In light of Darnell Hunt’s appointment as the next executive vice chancellor and provost, I write to share that Abel Valenzuela Jr. — professor of labor studies, urban planning and Chicana/o & Central American studies and director of UCLA’s Institute for Research on Labor and Employment — has agreed to serve as interim dean of UCLA’s Division of Social Sciences. He will assume the interim deanship on Sept. 1 and will serve through the end of the 2023-24 academic year as we complete the search for the division’s next permanent dean. Please note that our previous communication soliciting interim dean recommendations stating this would be a one-year term was inaccurate.
A member of our faculty since 1994, Professor Valenzuela holds appointments in the César E. Chávez Department for Chicana/o and Central American Studies and Labor Studies in the UCLA College Division of Social Sciences and in the Department of Urban Planning at the Luskin School of Public Affairs. He has held several administrative leadership positions including chairing Chicana/o and Central American studies for six years, and directing the Center for the Study of Urban Poverty. Professor Valenzuela recently stepped down as special advisor to the chancellor on immigration policy after working with the chancellor and an advisory council to safeguard and enhance student success among immigrant, undocumented and international students.
As director of UCLA’s Institute for Research on Labor and Employment (IRLE) for the past six years, he oversaw multiple units: labor studies, the Labor Center, the Labor Occupational Safety and Health Program (LOSH) and the Human Resources Round Table (HARRT), which are dedicated to advancing research, teaching and service on labor and employment issues in Los Angeles and beyond. Under his leadership, the Labor Center and LOSH have generated millions in extramural research grants and contracts. The IRLE also launched the labor studies major for undergraduates in fall of 2019, the first of its kind at the UC and a program that continues to surpass yearly enrollment goals.
Professor Valenzuela worked closely with campus and Labor Center leadership in the purchase, naming and current renovation of the Labor Center’s building located in downtown Los Angeles. In late 2021, the historic building was named in honor of labor and civil rights icon and UCLA Medal recipient, Reverend James Lawson Jr.
During UCLA’s Centennial Celebration, he led UCLA: Our Stories, Our Impact, an effort to recognize and uplift alumni of color who have dedicated their work to social justice and change. As a traveling exhibit, the project engaged the campus’s ethnic studies centers, UCLA community schools and local organizations.
Known as a leading national expert, Professor Valenzuela continues to frame national public and policy conversations on immigrant and low-wage workers. He has published numerous articles and reports on immigrant settlement, labor market outcomes, urban poverty and inequality. He earned his B.A. from UC Berkeley and his master’s and Ph.D. in city planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Given his experience in numerous leadership roles across campus and the UC, and his passion to leverage social science to better understand and lead positive change, I am confident Professor Valenzuela will provide effective leadership and continue the division’s momentum during this period of transition. I hope you will join me in wishing outgoing dean Darnell Hunt the very best as UCLA’s next EVCP, and in thanking Professor Valenzuela for stepping into this leadership role.
Michael S. Levine
Interim Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost