Welcome Week 2013

Bren School of ICS welcomes record-setting class of new students

As the UCI Spirit Team practices its human pyramids with a “5-6-7-8” and a booming voice exhorts the swarming students in Aldrich Park to “come join the Anteater Band,” the telltale rumble of the drum and clash of cymbals declares that UCI’s Southern Young Tigers Lion Dance team has taken the stage. An arc of onlookers at the annual Anteater Involvement Fair enjoys the shade in front of the stage as the lion rears up and unfurls a red banner from its mouth that reads, “Good Luck.”

It’s Sept. 23, the start of Welcome Week at UCI, a big day for all students, faculty and staff as they shake off the summer slows and get ready for full classrooms and the return of rush-hour foot traffic to Ring Road. But for the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences (ICS), it’s a really big day — in a sense, the biggest in school history.

As Dean Hal Stern pointed out during his welcome address to undergraduates, 469 freshmen and 164 transfer students enrolled in a Bren School major this fall. Four years ago, the incoming undergraduate class numbered only some 125 students. “We’re prisoners of our own success this year,” Stern noted with a grin, looking out over the UCI Student Center’s Pacific Ballroom. “You are such a large group that you will not fit in any room in our building.”

Stern shared with the newcomers some of the school’s “points of pride,” including ICS being the only stand-alone school of computing in the UC system; notable graduates such as Roy Fielding (B.S. ’88, M.S. ’93, Ph.D. ’00), primary architect of HTTP/1.1; the Techjobs website, run jointly by ICS and The Henry Samueli School of Engineering to connect their students with potential employers; and a recent survey that rated the earning potential of UCI computer science grads as the fourth-best in the country (tied with Stanford).

“We’re very excited to have you here,” Stern continued. “The University of California, Irvine is a spectacular place, and we have a truly outstanding program in computing.”

Tony Givargis Earlier in the day, in his welcome to Bren School graduate students, Associate Dean Tony Givargis spoke to an overflowing lecture hall — so full that chairs had to be brought in from other classrooms. He lauded both the quantity and quality of the incoming class of master’s and doctoral students, pointing out just how stiff the competition was for admission.

“Think about it: 150 of you here, 2,500 applications — how smart does that make you?” he asked. “We’re so happy to have you here, and I think you’ll do wonderfully.”

Both the graduate and undergraduate welcome programs also offered introductory presentations from departments that provide key services to students, including student affairs and computing support. Christine Kelly of the UCI Career Center also gave the grad students useful tips. For instance, when it comes to internships, “The really good ones tend to get filled in the fall and winter,” she said. Meanwhile, several student groups gave brief talks at the undergraduate welcome. At their booths during the Anteater Involvement Fair in Aldrich Park, student club representatives said they noticed a strong new-student presence. “There’s been a steady stream,” said senior Audrey Auyang, president of the ICS Student Council, as she and her ICSSC cohorts stood besieged by students signing up for the council’s newsletter.

MAISS Senior Vivian Le, finance director of the Management Information Student Society (MAISS), said she’d heard about the large incoming class, and was seeing plenty of them at her group’s booth. “There are a lot of freshmen today,” she observed. “There are quite a few transfers, too, and that helps our club because transfers tend to be really interested in professional development.”

Ayato French, a junior computer game science major, is one of those transfers, having come from El Camino and Harbor community colleges in Los Angeles County. “I really wanted to go into game design,” he said. “I knew that UC Irvine had a computer game science [major], so that was a really big motivator for me.” For junior Andrew Picard, a computer science and engineering major who transferred from Pace University in New York City, being part of the only computing school in the UC “was a positive for me. And also knowing that the school has a good relationship with a lot of big companies.”

VGDC Freshman Calvin Choi of Gilroy, a computer science major, also found ICS’ status as its own school appealing. “At the moment, I don’t really have that good a grasp of what I want to do, so having a school of information and computer sciences will actually help me focus,” he said. “I also heard good things about the computer science department here.”

Dean Hal Stern, for one, is certainly pleased that the school’s strong reputation has drawn such a large, enthusiastic crop of new students.

“You have made an outstanding choice,” Stern said, as he looked over the sea of undergraduates. “The time has never been better to major in computer science or another computing related field. So, congratulations to you, or your mother, or whoever encouraged you to make this choice,” he added, to a burst of laughter from the crowd.

— Story by Ted B. Kissell
— Photos by Paul Goodrich