Sitting outside the Paul Merage Starbucks, a light breeze ruffles the leaves pushing the puffy white clouds that drift past. It is the perfect temperature, whether you’re a t-shirt and iced coffee or a cardigan and latte kind of person. The only thing that could possibly improve a day like today would be some excellent conversation, and that’s exactly what can be found during Dean Dennin’s casual Coffee Hour.

Connecting with the faculty at UCI in an official setting can be off-putting or even scary for incoming students, and faculty alike, especially after hearing about Dean Dennin’s recent recognition by CollegeNET for the 2017 Social Mobility Innovator Award, coming on the heels of his nomination for the OCBJ Innovator of the Year Award for his work as the Vice Provost for the Office of the Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning.

To overcome this barrier and connect with the people he represents, Michael Dennin frequently hosts Coffee Hours, where anyone is encouraged to join him in the courtyard behind Starbucks for conversation in a casual setting.

I was excited to see if Dean Dennin would live up to his Twitter bio, where first and foremost he sees himself as the ‘Approachable Prof.’ As each new person came to join us, Michael Dennin greeted them with an appreciative smile and encouraged them to pull up a chair.

By the time we started with informal introductions, Coffee Hour was off to a comfortable start. The questions usually tend to range from personal to school related and provide a fun, relaxing way for people to get to know our Vice Provost a bit better.

Dennin kept the conversation flowing and the laughter coming as he talked about his expanding role at UCI, some of his best memories and his home life. By the time our Coffee Hour was up, I had to agree with Dean Dennin’s twitter bio – he was definitely a ‘Science Innovator,’ a ‘Superhero Guru,’ a ‘Speaker,’ a ‘Soccer Dad,’ and most importantly an ‘Approachable Professor.’

Science Innovator

Off to a positive start, the hour began as Dennin accepted our hearty congratulations on his recent nomination for the Innovator of the Year Award and his recognition by CollegeNET. Dennin credited the school as a whole for the 2017 Social Mobility Innovator Award, as “A college should be judged by how it helps students with their social mobility.”

Superhero Guru

I was more than a little skeptical of this one, but Dennin definitely deserves his title of “Superhero Guru” for his work on the YouTube series “Fascinating Fights.” The Vice Provost was particularly excited to share the possibility of a partnership between UCI and the new Mythbusters crew. Don’t be surprised if you see the Mythbusters around campus in the coming months filming a YouTube campaign challenging students to come up with new myths in need of busting.


Out of all his speaking engagements, Dennin shared that he was particularly excited about the Magic Castle – “If I could have one skill, it would be magic.” Our Vice Provost was asked to speak on Science and Magic at the Magic Castle this coming September, but unfortunately, he had to decline for a previous family engagement. “Science and magic have a lot in common. Dissecting the trick doesn’t take the magic out of its performance.”

Soccer Dad

Family quickly became a running theme during Dean Dennin’s Coffee Hour. Whether the subject was favorite TV shows or Disneyland memories, every time he mentioned his daughters, Dennin’s smile lit up with pride. Recalling a particularly memorable Father’s Day, Dennin recounted how a stranger saying “You’re such a dad” became a badge of honor that he carries with him to this day.

Coffee Hour with Dean Dennin was a lively, laughter filled discussion all around. It’s refreshing to really see a faculty member dedicate themselves to accessibility. His Twitter bio has it right, Michael Dennin truly is the ‘Approachable Professor.’

Don’t have time to stop by Coffee Hour this week? Want to get to know the Vice Provost even better? Check out his YouTube channel to receive regular updates with news on his projects and latest innovations.

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