We are thrilled to announce that Michael Dennin, UCI Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning and Dean of Undergraduate Education, has been selected to receive the Greater Irvine Chamber’s Distinguished Educator of the Year Award

The Greater Irvine Chamber’s Distinguished Educators is a new program that aims to celebrate the role that Irvine’s world-class education plays in helping the city live up to its promise as a model community and its ability to sustain economic vitality by ensuring a continuous skilled workforce.

Through its inaugural Distinguished Educators program, the Chamber recognizes exemplary Irvine educators who have contributed to the educational process through direct student involvement or partnership activities. The program also honors outstanding STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) programs offered throughout the City of Irvine.

Award winners were announced following a city-wide call for nominations and an intensive selection process. Vice Provost Dennin received nominations from several key figures across UCI’s campus and many respected pillars of the UCI community. Notable nominators included UCI Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Hal Stern, UCI Associate Vice Chancellor of Public Affairs Sherry Main, and 74th Assembly District Women of Distinction Honoree and President of the United Exchange Corporation Carol Choi.

Being named Distinguished Educator of the Year is just the latest in Vice Provost Dennin’s long list of accolades, which includes his recent win at the Orange County Business Journal’s 2020 Innovator of the Year Awards. This recognition is a testament to the impact he has had on UCI’s campus and the educational climate of Irvine as a whole. Some of his most noteworthy contributions include:

  • Overseeing UCI’s multi-year, $67-million effort to create the Anteater Learning Pavilion (ALP), the first active learning facility in California, as well as supporting the development of the Active Learning Institute (ALI), which teaches UCI faculty how to incorporate active learning into their courses. Vice Provost Dennin’s support of both the ALP and ALI demonstrates his commitment to pedagogical innovation and his desire to transform higher education for the 21st-century student. 
  • Leading research to improve academic achievement for students, particularly those who have faced inadequate education services and conditions associated with poverty, race/ethnicity, limited English proficiency, disabilities, and family circumstances. Vice Provost Dennin and his team are studying how to innovate and restructure STEM classes at UCI to increase retention of students in STEM majors. 
  • Helping to launch UCI’s Student Success Initiatives, a unit dedicated to offering programs and services to support traditionally underrepresented student populations, such as first-generation students, low-income students, current and former foster youth, student parents, and so on. Vice Provost Dennin’s work with Student Success Initiatives highlights his dedication to serving the needs of and increasing access to UCI’s diverse student body. 
  • Supporting the development of the First-Generation Faculty Initiative to recognize the social and cultural challenges that first-gen students face, help them find a sense of belonging, and build communities of support on campus. This program has since been adopted across the entire UC system.
  • Popularizing science education through TV appearances (Ancient Aliens), public speaking events (Comic-Con), podcasts, books, and other media outlets. Vice Provost Dennin is passionate about making physical science accessible to general audiences and inspiring the next generation of STEM scholars.
  • Ensuring student access to the tools and resources necessary for remote learning at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic. As UCI transitioned to a remote-learning environment, Vice Provost Dennin rapidly deployed the Student Laptop Loan program, where students could receive free laptop and hotspot loans so they could continue their education.
  • Advocating for the needs of students throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. For instance, Vice Provost Dennin worked with UCI’s Academic Senate to approve an extended “Pass/No Pass” grading policy to provide students with much-needed flexibility.
  • Writing and maintaining #DenninInsights, a blog series where he shares his ideas for transforming higher education to be more equitable and inclusive. With #DenninInsights, Vice Provost Dennin directly confronts some of the challenging topics that many other leaders avoid in order to evoke serious discussion and lasting change.

These are just a handful of the many things that Vice Provost Dennin has accomplished during his time at UCI. He has consistently strived to address the needs of an ever-changing campus, and his decades of contributions to UCI and the larger community have demonstrated why he is deserving of the Distinguished Educator of the Year Award.

When asked about the significance of the award, Vice Provost Dennin said:

“It’s an honor to accept the Distinguished Educator of the Year Award, and I truly appreciate the Greater Irvine Chamber’s focus on education. I’m proud to represent UCI’s high standard of education and our dedication to empowering the next generation of professionals and scholars.”

Vice Provost Dennin also offered his congratulations to the other UCI award winners honored at the ceremony. The Game Design and Interactive Media program at the UCI Donald Bren School of Information & Computer Sciences received the Distinguished Program: Technology award. The UCI-IVC Engineering Academy, a partnership between Irvine Valley College and the UCI Henry Samueli School of Engineering, won the Distinguished Program: Engineering award. Finally, UCI student Anganette Cisneros was recognized by the Greater Irvine Chamber for winning the John Colvin Memorial Scholarship.

We would also like to recognize and congratulate the other Distinguished Educators awardees, which include the following:

Educator Award Winners

Program Award Winners

Vice Provost Dennin and other honorees were recognized at the Distinguished Educators ceremony on October 13. For more information on the event, click here. To learn more about Vice Provost Dennin, visit his website here.