Casavantes Bradford
What I love about this program is that it not only helps new students, but also gives our upperlevel first-generation students an opportunity to be recognized as experts. Not just as survivors, but as thrivers, as sources of knowledge.”
and nanny. As a first-generation student, she had no family members to turn to for advice on how to navigate classes, finances and extracurricular activities. She felt isolated and perpetually exhausted.
“Every day.” When she began teaching, she noticed that first-generation students in particular weren’t taking advantage of her office hours. She knew faculty advisers were critical to student success. Now she makes a point of telling each new class that she was a first-generation student. There are lines outside her door.
Casavantes Bradford made friends outside school, and a Latin American studies professor urged her on, telling her she should go all the way to graduate school. “I didn’t really take him seriously,” she says. “I didn’t think people like me got to go to graduate school.” But she persevered, transferring to a prestigious four-year university and earning a bachelor’s degree and a teaching certificate. Casavantes Bradford was a high school teacher by age 23 and loved it. She became engaged to a U.S. Marine and, to her surprise, was accepted as a doctoral student at UC San Diego. She’s been at UCI since 2011. Asked if she sees young people in her classes that remind her of herself as an undergraduate, Casavantes Bradford replies,
More than half of UCI’s current student body are first-generation students, and Casavantes Bradford and others want to ease what can be a daunting experience. She started a popular faculty mentoring initiative and she works with first-generation upperclassmen on a peer-to-peer mentoring program. “What I love about this program is that it not only helps new students, but also gives our upper-level first-generation students an opportunity to be recognized as experts,” Casavantes Bradford says. “Not just as survivors, but as thrivers, as sources of knowledge.”
Davin Phoenix, assistant professor of political science Davin Phoenix felt the weight of family expectations early on. As the only child of an African American mom on active duty in the U.S. Air Force, it was drilled into him that he would go to college and become an engineer. “I was raised with the explicit understanding that there was no other option,” he says with a smile. For a shy, self-described nerd who enjoyed school and earned good grades, going to college made sense, though he’d be the first in his family to do it. But he wasn’t sure about engineering. Phoenix was in the second week of his freshman year at Christopher Newport University when two planes hit the World Trade Center’s twin towers. He’d already grown interested in politics as a high school senior, witnessing the fierce 2000 presidential contest between George W. Bush and Al Gore. “That was an eye-opening precursor, seeing the outcome of the election and realizing our political system is not running smoothly,” says Phoenix, now an assistant professor of political science at UC Irvine. “After 9/11, there was a new world order, driven further by the Iraq intervention.” His small liberal arts college in Newport News, Va., gave him four years of freedom to study what he liked. Engineering faded, and his interest in the intersection of race and politics grew. Phoenix wasn’t sure how to make a living in political science, but he applied to graduate school and was accepted at the vaunted University of Michigan. “It was easy to sink or swim, and oftentimes I felt like I was sinking. But I was able to make it,” he says. Phoenix earned a doctorate in public policy and political science and is now in his fourth year of teaching and conducting research at UC Irvine.
He remembers his own experiences when he interacts with bright, young students on campus who are the first in their families to attend college. As co-director of the First Generation First Quarter Challenge, he’s helping train student leaders to ensure they have the skills they need to offer incoming freshmen insights and support. Both the student leaders and the freshmen they will mentor are remaking the image of the American working-class household, Phoenix says. “Many have very strong family ties and responsibilities, so they’re not just making their decisions on their own,” he says. “They’re carrying on their backs the desires and expectations of their parents and siblings too. It’s very meaningful to them how they approach school.” He has received his own support, as both a student and an instructor. His mother came to visit him at UC Irvine and sat in on a couple classes. “It was incredibly gratifying for me,” Phoenix says. “She was moved by seeing me in front of all these students who could engage with me. She could trust and see that I’m doing good work of a different kind.” Glenda Flores, assistant Chicano/Latino studies
Working at a dry cleaner shop starting at age 10. A third-grade teacher’s reprimand for solving math problems with a method taught by her Mexican immigrant mother. Watching her construction worker father singlehandedly build his family a new house behind their old one on a “sometimes scary” Orange County street. Talk for a spell with Chicano/Latino studies assistant professor Glenda Flores, and various out-of-the-ordinary memories emerge from her childhood in a rough Santa Ana neighborhood.
