be bold - uci soc sci spring magazine 2021

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BOLD Spring Magazine 2021

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


be bold

featu red 4 Message from Maurer 6 Finding her fit Ta’Myrah Hudson, first-generation Anteater, shares the importance of creating community and campus involvement opportunities to help Black students thrive at UCI

10 Ready and willing to serve

contents 06

As a chief of staff in the California State Assembly, Allison Lim ’15 is empowered to lead and create change

14 Borderless research UCI anthropology doctoral student Tawfiq Alhamedi earns support from the National Science Foundation and others to examine historical migrations between the Arab world and East Africa

16 Blazing a new path First-generation scholar and undergrad commencement speaker Bethany Urbano is committed to making education accessible to all

18 Beyond the classroom UCI social policy and public service major and undergrad commencement speaker Shelby Smith is a testament to the school’s boundaryless spirit

22 Anteaters on the frontline Hope King, ’93 anthropology, is a senior epidemiologist at the CDC

24 Strength through adversity How senior psychology major Karen Garcia has forged her own path

27 Are granny flats a solution for California’s affordable housing shortage? Study by UCI economics grad student Sarah Thomaz looks at potential, pitfalls of affordable dwelling units in Los Angeles County

28 The American dream in Irvine How Emily Ha, business economics and public health policy major, is crafting her own version

30 Joining forces to forge better futures


UCI School of Social Sciences and Center for Educational Partnership are collaborating to increase educational access for first-generation students

32 Manahuu (Hello) to a bright future UCI senior Brad Greene greets opportunity with optimism, perseverance and a nod to his Native American heritage

36 Unlocking mysteries of the bilingual mind Prestigious grants fuel language science graduate student Christian Navarro-Torres’ research


38 Life in the fast lane UCI alumnus Ken Marlin ’79 reflects on his fast track from the Marines to UCI to Wall Street

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40 Get out of your comfort zone Real estate business leader and DLS Exec. Committee member Pam Kessler ’88 offers advice to current Anteaters

42 A front-row seat to political history Igor Bobic ’10 political science caught historic footage of the Jan 6 insurrection at the Capitol while reporting for the Huffington Post

44 A wild ride Cyclist and triathlete Michael Marckx ’87 seeks thrills in business and on the road

46 No excuses, no regrets UCI alumnus Kevin Madsen ’05 pushes the boundaries as a professional race car driver, coach and mentor

50 A scholar/activist for undocumented students Laura Enriquez, UCI Chicano/Latino studies associate professor, earns Academic Senate award for outstanding early career accomplishments

52 A straightforward style UCI sociology professor Judith Stepan-Norris earns Academic Senate Award for service, an honor that spotlights her consensus building leadership approach and equity-driven work

54 Cognitive decline distorts political choices Disconnect found between political affiliation, political decisions in the cognitively impaired

55 Population distribution can greatly impact COVID-19 spread, UCI-led study finds Contagion disparities can affect perception of risk, demand for healthcare services

56 Breaking down baseball UCI economist Michael McBride develops new metrics for player valuation based on team contributions, rather than individual skill

58 The pandemic in prison, new B.A. program New site shares personal stories of COVID conditions inside California’s state prisons while UCI launches first UC in-prison B.A. completion program

60 Looking to new sources, solutions for fire prevention in Orange County UCI anthropologist Salvador Zárate to document practices and expertise of weed abatement workers with funding from Haynes Foundation

61 The Simpatía Scale New tool developed by UCI researchers measures variation in a uniquely Latinx cultural value

62 The power of networks UCI researchers join forces with national team to study U.S. food supply chain disruptions and innovations due to Coronavirus closures

64 Using math to understand equality, fairness UCI cognitive scientist Nadia Chernyak receives NSF CAREER grant to study connection between children’s cognitive skills & pro-social behavior

65 Demystifying science UCI logic and philosophy of science assistant professor Lauren Ross receives NSF CAREER grant to bring clarity to scientific explanation

66 Listen in UCI podcasts feature social sciences people and programs making a mark

67 Under the rainbow umbrellas Book by UCI professor Rocío Rosales explores the complex stories of immigrant street vendors in LA

68 The origins of unfairness Book by UCI logic and philosophy of science associate professor Cailin O’Connor explores how inequities emerge and why they persist

69 Moving forward Book by UCI sociologist Francesca Polletta explains how we can find our way back from political polarization without having to become friends first

70 Rankings roundup All established UCI social sciences graduate programs rank in top 50 of respective fields

72 Board of Councilors Senior external leadership advisory board to the dean

74 Dean's Leadership Society Thank you to the group's Executive Committee

76 Alumni Network Get involved in a network that's more than 50,000 Anteaters strong



be bold

b e BOL D ----a publication of the UCI School of Social Sciences ----writers, designers, editors & photographers Heather Ashbach, Bria Balliet, Christine Byrd, Luis Fonseca, Pat Harriman, Aaron Orlowski, Kiali Wong Orlowski, Kara Roberts, Steven Zylius special thanks to contributing photographers from: BWR, DDI, Low Shutter Media, UCI Athletics ----School Leadership Bill Maurer, Dean Michael McBride, Associate Dean Jeanett Castellanos, Associate Dean Barbara Sarnecka, Acting Associate Dean Rebecca Ávila, Assistant Dean Marketing & Communications Heather Ashbach, Executive Director Luis Fonseca, Digital Media Production Development Tracy Arcuri, Executive Director Liz Codispoti, Director Ian Delzer, Associate Director Melissa Churlonis, Coordinator ----featured on cover: Undergraduate commencement speakers Shelby Smith and Bethany Urbano were selected from among their graduating peers to deliver the social sciences commencement address.

----Be Bold is offered this year digitally.

from the


Bill Maurer Professor, Anthropology & Law


t's hard to believe a full year has passed since our last issue of Be Bold in which we went fully digital due to the pandemic.

In a year marked by countless displays of community resilience and perseverance in our collective response to racial injustice, political unrest, and COVID closures and adaptations, I am absolutely in awe of the many ways we've all managed to stay connected. The stories within this issue highlight our incredible people and programs who have been creating community and responding with on-the-ground action to many of the most pressing global issues of our time.

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Dean Maurer, professors Belinda Campos and Matthew Freedman, and social sciences research development director Holly Hapke met via Zoom with U.S. Congresswoman Katie Porter and staff as part of COSSA's Advocacy Day aimed at illuminating the importance of social science research during and after the pandemic.

As campus gets ready to welcome back many Anteaters in person in the fall, we are thrilled to begin seeing faces in our classrooms, hallways and walkways again. At the same time, we're also excited to put the knowledge we've gained during this period of considerable change to use and continue fostering and expanding the many virtual communities we've cultivated in our time apart – communities that have allowed us to connect, no matter where we call home.

Personally, for your commitment to social sciences during this unprecedented year, I want to say thank you. Thank you to our students, faculty, staff, alumni, community friends and donors for helping us to continue extending our reach, no matter the obstacle, in our drive to inspire and create positive change in societies, economies and for human well-being. Be safe and be well, Anteaters,



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FINDING HER FIT Ta’Myrah Hudson, first-generation Anteater, shares the importance of creating community and campus involvement opportunities to help Black students thrive at UCI


nderstanding the collegiate experience of UCI’s Black student population is a topic that’s both professional and personal for Ta’Myrah Hudson. The first-generation Anteater has devoted her time on campus to research, coursework and programs aimed at identifying and breaking down racial and social barriers. The work has given voice to her own experience as a Black student who spent her freshman year feeling isolated and disengaged – like she didn’t fit in at the very place she had worked so hard to attend. Her story changed when she created a community through her campus involvement activities – a network that would serve as both resource and respite throughout her undergraduate experience. Now a senior graduating with degrees in political science and criminology, law and society, three formal research projects completed and countless diversity-focused engagement opportunities under her belt, she’s using her newfound voice to pave a better pathway for others. Going back to the beginning Hudson is the first person in her family to go to college. News of her acceptance to UCI was met with a lot of excitement – and more than a few nerves. “My parents and siblings were all super excited and encouraging about my decision, but they didn’t have knowledge of the system and weren’t a resource I could turn to about how to actually do college,” she says. “When I started at UCI, I wasn’t really sure how to navigate campus beyond my classes. I started to feel like I didn’t belong or that I wasn’t good enough to be here.”

Research shows that these feelings of selfdoubt when in an unfamiliar system – called imposter syndrome – are more common among first-generation and minority students. “First-generation and students of color are navigating a system built on privilege filled with financial challenges, psychological and academic adjustments. They do this while balancing home, school and the heavy weight of family responsibilities against the realization that their degrees will help their families and ensure the dream of a better tomorrow,” says social sciences associate dean Jeanett Castellanos who would become one of Hudson’s close mentors. “That’s a pretty heavy load for a new student to bear alone.” Absent a close family collegiate support system on which to lean, Hudson determined early on that she would need to create her own. To start, she went back to what ignited her initial interest in UCI: her first campus visit as a newly accepted Anteater. The trip was part of Inspiring & Reassuring Individual Student Excellence (iRISE), a two-day event hosted by UCI’s Black Student Union (BSU) aimed at connecting prospective Black students and their families with each other, the campus and its many resources.

Ta’Myrah Hudson takes notes on her pre-pandemic crosscountry trip with the Deconstructing Diversity Initiative.

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Elisa Tran and Lara Nguyen led this year’s third annual OC Make-a-Thon to develop projects for people living with disabilities.



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Ta’Myrah Hudson and her fellow campus reps at the annual Celebrate UCI event.

“The event was really influential in my decision to choose UCI,” she says. “I met other Black students and heard from prominent Black speakers and administrators on campus,” she says. “I loved the energy and sense of community I felt among the people I met – specifically the student representatives – and that was something I was looking for.”

“I make sure to talk about the importance of getting involved and creating your own community by sharing my story,” she says. “I want students to know they don’t have to have all the answers when they come here. UCI is full of people who are here to help, and programs that can help put voice to your experience, when you know where to look.”

She connected with BSU and immediately grew her academic and peer network. She applied and was accepted into a student worker role as a campus representative with the Office of Admissions, which now hosts iRISE as the Black Family Celebration. From leading campus tours to facilitating orientation discussions, she became part of a network that gave her a purpose in finding and sharing valuable campus knowledge about student programs and spaces – particularly those for Black and under-represented students at UCI.

Pinpointing important programs and people BSU was one of those critical resources for Hudson – particularly this past year during COVID as members turned to the group’s WeChat for community and connection. She’s made a point of reaching out and mentoring new Black students to help establish their support community early on.

She’s oftentimes the first face many new and prospective Anteaters see when they come to campus, and she knows how much that first experience matters.

She also got involved in the Deconstructing Diversity Initiative and Diversity, Inclusion and Racial Healing Ambassadors, two social sciences outreach programs led by Teresa Neighbors that further fueled Hudson’s growing interest in racial and social justice. Student ambassadors in both groups work to reduce prejudice by creating a deeper understanding of race issues central to society.

“Each week in DDI, we learned about a range of different social issues and the histories behind them, like redlining, environmental racism and allyship,” she says. Her learning continued as she traveled with her cohort to sites around the country – Chicago, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Montgomery and New Orleans – that have strong ties to the experience of race in America. “It was an incredible experience. We got to meet with different organizations and community leaders who were doing amazing social justice work as organizers in their communities,” she says. “I really liked that there was also a big emphasis on mental health, as this type of work can get really draining. We learned how to still make sure we were taking care of ourselves in the process and, whenever we could, we would hold space for reflection and healing circles.”

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Get involved and find your space on campus – one that gives you a sense of belonging. It’s the groups you join and the people you meet that make you feel a part of the campus, that define your community.

and equity, generously sharing her personal experiences while acknowledging the experiences of others,” says Neighbors. “As a mentor, she gives thoughtful feedback that is well received by her mentees who quickly come to trust and respect her. Ta’Myrah is a true joy to work with and an exceptional role model and leader among her peers.” Understanding the role of research Neighbors encouraged Hudson to apply to the social sciences’ Summer Academic Enrichment Program to further develop what she was learning into actionable research. The five-week residential program aimed primarily at first-gen students focuses heavily on research methods, statistics and communications to prepare participants for graduate school. And it boasts a high success rate; more than two-thirds of SAEP’s 500+ alumni have gone on to graduate school. In all of her university experiences, conducting academic research was probably the most foreign, says Hudson, echoing a familiar feeling among many of the program’s firstgen students.

Back on campus, Hudson put what she learned in DDI to use as a mentor with DIRHA where she helped facilitate weekly discussions with local high school student groups on topics surrounding race, gender and religion. The students then developed diversity-focused projects to implement within their high schools. In both programs, Hudson showed an innate ability to engage in difficult conversations while making others feel heard, says Neighbors. “Ta’Myrah is one of those students who inspires her instructors and directors with her passion for racial equity and justice and her persistence in the face of difficult situations and course content. Confident, perceptive and sensitive to differing viewpoints, she engages critically on difficult topics of race

“Research is an unfamiliar university activity for many first-gen students; some even question the relevance of such practice,” says Castellanos. “As educators, we recognize the importance of shaping and cultivating firstgen students’ scholar identities; as mentors, we help connect the practice of research to communities and social issues. Once students personally connect with the material, they thrive as undergraduate researchers.” This was particularly true for Hudson, who has since taken on three projects. Her first, guided via SAEP, focused on discrimination in mental health. She then teamed up with Castellanos to tackle projects on how Black first-generation college students adjust to college, and factors that help and hinder Black – particularly female – students’ adjustments to university life. The latter is currently being worked into a manuscript full of best practices university administrators can enact to positively impact the campus experience of Black students across the nation. “Ta’Myrah is a committed activist scholar who’s invested in both developing her research skills and understanding the importance of scholarship and counter narratives in research,” says Castellanos.

One of their key findings highlights the importance of communal living programs – like the campus’s Rosa Parks House and Academic Excellence Black Scholars House – in helping Black students feel connected at UCI. Hudson makes a point to share these and other helpful tips with each of her campus tour groups and mentees, including her younger siblings. Being prepared – and open – for everything Hudson had big plans for finishing out her senior year off campus in experiential learning opportunities. She was accepted and approved to study abroad in London and attend the UCDC program in Washington, D.C., but COVID-related closures threw a major wrench into everything travel-related. Disappointed but not deterred, she shifted gears. Her off-campus experience changed to a year of online learning spent hunkered down with her roommates in their shared apartment, leaning on each other for support. “It’s been difficult and draining doing my last year on Zoom and missing out on activities that I had wanted to do in person, but we’ve made it through and I think that’s something my graduating class needs to remember in all of this,” she says. “We finished our degrees during a period in our history that no one was equipped to take on. And that’s a big deal – something we all need to recognize and give ourselves credit for.” With commencement in sight, the future for Hudson is bright. She’s applying for shortterm work opportunities in D.C. while studying for the LSAT with plans for law school in 2023. And she needn’t look far to see the pathway she’s paved working for others: her mentees at UCI are thriving, her brother is now a sophomore at Sacramento State and her sister, a middle school student, already plans to follow in Ta’Myrah’s collegiate footsteps. Her advice as they make their way? “Get involved and find your space on campus – one that gives you a sense of belonging. It’s the groups you join and the people you meet that make you feel a part of the campus, that define your community.” •



be bold

ready and willing to


As a chief of staff in the California State Assembly, Allison Lim ’15 is empowered to lead and create change

Allison Lim '15 is the second youngest chief of staff in the California state Capitol and one of only a few Asian Pacific Islander women chiefs.

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be bold


t was past dinnertime, but the day was far from over for Allison Lim, a chief of staff in the California State Assembly. With the rest of the staff gone for the day, she could now focus on reading and preparing all the documents she had assigned herself to review. At 12:30 a.m., she finally put down the highlighter and turned off her computer. In just a few hours, she’d be back. Most importantly, she was ready.

College is the best time to expand your horizons and develop important professional and interpersonal skills.

“I’m the type who doesn’t like to scramble to finish things at the last minute. So if I have something due Wednesday evening, I want to make sure it’s done by Tuesday, so the next day is a little bit freer for the unexpected,” Lim says. “One thing that’s certain with my job is that things will come up.” Lim, a 2015 graduate of UCI’s School of Social Sciences, is the second youngest chief of staff in the California state Capitol and one of only a few Asian Pacific Islander women chiefs. She manages a seven-member staff on behalf of Assemblymember Alex Lee, who was elected in November to represent California’s 25th Assembly District. He is the youngest state legislator and the first openly bisexual person elected to the California legislature. As a chief of staff, Lim is empowered with daily opportunities to apply valuable lessons from her undergraduate career at UCI, where she graduated magna cum laude with a double major in political science and sociology. After specializing in law and comparative politics at UCI, she now has a hands-on role in California’s legislative process. On any given day, she attends committee hearings and works on legislation for which she can brief and advise Assemblymember Lee. “Having a diversity of viewpoints creates robust discussion, and that’s what we need out of a representative democracy,” Lim says. “For instance, I haven’t really seen that many young Asian women in positions where they had a seat at the table and were able to make their voice heard, especially in politics. As a chief of staff now, I know that my thoughts and opinions will be seriously considered.” Professional collaborators Lim met Lee when they were in their early 20s and both working as legislative staff in Sacramento.

There, they collaborated on the board of directors of the nonpartisan Asian Pacific Islander Capitol Association, a nonprofit organization. As a 23-year-old, Lee told Lim that he intended to run for office one day and that he wanted her to be his chief of staff. “I thought that sounded great,” Lim says. “But I thought it would be something that happened in our 30s or 40s. As it turned out, two years later he said, ‘OK, I’m running.’” Lim became Lee’s campaign manager in November 2019, after she studied Chinese language and literature for a year at National Taiwan Normal University in Taipei, Taiwan. Lee’s campaign was a grassroots effort, Lim says, and he did not take corporate money. Instead, the campaign relied on “people power,” she says; as part of the campaign, Lee and his team knocked on 30,000 doors and left handwritten notes if no one answered. Focused on what matters As a chief of staff, Lim is accustomed to the surprise that sometimes follows when she is introduced as Assemblymember Lee’s righthand person. She knows it can be easy to assume that young people lack the necessary experience or knowledge for important work like policymaking. “I’m young and I’m Asian, and you don’t see that demographic in the Capitol in positions of power that often,” Lim says. “But, ultimately, I know I’m in my position for a reason and I need to stay focused on that, rather than what other people think.”

Someone who hasn’t been surprised is Jeanett Castellanos, associate dean of undergraduate studies at the School of Social Sciences. Castellanos became a mentor to Lim during her freshman year and has encouraged her ever since as she has ascended in her career. “Allison is such a proactive, culturally conscious leader for social justice,” Castellanos says. “By embracing opportunities to work and learn nationally and internationally, she has deepened her understanding of the social problems marginalized communities face. Our current students can learn numerous lessons from her journey, including how she has worked hard, attained practical experience and used her voice to fight for equity through policies.” Prescient research Lim’s focus on equity was central to her senior research project at UCI. To study gender roles, she surveyed social sciences students about the division of labor in households, with questions that asked respondents about their childhood experiences and what they expected for their future gender roles. The results showed people still held fairly traditional views on gender, Lim says.

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Allison Lim (center) and now-Assemblymember Alex Lee with campaign staff.

“Despite all of these conversations we have about creating more equitable gender roles, we still see these traditional norms being perpetuated by folks who are college-educated and in a community that confronts a lot of these gender expectations quite often,” she says. “The research project was a really good opportunity for me to take what I had been learning theoretically and put it into practice.” Judith Treas, sociology Distinguished Professor emerita and Lim’s faculty research adviser, says Lim took a crucial step in recognizing that people can hold contradictory views. She also notes how Lim’s survey data have reverberated into the present day. “Allison’s research showed young men and women both wanted egalitarian marriages — everything split 50-50. However, when asked which partner should stay home if, say, small children needed care, these egalitarian college students also agreed it should be the woman,” Treas says. “Sure enough, years later during the COVID-19 pandemic, mothers have been the ones who lost out in the workforce.”

