Page 1

BOLD

UCI SOC SCI SPRING MAGAZINE 2018

be

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


2

be bold

featu red 5 Message from Maurer 6 Finding her voice

contents 06

Involvement in campus life and leadership helped triple major Amy Hu ’18 find the confidence to speak at her graduation and with it, she wants to thank her father for helping her and her sisters find UCI

10 Going with the flow As CEO of Oru Kayak, Ardy Sobhani ’04 says the key to being a successful entrepreneur is checking your ego at the door

12 In her own words ’18 Lauds and Laurels Outstanding Undergrad Iman Siddiqi will cap off an extraordinary undergrad career by addressing a stadium of her peers as a commencement speaker

16 Breaking down poverty UCI Visiting Distinguished Professor Martin Burt says that the key to eliminating poverty is taking the focus off of income

18 Happy in hot water UCI alumna Sashee Chandran ’07 ditched her Silicon Valley career to follow her passion for tea

22 When passion & past pave way to profession Growing up in a communist country shaped Nina Bandelj’s prolific career as a UCI sociologist

25 More than a game Grad student Evan Conaway studies the relationships between computer gamers, servers, and nostalgia

26 One day at a time Sarah Mahoney ’18 is proof that the Anteater spirit can conquer just about anything

30 From cockpit to courtroom

54

UCI helped Marine Corps veteran Advaith Thampi ’16 find his path after military life

32 Seeing health in a cultural context Professor Belinda Campos studies how the Latino approach to relationships yields mental and physical benefits

34 Making her own path How sociology major Priscilla Tenggara ’18 landed her dream job at Facebook

38 Business in bloom Stephanie Domzalski ’03 creates community through floral art with BloomLA, a pop-up art show debuting in Los Angeles

48


uci soc sci

43 Excellence in teaching First gen mentor and professor Davin Phoenix one of 19 honored at Celebration of Teaching ceremony

44 Education champion Alumna Nikita Patel left a comfortable job to volunteer with the Peace Corps - now she’s ready to make change here at home

46 Making her mark At only 34, Jennifer dos Santos ’05 has already toured the world as a musician, earned top rankings in national bodybuilding competitions, and run a nonprofit empowering people affected by limb loss

50 A fresh approach UCI Aeberhard winner Alondra Lopez pushed through fear and jumped into her freshman year with both feet – now she’s helping others get the most out of their educational opportunities

52 National recognition Dosher, Solingen honored by National Academy of Sciences for research achievements in human cognition and nuclear proliferation

53 A research focus UCI-led study identifies assets, needs of county’s fastest-growing immigrant community

54 Forbes top 30 under 30 Benny Luo ’10, founder and CEO of NextShark, recognized for work in media

56 Classroom crusader

63 The quirks of controlling rent Brian Asquith ’17 Ph.D. examines the hidden consequences of rent control in award-winning dissertation

64 Sixty years in the making How photos snapped by a young Fulbright scholar got new life six decades later, thanks to a snowstorm in Italy

68 Homelessness in OC UCI sociologists Snow and Goldberg conduct groundbreaking cost study

70 A legacy of giving Christian Werner and his partner, Kathy Alberti, donate more than $4.4 million to support fellowships in the school’s top-ranked graduate programs

72 Lauds & Laurels Investor-philanthropist Steve Borowski ’79 receives top honor; contributions of 20 prominent Anteaters – including four more from social sciences – celebrated for campus and community involvement

74 Making his case Matthew Stein ’00, cofounder & senior partner, Law & Stein, LLP

74 Outlive Design Alumna Mariam Ejaz helps clients crowd fund their interior design dreams

75 Alumni Network Join today and stay in touch with your alma mater

Aspiring engineer turned education activist Daijanique Joseph ’18 is using her UCI education to help children get equal access to quality schooling

58 Mentorship matters A mentor changed Jeanett Castellanos’ life 25 years ago - she’s been paying it forward ever since

61 In memoriam: Joseph White Pioneering mental health professional, renowned scholar & beloved teacher-mentor was an inspirational campus icon

62 Ventures in vino Alumna Karen Nguyen left her established corporate career for the exciting world of wine, art, and entrepreneurship

61

3


4

be bold

b e BOL D ----a publication of the UCI School of Social Sciences ----writers, designers, editors & photographers Heather Ashbach, Bria Balliet, Frank Cancian, Luis Fonseca, Pat Harriman, Jill Kato, Roy Rivenburg, Peyton Wolonsky, Steven Zylius special thanks to contributing photographers from: Aristotle Capital Management LLC, BloomLA, Inspired Art Wine, Law & Stein, LLP, Oru Kayak, Tea Drops

from the

DEAN

----School Leadership Bill Maurer, Dean Michael McBride, Associate Dean Michael Lee, Acting Associate Dean Dave Leinen, Assistant Dean Development Tracy Arcuri, Executive Director Liz Dahl, Director Rosemarie Swatez, Associate Director Melissa Churlonis, Coordinator Marketing & Communications Heather Ashbach, Executive Director Luis Fonseca, Digital Media Production ----featured on cover: BloomLA - co-curated by Stephanie Domzalski ’03 - held a preview show in Griffith Park Los Angeles to much applause. More on page 38.

O

ver the past few years, we’ve been updating our messaging to match our attitude.

Bold. Mold breakers. Mavericks. That feeling comes through not just in the research and teaching that we pursue, but in the students and alumni who come through. Like our commencement speakers this year, Amy Hu – a first gen student graduating with triple majors and honors – and Iman Siddiqi who founded and raised more than $90,000 for the Refugee Student Scholarship Program.


uci soc sci

Bill Maurer with members of the soc sci Dean’s Leadership Society

And Stephanie Domzalski ’03 who, after 14 years as a school psychologist, is curating a pop up art show in LA. And Sashee Chandran ’07 who ditched her lucrative Silicon Valley career to follow her passion for tea. And Davin Phoenix, a first gen faculty member who mentors first gen students through their first years at UCI. And so many others. These are our people – students, alumni, faculty, staff, and friends – people who possess the UCI soc sci maverick spirit – people who haven’t been afraid to step outside their comfort zone and do something different. And we’re so excited to share their experiences with you in this, our third issue of Be Bold. Enjoy! •

These are our people – people who possess the UCI soc sci maverick spirit, people who haven’t been afraid to step outside their comfort zone and do something different.

5


6

be bold

f i n d i n g

VOICE

h e r

Involvement in campus life and leadership helped triple major Amy Hu find the confidence to speak at her graduation. With it, she wants to thank her father for helping her and her sisters find UCI.

W

hen her dad moved the family within walking distance of UCI before her first year of junior high, Amy Hu ’18 says it was no coincidence. “We thought we were moving to Irvine for a bigger house, but we learned later that my dad had a vision for my sisters and I – that we would all go to UCI and achieve the education he wasn’t able to finish,” she says. Her father came to the U.S. from Taiwan for graduate school and studied architecture at UCLA. When financial hardship hit, he left the program and started his own business. Ever the master planner, he knew that a move to Irvine and his family’s proximity to the world-class institution down the street would keep UCI top-of-mind when it came time for a college education.

“He wanted us to have the opportunity he didn’t,” says Hu. “When we all got our UCI acceptance letters, it was incredibly emotional. Being first generation students, it was humbling and honoring to understand we’re fulfilling the dream our parents didn’t get to fulfill.” Hu’s older sister, Wendy, graduated from UCI in ’15 with a double major in pharmaceutical science and business administration. Her younger sister, Mary, is currently a freshman and plans to graduate in ’21 with a double major in informatics and business administration. And Amy is walking across the stage in June with triple majors in sociology, business economics, and business administration. She’s also one of only two students who will get to address her social sciences peers as a commencement speaker on June 15.


uci soc sci

Team photos courtesy of Arizona Cardinals

Brooks with Peter at the UCI/Scott Brooks Golf Invitational.

Being in charge of different organizations at UCI taught Amy Hu that leadership can come in many different forms, and no skill is out of reach.

7


8

be bold

From my dad, I learned what it means to work hard… I hope that I can make him proud and repay him for all of the sacrifices he’s made for my family. He’s set such a great example – I’m forever grateful. With additional roles in ASUCI, the Anteater Ambassadors Network, and the Merage Undergraduate Student Association, it’s safe to say that Hu has overcome her feelings of self-doubt. “Being in charge of a bunch of different organizations taught me that leadership can come in many different forms. If you don’t have a skill, you can acquire it,” she says. From left to right: Amy, Mary, and Wendy Hu

“I’m so honored to be speaking as a firstgeneration student, the daughter of two Taiwanese-American immigrants who came to pursue the ‘American Dream’, to represent my graduating class,” she says. She’s also a little intimidated; the self-described introvert says public speaking hasn’t always come easy for her. “I grew up thinking that public speaking and leadership were skills people were born with; you either had them or you didn’t,” she says. “I really lacked the self confidence to think I’d ever be up in front of 5,000 people speaking on behalf of my classmates.” Through her experiences at UCI, she says, she gained the courage to go outside her comfort zone. In 2015, she founded Women in Leadership, a UCI organization for undergraduates that promotes mentoring and professional growth-based activities for female Anteaters – and she’s served for the past 3 years as the group’s president. Also in 2015, she founded – and has continued to serve as president of – the Real Estate Association at UCI which similarly sponsors events and activities linking UCI students with business professionals in the OC community.

In the classroom, Hu excelled, earning a coveted spot in the competitive campuswide honors program. She served as a lead research assistant on a study exploring the effectiveness of social media peer-support groups in helping people quit smoking. Her honors thesis analyzes the effectiveness of the study’s text-based prompts in encouraging discussion within the online peer-support groups. And rather than graduate two quarters early, she picked up her third major and pushed herself to get everything she possibly could out of her education. She earned multiple scholarships for her efforts, including the Nitori Scholarship – which she had to personally interview for – and an Alumni Association Distinguished Anteater Award for which she gave a speech at the awards dinner. She also earned a Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW) scholarship for her interest in real estate and involvement with women empowerment initiatives within the community. Most recently, she was named a Chancellor’s Scholar of Distinction. As a student, Hu also worked as a peer academic advisor in the Merage School of Business where she advised incoming Anteaters about course scheduling and class


uci soc sci

choice. And for the past year, she worked as the coordinator for the peer academic advising program in the Division of Undergraduate Education where she supervised and trained all 67 peer advisors from every school at UCI.

And family has always been a running factor in Hu’s drive and success. Some of her best memories of her four years at UCI were the two years her time crossed over with each sister.

“It took a lot of experiences – both good and bad – to gain the confidence in my public speaking skills I have today,” she says. “My job as the coordinator pushed me toward that. As the supervisor of all these students, all of a sudden I had to be ready to train them. That was really daunting. I had to overcome the ‘I don’t know what I’m doing’ feeling and take control of the situation and get everyone up to speed. It gave me a real sense of leadership and made me become more confident.”

“Whenever we had free time, we tried to spend it together. It didn’t matter what challenge I was facing or how little sleep I’d gotten, we always made time to see each other and I treasure that,” she says.

It also took a lot of her time, which – when added to her studies and work with student organizations – wasn’t something Hu had much of. But managing it all wasn’t a problem, she says, thanks to the work ethic mirrored by her father. “From my dad, I learned what it means to work hard. He’s seen many 100-hour workweeks. Even through numerous challenges we faced in our family business, he never gave up,” she says. “He taught us the importance of being someone who not only does well for themselves, but also for the family and community.”

The whole Hu crew will be in attendance for Amy’s big speech on June 15; a proud moment for not only Amy, but her entire Anteater family. “Being able to deliver the commencement speech in front of my family – especially my father – means so much to me. I hope that I can make him proud and repay him for all of the sacrifices he’s made for my family. He’s set such a great example – I’m forever grateful.” •

From left to right: Mary, Amy, Wendy, Alice, and Joe Hu

9


10

be bold

g o i n g

FLOW

w i t h

W

hen you ask alumnus Ardy Sobhani, economics ’04, if he feels like he has the hang of this whole CEO thing yet, his answer is somewhat surprising. “I 100 percent make it up as I go. If I don’t know an answer I’ll just go find it.” Then again, as someone who has to put out metaphorical fires every day for a living, maybe it isn’t so surprising. In fact, Sobhani has always had a pretty relaxed attitude toward his future. Not to say he doesn’t take his work seriously; his approach is simply less about structure and more focused on being open to opportunities. And, as the CEO of Oru Kayak, a company that makes unique and easily transportable kayaks (despite having never ridden in one before he took the gig), his “go with the flow” attitude is particularly fitting. “My first experience in a kayak was in an early prototype Oru back in 2012 under the Golden Gate Bridge,” he says. “It made me feel connected to nature and gave me a sense of freedom and oneness. I’ll never forget that moment.” Sobhani is now in his fifth year as the cofounder and CEO of the Bay Area-startup that makes foldable, lightweight kayaks inspired by the Japanese art of origami.

t h e As CEO of Oru Kayak, Ardy Sobhani ’04 says the key to being a successful entrepreneur is checking your ego at the door.

And, as his company’s distinctive product line suggests, he’s always been one to shun tradition in favor of creativity – with some strategically placed goals along the way. As an undergrad, he chose a major in economics that provided stable career opportunities, along with a minor in digital arts that let him test his creativity.

Sobhani didn’t have a set career goal in mind. Instead, he decided to see where the journey took him and enjoy his education. He excelled in his studies, making the dean’s list and serving as a member of the economic and business society, while making sure to take advantage of extracurriculars like studying abroad in Germany.

He went on to get an unconventional MBA in design strategy, merging his business acumen with his love of design, and even though he never set out with the goal of running a company, he’s gotten his team past the aspirational five-year mark and is heading toward expansion. What started as a twoperson operation with co-founder Anton Willis now boasts more than 30 employees including their LA-based manufacturers. Not bad for a “see what happens” approach.

“If you’re going to be in college, you might as well maximize your experience and get the very most out of it that you can,” he says. “It’s all about making connections. Getting to know people and creating relationships, you never know what those things can become.”

“My favorite thing about the job is the unknown and solving lots of hard challenges,” Sobhani says. “The ambiguity of the solutions or directions we take. I love that. I love that about life. I think when things become too steady it gets a little boring.” He’s been that way since his days at UCI. Even as his peers stressed over setting up the perfect plan to get them to their dream job,

With that mindset, it’s not a surprise that when he found himself with a bachelor’s degree and working in the mortgage industry, he couldn’t help but feel that something wasn’t right. “I worked there for five years, and after a couple years I realized I wasn’t growing that much and I ended up getting sucked into the comfort of the corporation,” he says. He says that it’s not necessarily bad to become comfortable in a role, but for him, he wanted a challenge.


uci soc sci

I think when things become too steady, it gets a little boring.

He wanted to be using those problemsolving skills he was able to utilize while getting his economics degree, and maybe explore some more creative avenues. He fluctuated for a while between whether he should get an MBA or an MFA, but ended up finding a combination graduate program at the California College of Arts that gave him the best of both worlds. And then the Oru Kayak opportunity came along. Now he spends his days making sure his employees are able to operate to the best of their abilities. It’s a new kind of problem solving, but one that he enjoys. “The fun part when we first started out was just building everything – building a factory, building the finance side of things, solving the product issues and problems, and figuring out how to make the product

better,” he says. “Nowadays my main job is to open the road to make sure people can do their job well and make sure they’re happy, satisfied, engaged. So there’s still never a boring day.” For those looking to venture into the world of entrepreneurship like he did, his advice is to let go of your ego and be willing to work. “Forget about the title,” he says. “Don’t worry about ‘being a CEO.’ You need to show up every day and you need to work and do whatever it takes to get the job done.” And of course, give it everything you’ve got. “You never want to think you missed out on something. That’s life in general. I want to skip across that finish line, doors hanging off the car, engine broken, just having gone full out.” •

11


12

be bold

i n

h e r

o w n

WORDS

’18 Lauds and Laurels Outstanding Undergrad Iman Siddiqi will cap off an extraordinary undergrad career by addressing a stadium of her peers as a commencement speaker

I

man Siddiqi, political science and Middle East studies major, hit the ground running when she arrived at UCI. She was already a contributing writer to the Orange County Register and a published children’s book author (her book, Haya: The Loyal Student, is available on Amazon), and a stellar student before graduating from Irvine’s Northwood High School, and she continued that momentum as an Anteater. Over the last four years, Siddiqi has shown off her writing chops as a news editor for UCI’s New University newspaper, participated in the political science honors program, advocated for refugee rights through the national Books Not Bombs initiative, and served as president of UCI’s Peaceful Passions (formerly Hearts of Mercy). She was last year’s Aldrich Scholar, has maintained an impressive GPA in addition to all of her extracurricular involvements, and was named the Alumni Association’s 2018 Lauds & Laurels Outstanding Undergraduate. She’s also a 2018 Chancellor’s Scholar of Distinction. But perhaps her biggest achievement came late last year when, after being awarded the 2017/18 Dalai Lama Scholarship, she organized a fundraising banquet which raised more than $90,000 in a single night for her Refugee Student Scholarship Program.

Now as she prepares to address her peers as the student speaker at one of the School of Social Sciences commencement ceremonies on June 15, she’s not looking to slow down. Instead, she’s got even bigger and better things in mind for herself and for the global community – specifically, continuing to work toward accessible education for all. Here, Siddiqi answers a few questions about the inspiration behind her commencement address and future plans, and tells us why she plans to stick around UCI a bit longer.


uci soc sci

Siddiqi is graduating with dual majors in political science and Middle East studies, but she won’t be leaving UCI. She’ll be attending the School of Law in fall.

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT BEING A COMMENCEMENT SPEAKER?

WHO INSPIRED YOUR COMMENCEMENT ADDRESS?

It’s a privilege to be selected to represent the School of Social Sciences and to have the opportunity to speak in front of the professors and classmates who inspired me, challenged me to grow, and encouraged me to contribute to the campus and community. I am admittedly a bit nervous, but I am still grateful and blessed to be able to represent and thank the Class of 2018 and those who have helped us to get to this point in our lives.

While I was encouraged by my professors, my address is inspired by my fellow graduates. As former news editor for The New University and now as president of Peaceful Passions, a student organization that works to raise awareness and create opportunities for refugees, I have seen the impact of social sciences students’ efforts to assist marginalized communities and address injustice. I hope to share a few anecdotes in my commencement address.

13


14

be bold


uci soc sci

The message I hope to impart is to continue to cultivate the passions that we discovered and forged here to make a difference for our community.

LAST NOVEMBER YOU HELD A FUNDRAISER TO ESTABLISH A SCHOLARSHIP FUND FOR REFUGEE STUDENTS IN LINE WITH YOUR DALAI LAMA PROJECT. CAN YOU TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT THAT FUNDRAISER AND PEOPLE’S REACTIONS? We held a fundraiser for the Refugee Students Scholarship Program in November 2017 and we were able to raise over $90,000 to provide scholarships to need-based refugees and asylum seekers accepted to a University of California campus. Community members who attended were really inspired by the fact that undergraduate students created and fundraised for this scholarship program; it’s actually the first student-led scholarship program for displaced students in the country. It certainly exceeded my expectations, and I was very blessed to have the support of the UCI School of Social Sciences, faculty members, students, local community organizations, and community members.

WHAT’S NEXT FOR THAT PROJECT? In addition to providing funding, we also hope to provide mentorship and guidance on UC admissions. We are finalizing the application so that it is available for displaced students commencing or continuing at a UC during the 2019-20 academic year. FOLLOWING COMMENCEMENT, WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS? The day after commencement, I will be leaving for Oakland to participate in the Middlebury Language School’s 8-week Arabic immersion program. In the fall, I will begin law school at the UCI School of Law. I’m excited to be near the campus so that I can continue to oversee the Refugee Students Scholarship Program, and I hope to continue to cultivate the relationships and network I have created with faculty and students at the main campus. In law school, I hope to focus on international and refugee law, so that I can continue to assist and advocate for displaced people, but at a macro level. •

15


16

be bold

breaking down

POVERTY

UCI Visiting Distinguished Professor Martin Burt says that the key to eliminating poverty is taking the focus off of income

P

overty is an incredibly complex issue. Just ask Martin Burt, former mayor of Asuncion, Paraguay, where one-third of the people live below the poverty line.

“When people think of poverty, a lot of times they immediately think income is the solution,” he says. “But poverty is multidimensional and much more complicated than a dollar figure.” As the director of Fundación Paraguaya, a nongovernmental organization that advances microfinance and entrepreneurship in the South American country, Burt has devoted his life’s work to eliminating poverty around the world – most notably through creation of an interactive, ground-level family assessment and analysis tool called Poverty Stoplight. And as a new UCI Visiting Distinguished Scholar, he’s spending the next five years sharing his knowledge and applied approaches with UCI students, faculty, and communities. “I think of myself more as a social entrepreneur in residence – more of a practitioner,” he says. “I love showing students the real challenges and opportunities of improving people’s lives.” The academic appointment at UCI is with both the School of Social Ecology and the School of Social Sciences.

Burt and his wife founded Fundación Paraguaya and with it, the South American country’s first microfinance and youth entrepreneurship programs.


uci soc sci

development NGO, Fundación Paraguaya. Through the foundation, they launched the country’s first microfinance program, as well as the first youth entrepreneurship program. The work carried out by the foundation linked Burt closely with government programs aimed at alleviating poverty, largely via emphasis on increasing family income. But Burt started to notice a gap. “We were focusing on ways to build the family up financially, but what the families really lacked was financial literacy,” he says.

It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you stop focusing on income and start to empower people to create change.

Burt will help expose students to international issues and the possibilities in social innovation, while strengthening UCI’s presence in the world and increasing opportunities for Anteaters overseas. “Social entrepreneurship allows you to see social and environmental problems as opportunities for ingenuity and for combining existing resources to create value,” he says. Burt’s optimistic framework was inspired by the example set by both his grandmother and father. “They showed me how even in poor countries there are many opportunities. Those who have an education, those who were born in the right zip code – they have a responsibility to help others,” he says. “They taught me the very profound sense that everybody has dignity.” In 1976, Burt came to California to pursue his undergraduate degree in public administration and inter-American studies at University of the Pacific. During that time, he also met his wife, Dorothy, a Central Valley farmer’s daughter. They married in 1982 and moved back to Burt’s hometown in Paraguay. Together, they founded Paraguay’s first sustainable

As the foundation expanded its povertyfighting efforts, Burt’s realization of the complexity of the challenge grew, as did his fascination with solving it. “We were seeing these families – successful families that had overcome poverty – all had something in common, and it wasn’t income. They had this intangible attitude of willing to learn new things. They had a personal motivation and an entrepreneurial spirit,” he says. “We started to see that what we needed to do wasn’t to provide them resources, but instead unleash the resources they intrinsically had and those at their immediate disposal, and empower them with knowledge to change.” From there, everything took off. Burt returned to the U.S. for a Ph.D. in international development at Tulane University, where he honed his statistical analysis skills for real-world application. Those skills would prove key in developing the Poverty Stoplight. Composed of a battery of 50 indicators on six different dimensions, the app-driven tool helps poor families diagnose the way poverty affects different aspects of their lives using red, yellow, or green indicators. Burt and his team consulted with families to find out what the threshold was for families to overcome poverty in different aspects of their lives: employment, health, income, housing, education, and others. The app uses pictures to help families see what each level looks like. After completing the survey, families get a visual printout of their “dashboard” – green areas in which they are doing well, such as having running water, and red areas in which they aren’t for example, not having clean clothes. Their personal antipoverty plan is then set up, using five priorities with goals and dates

for follow-ups and check-ins. Families are provided direct local access to resources for improving areas from red to green. “The more you allow families to separate different aspects of poverty into something tangible – like fixing a bathroom or developing a budget – you can work on other areas so that income can follow,” he says. The tool has been deployed in six different languages through partnerships with social entrepreneurs, private sector businesses, governments, and high schools across 25 countries including the U.S., the United Kingdom, China, and India. More than 100 companies in Paraguay are using it as a social responsibility tool for a combined 16,000 employees with the goal of enhancing worker productivity and prosperity. The model is ripe for replication, Burt says. “Every country is different, and different cultures value different things: for some, family is more important, while in others unemployment is more acceptable,” Burt says. “But people’s dignity and, especially, their desire to improve their family’s lot is universal.” Burt’s public service career – which includes posts as Vice Minister of Commerce and Chief of Staff to the President of Paraguay – has helped spread that message further. He’s also held multiple academic appointments throughout the U.S., Paraguay, and Africa. While at UCI, he’s planning to partner with local organizations to deploy the stoplight tool right here in Orange County. He’s also collaborating on an online poverty course with the Blum Center for Poverty Alleviation, and he’s helping set up a UCI center in Paraguay, where students in the Global Service Scholars program can do service learning work during the summer with his foundation, which has turned to teaching youth the business skills they need to start rural businesses, get better jobs, or continue their education. “It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you stop focusing on income and start to empower people to create change,” he says. •

17


18

be bold

B

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.

h a p py

i n

HOT WATER UCI alumna Sashee Chandran ’07 ditched her Silicon Valley career to follow her passion for tea

“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.


uci soc sci

19


20

be bold

Y For me, the rationality was even if I failed, I would learn something from it.

ou could say that a passion for tea is, quite literally, in Sashee Chandran’s blood. The Anteater alumna (economics ’07) was born to a Chinese mother and Sri Lankan father, and the merging of two such tea-centric cultures led to an early appreciation of the beverage on her part. Such an appreciation, in fact, that it eventually led her to create Tea Drops – organic, dissolvable, single serving pressed teas – from her apartment kitchen. Now, three years after leaving a job in Silicon Valley to fully focus on running her company, Chandran admits that CEO life is a labor of love. But the lessons she’s learned along the way are invaluable, and she can’t wait to see where Tea Drops goes next. Chandran’s fondness for the ancient beverage is not just about the flavor. For her, tea is something that has brought her family, and ones like it, together for generations.

“There is really a tea for every mood or occasion,” she says. “After school when I was young, we would make a cup of tea and share how our days went. When I was sick my mom would make me this certain kind of chrysanthemum Chinese tea, so I associate that with my memories of my mom taking care of me. A chai or black Assam tea is associated with Sri Lankan family parties because that’s what the women would always drink after a meal. Beyond being a functional beverage, tea represents a vehicle to bring people together and sense of community.” That feeling and appreciation for tea is what Chandran hopes to bring to the masses with Tea Drops. And so far she’s succeeding. Tea Drops are currently available in more than 1,500 retail stores, from small mom-andpop shops to upscale retailers like Neiman Marcus and Anthropologie. And the brand is growing.


uci soc sci

Just last month they launched Tea Sprinkles, a new, sugar-free line of teas that were crafted with unique moods in mind, and the company will be introducing a set of fun, dessert-inspired Tea Drops before summer. Things are taking off for Chandran in a way she couldn’t have imagined back when she was still a student at UCI. But even though she might not have predicted her entrepreneurial direction, she knew long ago that she wanted to work for herself. “I always knew I would eventually do something entrepreneurial,” she says. “My parents are both that way – my dad always dabbled in real estate, my mom had these side businesses she created in addition to being a stay-at-home mom. So even though they never said directly I should do the same, I always knew I would do something of my own.” So when it came time to choose a college, UCI’s economics program seemed like it would offer a useful – but still flexible – foundation. Paired with a minor in management, she created her own makeshift business degree and set to work.

While she made sure to take advantage of all UCI had to offer – from volunteering with the homeless community to serving on the Campus Village Director’s Cabinet to studying abroad at the London School of Economics – she made sure to focus on her studies as well. Academically, she found herself drawn to the social aspects of economics – why people make the choices they do and what factors influence those choices – which eventually led her to her first job postcollege with a market research firm. It was a career track she followed for years, eventually landing a gig with ecommerce giant eBay and relocating from Los Angeles to Silicon Valley. And it was there, in between her duties as a market researcher, that Chandran first came up with the idea for Tea Drops. “It actually came from my frustration trying to make loose-leaf tea at work,” she says. As a tea enthusiast, Chandran preferred the experience and taste of loose-leaf teas over those made with bags. However, she found it impractical to make in the office environment. But instead of settling for subpar options, she decided to do some experimenting to try and come up with an alternative.

“There hadn’t really been any innovation in tea since the invention of the tea bag more than 100 years ago,” she says. “So that sparked the question, ‘could this be simpler without sacrificing the quality of the tea?’” It took a couple of years of trial and error in her apartment kitchen, but eventually she had a prototype she felt was good enough to bring to the public – hand-cut, pressed teas that dissolved in hot water. She started small, selling on weekends at farmers markets and craft fairs and gathering customer feedback. But after about six months of working full time at her corporate job and trying to grow her own business, she was burnt out. She had a choice to make; either let the Tea Drops dream go, or quit her job, use up all her savings, and see where her business could take her. “For me, the rationality was even if I failed, I would learn something from it,” she says. “And I was young enough that if it didn’t end up well I could still recover from it, but if I didn’t try I knew I would regret it. So that was what prompted me to go all in.” So in 2015 she threw everything she had into the business and hasn’t looked back. From where she is now, running an exciting and growing startup, it’s easier for Chandran to see how she was able to get there. Tea Drops now has headquarters in Los Angeles and a bustling online business in addition to store sales. Chandran has been on HSN showing off her product, and just this month brought Tea Drops to Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim. But she admits there were times that it didn’t seem like she would ever reach her goals. As an entrepreneur, she says that you hear ‘no’ much more often than ‘yes,’ particularly when you’re just starting out. That’s why her pieces of advice for aspiring entrepreneurs are as follows: stop comparing your journey to someone else’s, be determined, and jump in with both feet. “I always used to feel like I had to acquire a certain skill or meet this person before taking action,” she says. “And what I’m learning is that entrepreneurialism is much more about persistence. You don’t have to have a specific skill set or connections – everyone’s journey is unique. If you really believe in yourself and your idea, just go for it.” •

21


22

be bold

when passion & past pave way to

PROFESSION Growing up in a communist country shaped Nina Bandelj’s prolific career as a UCI sociologist

Bandelj studies how social forces impact the economy

T

he past year has been quite a busy one for Nina Bandelj. A new book, a National Science Foundation research grant, a quarter as interim associate dean of graduate studies in social sciences, one year served of a three-year appointment on the American Sociological Association council, and an award for midcareer service are highlights that only begin to scratch the surface of what’s kept the UCI sociologist buzzing.

An economic sociologist, Bandelj studies the social bases of economic processes, dispelling the assumption that the economy runs solely on the supply and demand rationale.

“I love trying to figure out how people lead their economic lives, and I get excited to develop ideas into rigorous and meaningful research. That’s all fun for me! The same goes in the classroom. I wear my passion for sociology on my sleeve. Shamelessly,” she laughs.

It’s an interest that she’s been honing for the past two decades through formal research, but one that began long before.

“Yes, I am busy, but it’s because I am an idealist. I believe that I can work to improve the welfare of others, which is what ‘service’ means to me. So, I take any chance I get to recognize the good in people and figure out what awesome things we can do together.”

“People – with our visceral emotions, moral judgments, and social connections – are the centerpiece of economy. My passion for studying sociology and money comes from this central premise, and pushes me to continue to uncover how social forces influence economy.”

--A framed newspaper article hung on the living room wall of Bandelj’s childhood home in then-Yugoslavia. It featured her father who’d won a National Medal from Yugoslav leader Tito for his engineering innovations. And in the story, her father said that he hoped his then 5-year-old daughter would become an economist.


uci soc sci

I love trying to figure out how people lead their economic lives, and I get excited to develop ideas into rigorous and meaningful research.

“Truth be told, my father never ever said to me what I should or should not study, but the copy of the interview was framed on our living room wall, so no words were necessary,” she says. When it came time to decide her career trajectory, Bandelj proceeded to take her entrance exams to the Faculty of Economics in Ljubljana. This was the early 1990s, a transformative period in the communist nation’s history that proved to be a crucial factor in changing Bandelj’s course and that of her country. “Regimes collapsed, countries liberalized, and I got a chance to pursue liberal arts in a capitalist country,” she says.

She packed her bags and headed to Augsburg College in Minneapolis, the only college she applied to because a Polish professor teaching economics there visited her Slovenian high school and told her about international student scholarship opportunities. At Augsburg, she enrolled in economics and business classes, but soon found her heart was in sociology. “By my sophomore year, I finally admitted to myself that I was more interested in people than abstract curves of demand and supply,” she says. Having grown up in a racially and culturally homogenous community, the opportunity to explore cross-societal differences as a formal course of study was incredibly interesting. She wound up taking every sociology course Augsburg offered, and even a few they didn’t via a sister school in the area. Graduate school at Princeton University let her dive deeper into the field, while return trips home each summer to the newly established Slovenia offered a living laboratory to study the sweeping societal transition underway. “Democratization, privatization, marketization, Europeanization, globalization – these were experiences happening and affecting my family, my community, my country, and more than a hundred million people from Central and Eastern Europe,” she says. “As far as I was concerned sociology wasn’t merely a choice of a study subject. I had to try to untangle this complexity.” Phone calls with her family each Sunday made the more than 4,000-mile separation feel less distant. And in the course of these conversations, Bandelj got a detailed account of the post-socialist restructuring challenges her dad’s medium-sized firm was going through. American investors were interested in the company, but middle managers and workers feared downsizing and character ruin if courted by a group from the U.S. A year into negotiations mired with protests, the American investors walked and a German multinational corporation acquired half the company without objection or dissent. “Economics teaches us that foreign investment transactions are based on rational efficiency considerations and a straightforward risk and return assessment,” she says. “But what I kept hearing was more about power struggles, social ties, cultural conceptions, emotions, and how German capital was different than American capital.”

23


24

be bold

The exchanges led her to think more about how economics and sociology work in tandem, and her dissertation topic was born. “That social forces impact economic processes is not an anomaly but a standard to be expected in any practical economic transaction, made particularly apparent in conditions of uncertainty. And if anything, uncertainty was paramount in transforming Central and Eastern Europe,” she says. She asserted as much in defense of her dissertation and won the Seymour Martin Lipset Dissertation Award from the Society for Comparative Research before coming west to California. Bandelj joined the UCI faculty directly out of grad school in 2003 and continued to pursue research on the social foundations and transformations of the region as it moved from socialism to capitalism, focusing on how markets are created and operated. Five years later, she published her first book on the topic, From Communists to Foreign Capitalists: The Social Foundations of Foreign Direct Investment in Postsocialist Europe. In the 10 years since, she’s published five more books, her most recent on the topic of money – what it is, and how we make sense of it in an age when new currencies like Bitcoin and Apply Pay are gaining ground. “I’m really interested in dispelling common myths about not just money, but economy more broadly. There is a common assumption that money is cold and rational, and that it corrupts relations. We’ve all heard that ‘money can’t buy you happiness,’ or that ‘money is the root of all evil.’ But money does not equal to exploitation or corruption. Such blanket statements do more harm than not because they prevent us from learning about multiple forms and meanings of money.” In her 14-year tenure with UCI, she’s published more than 40 articles and book chapters in economic sociology, in addition to the six books she authored or edited. Last May, she was awarded a $154,000 National Science Foundation grant to study the link between rising U.S. household debt and the cost of raising kids. Using interviews and data from the Survey of Consumer Finances and the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, she’s interested in learning how varying levels of investment in children have implications for growing inequalities in the U.S. Other work has been funded by the Slovenian Research Agency, American Council of Learned Societies, European University Institute,

and Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies. “Bandelj’s work offers fresh and important insights into classical questions about how markets work, as well as the social foundations of economic processes,” says Matt Huffman, sociology department chair. “Her recent work on Central and Eastern Europe is similarly impactful, offering important findings about the role of larger social and economic changes, such as globalization. There is no doubt that Bandelj’s cuttingedge research has made her a leading contemporary economic sociologist, and we are proud to call her our colleague.” Bandelj shares her research and knowledge through undergraduate and graduate course lectures in several classes she teaches – among them, “Money, Work and Social Life” – a class that she adapted from her grad school mentor, Viviana Zelizer, and developed for UCI. For four years running, she’s received the Dean’s Commendation for Excellence in Teaching in social sciences. She mentors both undergraduate and graduate students in sociology and is an active member of campus programs that promote student research. In her wider field of study, Bandelj has served as chair of the American Sociological Association’s Economic Sociology Section. In 2016, she was elected to the Sociological Research Association and to a three-year term as the elected council-member-at-large of the American Sociological Association. She is the current co-editor of the Socio-Economic Review and associate editor of the American Journal of Cultural Sociology. She’s also been a key member of the UCI social sciences leadership team. From 2014-17, with a break in fall 2016, she was the equity advisor to social sciences dean Bill Maurer. In this role, she supported inclusive excellence in school hiring practices by overseeing a mentorship program and educating search committees through presentations on diversity in recruitment. Her efforts have yielded gains in the recruitment of women faculty and underrepresented minority scholars. She also served as the acting associate dean for research and graduate studies in social sciences in fall 2016. She implemented a graduate student professional conduct policy, which is being considered as a model for the entire campus, and spearheaded the formation of the Social Sciences DECADE Council. She currently codirects UCI’s Center for Organizational Research, a role she’s held since 2012.

Bandelj was recognized in spring as the Academic Senate’s 2017-18 Distinguished Mid-Career Faculty Award for Service recipient, highlighting her outstanding contributions to university and public service, an honor well deserved, says UCI social sciences dean Bill Maurer. “When she was elected a member of the Sociological Research Association, Nina was recognized by her scholarly peers for her many contributions to economic sociology and the sociology of organizations. It is fitting that UC Irvine has chosen to honor her many contributions to our organization, which have brought her academic talents to bear on important matters of salary equity and inclusive excellence,” says Maurer. “The title of her new book, Money Talks: Explaining How Money Really Works, sums it up: she understands that one way we demonstrate commitment to our values as an institution – and make positive change – is through careful attention to the flows of money, how we talk about equity, and how we turn that talk into action. She is a tremendous asset to the school and the campus.” As for Bandelj, she’s showing no signs of slowing. “For better or worse, our lives revolve around money, work, and value, so I don’t think I’ll run out of research ideas any time soon, and there always remains a challenge of how to use sociological research to tackle pressing social issues, especially in the current political environment. I have just started on a task force called Sociology Action Network within the American Sociological Association aimed to address this,” she says. “Besides, every quarter brings new students, ripe to be infected with a passion for sociology and social justice. And any day brings an opportunity, big or small, to nurture inclusion and equity, in our school, on campus, and in society at large. ” Expect to be hearing much more about this go-getter in the coming years… •


uci soc sci

“I want to understand how gamers think about servers in spatial or geographic terms, how they relate their memories and feelings of nostalgia to servers, and how they are using them to restore and preserve older versions of games that no longer exist, despite certain legal barriers,” he says. He points to an example of such nostalgia at Blizzard Entertainment, the company that created WoW, in which decommissioned physical servers were made into commemorative objects and auctioned off to raise money for charity.

more than a GAME Grad student Evan Conaway studies the relationships between computer gamers, servers, and nostalgia

F

or anthropology graduate student Evan Conaway, computer games aren’t just a past time. The selfproclaimed “gamer nerd” has dedicated his doctoral education to studying them and the people who interact with them. Now four years into his doctoral program at UCI – and many years after teaching himself to type by playing the online game “EverQuest” ­– Conaway has received a grant from the National Science Foundation to support

his current research on computer servers and the communities that form around them. Conaway’s work examines the ways in which gamers, particularly those who play “World of Warcraft (WoW),” interact with computer servers, the machinery that supports the Internet itself and online multiplayer games like WoW. He’s also interested in how people express feelings of nostalgia for older games no longer around.

“As a part of my larger project, I’m looking into the values and beliefs that are revealed by the very existence of these things,” he says. “For example, I found out recently that a group of WoW players bought one of these server objects and periodically meet as a group and sign it as a ritual practice of commemoration.” Conaway plans to use the grant funds for travel and fieldwork, specifically traveling to Northern California where he says people are “investing time and resources into digital game preservation.” In terms of impact, he hopes that this study and others like it will encourage anthropologists to study computer games and gamers more extensively. UCI, he says, is already home to some brilliant research on such technologies, and he is excited to see what the future holds. Conaway has been awarded a National Science Foundation grant in the amount of $25,200 with a grant period from June 15, 2018 to November 30, 2019. •

25


26

be bold

a day at a

TIME Sarah Mahoney ’18 is proof that the Anteater spirit can conquer just about anything

T

he best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.

This (paraphrased) line from Robert Burns 1785 work “The Mouse” is already familiar to many thanks to John Steinbeck’s famous novel. But its sentiment hits particularly close to home for anthropology’s Sarah Mahoney. Prior to her UCI career, Mahoney was an especially active Orange County community college student. She surfed and hiked, she played several instruments including the guitar and violin, and she had been accepted to a prestigious university where she intended to major in music. She had it all planned out. But a couple months before she was set to transfer to her new school, she woke up to a different world. “I tried to get out of bed one morning and I could barely move,” she says. “I tried to stand up and kept falling over. It was like my muscles were jelly.” An unknown neuromuscular illness appeared – seemingly overnight – and left her unable to move. In just a matter of hours, her whole life changed.

The road following that day was a long and difficult one, but over time Mahoney’s health improved enough that she was able to enroll at UCI last year – albeit with a slight change in major. She’s now strong enough to get around with the help of a wheelchair and, though she still doesn’t have all the answers when it comes to what made her sick, she has found a sense of liberation.

She’s doing what she wants, studying things that are fun for her, and going where she wants to go without spending much time worrying about the future. She’s done with planning far ahead, because she knows first-hand how those plans can change in an instant. In true Anteater fashion, she’s just focused on not letting anything get in her way.


uci soc sci

An unknown illness caused Mahoney ’18 to switch gears, but not slow down.

The unexpected Before her illness, Mahoney was an active 20-something who could never have imagined spending nearly three years struggling to get out of bed. So finding herself so weak that she was unable to walk, or even eat on her own, was a huge shock. Doctors couldn’t tell her what was wrong, and for a while it just got worse – to the point that she could barely speak and had trouble breathing.

It was, by her own account, one of the toughest periods in her life, not made any easier by the fact that she didn’t have the strength to pick up her beloved instruments. But despite being so weak, she didn’t stay idle. “I was so busy – navigating health care and insurance and trying to stay sane,” she says. “It was a very challenging period.”

27


28

be bold

Mahoney spent years searching for a diagnosis and cure, traveling around the world for tests and treatments. She took medical leave from her university in the Bay Area, and for three years focused on her health. When her insurance refused to pay for physical therapy, she set up a crowd funding campaign that raised more than $10,000, and when she felt like she needed a mental workout, she edited her friends’ college essays for them. When she got stronger, she even started sitting in on a friend’s anthropology classes at UCI, just out of curiosity. As time went on, her condition gradually improved. First with being able to feed herself, eventually sitting up on her own, and then getting around with a wheelchair. She considered trying to go back to her school up north several times, but was waiting to get stronger. Then, while visiting a specialist in Japan, she got a prognosis that made her shift gears. “The doctor there told me that I probably wasn’t going to get any better,” she says. “He said I was at the point where it was unlikely that I would recover any more than I already had.” It wasn’t easy to hear, and Mahoney can’t say that the news that she would probably never walk again didn’t affect her – she says she was “super down for a little while.” But instead of letting it debilitate her, she chose to use it as motivation to push forward. In her mind, if she wasn’t waiting for her health to improve any more, then she needed to figure out how to thrive in the circumstances she was in. “I think in a way, that prognosis helped me make the decision to transfer to UCI. It really made me think, ‘don’t wait, do what you can now.’” Switching gears After officially withdrawing from her school in San Francisco, Mahoney had to choose where she would go instead. With UCI being so close to home and her team of doctors – paired with her positive experience sitting in on anthropology courses – she was confident that it would be a good fit for her. She also made the difficult choice to forgo majoring in music in favor of something less physically demanding. After some contemplation, she decided to continue her studies in anthropology thanks to an interest in

ethnomusicology and a relationship she had cultivated with a department assistant professor, Sylvia Nam. She was confident in her choices, but the first few months were still hard. She wasn’t able to drive at the time, so getting to UCI in itself was a challenge. In addition, learning to get around campus with her wheelchair – while still coming to terms with her disability herself – made for a difficult first quarter. “Coming to school with a disability felt very unfamiliar and scary – I was so nervous,” she says. “And because I was a transfer student I felt like I didn’t belong here. Add to that just navigating with the new disability and balancing my health, school, and the fact that I wasn’t used to being in a wheelchair and being around a lot of people – it was difficult. I felt very self-conscious and nervous.” But Mahoney came to UCI with a purpose; to take advantage of as many opportunities as possible. So when she encountered the chance to study abroad during her first year, she didn’t even think twice. Along with that came the prospect of beginning her own research, so she set out to discover the perfect topic. And not long after, she found herself once again in Japan – the place where she had received her life-changing prognosis. But this time it was on her terms. A new adventure Mahoney recognizes that specifically choosing to go to a college close to home, then immediately embarking on a study abroad trip 5,000 miles away seems a bit counterintuitive. But thanks to funding from UCI’s Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program Summer Undergraduate Research Program (UROP SURP), the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship, and the fact that she has family in Japan (a grandmother, aunt, and brother), she couldn’t help taking the chance to go to Kyoto again. After visiting the town while on her medical trip, she knew she had to come back. The charm of the city, thanks to its mix of modern amenities with historical structures and traditions, really appealed to her. In particular, she found machiya – traditional, narrow Japanese townhouses made completely out of natural materials – quite interesting. “It was that architecture that stuck out to me,” she says. “It has this atmosphere that

makes you feel like you’re really in Japan. So that’s why, when I was thinking about what research project to do, I remembered those houses.” She also recalled a specific conversation with an older man in Kyoto about the machiya. After telling him they were one of the things she liked best about the city, he scoffed at her, calling them old, dark, and unappealing. “I thought that was interesting,” she says. “Why does he describe the house in that way while I find it so cool?” And thus, her research project was born. She read everything she could on the homes prior to her trip, and once she arrived in Kyoto she immediately began her field research. She interviewed café owners who had converted the machiya into quaint coffee shops and restaurants. She spoke to Japanese – young and old – to try to find the causes for such contrasting opinions. She read up on machiya history and the city’s plans for their future, and took photos of the homes around Kyoto.


uci soc sci

I don’t know what will happen later on. So instead, I think ‘what can I do to make the most out of right now?’

Mahoney studied abroad in Kyoto where she researched the history of machiya while learning to play the shamisen and make pottery.

“I remember my mentor, professor Tom Boellstorff, telling me I should enjoy the topic I’m researching and it should be fun. So with that in mind my topic has been really fun for me,” Mahoney says. “A lot of times I was just hanging out with café owners listening to stories and memories associated with the house and talking about how Kyoto is changing, all over coffee and food. Research is work, but it doesn’t feel like work at the same time.” She was busy with her studies, but in the spirit of doing as much as she can while she can, she also managed to pick up quite a few hobbies in her free time. Given her passion for string instruments, she decided to take lessons in the traditional Japanese instrument, the shamisen. Her university was also very close to a centuries-old pottery house that specialized in traditional ware for tea ceremonies. She would spend hours there each week, making pottery with friends. And when she wasn’t playing or throwing clay, she made sure to try as much food as she could (“my friends and I were always eating!”).

After returning from her semester abroad, she couldn’t help but look for another opportunity to go back to Japan and continue her research on machiya. And thanks to National Geographic Society and their Young Explorers grant (now called an Early Career Grant), she flew back to spend the summer at Kyoto University. The adventure continues When she returned to UCI for the fall semester, Mahoney didn’t put pressure on herself to decide on a career path. After all, her new perspective is all about living in the moment and focusing on the task at hand. “I’ve learned not to plan too far out,” she says. “I don’t know what will happen later on. So instead, I think ‘what can I do to make the most out of right now?’” As a 2018 graduate, she’s considered some options though. Grad school isn’t off the table given how much she’s enjoyed her research. And she’s been named an alternate for the Fulbright in Singapore which could mean more travel and study abroad. She’s also applying to a Fulbright in Mongolia. She

says anything is possible, it just depends on what she feels like come decision time. Mahoney is only in her early twenties and has already experienced one of the most trying times in her life – and it’s still an ongoing journey. But where she could have faltered, she chose to forge on and gained some pretty helpful perspective in the process. And she’s proof that sometimes the best things in life come from letting the chips fall where they may. By the way — even though Mahoney’s doctors told her that her condition wouldn’t improve any more, she’s recently started to regain motor skills and strength at an impressive rate. But she’s not that surprised. It’s just more proof that good things will happen, whether you plan for them or not. •

29


30

be bold

from cockpit to

COURTROOM UCI helped Marine Corps veteran Advaith Thampi ’16 find his path after military life

W

hen UCI alumnus Advaith Thampi, political science ’16, was considering possible careers in the Marine Corps, the idea of working on airplanes in sunny San Diego sounded like a good gig to the then 18-year-old Bakersfield native. “I didn’t have academic interests or really any idea what I wanted to be when I grew up,” he says. “So I hoped that enlisting in the military would help me learn some skills, as well as give me a chance to see the world.” And see the world he did. After serving for five years – 25 months of which was spent overseas in Iraq, Afghanistan, and

Japan –Thampi was honorably discharged and came to UCI to complete his bachelor’s in political science. He did so with flying colors, graduating cum laude and a member of the Phi Beta Kappa honors society. Now he’s working toward his J.D. at Chapman University in nearby Orange, and hopes to eventually go to work as a lawyer serving the veteran community. It’s not a future he could have imagined for himself as that teen in Bakersfield, but he’s pretty thrilled that he finally knows what he wants to be when he grows up. The path to get to where he is now wasn’t always clear for Thampi. After finishing

high school, his choice to join the military was partially due to a lack of options (“I struggled a lot in high school,” he says), but also because of his mother. She had immigrated to the U.S., and he had always felt that the country helped their family live the American dream. In short, he wanted to give something back. So that’s how, without prior interest or experience in mechanical engineering, he ended up serving as a crew chief on C-130 aircrafts. It was a highly technical job that required his calculations to be precise in order to get his team safely to their destination. And though he could have continued on the engineering course after his service,


uci soc sci

he knew he wanted to put the numbers behind him once he arrived at UCI. “Deploying over seas to Iraq and Afghanistan got me very interested in foreign policy and international relations – especially in the Middle East,” he says. “So I knew I liked political science, but I was still trying to figure out how to align my personal interests with a career.” Luckily, he stumbled upon one of political science professor Caesar Sereseres’ classes early into his first quarter on campus. Thampi quickly adopted him as a mentor. “I loved everything about Dr. Sereseres’ classes,” he says. “The topics, like the history of U.S. foreign policy, homeland security, and diplomacy, really appealed to me – I had actually read some of the books he assigned for class before I took his courses. And he’s just so cool. He genuinely cares about all his students and wants to help us all succeed – not just in school, but in life.”