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Although some folks might leave such environments and never look back, Flores – the first in her family to finish college – decided to return to her community to give back to other youngsters. Before graduating from UC Irvine, she had planned to work as a bilingual elementary schoolteacher in the Santa Ana Unified School District. But as controversy engulfed dual-language instruction programs and some efforts were dismantled, she switched to education research and went on to earn a Ph.D. in sociology at USC.
For many first-generation students, college is an economic sacrifice. Don’t be afraid to seek help, and be sure to see an academic counselor.
Her doctoral work grew out of observing white schoolteachers running classrooms full of students from blue-collar Latino families. Too often, Flores says, the teachers viewed ethnic cultures and practices as obstacles to learning, as was the case with her own third-grade math instructor.
It explores how Latino faculty preserve cultural identity among students, sometimes by surreptitiously “subverting workplace rules.” Her next book will focus on Latino physicians.
“That childhood experience stuck with me,” she says. “And 20 years later, it’s still happening.” Now back at UC Irvine, Flores has continued digging into the issue. Sitting in a thirdfloor office decorated with portraits of artist Frida Kahlo, she recounts spending two years interviewing educators and parents in Compton and Rosemead for a new book, Latina Teachers: Creating Careers & Guiding Culture.
In addition to research and teaching, Flores mentors first-generation college students at UC Irvine. From her own undergraduate days, working two jobs to avoid being a financial drain on her parents, she knows the difficulties of trying to juggle study time with family obligations. “For many first-generation students, college is an economic sacrifice,” she says. “Don’t be afraid to seek help, and be sure to see an academic counselor.” •
a tangled WEB New summer institute at UCI will help scholars tackle the tangled legal web of technology, big data and society
hat are the legalities of a health insurance company changing a premium based on data streamed from a fitness tracker? When an algorithm in a self-driving car decides which route to take when both are fraught with danger, who can be held liable for damages? And what legal issues come into play when more than half of U.S. stock exchange activity comes from automated trading accounts? As we become increasingly more reliant on technology and big data to make decisions that make our
businesses and lives more efficient, the legal implications can be a little tricky, says Bill Maurer, UCI social sciences dean and anthropology and law professor. “New sociotechnical systems like these introduce new questions, such as where is legal agency located, and who – or what – is liable for violations or harms,” says Maurer. “At present, however, the implications of these innovations and the legal questions raised are not being discussed in law and social science communities. And they should be.”
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With grant funding from the National Science Foundation, Maurer is teaming with Mona Lynch, criminology, law & society professor and co-director of the Center for Law, Society & Culture, to develop the Technology, Law and Society Summer Institute where they’ll train the next generation of scholars who will tackle these issues. During the 2017-18 academic year, UCI graduate students and faculty from across the campus will explore the ways in which technology and biases in algorithms, data analytics and mobile computing can create unintended outcomes and potential legal consequences. Participants will develop an interdisciplinary curriculum and test hands-on exercises, as well as write a position paper on new legal technologies. Then, in summer 2018, the curriculum will be implemented for graduate students and faculty from around the country who come to UCI for a week-long summer institute.
The institute is expected to draw participants from anthropology, sociology, economics, law, political science, criminology, history and other fields. The program is being modeled after the Law and Society Summer Institute, previously funded by the National Science Foundation, but with a curriculum focused on the technology and computational components of law and the interface of law and society brought on by big data and new media. “People may not realize how much data is shaping our daily lives,” says Maurer. “The amount of information being collected, transmitted and stored on devices ranging from mobile phones to ‘smart sneakers’ is a type of human/technology interface increasingly mediated by algorithmic processes that have as yet undetermined relationships to law.” “Even where big data and algorithmic processes are purposefully incorporated into legal practices, such as in the proliferating use of ‘risk assessment’
tools in the criminal system, their impacts on fairness and justice remain underexplored in sociolegal scholarship,” adds Lynch. “We used to talk about the difference between law in the books and law in action. Now, we have to start talking about ‘law in computation’ - or the increasingly automated, algorithm- and data-driven tools being used to shape law and legal decision making, as well as the legal implications of machine learning, artificial intelligence, and everyday smart devices,” Maurer says. “This helps bring law and society scholars up to date on some of the biggest changes we’ve seen in a generation.” The institute is funded by a $300,000 grant from the National Science Foundation’s Early-concept Grants for Exploratory Research (EAGER) program. •
People may not realize how much data is shaping our daily lives.
more than EXTRAORDINARY Gary Singer, political science ’74, receives UCI Lauds & Laurels Extraordinarius Award for decades of contributions to his alma mater
t’s uncommon for a person to hold any interest for more than a few years. Even rarer to hold the same interest for more than three decades. But Gary Singer is not your average individual.
Since graduating from UCI with his degree in political science in 1974, the 2017 Lauds & Laurels Extraordinarius Award recipient has made UCI his passion-project—having a hand in everything from the School of Social Sciences Dean’s Leadership Society to the UCI Alumni Association to making the long-awaited UCI School of Law a reality. The School of Social Sciences is lucky to have such a representative in the community. And one need only look at the list of Singer’s contributions to the university to know that this is an individual who truly loves his alma mater. He has shown—through 37 years of involvement—that he is far more interested in the advancement of the university than his own personal gain. But beyond all that Singer has done for UCI throughout the years and the things that make him extraordinary—or an “extraordinarius” to use UCI’s own term—he is, by all accounts, also genuinely good. Associate dean Mark Petracca has commented that Singer “has been ‘paying it forward’ since before ‘paying it forward’ was a thing people talked about doing.” Former dean Willie Schonfeld calls him “an unusually nice and decent human being,” and trustee emeritus Thomas Tierney touts him as “a role model for all that is good”—high praise from those who have encountered their fair share of good humans. And it is this character that is the unifying vein between his successes as a lawyer, family man, and UCI alumnus. Singer arrived at UCI in 1970. The school was still young, but it had a strong golf team and a reputation for quality academics that appealed to him. “Both my parents had attended UCLA so I think I wanted to do something a little bit different,” he recalls. “And when I visited the campus I was attracted to it at first sight. I just thought it was exciting—the size and the feel were just perfect for me. It was very much a natural fit.” Though he lived on Balboa Island for three of his four years at the university—even then a popular area for students to socialize—he was able to balance his coursework with time
on the golf course and membership with the Phi Beta Kappa fraternity. In fact, he graduated magna cum laude and has nothing but pleasant memories of his time at UCI. In particular, he remembers being impressed by the scope of classes all students were required to take. From history, to art, to political science, and biology, it was all fascinating to him. In fact, he claims that his undergraduate courses made more of a lasting impression on him than his subsequent law school ones—in part because he was exposed to information that he could apply in every day life. “The breadth of the education was very fulfilling,” he says. “It helped shape my career and my life in so many ways.” Following his graduation from UCI in 1974, Singer moved to Los Angeles to complete his law degree. But it wasn’t long before he was back in Anteater territory.
uci soc sci 2017 The Gary J. Singer Endowed Scholarship Fund provides support for a soc sci scholar-athlete with a GPA of 3.3 or higher
“When we decided to move back to Orange County after I completed law school, one of the first calls I made was to the university to try to determine how to become involved,” he says. “I had had a mentor growing up who thought that being involved in your alma mater was a really good way to give back, so I pretty quickly joined the Chancellor’s Club. I thought that would be a great entrée to learn, more generally, what was transpiring at UCI.” From there, he and his wife Melanie made UCI a part of their lives, attending sporting events and sending their children to various summer camps. And as his career as an associate (and later partner) at O’Melveny & Myers LLP took off, his involvement at UCI did as well. He’s served as a key member of the UCI Alumni Association, the School of Social Sciences Dean’s Leadership Society, and the UCI Foundation as both a trustee and member of its executive committee. In addition, he has been instrumental in bringing two prominent features to campus—The Barclay Theater and the UC Irvine School of Law. Singer joined the initial board of the Barclay Theater in the late ‘80s, helping in both the fundraising and operations areas before the venue even opened in 1990. He served as chair of the theater from 1993-96, then again from 2006-07. “I saw first hand a very unique partnership among the city, the university, and the private sector, and I truly believe it’s an organization and a venue that’s going to provide great resources long-term,” he says. “Not only to our students but to Irvine and the surrounding communities at large.” After his experience at the Barclay, he was more than happy to—once again—help a dream of the UCI community come to fruition. He was on some of the initial ad hoc committees and groups who worked tirelessly to make the law school a possibility. And when it was time to appoint a dean to the newly created school, then-Chancellor Drake asked Singer to serve on the selection committee. He’s been involved with the UCI School of Law ever since, serving on various committees and on dean Chemerinsky’s advisory board.
