The College Pays Tribute to Dean Patricia O'Brien

By Stephanie Wejbe, Student Intern of CHASS College Computing

After being appointed as Executive Dean of the UCLA College effective July 1st, Dean Patricia O’Brien continues to display commitment, dedication, and above all excellence as she prepares for her farewell after five years of leadership in the College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (CHASS).

Dean O’Brien joined the College in July, 1999. O’Brien came from UC Irvine where she was a Professor of History and the director of the UC Humanities Research Institute, a multi-campus research unit serving the nine campuses of the UC system. Trained as a French historian, she earned her masters and doctorate degrees in history at Columbia University, and a B.A. degree in History from Regis College. She is the author/ co-author of six books, written numerous articles in her field, and is a recipient of several awards and grants for the Humanities Research Institute, including a Getty Senior Research Grant, a Koret Foundation Grant and a Ford Foundation “Crossing Borders” Grant.

The College has seen tremendous growth during Dean O’Brien’s tenure. She will be remembered by her colleagues as a leader who invested in big ideas and whose visions were implemented by taking the appropriate steps and operations needed to build the College infrastructure, which exists today. The College houses 19 departments, 17 graduate programs, over 55 majors and 44 minors, distinguished research centers, 308 faculty positions, and over 9,000 students.

Dean O’Brien is recognized for overcoming obstacles, particularly in establishing the College’s balanced budget. Despite the College’s upcoming challenges, Dean O’Brien believes the College is superbly prepared for the future with its strong fiscal base, and dedicated and skilled staff.

In addition, the Dean’s vision of extramural support has become a top priority for the College. The emphasis on extramural support has made it possible to create programs, provide scholarships and fellowships, and support our faculty and students in their research.

Dean O’Brien also noted how the achievements in technology have greatly added to the College’s promising future In early 2000, the newly arrived Dean had a vision making appropriate web presence an essential element of the college. CHASS’s new web-site has proved to be an asset and “puts the College’s best face forward, despite limited resources,” according to Dean O’Brien.

Dean O’Brien commented on the “wonderful” accomplishments and changes which have occurred in the College, focusing on faculty recruitment and diversity. Her active support in faculty recruitment, has led to recruiting close to 100 new faculty from all over the nation as well as internationally, making it the largest faculty recruitment in CHASS history.

The new faculty members who have joined the College have contributed a broad array of interests, representing significant diversity on the campus. Since 1999, diversity has accounted for over 36% of faculty appointments. Dean O’Brien believes the faculty in the future will greatly contribute to an increase in national rankings.

The increased strength in the growth of the departments and the development of new collaborative and Interdisciplinary programs acts as another significant accomplishment for Dean O’Brien. In her tenure as Dean, she has created new areas of interdisciplinary and graduate studies, and has worked with the faculty to build programs that makes the College distinctive across the nation including Asian Studies, Film and Visual Culture, Native-American Nations, and Digital Media and Arts, just to name a few.

Dean O’Brien emphasized the College’s “excellence through diversity.” The College is committed to excellence and its progression through diversity, by ethnicity and gender. The Dean has made the College a place which recruits an increasingly diverse faculty of excellence and houses a diverse undergraduate community.

Lastly, she commented on how the College has successfully served its undergraduate population, which consists over seventy-percent of UCR’s total enrollment, and half of all the majors. For the 2002-03 academic year, CHASS accounted for 52% of UCR’s undergraduate conferred degrees, totaling 1,413 graduates from UCR’s total conferred degrees of 2,789 students. Including Business Administration, CHASS total conferred degrees for the 2002-03 academic year was 75% of UCR’s total undergraduate population. CHASS also houses the majority of academic programs and facilities available for UCR’s undergraduate students.

Dean O’Brien remains modest and humble regarding her legacy at the College stating that, “Deans come and go, it’s the principles that stay.” The College’s commitment to academic excellence and diversity are principles that the Dean will be remembered for. "She has built an extraordinary College of enormous potential, but I don't think the full scope of her achievement has been recognized or can yet be recognized," Interim Dean Joel Martin said.

“I have loved my five years,” Dean O’Brien said. Dean O’Brien sees UCR as a “campus with a heart,” and her departure will be a difficult farewell as she begins a new academic journey starting in July at UCLA.

In honor of Dean Patricia O’Brien as she departs UCR for her new position as Executive Dean at UCLA, several farewell parties were held by Chancellor France A. Córdova, the Dean’s Office staff, and the College faculty and staff. A photo gallery is available for viewing these special farewell events.

On March 22nd, UCR Chancellor France A. Córdova honored Dean O’Brien’s outstanding contributions as the Dean of the College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences at a reception at the Chancellor’s Residence. Among the distinguished attendees were the Vice Chancellor of Public Service and Dean of the UC Riverside Extension, John F. Azzaretto, Dean of the College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, Steven Angle, Dean of the Graduate Division, Dallas L. Rabenstein, Interim Dean of the School of Education, Sharon Duffy, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, Jim Sandoval, University Librarian, Ruth Jackson, Dean of the Anderson School of Management, Rajiv D. Banker, President of Riverside Community College, Salvatore Rotella. The Dean of the College of Engineering, Satish Tripathi was out of town for the event, however, he sent his warmest regards via Dean Steven Angle.

On March 16th, the Dean’s Office staff hosted a farewell dinner at Toad in the Hole restaurant in Riverside. Entertainment was provided by the entire staff whose rendition of the Motown hit (including dance steps), “I Second that Emotion,” written by Cindi Smith, paid tribute to Dean O’Brien, and expressed to her how greatly she will be missed. The staff presented Dean O’Brien with a crystal heart with their best wishes for success at UCLA. A separate celebration honoring Dean O’Brien was held on March17th from 4-6 pm in HMNSS 1500 by fellow College faculty and staff. A photo gallery is available for viewing these special events.

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