University of California, Irvine

School of Social Ecology

About the school

School of Social Ecology

In 1970, UCI established the nation's first school of social ecology in response to high demand for more socially relevant research. For more than 40 years, the school has been an internationally recognized pioneer in developing interdisciplinary approaches to social problems.

Faculty in the school’s three highly-ranked departments—criminology, law and society; urban planning and public; and psychological science—engage in research and education to foster informed social action and make the world a better place. The school offers five undergraduate degrees, five undergraduate minors, three master's degrees and five doctorates. Students are trained to be future experts in public health and safety, community development, social psychology, urban planning and criminology, providing California with a skilled cadre of professionals who will help to make its institutions more effective.

The School of Social Ecology has marshaled its interdisciplinary expertise to focus on areas including global environmental degradation, poverty and other forms of inequality, prison overcrowding and gang violence in California, healthy child development, challenges faced by an aging population, health risks and community empowerment. These efforts have made the School of Social Ecology a national leader in applying basic theory and empirical research to a range of complex societal problems.

The school is rooted in community engagement and offers its students relevant, broad and robust curriculum. The hallmark of this commitment is the school's field study program, a requirement for all undergraduate students to complete 100 hours of service in one of more than 200 approved community agencies and organizations. This experience extends education beyond the classroom in ways that can be life-changing for students and result in significant contributions to the community.

The school hosts seven research centers, one institute and one initiative. Collectively, these centers foster interdisciplinary research, training and outreach that address complex social, legal, political and environmental problems affecting society as a whole. The innovative research programs and institutes include:

Mona Lynch, Interim Dean

Chancellor's Professor and Chair of Criminology, Law and Society Mona Lynch has been appointed interim dean of the School of Social Ecology, effective July 1, 2021. 

Professor Lynch joined UCI in 2008 and she has served as co-director of the campuswide Center in Law, Society and Culture since 2009. Prior to UCI, she worked as a professor at San Jose State University and Arizona State University. She has served on multiple Senate committees at UCI and systemwide, most recently as chair of the systemwide University Committee on Affirmative Action, Diversity, and Equity (UCAADE). Her research focuses on plea bargaining, criminal sentencing, and punishment processes, with a focus on institutionalized forms of bias within the criminal legal system. Her work has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Justice, and the Russell Sage Foundation. Her research has been published in a range of criminology and socio-legal journals. She has authored two books, "Sunbelt Justice: Arizona and the Transformation of American Punishment" and "Hard Bargains: The Coercive Power of Drug Laws in Federal Court," which won the 2017 Michael J. Hindelang Outstanding Book Award from the American Society of Criminology.


  • Elizabeth Loftus, a Distinguished Professor of psychology & social behavior and criminology, law & society, was named one of the top 100 psychologists of the 20th century by The Review of General Psychology and is an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences.
  • The Department of Criminology, Law & Society's faculty includes three former presidents of the American Society of Criminology and is ranked by U.S. News & World Report as the nation's fifth best graduate program in criminology and the number one U.S. college for a major in criminology according to USA Today.
  • The Department of Planning, Policy & Design ranked among the top planning departments in the United States and Canada in a recent study published in the Journal of Planning Education & Research. The department ranked fifth in the number of published journal articles, seventh in the percentage of faculty who had published, and 12th for total citations to faculty research.
  • The Department of Psychology & Social Behavior is ranked by U.S. News & World Report as the nation's 30th best graduate program in psychology.
  • The school's online program for Master of Advanced Study degree in criminology, law & society is ranked as the top online graduate criminal justice program in the country by U.S. News & World Report.
  • Chancellor's Fellows – Elizabeth Cauffman, psychology & social behavior; Susan Charles, psychology & social behavior; John Hipp, criminology, law & society; Mona Lynch, criminology, law & society.
  • Chancellor's Professors – Kitty Calavita (Emerita), criminology, law & society; Chuansheng Chen, psychology & social behavior; Daniel Stokols (Emeritus), planning, policy & design and psychology & social behavior.