More recently in the School of Social Sciences, he and Melanie established the Singer Endowed Scholarship, which is awarded to a student-athlete in the school based on academic merit and contributions to his or her sport. One of his favorite parts of being involved as an alumnus is getting to meet the students who receive this award. “I love getting to meet the students and watch their careers,” he says. “And they’re so grateful. Sometimes as an adult it’s easy to forget that, as a student, these things can really make a difference. They remind me of that.” Having been involved on campus for so many years, one has to wonder what it is that has held Singer’s interest all this time. He jokes that he just can’t say no when it comes to UCI, and it’s clear that he really does have a soft spot when it comes to the university. According to him, the overall quality of the school and its people are what keep him so involved and happy to help in any capacity. “I’ve always had a great respect for the intellectual offerings that are provided by the campus as a whole, by individual professors and schools, and by different programs,” he explains. “Those kinds of resources have really held my attraction—because when you start in your career, it’s easy to become isolated in your own discipline. UCI has offered me a way to stay abreast of broader things taking place in the world.” In addition, the on-going evolution of UCI is what continues to excite him. When Singer was an undergraduate, he recalls the university being on the forefront of computer technology and being thrilled with the opportunity to work in the computer labs, which were rare at the time. He sees that same maverick spirit in the university today, and though UCI is roughly
ten times bigger in terms of student population than in the early ‘70s, it hasn’t lost the determination and ambition of an up-andcoming university. “The thing I’m most excited about on campus today is its growth, the research that is taking place, and the opportunities we are presenting for so many more students. We’re becoming a full-service, very important university—nationally and internationally.” It’s easy to see why the constant churning of ideas at UCI appeals to Singer. He himself is always finding new ways to make a difference. Though he retired from his partner position at O’Melveny & Myers in 2013, he hasn’t slowed down in the slightest—unless he is taking a short break on the golf course. Today he serves as a senior vice president and general counsel to RSI Holding LLC and chair of the Simon Foundation for Education and Housing, in addition to his various volunteer positions both within and outside of UCI. Currently, his biggest goal at the university is to encourage his fellow UCI alumni to join him in giving back, especially now that our alumni base is growing. He remembers finding inspiration in the community members who banded together to support the campus when it was young and had not yet built up its alumni base. Now that there are so many Anteater alumni out there, he would love to see them show their support and appreciation as well. On a personal level, Singer simply hopes to be someone who has made a little bit of a difference. “The kind of person who, when someone thinks about them, there’s a little smile on their face and a little bit of an appreciation for what they’ve done,” he says. In the eyes of the UCI community, that goal has already been achieved. •
Sociology’s Yader Lanuza is named the 2017 Lauds & Laurels Outstanding Graduate Student
hen it comes to the multiple accolades Ph.D. candidate Yader Lanuza has received since arriving at UCI, he is not interested in taking all the credit. Instead, the Ford Foundation Dissertation Fellow, American Sociological Association Minority Fellow, and published researcher insists that his successes have been nothing if not a team effort. So it’s no surprise that he is quick to credit his advisors, colleagues, and family members with his latest achievement— being named the 2017 Lauds & Laurels Outstanding Graduate Student. “I’ve had amazing mentorship since I’ve been at UCI,” Lanuza says. “I want to make sure to highlight that. I’ve had people who have provided guidance and support along the way.” As the only current graduate student recognized, it’s evident that Lanuza stands out from UCI’s crowd of other highly-accomplished Ph.D. candidates. And when looking at the possible implications of his research and his success in sharing it with the academic world, it’s easy to understand why.
Lanuza’s research focuses on family dynamics in the U.S., often making distinctions between the habits of native-born and immigrant families. More generally, he delves into the consequences of familial relationships on educational inequality. In today’s climate, the value of understanding such inequalities is immeasurable. “My next project is about what families actually do at home to help their kids do better in school,” he says. “And how, in the immigrant case, they differ or don’t differ from native born families.”
that means providing money when they are a bit older or helping siblings with homework.” Lanuza believes that knowing how native versus immigrant families differ from each other will allow us to link those differences to other discrepancies—such as those related to academic performance.