Upon completing her research project, Lim had the opportunity to present her findings at the annual UCI Undergraduate Research Symposium, which the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) hosts each May. Treas says that Lim’s presentation was a standout. “Seeing Allison gain that early experience at the UROP symposium was very rewarding,” Treas says. “For many undergrads, the UROP event is the first chance to speak with authority to a professional audience.” Lasting benefits Lim’s senior research project was one of many highlights of her time at UCI. As part of her undergraduate journey, she also studied for a semester at the University of Leeds in England, worked at the Study Abroad Center and the Social Sciences Academic Resource Center, served on the Social Sciences Dean’s Ambassadors Council, and performed with the MCIA dance team and in “The Vagina Monologues” show at UCI. In 2015, she secured an internship in Washington, D.C., as part of the UCDC Summer Internship Program.

Each experience fit her overarching belief in making the most of her undergraduate studies. And she credits her time at UCI for being able to develop key skills that she relies on today. “For example, even though I didn’t continue in research, in the state legislature my job requires me to read a lot of academic research that helps inform public policy,” Lim says. “And having that training from my undergraduate years allows me to quickly synthesize that information.” She hopes these lessons will inspire Anteaters today. “In the moment, students might not see why it’s important to get out of their comfort zone and to try new things,” Lim says. “But college is the best time to expand your horizons and develop important professional and interpersonal skills. By taking advantage of these opportunities, students will see the benefits later on.” •



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UCI anthropology doctoral student Tawfiq Alhamedi earns support from the National Science Foundation and others to examine historical migrations between the Arab world and East Africa


awfiq Alhamedi is studying a history of personal significance.

The UCI doctoral student’s family is originally from Yemen, but his childhood in the Bronx was steeped in the Swahili culture of the East African coast – where his parents had spent a large portion of their lives before immigrating to the United States. “As a kid, there always were Swahili influences. The dishes we would eat were Swahili, from the Tanzanian coast,” says Alhamedi, who’s finishing his third year at UCI. “As I learned more about the region and its history, it was completely mind-boggling because, here in the U.S., my parents would simply say that we were from Yemen. That was the shorthand.” Other people categorized him as Arab American, but Alhamedi also felt a sense of connection to East Africa. “I’m a person of color, so I had to deal with those confrontations of Americanness and figuring out where I fit within the United States,” he says. Tawfiq Alhamedi gives a presentation at an anthropology conference.

“And then I was also dealing with being identified as Arab, which I am, but I don’t speak Arabic and I’ve never been to Yemen. In addition to this, I do have these other connections to East Africa.” He headed to Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania, for his undergraduate studies, and these personal questions merged with academics in a new way. Alhamedi grew interested in the histories and cultures of people who migrated from the Arabian Peninsula to East Africa – cultures that straddled the Arab world and Africa. Now, as an anthropology Ph.D. student in the UCI School of Social Sciences, he’s looking at the migrations, imperial histories and postcolonial legacies that continue to shape coastal East African politics and culture. And he’s doing so with a prestigious grant that he earned from the National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP). Alhamedi is among an impressive group of 46 UCI graduate students who received NSF GRFP grants for 2020/21. He’s using the grant, which provides three years of funding over a five-year period, for his final years of doctoral studies. ‘A very good fit’ A Lafayette professor who had earned her Ph.D. at UCI was the first to suggest that Alhamedi explore the university for his own doctoral studies. When he arrived for a recruitment interview at UCI, he already knew about the strong reputation of the Department of Anthropology, which offers guaranteed funding for at least six years for doctoral students. He also knew about the department’s lauded scholars who have strengths in migration studies. What also impressed him was the welcoming community – and the chance to work with scholars across the anthropology department. “I could tell right away that there was a deep sense of community, which was important for me being so far from home. Everyone has their own projects, but they support each other and want to help each other,” he says. “It was a very good fit for me.”

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A big part of anthropology is that nobody is ever really right. We’re all just caught in this ball of complex relationships.

Foundational work Alhamedi visited Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar, along Tanzania’s coast, during a gap year that he took after earning his undergraduate degree in 2017 and before starting his doctoral studies. He stayed with family relatives, and he visited again in 2019. Since then, he has been dedicating significant time to attaining advanced fluency in Swahili with the help of a personal tutor. The language barrier proved to be the biggest cultural hurdle during his previous trips. He also puts in the work to ensure he has a strong foundation for his future studies, says mentor Anneeth Kaur Hundle. “He’s done a wonderful job of learning from faculty in the department, incorporating feedback and taking initiative with the advice he’s given,” says Hundle, UCI anthropology assistant professor and Dhan Kaur Sahota Presidential Chair of Sikh Studies. "I’ve seen his project ideas and writing become more strong and clear over the past year or so.” In the first half of his doctoral studies, Alhamedi focused on understanding the history and contemporary debates in anthropology, synthesizing the current scholarship and, perhaps most importantly, figuring out the questions to ask. “You have to be the person figuring out what your project is and what the research question is, while being in conversation with faculty, peers and research and fieldwork communities,” Hundle said. “In order to do that, you have to develop strong critical thinking, critical reading and writing skills. You have to be able to synthesize existing scholarly work, so you can extend and build on it and understand your own ideas and motivations of your own research project.”

Eid al-Adha morning prayer in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

He’s now in the next phase of planning his fieldwork amidst the COVID-19 pandemic after having received dissertation research funding from both the Wenner-Gren Dissertation Fieldwork Grant and the Social Science Research Council International Dissertation Research Fellowship. This past year he’s been exploring online research methods, combing social media and blogs of both locals in Zanzibar and the diaspora. He also has been contacting Zanzibari professors, journalists and intellectuals. Alhamedi intends to employ a combination of digital ethnographic methods and in-person fieldwork for his funded research projected to start this upcoming fall, as Tanzania and Zanzibar have remained open for travel. This has involved him carefully modifying his in-person fieldwork methods to include socially distanced participant-observation and interviews alongside increased digital research and archival work. An artificial boundary Historically, studies of migration have tended to focus on people moving from the global south to the west, with less analysis of older migrations within the global south, Alhamedi said. However, in centuries past, multiple networks of migration developed around the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean. “The dichotomy that we tend to think of between ‘Arab’ and ‘African’ – the boundary between the Middle East and Africa – is very artificial,” he said. “We’re taught to think of these regions as two separate things. But in reality, the people on the coast of Yemen are

closer to the coast of Somalia and Ethiopia than a lot of places in the Middle East.” Multiple waves of migrants from the Arabian Peninsula landed in East Africa, predating the rise of Islam in the 7th century, and continuing in the 13th and 19th centuries. There also were waves of migration to and from other regions around the Indian Ocean, including Southeast Asia and India. Alhamedi is dedicating his studies to the islands of Zanzibar because they are uniquely situated at the boundaries of Africanness and Arabness in the Indian Ocean. The islands were brought into union with Tanganyika in the 1960s, but many Zanzibaris choose to emphasize and invoke memories of the region’s past as distinct from the mainland. There is even a movement advocating for Zanzibar to be autonomous from the Tanzanian union. Alhamedi plans to explore how African nationalism is intersecting with Zanzibar’s unique past – all of which is informed by multiple layers of identity, histories of empire, Islam and slavery in the Indian Ocean. “A big part of anthropology is that nobody is ever really right. We’re all just caught in this ball of complex relationships,” Alhamedi says. “But in anthropology, it’s not just our job to examine the past so we can come to terms with it and see how it informs the present. We also can imagine how to create new futures.” •



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blazing a new PATH First-generation scholar and undergrad commencement speaker Bethany Urbano is committed to making education accessible to all

Bethany Urbano has done what she set her mind to: graduating from UCI.


u puedes hacer todo lo que tu te propongas. (You can do whatever you set your mind to.)

Bethany Urbano and her sister heard these words often while growing up in their Santa Ana home. Their mother, who immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico before they were born, didn’t have an opportunity to continue school beyond first grade. Her mom’s experience gave Bethany a very personal understanding of the connection between poverty and literacy, and served as a driving force in her decision to pursue an education. With her mom and a few key mentors in her corner, Bethany has blazed a new path as a first-generation Anteater at UCI – an experience she’s packed with as many opportunities as she could. In June, she’ll be one of only two social sciences undergrads who gets to address the 2021 graduating class. While the ceremony will be remote, the sense of accomplishment and sacrifice it took her to get to this point is every bit real, and something Urbano will celebrate with her family proudly at her side and her team of mentors cheering from afar. “I’m so thankful to my mentors and my family - especially my mom - who believed in me,” she says. “I wouldn’t be here today without their guidance and support. Gracias, mamá.” An active Anteater Urbano had her pick of several universities, but she chose UCI because of the Southern California campus’s generous financial aid package and programmatic focus on students like her who are the first in their family to go to college. More than half of UCI’s undergraduate students identify as first-generation, and the campus has twice been named by The New York Times as the top U.S. university “doing the most for the American dream” based on – among other factors - the number of low-income and middle-income students who attend and graduate.

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Education is the key to a better future.

“Being a first-generation student meant that I couldn’t take for granted what my undergraduate university had to offer,” she says. “I vowed before my first day that I was going to get the most out of my experience and take advantage of every opportunity I could.” During her first week on campus, she made an appointment with the Study Abroad Center to find out what it would take to get to Japan for a quarter. She left the center with a plan in hand that would come to fruition her third year. She chose to double major in political science and education science – a degree combination that allowed her to study how resources can be put to work to help alleviate poverty and advance education domestically and internationally. She applied that knowledge through Global Connect – an educational outreach program that also gave her experience in the classroom. She helped translate university-level concepts about globalization and international relations into interactive weekly lessons that she team taught alongside teachers in freshman dual immersion Spanish/English classes at Laguna Hills High School. From day one, Global Connect director Jasmine Esquivias saw how dedicated Urbano was to making a mark in her high school students’ lives through education and strengthening their understanding of global issues. “Bethany is an extraordinary individual who’s passionate about education and cultivating a difference,” says Equivias. “Utilizing her knowledge from her major focus in political science and education, she’s dedicated herself to be an agent of change. She’s contributed her talents, intellect, and service to not only UCI but her community at large. She is truly a global citizen with a bright future.” Urbano joined the Social Sciences Deans Ambassadors Council where she partnered with other outgoing Anteater advocates on

campus to host events aimed at creating conversations among diverse communities. She also worked as a peer academic advisor in the School of Education where she helped new and current students plan out schedules and find classes while providing a listening ear when they just needed to chat with someone about their experience. “A large number of these students identified as low-income or racial ethnic minorities, which enabled me to connect with them at a deeper level and pass down tools that would aid them in their academic endeavors,” she says. With the support of her academic advising team, she successfully launched the School of Education’s inaugural research fair in hopes of motivating students to participate in education centered research and initiatives. “The deep care and commitment Bethany has to serving our campus community is evident not only in the supportive advising environment she’s helped build for education students, but also in the many opportunities she’s created for our Anteaters to grow and connect,” says Sarah McDougall, academic advisor. “She is such a bright presence, and her infectiously kind and creative spirit uplifts everyone around her.” Urbano’s work as a peer advisor honed skills she would draw heavily from this past year as a resident advisor in Middle Earth Housing where, during COVID and in an entirely remote educational setting, she’s supervised and mentored 28 first-year undergraduate students. Her calm, steady hand helped her guide residents through an unprecedented world experience marked by strict lockdown and distancing measures. She’s been a key figure in their lives as they’ve grappled with common, yet heightened, first-year experiences in identity exploration, mental health and wellness - all while juggling academics via Zoom and limited physical contact with loved ones. “It’s been really tough making our way through this past year while we were all learning together, but it’s been amazing to see the resilience our students have shown in navigating this new normal,” she says. Her mother’s words – tu puedes hacer todo lo que tu te propongas (you can do whatever you set your mind to) – served as an underlying current of strength throughout the experience. Research that resonates While Urbano considers herself extremely fortunate to be pursuing higher education, she acknowledges the path hasn’t been easy. With that in mind, she’s made a point

to uplift the voices and experiences of lowincome and racial ethnic minority students through formal research, first via the School of Social Sciences Summer Academic Enrichment Program and then as an honors student. Her senior honors thesis – advised by faculty mentors Jeanett Castellanos and Caesar Sereseres – examined organizational barriers that limit low-income students from participating in internships. Widely considered as gateway opportunities for future careers, Urbano’s research has found that many internships are completed without pay and therefore limit the ability of lowincome students to participate. “The decision to accept an unpaid internship is difficult for low-income students who are unable to financially support themselves throughout an extensive period of time or pay out of pocket expenses. This issue makes unpaid internships a serious and pressing problem for social mobility,” she says. “Specifically, for low-income students, unpaid internships can become barriers that limit both obtaining a decent occupation after college and climbing the socio-economic ladder.” She hopes that by illuminating this critical gap, more employers and universities will work to close it through funded opportunities. She’s also widening her reach. In the fall, she was named the recipient of a $7,000 Barnes and Noble Scholarship to support international literacy. Her project is a very personal one that connects her research with action in her mom’s hometown in Michoacán, Mexico. Urbano will be using the funds to set up a library in an empty room of the community school where students can check out books, have access to needed supplies and pursue enrichment opportunities in an afterschool program. The supplies and logistics are still being worked out due to the complications COVID created with international shipping, but it’s a project she will see through as her dedication to changing communities through education remains strong. After graduating in June, she plans to pursue a career in corporate social responsibility where she can help guide philanthropic money to this cause. And she has her pick of more than half a dozen top tier master’s programs to which she’s been accepted. “I’m passionate about helping countries become more sustainable through development of better education systems because I know how much it’s has changed my life and the opportunities it’s now opened for my whole family,” she says. “Education is the key to a better future.” •



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beyond the

CLASSROOM UCI social policy and public service major and undergrad commencement speaker Shelby Smith is a testament to the school’s boundaryless spirit



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o say Shelby Smith embodies the UC Irvine School of Social Sciences’ boundaryless spirit would be an understatement. From experiential learning trips abroad to mentorship meetings with aspiring first-generation Anteaters, the senior social policy and public service major has been putting UCI research and principles into practice in classrooms from Irvine to Israel. “UC Irvine has given us each the world through the people, classes, clubs, travels and even our online classes,” she says. “The degree we receive from the School of Social Sciences is not just a recognition of our studies, but truly a map of all the places we have been.” In June, Smith will be one of only two social sciences undergraduates to speak at the school’s 2021 commencement ceremony, which, due to COVID, will be delivered remotely. For a graduating class that’s shown its resiliency as courses, connections and communities comprising every time zone shifted fully online, her message rings particularly true: some of the best classrooms don’t have four walls. Charting her course Growing up in the Bay area, Smith’s parents – neither of whom had the opportunity to attend a university – ensured Shelby had access to the best educational support. “Investing in my education was very important to my parents,” she says. “The opportunities my schools provided me with advanced courses and college prep gave me the chance to pursue college and kickstart my initial career plan to be a history teacher.” Smith had her pick of the 13 schools to which she applied and was accepted. UCI topped the list due to its numerous resources aimed at first-generation students like her and experiential learning programs that would expand her education beyond the classroom.

During her first college quarter, she got to meet her hero at an alumni panel where Gruwell’s enthusiasm and excitement for making a difference was infectious. “I sat front and center on the edge of my seat through her entire talk, soaking up every word,” she says. She stuck around after to meet the activist who had inspired her decision to pursue UCI and a career in education, and the two connected. Smith was invited to Gruwell’s Long Beach home for Dinners with Anteaters, an alumni networking engagement series fostered by the campus Alumni Association. By the next quarter, Smith was interning with the Freedom Writers Foundation where she engaged regularly with teachers from around the world and learned firsthand the role activism and movements play in shaping equity and access to education. A policy-oriented purpose “Education has been such an important part of my life that’s allowed me to have access to opportunities that I wouldn’t have otherwise had. Seeing in my own community that a lot of people I grew up with didn’t have the same opportunity to go to college – that their high schools didn’t set them up for that – breaks my heart,” she says. Through her work with Freedom Writers, that feeling intensified. “I want to be able to serve educational communities the way mine did for me growing up. I feel strongly that every student, regardless of their background, should be supported and their identities valued in the classroom.”

Her acceptance letter sealed the deal when, among the enclosed list of notable UCI alumni, she saw a familiar name: Erin Gruwell, founder of the Freedom Writers Foundation.

A friend suggested she check out the School of Social Sciences’ social policy and public service major where, in her first class with lecturer Corina Espinoza, Smith quickly discovered her interests aligned perfectly with the program’s policy-oriented purpose. She officially changed her major and signed up for every course Espinoza taught.

“Erin was a hero of mine early on,” says Smith. “I’ve read all of her books and watched everything about her, so to then see her name on a list of alumni for a school I was already excited to attend was just an amazing moment that cemented my decision to become an Anteater.”

“Teaching in SPPS has allowed me to meet students like Shelby, who I believe have heightened levels of compassion and passion for the ‘public good’ and look for disciplines/ majors, courses and research that will elevate them to the level of change makers and servant leaders,” says Espinoza.

“Shelby pursues tasks, goals and achievement with rigor and vigor. As the song says, ‘Ain’t no stoppin’ us(her) now.’” Through SPPS, Smith also crossed paths with Jeanett Castellanos, another faculty member who would become more than a mentor. As program director, Castellanos meets with each SPPS major early on to discuss the 300hour field work and internship requirement so that students can begin thinking about how they’ll apply classroom knowledge in real world settings for non-profits and community organizations. Smith’s one-hour meeting ended up extending to two and she left with a complete four-year plan for UCI and graduate school thereafter. “As a first-gen student, I didn’t know graduate school was an option,” she says. “Dr. C helped me map out a plan for my future that I didn’t even know was possible.” “When I told my mom about her, she said ‘Don’t leave her side.’ And I didn’t.” Over her four-year career on the UCI campus, Castellanos helped Smith and classmates create a close-knit academic family among students and faculty within the major. “We have such an amazing support group of scholars who care about equity, social justice and policy. Whether we were on campus in person or later on Zoom due to COVID, this academic family helped me persist, even more so when we moved online last year,” Smith says. “Navigating school online, completing bigger projects, and just coping with a new experience – I am so thankful to be part of a continually growing group of people who want to make a difference and who care about each other’s personal growth.” Experiential education With the Freedom Writers internship already under her belt her first year, Smith worked to expand her reach as an undergraduate mentor for her field studies course by getting involved with Upward Bound. The support program works to increase the college acceptance and completion rate of high school students from low-income families and/or students who are the first in their family to go on to a university.

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The degree we receive from the School of Social Sciences is not just a recognition of our studies, but truly a map of all the places we have been.

“Education has been such an important part of my life that’s allowed me to have access to opportunities that I wouldn’t have otherwise had,” says senior Shelby Smith.

Over two years, Smith worked as an academic tutor and advisor with the organization, helping more than 70 students with college applications and core course concepts – information which guided her research paper on helps and hindrances to low-socioeconomic status first-gen Latinx high school students’ college aspirations. She also got involved with the Olive Tree Initiative which took her abroad in 2019 to the Middle East where she connected with international teachers who shared their experiences as educators in a conflict zone. She continued these interviews remotely when she returned to the U.S. to craft her honors thesis on cultural pedagogy in Arab Israeli schools, which she will present at both the International Association for Intercultural Education and UROP conferences this spring, and for which she earned the Social Sciences Outstanding Honors Thesis Paper Prize. She has also been recognized as the school’s Rosten and Schonfeld scholarships recipient for her service on and off campus. “Shelby is a student leader with countless hours of community service and an extensive list of leadership roles underscoring her ability to engage, manage and collaborate,” says Castellanos. “Passionate about making social change, Shelby is a student with personal investment in advocacy and leadership development. Given her performance, it’s clear she is ready to pursue graduate studies at a top university.”

When COVID closures pushed her education and experiences remote, Smith didn’t see a hard stop to any of her activity. She leaned heavily into her academic family for support with late night Zoom sessions and repositioned her plans – which included a Barnes & Noble College Scholarship and Blum Center for Poverty Alleviation: Small Change, Better World grant to enact a project of change – to make an immediate difference in the lives of her Upward Bound students in Anaheim. With program funds, she purchased 10 Chromebooks for her highest need students and distributed $70 in supplies – computer mouses, scientific calculators and more – to all 70 students. “I’ve learned so much from other student leaders on campus who have guided me as a first-gen student, and I am honored to be able to help other students in the same way and go where there’s a need,” she says. Adventures await As her undergraduate experience comes to a close, Smith is excited about her next steps. She'll be attending USC’s master’s in public policy program on a full ride scholarship while continuing to serve communities through applied research on educational access.

