Newswise — Irvine, Calif., Aug. 18, 2021 — Frances Contreras, who is widely acclaimed for her research on academic diversity and access from preschool to the Ph.D., has been appointed dean of the School of Education at the University of California, Irvine, following a nationwide search. She will assume her new role on Jan. 1, 2022.

Contreras is currently associate vice chancellor for equity, diversity and inclusion, as well as professor of education studies, at the University of California, San Diego. In this position, she provides leadership to support a positive campus climate, including faculty recruitment and retention. Contreras has more than 15 years of administrative experience at UCSD and the University of Washington’s College of Education, where she directed the higher education program.

A first-generation college student, she will be the first Chicana/Latina dean to head a school of education in the University of California system.

“In only its ninth year of existence, our School of Education has grown into one of the nation’s finest, and Frances Contreras is the right leader to continue moving us forward,” said UCI Chancellor Howard Gillman. “Her scholarly and administrative achievements are perfectly aligned with the strengths, accomplishments and far-reaching impact of the school.”

UCI’s School of Education began as the Office of Teacher Education in 1967, with three students in the inaugural class. It evolved into the Department of Education in 1991 and became the School of Education in 2012. It’s ranked the No. 15 graduate school of education in the nation (seventh among public institutions) by U.S. News & World Report. Currently, more than 1,000 students are enrolled in its bachelor’s, master’s and Ph.D. programs. The school has more than 10,000 alumni, with hundreds more joining that cohort annually.

“Frances Contreras is an accomplished administrator with a record of driving equity and diversity,” said Hal Stern, UCI provost and executive vice chancellor. “I look forward to her contributions leading the School of Education as it builds on its impressive interdisciplinary research in education sciences and strong community partnerships.”

Contreras is a UC alumna, earning a bachelor’s degree at UC Berkeley, and she holds a master’s degree from Harvard University and a Ph.D. in education from Stanford University. Her research focuses on diversity and access for underrepresented students and the role of public policy in ensuring student equity. Her work has been published in leading education journals, and her books include Achieving Equity for Latino StudentsThe Latino Education Crisis and High-Achieving African American Students and the College Choice Process.

She is currently a co-principal investigator on three advancing-faculty-diversity grants funded by the UC Office of the President and is co-chair of the UC Chicano/Latino Advisory Council and on the UC Hispanic-Serving Institutions Initiative advisory board. Her research agenda on Latino students and HSIs provides an important contribution to UCI, which is classified as both a Hispanic-Serving Institution and an Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institution.

Contreras was recognized as an emerging scholar and among the top 25 U.S. academicians to watch by Diverse magazine. She was selected by The Rockefeller Foundation as a scholar in residence at the Bellagio Center in Italy. In 2013, for her work addressing Latino student equity, Contreras received a lifetime achievement award from the Washington State Commission on Hispanic Affairs. This spring, UCSD honored her with the Cesar E. Chavez Award, which recognizes outstanding contributions to the campus community.

“I’m excited to be joining UCI as dean of the School of Education,” Contreras said. “My vision is to lead the school by placing equity, diversity and racial justice at the center of its priorities and build on the impressive record the School of Education possesses on campus and with its community partners and schools. I plan to work with my fellow faculty to increase teacher diversity, support educational innovation, develop degree programs in higher education, and foster our collective research to benefit the Orange County region, state and nation.”

The current School of Education dean, Richard Arum, professor of sociology and education, will continue to serve through the end of the calendar year.

About the University of California, Irvine: Founded in 1965, UCI is the youngest member of the prestigious Association of American Universities and is ranked among the nation’s top 10 public universities by U.S. News & World Report. The campus has produced three Nobel laureates and is known for its academic achievement, premier research, innovation and anteater mascot. Led by Chancellor Howard Gillman, UCI has more than 36,000 students and offers 224 degree programs. It’s located in one of the world’s safest and most economically vibrant communities and is Orange County’s second-largest employer, contributing $7 billion annually to the local economy and $8 billion statewide. For more on UCI, visit 

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