In a similar vein, his dissertation examines immigrant- and native-born families, but instead of looking at the support a family provides to the children, he’s interested in the resources that children provide to the family household.
He’s even co-authored a paper—published in the American Sociological Review—that addresses the question of how children of immigrants do so well in school in spite of the various language and cultural challenges they face. He and his co-author, his dissertation committee chair and advisor Cynthia Feliciano, found that the social background of a child’s family in their country of origin plays a large role in their academic success.
“The common story in America is that children don’t provide resources to their parents, it’s the parents who provide resources to the children,” he explains. “But my research says, hey, if you look at the case of immigrants, you’ll see that the children are actually very productive members of their households and contribute resources from the time they are young all the way to adulthood. Whether
“A lot of immigrants to the U.S. come from middle class backgrounds so they think of themselves as a middle class family, even if their household income does not reflect that,” Lanuza says. “So they transmit this idea to their children, which really helps them in school. Even though they have these difficulties like language barriers and other obstacles, they have family cultural resources,
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such as very high parental educational expectations, that really propel them to do well. And those are tied to their social class in their countries of origin.” Lanuza didn’t stumble across the topic of immigrant family dynamics by accident—his own parents hail from Nicaragua. So when he came across literature about families like his, he was intrigued that the experiences written about were so different from his own. “When I was reading the literature about how these families work, it didn’t quite jive with the experiences that I had and the people that I know had,” he explains. “So I wanted to examine it using nationally represented data to see what was going on—to see if there was something there or if my observations were an anomaly.” What he found was that his experience, particularly the aspect of children contributing to the household through providing resources, was the norm in many immigrant families. And having that piece of information opened the door for him to delve deeper. Shortly after receiving his bachelor’s degree, Lanuza began to think about the effects that these extra responsibilities may be having on students like him. He began working at the Hispanic Scholarship Fund in San Francisco—a nonprofit dedicated to providing scholarships to students of color—where he was able to witness how many children of immigrants were struggling to pay for higher education on their own. “Working with them gave me a window into what was going on nationally,” he explains. “Because I helped manage a national effort and I did programming locally, I saw there was a big need for the work I was doing all over the country.” Since then, he’s used that experience to question how immigrant family dynamics lead to educational disadvantages. His hope is that his current research will help policy makers and universities address the needs of students who may have more financial responsibility than is expected of young adults in America. In fact, another project of Lanuza’s, which he is working on with UCI professor Nina Bandelj, addresses this very issue through the lens of rising debt in America. It’s been argued that the increase in familial debt is
due to simple overspending in a consumerist culture, or to make up for stagnant wages, but they want to find out if something else is at play. That is, whether the increase in debt is actually linked to increasing investments in our children. Lanuza notes that it is common in the U.S. for parents to invest large sums of money into providing for their children, through expensive extracurricular activities, pricier homes in more “desirable” neighborhoods, and—the big one—footing the bill for their college tuition. Compared to his dissertation findings and the case of immigrant families—where often the children contribute financially to the household—it’s no wonder that these racial, ethnic, and educational inequalities are being reproduced. “I think we’re in a historical moment where children are an investment project,” he says. “And that is tied then to the parenting practices around it—those are the questions I try to get at. What are the family dynamics that then have consequences for more broad educational and social inequality?” The point Lanuza really wants to drive home for policy makers is that there are many young adults—primarily children of immigrant parents and those of AfricanAmerican families, often from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds—that have financial responsibilities outside of what is expected of them by society. He believes that, to remedy the educational and monetary gaps, more needs to be done on a policy level to support these individuals. Perhaps through tax incentives or more thorough financial aid vetting. UCI, he notes, cares very much about this issue and has taken the initiative to meet specific needs that students from underrepresented groups require. They have also invested in students like Lanuza via recruitment and retention fellowships. “I know this is something that UCI cares a lot about and spends a lot of time and resources on,” he says. “So that’s one policy response from an educational and institutional perspective.” As he prepares to continue research outside the confines of student life, Lanuza would also like to mention the immense support he received from his department, committee,
When I was reading the literature about how these families work, it didn’t quite jive with the experiences that I had and the people that I know had.