“I want to provide a space to bring out marginalized voices in education; these voices should be driving the change,” she says. After her master’s, she hopes to go on to a Ph.D. and become a professor so she can continue applying what she’s learned as an Anteater through her research, mentorship and activism. She’s also extremely honored to get to speak on behalf of – and to – her graduating colleagues. “It’s a privilege to get to address a community that’s stood by me,” she says. “It’s been hard not seeing each other’s faces this past year in person, but our connections have remained strong, proving that our space together is more than a physical place and that our community will live on well past our time on campus.” •



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anteaters on the

FRONTLINE Hope King, ’93 anthropology, is senior epidemiologist at the CDC


ong before she was known as Doctor, Hope King was set on making her way to a career in science. As an Anteater, she split her time between classes in biological sciences and social sciences, eventually graduating with a degree in anthropology. She went on to earn a master’s in public health and Ph.D. in health education and promotion, and her hard work paid off. King now spends her days as a senior epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And as the deadliest pandemic in the past century begins to recede into manageable territory (thanks in large part to vaccination efforts), the significance of her chosen field at this moment in time is not lost on her. In her work in the CDC’s Minority HIV/AIDS Research Initiative, it’s King’s role to build capacity for HIV epidemiologic and prevention research in mostly Black and Hispanic/ Latino communities. The CDC’s 2018 HIV surveillance report revealed that Black/

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African American and Hispanic/Latino persons – who comprise only 31% of the total U.S. population - accounted for 69% of the country’s HIV diagnoses. This statistic is one that King points to in order to highlight the urgent need for HIV intervention in minority communities. “The disproportionate split along racial lines is something that needs to be addressed,” King says. “We need epidemiologic, health services and implementation research in these minority communities to effectively intervene and reduce the rates of new HIV infections. In other words, I’m looking for how we can educate people and provide resources that will help minimize the number of new infections.” While King’s current research isn’t directly related to the pandemic, the parallels of her work to vaccine hesitancy among minority communities cannot be ignored. “When I hear that people at risk of contracting COVID-19 and dying are refusing to get a vaccine, I think about the populations I study, who are HIV positive and at risk of Hepatitis C, for example, but will not get tested even when the test is readily available to them,” she says. “It’s part of my job to use data to find out why that is, and then solve for it.” Hope King is building capacity for HIV epidemiologic and prevention research in mostly Black and Hispanic/Latino communities.

The importance of asking “why” King has long had an affinity for understanding the data behind outcomes, or what she calls the “why” of things - a lesson learned, in part, during her time in the UCI School of Social Sciences. “In anthropology, we looked at how communities thrive, how people behave, what about the culture causes them to think that way,” King says. “It was there that I learned how to not rely on my own individual lived experience, and instead rely on what the community I’m studying thinks. What is the norm there? That’s what ultimately helps us address inequities and that’s the beauty of anthropology.” According to King, one only has to review the social determinants of health to get a general understanding of what’s going on. They include five key areas: access to healthcare and education, economic stability, social and community context, and environment. Those with less education and less economic stability, for example, are more likely to be unhealthy, lack health insurance and therefore resist medical help for financial reasons or because they don’t understand or trust the system, she says. “This is why the Affordable Care Act was so crucial; it provided access.” King says. “I really hope to be able to look back at the data down the line and see how the ACA promoted healthier outcomes in minority and impoverished communities.” What comes next? Now that public health has been thrust into the spotlight, King expects there to be an increased interest in the field from the new crops of students making their way to UCI, as well as up-and-coming ideas for innovation. From a technical standpoint, she expects to see modernization to data collection and dissemination. That is, getting data and information in the hands of people who need it, as quickly as possible. But she also expects (and hopes) to see those with an interest in public health take a broader approach. “Future generations will be blending disciplines much more,” she says. “In the case of public health, we use data to tell us how we can reduce negative health outcomes, reduce risky behaviors and encourage positive behaviors. To do our jobs better, we need a multidisciplinary approach to be able to acquire,

The importance of community and the role it plays in shaping students’ paths is critical.

curate and perform analytics on data faster and ultimately disseminate and communicate the results to others.” King believes part of bringing that economic and cultural understanding into academia is to make room for minority groups in the classroom. As a Summer Bridge Program participant during her time at UCI, she can attest firsthand to the power of programs that help students from minority backgrounds succeed. That’s also the reason she’s involved in the UCI Black Alumni Chapter. As a student, she found community at the Cross-Cultural Center, which served as the hub for minority students. There, she found support, encouragement and most of all, a safe space to decompress from the stress and pressures of college life. “The importance of community and the role it plays in shaping students’ paths is critical,” King says. “CCC programs and activities foundationally shaped my perspective and still inform my work on behalf of the global minority community. If you look at the data of minority students who graduated from UCI, most are making an impact. We need to ensure that diversity is maintained.” Going back to her research, King says that ensuring diversity at the university level is also critical in promoting public health. More educated individuals tend to have better paying jobs with insurance benefits. They’re more likely to seek treatment for illnesses vs. counterparts with less education who may have lower paying jobs, more stress and higher blood pressure. She believes bringing students to UCI from diverse backgrounds is not just critical to the success of the university, but also to the health of the community. “Not to mention, people who graduate from UC Irvine go on to do big things,” she says.” •



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through adversity How senior psychology major Karen Garcia has forged her own path


dversity gives rise to character. For Karen Garcia, a senior majoring in psychology, personal hardships have revealed strength of character in spades. It’s this fortitude that led to her success in college and her on a path to a very bright future serving others. Difficult beginnings Growing up in South Gate just south of Los Angeles, Garcia’s home life was not the nurturing and stable one that many are fortunate to have. At ages 13 and 11, she and her sister were removed from their abusive home and placed in the California foster care system; first separately, then together under the same roof. Though their foster experience was positive, they longed to be reunited with their mother who had also endured years of abuse. Eventually, her custody was restored. But money was tight and the emotional upheaval had taken its toll. Garcia’s grades were suffering and she struggled to find the motivation to do well in school. She pushed through, graduated from high school, then began her studies at Long Beach City College (LBCC). There, she found her footing. Her academic counselor encouraged her to apply to the school’s honors program, to which she was accepted and eventually became a President’s scholar.

A painting by Karen Garcia who’s taken up a hobby in art to help find balance in her hectic work/ school life.

Throughout her educational experience, Garcia found tremendous personal gratification helping her friends and peers navigate emotional challenges and the college system - applying for school, lining up scholarships and securing waivers to take the SAT free of charge. Helping others pushed her to pursue a dgree in psychology.

Motivated by her success at the community college level, Garcia set her sights on completing her bachelor’s degree. When considering her options, Garcia says UC Irvine stood out from the beginning due to the strength of the psychology program and the various programs available on campus. She was offered the prestigious Regents Scholarship, which provides an honorarium for tuition, guaranteed on-campus housing, priority course registration and more. The choice to attend UCI was also made easier by the existence of the Foster Youth Resilience in Education (FYRE) program. FYRE provides support to current and former foster youth at UC Irvine in the form of counseling, peer mentorship, tutoring scholarships, book loans and more. Knowing she would find resources tailored to her needs on campus provided a sense of security and she made the jump. Discovering psychology When she moved on campus in the fall of 2019, Garcia knew she had found a place where she could succeed. She dove into the study of psychology, taking a variety of courses offered in the School of Social Sciences and several in particular taught by Dr. Jacqui Lewis, a lecturer in the Department of Cognitive Sciences, a practicing clinical psychologist, and an advocate for foster youth. The two developed a rapport and found themselves working together to help foster youth on the UCI campus. “Karen is an excellent student and I am so impressed with how much she also gives back to the UCI community,” says Lewis. “Karen has also been quite helpful to me individually



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Karen has overcome various obstacles in her life and continues to break barriers. -Janet Perez-Molina,

FYRE program counselor & coordinator

Peer advising In addition to her work with FYRE and FSA, Garcia is also a peer academic advisor in the social sciences where she mentors and counsels fellow students on degree questions, course registration, major requirements and more. She works with Estela Magaña, who finds Garcia to be a tremendous asset to her team. Karen Garcia works as a peer academic advisor in the social sciences where she mentors and counsels fellow students.

as I mentor foster youth who are ageing out of the system and I refer to students such as Karen as a shining example of how much opportunity these young people have when they strive for academic excellence.” Garcia is committed to mentoring youth who share her background, and is crafting an educational experience which will lead her to a fulfilling career helping fellow foster youth. Both academically and socially, Dr. Lewis sees nothing but bright possibilities for Garcia. “I have absolutely no doubt that Karen will take her psychology background and her natural leadership abilities quite far and I expect to see great things from her going forward,” she says. Supporting youth in foster care Having been on the receiving end of FYRE’s beneficial programs, Garcia wanted to give back to the UCI community that had

welcomed her and made her transition to college life manageable. She began volunteering with Foster Student Ambassadors (FSA), which is an outgrowth of the FYRE program. FSA is designed to raise awareness and support for youth from the foster care system who are pursuing higher education. Garcia became a peer mentor in the program, and is happy to be giving back to a program that has given her so much. Janet Perez-Molina, counselor and program coordinator for FYRE student parent and families, is a board member of FSA and has worked closely with Garcia. Perez-Molina shares Dr. Lewis’ sentiment on Garcia’s positive attributes. “She’s warm, kind, humble, and so resilient. She’s a gentle powerhouse,” she says. “Karen has overcome various obstacles in her life and continues to break barriers. These experiences have shaped her passion to help others.”

“I know she’ll do great things once she graduates and I’m happy that she’s working in our office this year, since I’m excited to see what else she is able to accomplish,” says Magaña. “Our PAAs had a much tougher task this year, than any years past, since their training and job is all virtually remote and I’m impressed with how Karen has been able to handle being an undergraduate, as well as working during a global pandemic.” Garcia hopes to take her experiences as a PAA and build on them to create a successful career in academic counseling. Finding balance Managing the challenges of being a transfer student, as well as balancing school and work can be difficult, so Garcia developed coping skills to help alleviate stress and provide a creative outlet. She began painting, and is drawn to abstract art with bold, powerful colors. A huge Disney fan, she’s drawn inspiration from a line in Mulan: “The flower that blooms in adversity is the most rare and beautiful of all.” At UC Irvine, Garcia has most definitely blossomed, and plans to help others do the same. •

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Are granny flats a solution for California’s affordable housing shortage? Study by UCI economics grad student Sarah Thomaz looks at potential and pitfalls of affordable dwelling units in Los Angeles County To better understand housing and location factors that contribute to homeowners’ decisions to construct the small residential dwellings, Thomaz compared tax parcel level data from the Los Angeles Office of the Tax Assessor with Census and LA Department of Building and Safety ADU application data. She found that ADUs tend to be built in middle income neighborhoods with homes on lots with higher than average land values. Access to public transportation and proximity to colleges and business areas offering multiple employment options also drives construction, she adds.

UCI economics Ph.D. student Sarah Thomaz finds that accessory dwelling units – small “granny flats” or “in-law suites” built on the same lot as a larger home – may offer an affordable housing solution while increasing a property’s value in certain residential zip codes. Scan to read the study.


alifornia’s decades-long housing shortage has driven up property values to more than twice the national average, pushing traditional homeownership out of reach for many in the country’s most populous state. A new study by UCI economics Ph.D. student Sarah Thomaz finds that accessory dwelling units – small “granny flats” or “inlaw suites” built on the same lot as a larger home – may offer an affordable housing solution while increasing a property’s value in certain residential zip codes. “My research shows ADUs are most popular with homeowners in middle-income neighborhoods located near universities, commercial zones and public transportation,” she says. In addition, construction of the small residential dwellings has been shown to boost a property’s value by an average of 50 percent.

However, she cautions that further research is needed to evaluate possible pitfalls of their construction – including their role in widening the homeownership gap by driving property values up, and their potential to negatively impact nearby home prices by increasing population density per parcel, and their effect on neighborhood demographics. “Up until 2016, getting approval for an ADU proved difficult,” she says. “Laws passed that year set in place a formal application and approval process with a strict timeline for decisions to be made and guidelines to be followed.” In Los Angeles County, construction of ADUs spiked the subsequent year, from 117 permits issued in 2016 to 2,315 in 2017, and nearly doubled in 2018 with 4,140 permits issued.

“The location of ADUs currently constructed in LA County seems to be indicative of a market for people who are looking for low cost affordable housing,” says Thomaz. She plans to pursue further research on what these structures and their construction density could mean for adjacent property values and changing neighborhood demographics. The study is available online with the UCI Department of Economics Working Series papers. • Sarah Thomaz.



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the american dream in irvine How Emily Ha, business economics and public health policy major, is crafting her own version

With many of her Anteater peers also first-generation college students, Emily Ha found camaraderie and support navigating college life at UCI.

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he American dream means different things to different people, but a constant theme for many is opportunity. This is particularly true for Emily Ha, a senior business economics and public health policy major, who’s capitalized on every opportunity that’s come her way. First-generation support Ha’s parents, Vu and Thanh, provided for their family as an auto mechanic and laboratory worker, respectively. They didn’t have the chance to go to college, but they believed that higher education was the path to a bright future for their two children. “My parents saw it as the key to unlock a lot of opportunities: higher education is what is needed to pursue a dream career,” Ha says. While a student at Sage Creek High School in Carlsbad, she involved herself in many extracurricular activities, a positive experience which sparked an interest for her to do the same in college. When weighing her options, Ha sought an environment where she could immerse herself in the community and design her own experience. When she visited UC Irvine, Ha found the campus to be vibrant and felt “welcomed and valued.” “UCI is one of the best schools for the American dream,” she says. “I came to this school knowing that there were a lot of resources on campus for first-generation college students like me, and I knew that I would be supported throughout the experience by faculty and staff.” With many of her Anteater peers also firstgeneration college students, Ha found camaraderie and support navigating college life. One of her biggest supporters was her resident advisor, Julie Clauss, who quickly became a friend and mentor. “Emily has an exceptional drive to pursue new challenges,” says Clauss. “Since her first day at UCI, Emily has been an excellent role model for her peers, and she will be a leader among leaders wherever she goes.” Saying “yes” One of the reasons for Ha’s collegiate success has been the many campus activities in which she has involved herself. Ha made a pledge as a first-year student to “say yes to as many opportunities as were presented to me, even if it scared me.”

I came to this school knowing that there were a lot of resources on campus for first-generation college students like me, and I knew that I would be supported throughout the experience by faculty and staff.

This mindset has led to a rich and diverse college experience, which includes work with the Anteater Ambassadors Network, the English Conversation Project and the Beginnings of Activism for the Department of Asian American Studies (B.A.D.A.A.S.). She turned her experience in the latter into a formal research project – “Symbolic Interactionism: Perception of Wealth Inequality in Singapore” – with faculty advisor and mentor Judy Wu, director of the UCI Humanities Center and professor of Asian American studies. “Emily is clearly both an intellectual and community leader,” says Wu. “She was eager to seek out unique learning opportunities and invested in using her educational training for the betterment of the community around us.” Ha does so on the UCI campus through the Dean’s Ambassadors Council where she helps to bridge the gap between faculty and students through (now virtual) events such as career panels, debates and open forums between faculty, staff and students. She also chartered the UCI chapter of the Prison Education Project (PEP) under the guidance of Long Bui, associate professor of global and international studies. Through PEP, UCI students teach classes (now virtually) on career development and interpersonal skills at 17 California and four international correctional facilities. She’s particularly interested in the impact this program and others like it can have on reducing repeat incarcerations. “Education is a really creative solution to the increasing rates of recidivism in our criminal justice system,” she says. Bui celebrates not only the success of the program, but also champions its student leader. “Emily is a powerhouse who can do

anything!” he says. “She is committed to the school, community and restorative justice.” Study abroad in Singapore Saying “yes” was also easy when Ha was presented the chance to study abroad in the fall of 2019. Wanting an academically rigorous program, she chose the National University of Singapore. There, she immersed herself not only in her general studies, but also in learning more about the local healthcare system. Singapore boasts low infant mortality rates, long life expectancy and low overall healthcare costs for patients, and Ha wanted to know why. While researching the healthcare system, she discovered that the partnership of government-run healthcare and personal financial contributions to health insurance produces lower overall healthcare costs and better patient outcomes. Her experience in Singapore, coupled with the current global pandemic, fueled her interest in pursuing healthcare policy and transformation as a career. She has her sights set on the U.S. which she says spends the most globally on healthcare but underperforms in care and outcomes. “I want to pursue a career where I can change that inefficiency and be able to help individuals get the healthcare that they need,” she says. The next steps After graduating in June, Ha will take a gap year before working on her master’s degree. She’s applied to both the Fulbright English teaching assistantship in Vietnam and Peace Corps health education programs with the endorsement of UCI faculty and staff. Wherever she lands, she is sure to bring the enthusiasm, optimism and dedication she’s exhibited in her time on campus. For Ha, no doubt the American dream is well on its way to becoming reality. •



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Joining forces to forge


UCI School of Social Sciences and Center for Educational Partnership are collaborating to increase educational access for first-generation students


s a top-10 public university and first in-class tier one research institute, UC Irvine is committed to being an engine for social mobility. Perhaps nowhere is this more evident than in the annual make-up of its graduating class: More than half of the students who earn bachelor’s degrees are the first in their family to go to college. “In order to build robust educational pathways, schools must recognize the importance and impact of outreach,” says Jeanett Castellanos, social sciences associate dean of undergraduate studies. “Early partnerships are critical for student access, efficacy and success.” The first in her family to graduate high school, she’s intimately familiar with the struggles first-generation students face navigating a complex higher education system. That’s why she’s leading the Associate Deans for Access Initiative, a collaborative effort with the Center for Educational Partnerships (CFEP) through the Early Academic Outreach Program (EAOP) to engage directly with firstgen students at local high schools in Orange and Los Angeles counties. CFEP and EAOP forge relationships with school sites and districts to demystify the college application and four-year education process. The new initiative builds on these partnerships by fostering internal and external dialogue that highlights UCI student voices and experiences. The vision, says Castellanos, is to eventually involve all UCI associate deans of undergraduate studies to engage the partnership by cultivating early contact and ties for high school students.

“As we aim to have first-generation students see themselves as Anteaters, the direct contact with our schools and its majors offers another platform of access and support,” she says. “We’re heavily focused on connecting with first-generation underrepresented students – those who identify as Black, Latinx, Southeast Asian and others – to break down barriers hindering college admissions.” The outreach leverages established relationships with local high school counselors who work closely with first-gen students. Social sciences, which enrolls the largest number of undergraduate students on campus and administers the First-Generation, First Quarter initiative on campus, is working as the lead school on the effort. Their first panel discussion, held in early November via Zoom and assisted by the Social Sciences Academic Resource Center, had more than 80 high school students in attendance. Castellanos kicked off the meeting with a quick introduction of UCI, the UC system and her own experience as a first-gen student on campus, and then turned the floor over to three social sciences undergrads who shared their UCI stories. “If a student identifies as low-income, firstgeneration, or as a person of color, events like these can encourage them to attain a post-secondary education,” says Emily Ramon who talked about her UCI experience as a first-gen transfer student majoring in sociology and Chicano/Latino studies. “Notably, the narratives and advice came from current

undergraduate students, which may create a stronger connection and impact among students. These events could help narrow the educational gap by creating more cultural and social capital for this community.” Ashley Cheri, director of EAOP at UCI, agrees. “This collaboration could not have come at a better time as it speaks to the needs of not just our students but our program's ability to appropriately prepare students for college. Often times, students don’t know about major choice till they are seniors applying for college. This collaboration addressed a gap in our outreach and education to high school students by providing a UCI student panel as the mechanism to educating and sharing information. What a great way for our firstgen high school students to see themselves at UCI, as future Anteaters. The stories connected, the students connected and together we accomplished our goal. I look forward to future collaborations as this is just the beginning to the opportunities ahead!” The initiative – which hosted additional virtual sessions in winter and spring quarters – looks forward to further collaboration with associate deans across campus. “Great outcomes transpire when a collective works toward preparing our younger generations to learn an unfamiliar system that can be intimidating if not demystified,” says Castellanos. •

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Great outcomes transpire when a collective works toward preparing our younger generations to learn an unfamiliar system that can be intimidating if not demystified. -Jeanett Castellanos

Associate Dean, Social Sciences Undergraduate Studies



be bold

Manahuu (Hello) to a bright future UCI senior Brad Greene greets opportunity with optimism, perseverance and a nod to his Native academic American heritage

Brad Greene in the Alabama Hills (Sierra Nevada range) near his hometown of Lone Pine.