After five years in the Marine Corps, Thampi came to UCI to complete his degree.

In fact, it was Sereseres who sold Thampi on his eventual career track. After many discussions about what his goals were following college, they found a path that he was excited to follow – to become a lawyer in order to advocate for improvements in veteran healthcare. The choice was a perfect marriage between Thampi’s educational interests and his personal passions. After returning home from service, he had remained very close to the veteran community, spending time in the VA Long Beach Healthcare System, and working with both the veteran’s center at his community college and the Veteran’s Affairs Center at UCI. Being so close to the community for so many years, he was able to see shortcomings in certain areas that he felt needed to be addressed. In particular, he was disheartened to see how long it took for a veteran’s healthcare to become active once they returned home. According to what he’d witnessed and researched, the bestcase scenario is around three months after returning – meaning if everything works as it should, a veteran will go that long without any health coverage. But he was also very troubled by certain stigmas among veterans, specifically that seeking medical attention is a sign of weakness, which leads to many veterans going untreated for PTSD and other mental health issues. “For vets, I think a big problem we have is this mindset of, ‘nothing’s broken, nothing’s bleeding, I’m fine,’” he says. “And I think that’s a significant factor in the veteran suicide crisis, which is a tragedy that I want to spend my life trying to solve. We don’t look at a PTSD injury the same way we look at a broken arm.” Thampi had concluded that the veteran healthcare system was a great asset, albeit one with some broken and missing pieces. So when he and Sereseres touched on the idea of enacting policy change to help, he knew they were on to something. And, since his mentor told him that the best way to achieve that goal was by going to law school, he decided that’s what he would do. With a clearer goal and the motivation to help his community, Thampi set to work. Though he was a transfer student and only had two years on campus, he managed to pack plenty into his time as an undergrad. In addition to hitting the books hard to raise his GPA, he found time to study abroad in Italy and Spain, and complete a

Deploying over seas to Iraq and Afghanistan got me very interested in foreign policy and international relations – especially in the Middle East.

semester in the UCDC program where he interned at National Defense University, a foreign policy think tank funded by the U.S. Department of Defense. By the time he was ready to graduate, the hard work had paid off; he was named the UC Irvine Veteran Scholar of the Year, and graduated with a number of accolades including the Order of Merit from the School of Social Sciences, and the Chancellor’s Award of Distinction. Now Thampi is finishing his second year at Chapman University’s Fowler School of Law and hopes to go on to work as either a lawyer for the VA, or with a pro bono firm such as the Southern California-based Veterans Legal Institute. But even though his focus has shifted to earning his J.D., he’s been sure to remain in contact with many of the people he met at UCI. He still visits Sereseres a couple times a year (“just to make sure my life is still on track,” he jokes), and last May he addressed a crowd of his peers and supporters as the keynote speaker at the UCI Veterans Appreciation Dinner. In fact, he only has one regret regarding his time as an Anteater – that it wasn’t longer. “Honestly, UCI was an amazing and beautiful experience, I only wish I could have stayed longer,” he says. “The university has so many resources available not only for non-traditional students like me, but veterans as well. It will always be a special place for me, and I will always be thankful for the faculty and administration who make UCI the special place that it is.” •

31


32

be bold

seeing health in a

CULTURAL CONTEXT Professor Belinda Campos studies how the Latino approach to relationships yields mental and physical benefits

C

onvivir. Familismo.

In Spanish-speaking cultures, there are several terms that describe social relationships as something deeper than friendly conversations and meetups. They’re something to which a person belongs, depends upon, contributes to and supports, and they’re the norm in Latino societies, says Belinda Campos, UCI associate professor of Chicano/Latino studies. And, as it turns out, they provide quite a few health benefits.

“We know, based on lots of research, that close relationships are associated with better psychological and physical health – from improving daily well-being to reducing mental illness relapses and easing the burden of chronic disease,” she says. For 14 years, Campos has examined factors promoting high-quality relationships, and she’s learned that cultural norms play a very important role. She has published studies on the topic in Emotion, the Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, the Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences, the Journal of


uci soc sci Social & Personal Relationships, and Cultural Diversity & Ethnic Minority Psychology. Her findings make clear distinctions among how European Americans and Latino Americans view and conduct relationships. “In the first group, they’re thought of in terms of independence – the idea that the self is separate from others and you rely on yourself in order to do well,” Campos says. “In Latino culture, there’s more emphasis on interdependence, being connected to others in a more fundamental way. You draw support from relationships, especially the family, and think of yourself as more ‘in it’ with someone else than forging your own path.” In a study in American Psychologist, she and co-author Heejung S. Kim, a professor of psychological & brain sciences at UC Santa Barbara, present a framework for understanding cultural diversity as it applies to relationships, a perspective that needs to be incorporated into studies of overall health, Campos says. Prior to this work, she noticed that certain health problems were less prevalent among Latinas – and one that particularly caught her eye was neuroticism. Individuals who are highly neurotic react with strong negative emotion to everyday experiences of threat, loss, and frustration, which can adversely affect relationship quality, psychological well-being, and physical condition.

“Research shows that such people are more prone to anxiety, depression, and stressrelated disease,” Campos says. “Intense, damaging reactions could be soothed by one’s relationships, but these aren’t always a resource for the highly neurotic. They have difficulty getting into and maintaining relationships and – even when in relationships – are less likely to feel supported.” But as she was studying cultural differences, she discovered that in Latinas, the correlation between neuroticism and negative outcomes was much weaker than in European American women. “In my Latina data, neuroticism wasn’t predictive of feeling a loss of social support and was not as predictive of psychological distress. Also, physiological stress response patterns didn’t look as disregulated,” Campos says. “Somehow, neuroticism wasn’t as emotionally costly to the Latina group.” She emphasizes that just because neuroticism wasn’t as harmful to Latinas doesn’t mean it didn’t exist or was any less prevalent. It just wasn’t linked to the same bad outcomes experienced in other groups. “I started seeing this, and I wanted to understand. I pulled back a bit and thought about it as a cultural psychologist,” Campos says. “If social support is readily accessible and you’re super connected to your family, friends, and other people in your social

In Latino culture, there’s more emphasis on interdependence, being connected to others in a more fundamental way.

network, maybe that insulates you a little bit from the costs of neuroticism. Maybe people give you more leeway with this trait than if you’re in an independent context where people are more concerned about you reacting too strongly, where you’re more likely to be seen as an imposition, or as someone overly dramatic who needs to calm down and learn how to deal individually with stress.” In July, she was awarded $390,000 from the National Science Foundation to find out. The grant is funding a three-part study in her Culture, Relationships & Health Lab. For the first phase, participants – who sign up with a friend – agree to keep a 30-day diary about their life experiences, including their relationships, and how they deal with stress. After a month of self-reporting, they’ll come to UCI for behavioral testing in Campos’ lab. In each pair, one of the friends will undergo a standardized stress test to measure the amounts of cortisol, which indicate how the body responds to stress, Campos explains. “What really excites me about this work is that we’re going to see not only the effects of culture at an observational level, but also whether the cultural contexts in which we live – that shape our social interactions – have consequences for our bodies,” she says. Funding for the study runs through June 2020. And Campos is eager to find out where future stages may take her.

Professor Belinda Campos

“If we determine that there is a protective element combating neuroticism’s adverse outcomes in Latino culture, we can try to incorporate this in other cultural groups,” she says. “If we can reduce the costs of neuroticism, we’ll have an even larger community of people who are happier and healthier. And it would be pretty wonderful to be able to contribute to something like that.” •

33


34

be bold

making her own

PATH

How sociology major Priscilla Tenggara ’18 landed her dream job at Facebook


uci soc sci

35


36

be bold

A

ccording to lore, UC Irvine’s Aldrich Park was created without paths. The story goes that founding chancellor, Daniel G. Aldrich, told campus planners that they should observe where the students walked and form the paths from there. “Chancellor Dan” wanted the students to make their own way.

“You don’t have to fit the mold,” Tenggara says, in reference to her atypical background in sociology in the male-dominated tech industry. “My sociology degree makes me stand out.” When hiring managers have asked about her major, she explains, “In order to market to people, you have to understand them. Well, sociology is all about understanding people.”

Sociology major Priscilla Tenggara embodies this philosophy. The senior has already lined up a job at Facebook when she graduates in June. After interning at the company last summer, Tenggara was hired to join Facebook’s Global Marketing Team in Chicago where she will help small and medium businesses connect with customers.

No limits Like many students studying a discipline without a clear-cut professional path, Tenggara is often asked what she plans on doing with her degree. For her, the answer is easy. “Anything and everything,” she says.

You don’t have to fit the mold. My sociology degree makes me stand out.

After interning at Facebook last summer, Tenggara ’18 was hired to join the company’s Global Marketing Team in Chicago.

The Sweatshirt Off Your Back campaign encourages wearers to try their hand at giving

A quick glimpse at her resume reveals that she has done “anything and everything” and there’s every indication she will continue to do so. She’s been the Social Media Director for TEDxUCI. She’s interned at Dell and Facebook. She’s studied abroad, not once, but three times through the University of California Education Abroad Program, visiting Berlin, Hong Kong, and is currently participating in the Madrid/ Rome European Immersion Program. She participated in Munch, an AT&T Mobile App Hackathon, where she helped create a mockup mobile app that connects people dining alone. And she somehow found time to be active in the UCI chapter of Delta Sigma Pi, the professional business fraternity, and a sorority, Kappa Alpha Theta. For Tenggara, there are no limits. “Your social science degree prepares you for many careers in many fields…a social science degree will not only allow you to solve intricate problems of the world but will also empower you to do almost anything you want. The boundaries are endless and often intersect with other disciplines, even in STEM [science, technology, engineering, and math].” Tenggara didn’t start out as a sociology major. As an incoming freshman, she planned on becoming a business economics major. “Somewhere along the way,” she says, “I fell in love with my intro sociology courses as they taught me about social and cultural interaction, which intersected with my career interest in marketing in the technology field.” She also realized that employers were more fascinated in the experiences she had and in her as an interesting person. “Your degree does not define your path,” she says. Tenggara speaks at a fast clip, as if her speech has trouble keeping up with her ideas. Listening to her, it’s hard not to share her enthusiasm for


uci soc sci

sociology, which, according to her, equates to an enthusiasm for people. Her energy, her genuine excitement for her major, which she loves because it’s “people oriented and data driven,” has led her to one opportunity after another. The secret to her success Tenggara has been able to excel in complicated systems of financial aid, internships, and employment. It’s easy to assume that she has parents who helped her navigate these systems. It’s easy to assume that she has a long list of connections that have opened doors for her along the way. This is not the case. Tenggara immigrated to the United States with her family in grade school. They moved from Jakarta, where her father had a stable job at a pharmaceutical company, to a onebedroom apartment in San Diego, where her parents worked late shifts at fast food restaurants and enrolled in English classes. Her parents’ decision to immigrate to the United States was based on their wish to provide a better education for their daughters. A lot of what fuels Tenggara is her parents’ sacrifice. She wants to make sure that it was worth it. “If you don’t think you have the right background, don’t let that stop you,” she says. She’s a first generation college student. She admits to not knowing what the SATs were until the year she had to take them. While her friends’ parents were filling out their FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) forms, she was online researching it herself, figuring out what to do, and doing it. If there is a secret to her success, this is it. It appears to be her approach to everything. For example, when her UCEAP experience in Berlin was coming to a close, she already knew she wanted to return. “Berlin challenged my way of thinking, how to approach work. You know how people say Americans live to work? Well, in Berlin, people worked to live.” So, she made as many business contacts as possible by messaging people through LinkedIn. She sent short notes explaining that she was a student and that she would love to know more about what they did and how they got there. She then asked if they’d be willing to meet her for coffee for thirty minutes. (“It’s important to give an end time,” she says.) A lot of people didn’t respond. A lot of people said no. But some did. Someone from SoundCloud, the music and podcast

streaming platform, not only agreed to speak with her, but invited her to lunch, gave her a tour of his office, and even invited her to see his band. “I wanted to plant as many seeds as I could,” she says. Paying it forward According to Tonya Williams Bradford, assistant professor of marketing at The Paul Merage School of Business, with whom Tenggara worked as a research assistant, Tenggara wants others to succeed, too. Not only did she have the drive and focus of someone beyond her years, she genuinely cared about helping others and the success of the project as a whole. “She will create something special that will contribute to how we’ll interact in the world,” Bradford says. “I already am excited about her successes - the majority of which are still to come!” Tenggara wants to share what she’s learned, a lot of which she discovered by “testing the waters” with other students. In the winter, she spoke at career development workshops hosted by various organizations across campus. She was selected as the keynote speaker for the Merage School’s Internship 101 event and gave a talk titled, “Defining Your Future,” to freshmen at the Middle Earth and Mesa Court dorms. She advised students to ask themselves why they are choosing their major. “This will be your defining guide,” she says. “Start with the why and the what will come.” For her, the why has always been people. It’s this genuine curiosity in people that guides her. It’s what drives her thoughtful approach to the decisions she makes and her willingness to seek out the next adventure. Like the original students at UCI who created their own paths through Aldrich Park, Priscilla Tenggara has not only made her own way, but wants to pave the way for others, too. •

37


38

be bold

business in

BLOOM Stephanie Domzalski ’03 creates community through floral art with BloomLA, a pop-up art show debuting in Griffith Park, Los Angeles


uci soc sci

39


40

be bold

C

reativity takes courage.

For these words to have come from world-renowned artist Henri Matisse, imagine the temerity it would take for a self-labeled numbers nerd to co-produce an interactive pop-up show in 100,000 square feet of park space in one of the nation’s leading art hubs. If you ask Stephanie Domzalski, ’03 political science and psychology, she’d say it was more excitement than anything else. Fourteen years in on a successful career as an educational psychologist, complete with her own private practice, a back patio lunch with an old high school friend would find the pair a year later hosting BloomLA. Running June 22-24 in Griffith Park, Los Angeles, the popup style art show will feature handcrafted, live performance, and interactive art with a floral flair. “When you’re passionate about something, it’s all consuming,” she says. “And when you go to sleep thinking about it, dream about it, and wake up still excited to pursue it, that is something worth paying attention to.” An Orange County native, Domzalski spent her undergraduate years as an Anteater at UCI. But it wasn’t art that caught her attention. In fact, one of the classes she remembers most fondly from her time on campus was statistics with social science lecturer Paul Shirey. “I’ve always loved learning – immersing myself in anything new – but felt early on a kind of reticence to take risks. But Shirey encouraged me to try and he gave me confidence that I had something to contribute and could succeed,” she says. “I felt that way in every single class at UCI – that the faculty and staff valued students and invited us to extend ourselves into areas we didn’t know.”


uci soc sci

When you’re passionate about something, it’s all consuming. And when you go to sleep thinking about it, dream about it, and wake up still excited to pursue it, that is something worth paying attention to.

Guests at the BloomLA preview show donned handmade flower crowns.

Stephanie Domzalski was 14 years in on a career as a school psychologist when she decided to take a chance on a creative endeavor.

“It was such an incredibly transformative experience that really shaped my view of the world.” Domzalski describes her time at UCI as a radical balance between the known and the next. “I was 19 when I entered the university, open to everything but completely overwhelmed by how many paths branch from passion,” she says. Through her honors research with professors Mark Petracca and Geoffrey Iverson and work at the UCI Farm School with

Christine Lofgren, she discovered a strong drive to assist students with diverse learning profiles. She went on to earn a master’s degree from Loyola Marymount University and a doctorate from Chapman, and she’s worked with a number of school districts across Southern California. In January 2010, she transitioned into private practice – Southern California Educational Assessment and Consultation – through which she maintains a partnership with south OC school districts while also assisting families on an individual basis. In recounting her last 14 years as an educational psychologist, Domzalski honed in on a poignant conversation with her mentor, Shirey, where – after assisting with a particularly vexing problem set – he reminded her “to have fun with the data. The numbers need us to breathe life into them.”

