Alessandro Duranti, Dean of the Division of Social Sciences, to Step Down

February 8, 2016

UCLA Office of the Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost

Deans, Directors, Department Chairs, Administrative Officers, and the Division of Social Sciences

Dear Colleagues,

Alessandro Duranti, dean of the UCLA College Division of Social Sciences, has informed me that he has decided to step down as dean on June 30, 2016, and return to his research and teaching.

Sandro, a distinguished professor of anthropology, has been a member of the UCLA faculty since 1988, was chair of the anthropology department from 2007–2009 and has served as dean since 2009. He has a strong record of advancing UCLA’s social sciences, helping to stabilize its finances during a period of reduced state support while hiring stellar faculty across all departments in the division.

Pursuing his vision of “engaged social sciences,” Sandro has introduced a collaborative model of liberal arts that emphasizes partnerships between UCLA and the world outside academia. For example, from 2010 to 2012, the Social Sciences in Practice program brought to UCLA six postdoctoral scholars working on interdisciplinary solutions to societal problems. He also oversaw the launch of Partnership UCLA, another college-wide program. Now housed in Alumni Affairs, Partnership UCLA connects alumni and friends of UCLA with undergraduates for professional mentoring, networking and career development.

Sandro has initiated a number of programs responsive to students’ interest in entrepreneurship and with an eye toward making academic research relevant to society. Dissertation Launchpad is a 10-week interdisciplinary program that trains Ph.D. students in the social sciences to speak to a non-academic audience about the importance of their dissertation research. Startup UCLA and the Summer Accelerator promote a culture of collaborative entrepreneurship and connect students with the startup community in Southern California, and the UCLA Social Enterprise Academy is a six-month social entrepreneurship program in which groups of students partner with social ventures to develop business plans and present them to potential investors.

Sandro has been a champion of diversity and has actively supported academic fields and departments that research and teach on issues of structural inequality and the intersections of race, ethnicity, gender, class, immigration and legality, among other socio-political topics. The College’s strength in these areas of inquiry all grew under his leadership. African American studies became an academic department, and the College implemented a Ph.D. program in Chicano/Chicana studies, appointed faculty of color, and expanded gender studies and the labor studies minor.

He has fostered innovation in teaching and research. A proposal for a one-year self-supporting master’s degree in social sciences is close to final approval; when implemented, it will respond to students’ interdisciplinary interests and the integrated, dynamic needs of the labor market while generating revenue for the division. Sandro also introduced the Dean’s Influential Scholars in Social Research, which enables world-renowned scholars to visit UCLA for one quarter to mentor and work with graduate students and faculty. And he has encouraged faculty to focus on innovative pedagogy through projects such as the Dean’s Lecturers in Social Sciences and the Future of the Lecture.

Since Sandro became dean, the division of social sciences has raised approximately $70 million in philanthropic gifts. He has reached out to alumni and increased their engagement with the division. He has forged ties locally and internationally, including through agreements with universities in China, France, Italy and the Netherlands. The Social Science Education in China program, initiated by the division and now hosted by the International Institute, offers UCLA courses to Chinese high school students who want to study in the U.S.

A fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a recipient of the prestigious John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, Sandro has remained active in his research and scholarship throughout his tenure as dean. Over the past seven years, he has presented more than 60 papers at conferences and workshops, published numerous articles and edited two volumes. In 2015, Cambridge University Press published The Anthropology of Intentions: Language in a World of Others, Sandro’s synthesis of three decades of research in the United States and Pacific societies.

Chancellor Block and I are grateful for Sandro’s outstanding leadership as dean. Soon, I will appoint an interim dean, and I will keep you informed as we initiate the search for a permanent dean.


Scott L. Waugh
Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost