School of Social Ecology

The School of Social Ecology[1] (SSE) is a school of the University of California, Irvine (UCI) that studies social ecology. As of 2015, the School enrolls nearly 3,000 students and is the third largest school at UCI by student population.[2][3] Students in the social ecology program at UCI undergo a multidisciplinary program that examines real-world social and environmental issues and that involves the students in off-campus internships as well as on-campus courses.[2][4] SSE offers undergraduate and graduate degrees, including bachelor’s, professional master’s, and Ph.D.s.

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School of Social Ecology

Social Ecology I building.
Former names
Program in Social Ecology
Type School
Established 1970 (as a program)
1992 (as a school)
Parent institution
University of California, Irvine
Dean Nancy Guerra



United States

The school has three departments: Criminology, Law and Society; Psychological Science (prior to Fall 2019 known as Psychology and Social Behavior); and Urban Planning and Public Policy.[3] It is also home to approximately 70 faculty, 2,500 undergraduate students, 300 graduate students, and over 20,000 alumni; it offers five undergraduate degrees and eight graduate degrees, including two professional degrees.

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In 1970 the Social Ecology Program was founded as the first US academic unit in social ecology. Founded by Arnold Binder, the program intended to address social problems of the day by promoting research and training that crossed disciplinary boundaries and held direct relevance to public policy and social issues. The Program also encouraged students to apply theory and research to the study of community issues by emphasizing hands-on, cross-disciplinary research, education, and training.[5] Since the beginning of the program in 1970, all undergraduate students in the Social Ecology Program have been required to take field study internships with a community organization in order to graduate.[5]

In 1988, UCI began the process to accord School status to the Social Ecology program. In 1992, the University of California Regents formally approved the School of Social Ecology.[5]

In the following decades, SSE continued to expand its offerings and infrastructure. In 1993, the School established the Department of Urban Planning and Public Policy and began awarding master’s degrees in Urban and Regional Planning. A second Social Ecology building on campus opened in 1996, the same year that new Ph.D. programs in Urban and Regional Planning and Environmental Health Science and Policy were approved by the Academic Senate. In 2003, the Urban and Regional planning department and Ph.D. program were renamed “Planning, Policy and Design” (PPD). In 2009, PPD inaugurated an undergraduate major, a B.A. in Urban Studies. In 2011, PPD helped launch a Master’s of Public Policy degree. SSE faculty were also involved in launching UCI’s public health program and law school.[6]

The American Psychological Society Observer lauded the Department of Psychological Science as “one of the most successful interdisciplinary arenas in the field and a good example of a growing trend in behavioral research” in 1999. The Urban Planning and Public Policy department ranked at the top of measures of productivity in a 2012 Planetizen survey of 372 planning educators from accredited planning schools.[7]

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