School of Social Ecology

School of Social Ecology

In the School of Social Ecology, scholars from a broad mix of disciplines put theory into practice to solve problems. The diverse faculty includes psychologists, sociologists, criminologists and legal scholars, political scientists, and urban planners. The school emphasizes the integration of these multiple disciplines. Among issues of longstanding interest are crime and justice in society, social influences on human development over the life cycle, and issues involving urban and regional planning and public policy choices.

Since 1970, the program has grown from a few dozen students to more than 2,700, with some 13,000 graduates working in fields as disparate as healthcare, human services, planning and law enforcement. This pioneering program now serves as a national model for interdisciplinary, socially responsive education and research. Its highly ranked academic departments are criminology, law & society; planning, policy & design; and psychology & social behavior. The school offers five undergraduate degrees, five undergraduate minors, three master’s degrees and five doctorates.

The social ecology program was established as an innovative unit at UCI during an era of high demand for more socially relevant research. From its inception, the school has been distinguished by its breadth and its interdisciplinary research. Fields of scientific inquiry include human development, gangs and violence, and urban and regional planning. Faculty research is supported by more than $7 million annually in research funds, with combined research and endowment funding surpassing $10 million annually. Innovative research programs based in social ecology include the Center for Evidence-Based Corrections; the Center on Inequality & Social Justice; the Center for Law, Society and Culture; the Center for Organizational Research; the Center for Psychology & Law; the Center for Unconventional Security Affairs; the Community Outreach Partnership Center; the Newkirk Center for Science & Society; and the Urban Water Research Center.

Social Ecology buildings I and II house faculty and staff offices, and a state-of-the-art computing lab. The Social & Behavioral Sciences Gateway houses behavioral assessment laboratories for research in human development, social relationships and legal studies; the Office of the Dean; and most of the school’s research centers.

Valerie Jenness, Dean

Valerie Jenness is a professor in the Department of Criminology, Law & Society and the Department of Sociology, and is dean of the School of Social Ecology at the University of California, Irvine. Her research focuses on the links between deviance and social control; the politics of crime control; social movements and social change; and corrections and public policy. She is the author of three books and many articles published in sociology, law, and criminology journals. Her work has been honored with awards from the American Sociological Association, Society for the Study of Social Problems, the Pacific Sociological Association, and the University of California; most recently, she received the Public Understanding of Sociology Award from the American Sociological Association. She is a past president of the Society for the Study of Social Problems and past editor of Contemporary Sociology.


  • UCI Distinguished Professor Elizabeth Loftus (departments of Psychology & Social Behavior and Criminology, Law & Society) is ranked among the top 100 psychologists of the 20th century by The Review of General Psychology and was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2004. The highest ranking woman on the top 100 list, she studies the psychology of memory and the use of eyewitness testimony in the courtroom.
  • The Department of Criminology, Law & Society’s faculty includes three former presidents of the American Society of Criminology and is ranked byU.S. News & World Report as the nation’s fifth best graduate program in criminology.
  • The Department of Planning, Policy & Design ranked among the top planning departments in the United States and Canada in a recent study published in the Journal of Planning Education & Research. The department ranked fifth in the number of published journal articles, seventh in the percentage of faculty who had published, and 12th for total citations to faculty research.
  • The Department of Psychology & Social Behavior is ranked by U.S. News & World Report as the nation’s 29th best graduate program in psychology.
  • Two of the school’s research fields were ranked in the top five among large research universities by the 2005 Faculty Scholarly Productivity Index. Public administration and policy, which includes faculty from Planning, Policy & Design, ranked fourth, and criminology and justice studies ranked fifth. Produced by Academic Analytics, the index rates journal articles and books published by each program’s faculty, as well as journal citations, awards, honors and grants received.
  • Through the school’s innovative and highly regarded Field Internship Program, undergraduate students complete a minimum of 100 hours of field learning in one of 350 participating organizations and corporations, where they can apply classroom knowledge to real-world problem solving.