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be bold


enior Brad Greene has spent much of his life standing out. At 6’11”, he’s decidedly difficult to miss. Then there’s that (considerable) talent he has in basketball, which he’s put in play as an Anteater for four seasons. He’s got tattoos, the inspiration for which he will happily share. But perhaps how Greene stands out the most is via his role in elevating the college experience for fellow Native American students. As he gets ready to graduate in June with a double major in sociology and education, a specialization in children’s learning and development and a minor in anthropology, Greene took time to share how he says manahuu (“hello” in Paiute) to each opportunity that comes his way. High-desert roots As a member of the Lone Pine Paiute-Shoshone Tribe, Greene grew up in Lone Pine, California. His town, nestled between Mount Whitney and Death Valley National Park, is a small, tightly-knit community where generations of families often live within walking distance of each other. This was the case for Greene, who grew up next door to his grandparents and down the street from his cousins. His mother, Marjianne, raised Greene and his three brothers amongst family and other members of their tribe. His voice emanates with pride when he talks about his upbringing, but he acknowledges that growing up in a small, geographically isolated community had its drawbacks - specifically when it came to finding college role models for young people to emulate. “College was never really an idea for me,” Greene says. “Coming from the town I came from, I didn’t know a lot of people who went to college.” As he grew older, he also grew taller. Greene began to realize that given his size, he possessed a unique opportunity to excel in athletics. He played multiple sports, but his basketball talents quickly set him apart. As a high school student, Greene participated in the Native American Basketball Invitational, an annual event which provides competition, scholarship programs and recruiting exposure for Native American athletes. There, Greene found his footing and developed confidence in his game. As a sophomore, he was getting recruited and realized that playing ball in college was a tangible goal.

When weighing his college options, Greene knew the criteria he was looking for in his campus home: an excellent basketball program with a solid scholarship package, an outstanding academic environment and a welcoming, diverse campus community. When he toured UC Irvine, Greene recalls that he immediately felt comfortable and was drawn to the beauty of the campus as well as the surrounding area. “I just liked how the campus felt as a whole,” says Greene. “The beauty of Irvine and being that close to the beach - coming from the desert - that was a plus.” Soon after his visit, Greene became an Anteater. A voice to be heard As a freshman, it was his Introduction to Sociology class that piqued an interest he would ultimately decide to pursue: race and ethnic studies. Throughout his studies, his sociology courses have helped him develop his own framework for understanding how racism is experienced differently by varying ethnic groups. Particularly, he’s discovered that in academia, the Native American voice in conversations on race is often absent, misunderstood or marginalized. This under-representation is reflective of many issues, including the dearth of Native American students in higher education, the inadequacy of published research and the lack of coursework centric to the Native American experience. Greene sees this lack of awareness as an academic gap that desperately needs filled. “As a Native American student, there’s a lot that people don’t understand about us,” he says. “The racism that we face is never really considered.” Greene would like to be a part of the solution. He sees himself as being in a unique situation to positively influence Native American youth to pursue higher education. “There are not a lot of Native Americans in college because they don’t want to go somewhere they’re out of place or somewhere they’re not familiar with,” he says. By serving as an example to his younger peers, Greene hopes to mitigate some of the fear that young tribal members face when considering college, sometimes as the first in their family to do so. As a guest speaker at NABI, Greene shows his younger peers that there is a place for them in higher education.

Greene would also like to see programs on college campuses to help increase graduation rates for Native American students. Though there are programs to encourage enrollment in higher education among Native Americans, “there is never really that true understanding of what it takes to last in college,” says Greene. He also wants to play a role in elevating the profile of Native Americans in race-related conversations, whether academically, socially or in the media. Highlighting the importance of leadership from within his community, and the need to develop meaningful conversations that are specific to Native American experiences, Greene wants to help his community develop “a voice to speak for ourselves, rather than being spoken for by parties who don’t know what is going on with us.” Greene has many people in his corner, including Alexis McDonald, UCI assistant athletic director of academic & student services. McDonald has worked with Greene since his arrival on campus, and has been a source of counsel in academics, athletics and emotional support. “She was always that voice and person I could lean on through the whole experience here. She always had that idea that I was going to be able to succeed in whatever I chose,” says Greene of his mentor.

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I feel like any opportunity is a great opportunity. His high expectations of Greene don’t end with basketball. When asked about his thoughts on Greene’s future, Turner points to Greene’s desire to be either a teacher or a coach. “I expect he’ll be a demanding version of one of those things - who really pushes to get a lot out of others the way he’s gotten a lot out of himself.”

Senior Anteater basketball player Brad Greene is a standout both on and off the court.

The respect is mutual, says McDonald. “His dedication to personal growth, athletically and academically, was one that impressed me regularly. In the midst of any obstacle he found the positive and kept himself moving forward,” she says. “My hope for Brad is that he continues to keep his heart big but his dreams bigger and I know he will succeed in all that he puts his mind toward.”

Captain of the court Though his personal and academic accomplishments are impressive, it’s impossible to write about Brad Greene without talking about basketball. In the 2020-21 season, Greene racked up 44 blocks, started in all 24 games, and ranked third in rebounds. In March, he was named the Big West Best Defensive Player, which is the seventh time in nine years an Anteater has won this award.

Greene with his mentor Alexis McDonald.

One certainly doesn’t have to look far to find fans of Greene’s, but perhaps at the front of the line would be longtime men’s basketball coach, Russ Turner who calls Greene “one of his all-time favorite Anteaters.” Turner was quick to outline Greene’s accomplishments in the basketball program with pride, but when asked about the player on a personal level, Turner conveyed a level of respect that clearly goes beyond the paint. “The captain amongst the players is the tonesetter. Brad earned the opportunity to be elected to that job by his teammates,” says Turner. “In the most difficult year we’ve ever had in college basketball, to maintain positivity on the team, to generate energy each day, when there were more distractions this year than any other time... he had probably the hardest job a captain has ever had, and he attacked it with outstanding vigor,” Turner says.

A future in leadership Greene honors his experiences and heritage with a collection of tattoos emblazoned on his arms. He says these tattoos represent “who I am and where I come from,” including mountains for where he grew up, flowers for his grandmother and his mother’s name, in appreciation of “who she is and what she’s meant in my life.” Greene laughs when he recalls how, before he got his first tattoo, his mom told him that his inaugural ink had to say “mom” or have her name on it. Nicely done, Marjianne. Looking forward, Greene wants to play basketball “as long as possible.” He hopes to play professionally, whether in the U.S. or abroad. He’s currently pursuing his professional options and has his sights set on playing ball for the foreseeable future. Greene’s plans after basketball include possibly coaching or teaching, while staying connected to and continuing to serve his Native American community. He hopes that the path he’s forged will make it easier for those following in his footsteps to find success in college, and that those successes will collectively elevate the Native American voice on a national level. Regardless of where he ends up, Greene is ready to embrace his next chapter with enthusiasm and optimism - a framework through which he seems to view all aspects of life. “I feel like any opportunity is a great opportunity. Making the most of whatever you’re given - just being happy wherever you’re at, whatever you’re doing - I believe in making the most out of everything.” •



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unlocking mysteries of the


Research by first-gen doctoral student Christian Navarro-Torres is shedding light on the unseen cognitive functions that bilinguals utilize.

Prestigious grants fuel language science graduate student Christian Navarro-Torres’ research


hristian Navarro-Torres grew up in Puerto Rico speaking Spanish yet immersed in English-language pop culture through movies and TV shows. During his first visit to the mainland U.S., around age five, he found himself surrounded by predominantly English speakers for the first time and, much to his own surprise, he was able to automatically reply to them in English.

As a first-generation doctoral student in language science at UCI’s School of Social Sciences, Navarro-Torres’ research on bilingualism and the brain promises to shed light on the unseen cognitive functions that bilinguals utilize. Recently, his work has earned him two prestigious grants: a National Science Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Research Award and a National Institutes of Health National Research Service Award.

Although shifting fluidly between languages occurs subconsciously for bilinguals, the cognitive processes that make it possible are complex and not well understood.

“Christian’s life experience as a bilingual speaker brings him to the topic of his research with special insight,” says his advisor, Judith Kroll, Distinguished Professor of language science at UCI. “It is not only his experience growing up as a bilingual speaker of Spanish and English, but also as an individual who has lived in many different

“Bilingualism actually changes the way you use your cognitive abilities to navigate your day-to-day life,” explains Navarro-Torres.

places and has navigated different linguistic and cultural environments. All of that experience informs his research.” “It changed the course of my life” Though his interest in cognitive and brain science began when he was an undergraduate student at the University of Puerto Rico, he opted to pursue a degree in philosophy, building a strong foundation in creative and critical thinking. His first round of graduate school applications were rejected. But, undeterred, he stayed at the university working as an assistant in a lab to gain research experience.

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Then, a diversity supplement grant from NIH enabled him to go to the University of Connecticut as a research assistant for a longitudinal NIH study exploring language outcomes for children who are autistic. “It changed the course of my life,” says Navarro-Torres. “That research experience gave me the opportunity to better understand the field, the relevant questions, and the kind of exciting research that was being done.” During two and a half years in New England, Navarro-Torres visited families raising autistic children, monitoring their language development. What intrigued him most were the children in dual-language families. He noticed that some children whose parents spoke frequently in their most fluent language developed English language skills much faster than children whose parents had been discouraged from speaking the native tongue - fearing it would hinder their English language development. This experience inspired him to pursue graduate school again, with a focus on linguistics and cognitive science. Although he once again faced rejection from most of the schools he applied to, his insightful questions during a panel interview caught the attention of one of the faculty members, Kroll. She invited him to come work as the laboratory manager in the Center for Language Science at the Pennsylvania State University, and then apply to Penn State again after a year. So he did, earning his master’s in cognitive psychology and landing a prestigious NSF Graduate Research Fellowship to support his work. Twice during his time at Penn State, he won NSF Partnerships for International Research and Education (PIRE) grants to conduct psycholinguistic research in Germany. In 2016, Kroll moved to California - first to UC Riverside and, ultimately, to UCI, where she helped launch the doctoral program in the Department of Language Science in the School of Social Sciences. Navarro-Torres transferred his studies, as well. “It would be exceptional to have experience in two doctoral programs, but to have moved into a third doctoral program is quite extraordinary,” notes Kroll. “Christian has done this with grace and openness to the new experiences that each move afforded. He has also gained experience in what it is like to arrive in a new program and set up a laboratory from scratch, something that he will face himself at some point in the near future.”

A new paradigm Among the many facets of bilingualism that interest Navarro-Torres is how the brain activates differently among various types of bilingual speakers - for example, heritage speakers such as Americans who grew up speaking Spanish at home but English in the outside world, or native Spanish speakers who acquired English as a second language for school or work, or those like him who grew up immersed in two languages in and out of the home. When bilinguals attempt to speak a word, their brains automatically activate both languages at the same time. Researchers believe that bilinguals’ brains overcome this challenge by actively suppressing the irrelevant language. Though, again, exactly how this happens may depend on the bilingual person’s language experience and environment, according to one of his recent published papers in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition. “There’s parallel activation that bilinguals have to juggle, and we see unique activity in measures of brain response when they are trying to select one of the languages,” says Navarro-Torres. “The idea, roughly, is that bilinguals are engaging some brain regions to a greater extent than monolinguals, and that this has consequences for areas of the brain not specific to language.” According to Navarro-Torres, most studies have mainly focused on examining how bilingualism impacts general cognitive abilities. But since bilingualism is ultimately about language experience, it is equally important to ask how bilinguals engage these general cognitive abilities as they prepare to use one of their languages. “I’m working on a paradigm that allows us to answer the question: What’s the relationship between cognitive abilities and language abilities in proficient bilinguals?” he adds. Navarro-Torres’ NSF and NIH-funded dissertation research attempts to further untangle the complicated interconnection of cognitive abilities and language abilities that are unique to bilinguals. Specifically, he’s interested in testing the language regulation hypothesis, which posits that bilinguals acquire the ability to regulate the activation of the native, or more dominant, language. According to Navarro-Torres, this regulatory ability engages a host of linguistic and non-linguistic abilities, and together they enable bilinguals to develop high proficiency in each of their languages.

Research constantly challenges current theories about our brain and language, linguistics and cognitive brain functioning. There’s something humbling about that.

Navarro-Torres originally planned to test bilinguals in a lab setting, both in Spain and here in Southern California, and have them complete a series of linguistic and cognitive tasks using electrophysiological (EEG) and eye-movement measures. However, those plans were impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, Navarro-Torres is using online behavioral experiments to explore the same topics until it’s possible to return to the laboratory. Assisting in this online research is UCI psychology major Dayra Perez Bernal, who also won an NSF PIRE grant — the same kind of grant Navarro-Torres earned earlier in his academic career — to work on the project. “Christian has been an outstanding mentor to others in the lab. He is generous with others, open to sharing expertise with them, but also eager to learn from them,” says Kroll. “In all, he is a talented young language scientist who is poised to make significant contributions to the science and to the quality of the community in which he lives and works.” Navarro-Torres continues to be driven to pursue language science by the same questions that fascinated him when he first met Kroll. And with each new answer come more intriguing questions about language and the brain. “Research constantly challenges current theories about our brain and language, linguistics and cognitive brain functioning. There’s something humbling about that,” says Navarro-Torres. “Ultimately, I hope to be at the forefront of new discoveries, and throughout my career as a researcher, to inspire people to think about new ideas in creative ways.” •



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life in the

FAST LANE UCI alumnus Ken Marlin ’79 reflects on his fast track from the Marines to UCI to Wall Street

As a founding member of the Dean’s Leadership Society, Ken Marlin has helped cement the presence of the UCI School of Social Sciences in New York City.


en Marlin ’79 drives in the fast lane, but he doesn’t always take a welltraveled highway. He leads a highly respected tech investment bank in New York City, without ever having worked as an analyst at a brand-name global bank. He races cars and rides motorcycles while finding quiet time to write and publish a book. His trailblazing tendencies include being a founding member of the School of Social Sciences Deans Leadership Society. Marlin came of age in Arizona at the height of the Vietnam War and, much to his parents’ chagrin, he voluntarily joined the Marines after finishing just one year of college. Over the course of the following decade, Marlin would rise from enlisted ranks to

become an infantry company commander, battalion staff officer, and a staff officer for the commanding general of the 1st Marine Division. Marlin’s affiliation with UCI started while he was stationed at Southern California’s Marine Corps base Camp Pendleton between deployments to Asia. At that time, the Irvine campus was just a few buildings encircling a tree-filled park. Marlin would zip to classes on his motorcycle. “It was an interesting time at UCI because the school itself was evolving. The School of Social Sciences was an eclectic mix of interesting people,” he says. “It was a great community for me.”

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It’s incredible how much UCI has grown and changed, but my hope is that it’s still that kind of individualistic, influential place for young people today that it was for me. When he finished his bachelor’s degree in political science, Marlin went to UCLA for his MBA; UCI didn’t offer the degree at that time. He then returned to the Marines for three years before heading for the Manhattan skyline. Life on Wall Street Marlin’s first civilian job came as a member of the strategic planning and merger and acquisition group at Dun & Bradstreet at a time when the firm operated as a holding company for some of the world’s best-known information companies – names like AC Nielsen, Cognizant, the Gartner Group and, of course, the eponymous Dun & Bradstreet. At first, Marlin did not see how the skills he learned in the Marines, like loading weapons and planning attacks, would serve him in business. But he soon found that many guiding principles of the Marines could steer him to success – and protect him from pitfalls. In the mid-1980s, Marlin was tasked with divesting three Dun & Bradstreet owned companies from South Africa as a result of the country’s official policy of systematic segregation and discrimination on the basis of race called apartheid. One of Marlin’s colleagues noticed something unusual about his approach. Marlin planned backwards – starting from the date the divestment needed to be completed and working back to establish milestones and deadlines. It was a principle he learned in the Marine Corps. The colleague suggested he write a book about applying Marine Corps principles to business. He liked the idea – and it remained on his mind for years. Marlin left Dun & Bradstreet to become CEO of Telekurs NA, a business-to-business financial technology company owned by a consortium of Swiss banks. Three years later, Marlin acquired a significant portion

of the firm – with the help of investors. He renamed it Telesphere. Clients included financial giants Goldman Sachs, Fidelity and Charles Schwab. Several years later Marlin and his partners sold the firm to a large competitor. The deal tripled his investors’ money, and firmly established Marlin as a player in the fintech space. “Marines have confidence to act independently and take prudent risks,” says Marlin. “As an entrepreneur, you have to be a bit of a risk taker, too, especially in situations where you can manage the risks and limit the downside.” After Telesphere, Marlin spent a few years at a merchant bank and private equity firm where he learned skills for which he later found a very good use. In 2002, Marlin once again took a calculated risk when he started Marlin and Associates Securities LLC, an international investment bank that advises buyers and sellers of firms that provide fintech, data and analytics. Finally, he found time to write that book. Marlin’s The Marine Corps Way to Win on Wall Street: 11 Key Principles from Battlefield to Boardroom (St. Martin’s Press, 2016) enumerates techniques that he learned on the battlefield and has since helped him become one of the country’s most respected leaders in technology investment banking. The book’s 11 key insights apply to all aspects of business, not only to Wall Street, and he sprinkles in stories from military action and business cases to illustrate his points. The book spans topics from character, such as “take a stand,” to strategic planning like “control the timing.” It received glowing reviews and set him off on a whirlwind book tour that included being featured in Forbes and on Fox Business and speaking engagements at UCI and UCLA. “Ken Marlin, a rare Marine-turned-investment-banker, shows how financial professionals can learn from the values of the highly regarded Marines to earn back the respect Wall Street needs from Main Street,” wrote L. Gordon Crovitz, former publisher of the Wall Street Journal. Keeping pace Plenty has changed in Marlin’s life – and at UCI – in the decades since he was a student.

One thing that hasn’t: his love for speed. Marlin still has a motorcycle – but he spends more time racing historic sports cars, including a Ferrari “Challenge” car that he’s driven to season championships three times with Challenge Club Racing and a 1954 Jaguar that he's taken across Italy for the 1,000mile “Mille Miglia” race, not once but twice – and would have again in 2020, but for the pandemic. Marlin is now firmly rooted with both family and business on the East Coast, but he remains invested in his alma mater. “The first time I met Ken was in his office in midtown Manhattan,” says Bill Maurer, UCI social sciences dean. “Here I was, a brand new dean, meeting one of our most highly accomplished alums. His brusque, no-nonsense style was intimidating – but then he asked one of his employees to bring in some popcorn, and the spell was broken. I have since come to love his dry sense of humor. His life story is so inspiring, and I am personally grateful for all of his support of social sciences.” As a founding member of the Dean’s Leadership Society, Marlin has helped cement social science’s presence in New York City, hosting a small gathering of alumni at his home in Manhattan, while also returning for visits to his old stomping grounds in Irvine. “UCI was very welcoming, very accommodating to me when I was a student,” says Marlin. “It’s incredible how much it’s grown and changed, but my hope is that it’s still that kind of individualistic, influential place for young people today that it was for me.” •



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Pam Kessler at her UCI graduation, 1988.

get out of your


Real estate business leader and DLS Executive Committee member Pam Kessler ’88 offers advice to current Anteaters


am Kessler ’88 only expected to stay at UCI for one year, and then transfer. After graduating from high school in San Diego, she was diverted from her preferred UC campus to the system’s newest location in Southern California. Three decades later, Kessler is the co-president and chief financial officer of a $2 billion publicly traded company and serves on the UCI School of Social Sciences’ Dean’s Leadership Society Executive Committee where she gives back to the university that – unexpectedly – became her alma mater and helped transform her into a leader. “UCI is where I blossomed. I came in as a very shy, introverted student, and I jumped in with both feet and got involved, and it just snowballed from there,” Kessler says.

