Appointment of Abel Valenzuela Jr. as Dean of UCLA’s Division of Social Sciences

May 15, 2024

Dear Colleagues:

I write to share that following a comprehensive search process, Abel Valenzuela Jr. has been appointed dean of the UCLA College Division of Social Sciences.

Serving as interim dean of the division since Sept. 1, 2022, Dean Valenzuela has provided steadfast leadership and oversight of the division. Among his accomplishments in his interim capacity, he has moved the division forward with key ladder-rank faculty hires and retention, supporting divisional and campuswide priorities around equity, diversity and inclusion initiatives; and he has appointed new chairs and research center directors that will support the division. Dean Valenzuela has also secured multiple gifts for the division, raising more than $5 million and nurturing other potential gifts that will enhance the social sciences. He has worked closely with the Social Sciences Advisory Board, adding several new members and partnering to shape divisional priorities, including securing the endowed Lifka Staff Excellence Award in the social sciences — the first such endowment at UCLA.

A member of our faculty for a remarkable 30 years, Dean Valenzuela holds appointments in the César E. Chávez Department for Chicana/o and Central American Studies as well as in Labor Studies in the UCLA College Division of Social Sciences. He also holds an appointment in the Department of Urban Planning at the Luskin School of Public Affairs. In addition to serving as interim dean, he has held several other academic leadership positions including chairing Chicana/o and Central American studies for two terms and directing the Center for the Study of Urban Poverty. Dean Valenzuela was also special advisor to the chancellor on immigration policy, contributing to student success among immigrant, undocumented and international students.

As director of UCLA’s Institute for Research on Labor and Employment (IRLE) for six years, he oversaw labor studies, the Labor Center, the Labor Occupational Safety and Health Program (LOSH) and the Human Resources Round Table, which are dedicated to advancing research, teaching and service on labor and employment issues in Los Angeles and beyond. During his leadership, IRLE successfully purchased and renamed the downtown labor center as the UCLA James Lawson Jr. Worker Justice Center. The Labor Center and LOSH generated millions in extramural research grants and contracts under Dean Valenzuela’s leadership, and the IRLE and labor studies launched a successful major for undergraduates — the first of its kind within the University of California.

A leading expert on immigrant and low-wage workers, Dean Valenzuela continues to contribute to national public and policy conversations and has published numerous articles and reports on immigrant settlement, labor market outcomes, urban poverty and inequality. His scholarship has shaped research on itinerant workers, worker centers and immigrant work. His studies have engaged local stakeholders and community-based organizations, and influenced policy and legislation on issues related to labor, social stratification, race, poverty and neighborhood change. Dean Valenzuela earned his B.A. from UC Berkeley and his master’s and Ph.D. in city planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

I wish to thank the search/advisory committee members for assembling an outstanding pool of candidates for this position and for their role in recruiting Dean Valenzuela. Miguel A. García-Garibay, senior dean of the College, dean of the Division of Physical Sciences and distinguished professor of chemistry and biochemistry, chaired the committee. Other members were:

  • Andrew Atkeson – Stanley M. Zimmerman Professor of Economics and Finance
  • Lorrie Frasure – director, Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies; Ralph J. Bunche Endowed Chair; professor of political science and African American studies
  • Jamie M. Goodwin-White – associate professor of geography
  • Tobias Higbie – professor of history and labor studies; director of the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment
  • Kerri L. Johnson – professor of communication and of psychology; associate vice chancellor for faculty development
  • Purnima Mankekar – professor of anthropology; Asian American studies; gender studies; and film, television and digital media
  • Megan Sweeney – professor of sociology
  • Chris Zepeda-Millán – associate professor of Chicana/o studies, sociology, political science and public policy

Looking ahead, Dean Valenzuela plans to continue prioritizing staff excellence in social sciences with development activities and investments; supporting faculty recruitment and retention efforts to secure, maintain and enhance UCLA’s core mission and excellence in research, teaching and service; and to advance graduate student support, including strengthening our connections and resources for international students.

Given his longstanding leadership and commitment to UCLA, Chancellor Block and I are confident that Abel will continue to help the Division of Social Sciences reach new heights. Please join us in congratulating Abel on his many achievements as he takes on the role of permanent dean.


Darnell Hunt
Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost