Dean Welcomes Anteater Engineers, In Person

Sept. 20, 2021 – “I’ve got to say, being on campus without students is just sad,” said Magnus Egerstedt, Samueli School’s Stacey Nicholas Dean of Engineering, as he welcomed students back to the campus today. “It just is not right. And I can’t tell you how happy I am to see everyone back. At the end of the day, this is really what we’re about.”

As part of Welcome Week 2021, hundreds of new freshmen gathered on Upper Engineering Plaza and collected Anteater Engineer swag, including bright yellow anteaters, equity in engineering wristbands, pens and neck lanyards. Sophomores were also invited since they weren’t able to be on campus in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This is the first live, on-campus engineering event since the pandemic began.

Christy King, associate director of undergraduate student affairs, greeted students and introduced Egerstedt, who congratulated students on choosing engineering at UCI: “We’re an elite program, but we’re not elitist. We really take care to support each other, to embrace that we’re different, and really celebrate each other’s achievements. The faculty and staff are all dedicated to your academic success.”

Associate Dean Michael Green also spoke, along with department chairs Athina Markopoulou, electrical engineering and computer science; Sunny Jiang, civil and environmental engineering; Julie Schoenung, materials science and engineering; and Zoran Nenadic, biomedical engineering. Other speakers included Robin Perry Jeffers, undergraduate student affairs director; student club representatives including Brandon Liu, president of Engineering Student Council; and Marvin Maldonado, interim director of the Stacey Nicholas Office of Access and Inclusion, who shared his memories of being in the freshmen’s shoes when he was a UCI student.

New students appeared eager – and a little nervous. Ahtziri Meneses, environmental engineering first year student from Ontario, said, “It’s a bit overwhelming to be on campus, but I’m excited about learning how to live on my own.” She selected UCI because, “I heard it’s a great school for engineering and the best one for my major.”

Tanya Nguyen, undeclared major from New York, said, “I’m a little nervous, but it’s also exciting. I’m excited to look for clubs to be involved in. And to make new friends.”

Gabriela Flores, civil engineering first-year student from San Bernardino, looks forward to attending class, especially after all of her high school classes were virtual. “I chose UCI because I liked the environment,” she said. “I’m excited about what’s to come.”

Already sporting a UCI sweatshirt and UCI Engineer cap, Grant Lawler, mechanical engineering major from Ventura, was feeling happy: “It’s a really nice campus. I like how green everything is. It’s really refreshing from where I’m from in California.” He added, “Everybody is really nice here. Everybody that I’ve met so far is like above and beyond helpful.”

Incoming computer science and engineering freshman Jonathan Ajavon from San Diego is also excited to be on campus and start his academic journey with classes and coding. “It’s a great first step to being independent,” he said. “I chose UCI because I had heard it was a great school. It looked like a place I could bloom.”

Before ending the event by leading his first group Zot!, Egerstedt said: “We are world class in terms of the research we do. But no matter how proud we are of our research, let’s say we’re building firefighting drones or doing synthetic biology and discovering cures to new diseases, despite us being super proud those contributions, the thing that we’re most proud of, and the thing that matters the most to us at the end of the day, is really you.

“It’s the people that graduate from our programs and hopefully go out and make this world a little bit better, as researchers, teachers, industrialists, policymakers or entrepreneurs, you name it. It’s ultimately about you.”

– Tonya Becerra