and colleagues, particularly in relation to his winning the Lauds & Laurels award. “This award is as much a personal accomplishment as it is a communal one,” he says. “My mentor, advisor, and collaborator Cynthia Feliciano really has provided so much support. Well beyond what anyone can reasonably expect or hope for in a mentor. I’m more than lucky, I’m ecstatic, I’m blessed to have her as my chair. Nina Bandelj has also been instrumental as well in helping me during my time at UCI, both as a collaborator and a mentor. Ann Hironaka, Rubén Rumbaut, Judy Treas, and Catherine Bolzendahl—none of this would have happened without them. I am nothing without their support and their attention. And finally, my family, to whom all of my work is dedicated, especially my mother. Any accomplishment of mine is a small vindication for all of her sacrifices.” •
As a university and among its graduate programs and departments, UCI earns top spots on multiple charts
Money magazine ranked UCI the #1 university for beach lovers.
quick look at UCI’s recent rankings on a number of scales provides evidence of what many of us already knew - UCI is THE up-and-coming place to be:
#7 in the nation for awarding degrees to minority students, Diverse Issues in Higher Education
#1 university that does most for low-income students in terms of access, affordability and student success, The New York Times College Access Index.
Top 10 “Cool School” for sustainability, Sierra magazine.
#1 university for beach lovers, Money magazine. #7 best public university, Money magazine.
#9 best public university in the U.S., U.S. News & World Report.
Top 10 best value college in terms of tuition, quality and graduation success rates and post-grad earnings, Forbes. #16 among U.S. four year universities delivering the most value, Money magazine.
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best social sciences programs in the world -TheBestSchools.org
-Center for Public Anthropology
-U.S. News & World Report
logic & philos. of science
-Phil. of Math, Phil. Gourmet
-U.S. News & World Report
Psychology, 19th among public universities, 36th overall (administered by both the Department of Cognitive Sciences in Social Sciences and the Department of Psychology and Social Behavior in Social Ecology). Political science, 24th among public universities, 45th overall.
As a school, social sciences ranks 45th in the 2015 Academic Ranking of World Universities in Social Science, compiled by TheBestSchools.org. Within the school, graduate programs are all highly ranked. The most recent programs to be evaluated (not all program rankings are done each year) are sociology, psychology, political science and economics by U.S. News and World Report. All four earned top 25 rankings among public U.S. universities and top 50 rankings overall: Sociology, 12th among public universities, 23rd overall.
-U.S. News & World Report
Economics, 24th among public universities, 47th overall. Recent Academic Analytics data places five of social sciences’ eight departments in the top 10% nationally in terms of scholarly impact, measured by citations. This includes Chicano/Latino studies (measured against all ethnic and area studies programs), economics, logic and philosophy of science, political science and sociology, with sociology and LPS in the top 3%. Economics has been busting through the rankings recently, too: the St. Louis Federal Reserve has ranked it among the top economics departments globally, with eight UCI economists recognized as being among the top 5% in the world.
-U.S. News & World Report
Other social sciences graduate programs evaluated in prior review cycles include: Anthropology: 8-29 (Center for Public Anthropology & National Research Council; ranked within ranges; individual rankings not provided). Logic & Philosophy of Science (Philosophical Gourmet Report with multiple subfield rankings): #1 (tie): Philosophy of Mathematics #2 (tie): Philosophy of Physics #2 (tie): Philosophy of Science #4 (tie): Decision Theory, Game Theory, Rational Choice, and Formal Epistemology #4 (tie): Philosophy of Social Science #6 (tie): Philosophical Logic #10 (tie): Mathematical Logic #10 (tie): Philosophy of Biology Finally, the School of Social Sciences was recently recognized in Diverse Issues in Higher Education for being #12 nationally in Hispanic undergraduate degree conferrals and #15 in Hispanic master’s degrees awarded. •
CO N N EC T ED
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 47,500+ 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, email@example.com, to get involved.
Keep your UCI email to keep in touch! Scan to learn more. •
connect with us online www.socsci.uci.edu
@ucisocsci @ucisocialsciences @uc-irvine-social-science email firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com phone 949.824.2766 in person Social & Behavioral Sciences Gateway 5th Floor Deanâ€™s Suite mail UCI School of Social Sciences 3151 Social Science Plaza Irvine, CA 92697-5100