“One opportunity led to another and another. And that’s how life is, even after you graduate.” Fun at the Backlot Part of what kept Kessler at UCI was the social life she built for herself in her first months on campus. Greek life was booming at the time, and Kessler’s roommate brought her along to learn more about a new sorority being established on campus, with members from USC and UCLA recruiting founding members for the Irvine chapter. Kessler ended up becoming a founding member of UCI’s chapter of Kappa Alpha Theta, which she says was her first taste of leadership. Kessler had so much fun her freshman year that she never left. She got more involved and took on additional leadership roles at UCI.

She became a Panhellenic delegate, a vice president, and ultimately president of her sorority. She was also involved with student government, planning the Homecoming dance her first year, then becoming an assistant vice president, and eventually, vice president of student services. “I had to campaign and engage in public speaking, which was way out of my comfort zone,” Kessler remembers. But she pushed herself to run for elected student government office anyway, and she recalls her campaign slogan, which defines the spirit of the campus in the ’80s: “Fun and free beer in the Backlot.” The Backlot, a restaurant with a patio beer garden where students would gather after class, was the focal point of campus social life.

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In addition to Wayzgoose, Oktoberfest and the first annual Reggaefest, other highlights of Kessler’s tenure as vice president of student services include promoting concerts at the newly built Bren Events Center, which hosted performances including R.E.M., Red Hot Chili Peppers and comedian Jay Leno. Kessler also actively lobbied along with fellow student government vice presidents to establish an Anteater football team, though that never came to fruition. Unexpected opportunity UCI wasn’t just about social life for Kessler. She found her academic passion in economics courses and also interned with a brokerage firm and later a real estate company where she fell in love with the real estate industry. As her graduation approached, Kessler booked a full schedule of on-campus interviews with potential employers. But that didn't go as planned, either. While nursing a bruised ego from a bank’s personality test that she “failed,” she got a call from the Ernst & Young recruiter: Kessler’s interview had been booked in error, and they were only hiring graduate students. But they would let her do a practice interview. Kessler seriously considered blowing it off to go hang out with friends at the Backlot. “But a little voice inside said, ‘go and get out of your comfort zone,’” she says. Pam Kessler, 2021.

The practice interview went so well that E&Y told her that if she completed all the accounting classes required to take the CPA exam, then she could have a job the following year. “Once again, opportunities don’t always present themselves as you envision. You’ve got to get out of your comfort zone,” she says. “If I had not agreed to that interview, I don’t know where my career would be.” A home in real estate Kessler spent nearly four years at E&Y before leaving to work for a client, KB Home, where she met her husband, Steve. Although she enjoyed the fast-paced exciting environment of homebuilding, Kessler left KB Home when the opportunity arose to join the Irvine Company’s newly formed publicly traded real estate investment trust (REIT), Irvine Apartment Communities, where she served as operations controller and director of financial reporting. A REIT, similar to a mutual fund, allows investors to pool their money to own various types of real estate or property, and earn dividends. When she and her husband moved to Ventura County, where they had two children, Rindi and Cole, Kessler worked for a private real estate developer. Eventually, an old connection – a colleague from her CPA exam study group – called her about an opening at LTC Properties, a publicly traded company headquartered in Westlake Village, California. Although she was not really interested in leaving her current position, Kessler went to the interview, and was immediately impressed by the people, and the company’s corporate culture. LTC is a health care REIT that invests in seniors housing and health care real estate. While publicly traded companies require added pressure of more stringent reporting deadlines and requirements, Kessler relishes those professional and intellectual challenges. She advanced from vice president and controller to co-president and chief financial officer of LTC. Her professional expertise has made her a sought-after corporate board member, as well. She serves on the boards of Physicians Realty Trust, another publicly traded health care REIT, and Providence Cedars-Sinai Tarzana Medical Center Foundation. Anteater advice “The advice I would pass along is that the times I’ve learned the most and expanded the most were when I was making myself

I think it’s important to remember the doors that were opened for us throughout our career, and to pay it forward. Turn around and open doors for others. uncomfortable, pushing myself beyond what I thought I could achieve,” Kessler says. Beginning, of course, as a shy college student and growing into a UCI student leader. Kessler urges current students to make the most of their time on campus by getting involved. “Use this time in your life on campus because it will never be replicated,” Kessler says. “Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. Get involved and try new things! If you’re feeling comfortable, you’re not doing it right.” Years after moving out of Orange County, Kessler is thrilled to be reconnected with her alma mater, especially as a member of the School of Social Sciences’ Dean’s Leadership Society. What’s more, the rise in virtual Zoom events — from coffee chats with the dean to UCI Homecoming — have made it even easier for her to participate from home in Ventura County. Because Kessler fully appreciates the unexpected outcomes in her life and career that came from embracing new opportunities, even when they were outside of her comfort zone, she now makes a point to offer up opportunities whenever possible, from recent college graduates to mid-career professionals who seek her out. “I derive a great deal of joy and fulfillment helping and mentoring younger professionals at various stages of their careers,” says Kessler. “I think it’s important to remember the doors that were opened for us throughout our career, and to pay it forward. Turn around and open doors for others,” she adds. “I’ve been trying to open as many doors for people as I can, whether that’s a conversation or an introduction to someone. You never know where that may lead.” •



be bold


gor Bobic ’10 arrived at work on Capitol Hill January 6, prepared for a long but perfunctory day at work, reporting on Congress certifying the presidential election. Within hours, he found himself at the epicenter of an historic insurrection – which he caught on tape. You may not recognize Bobic’s name, but you almost certainly have seen the footage he captured on his cell phone just outside the Senate chamber that day. The 85 seconds of intense interaction between a lone Black police officer and a crowd of angry trespassers has been viewed well over 10 million times and included in scores of news reports. The officer in the video, Eugene Goodman, has been hailed as a hero, but some, too, have called Bobic’s coverage that day heroic. Appreciative strangers now send him gift cards and encouraging messages.

Igor Bobic '10 was recently promoted to senior politics reporter for Huffington Post, and he has no plans to move on from covering Congress anytime soon.

a front-row seat to

POLITICAL HISTORY Igor Bobic ’10 political science caught historic footage of Jan 6 insurrection at the Capitol while reporting for the Huffington Post

Seated on the third floor of the Capitol in the Senate press gallery that day, Bobic was covering the Senate proceedings for Huffington Post when he heard shouting downstairs. Bobic and his colleagues had no idea that protesters had entered the building, so he grabbed his phone and ran downstairs while recording. “Oh ----, this is bad. I should not be here,” he remembers thinking to himself at the sight of the angry crowd in front of Goodman. “But instinct kicked in and I just kept recording.” It was several days before Bobic learned that the doors to the Senate chamber, with senators and the vice president inside, were sealed at almost exactly the same time that the protesters made their way up the stairs.

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It’s thrilling right now to be in the business, and I get to be in the front row of history.

Locked out of the press gallery, Bobic tried to look unassuming – even in his suit and press badge – while the crowd around him started shouting “Where are they?!” looking for lawmakers. Later, Bobic followed a group into the Senate’s public galleries, where he photographed rioters repelling down the walls into the chamber itself and, ultimately, posing in the vice president’s chair. “They were jubilant, they were cheering,” says Bobic. “They had never been inside the Senate chamber before.” Eventually, Bobic found a place to hide with other reporters until the police arrived to secure the building and evacuate them. He’s still processing everything he witnessed, and how it might have ended differently. “That cop was such a hero, and in the moment, I didn’t know what he was doing, but it looks like he was leading the mob away from the most immediate Senate door,” says Bobic. Fleeing Civil War Bobic’s family, both in the U.S. as well as Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia, watched the news unfold as well. Several reached out to wish him well and gently remind him that he’s been through much worse. “A lot of people I know from growing up are either dead or still living in Bosnia and Croatia,” says Bobic. “Meanwhile every day, I’m fortunate to be here in the halls of Congress.” Growing up in the former Yugoslavia, Bobic’s early childhood was punctuated by violence of the Bosnian War.

“One of my most vivid memories as a kid is when all of a sudden you’d hear sirens and you’d have to run to a bomb shelter in the basement, go through an hour of shelling,” he recalls. “And then you’d go back outside and play with your friends.”

gress, learning tricks like waiting in hallways outside of bathrooms to get comments from legislators as he mastered the job of political journalist through “trial by fire.” In 2014, he was hired by Huffington Post as a political reporter.

His parents’ inter-ethnic marriage – his father is Serbian Christian and his mother is Muslim – made the family a target amid the political turmoil, so they fled their home in the middle of the night, sleeping in soccer stadiums and ice rinks until they were taken in by a Serbian Christian family. When he was 7 years old, Bobic and his parents were accepted into the U.S. as refugees, and settled in San Diego with the help of the U.S. Catholic Services.

Bobic remains connected with UCI and stays in touch with Beckmann. He has even hosted UCDC students in the Huffington Post offices to talk politics and life in D.C. It was through Twitter that Beckmann realized his former student was reporting from within the Capitol as rioters made their way inside on January 6.

Bobic says he was drawn to history and government classes in school, largely because of his first-hand childhood experiences with the consequences of geopolitics and war. After finishing high school in San Diego, Bobic chose UCI for college, and he explored other academic fields, before ultimately making his way to the political science department. Matthew Beckmann, associate professor of political science with expertise in American presidential politics, remembers mentoring Bobic for his senior thesis on the “supply” of and “demand” for presidents’ political capital. “Igor is a quintessential Anteater. He is smart and hardworking, thoughtful and fun,” says Beckmann. “There are many reasons I am proud to be a professor at UCI. Igor is one of them.” With a recommendation from Beckmann, Bobic was accepted into the UCDC program and spent a quarter in 2009 interning at the Department of Transportation’s legislative affairs office. Thrill of D.C. After graduating from UCI, Bobic worked at a law firm and seriously considered law school, but he applied for a job at his favorite political blog, Talking Points Memo, in what he describes as a last-ditch effort to get back to D.C. He got the job. His first day working on the Hill in 2011 was the day after President Barack Obama announced that U.S. forces had killed Osama bin Laden, and Bobic got to attend a press conference held by congressional leaders. In the following years, Bobic got to know the cast of characters who work in Con-

“The insurrection at the Capitol was a dark day for American democracy. But in that darkness shined glimmers of hope,” says Beckmann. “Igor captured a Capitol Police officer doing heroic work at a historic moment, and then told that story in a way that inspired as much as it informed. What I appreciated was how Igor, in that perilous moment, focused his camera on the officer rather than himself, and told the officer’s story rather than his own.” Barely a month into 2021, Bobic covered the second impeachment of then-President Donald Trump and the insurrection. He was recently promoted to senior politics reporter for Huffington Post, and has no plans to move on from covering Congress anytime soon. “I got absolutely hooked,” Bobic says. “It’s thrilling right now to be in the business, and I get to be in the front row of history.” •

Scan to see Igor's footage.



be bold

“I really enjoyed teaching and knew I wanted a career heavily focused on it,” says UCI anthropology associate professor of teaching Angela Jenks on her career trajectory. She was named the 2019-20 recipient of UCI’s Academic Senate Early-Career Award for Teaching.

Michael Marckx pushes forward at mile 133 of the 138-mile Belgian Waffle Ride in San Diego. Scan to hear Michael's homecoming message.

A WILD RIDE Cyclist and triathlete Michael Marckx ’87 seeks thrills in business and on the road


ichael Marckx ’87 is an adventure seeker. An avid cyclist, surfer, skateboarder, paddler, runner and soccer player, he ran his first marathon at age 12, and was a top-ranked triathlete by the time he graduated from UCI. Today, he holds a record in the 930-mile Race Across the West. Marckx’s career has been as wild a ride as the races he loves: full of painful setbacks and gritty comebacks. With jobs ranging from marketing director to CEO of a publicly traded company, Marckx’s signature blend

of creativity and athletics form the bond connecting his personal and professional life. “If you’re entrepreneurial, your successes are preceded by many failures,” says Marckx. “I’ve been hit by a car while cycling six times in my life, but I’m still going to go out and ride my bike today. You pick up the pieces, reorganize and go after it differently.” Anteater days Marckx chose to go to UCI for its great aca-

demic offering and because of the nearby beaches “where I could surf my brains out,” he says. In addition to riding waves, Marckx played soccer while continuing to run, swim and cycle as an Anteater. He also played the drums in bands called Edge and More Love Now, playing a variety of genres at gigs in Crawford Hall, the Backlot, the Anthill Pub, Wayzgoose, Aldrich Park and at local clubs. He was active in the Associated Students of UCI, and, as treasurer and president of Kappa Sigma at UCI, convinced Coors to sponsor a music festival hosted by the fraternity.

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All of this transformed Marckx, who says he was introverted and small when he arrived on campus, but during his time at UCI grew both physically and metaphorically. “What UCI availed to me was this open world to pursue any different angle that I wanted,” he says. “It was all offered to me right there.” Numbers came naturally to Marckx, whose dad ran the Orange County division of IBM, so economics was the easy choice for his major. But with his eclectic interests, he took classes all over campus, leaning into his artistic side with fine art, poetry, drama and even political science. “I learned so much from professors at UCI who forced me to look at things differently, tore apart my writing, and encouraged me to read books I wouldn’t ordinarily have read,” he says. “They were like running coaches who would force me to dig a bit deeper.” Marckx admits he was more focused on experiences than studying while a student. “My degree was really in all these experiences with sports, arts, music, ASUCI, running the fraternity, working and traveling and playing gigs all the time,” he says. Crashing When Marckx graduated, he began shifting from an amateur triathlete to professional, making the U.S. National Team directly after graduating. He trained hard during the day and played gigs up and down the state at night, in his own bands or filling in for drummers in other bands. But his world came crashing down when a car hit him while he was cycling just after winning his first race as a professional. He was only 24. “My body was ravaged,” says Marckx. “I didn’t get back to racing for a long time, and was never the same since, unfortunately.” Marckx recounts the fallout of the accident in his TEDx talk, “Belief is a thought you keep thinking; don’t you think?” In a pivotal moment during his recovery, a psychic told him that although his athletic and music careers was finished, he would find success in business. “I had no interest in business,” he says. “I still wouldn’t say I’ve achieved tremendous success all these years later,” he adds. “But

I’m awed by the sheer amount of opportunities I’ve had to collaborate with great people, and to help right the ships of brands or to launch new brands that have gone on to great success.” Rising again (and again) Marckx has led or launched more than a dozen businesses over the past three decades, all tied in some way to his passion for adventure sports. Marckx’s work with companies follows a predictable pattern: get in, right the ship and get out. He leads business turnarounds not through spreadsheets or slashing costs, but through creative direction and marketing. For example, after the September 11 terrorist attacks, he helped surf brand Ocean Pacific double its revenue in three short years, amid a challenging economy, through storytelling. “Through our marketing, I reminded people of the past and nostalgia and what life was like before this affront … the family values and the purity of the ’70s and the freedom of surfing, long hair and corduroy shorts,” Marckx says. “I tapped into that but with modern people and musicians to tell that story. That’s what promulgated their success.” Marckx’s other business successes include managing the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii, boosting Surfing Magazine against its global competitor, and serving as vice president of global marketing for 12 brands at skateboarding company Globe International. As CEO of SPY, a publicly traded eyewear company, Marckx turned the foundering business around and led 14 consecutive quarters of year-over-year growth. Marckx has also served on the board of the Surfrider Foundation and, as chairman of the board from 2009-13, raised the visibility of the nonprofit’s work to protect oceans and beaches, growing its network and doubling its U.S. staff. Today, he is the CEO of Monuments of Cycling, a leading cycling event producer. He is also Chief Marketing Officer for two companies: Eliel Cycling, a cycling apparel manufacturer based in San Diego, and Wattie Ink., an endurance sports apparel manufacturer focused on endurance sports. Most of his life, he stayed in Southern California where he got married and raised two athletic children, a daughter who’s now in high school and a son who’s in college.

If you’re entrepreneurial, your successes are preceded by many failures. Still racing While Marckx’s business successes are tied to the sports he loves, he remains actively engaged in racing, as well. Marckx has tangled with cars or buses six times while cycling, leading to broken bones, hospitalizations and even brain trauma. Each accident may have slowed him down, but nothing will make him give up cycling. In 2016, Marckx and three teammates competed in a 930-mile Race Across the West, in which he and his teammates cycled from San Diego to Durango, Colorado in 1 day and 16 hours and 45 minutes. They hold the reigning course record for all categories. His favorite race to compete in, though? The Beer Mile, a stomach-churning contest where runners chug a beer before each lap around the track — and must keep it down. Marckx has even created popular athletic events that serve as a siren call to thrillseekers like himself. In 2012, he founded the Belgian Waffle Race, a cycling competition in northern San Diego County, covering roughly 140 miles of bone-crushing gravel, sand and dirt terrain with 12,000 feet in elevation gain. Cheekily named after the world’s most famous one-day bike races that typically happen in Belgium, the race serves participants Belgian waffles before and Belgian ales after the course. The event now attracts over 4,000 cyclists, and has expanded to venues in Utah, North Carolina and Kansas. At UCI Homecoming 2021, Marckx gave a keynote on “No Easy Roads,” a fitting theme for the life he leads, and the paths he encourages others to explore. “I’ve had punctuating moments in my life that could have been really big setbacks, but I’ve used them to inform my own process of growth,” says Marckx. “I want others to know that not every job or venture works out, but hopefully you get better at realizing what deserves your attention.” •



be bold

NO EXCUSES, NO REGRETS UCI alumnus Kevin Madsen ’05 pushes the boundaries as a professional race car driver, coach and mentor

Madsen shows off his UCI pride with his custom racing Anteater helmet.

Evan O’Hara/Low Shutter Media

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be bold


evin Madsen ’05 was not supposed to become a race car driver and sought-after coach. His roadmap was clear: learn auto mechanics, then aircraft mechanics, and eventually become a pilot, just like his dad before him had done, and his younger brother would do later.

In racing, no matter what is thrown at you, you can always improve, and I felt the same way about being a student leader.

But Madsen never got past the cars. At the age of 16, he saved up $750 to buy a used Mazda RX7, which he upgraded with a roll cage and started racing in autocross events. Driving a car more suited to the freeway than the speedway meant he needed to compensate by developing better driving skills. By the time he graduated from high school, Madsen was winning championships on a shoestring budget. Those in the racing industry might argue that it was not the right choice for Madsen to balance his competitive racing to attend UCI at that time. But 15 years later, he has no regrets. “I’ve always appreciated that the university took me from being a shy, small town kid, to being ready to go out and race against the best, and coach celebrities, captains of industry and young prodigies to take them to the next level,” he says.

Madsen raced to 7th out of 96 cars at the US Endurance Championships at Circuit of the Americas in December 2020. Evan O’Hara/Low Shutter Media.

Focusing Raised mostly in New Jersey and San Diego, Madsen was drawn to UCI for its academics, but he spent his first year stretched thin, trying to juggle school, while commuting, working and competing in a winning roadracing season.

