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The Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences (ICS) recently welcomed 683 new undergraduate students, with 381 incoming first-year and 302 transfer students. The new graduate student cohort includes 52 master’s students, 276 professional master’s students, and almost 75 Ph.D. students. On Monday, Sept. 19, 2022, ICS Dean Marios Papaefthymiou officially welcomed the nearly 1,085 new students into the ICS family!

Graduate Research and Professional Programs
Graduate students attended an open house breakfast in the quad of the new Interdisciplinary Science & Engineering Building, where they were able to speak with Madhu Reddy, the associate dean for graduate education; meet with staff from the Graduate Student Affairs Office; and get to know one another. Dean Marios congratulated them on being among the select group of students admitted from the more than 7,000 applications received for fall 2022 admissions to ICS graduate research and professional programs.

New ICS graduate students at the welcome breakfast.

New Undergraduates Students
The undergraduate students attended their welcome session in a more traditional campus setting, gathering in a lecture hall for the first time in three years. First-year students attended a morning session and transfer students attended an afternoon session.

“This year’s cohort is the definition of resilience,” says Neha Rawal, director of Undergraduate Student Affairs. “They had to learn how to navigate a pandemic; learn remotely; miss out on numerous milestones and the necessary social interaction amongst peers; and face a rigorous college admissions process, with almost 15,000 students applying to the School of ICS.”

As students filed into the lecture hall, they found ICS T-shirts draped over each chair. Rawal instructed students to get to know each other as they swapped shirt sizes in search of the right fit. She then introduced Dean Marios, who welcomed the students with a heartfelt congratulations. “It’s not easy to get into ICS,” he stressed. “It’s great to have you here!”

ICS Dean Marios Papaefthymiou welcomes new first-year students to the School of ICS.

As part of his Dean’s Welcome, he offered two pieces of advice to the undergraduate students. “Make sure you take notes,” he joked, before imploring the students to “sleep well, eat well and exercise.” The crowd broke into applause, clearly appreciating this much-needed focus on health. (Students can also learn more about UCI student wellness and health promotion online.)

For his second piece of advice, Dean Marios encouraged students to explore opportunities. “I’m sure you all have your eyes set on academics,” he started, “and you’re all going to do great in your classes.” He then planted the seed for wider engagement. “This is a big place, and a lot of interesting stuff happens outside of the classroom.” He touched on research opportunities and the possibility of attending graduate school. He talked about how joining an ICS student organization brings together like-minded individuals. He suggested starting professional development activities sooner rather later, warning students not to wait until their senior year to get an internship, and extending an invitation to the 4th Annual ICS Industry Showcase event on Oct. 11-12. Finally, he promoted the ICS capstone projects, offered through elective courses for seniors majoring in computer science and data science and required courses for informatics majors, as well as through select competitions such as the Butterworth Product Development Competition.

Associate Dean of Undergraduate Education Gopi Meenakshisundaram reiterated these messages, again reminding students to take care of their mental and physical health and encouraging them to get involved in activities outside of their coursework. “It’s a big campus, so it’s easy to feel lonely,” he said, “but when you get involved, you find your own small, little home where you can feel comfortable, with everyone taking care of each other.”

To provide some guidance, students heard from Caroline Chiang, assistant director of UCI’s Division of Career Pathways (DCP), who talked about various professional development activities. Students also heard from representatives from the following ICS undergraduate student organizations:

Other undergraduate ICS clubs include the UC Irvine Chapter of the Association of Computer Machinery (ACM @ UCI), Artificial Intelligence @ UCI (AI @ UCI), Cyber @ UCI and the Video Game Development Club (VGDC).

Finally, students were introduced to the ICS Peer Academic Advisors: Isaiah Raya, Wentao Chen, Brian BulgarelliYanran Wang and Varij Jhaveri. Raya, who is a senior majoring in computer science, advises students to establish a group of reliable friends. “They will help you stay motivated and on top of coursework and make classes a lot more manageable and fun!” Bulgarelli, also a senior CS major, agrees. “Finish your work early and make time for social events, whether it be hanging out with people in your dorm or finding new clubs to join!”

The ICS welcome was a way to get students off to a productive start. “Now they begin on a new journey in academics, professional development and self-discovery,” says Rawal, who is here to help students along the way. “It’s so wonderful to see students back on campus,” she says. “They make the campus alive and vibrant.”

— Shani Murray