Real innovators not only create disruptive change but do so by harnessing the ongoing change in the world around them. Innovators stay on the cutting edge through their outstanding leadership.

Enter Professor, Dean of Undergraduate Education, and Vice Provost Michael Dennin. Under his leadership at UC Irvine, the campus has seen some of the most dramatic and innovative changes in the last 50 years.

In recognition of his efforts and innovation in education, Dennin has recently been nominated for the OC Business Journal (OCBJ) Innovator of the Year Award.  This award recognizes and celebrates OC innovators. These innovators are recognized for creating game-changing ideas, processes, products, services and business models.

Dennin’s nomination was supported by letters from an impressive list of individuals, including Chancellor Gillman and Vice Provost Lavernia.

Michael Dennin’s impact at UCI is a result of his vision of modernization in leading the Office of the Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning (OVPTL). The Vice Provost’s new division has sparked updated academic programs and compatible community partnerships. OVPTL has also advocated for consistently current curriculum and national outreach like never before.

As a result, UCI has received a number of recognitions for embracing student diversity and advancing college access. Dennin’s programs are designed to help first generation students and low-income students achieve the American Dream. UCI has recently been recognized by the New York Times as being the top school for helping students achieve the American Dream.

Currently, more than half of UCI’s student body identifies as a first-generation student. In support of these first generation students, Dennin has led an initiative that celebrates those first few who choose to pursue higher education.

The First Generation Faculty Initiative helps new students feel like they belong to, and are supported by a larger community. In connecting students to potential mentorships, it also gives graduate-level first generation students, faculty, and staff an opportunity for recognition as the first in their family to attend college.

Building on his early momentum, Dennin helped UCI get involved with the American Talent Initiative (ATI). In doing so UCI joined sixty-eight of the nation’s most respected colleges and universities in an alliance.

This alliance is meant to substantially expand the number of talented low- and moderate- income students. American Talent Initiative’s success depends on undergraduate institutions like UCI with the highest graduation rates.

Dennin also initiated an academic support program dedicated to helping first-generation, low-income, former foster youth, and/or disabled college students succeed at UCI. This program called the Student Success Initiatives positions itself to help students successfully transition. SSI makes a difference in students’ lives, helping to maximize college experiences needed to thrive at UCI.

His focus is not limited to UCI; in May he brought the ‘California STEM Includes’ Conference to Irvine.  The ‘California STEM Includes’ Conference helped network educators from all over California. The educators shared best practices in promoting STEM inclusion and degrees. The conference also provided infrastructure alternatives to further these practices and track the outcomes.

In his service as an active professor, Dennin recently raised $2,700,000 of funding towards research into evaluating the effectiveness of introductory physics and chemistry courses. The research will focus on students who are currently underrepresented in science. Hopefully the grant will allow Michael and his team to study how to better innovate and restructure STEM classes at UCI to increase retention of students in STEM majors.

This substantial federal grant funds projects that improve academic achievement for all students. However, it’s particularly aimed to help those whose education prospects are hindered by inadequate education services and other conditions associated with poverty, race/ethnicity, limited English proficiency, disability, and family circumstances.

Off campus Dennin is an active public speaker, where he brings his scientific facts into a fun mix of pop culture. His broad range of local audiences has included everything from a community talk after the release of the latest Star Wars movie, to presentations for interested religious audiences about his book on science and faith.

His book Divine Science: Finding Reason at the Heart of Faith is available now on Amazon for Kindle and hard copies.

Michael Dennin has also given a variety of K-12 school presentations on his research into the physics of bubbles and foam. He continues his passion for promoting science through a variety of television, YouTube, MOOC, book and public lectures.

It is clearly demonstrated that he is much more than an innovative educational leader and an exemplary scientist, but a true pillar of the Irvine community.

Over the next few months, the selection committee will be reviewing the nominations. The winners will be announced during a special luncheon at the Hotel Irvine on September 12th from 12pm-2pm.

Regardless of whether he wins or not, the OVPTL, his staff, and friends are proud of Professor Dennin. We admire his continued commitment to the community in supporting future innovators, scientists, and entrepreneurs.