“People before processes and seeing the art in the ambiguity were each critical lessons I took from my time at UCI. It’s what motivated me as a psychologist and what also has helped inspire this new direction with Bloom,” she says. That new track began innocuously enough as a lunch with April Wish, an old friend from high school. “We were chatting about this sort of distressing, divisive feeling right now in the world and what we might be able to do on a larger scale to address that,” she says. “Yet we were so inspired by the acts of courage, of love, of community that were happening across the country. We were working to imagine this space where everyone, even if for a few hours, could celebrate the artistry of each other and those things that bring us closer,” she says.

41


42

be bold “There’s an armoire so full of flowers the blooms look like they’re bursting from it,” says Domzalski. Guests will be able to “soak” in a full sized tub of lavender scented seeds and snap a few selfies in a king-sized bed of roses. Guests will be invited to make wishes under seven-foot dandelions and tangle themselves in a jungle of handcrafted vines. The business partners held a preview show in April to much applause; guests loved the interactive displays that allowed them to toss the petals in the air, run though the honeycomb maze, and build terrariums while spending time with their friends and families, creating art together, Domzalski says. One of her favorite parts of all of the planning has been the growing partnership with local beekeepers, specifically the non-profit HoneyLove (for which BloomLA is collecting donations via their website) and The Valley Hive. Both collectives are committed to urban bee keeping and sustainable, beefriendly practices for homeowners and gardeners in LA, OC, and the Valley. “It’s such a natural connection – without bees, we don’t have flowers and without flowers we don’t have food. So anything we can do to help support habitats for native species, protect existing hives and generally bring more awareness to this critical cause, the better.” Guests at BloomLA will wander under seven-foot dandelions as they explore the interactive installations in Griffith Park in June.

Domzalski and Wish spent the rest of the lunch - and nearly every day since- talking about how to turn that idea into reality. And BloomLA was born. Featuring more than 15 large scale, interactive installations, BloomLA is a three-day pop-up which includes a 30-foot coloring wall by noted muralist Jennifer Korsen; a Saturday evening summer solstice party; a number of communal art projects; an interactive drumming class for kids; workshops in photography, paper flower making, and essential oils; and musical entertainment from the OC-based Leroy and the Bad Browns and LA band Violets Are. Complete with edible flowers from Gourmet Sweet Botanicals and other eats from SoCal foodtrucks, the outdoor event is something that both women hope will highlight LA’s creative culture and unique character while also building community.

“Two years ago, I’d have been equally likely to believe I’d be standing on the top of Everest as I would being CEO of an LAbased art show with one of my best friends at my side, but here we are and I couldn’t feel more motivated,” Domzalski says. While her primary roles in BloomLA have been business operations and finance/resource management, she’s also found a love of refurbishing things destined for landfills and making them into art. One of the biggest pieces that will be transported to the space for the June show is a small home seeming to spillover with flowers. From the kitchen to the bedroom and bathrooms, the curators – Domzalski and Wish – repurposed discarded furniture and appliances into receptacles for roses and bins designated for daisies.

It seems fitting that she’s drawn to a community-building collectives; the same type of atmosphere shaped her UCI experience and it’s what she’s trying to build with BloomLA. “It’s so exciting to pursue an opportunity that builds community and starts to gain traction. Numbers nerd or not, the effort feels like art when you find your passion.” --For Anteaters – alumni, students, faculty, and staff – around LA interested in visiting the show in June, Domzalski is offering a 25% discount using the code zotzotzot. Learn more at www.bloomartshow.com. And be on the lookout for their next stop – additional city scheduling will be released following the Griffith Park opening. •


uci soc sci

excellence in

TEACHING First gen mentor & professor Davin Phoenix one of 19 honored at 25th annual Celebration of Teaching ceremony

“I want students in my class to feel the sense of empowerment that comes from being not just more knowledgeable, but also more curious and more critical about the world around them,” says Davin Phoenix, UCI political science assistant professor. In just four years with the university, he’s taught more than a dozen undergraduate and graduate courses, reaching close to 1000 students on topics ranging from mass media and politics to introduction to race and ethnicity. He’s earned excellent feedback from those who’ve passed through his classrooms. And this year, Phoenix was one of 19 UC Irvine educators honored as a recipient of the Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching award at the 25th Annual Celebration of Teaching ceremony. “Teaching is really exhausting work. But it’s so incredibly rewarding. There’s nothing quite like seeing the light bulb go off in students’ heads as they begin to comprehend something meaningful that they hadn’t quite grasped before. I strive for those moments,” he says. For the award-winning educator, it’s hard now to imagine being anywhere but the university. Yet a career pursuing research and mentoring college students wasn’t always his plan. 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

First gen faculty member Davin Phoenix trains student leaders who offer incoming first gen freshmen insight and support.

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 UCI. “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 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

was hired as an assistant professor in political science at UCI in 2014. 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 he mentors 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. Last year, his mother came to visit him at UCI 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.” •

43


44

be bold

education CHAMPION Anteater alumna Nikita Patel left a comfortable job to volunteer with the Peace Corps in South Africa - now she’s ready to make change here at home

Service in the Peace Corps further fueled Nikita Patel’s passion for international development.

I

t’s not difficult to find someone who wants to change the world. It’s harder to find a person who will actually make the effort and take action. Not surprisingly, UCI is home to many of the latter, and School of Social Sciences alumna Nikita Patel is one of them. Three years after graduating with her bachelor’s in both international studies and political science, she dropped everything – including a comfortable corporate job – and flew to South Africa to begin work with the Peace Corps. Now she’s home, and ready to tackle international development issues from U.S. soil. As a Peace Corps education and community resource volunteer, Patel spent two years working at a primary school in South Africa’s “forgotten province” of Limpopo. There, she was able to implement courses and ideas she was introduced to at UCI, and run various after-school programs to help her students take learning beyond the classroom. It was a challenge, but one she had carefully considered for a while before taking the leap.


uci soc sci

“I had been interested in the idea of the Peace Corps for a while, and being a part of UCI’s Global Connect and learning about international development work in my classes was really inspiring,” she says. “But I was kind of scared to join right after graduating.” Instead, she worked for a few years in both Irvine and Los Angeles. But even though she was getting experience to add to her resume, she felt it wasn’t enough. The job she was working (at a post-production company) wasn’t related to what she wanted to do long term, and she realized that the longer she put it off, the harder it would be to transition to living in another country. “That’s what finally gave me the push to join – I felt like if I didn’t do this now, I wouldn’t have the opportunity again.”

What you give to your community is nothing compared to what your community gives you.

Patel chose her teaching assignment in South Africa for a few reasons: she had classroom experience, thanks to her time in UCI’s Global Connect – an educational partnership that aims to enrich Southern California’s secondary school curriculum in international studies – and she plans to go on to work in international development in support of education. But the main reason was that the area was in so much need. South Africa has one of the worst education systems in the world, according to BBC. And Limpopo, where she was serving, is one of the most underdeveloped provinces in the country. During the first year of her service, Patel focused on teaching English to seventh graders, as well as running several after-school programs and gathering donations such as books and school supplies. In fact, her alma mater helped quite a bit with the donation aspect – UCI’s Global Connect donated materials on two occasions, including supplies for Patel to teach an Introduction to Globalization course to her students. In addition, Patel ran an after-school English club for struggling learners, a yoga group that focused on mindfulness and stress management, and a girl’s group that addressed issues like body positivity, setting future goals, and how to protect oneself from HIV/AIDS.

“It’s sad that these kids need to talk about HIV so young, but they learn about it at such a young age because it’s so prevalent in their lives,” Patel says. “One of my learner’s mother passed away from AIDS last year, so it really is affecting them directly. There is also a stigma attached to it, so it’s our job to try to help combat that as well as teach prevention and safety.” Toward the end of Patel’s service, her UCI connections stepped up again to help create a library system within the school; Global Connect founder and philanthropist Ellen Schlosser personally donated books to the cause. But one of the moments that really made the whole experience come full-circle happened after she introduced her learners to the Project of Change, part of the curriculum utilized by Global Connect in their high school classrooms. The project encourages students to conceptualize their own nonprofit addressing an issue of the student’s choosing. The curriculum introduces issues like hunger and poverty, gender equality, and environmental sustainability. Patel’s students chose universal education as their cause. “It really was a full-circle moment because it was about being able to teach them that they can be the ones who make these changes in their communities,” Patel says. “I came to South Africa to address the education crisis there, but I wanted them to know that they don’t need someone like me to come in and do it for them. They have the power.” This experience has led Patel to continue her passion in international development. In the meantime, she encourages students who have interest in joining the Peace Corps to seriously consider both the pros and cons before making the leap. But she would do it again in a heartbeat. “What you give to your community is nothing compared to what your community gives you,” she says of the experience. “You grow so much from the experience, and the relationships you develop are incredible.” •

45


making her MARK At only 34-years-old, Jennifer dos Santos ’05 has already toured the world as a musician, earned top rankings in national bodybuilding competitions, and run a nonprofit empowering people affected by limb loss


uci soc sci

While her road may seem full of hairpin turns, each move has been meticulously thought through and taken on with true Anteater tenacity. And her UCI connections have been a constant throughout her fascinating trek. --Dos Santos grew up about two hours east of UCI in Hemet where she trained as a gymnast. Her determination was evident from an early age; the native Californian had her sights set on the Olympics. She also excelled in music and started playing the piano and flute in grade school. When a growth spurt put the now five foot ten inch tall athlete out of the running in a sport with an under five foot average, the young dos Santos turned her attention to ballet. She also continued to develop her musical talents and – after a junior year trip to Europe with her French club – a love for travel. By the time she graduated high school – which she finished in the top three-percent of her class (she excelled at academics, too) – she chose to pursue music over dance, and UCI provided an excellent place to hone her craft. During the next four years, she had incredible opportunities to work with accomplished composers and professors and grow as a musician. She performed in multiple ensembles and solo recitals. When her UCI flute teacher recommended dos Santos continue her music education, she did it full force with a master’s in performance at the University of the Redlands. It was there her abilities earned her a musician’s crowning achievement – a concerto, her own one-hour featured flute performance in front of the Redlands Symphony. “Winning the concerto competition and being a featured soloist with the Redlands Symphony Orchestra was such a great honor and one of the highlights of my career,” she says. “Sharing my love and passion for music with the orchestra and audience through my performance was an unforgettable experience!” When dos Santos graduated, both her UCI and Redlands teachers recommended her to fill in for a single flute opening with the singer Dariush. She auditioned and won the spot to play in the six-person Persian band that both her mentors had performed with. For the next five years, she toured the world, playing on stages in Europe, Dubai, Canada, the U.S., and Australia where she says one performance in Sydney really stuck out.

A Sydney Opera House performance is one of dos Santos’ most memorable moments as a professional flautist.

A brain tumor diagnosis in her mid-twenties caused professional musician Jennifer dos Santos ’05 to shift gears, but not in the way you might think. Instead of slowing, the internationally renowned flautist started training and competing as a bodybuilder. She’s now downshifting again into 3-D prosthetic limb printing. And that’s all in her off time; she spends her days as a full time staff member in the School of Social Sciences.

“Performances with Dariush were emotional,” she says. “His music struck a chord with audiences from four-year-olds to those in their nineties. His songs inspired millions of individuals to try to make the world a better place. It was incredible looking out at the Sydney Opera House and seeing 15,000 people crying because they were so touched by the music.” Meanwhile, she maintained her ties to UCI. A part-time administrative gig in the UCI Department of African American Studies allowed the travelling musician to stay connected to campus in her downtime between concerts. “It was a pretty hectic schedule keeping up with everything, but I found a way to balance it all,” she says.

47


48

be bold

It was during this busy cycle of travel, performance, work, repeat that dos Santos started getting headaches and noticing behavioral changes. A brain scan would reveal a non-malignant tumor on her pituitary gland. While a devastating discovery, the small size and nature of the tumor meant it could be treated with medication rather than surgery. And with that news, dos Santos didn’t skip a beat. She continued her crazy schedule, balancing a new full time UCI position in the Department of English with international travel and performance. “I made a conscious decision not to stress from there and roll with whatever obstacle I encountered,” she says. “I was really fortunate to have a UCI manager who understood the importance of a work life balance, so I didn’t have to choose between performing and pursuing another career; I got to do both. That really showed me the kind of manager I wanted to be.” After several years of juggling two careers while on medication for her brain tumor, dos Santos decided to take a step back from music. She focused on advancing her UCI career, but it wasn’t long before she threw herself fully into something new. “The medication that had made me better also made it hard for me to walk across the street without feeling winded, so I decided to take on fitness,” she says. Just as she’d done with gymnastics, ballet, and music, she dove into weight training and fell in love. She completed a personal training certification online and soon began to train others in her off time from campus work. And she set a goal for herself: she would enter a bodybuilding competition.

When you see a video of a child who’s never had a hand now able to pick up a water bottle, that’s pretty amazing.

All the while, she continued to train, and ten years after setting her goal to compete as a bodybuilder, she entered her first show. “It was a little intense leading up to the show – I spent the week prior eating nothing but tilapia for every meal when all I was craving was a brownie,” she says. “But my husband and I made a deal to compete together and we kept each other on track.” She ended up finishing in third place, and has since earned a second place title. She has plans to continue with competitions, but with the first two under her belt, she said she’s letting herself relax a bit.

“The thing I love about fitness is that you’re in total control. Mind over matter. You don’t just get physically strong, you get mentally strong. You learn that you can do anything you put your mind to.”

But not really. While scrolling through Facebook one day with her husband, she saw a video about a man in London who was using a 3-D printer to build prosthetics in a shed behind his house. Her interest was piqued. She did some online research and discovered Enabling the Future, a nonprofit that prints limbs using open source designs.

While training, dos Santos met her husband, a professional MMA fighter from Brazil. They married a year later and opened a gym. The experience of running the business-side of the operation - everything from marketing to budgeting - taught her skills she was able to apply in her UCI career as an administrator, and she was able to move up into a new role in the Department of Economics in the School of Social Sciences.

“The project began online through the sharing of videos – one was of a carpenter who had lost his hand in South Africa who had contacted the group after seeing their design for a metal and steel hand; they designed one for him. Then a mom whose child was born without fingers saw videos on Youtube of the project, and they designed a hand for her son. These designs were then all placed online in open source so anyone could replicate them.”

The cause struck a chord with the couple. Dos Santos’ husband – now an EMT who plans to become a physician’s assistant – is from a poor neighborhood in Brazil that has seen a lot of violence. The idea of spending thousands of dollars there on a prosthetic wouldn’t be a reality. She’d been back several times and seen firsthand how much of a difference something like this could make. “For roughly $20 you can print a hand, a finger, an arm, basically out of nothing,” she says. And just like all of her ventures prior, she dove right in. She put out word that they were fundraising for a $600 printer to get started, and within a day, a former training client had it covered. She applied to gain nonprofit status and become an official chapter of Enabling the Future. The couple took a few test runs and got certified by the nonprofit to begin printing and has since created six hands that have gone to recipients in Brazil. They’ve also printed one for a local Orange County resident who picked it up at dos Santos’ home. “It takes less than 24 hours to print a hand that can change someone’s life. It’s free for the recipient, and printing isn’t difficult. Getting word out there is the most important. Having people know that this resource is available is the next step,” she says. As more people are becoming aware, volunteer engineers and medical professionals around the world are developing plans


Working with Enabling the Future, dos Santos and her husband are able to print a 3-D hand in less than 24-hours.

together for additional printed limbs. And with the low cost, kids have the opportunity to get new limbs printed as they grow.

an Anteater with her own remarkable story – it becomes something more.

“When you see a video of a child who’s never had a hand now able to pick up a water bottle, that’s pretty amazing,” she says.

In March, dos Santos was promoted to manager in the Department of Anthropology. She’s excited about using her experiences to help her staff and department grow.

The cause is amazing enough on its own. But when coupled with the knowledge that an Anteater was behind making that possible –

“Working within the university and with students isn’t so different from performing as a musician, or competing and training in fitness,

or helping people gain access to something as life-changing as a new hand. You’re able to reach people on a different level in education and I feel very fortunate to do that on UCI’s behalf,” she says. And with everything she’s accomplished at just 34-years-old, we can’t wait to see what’s in store for this awesome Anteater. •


50

be bold

a

FRESH approach

UCI Aeberhard award winner Alondra Lopez pushed through fear and jumped into her freshman year with both feet – now she’s helping others get the most out of their educational opportunities UCI’s First Gen First Quarter Challenge helped bring undergrad Alondra Lopez out of her shell.

