Anteaters Unite

Engineering, ICS and physical sciences alumni come together for the first collaborative sciences networking event 1,000 feet above downtown L.A.

Nov. 07, 2016 – “I only came because my girlfriend wanted to see the Skyslide,” said UC Irvine alumnus Bhavin Patel, a former software engineer turned entrepreneur. His company, RokitNow, is an IT service that helps businesses stay in touch with consumers via text messaging. As someone whose company motto is “Reach Out & Keep In Touch,” it’s somewhat ironic that Patel, an alumnus of the Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences, hasn’t had the same experience with his alma mater.

Not an uncommon story, but fortunately, this disconnect is soon to change.

A growing alumni network
On Oct. 25, more than 200 UCI alumni gathered for the first collaborative sciences networking event among UCI’s Henry Samueli School of Engineering, ICS and the School of Physical Sciences.

Located 1,000 feet above downtown Los Angeles, OUE SkySpace LA was the perfect venue to promote this alumni partnership and the new Convergent Sciences Initiative. The iconic U.S. Bank Tower hosts the new SkySpace and its infamous Skyslide, which opened earlier this summer. Brave anteaters went zooming down the exterior of the building in a translucent slide from the 70th floor to the east observation terrace an entire floor below.

It was an exhilarating attraction not to be missed and, as many alumni mentioned, a main reason they braved L.A. traffic to attend the special event.

“We hope to have more high-profile venues like SkySpace moving forward to both draw talented alumni into more active roles with the schools and to honor their achievements,” said Kristen Huerth, associate director of external relations for the School of Engineering and ICS.

It seems to have worked. Omead Afshar, a production manager for St. Jude Medical who graduated in biomedical engineering in 2009, was in attendance. Afshar credits his UCI network with his success, explaining he found a seven-month co-op with St. Jude Medical after graduation thanks to connections from the school. He was thrilled with the night’s alumni event.

“I was happy to see UCI, especially engineering, put on a good event in a good location to establish the UCI name,” said Afshar.

Another big pull, for Afshar and many other alumni, was an opportunity to network with different schools, not just the usual suspects. “It’s nice to get a diverse group to balance out the engineering crowd,” he said.



Future collaboration
Can ICS, physical sciences and engineering expect more events like SkySpace?

“Our goal is to continue collaborating between the three schools in order for current students, recent graduates and seasoned alumni to better connect, grow and support each other in the convergent sciences,” Huerth confirmed.

Even the food fit the theme. The “tacotini,” taco fillings beautifully presented in a martini glass, was served to the guests’ amusement. It was a dinner dish that, quite perfectly, embodied the diversity and charisma of the Los Angeles area.

Cocktails, hors d’oeuvres and networking bookended the event, but halfway through came special announcements from all three deans. Deans Gregory Washington (engineering), Hal Stern (ICS) and Kenneth Janda (physical sciences) spoke on their respective schools’ achievements and bright futures.

“We’re trying to be much more proactive in helping our school alums to network and to find internship possibilities for undergraduate and graduate students,” said Janda.

It was all positive news, but the real highlight of the evening came when all three deans took a ride down the Skyslide.

Jason Amansec, a tax analyst with Ceridian who earned his MBA in 2012 from UCI, said he couldn’t wait for the next joint networking opportunity. “It was really encouraging to see this type of event, especially in such an iconic location," said Amansec. "The food was great, the people were great and I hope the next one will expand to include other schools at UCI.”

-- Katherine Li Smith, Bren School of ICS


Watch a video of the deans’ addresses on Vimeo.