University of California, Irvine

School of Social Ecology

About the school

School of Social Ecology

In 1970, UCI established the nation's first school of social ecology in response to high demand for more socially relevant research. For more than 40 years, the school has been an internationally recognized pioneer in developing interdisciplinary approaches to social problems.

Faculty in the school's three highly ranked departments—criminology, law & society; planning, policy & design; and psychology & social behavior—engage in research and education to foster informed social action and make the world a better place. The school offers five undergraduate degrees, five undergraduate minors, three master's degrees and five doctorates. Students are trained to be future experts in public health and safety, community development, social psychology, urban planning and criminology, providing California with a skilled cadre of professionals who will help to make its institutions more effective.

The School of Social Ecology has marshaled its interdisciplinary expertise to focus on areas including global environmental degradation, poverty and other forms of inequality, prison overcrowding and gang violence in California, healthy child development, challenges faced by an aging population, health risks and community empowerment. These efforts have made the School of Social Ecology a national leader in applying basic theory and empirical research to a range of complex societal problems.

The school is rooted in community engagement and offers its students relevant, broad and robust curriculum. The hallmark of this commitment is the school's field study program, a requirement for all undergraduate students to complete 100 hours of service in one of more than 200 approved community agencies and organizations. This experience extends education beyond the classroom in ways that can be life-changing for students and result in significant contributions to the community.

The school hosts seven research centers, including four campuswide centers. Collectively, these centers foster interdisciplinary research, training and outreach that address complex social, legal, political and environmental problems affecting society as a whole.

Innovative research programs and institutes based in social ecology include:

  • Center for Evidence-Based Corrections
  • Center in Law, Society & Culture
  • Center for Organizational Research
  • Community Outreach Partnership Center
  • Center for Psychology & Law
  • Center for Unconventional Security Affairs
  • The Newkirk Center for Science & Society

Nancy Guerra, Dean

Nancy Guerra is dean of the School of Social Ecology. She previously was a professor of psychological and brain sciences, and served as associate provost for international programs and director of the Institute for Global Studies and the Global Research Consortium at the University of Delaware. Prior to her appointment there, she was on the faculty at UC Riverside, the University of Michigan and the University of Illinois at Chicago. Guerra held a number of administrative posts at UC Riverside, including area head in the Division of Developmental Psychology and associate director of the Robert Presley Center for Crime & Justice Studies. An internationally known expert on youth development and violence prevention, including anti-bullying programs, Guerra is co-chair and administrative director of Know Violence in Childhood. Guerra also has been principal investigator for a National Academic Center of Excellence in Youth Violence Prevention and served on several national panels including the federal Coordinating Council on Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention. She earned a doctorate in human development and psychology at Harvard University, an M.A. in educational psychology at UC Santa Barbara and a B.A. in psychology at UCLA.


  • Elizabeth Loftus, a Distinguished Professor of psychology & social behavior and criminology, law & society, was named one of the top 100 psychologists of the 20th century by The Review of General Psychology and is an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences.
  • The Department of Criminology, Law & Society's faculty includes three former presidents of the American Society of Criminology and is ranked by U.S. News & World Report as the nation's fifth best graduate program in criminology and the number one U.S. college for a major in criminology according to USA Today.
  • 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 30th best graduate program in psychology.
  • The school's online program for Master of Advanced Study degree in criminology, law & society is ranked as the top online graduate criminal justice program in the country by U.S. News & World Report.
  • Chancellor's Fellows – Elizabeth Cauffman, psychology & social behavior; Susan Charles, psychology & social behavior; John Hipp, criminology, law & society; Mona Lynch, criminology, law & society.
  • Chancellor's Professors – Kitty Calavita (Emerita), criminology, law & society; Chuansheng Chen, psychology & social behavior; Daniel Stokols (Emeritus), planning, policy & design and psychology & social behavior.