In one day my whole perspective changed and I understood – I want to get a degree and a good job and be able to make a good living for myself doing what I love.

A

londra Lopez may have been named the top freshman at UCI for 2017, but it’s not just new students that can learn from her Aeberhard award-winning endeavors. Though she’s just finishing her sophomore year, the 19-yearold has achievements under her belt that would impress even the most advanced student. In fact, it’s this well-roundedness that earned her the Nicholas Aeberhard Award, which is given annually to one outstanding freshman student on campus who demonstrates student leadership, academic success, and involvement in campus and civic activities. As a political science and urban studies major, Lopez has already successfully interned for a local politician, acted as a campaign organizer (twice), and served as a teaching assistant mentoring incoming freshmen in the UCI Summer Bridge Program.


uci soc sci

After conversations with her professors about the affects that the presidential election could have on an international scale, she knew she wanted to learn more about the world of politics. So she began working with ASUCI in legislative affairs and, after her mother helped connect her with state assemblyman Miguel Santiago, she asked if she could volunteer with his campaign. She later went on to intern in the 9th District Office of L.A. City Council member Curren Price. On top of which she managed to maintain a 3.87 GPA, on-campus involvements with ASUCI and Hermanas Unidas, and hold down a job to help pay for her school fees. She’s made a strong first impression at UCI, but that doesn’t mean it was smooth sailing from the start. Though she participated in UCI’s Summer Bridge program where she was able to make friends and familiarize herself with the campus, the university was intimidating for the first-generation student. “I didn’t go out and explore much my first quarter – I was scared,” she says. “I would stay in my dorm.” Despite her fear, she still pushed herself to get involved in campus organizations, including Hermanas Unidas, ASUCI, and the inaugural First Generation First Quarter Challenge put on by the School of Social Sciences. There, she says she was mentored by the coordinators who gave her advice on everything from what classes to take to how to handle the emotional toll of transitioning to college life. But the experience she found the most valuable in terms of her education was much simpler. “Part of the First Gen First Quarter Challenge is that you have to ask a faculty member to coffee. It was such a great experience,” Lopez says of her chat with political science professor Robert Uriu. “It was a very intellectual conversation and I learned that I really liked having those kinds of conversations with my professors and friends, outside of the superficial ‘hey, how’s your day’ ones. So after that I started going to office hours more.” The experience ended up being helpful in many ways, and she recommends that all students at UCI take the same action. Not only was she able to form close bonds with her professors, but she was also able to get a better sense for what she was studying and hone in on a possible career path.

Lopez loved learning about the behind-thescenes workings of a local politician. She would make the trek up to L.A. on weekends to go door to door, make phone calls, and discuss her office’s platform with constituents, all before she was able to vote herself. As she learned more, she was able to integrate her interest in urban planning and think about how the design of the city affects certain residents and why. “By studying urban planning, I feel like I’ll have that background in terms of knowing how the city was built, and how that affects what’s going on behind the scenes,” she says. “I really like the ‘chisme’ or the ‘gossip’ of politics. I like knowing what’s going on.” Her interest in state politics became fully formed when she learned more about institutional racism and the “school to prison pipeline” in her political science courses. She immediately thought of her own high school, a charter school that shared a building with the Los Angeles Unified School District. Even though her own school was underfunded, she recalls the public school kids having even less classroom resources and it didn’t seem like they were getting the same push toward college that she was. It made her wonder where she would be had her mother and her teachers not supported her the way they did. Then, during a shift at Pippin Commons, something clicked. “My mom used to clean the hallways of my school. She would tell me ‘work hard so you don’t have to do this,’ but I didn’t really think about it that much,” she says. “Then one day the dishwasher broke at Pippin, and I had to stand there and wash dishes for over an hour. I hated it so much. Then I realized this is exactly what she meant. In one day my whole perspective changed and I understood – I want to get a degree and a good job and be able to make a good living for myself

doing what I love. My mom is definitely my inspiration.” Thinking back to her peers who didn’t have college resources and parents to push them to get good grades, Lopez realized that the school system must change to better serve the underprivileged and underrepresented communities. She ultimately wants to play a part in reforming the education system through a career in local government. But until she can utilize her political science degree to take bigger steps toward that goal, Lopez is happy mentoring students from underprivileged backgrounds. She has volunteered at the Latina Public Service Academy in her hometown, a nonprofit organization that encourages young women to be politically involved, and over the summer she returned to Summer Bridge at UCI, this time as a teaching assistant. There she taught incoming freshman who were struggling to adapt to college life just like she was. She was able to reassure them, and the experience was also a great way for her to see how much she’d grown in a year. “I’d been in that same class the summer before and was so scared,” she said. “And there I was, after one year, teaching those students and feeling so confident.” Lopez has made a strong first impression as an Anteater, and she has plenty of time to make even more of an impact at UCI. For now though, she’s focused on her studies (she is taking her first upper-division courses), serving on the Dean’s Ambassadors Council, and settling in to her new job with the Resident Housing Association. But the most important thing she’s doing? Relaxing. “I try not to be too stressed about the future,” she says. “I’m excited to talk and interact with more people and just have fun. I don’t know exactly what I want to do or how I’ll get there, but if I was stressing over that I wouldn’t have the energy to try new opportunities and explore.” •

51


52

be bold

national RECOGNITION Dosher, Solingen honored by National Academy of Sciences for research achievements in human cognition and nuclear proliferation

B

arbara Dosher and Etel Solingen, both UCI scholars in the School of Social Sciences, have been honored by the National Academy of Sciences for major contributions to their fields.

Dosher, UCI Distinguished Professor of cognitive sciences, shared the Atkinson Prize in Psychological & Cognitive Sciences with Richard Shiffrin of Indiana University. Dosher is recognized for her groundbreaking work on human memory, attention, and learning. Each recipient received $100,000. Solingen, the Thomas T. & Elizabeth C. Tierney Chair in Global Peace & Conflict Studies, was presented with the William & Katherine Estes Award for trailblazing work on nuclear proliferation and reducing the risks of nuclear war. She received a $20,000 prize. “I am delighted that the National Academy is recognizing these exceptional individuals for their tremendous contributions,” said Enrique Lavernia, UCI provost and executive vice chancellor. “Like so many members of the UCI faculty, Professors Dosher and Solingen are advancing our understanding of the world and helping develop innovative solutions to worldwide challenges.” “These awards acknowledge the social and behavioral sciences at UC Irvine as a true center of excellence,” says Bill Maurer, social sciences dean. “That they were given to two outstanding women representing very different fields - cognitive sciences and international relations - speaks to the breadth of

our strengths as well as the seriousness of our commitment to expanding the horizons of our sciences.” Since the 1980s, Dosher has conducted paradigm-shifting research into the behavior and neurology of human memory, attention processes, and learning using a combination of novel psychological techniques and elegant computational models. The latter describe, in explicit mathematical detail, how the brain represents information, makes decisions, and learns over time. Dosher served as dean of UCI’s School of Social Sciences from 2002 to 2013, was awarded the Howard Crosby Warren Medal from the Society of Experimental Psychologists in 2013, and was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2011 – one of the highest honors bestowed upon a U.S. scholar. Solingen is an internationally recognized political scientist and one of the world’s foremost experts on nuclear proliferation and the global political economy. Her book Nuclear Logics: Contrasting Paths in East Asia & the Middle East won the American Political Science Association’s 2008 Woodrow Wilson Foundation Award for best book across all fields of political science, as well as its Robert L. Jervis & Paul W. Schroeder Award for best book on international history and politics. Solingen also was president of the International Studies Association from 2012 to 2013. Dosher and Solingen received their awards during an April 29 ceremony at the National Academy of Sciences’ 155th annual meeting. They were among 19 honorees in fields spanning the physical, biological, and medical sciences. •


uci soc sci

UCI-LED STUDY

identifies assets, needs of county’s fastest-growing immigrant community Finds uniform treatment masks Asian American, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander diversity

T

reating Orange County’s Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander communities as a monolithic racial group obscures the unique needs of those who are most disadvantaged and vulnerable, according to a new study led by UC Irvine researchers. With 21 percent of its 3 million residents falling into one of these demographic categories, Orange County is home to the thirdlargest AA&NHPI community in the U.S. Between 2000 and 2010, the local Asian American population jumped 41 percent, and Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders increased by 17 percent, while the county’s total population expanded by just 6 percent – making the AA&NHPI population the fastest-growing as well. In addition, AA&NHPIs make up Orange County’s biggest community of recent immigrants, with 62 percent born outside the country. “Despite these numbers and the rapid growth of the AA&NHPI population, there is little research available describing the distinct cultures and histories across ethnic groups; their social, political, and economic contributions to the county; or the needs of a population whose majority is immigrants and refugees,” said Linda Trinh Vo, study co-author and UCI professor of Asian American studies. To fully grasp the impact of these demographic changes and to provide insights into community issues, Vo and co-author Laureen D. Hom, a Ph.D. candidate in urban planning & public policy, identified the major needs and assets of the AA&NHPI population in six areas: building sustainable communities; economic development and disparities; K-12 and higher education; healthcare services; political participation and civic engagement; and civil rights advocacy.

Their findings and policy recommendations are contained in a report called “Transforming Orange County: Assets and Needs of Asian Americans & Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders,” published by the Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Orange County organization. In addition to demographic data, it includes excerpts from interviews with 20 community leaders representing different ethnic groups and interests. “Our most important recommendation is the collection and reporting of disaggregated data in order to better understand the nuanced diversity of the AA&NHPI community, because aggregated data conceals disparities affecting certain ethnic groups, especially Southeast Asians, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders,” Vo said. “We hope this will improve understanding of the specific experiences of AA&NHPI communities and race relations more broadly in Orange County.” The researchers also advise providing culturally and linguistically accessible outreach and counseling for each area addressed in the study, as well as continuing to enhance AA&NHPI-serving community agencies, cross-ethnic coalitions and organizations that amplify the assets, needs, and voices of AA&NHPI community members. “Implementation of the report’s key policy recommendations will further strengthen our community’s assets and better address needs to help promote equity and improve the quality of life for all in the county,” said Sylvia Kim, regional director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Orange County. The research project involved UCI’s School of Humanities, School of Social Ecology,

This study is a really terrific example of cross-campus collaboration with the community to address and find effective solutions for local social issues. -Bill Maurer, dean

and School of Social Sciences, with funding support from the Long Family Foundation, the Kay Family Foundation, Wells Fargo, St. Joseph Hospital, and the School of Social Sciences. “The idea for this began in 2016 when Sylvia Kim and I discussed the need for a baseline study of the Orange County AA&NHPI communities and their economic, social, and healthcare needs,” said Bill Maurer, social sciences dean. “We enlisted the expertise of sociologist Linda Vo, and she tapped Laureen to assist her. This study is a really terrific example of cross-campus collaboration with the community to address and find effective solutions for local social issues.” •

53


54

be bold

forbes top 30 UNDER 30 Benny Luo ’10, founder and CEO of NextShark, recognized for work in media

NextShark founder and CEO Benny Luo


uci soc sci

B

enny Luo, psychology ’10, is the poster boy for what a startup CEO looks like in 2018. He’s young (29), friendly, and his shared office space boasts a mix of colorful figurines lining the windowsills and desks (including a blue and gold Peter the Anteater next to his desktop). But don’t let his informal style fool you; it’s clear that there is nothing casual about his dedication to his work. Luo is the founder and CEO of NextShark, an online media hub he describes as “the largest online publication targeting AsianAmericans and Asian youth.” The site, nextshark.com, covers topics that range from civil rights and politics to lifestyle, food, and travel, all relevant to the Asian demographic. Since its inception a little over four years ago, NextShark has run nearly 10,000 stories, has grown to support 10 full-time employees plus some part-time contractors across the U.S. and Asia, and reaches nearly three million viewers per month. The venture that Luo started with just $3,000 of his own money earned him a coveted spot on the 2018 Forbes 30 under 30 media list. But despite his success, this entrepreneur has no plans to slacken the reigns.

If you want to be an entrepreneur it’s a journey. Focusing on what you want to offer back to the world, I think, is the key.

Luo got his start in media right out of college when he founded NewMediaRockstars.com, a company that showcased internet celebrities. He ran it successfully for two years, collaborating with big names like Coca-Cola and Warner Brothers and even getting some recognition from Justin Bieber (“he crashed our site twice”) before selling it. Then it was back to the drawing board. “I actually started NextShark as a site geared toward entrepreneurs,” Luo says of his early vision for his company. “It did fairly well, especially considering we didn’t have funding, but we weren’t growing fast.” When the company started noticing an uptick in engagement following posts about startups in Asia or Asians in business, they switched gears.

Since then, NextShark has transitioned from simply an entrepreneurial site to an overall source for news and entertainment in the global Asian community. Articles range from lighthearted (Luo flew to Taiwan to try a famously expensive bowl of beef noodle soup) to informative (an interview with The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up author Marie Kondo), to serious (a profile on Peter Wang, a victim and hero of the Parkland, Florida school shooting). And what Luo appreciates most about his company is that it’s giving a voice to a demographic that he says has been largely underrepresented in mainstream media. “We’re solving a clear problem,” he says. “The fact that we have been successful shows that there is a hunger and demand to consume our type of content.” The company is growing, engagement is up, and the recognition from Forbes was a welcome affirmation, he says - especially since, as a startup CEO, it’s easy to get distracted by the struggles and stresses of the job and miss out on the success. “Doing the work that I do, there’s always a fire to put out,” he says. “I love my job, but all the little things you have to do as a bootstrap company can get very draining. So I guess getting that recognition is validation that we’re doing something right here. Because when you’re in the process you don’t really feel it.” Moving forward, Luo’s hopes for NextShark are to continue growing, eventually developing a NextShark media group. But he’s not in too much of a hurry. His biggest concern is writing quality stories that appeal to his audience. In his words, “the grind never stops.” “There’s no end point here, at least for me,” he says. “If you want to be an entrepreneur it’s a journey. The finance part of it gets old quickly. Focusing on what you want to offer back to the world, I think, is the key.” •

55


56

be bold

classroom CRUSADER Aspiring engineer turned education activist Daijanique Joseph ’18 is using her UCI education to help children get equal access to quality schooling

A

s her UCI commencement looms closer, School of Social Sciences’ senior Daijanique Joseph is gearing up for a future of championing for educational equity. Joseph, who will graduate with degrees in both social policy and public service (SPPS) and political science, arrived at UCI with the intention of studying engineering. Nevertheless, she quickly discovered that the social sciences is where she belonged. Since then, she has found a passion for promoting educational equity in underserved communities and has devoted her time as an Anteater to the cause, from serving as a mentor to underrepresented high school and first generation college students during her time at UCI, to working as an advocate for low-income preschoolers in the Santa Ana community.

And with life beyond UCI fast approaching, she’s excited to take her knowledge and passion out into the real world. Unexpected beginnings Joseph’s path to social policy work began her freshman year. Though she had been preparing for a career as an engineer all throughout high school, she realized within her first few months on campus that it was not what she truly wanted to pursue. “I had been a member of the ACE mentorship program and participated in competitions focused on architecture, construction, and engineering in high school, but once I got here I knew it wasn’t something I enjoyed,” she says. “My parents were really nervous because I didn’t have a plan, but I knew I didn’t want to do engineering.”

Education is the thing I’m most passionate about because it’s the thing in my life that’s given me the most opportunity and the most access.

Daijanique Joseph wants to create change in the education system.