After that, he decided to focus more on his education, fully engaging with campus life while majoring in economics. Madsen became president of the Kappa Sigma fraternity, held positions on the Interfraternity Council, Greek Presidents Council, and ASUCI, served as vice chair for the Anteater Recreation Center advisory board and chair of the Student Center advisory board, and led student programming in Mesa Court and Arroyo Vista student housing – all while working part time to earn money, racing and driving for UCI’s Formula SAE team. “I had the opportunity to be involved in so many things on campus, and it was challenging, but I learned so much – not just from the successes but from the mistakes,” says Madsen. “In racing, no matter what is thrown at you, you can always improve, and I felt the same way about being a student leader.” Those real-world interpersonal and executive skills that Madsen honed through student leadership experiences as an Anteater are what set him up for success on and off the racetrack. Diversifying After he graduated from UCI, Madsen worked in national sales for a travel company and raced on the weekends. But when he was laid off during the Great Recession, he wondered, why not go all in with racing? With his attention focused fully on racing, he won a national title within the first year, and seven championships within the next four. As he gained some name recognition and developed a reputation for himself, he found ways to diversify his career such as coaching kids, leading exotic car driving experiences around the country, and test-driving preproduction cars for Ford and other manufacturers out in the Arizona desert. Madsen soon found a niche coaching drivers of all ages and skill levels, including rising star and Lamborghini World Champion Steven Aghakhani — who’s still a teenager. “I think it’s a challenge for anyone to figure out how to make a long-term career in a sport you’re passionate about,” Madsen says. “I decided coaching is the way I wanted to go.”

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“I’ve always appreciated that the university took me from being a shy, small town kid, to being ready to go out and race against the best, and coach celebrities, captains of industry and young prodigies to take them to the next level,” Kevin Madsen says.

One influence in that decision was Madsen’s experiences with the UCI Alumni Association, where he worked briefly — while test driving and racing on the weekends — and served as a volunteer. Mentoring UCI students and helping develop the Young Alumni Council helped Madsen see first-hand the benefits and rewards of nurturing the next generation. “Though not racing-specific, my time mentoring students in the Student Alumni Association was a key part in my decision to focus on coaching developing drivers,” says Madsen. “It’s incredibly rewarding to leave a lasting mark with future leaders and athletes.” Madsen’s coaching isn’t strictly on the racetrack, either. Modern race car driving increasingly relies heavily on data analysis systems and racing simulators. So Madsen helps clients improve by leveraging these tools in combination with his own experiences overcoming faster, more expensive cars with practice and skill. “You look back at something that you thought was the end of the world when you were a kid, and realize those were the keys that made you better,” he says. “I had no budget and a slow, unprepared car that made me work extra hard to become a better driver. Great!”

Eventually, Madsen started working with celebrity clients like car aficionado Jay Leno, Caitlyn Jenner, Trevor Noah and Mark Paul Gosselaar. While his face may not be as recognizable as those actors, Madsen himself is a member of SAG-AFTRA as a stunt driver. He has driven for numerous car commercials including Toyota Super Bowl commercials, and appeared in the Netflix series "Fastest Car" and the movie "Ford v Ferrari." Enduring Madsen still races, too, but his focus is shifting now toward more endurance races, which last from 8 to 24 hours with a team of drivers taking turns behind the wheel. “As time goes on I enjoy endurance racing because it’s fun sharing the drive time with friends or coaching clients and I can utilize everything I’ve learned over the years,” he says. “Some younger or less experienced drivers could be faster than you for a lap, or more aggressive on passing, but you’ll be more consistent. In the long run, the car, tires and hopefully your result will be better.” Like every field, racing has been upended by the COVID-19 pandemic. Madsen had been focused on racing and coaching at the 2020 Long Beach Grand Prix when everything shut down.

He took the long view and invested in installing more racing simulators in his shop, which attracted NASCAR drivers and his coaching clients to continue working on their skills even when tracks were closed. The simulators were booked solid for months. “If you look at COVID-19, yes, it’s terrible, but we still have to think about life afterward and moving forward and improving,” Madsen says. “We can’t use it as an excuse for complacency, because we’re always going to have unexpected things thrown at us. “The no excuses, no regrets motto has really helped me, with everything that’s been thrown at me.” •



be bold

a scholar/activist for undocumented students Laura Enriquez, UCI Chicano/Latino studies associate professor, earns Academic Senate award for outstanding early career accomplishments


CI Chicano/Latino studies associate professor Laura Enriquez is acutely aware of the toll COVID-19 is taking on undocumented students at California’s state universities. The director of the UC Collaborative to Promote Immigrant and Student Equity (UC PromISE), she was in the middle of a two-year multi-campus study to understand the immigrant student experience across the University of California and California State University systems when the pandemic added a new, painful data point. Pivoting quickly to capture the moment, Enriquez and her research team added COVID-19 questions to the survey being taken by 3,500 undocumented students and U.S. citizen students with undocumented or legal immigrant parents. The responses – captured in several recently released reports available at – are a critical reminder of the importance human, financial, and educational resources play in helping immigrant communities thrive. “We’re seeing a lot of overlap in the experiences between undocumented students and their U.S. born peers who have undocumented parents. They are significantly more disadvantaged then those who have legal immigrant parents. And COVID has made these differences even more stark,” she says. She hopes the findings will fuel new policies aimed at creating equitable opportunities for undocumented students state- and nationwide. In 2020, the UCI Academic Senate recognized Enriquez with the Early-Career Faculty Award for Research. The honor spotlights the young scholar’s outstanding disciplinary contributions, which former department chair Louis DeSipio applauds as both groundbreaking and policy relevant.

Scan to read studies.

Laura Enriquez’s work illuminates how undocumented immigration status shapes the opportunities and relationships of young adults.

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“Professor Enriquez has emerged at this relatively early stage in her professional career as a leading mentor and scholar on the relationship between immigration status and life course of young adult undocumented immigrants and their family members,” says DeSipio, professor of Chicano/Latino studies and political science. “Moreover, her intellectually creative research makes significant contributions to shaping public policy.” Enriquez’s work illuminates how undocumented immigration status shapes the opportunities and relationships of young adults. She’s explored the topic from multiple angles, including education, family, relationships and health. Her recent book, Of Love and Papers: How Immigration Policy Affects Romance and Family, details how family life and romantic relationships are complicated and compromised by documentation status. Other award-winning studies have taken a hard look at how immigration laws create multigenerational punishment as the challenges of undocumented status are shared with citizen family members in mixed-status families. Her research has been funded by the National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation, UCI Office of Inclusive Excellence, the Ford Foundation, Social Science Research Council, Haynes Foundation, UC Office of the President, and UC Institute for Mexico and the US. Findings, published widely in top-tier journals including Social Problems, the Journal of Marriage and Family, Race and Social Problems, and others. Her work, coupled with her campus service, have helped earn her recognition by the American Sociological Association Latino Sociology Section, the Social Sciences Dean’s Office, Dynamic Womxn of UCI and the Latino Excellence and Achievement Initiative on campus. “I’m thankful to be part of a community that inspires and enables me to pursue a topic of great importance,” she says. “From my mentors who helped me become the scholar I am, to the students, colleagues and staff with whom I work, being part of a community energizes and inspires me to keep moving forward.” For her, these efforts began as an undergraduate student activist at Pomona College. She spent long hours listening to undocumented high school students’ stories about obstacles encountered in their educational pathways.

She turned their experiences into action through advice for students navigating the college application process and shared best practices and program development for her alma mater. The work became the focus of her senior thesis and opened her eyes to the importance research findings can play in an understudied, high need area. She continued pursuing the topic as a graduate student at UCLA where she published several studies that uplifted student voices as they advocated for educational access and federal immigration reform. When she completed her Ph.D. in 2014, she joined the UCI faculty – first as a competitive Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Scholar in sociology, then as a tenure-track assistant professor in Chicano/Latino studies. Her arrival coincided with system-wide and campus efforts to expand services for undocumented students. Enriquez wasted no time in getting involved, agreeing to lead a group of undocumented and allied students in their efforts to conduct a systemwide study of UC undocumented student needs with the intention of informing programming and practice. These efforts evolved into the Undocumented Student Equity Project, which is dedicated to conducting rigorous empirical research to inform institutional policies and practices that will advance equity and inclusion for undocumented students. The initial study interviewed over 150 students and surveyed 500, developing a comprehensive report on policies to effect institutional change and several journal articles. This initial effort has been followed by a series of additional studies to further inform efforts to advance equity in undocumented students’ academic experiences and mental health and wellbeing. Enriquez has worked closely with the UCI DREAM Center to translate her research into practice. She worked hand-in-hand with the center’s inaugural director to establish programming while seeking valued input from UCI’s undocumented student population. “UCI has been home to one of the highest numbers of undocumented students across the UC for years, but support for their educational pathway had trailed other campuses. Listening to students, drawing on our research and being creative has pushed UCI to the forefront,” Enriquez says.

I feel a sense of urgency about my work because there are lives at stake. She worked tirelessly with campus colleagues on furthering the center’s programs, taught a class on the undocumented student experience and advocated for funding from both UCI and the UC Office of the President. What started as one staff-funded position became a robust, full-fledged center. The UCI DREAM Center now includes three full-time staff members, nearly half a dozen graduate student scholars in residence and several undergraduate student fellows – all of whom are still available as remote resources during the pandemic. “A bright spot in our UC PromISE findings indicates that students who’ve utilized campus services, including DREAM Centers are less likely to report a very high COVID impact on different aspects of their lives,” she says. “That tells us that something positive is going on with resource use – and that we need to understand it more so campuses can maximize the effect of their efforts.” In all her projects, Enriquez makes space for undergraduate and graduate student researchers. “Being a mentor is important to me because I was fortunate to have amazing Latina mentors throughout my career and I feel a responsibility to carry on that legacy,” she says. “The students who find their way to me are searching for a way to do research that will uplift their communities. Their perspectives are integral to our ability to conduct compassionate research that creates change. I aim to help them build the tools they need to carry out their vision.” The publications, honors and service hours she’s logged in pursuit of change are laudable for a seasoned academic, let alone a relatively young professor early on in her career on campus. “I feel a sense of urgency about my work because there are lives at stake,” she says. “There’s just no way to hear our undocumented students’ stories and not act. That creates a fire that connects everything I do – and there’s still so much more work to be done.” •



be bold

a straightforward style UCI sociology professor Judith Stepan-Norris earns Academic Senate Award for service, an honor that spotlights her consensus building leadership approach and equity-driven work


ard-working. Consensus builder. Values-driven. The qualities colleagues use to describe Judith Stepan-Norris speak volumes about her character and commitment as both a career professor and campus administrator at UC Irvine. She was named the 2020 recipient of the campus Academic Senate Mid-Career Award for Service – an honor that spotlights her outstanding service and contributions to the university. Ask StepanNorris about the recognition and the work it represents and you get a response befitting her straightforward style: “I know my passions, work hard to make a difference and try to cultivate the expertise around me. It’s nice to be recognized for that!”

Humble beginnings It’s a lesson the first-generation scholar learned growing up in a family of five sisters, a stay-at-home mother and union carpenter father who, in the early 1960s, built her family’s home from the ground up in an undeveloped area of Los Angeles. The family struggled with the seasonal nature of his job that ebbed and flowed with the economy; he twice travelled abroad for paid work – including trips to Antarctica and the equatorial Pacific where he logged long hours away from home on large government projects. “Our Christian upbringing emphasized the importance of integrity and perseverance in whatever we took on,” says Stepan-Norris.

“We learned to treat people fairly and that you don’t get anywhere unless you try and try again.” For her, that meant attending college as a first-generation student, a path that equipped her with a framework for understanding her childhood experience as part of a working-class family surrounded by middleclass neighbors. “Growing up, I experienced a lot of interesting social interactions that I didn’t understand – interactions where it was clear that the neighbors who’d built houses around us treated my family differently,” she says. “I didn’t really understand what that was; you’re not taught the framework for understanding the role of class or status in grammar or high school.”

“I’m grateful for UCI’s role in the upward mobility space and I have enjoyed being able to be part of plans that help the campus serve the state and general public,” says Judith Stepan-Norris.

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During a sociology lecture by her subsequent mentor and co-author during her second year as an undergrad at UCLA, a light bulb went off; everything clicked. From that moment on, social justice became an underlying motivational current in what she pursued. She began to explore power differentials and the role of unions in leveling the playing field – a topic that gave her even more appreciation of her father’s work. She went on to complete her bachelor’s and Ph.D. in sociology at UCLA, and in 1990, she joined UCI as an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology. Research in action In her 30-year career on campus, her research has explored interrelationships between union leadership, union democracy and workers’ consciousness and - more recently - she also focused on gender equity in higher education. She’s currently working on a book that synthesizes and analyzes data collected through a National Science Foundation grant on unions throughout the 20th century. She notes that while most of her research takes a historical perspective, given that union membership has waned in the last half century, the pandemic has pushed to the forefront the precarity of workers in critical professions like healthcare, education and factory operations for food production – areas in which unions are still quite active. “The virus doesn’t discriminate between high- and low-status occupations, but the way industries respond can,” she says. “From the doctors and nurses treating patients to delivery drivers, custodial crews and factory workers at meat packing plants helping to keep critical supplies flowing, exposure can happen unless the right equipment and safeguards are in place. Unions give workers a collective voice and position of power from which to advocate for needs. So how unions respond right now is critical.” Her previous sociological studies have been published in leading journals including the American Sociological Review, American Review of Sociology, and Social Forces, among many others, and recognized with awards from the American Sociological Association and the Society for the Study of Social Problems. To her, recognition isn’t nearly as important as the intent of her academic inquiry. “The more my work helps to uncover solutions and furthers the pursuit of social equality, the better,” she says.

Campus and community service The same principles that guide her research have served Stepan-Norris well in her many roles as an administrator at critical times in the campus’s young history. Right after she earned tenure as a professor, she was appointed as chair of the sociology department. The department grew extensively during her four-year term and she was instrumental in the recruitment of distinguished senior scholars, which led to the department’s rapid rise in rankings. She went on to spend five years on the Academic Planning Group, three years on the Budget Work Group, and one year – 200910 – as chair of the UCI Academic Senate, a time period marked by campus budgetary constraints following the Great Recession. She also served as vice-chair of the Advisory Council on Campus Climate, Culture, & Inclusion, as the Social Sciences Equity Advisor, and as chair of the UC-wide Research Scholars Advisory Board for the ADVANCE PAID program. In 2014, she was appointed vice provost for academic planning at UCI, a role in which – among many duties – she helped craft the campus strategic plan and served until 2019. “I’m grateful for UCI’s role in the upward mobility space and I have enjoyed being able to be part of plans that help the campus serve the state and general public,” she says. “The diverse residents of California deserve to have an accessible, high-status university that represents all racial and ethnic groups, and I’m pleased to see UCI moving in that direction. We’ve reached a period in academia when we are formally addressing a lot of inequities that have been around for a long time and I’m happy to have had the opportunity to be proactive in finding solutions.” This past year, she was again appointed chair of the sociology department, a leadership role that drew from her extensive university experience to help the department and school navigate and thrive amid the challenges brought on by the pandemic, says UCI social sciences dean Bill Maurer. “Professor Stepan-Norris owes her success to her no-nonsense approach to academic affairs, her knowledge of the systems that make an organization run and her passion for figuring out how to make them run better,” says Maurer. “She has always been down-to-earth and forthright. She is data driven - but also, refreshingly in our cynical and utilitarian age, values-

Perseverance is something you learn through hard work and seeing it being modeled, like my parents did for me.

driven, understanding that a university’s greatness comes not just from its ability to graduate the students while paying the bills but from its underlying commitment to surfacing our students’ and our colleagues’ best aspirations.” For all of her time spent conducting awardwinning research and helming leadership posts on campus, Stepan-Norris still enjoys teaching – whether in person or now virtual. And up until recently, she and her husband of 42 years could also be found on horseback in the Santa Monica mountains where they delivered needed supplies and occasionally rescued lost hikers as part of the State and National Park Service’s Mounted Volunteer Patrol. True to her Southern California roots, she’s taken up almost every outdoor activity the varied landscape supports – surfing, mountain biking and hiking with claim to successful climbs up Mt. Whitney and covering the Grand Canyon rim to rim (each in one day) – activities she’s enjoyed over the years with her husband, three sons and daughter. “Perseverance is something you learn through hard work and seeing it being modeled, like my parents did for me,” she says. It’s served her well through all tasks she’s tackled as a researcher, public professional and family member. “I hope I succeed in passing on to others my passion for leveling the playing field, so that everyone – no matter what type of disadvantage they face – has a chance to shine.” •



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Cognitive decline distorts

POLITICAL CHOICES Disconnect found between political affiliation, political decisions in the cognitively impaired


dentification along the liberal/conservative spectrum may last a lifetime, but cognitive decline distorts our political choices, according to the first-of-its-kind study led by UCI researchers. For those who are cognitively impaired, identifying as being liberal or conservative loses its relationship to their political decision-making. “We found that for the cognitively impaired, there was a significant loss of consistency between an individual’s political orientation and their political choices,” says Dr. Mark Fisher, neurology and political science professor and study corresponding author. “This interface of neurology and political science is highly relevant, given the questions surrounding voting by individuals with dementia.” For the study, published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, researchers evaluated the relationship between political ideology, political policy preferences and cognitive status. Study participants were 190 members of The 90+ Study, a UCI-led longitudinal investigation of the oldest-old, who are those aged 90 and older. Participants completed a questionnaire indicating their political ideology and a variety of policy issues, ranging from federal spending

"Among those surveyed with cognitive impairments, being liberal or conservative appears to function more as a self-identity label and less an orienting framework for judging policy," says study coauthor Davin Phoenix. Scan for full study.

on public schools and the environment to immigration rates and the death penalty. Six months later, they completed the same survey. “Our analysis produced novel findings with important political implications,” says Davin Phoenix, associate professor of political science and study co-author. “Across the sixmonth survey interval, where individuals placed themselves ideologically remained quite consistent, whether or not they were cognitively impaired. However, among those with cognitive impairments, being liberal or conservative appears to function more as a self-identity label and less an orienting framework for judging policy. So the capacity of that ideological identification to help people make choices that are aligned with their true policy preferences comes into serious question.” More than 90 percent of the survey participants voted in the 2016 election. This high level of civic engagement emphasizes the importance of understanding how cognitive decline affects the political behavior of older persons.

“Our findings suggest that older individuals experiencing cognitive decline have relatively stable ideological preferences, but these preferences lose their connection to political policy details. Future studies conducted during an election year may shed additional light on how this group of Americans is casting their ballot,” says Fisher. The research team included Shawn Rosenberg, UCI professor of political science; Dana Greenia, UCI MIND research unit clinical research administrator; Maria M. CorradaBravo, UCI neurology professor; Dr. Claudia Kawas, UCI neurology professor; Annlia Paganini-Hill, UCI neurology project scientist; and Sierra Powell, political science professor, Mount San Antonio College. The study was supported by the National Institute on Aging, grant R01AG021055, and the UCI Medical Humanities Initiative. •

uci soc sci

Population distribution can greatly impact COVID-19 spread, UCI-led study finds

Contagion disparities can affect perception of risk, demand for healthcare services


neven population distribution can significantly impact the severity and timing of COVID-19 infections within a city or county, leading individual communities to have vastly different experiences with the pandemic, according to a study led by the UCI. Findings published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences show that the heterogeneous spatial features of interpersonal connections may produce dramatic local variations in exposures to those with the illness. “Social networks aren’t smooth and tidy. They’re rough and irregular, so diseases like COVID-19 that are transmitted through intensive contact can spread very unevenly,” says co-author Carter Butts, UCI professor of sociology. “This results in some communities getting hit much earlier and a lot harder than others, even within the same area. Those different experiences can shape individuals’ understanding of infection risk, impact their willingness to take protective actions, and potentially stress healthcare delivery systems in ways that are not captured well by standard epidemiological projections.” The research team developed geographically detailed network models for 19 U.S. cities by combining census information with data on how contact probability declines as distance increases and then ran 10 replicates of the COVID-19 diffusion process on each. They discovered significant differences in infection curves among individual census tracts due to the irregularity of social connectivity, with the disease spreading rapidly through one location but stalling at its boundaries. “Taking spatial heterogeneity into account, the spread of COVID-19 is much ‘burstier’ than in standard models, with occurrences in short, sudden episodes,” Butts says.

Scan to read full study.

