Faculty and staff celebrated at Social Sciences Fest

May 2, 2024

On April 18, faculty and staff from the Division of Social Sciences — along with their families —convened at the Faculty Club for Social Sciences Fest, the annual celebration of the social sciences at UC Berkeley. The gathering provided an opportunity for members of the UC Berkeley social sciences community to connect over food and drinks. Several children in attendance enjoyed balloon animals, coloring, and other fun activities.

Raka Ray, Dean of the Division of Social Sciences, expressed gratitude for how the division’s members have weathered a tumultuous year. “I want to acknowledge with pride the way the departments in the social sciences, and in particular the chairs, have worked so hard to repair frayed relations and always to do the right thing to keep the community together in circumstances that haven’t always been easy,” Ray said.

Ray also shared her optimism for the division’s future, noting that incoming chancellor Richard Lyons is a social scientist. “My job is to remind him that he is a social scientist,” Ray said. “But although the Provost has been helping to resource us, we are still under-resourced. In spite of that, all of you nurture your students, you produce research that matters, and you do massive amounts of service, not just in the department, but for all of campus. It makes me amazingly proud to be able to represent you.”

A Year of Highlights
Ray listed a variety of highlights from the past academic year, including the creation of a comprehensive internship program that aims to help prepare students from the Division of Social Sciences for meaningful careers.

“I noticed there wasn’t really a structured way in which social science students could get internships at all,” Ray said. “Through our donors, we’ve been able to not only find paid internships, but also money so that people who want to follow their heart and do internships that are unpaid are able to earn minimum wage at least.”

Ray also noted the Fall 2023 creation of the one-year Master of Computational Social Science program, which has already accepted a cohort of 25 students selected from hundreds of applicants. “That shows how much it was needed, so that’s very exciting,” Ray said.

Other highlights included public recognition for UC Berkeley social science graduate programs. Several of the division’s graduate programs received top rankings from U.S. News and World Report, Ray said: the Departments of Sociology, Psychology, and History ranked #1 in the nation, while the Departments of Political Science and Economics ranked 4th best.

Other points of celebration included awards won and books published by faculty, as well as the Matrix Faculty Fellows Program, which supports assistant- and associate-level faculty members from the division for continuing work on research that has a significant impact across multiple disciplines. “We have supported eight faculty thus far and we’re going to support for more next year,” Ray said.

Divisional Awards
Berkeley Social Sciences’ Distinguished Teaching Award was established to encourage and reward faculty members who have been exceptionally generous and effective in both undergraduate and graduate teaching.

This year’s Distinguished Teaching Award was given to Chris Walters, Associate Professor in the UC Berkeley Department of Economics. “Chris does the hard job of teaching popular core and required classes, but he inspires his students tremendously,” Ray said. “He’s also an exceptional advisor to graduate students, and has done a lot to bring in diversity and inclusion into his syllabi to reflect new criticisms of more conventional studies.”

Upon receiving the award, Walters thanked his wife, his colleagues, as well as Berkeley students. “I’ve had the pleasure of working with a lot of really talented undergraduate and graduate students since I’ve been here,” Walters said. “I teach classes in labor economics, which cover potentially difficult, broad topics like minimum wages, the economic impacts of immigration, market discrimination, and so on. In my experience, our students approach those topics with a lot of maturity and intellectual seriousness, and it makes them a real pleasure to teach.”

The Distinguished Service Award, established to recognize a staff member who has made extraordinary service contributions to their department and to the campus, was given to Harumi Quinones, Student Services Director in the UC Berkeley Department of Psychology.

Quinones “has done so much work in not only keeping the morale of the staff and department up, but she’s also been doing incredible work to make psychology even more inclusive,” Ray said. “She really led the effort to remove unnecessary barriers that were preventing people from coming into psychology. Once she did that, the number of psychology majors went up by 50%. But it is still the number one program in the country. Good things happened, as opposed to people’s fear that bad things would happen.”

“I feel so blessed to have had so many faculty supporters who listen to me, and who really were thought partners in thinking about how we can better support students who are interested in psychology,” Quinones said. “I just want to thank this whole wonderful room of supporters and the phenomenal colleagues I have on this campus for helping make wonderful things happen.”

Economics Professor Chris Walters

Psychology Student Services Director Harumi Quinones