She began searching for a direction that was right for her and, with her knack for communication and interest in current events, political science appealed to her early on. “My family played a big part in that because we grew up discussing politics and current events openly and frequently,” she says. “So I grew up with the mindset that it’s something you have to know. And I always wanted to get involved with causes, but I wasn’t sure how.” Luckily, she joined UCI’s Summer Academic Enrichment Program (SAEP) after her first year where a friend introduced her to the SPPS major. After a bit of research, she realized that the hands-on approach the major promoted where she could combine her passion for volunteering and research made for the perfect marriage between her interest in politics and her desire to enact change.


uci soc sci

she gained insight into where there are shortcomings in preparing younger students for college, which is where she believes the majority of policy changes need to happen. “I definitely want to make changes in early childhood education because I believe that’s the catalyst for everything,” she says. “Making quality education accessible from a young age will cut the need for extra programs at the college level – the students won’t need to catch up because they will already have the necessary tools.” A perfect fit As she dove into her studies and looked into community service opportunities, she found herself continually drawn to the topic of education. Having grown up in an underserved community in south central Los Angeles, Joseph knew firsthand that the world of primary education was not an equal playing field. In fact, the schools she attended were often overcrowded and working with limited resources. So, she decided she wanted to do something about it. “Education is the thing I’m most passionate about because it’s the thing in my life that’s given me the most opportunity and the most access,” she says. “It gives people the power to change their lives. Even if you do come from a low-income background like myself, my education and the individuals that I have met within the world of academia are what pushed me to believe that I can achieve any goal I set for myself.” Since joining SPPS Joseph has had the perfect avenue to pursue her passion of becoming a champion for education reform, both on and off campus. For example, though she was already volunteering at a low-income preschool in Santa Ana before she discovered the major, the fieldwork requirement for SPPS has given her the chance to continue that work while observing the school through a research lens. And while she can’t enact policy changes just yet, she hopes that being a supportive resource and example for these children will be enough to help them succeed. In that same vein, she completed her role as a mentor in the School of Social Sciences’ First Gen First Quarter Challenge at the end of the fall quarter. The position allowed her to pass on the knowledge she gained as a first generation student to the newest crop of Anteaters, but it also allowed her to learn from her mentees. Thanks to the experience,

On top of all this, Joseph is an honors student and has been involved with ASUCI, ISEP, and Jumpstart. After being selected for the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP), she conducted her own research on the academic persistence of African American female college students at four-year institutions, a demographic that she found had been largely ignored in these types of studies. She’s also studied abroad in Barbados, and completed the Public Policy and International Affairs Program at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. But perhaps the most impactful experience she’s had was her time with UCDC. As part of the UC-wide program, she was able to intern with the Congressional Black Caucus in Washington, D.C., giving her a real look at the world of politics, policy, and research. Though she worked 40 hours a week writing policy memos and conducting research for grant proposals, empirical analyses, and briefing packets, she could not resist getting involved with local schools in her free time. “I felt so appreciative for the opportunity to even be there in D.C. – it’s not something many students get to do,” she says. “I saw the opportunity in itself as a sign of privilege, so I thought I should use it to help others.” Instead of using her days off to sightsee and relax, she decided to volunteer to take students from low-income communities in the D.C. area to visit local landmarks and government buildings. She hoped to serve as an example as well as motivate the high school and junior high students. “Even though these students live so close, most of them had never really seen these places for themselves,” she says. “It was about showing them that they are just steps away from all this and that they could even be a part of it in the future. Showing them

that politics isn’t far-fetched, that it’s accessible and it is relatable to them.” Joseph has been recognized for her work; during the 2016-17 academic year, she received the UCI Alumni Association Distinguished Anteaters Award and the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award. This year, she was named the Social Sciences Alumni Excellence Scholar. Planning ahead Ultimately, Joseph’s hands-on approach is a perfect example of how SPPS aims to prepare students to take real action to help others. And that’s exactly why she’s so happy she made the jump from engineering several years ago. “SPPS is important because it’s different,” she says. “There’s a lot of focus on textbooks in most classes, but you don’t get out in the real world and experience it or do anything about it. But SPPS says, ‘this is happening now, what can we do to fix things.’” Following her graduation this spring, Joseph hopes to participate in a government fellowship program and then go on to pursue a Juris Doctor (JD) and a Master of Public Policy (MPP) dual degree. Her goal is to find a career that allows her to create laws and policies to remedy problems within the education system, perhaps as a senator or representative. But she’d also be happy with a more behind-the-scenes role in public administration and research – as long as she is instrumental in making these changes happen. “My parents always tell me to ‘just do it all,’” she says. “So who knows – maybe I’ll end up doing both.” •

57


58

be bold

mentorship MATTERS

A mentor changed Jeanett Castellanos’ life 25 years ago - she’s been paying it forward ever since

H

er list of “kids” – more than 150 Anteaters long – reads like a Who’s Who at the nation’s top graduate schools. Harvard, Michigan, Wisconsin, USC, Missouri, UCLA, NYU, Illinois, Berkeley, Chicago, Oregon, Texas, Ohio State, Washington, to name a few. They’re also in high level posts at esteemed institutions throughout the U.S. as professors, psychologists, and administrators – including a current dean at the University of Michigan and the assistant dean at Oberlin College. For Jeanett Castellanos, or “Dr. C” as she’s commonly known around campus, these former students aren’t just people who passed through her classes. They and her current charges are her mentees, her academic family, her kids – and a majority are first generation, under represented college students. From the time they enter UCI until they leave, she knowingly and willingly

commits years of her time to develop them as young professionals vested in their communities. And when they leave, they take with them an edict from the social sciences lecturer – pay it forward. “Being one of Dr. C’s kids means that you’re part of an academic family that will provide you with strong support and challenge you to reach your full potential,” says Marlen Kanagui-Munoz, ’07 UCI and a Ph.D. grad of the University of Missouri, Columbia, and one of Dr. C’s biggest advocates. “It means that you are expected to engage in scholarly research that is culturally competent, socially conscious, methodologically rigorous, and ethical. It means that you must be prepared to be a competitive applicant for admission into top ranking graduate programs in education and the social sciences at a national level. Finally, it means you are willing to pass on the gift of mentorship to those who need it wherever your career may take you.”


uci soc sci

Castellanos teaches her mentees the importance of community and social responsibility the role of giving back.

Her guidance isn’t something to be taken lightly; Castellanos has strong expectations of those she takes under her wing. But the reward is substantial – and it doesn’t end when her mentees leave UCI. “Good mentorship fosters purpose, public service, and social change. My mentees are taught the importance of community and social responsibility - the role of giving back,” she says. “I connect the degree to their role in the community and consequently the degree is viewed with greater value. Specifically, it is not simply a diploma that will guarantee extra money and social mobility (which are important) but a degree that leads to a meaningful career path that will facilitate social change and a valuable social contribution to society.”

It’s a lesson she learned more than 25 years ago from her own mentor, Joseph White, UCI psychology professor emeritus, and it’s one she’s been putting into practice ever since. Castellanos grew up in southeast Los Angeles. The only child of Cuban refugees, she was raised to value education, something neither of her parents had a chance to pursue. “They didn’t finish high school, so for me, getting a high school diploma was quite an achievement,” she says. When she was accepted to UCI, her parents were ecstatic. Her psychology classes drew her attention, and when a friend introduced her to White – the renowned “godfather of black psychology” – her path was clear.

“He took time to work with me and helped me understand that a bachelor’s degree was only the beginning,” she says. “At that point, I didn’t really know there was anything beyond an undergraduate degree.” She graduated from UCI with majors – and honors – in psychology and sociology. But when she was accepted into Washington State’s doctoral program in education, she was a bit apprehensive about leaving home. “Dr. White assured me it was only a pitstop and that I’d be coming back home to UCI,” she says. “He made it clear that a Ph.D. would open many doors. And when they did, my responsibility was to do the same – help and mentor other students along the way.”

59


60

be bold

White was right. Doctorate and master’s in hand, Castellanos returned home to UCI to work for the dean of students and Center for Educational Partnerships in 1998. The role offered Castellanos her first taste of the other side of the mentorship relationship as she led the campus’s Pre-Graduate Mentorship Program. The next year, she joined the School of Social Sciences as director of the Social Sciences Academic Resource Center (SSARC) and as a lecturer in the school. And in these roles, she found her calling. “Mentorship goes beyond academic guidance - it is about personal connection and personal empowerment. It is about being invested in the student and their personal and academic development. It is fostering a space for them to grow as individuals and scholars,” she says. UCI is a perfect place to put that concept into practice. The campus has earned top rankings on multiple scales for fostering diversity while providing a high-value education at a relatively low cost. It was recently named a Hispanic-serving institution for 2017-18, meaning that fully one-quarter of undergraduates identify as Latino and that half of all students receive financial aid. And The New York Times’ College Access Index found UCI to be the No. 1 university doing the most for the American dream because of its commitment to upward mobility. Castellanos – who currently oversees the social policy & public service major and the Social Science Honors Program – has been critical to the campus’s success in creating this environment for students. But she’s quick to point out that she doesn’t do it all alone. “As a product of multiple mentors, I do not mentor my students alone. I have multiple colleagues across campus (and across the nation) that share the mentorship process with me. At UCI, I work with various colleagues in the school and across campus to maximize students’ experiences, resources, and opportunities. My mentorship paradigm is a collective approach that is inclusive of others in the university - fostering collective responsibility and facilitating a collective outcome.” Her approach and attitude about the importance of mentorship come through in her research. Her nationally recognized work merges the fields of counseling and higher education with a particular focus on Latina/os. She has published widely on the

Mentorship goes beyond academic guidance - it’s about personal connection and personal empowerment.

topics including two books, The Minority in the Majority: Expanding the Representation of Latina/o Faculty, Administrators and Students in Higher Education and The Latina/o Pathway to the Ph.D.: Abriendo Caminos.

I wouldn’t be a leading scholar in the field of critical race studies in education or an assistant professor up for tenure at a four-year institution. Her mentorship has lasted 15 years, through every stage of my academic career.”

Over her 19-year career as a leader on the Irvine campus, she’s racked up 4 awards highlighting her service beyond the classroom. In 2007 she received the Samuel M. Turner MENTOR (Minority Education, Nurturing, Training, Organizational advocacy, and Research) Award from the American Psychological Association; in 2008 she received the Star Vega Community Service Award from the National Latina/o Psychological Association; and in 2012 she received the Outstanding Support of Hispanics in Higher Education Award from the American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education (AAHEE). Her most recent honor: UCI’s 2016-17 Academic Senate Distinguished Faculty Award for Mentorship, an award which highlights faculty who have made outstanding contributions through mentoring of students or other faculty that takes place outside of a traditional teaching or research relationship and beyond their formal advising duties.

Writing on her behalf in fall 2017, Castellanos’ mentor, Joseph White, agreed, adding: “Numerous of her mentees are professionals in academia, top administrators at flagship universities, tenure-track faculty, and community leaders. Of most value, these students were instilled with the value of mentorship and the importance of giving back to the community. It is not often that one can demonstrate such mentee success at such relatively early stage of a career.” For Castellanos, the award is proof that she works for a campus that so highly values student development and success, particularly among first generation and under represented groups.

“It’s a well-deserved honor,” writes Lindsay Perez Huber, UCI ’03 and a mentee of Dr. C’s. Huber received her Ph.D. from UCLA and is now an assistant professor in the College of Education at CSU, Long Beach.

“At its core, mentorship promotes a sense of personal value, empowerment, community, belonging, and academic family. I’m so excited to be part of a system that values and fosters this student centered approach. We’re all working toward the same goal and we know that there’s potential and promise in our students. It’s rewarding to be part of an academic community that espouses mentorship and embraces the greater effort of working collaboratively to maximize students’ success.”

“Dr. C has served as one of my most important mentors for well over a decade. If not for her mentorship, I believe my educational trajectory would have been very different.

And UCI is lucky to have such an advocate. With only 19 years under her belt and 150 kids to her name, just imagine what the next 20 years will bring. •


uci soc sci

in memoriam:

JOSEPH WHITE Pioneering mental health professional, renowned scholar, and beloved teacher-mentor was an inspirational campus icon

I

n a Cross-Cultural Center meeting room, a portrait of UCI Professor Emeritus Joseph L. White looks contentedly over the daily meetings and activities of the many student groups who call the center home. The painting explodes with color, befitting a man who succeeded in bringing together people from all races and cultures to share equally in the American dream. The artwork was commissioned for the 2006 dedication of the meeting room in his honor. Kenneth Bentley, a UCI alum who counts himself among the many who considered White a cherished friend and mentor, knew that a plaque wouldn’t be good enough. “We were trying to think of a way to let future generations of students know who Dr. White is, what he’s all about,” Bentley says. “And we thought a painting would say a lot.” The portrait serves as a tribute to the man affectionately referred to as the “godfather of black psychology” by students, mentees, and colleagues. White passed away Nov. 21 at the age of 84, but his profound influence will continue to be felt both on campus and in the realms of higher education and psychology. For more than 50 years, White enjoyed a distinguished career in psychology and mental health as an administrator, clinical supervisor, writer, consultant, and practicing psychologist. At the time of his death, he was professor emeritus of social sciences at UCI, where he spent most of his career as a teacher, supervising psychologist, mentor,

and director of ethnic studies and cross-cultural programs. He helped found the CrossCultural Center – the first of its kind in the University of California system – and it’s fitting that his benevolent image continues to oversee its mission.

dean of the School of Social Sciences. “He showed us how to push our research outside our own comfort zones and bring it into the lecture hall, the seminar, the mentoring session – indeed, the warp and weft of this richly diverse campus.”

At the height of the civil rights movement, White emerged as a powerful voice of change, challenging psychologists to better understand the unique experiences of ethnic minorities. He is widely seen as a pioneer in the contemporary field of black psychology, and in 1968, he helped found the Association of Black Psychologists.

White was born in Lincoln, Nebraska, on Dec. 19, 1932. Upon completing his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at San Francisco State University, he was accepted into the clinical psychology doctoral program at Michigan State University. In 1961, he became the first African American there to earn a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and, as he later recalled, became the first black psychologist he had ever seen.

His seminal article in Ebony magazine in 1970, “Toward a Black Psychology,” also was instrumental in beginning the modern era of African American and ethnic psychology. It earned him the sobriquet “godfather of black psychology.” Other ethnic minorities, women, and the LGBT community adopted the same approaches, and his work paved the way for multicultural studies at American universities. Each year, UCI honors the trailblazing psychologist with the Dr. Joseph L. White Lecture series during the Martin Luther King Jr. Symposium. Speakers have included Cornel West and Harry Belafonte. “Joe White was an icon for all of us who aspire to be as solid a mentor as he and a beacon for everyone committed to making the university that rare place where everyone – both in spite of and because of their diverse backgrounds – will thrive,” says Bill Maurer,

Before joining UCI, White was part of the faculty and administration at both California State University, Long Beach, and San Francisco State. During his time at Long Beach, White worked with Willie Brown, a college friend and former speaker of the California Assembly, to create the Educational Opportunity Program, which grew into a statewide network that’s helped more than 250,000 disadvantaged students study at CSU campuses over the past 40 years. “Joseph White was clearly an inspiration for every student with whom he ever interacted,” Brown says. “His intellectual skills, his ability to go directly to the point with complex information, and his commitment to mentoring inspired others to be like him. He will be missed.” •

61


62

be bold

ventures in

VINO

Alumna Karen Nguyen left her established corporate career for the exciting world of wine, art, and entrepreneurship Karen Nguyen, founder of Inspired Art Wine, Wine CMO, and Wine Down OC

T

he UCI community might just encounter a friendly face at their next paint and sip event thanks to Karen Nguyen. The ’05 political science alumna decided to forgo her corporate career several years ago in order to establish Inspired Art Wine, Wine CMO, and Wine Down OC, three ventures that combine her creativity and marketing skills with her love of vino. Nguyen’s new path started with Inspired Art Wine, an art studio and wine bar where visitors create their very own masterpieces while sipping on a variety of wines, craft beers, and cocktails. Having just celebrated the company’s two-year anniversary, Nguyen says what sets the Costa Mesabased business apart from the competition is its hybrid nature and exceptional customer service. Part wine lounge, part art studio and gallery, visitors are treated like family whether they arrive solo or as part of a larger crew, and the venue often hosts bachelor and bachelorette parties and corporate bonding events. In addition, Inspired Art Wine offers classes in multiple mediums including a variety of painting styles, sculpture, and photography, and some courses include specially curated wine flights to add to the experience. But Nguyen’s entrepreneurial endeavors aren’t limited to just one company. Thanks to connections made through Inspired Art Wine, she was able to utilize her extensive experience in the marketing world to found Wine CMO, a digital marketing firm that specifically caters to the wine industry and focuses its research on women, Millenials, and Gen X-ers. And, most recently, she launched Wine Down OC, an event production company that produces womenfocused speed dating and business mixers to create love and business connections. She still makes time for her alma mater, too, and has even worked with UCI’s Student Alumni Association to host “Dinners with Anteaters” at the Inspired studio. So, whether you need some expert advice on expanding your brand or just feel the need to get creative, be sure to check out one of these Anteater-run establishments for a warm welcome and some tasty sips. •


uci soc sci

In an attempt to control skyrocketing prices, high-demand areas have long been utilizing rent control policies. But is this really the most effective strategy? Brian Asquith ’17 says maybe not.

The quirks of controlling

RENT

Brian Asquith ’17 Ph.D. examines the hidden consequences of rent control in award-winning dissertation

Southern California, with its sunny weather, proximity to a number of large-scale employers, and world-famous tourist destinations has become a frequent sighting in articles espousing the country’s most expensive places to live (a recent Time article listed the median rental price in Los Angeles as $1,900 per month). In an attempt to control skyrocketing prices, high-demand areas such as San Francisco, New York City, and Los Angeles have long been utilizing rent control policies. But is this really the most effective strategy? UC Irvine economics graduate alumnus Brian Asquith ’17 says maybe not. His dissertation, which was recently granted the American Real Estate and Urban Economics Association Homer Hoyt Dissertation Award, asks (in part) whether rent control actually incentivizes propertyowners to evict long-standing tenants in order to charge higher rates when local rental prices increase. “I found not only do the number of nuisance and rent non-payment evictions increase when rents do, but also that some landlords respond by permanently withdrawing their units from the controlled market. They’ll do this by exploiting a state law that lets them evict all of their tenants, even if they have

done nothing wrong, and selling, demolishing, or repurposing the vacant building,” he says. “This idea that landlords act to permanently reduce the supply of controlled units via eviction is completely new to the economics literature.” While Asquith’s research was conducted in San Francisco, it’s reasonable to assume that similar scenarios take place in other over-populated city-centers. So what is the solution to unmanageable rent prices? Asquith doesn’t have an answer yet, but he hopes that his paper will inspire his fellow researchers to look more closely at unintended consequences of rent control policies, and conduct their research accordingly. “My hope is to draw other researcher attention to rent control’s policy quirks,” he says. “To a surprising degree, most existing rent control research does not address rent control as it’s currently practiced, but is instead based on rules no city has used in almost 50 years.” Asquith is currently a postdoctoral scholar at the National Bureau of Economic Research. This summer he begins a new role as a research economist at the Upjohn Institute. •

63


64

be bold

sixty years in the making How photos snapped by a young Fulbright scholar got new life six decades later, thanks to a snowstorm in Italy


uci soc sci

65


66

be bold

a three-part series Part I

Part II

Part III

The year was 1957.

The year was 2012.

The year was 2017.

A recent Wesleyan graduate had earned a coveted Fulbright scholarship to study in Italy. It was a pivotal time for the Mediterranean country working to dig itself out of post-war poverty and devastation, marked as a period of reconstruction and recovery. The son of Italian immigrants, Frank Cancian had grown up in a home frequented by Italian-speaking guests, family, and friends, and he’d always wanted to visit the country. While his major was in philosophy, his passion lay in photography; he was one of Wesleyan’s only students to submit a senior thesis using documentary photography. But there was no scholarship program in photography available to send him overseas.

Meanwhile in Cortona, Italy…Gerardo Ruggiero and his wife Luigina were planning a trip south to Lacedonia, where Gerardo grew up. A snowstorm sent Luigina online to determine if the roads to the area were passable. As she clicked through links, she came across a small black and white photo that drew her attention. She called her husband over to see.

Lacedonia has experienced many changes since Cancian’s first visit to the town in 1957, but it has retained the charm of its past while allowing room for the new. Modern wind turbines now dot the crest lines of the surrounding hills, and the narrow, cobbled streets of the old town transition into paved roads that wind back and forth between cafes, brightlycolored houses, and the three churches that call the commune home.

“This was a time when the way people got visual reports of what was going on in the world was through Life Magazine,” he says. “And this way of telling stories through visuals is what got me interested in doing this kind of work.”

“So many times around the hearth, my mother told me that once upon a time, when she was a baker, an American journalist took a lot of photos of her to publish in an American journal – because she was a beautiful Italian woman,” Gerardo writes. “I had never taken her seriously…I thought she just liked telling me stories seasoned with dreams and reality.” His mother died in 1999, but when Gerardo’s wife clicked on that small black and white photo that February day in 2012, it was as if his mother had come back to life.

So, with his camera in tow, the young adventurer struck out for Rome and soon found an opportunity to incorporate his love for photographing other cultures in his work.

“In that moment, what I thought was a fairy tale became a reality. It was as if my mother was saying, ‘I told you I do not lie,’” he said.

Continue reading at socs.ci/summer17part1

Continue reading at socs.ci/summer17part2

Cancian walks down one such cobbled street smiling, waving, and fielding greetings from the hundreds of locals gathered there to see him. Sixty years have passed since he first visited the small, southern Italian village as a young photographer, and tonight, the brand new Museo Antropologico Visivo Irpino (MAVI) will open in the center of town featuring the photos he took all those decades ago. “It’s an amazing emotion to see our ancestors...in the photos,” says one local on MAVI’s opening night. “It’s like a connection between the past and the present. Frank could capture the soul of the person and their precise emotions in his pictures. It’s like these photos are talking to us.” Continue reading at socs.ci/summer17part3


uci soc sci

Cancian greets his friend Anna on his return trip to Lacedonia. The photo of “Letta� that started it all. Cancian is interviewed in front of the museum displaying his work.

67


68

be bold

study: OC spends $299 million to address homelessness UCI sociologists Snow and Goldberg conduct groundbreaking cost study

H

omelessness in Orange County – The Costs to our Community, one of the nation’s most comprehensive and groundbreaking cost studies on homelessness, finds the county spends $299 million addressing homelessness. The study was conducted by UC Irvine sociologists and co-commissioned by Orange County United Way and Jamboree.


uci soc sci

The purpose of the study was to better understand how much is spent by the County of Orange, Orange County’s 34 municipalities, and local non-governmental service agencies – including hospitals and non-profits – to provide services to the local homeless population.

The vast majority of Orange County’s homeless, whether male or female, are U.S. citizens and long-term Orange County residents of over 10 years. -David Snow, sociologist

It also examined variation in the costs of serving the homeless across different housing sectors as well the cost effectiveness of different models employed to address homelessness. “While the true cost of homelessness is the personal impact felt by those without a place to sleep, this study demonstrates that every Orange County taxpayer, whether he or she lives in north, central, or south county, bears the financial burden of this growing problem,” explained Sue Parks, CEO of Orange County United Way. “What’s more, this study provides a clear blueprint for local government, community, and non-profit leaders looking for cost effective solutions to homelessness.” The study also debunked some commonly held myths about Orange County’s homeless population, assumed by many to have come from another state or country. “The vast majority of Orange County’s homeless, whether male or female, are U.S. citizens and long-term Orange County residents of over 10 years,” explained David Snow, UCI sociology Distinguished Professor who coauthored the study with Rachel Goldberg, UCI sociology professor. “Well over twothirds are 10-year plus Orange County residents and 90 percent are U.S. citizens.” UCI sociology graduate students Sara Villata and Colin Bernatzky assisted with the study which further found that the factors precipitating homelessness were primarily economic in nature.

Struggling to stay afloat due to Orange County’s well-publicized high cost of living, most of those at risk of or dealing with actual homelessness say it’s due to economic factors (lack of affordable housing, inability to retain jobs with sustainable wages, or the death of a key wage-earning family member). Still others cite domestic violence or other family dysfunctions for their housing instability. “Too many point to substance abuse or mental health issues as reasons why so many are homeless,” said Laura Archuletta, Jamboree Housing Corporation president. “Those problems are real and do exist but only in less than a quarter of the homeless population. This study confirms what those of us working closely with this population have known for quite some time: that the vast majority of Orange County residents at risk of or are physically homeless are so because they simply can’t afford a permanent home.” Orange County United Way, Jamboree, and the study’s authors will present this homelessness cost study to key government, nonprofit, and private sector leaders as they continue actively working to end homelessness in Orange County. This includes several recommendations designed to achieve a higher level of housing for the county’s homeless population and to realize the cost savings associated with permanent housing. They’re confident this study will help guide decision makers and funders as they chart a course for success. •

69


70

be bold

a legacy of GIVING

Social sciences graduate students will receive more support for research and studies, thanks to Christian Werner and Kathy Alberti.

Christian Werner and his partner, Kathy Alberti, saw the difference additional funding can have on a student’s ability to focus on academics and research. Through Christian’s estate, they’ve donated more than $4.4 million to support fellowships in the school’s top-ranked graduate programs.

A

$2.4 million gift from the estate of Christian Werner, professor emeritus of geography and former dean of the School of Social Sciences at UC Irvine, will support graduate student research and scholarship in social sciences. Werner passed away in March 2016 at the age of 81, following a lifelong career in academia at the Irvine campus. He and his partner, Kathy Alberti, a longtime staff member in the school’s graduate office, were ardent proponents of graduate education and student success. The donation – which includes Werner’s Laguna Beach home, valued at $2.2 million, and $200,000 in cash – is the estate’s third to UCI, bringing the total to $4.4 million.

The funds maintain an endowment for graduate fellowships awarded by social sciences dean Bill Maurer. “We are incredibly grateful for the continued generosity of Kathy on behalf of the Werner estate,” said Maurer. “Already, we’ve been able to award competitive fellowships to some of the best and brightest students who are pursuing research on immigrant labor, job mobility, and women’s reproductive healthcare and rights. The ability to focus more fully on research and less on how to pay for graduate education lets these students push forward our school’s mission to create positive change in society, economies, and human well-being.”


uci soc sci

Christian Werner passed away in March 2016 at 81, following a lifelong career at UCI.

Werner became a permanent member of the social sciences faculty in 1968 and was appointed associate dean of the school in 1973. The following year, he was named acting dean, and in 1975, he officially became the school’s fourth dean. During his four-year tenure, Werner led the creation of affinity groups in which faculty could come together to develop curricula and share research. He’s also credited with recruiting a number of renowned scholars to UCI social sciences. When his term ended, Werner served on various Academic Personnel and Academic Senate committees. In his field, he specialized in applying mathematical approaches to geographic and social sciences work – particularly involving transportation. Werner taught courses on these methods, as well as on statistical analysis in geography, transportation theory and analysis, and physical geography. In 1990, he received the UCI Alumni Association’s Lauds & Laurels Outstanding University Service Award for his volunteerism and commitment to the School of Social Sciences. Though he officially retired in 1994, Werner continued to

contribute to the campus as an active member of the economics faculty and through committee participation until 2007. “Christian and I truly valued our time at UCI,” Alberti said. “It was through our work with students that we got to see – firsthand – the difference additional funding can have on a student’s ability to focus on academics and research. Being now in a position to help, I feel really lucky – and so would Christian – to play a part in the education of our next generation.” With this gift, the School of Social Sciences will bolster student support in its 12 master’s and doctoral programs, all of which are routinely rated among the best in the country. Notably, the Ph.D. program in logic & philosophy of science is tied for first place globally – according to the 201718 Philosophical Gourmet Report – in three specializations: philosophy of mathematics; general philosophy of science; and decision, rational choice & game theory. U.S. News & World Report’s most recent rankings of social sciences grad schools put UCI’s

program in sociology 12th among public universities and 23rd overall; psychology (administered by both the Department of Cognitive Sciences in the School of Social Sciences and the Department of Psychology & Social Behavior in the School of Social Ecology) 19th among public universities and 36th overall; political science 24th among public universities and 45th overall; and economics 24th among public universities and 47th overall. The Center for a Public Anthropology and the National Research Council rank UCI’s program in anthropology (a subject area not reviewed by U.S. News & World Report) on a sliding scale between eighth and 29th in the nation. Alumni from UCI’s social sciences graduate programs have received prestigious posts as professors at private and public universities including Yale, Carnegie Mellon, Johns Hopkins, and the University of WisconsinMadison; as researchers at national agencies and think tanks such as the U.S. Department of the Treasury, the U.S. Census Bureau, and the Mind Research Network; and as industry experts with Google, Amazon, and GfK Roper Consulting, among other companies. •

71


72

be bold

l a u d s

&

l a u re l s

EXTRAORDINARIUS Investor-philanthropist Steve Borowski ’79 receives Lauds & Laurels top honor; contributions of 20 prominent Anteaters – including four more from social sciences – celebrated for campus and community involvement Steve Borowski, Extraordinarius Award Recipient

T

he University of California, Irvine Alumni Association bestowed its highest honor, the Lauds & Laurels Extraordinarius award, upon Steve Borowski ’79 for his philanthropic and volunteer work for the university. In its 48th year, Lauds & Laurels is UCI’s oldest awards tradition; it recognizes outstanding individuals for their service to the community, professional excellence, and campus involvement. After earning a bachelor’s degree in social sciences at UCI and an MBA at Pepperdine University, Borowski was a managing partner at Palley-Needelman Asset Management Inc. and a co-founder and managing partner at Metropolitan West Capital Management LLC before becoming president of Aristotle Capital Management LLC.


uci soc sci

dean’s LEADERSHIP society How to get involved and support scholarships, research, and initiatives

Sarita Rosenstock, Outstanding Graduate Student 2018.

Steve Borowski is a stalwart community member and role model for all. –Bill Maurer, social sciences dean

Over the years, Borowski has demonstrated his passion for UCI, its students, and its faculty by serving as chair of the School of Social Sciences Dean’s Council, a founding member and chair of the school’s Board of Councilors, an executive adviser for the campus’s Center for Economics & Public Policy, a member of the Anteater Athletic Fund board, and a member of the Athletic Director’s Advisory Board. In addition to his university leadership, Borowski is on the boards of such nonprofits as the Blind Children’s Center in Los Angeles, the Orange County Youth Sports Foundation, and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Orange County. According to dean Maurer, Borowski is an enthusiastic volunteer and mentor and “a stalwart community member and role model for all.”

Also among those honored at the May 31 Lauds & Laurels ceremony were four more outstanding social sciences alumni and friends including Social Sciences Distinguished Alumna Marice DePasquale ’96; Outstanding Alumni Athlete Leticia Oseguera ’98; Outstanding Undergraduate Student Iman Siddiqi; and Outstanding Graduate Student Sarita Rosenstock, M.A. ’16. Lauds & Laurels not only recognizes exceptional Anteaters but also supports the university’s and the UCIAA’s role in inspiring and supporting the next generation of alumni – an “Anteaters for Anteaters” movement. Net proceeds from the awards ceremony benefit the UCI Alumni Association Endowed Scholarship Fund. •

T

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 2014-15 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 dahle@uci.edu. Membership levels range from the Young Professional at $1500 to Dean’s Partner at $25,000.

73


74

be bold

making his

CASE

Matthew Stein ’00, Law & Stein, LLP

F

or Matthew Stein, senior partner and lead trial attorney at Law & Stein, LLP, the courtroom is a classroom. A 2000 graduate from UCI, the successful lawyer treats each trial as an opportunity to educate jurors as if he were a teacher in their classroom. The better they understand the case he makes, the more apt they are to side with his client. The firm bearing Stein’s namesake - which he cofounded after earning his J.D. at Southwestern University School of Law - now boasts eight attorneys who specialize in complex estate planning, estate litigation, and

outlive

business law. And when he’s not in the courtroom, Stein can be found training for triathlons and marathons, and volunteering with his alma mater as part of UCI soc sci’s Dean’s Leadership Society. When asked for some words of wisdom for Anteaters just starting out, Stein said, “Get out of your comfort zone and try different electives. For example, on a whim, I took an introduction to law class at UCI and it was such an awesome class that here I am now, a trial attorney running a law firm in Orange County.” •

DESIGN

Law & Stein, LLP senior partner Matthew Stein

Alumna Mariam Ejaz helps clients crowd fund their interior design dreams

M

ariam Ejaz, international studies ’07, has created a service that merges gift giving with expert design services. Her startup, Outlive Design, helps party-hosting clients design their dream room or home, then invite friends and family to contribute to their design project in lieu of another gift. According to Ejaz, the service is perfect for expecting parents, new homeowners, and anyone with a reason to celebrate and an interior design project on their mind.

First, clients meet with a designer to create a plan. Then, using Outlive Design’s customizable invitation, they share their vision with party guests who can contribute to the design fund. Afterwards, the client can continue the project on their own with the gifted funds, or they can continue to work with the designer to make their dream a reality. Either way, she says clients are getting a gift they will treasure, and it takes the guesswork out of gift-buying for guests. •


connect with us online www.socsci.uci.edu

@ucisocsci @ucisocialsciences @uc-irvine-social-science

al u mni

N ET WOR K

Join today and stay in touch with your alma mater

T

he Social Sciences Alumni Network encompasses all 50,000+ Anteaters who once called the UCI School of Social Sciences home.

email alumni@socsci.uci.edu communications@socsci.uci.edu phone 949.824.2766 in person Social & Behavioral Sciences Gateway 5th Floor Dean’s Suite mail UCI School of Social Sciences 3151 Social Science Plaza Irvine, CA 92697-5100

We hope that you will take an interest in learning more about events in soc sci – like Homecoming and Lunar New Year – and 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. Check us out online at alumni.socsci.uci.edu. •

www.socsci.uci.edu


be

BOLD

be bold - uci soc sci spring magazine 2018  
be bold - uci soc sci spring magazine 2018  
Advertisement