“Even without differences in protective behavior, you can get some communities that are affected by the pandemic early, while others nearby aren’t severely impacted for months. This lag can create potential opportunities for public health interventions but can also create a false sense of security that the threat has passed over a particular area. Just because the virus hasn’t yet infected your community doesn’t mean there won’t be an outbreak tomorrow.” Contagion disparities can impact healthcare delivery, creating unequal distribution loads that overburden some providers and leave others with excess resources. Some hospitals experienced relatively little demand in the early months of the pandemic and then a major surge when their city infection rate as a whole was on the decline. Butts adds: “While conventional diffusion models have been of considerable value in both pandemic planning and scenario evaluation, our findings indicate that incorporating geographical heterogeneity would add value in capturing outcomes at the city or county level, which is where decisions regarding infrastructure management, healthcare logistics and other policies are made.” From UCI, the research team also included sociology Ph.D. candidate Loring J. Thomas and graduate student Peng Huang; statistics Ph.D. candidate Fan Yin; criminology, law & society graduate student Xiaoshuang Iris Luo; and John Hipp, professor of criminology, law & society. Zack W. Almquist, assistant professor of sociology and senior data science fellow at the University of Washington, was a member as well. •



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breaking down baseball UCI economist Michael McBride develops new metrics for player valuation based on team contributions, rather than individual skill

Understanding and awarding credit for each player’s contributions toward the win paints a more accurate picture of each player’s value.


aseball is a game of numbers, a fact for those whose careers live and die on the stat line and one driven home in the 2011 hit Moneyball. Yet missing from the myriad statistics tracked in the sport is a metric that accurately credits player contributions to a team’s win – a measure that inarguably denotes the team’s most valuable player in any given inning, game, series and/or season. In a set of working papers presented at the famed Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) Analytics Conference and under journal review, UCI economist Michael McBride aims to fill this gap.

“The trend in baseball has been a focus on individual player skills and stats, which, while important, doesn’t provide an accurate assessment of a player’s value to the team and the team’s wins,” says McBride. “Understanding and awarding credit for each player’s contributions toward the win paints a more accurate picture of each player’s value.” Absent a readily available tool or software program like GameChanger for tracking this important statistic, coaches at various levels have come up with homegrown solutions to track what they know to be an important yet unrecognized measure in team success.

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McBride, an avid baseball buff and Little League baseball and softball coach who also happens to be an expert in game theory and experimental economics, was able to borrow a page from the playbook of Nobel prize winning economist Lloyd Shapley to solve the problem. “The Shapley Value is widely considered to be the fairest way to allocate individual credit for the success of a team,” says McBride. Most commonly applied by corporations to determine who deserves specific credit in a team production process, he saw an opportunity for its use in baseball to track both contributions in runs scored and other contributions to a team’s win. Here’s how it works: each team’s offensive plays are broken down inning by inning. Every play that advances a runner who makes it home receives some share of the credit for that run. The measure is a more accurate reflection of credit dispersion than traditional measures like RBI, which only awards the hitter who brings the player in, and Runs, which credits only the runner who scores. Missing, though, is credit for the, say, two hitters prior who helped move the base runner into scoring position. The Shapley method accounts for their role in the run by identifying how vital each’s play was to the run that eventually scored.

Michael McBride.

Calculations are then done to determine who contributed the most in the team’s win. As with other advanced baseball statistics like Runs Above Replacement and Win Above Replacement, the Shapley approach measures value in terms of runs and wins. But unlike those other statistics that intentionally isolate the player’s contributions from those of their teammates, the Shapleybased measures mathematically account for how the player works in collaboration with teammates. McBride put his system to the test with a play-by-play analysis of the 2020 World Series to determine if Corey Seager was the position player who contributed the most offensive value and therefore the rightful recipient of the MVP award. With 2 homeruns, 7 runs and 5 RBIs, it’s hard to argue against Seager’s performance in the Los Angeles Dodgers six-game series victory over the Tampa Bay Rays. But using the Shapley system, McBride found that Mookie Betts’s performance at the plate was actually the lynch pin in the franchise’s seventh championship title. Expanding his analysis over the past 30 World Series, McBride found that in most cases, the MVP award rightfully went to the position player whose performance mattered most in the team’s victory – and several occasions when it didn’t, like last year. “I would argue that this value is more important to track in a box score than a player’s RBI or Runs because it more accurately reflects contributions, and if used in combination with sabermetrics skills assessments, it could help a coach or general manager create the best lineup that scores runs,” he says. “It would also be helpful to fans by revealing who provided the most value to the team.” McBride is also excited about what the measure could do for kids at lower levels of play in a sport where participation is on the decline. “Baseball definitely has a more individual focus than many other team sports,” says McBride. “But in the hyper focus on individual skills assessment, we’re missing the opportunity to recognize and reward a player for how well they helped the team actually win. And as found, being the most skilled individual player doesn’t always mean you were the most valuable player.” •

Scan to see SABR slides.



be bold

Scan to visit site.


imited access to cleaning supplies and protective face coverings. Monthslong, 24-hour lockdowns with no family visits. Living quarters that make social distancing next to impossible. And a case rate that keeps climbing. The COVID conditions inside California’s prisons paint a stark reality of the mental and physical health toll the pandemic is taking on incarcerated individuals, says Kristin Turney, UCI sociologist. She’s part of a group working to raise public awareness of the Coronavirus crisis in the state’s prisons through a new website, “These personal stories highlight hardship in a profound way,” says Turney. “And what’s really poignant are the racial disparities in our country’s incarcerated population. People of color and those from low-income communities are overrepresented in prison, meaning that the plight of the pandemic in prison is being felt more heavily among an already marginalized population. By sharing their stories, we’re giving them a platform they may not otherwise have.”

Launched in March, the site features firsthand accounts of what the pandemic looks like in prison as told through letters and recorded phone calls collected via the project’s anonymous hotline. The work is a collaborative, donor-funded effort between Turney; UCI criminology, law & society associate professors Keramet Reiter and Naomi Sugie and graduate students Joanne DeCaro and Gabe Rosales; and other School of Social Ecology field study students, as well as student volunteers. “Being incarcerated is itself a risk factor for chronic health problems and early mortality, yet those in prison face persistently inadequate access to medical care. We hope the accounts we collect will reveal how COVID-19 has magnified these problems, and be a resource for journalists and scholars alike seeking to understand and mitigate the health harms of incarceration,” says Reiter who has played a key role in creating the first in-prison B.A. completion program offered by the University of California system.

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UCI to launch UC's first in-prison B.A. completion program

People of color and those from low-income communities are overrepresented in prison, meaning that the plight of the pandemic in prison is being felt more heavily among an already marginalized population. By sharing their stories, we’re giving them a platform they may not otherwise have.

Statistics emphasized on the site track current COVID outbreaks in the state’s prisons alongside personal narratives to highlight the human element that is often missed in public perception and understanding of the experience of individuals who are incarcerated, says Sugie. “We often think of prisons as closed institutions that do not affect us or our communities. But, in fact, our society’s health, safety and well-being are closely tied to our prisons. The COVID crisis in prisons is revealing longstanding and entrenched problems with mass incarceration generally,” she says. Joanne DeCaro, who has helped curate and transcribe the stories, hopes the project will help draw attention to the magnitude of mental and physical health concerns that are apparent in each of the shared narratives. “The stories we have collected so far overwhelmingly describe a sense of helplessness and fear,” she says. “Helplessness because

they often have limited to no means to protect themselves, and a strong fear that they might never see their loved ones again.” The group hopes to expand the project’s focus beyond COVID-19 narratives to continue raising awareness of health and racial disparities inside California’s prisons, and work toward effective solutions to the state’s overcrowded prisons. For more information, visit To share a prison pandemic story, anonymous calls can be made to 949824-6600 (Monday-Friday, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.) and letters may be mailed to PO Box 4430, Sunland, CA 91041. The project is collecting calls from those currently incarcerated, recently incarcerated loved ones of those incarcerated, and staff. The hotline accepts collect calls. •

One of the most effective interventions for reducing recidivism is higher education, and since 2014, all 35 California state penitentiaries have partnered with community colleges to give prisoners the chance to get an associate degree. Expanding on this idea, UCI is launching a new initiative, Leveraging Inspiring Futures Through Educational Degrees. The first in-prison B.A. completion program offered by the University of California system, it will enable incarcerated individuals to earn a bachelor’s degree in sociology from UCI. “At least 95 percent of people in California prisons will return to their communities, and most will lack the tools to compete in today’s job market,” says LIFTED director Keramet Reiter, UCI associate professor of criminology, law & society. “Educational programs are a reallocation of the funds already being spent in the penal system and achieve much more successful objectives. Lower recidivism means less crime and improved long-term public safety.” All students – incarcerated or not – who get a California community college degree in certain majors and maintain a specified GPA are guaranteed transfer to a UC school. LIFTED will leverage this existing track. Prisoners who earn an A.A. in sociology from Southwestern College with a GPA of at least 3.5 will be eligible for admission to UCI. They will be able to obtain a B.A. while serving their sentence or be eligible to matriculate on campus if they’re released before finishing their course of study. “In the past five years, there have been policy revisions in California. Many people who were convicted as juveniles or under the three-strikes law for nonviolent felonies will be released sooner than expected,” Reiter says. “LIFTED will provide them with a real chance to make positive changes in their lives and society. As for those who will remain incarcerated, someone with a bachelor’s degree is better equipped to function and contribute, even while constrained by prison walls.” The LIFTED steering committee also includes Pavan Kadandale, associate professor of teaching in molecular biology & biochemistry; Valerie Jenness, Distinguished Professor of criminology, law & society; Carroll Seron, professor emerita of criminology, law & society; and members of UCI’s Underground Scholars Initiative, a group of formerly incarcerated students and their allies.



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looking to new sources, solutions for fire prevention in

Orange County

UCI anthropologist Salvador Zárate to document practices and expertise of weed abatement workers with funding from Haynes Foundation


ast year marked the worst wildfire season in California history with more than 4.1 million acres burned before the end of October.

As officials seek out new solutions for a problem experts say will only intensify due to climate change, UCI anthropologist Salvador Zárate urges consultation with an unlikely source: weed abatement workers. “Beginning in April, months before the fall fire season starts in California, weed abatement crews – composed primarily of immigrant workers – are out in the state’s canyons, slopes and hills creating firebreaks and clearing debris as part of the state’s first line of defense,” he says.

“But many people don’t know that or understand the deep ecological knowledge these crews carry which could be tapped to better understand mitigation and prevention.” With a $12,000 faculty fellowship from the John Randolph Haynes and Dora Haynes Foundation, he plans to elevate their stories and experiences with the hope of improving fire prevention policy. While plans to embed with crews were derailed due to the pandemic, he began immersing himself in the history of abatement practices in Orange County and collecting

archival data and first-person interviews with crew members to better understand working knowledge and practices. He’s hoping to deploy alongside workers this year to observe and document their strategies and horticultural expertise. He plans to publish an article and a report to share findings with key stakeholders. “Fire season is going longer every year – and it’s both powerful and devastating,” he says. “Immigrant workers are a crucial fund of knowledge and their practices and ecological expertise should be brought to the table when formulating future policy.” •

uci soc sci

Belinda Campos and Amanda Acevedo.

The Simpatía Scale

Scan for study link.

New tool developed by UCI researchers measures variation in a uniquely Latinx cultural value


sing ethnicity as a proxy for cultural values masks differences between and within sociocultural groups, an issue that’s particularly true among Latinx populations, says Belinda Campos, UCI Chicano/Latino studies professor and department chair. She’s part of an interdisciplinary research team that developed the new “Simpatía Scale” – published in a paper in Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology – to measure variation in this distinctive Latinx cultural value that emphasizes warmth and conflict avoidance. “Latinos are not a homogeneous group, so it’s important to understand within group differences in cultural values that may affect health, work and personal relationships in this population,” says lead author Amanda Acevedo, ’19 UCI psychological science Ph.D. and current postdoctoral researcher at the National Cancer Institute, which is part of the National Institutes of Health. “One reason for reliance on race/ethnicity as a proxy is the relative absence of wellvalidated measures of cultural constructs of interest – a gap which our scale can help fill.” Working within Campos’ Culture, Relationships, and Health Lab, researchers focused on the two distinct components of simpatía which emphasize positivity and warmth in

social interactions, and the avoidance of conflict and expressions of negativity to promote polite social interactions. They developed and tested an 18-question survey that measures, on a scale of 1 to 5, how a person believes he or she acts in social situations. The results provide an accurate and in-depth understanding of the Latinx cultural value at the individual level. “It’s really important to develop and use measures that assess the extent to which cultural values are personally held,” says Campos. “Doing so accomplishes two important things. First, it helps ensure that marginalized peoples will be more accurately understood as they become better incorporated into research. Second, it becomes possible to significantly advance the understanding of all the ways that culture can shape emotions, behaviors, relationship outcomes and health.” Additional researchers included Clara Herrera and Sharon Shenhav, UCI Department of Chicano/Latino Studies, and Ilona S. Yim, UCI Department of Psychological Science. Findings appear in Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, a journal of the American Psychological Association. •



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Pandemic panic buying left many grocery store shelves empty.

the power of NETWORKS UCI researchers join forces with national team to study U.S. food supply chain disruptions and innovations due to Coronavirus closures


y mid-March last year, with much of the country shut down to stem the spread of COVID-19, Li Zhang and her collaborator, Gustavo Oliveira, were - like many around the world – witnessing the impact of pandemic panic buying and Coronavirus closures. Empty grocery store shelves where staples like flour, rice and bread were once stacked instead brandished signs limiting bulk purchases and notifying consumers when limited shipments would arrive. At the same time, Zhang, a visiting assistant professor of global and international studies at UCI and active WeChat user, started seeing a new form of commerce emerging on the online platform among her predominantly Chinese contacts across Orange and Los Angeles Counties.

uci soc sci

“With all of the supply chain disruptions happening, restaurants closed or with reduced operations, and virtually no or very limited institutional clients, wholesalers began connecting with consumers to offload products, filling a need for both,” says Zhang who teaches Global Food and the Environment and Global Pandemics courses at UCI. It was a bit messy at the outset, she says, as buyers scrambled to either cost share or take delivery of products not intended for individual consumption (like the 50-pound bag of flour her household is still working its way through). But the result, says Oliveira, an assistant professor of global and international studies at UCI, has been a fascinating new network of exchange fueled by crisisdriven ingenuity. “The buying and exchange habits that transpired at the outset of the pandemic are not unlike what you might see in times of other crises, like a hurricane, but what’s different here is the length of time the pandemic has required these systems to operate and the importance informal, less established networks have played,” says Oliveira.

Li Zhang.

“We’re interested in how some of these new systems might be sustained, how old systems might be better adapted for resilience during future catastrophes and what these changes mean for vulnerable communities involved in the processes.” As scholars who study critical food, agricultural and environmental justice issues, Zhang and Oliveira shared their observations and interest in the new phenomenon with their research networks, and a team was quickly formed to dive into the ways the pandemic has disrupted and adapted regional food supply chains in the U.S. The collaborative effort includes economists, landscape architects, communication specialists and other interdisciplinary social scientists and political ecologists at the University of Florida, University of Wisconsin Madison, University of Minnesota, and Kansas State University. The team was awarded a $1 million rapid response grant from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Gustavo Oliveira.

Given the risk of future pandemics and climate change-induced disruptions to local and even global food supply chains, our research will continue to generate crucial knowledge and practical engagements for many years to come.

For their part, Zhang and Oliveira received $92,057 to adapt surveys originally developed to study climate change-induced disruptions of agricultural production, and organize qualitative case studies and focus groups for food supply chain actors to share innovations. The project will reveal how traditional – as well as the emergence of alternative – networks have enabled the food supply chain to survive and thrive amid the COVID-19 crisis. They’re paying particular attention to issues of gender, race, social equity and resilience along the entire food supply chain – from farm workers to processing plants to distribution drivers and centers – so they may highlight the disproportionate weight vulnerable and marginalized communities carry within the network while experiencing crisis-driven hardship themselves. Their partnerships with the LA Food Policy Council and the University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources are helping to get the survey directly into the right hands in California, says Oliveira, while similar community partnerships are helping facilitate regional distribution across the nation. “Given the risk of future pandemics and climate change-induced disruptions to local and even global food supply chains, our research will continue to generate crucial knowledge and practical engagements for many years to come,” says Oliveira. •



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Using math to understand

EQUALITY, FAIRNESS UCI cognitive scientist Nadia Chernyak receives NSF CAREER grant to study connection between children’s cognitive skills & pro-social behavior


t what age do kids begin to recognize the difference between equality and fairness? The complex concepts may seem a tall order for kids to contemplate, given their ability to cause confusion and contention – even among adults, says UCI cognitive scientist Nadia Chernyak. But the shift from being able to see life as an even playing field to one complicated by the hand you’re dealt actually occurs in childhood, and it may be tied to math skills, she says. “We tend to agree that inequality is a problem, but we have a lot of disagreements on how exactly to rectify it. One of the reasons for these disagreements may be tied to individual differences in reasoning about numbers,” says Chernyak. The assistant professor received a $736,366 CAREER grant from the National Science Foundation to study how kids come to understand inequality, when and why they become motivated to rectify it, and how their emerging cognitive skills shape their understanding of it. The project builds on her previous work that found preschoolers' sharing behaviors are tied to their counting skills. Working remotely due to COVID-19, Chernyak and researchers in her Development of Social Cognition lab are engaging study par-

“As a cognitive developmentalist, I’m really interested in helping us understand each other a little more – how we reason about morals and fairness and the importance of being kind to one another,” says Nadia Chernyak, UCI cognitive scientist.

ticipants - ages 3- to 8-years-old - in online interviews, games and scenarios that focus on pro-social behavior while also establishing their baseline cognitive skills through math activities. Preliminary work suggests math skills – particularly an understanding of fractions – can explain whether or not a child understands the difference between issues of equality and fairness. “As a cognitive developmentalist, I’m really interested in helping us understand each other a little more – how we reason about morals and fairness and the importance of being kind to one another,” says Chernyak. “This work helps us understand concepts that are centered around individual abilities and motivations. From that, we can help parents better understand the underlying reasons for their kids’ social behavior and maybe start to think about interventions that can facilitate prosocial behavior.” The NSF CAREER award is considered the institute’s most prestigious honor that supports early career academics and recognizes faculty poised to make a significant difference in their fields through research and educational advances. Funding for this work began in September and runs through August 2025. •

uci soc sci

"A view that reduces all biological explanation to mechanisms ignores the rich and diverse set of causal concepts, reasoning strategies, and experimental techniques that are found in this field," says LPS assistant professor Lauren Ross.


UCI logic and philosophy of science assistant professor Lauren Ross receives NSF CAREER grant to bring clarity to scientific explanation


nderstanding how something works requires appreciating the language that is used to describe it. In biology and medicine, these descriptions often emphasize the mechanism concept, which describes a system’s lower-level interacting parts, says UCI logic & philosophy of science assistant professor Lauren Ross. While mechanism language is common in these sciences, it tends to overshadow other important causal concepts when these sciences are communicated to expert and public audiences. This can obscure the actual diversity of causal systems in these domains and lead to public misunderstanding about what science tells us about the world. "A view that reduces all biological explanation to mechanisms ignores the rich and diverse set of causal concepts, reasoning strategies, and experimental techniques that are found in this field," she says. "This disconnect between what biological explanation actually involves and how it is communicated does a disservice to science, society, and philosophy. A careful examination of the diversity of these causal structures can help correct this." In July, Ross received a $403,419 grant from the National Science Foundation’s CAREER Program to address this disconnect.

The honor is considered NSF’s most prestigious award in support of early career faculty. This award supports faculty who are poised to make a significant difference in their fields through research and educational advances. With her Ph.D. in history and philosophy of science from the University of Pittsburgh and her M.D. from UCI, Ross is uniquely qualified to bridge the gap between scientific understanding and philosophical explanation. In this project, Ross is studying other causal concepts that commonly figure in biological and biomedical explanation, including concepts such as pathways and cascades. "Using the pathway concept highlights flow or movement along a sequence. This can be the movement of blood along a blood vessel, signals flowing along neurons, and metabolites moving along a biochemical pathway. Cascades are also unique as they capture the amplification along a causal process, such as the blood coagulation cascade. Both of these have ordinary life analogies; biological pathways are analogized to traffic flow along a freeway and cascades to any ripple-effect or snowballing process. The mechanism concept - which analogizes biological systems to machines - doesn’t capture these features or the special ways these systems are studied and understood."

This becomes markedly clear in discussions of COVID-19 disease transmission, which represent a "paradigmatic cascade-like process." "Amplification – a significant feature of the cascade concept – explains how COVID-19 can spread from 1 person to 100 very quickly," she says. "This feature is central in explaining disease spread and understanding why disease control is so difficult." With this grant, Ross is studying diverse causal concepts in these fields, what their unique features are, and what tools are used to study them. According to Ross, supporting our best science "requires that scientists have an awareness of this diversity and that it is properly characterized in science communication." Included in her grant is support for graduate students and a summer diversity institute for undergraduates that aims to support student diversity in graduate school applications for philosophy doctoral programs. The grant covers the first five years of this institute.Funding for this work began in July and runs through June 2025. •



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Vellore Arthi, economics assistant professor, discusses COVID-19's long term economic and health impacts with UCI podcast host Aaron Orlowski.

LISTEN IN UCI podcasts feature social sciences people and programs making a mark


rom in-depth discussions on the Black Lives Matter movement and long-term economic and health impacts of COVID-19 to a sit down with Top Chef winner and UCI alumna Melissa King, the UCI podcast took on a number of topics this year featuring social scientists. Episodes include: UCI’s new in-prison bachelor’s degree to transform lives COVID-19's long-term economic and health impacts

Scan to listen.

Orange County election analysis and social justice under Biden Slowing the spread of election misinformation The political impact of the Black Lives Matter movement Top Chef winner is UCI alumna Melissa King UCI Podcast: Commemorating the 75th anniversary of WW II Download and listen in using the QR code or tune in to soundcloud. com/theucipodcast for new episodes that feature UCI people and programs making a difference. •

uci soc sci

under the

rainbow umbrellas

Book by UCI professor Rocío Rosales explores the complex stories of immigrant street vendors in Los Angeles


or Angelenos traveling along Venice Boulevard, Santee Alley and other iconic city routes, street vendors pushing carts of delicious food and unique wares are a staple in the city’s informal, hustle economy that supports many undocumented workers. As a graduate student at UCLA, Rocío Rosales would frequent the rainbow umbrella carts where she’d enjoy fruit salad and casual conversation with the vendors about daily life. She became intrigued with their stories of hope and heartache as she came to understand the complex structure of their paisano social networks that both helped and hindered their new lives in the U.S. Now an assistant professor of sociology at UCI, she’s detailed their stories in Fruteros: Street Vending, Illegality, and Ethnic Community in Los Angeles where she examines the hometown links that can be lifelines for entry to the U.S. as well as exploitive networks for an already marginalized population. Here, she discusses her findings.

Courtesy of UC Press.

Q: What did you find most surprising in your first conversations with pushcart vendors in L.A.? How did that translate to a book-length work? A: I entered the field thinking their interactions with law enforcement and the health department would be central to their work lives. After some time, I noticed how important their hometown networks were to their success and failure in Los Angeles. Certainly, local and immigration laws created a hostile context of reception, but it was their reliance on hometown networks that really captured my attention. The majority of the young men I was interviewing – and eventually working with – hailed from the same small town in the Mexican state of Puebla. A town with a population of just over 1,000 people was the hometown of most of the fruit vendors I was coming across. They relied on networks of hometown associates (paisanos) to help them migrate to the United States, get this job vending on the street, and were central to their success. But, like any other network of friends, co-workers and roommates, things were not pleasant all the time. These paisanos could sometimes disappoint. I wanted to write a book about that complicated relationship. Q: How did these conversations change what we know about immigrant social networks? A: For years international migration scholars have focused on the benefits of immigrant social networks. Of course, there are many benefits but what I saw was a bit more complicated. Paisano networks helped ease entry into the country, but they could also be exploitative and they could also be the reason why some returned to Mexico. I spent years with the fruit vendors I write about in this book. I eventually travelled to that small town in Mexico to speak to fruit vendors who returned and to family members of other vendors who remained in Los Angeles. In the end, I had all these beautiful stories capturing both the promise and pain of community.

Q: What do your findings mean for those who study urban spaces and immigrant communities? A: Many immigrants settle in large cities across the United States and some, especially those who are undocumented, find their first jobs in the informal sector of these urban centers. Most of us have a vague understanding of immigrants in cities, but we don’t always understand what a vital role they play in city life. From within the informal sector, they create so much industry, generate so much income and not only for themselves but for many others. Any serious study of city life and urban space must take into account the role that immigrants play in creating that life and space. Q: And how has COVID-19 changed the landscape for this community? A: Street vendors in Los Angeles were already in a precarious situation. Their income was unstable, local laws made vending difficult and they could be subjected to harassment by passersby on public street corners. What COVID-19 did was make a precarious population of workers even more so. Many vendors have reported major vending losses. Those near transportation nodes have seen a decline in their commuting customers, those near shopping districts see much less foot traffic than before. Those who continue working are also risking exposing themselves, but they have to keep working to make ends meet. The fruit vendors I’ve talked to are adapting – like they always do. Some have started selling face masks in addition to fruit. Now when you drive through Los Angeles you see vendors under their rainbow umbrellas and behind a face mask. But they continue being an important presence in the city. •



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the origins of UNFAIRNESS Book by UCI logic and philosophy of science associate professor Cailin O’Connor explores how inequities emerge and why they persist


rom gender to race to religion, the social categories humans use to create and identify groups have far reaching ramifications. In her book, The Origins of Unfairness, UCI logic and philosophy of science associate professor Cailin O’Connor uses formal frameworks of game theory and evolutionary game theory to show how inequities emerge during the seemingly irrelevant process of social group formations. Below, she explains why understanding the underpinnings of unfairness matters, who it impacts and why it’s so tough to tame.

Basic processes of cultural evolution and interaction push us toward unfair conventions.

Q: What is unfairness and why does understanding it matter?

Q: How can game theory be used to help us understand unfairness?

Q: Can inequity ultimately be righted? How? And what would this mean for society?

A: There are many forms of unfairness. The thing I look at in this book is unfair or inequitable conventions and norms in human groups. These are patterns of behavior or social rules that leave some groups with more resources than others. I especially focus on conventions of bargaining – when we divide resources in our societies, which sorts of people are expected to get more and which are expected to get less? Unfair conventions of this sort are very widespread, so it is important to understand the deep cultural evolutionary processes by which they emerge.

A: Throughout the book I use game theory and evolutionary modeling to try and understand how unfair conventions emerge. These models are simple, and by necessity exclude many relevant features of human societies. But their simplicity allows us to gain insight into processes that typically involve many people and take place over long timespans. They also allow us to exclude features in real societies, and thus draw some conclusions we couldn’t otherwise. For instance, I find that even without gender and racial biases unfair conventions easily emerge in societies. This is not to say these biases don’t play an important role in real inequity – they do. But we can see that simply by having groups divided into categories where everyone learns to do things that benefit them, inequity regularly emerges.

A: One thing I argue is that “ultimately righting” inequity is the wrong way to think. Inequality emerges easily and under many conditions. Basic processes of cultural evolution and interaction push us toward unfair conventions. This means that inequity is instead something we’ll always have to be dealing with and struggling against. •

Q: What role do social categories – gender, race, religion and the like – play in establishing inequity? A: In the book I look at models where groups of people learn over time to interact either by dividing labor or by bargaining. In these models, when you don’t have social categories you end up getting patterns of behavior that are fair. Everyone gets the same payoffs, and in bargaining scenarios they typically end up evenly splitting resources. But when you add social categories the cultural evolution completely changes. Instead, you typically see patterns that end with one group getting more than the other, often by discriminating against the other. I think this helps explain why unfair conventions surrounding social categories are so common.

Q: Is there one social category – or a combination of categories – within which you found there to be more inequity than in others? Why do you think that’s the case? A: I focused on gender in much of the book because it plays a key role in many societies of allowing groups to effectively divide labor. Divisions of labor typically benefit everyone, but can benefit different genders to different degrees. This initial sort of inequality can set the stage for more serious gender inequalities to emerge. This isn’t to say that gender discrimination is more serious than other sorts of discrimination, but I think it is special in being so universal.

Courtesy of Oxford University Press.

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MOVING FORWARD Book by UCI sociologist Francesca Polletta explains how we can find our way back from political polarization without having to become friends first


ith the early 2021 chaos in D.C. – years in the making – on full display across every major news station, many were left wondering if the country will be able to find its way back from the extreme political polarization that has pulled it apart. In the search for a path forward, Francesca Polletta, UCI sociologist and author of Inventing the Ties that Bind: Imagined Relationships in Moral and Political Life is wary of the mantra that talking through our differences one-on-one will produce empathy, understanding, something close to friendship or change. Below, the social movement expert explains why this isn’t an especially good model for creating cooperation across difference – but she points out that people have acted jointly on the basis of very different kinds of relationships. Q: At a time of deep political division, civic leaders and commentators have called for ordinary Americans to come together and talk to one another, with the idea that sharing values and experiences will lead people to see that they have more in common than what divides them. Why are you skeptical of such calls? A: There is nothing wrong with ordinary people sharing experiences in facilitated conversations across partisan lines. Courtesy of University of Chicago Press.

Hearing someone’s personal story can lead you to empathize with them, and that experience of empathy can lead you to think about the larger group differently (whether Republicans or transgender people or undocumented workers) and that in turn can contribute to support for policies that produce broader solidarities. But none of those things is certain. In fact, hearing someone’s story may lead you to judge them more harshly. Feeling empathy may give you a warm glow without changing your opinions. And it would take a lot of successful conversations between Democrats and Republicans, many of whom have little interest in talking to people on the other side, to reverse current levels of polarization. What is striking to me, then is that political leaders and commentators have such faith in the power of intimate conversation between strangers to heal rifts that are wide in scope and long in the making. Q: But don’t we have to start somewhere? A: Yes, and again, there is nothing wrong with bringing ordinary Americans together for friendly talk. My concern is that these initiatives crowd out other solutions to our political divisions – like combating polarization from the top down. Why can’t our political leaders sit down together, share their stories, and try to arrive at common ground across difference? Why can’t media commentators try to reach agreement on the norms of responsible commentary? Americans across the political spectrum support gun control, taxes on the wealthiest and infrastructure improvement. Breaking the Congressional logjam to pass moderate legislation would do a lot to persuade ordinary Americans that they have common interests – rather than requiring that, one by one, they come to that realization on their own. More important, though, Americans can and routinely do cooperate without becoming friends first. In Inventing the Ties that Bind, I study episodes in which people willingly gave up something for others: rural Black Southerners who put their lives on the line to try to register to vote in the 1960s; Californians in debt who insisted on repaying what they owed in full to their doctors;

New Yorkers who devoted their time and energy to making recommendations to officials about what they thought should be built downtown after 9/11, knowing that officials were unlikely to listen to them, and others. What I found over and over again was that people were motivated to act by the relationship they were in; by what they owed the other person in the relationship. Relationships served as a kind of moral compass, communicating what one could expect from the other person or people and what he or she or they could expect in return. This is not so surprising. The surprising thing is that the relationships were often imagined ones. Southern Black people talked about their obligations as citizens, despite the fact that their citizenship was not recognized by local authorities. They also described their obligations to “their kids” – the young civil rights workers who were urging them to put their bodies on the line. The civil rights workers weren’t their children, but the language of kinship was a way to name moral obligations that were difficult to do otherwise. The debtors who insisted on paying back their medical debts in full, even when offered a chance to negotiate down the principle of their debt, talked about their obligation to the doctor who had helped them – even when they had never met the doctor who helped them and even when the doctor would never know whether they had paid or not. Organizers of the New York City forums that were held to solicit public input into rebuilding Lower Manhattan wanted participants to get to know one another, share their experiences, and then go home. This, again, is the standard recipe for civic unity: intimate conversation aimed at mutual understanding. But participants in the forums wanted to do more. They described themselves as like a mini-United Nations. Read more at •



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RANKINGS ROUNDUP UCI graduate programs in economics, political science and sociology make big leaps in latest U.S. News & World Report rankings; all established UCI social sciences graduate programs rank in top 50 of respective fields


raduate programs in economics, political science and sociology at UC Irvine climbed in U.S. News & World Report’s latest rankings. The three programs – which account for more than half of the UCI School of Social Sciences’ graduate enrollment – are in the nation’s top 25 programs among public universities, and top 50 overall, public and private. Economics saw the biggest jump since it was last reviewed in 2017, moving up four slots to 20th among U.S. public universities, and sociology broke into the top ten: • Economics, 20th among public universities, 40th overall (up from 24th/47th) • Political science, 21st among public universities, 41st overall (up from 24th/45th) • Sociology, 9th among public universities, 20th overall (up from 12th/23rd overall) “Social sciences is continuing its upward trajectory across all the diverse fields we represent, while building on its interdisciplinary strengths and its commitment to diversity, graduate training and extramurally funded research,” says Bill Maurer, social sciences dean and anthropology and law professor. “While the rankings are never the whole story, we’re thrilled with these results.”

Other social sciences graduate programs evaluated in prior review cycles by respective reporting bodies include: • Anthropology: 8-22 (reviewed by Center for Public Anthropology & National Research Council; ranked within ranges; individual rankings not provided) • Logic & Philosophy of Science (reviewed by Philosophical Gourmet Report with multiple subfield rankings): Top 10 globally in 10 specialty areas: #1 in general philosophy of science #1 in philosophy of mathematics #1 in decision, rational choice & game theory #3 in philosophy of physics #4 in mathematical logic #9 in epistemology & medieval philosophy #10 in philosophy of biology #10 in philosophy of social sciences #10 in 20th-century continental philosophy • Psychology, 19th among public universities, 36th overall (reviewed by U.S. News & World Report; program is administered by both the Department of Cognitive Sciences in Social Sciences and the Department of Psychological Science in Social Ecology)

Although it does not offer a graduate degree, Chicano/Latino studies ranks near the very top for all ethnic and area studies programs nationally, according to Academic Analytics, which tracks faculty research productivity along a range of metrics. And new in 2020, the school launched graduate programs in global studies and language science which now boast double digit enrollments. Small but mighty, language science – right out of the gate – ranks near the very top of all linguistics programs, according to Academic Analytics, and both programs are aggressively recruiting new faculty this year. “Our well-established programs are highly ranked, and our new programs are gaining lots of visibility,” says Michael McBride, social sciences associate dean for graduate studies and research and economics professor. “The UCI School of Social Sciences is definitely an exciting place to be for graduate work.” Overall, U.S. News & World Report ranks UCI eighth among the nation’s public universities and 35th among all American universities, public and private. •

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Sara Mednick, cognitive sciences professor, leads a team of undergrad, grad and postdoctoral researchers in her Sleep and Cognition Lab.



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Larry Kugelman School of Social Sciences BOC Chairman UCI Foundation Ex-Officia Trustee Retired President & CEO, Coventry Health Care

John Williams '85 Partner, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP Suzan Paek Founder, Jessica Grant Handbags

Tallia Hart Chief Executive Officer, Healdsburg Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Bureau Dave Schmidt Principal, Schmidt & Associates


BOARD OF COUNCILORS The school's distinguished advisory board


he Board of Councilors is comprised of distinguished professional, academic and community leaders who provide counsel to the dean and serve as the main advisory board for the UCI School of Social Sciences. Members play an active role in advocating with friends and colleagues the outstanding quality of UCI School of Social Sciences programs, while serving as ambassadors for the UCI School of Social Sciences to the outside community – championing the mission of the school.

Members of the Board of Councilors are those who have shown extraordinary loyalty and support to the UCI School of Social Sciences and contribute to capital projects or initiatives with time and/or financial support. Their diversity brings together a wealth of expertise and combined knowledge in support of the school’s goals and priorities. Board of Councilors contact: Tracy Arcuri, Executive Director of Development UCI School of Social Sciences | 949.824.8093

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Steve Borowski '79 School of Social Sciences BOC Advisor President, Aristotle Capital Jean-Claude Falmagne Professor of Cognitive Sciences, UCI Founder, ALEKS Corporation

Amy Kiang Vice President & Wealth Management Advisor, Merrill Lynch Wealth Management, Bank of America Corporation Blake Baxter '04 Vice Chairman, Olive Inc LTD

Tom Searles Principal, Searles Company Searles Company George Zhao CEO, Classic United, Inc.

“I’d like to personally extend my gratitude to our Board of Councilor members this past year for joining me in playing a vital role in the advancement of UC Irvine’s School of Social Sciences.” -Bill Maurer, Dean



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DEAN'S LEADERSHIP SOCIETY Thank you to the DLS Executive Committee


uring an unprecedented year, the UCI School of Social Sciences wishes to thank the Dean’s Leadership Society (DLS) Executive Committee (pictured right) for their steadfast commitment, leadership and service in philanthropy.

The DLS is comprised of more than 150 alumni, community, parent and faculty supporters. The Executive Committee - led by chair Michelle Williams '87 - serves in a leadership advisory role to the dean to ignite energy and momentum for the school while raising visibility and critical funding for the school's top fundraising initiatives. Join our global community of alumni and friends in advancing UCI's School of Social Sciences with a contribution to the DLS. Learn more: Liz Codispoti, Director of Development UCI School of Social Sciences | 949.824.8079

Bill Maurer Dean

Michelle Williams '87 DLS Chair

Janice Cimbalo '87, '92 Jones Lang LaSalle

Matt Stein '00 Law & Stein, LLP Chris Lee '01 City National Bank

Alpesh Patel '98 Rockefeller Capital Management

Scott R. Connella '81 Union Bank

Pam Kessler '88 LTC Properties, Inc. Andre Ramirez '07 Southern California Edison Paula Tomei '79 South Coast Repertory

Claudia Keller '87 Second Harvest Food Bank of OC

David Kesselman '94 Kesselman Brantly Stockinger LLP

David Ochi '97 V1 Ventures


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social sciences ALUMNI NETWORK Get involved in a network that's more than 50,000 Anteaters strong

Blake Baxter '04, Alumni Network chair, at Homecoming 2019 when the network officially launched.

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Opening doors for alumni who are just starting out by connecting them with established social sciences alumni who otherwise wouldn’t have met has been incredibly rewarding.


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he Social Sciences Alumni Network launched in 2019 and has announced alumnus Blake Baxter ’04 as founding chair. The group’s goal: to connect alumni with each other and the school through exciting events, volunteer opportunities and programs where in-person networking thrives. As the pandemic shifted activities online, the Alumni Network - through be BOLD 2.0 and be BOLD 2.1, No Easy Roads – has kept the social sciences Anteater alumni spirit alive and well with attendance around the globe. Social sciences alumni have attended the network’s virtual events where they learn from spotlight speakers and from each other. “The Alumni Network has done a fantastic job of engaging the school’s alumni, especially during the pandemic,” says Bill Maurer, social sciences dean. “I’m encouraged and excited to see what the future has in store for the Alumni Network under Blake’s strategic leadership.” For Baxter, the “who you know” question drives his interest in leading the Alumni Network to create more opportunities for engagement and professional growth of the school’s more than 50,000 alumni.

@ucisocsci “Opening doors for alumni who are just starting out by connecting them with established social sciences alumni who otherwise wouldn’t have met has been incredibly rewarding,” says Baxter. “And giving alumni the opportunity to engage with the school, whether they just graduated, or graduated 50 years ago, is a top priority for me. We want everyone to have a seat at the table. I’m looking forward to help develop more opportunities for alumni to connect with students and expand ways to volunteer with the school. The Alumni Network is as strong as we collectively make it.” The be BOLD 2.0 and be BOLD 2.1 series has spotlighted a variety of alumni and their unique careers from executive and organizational psychology, to entrepreneurs, to industry leaders, and those in non-profit service. Looking ahead to 2021-22, the team will continue spotlighting bold alumni whose lives and careers we can all learn something from. Are you an alumnus interested in attending or becoming more involved with the School of Social Sciences? Contact Ian Delzer, social sciences associate director of development, at to be added to the email list. •

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