Clipboard researched by Susan Davis Greene and Rick VanderKnyff / Los Angeles Times. Graphics by Doris Shields / Los Angeles Times

UCI--Circle of Learning

The circular design of the campus, the ultracontemporary architecture of the buildings and the laid-back, relaxed attitude of the students--all this is UC Irvine. Snuggled in Irvine’s coastal foothills, UCI is just 5 miles from the yacht slips and beaches of Newport.

Concentric circles of buildings lie at the heart of the campus, the newest in the University of California system. Teaching and administrative facilities are in the inner circle; research buildings and student housing are outside.

Most students and faculty members, at one time or another, gather to chat, eat or meet at the most popular spot on campus--21 acres of greenery named Aldrich Park. The park is the campus centerpiece and is named for Daniel G. Aldrich Jr., founding chancellor. Aldrich and William L. Pereira, the original campus architect, worked together to develop the circle design. Aldrich retired in 1984 after 23 years in the UC system, 19 of them at UCI.


The university is obviously not content to sit back and live off its UC reputation and land-of-milk-and-honey setting. Although it is the youngest campus, having opened in 1965, UCI is developing into a leading research center, specializing in biological sciences. In fact, biological science is the most popular major among undergraduate students. About 20% have chosen it as their course of study.

Why? A couple of good reasons could be that the department has professors such as Dr. Monte Buchsbaum and pyschobiologist Carl Cotman. Buchsbaum heads the Brain Imaging Center and was instrumental in persuading UCI to acquire a Positron Emission Tomography scanner, a device used to photograph brain activity. There are fewer than 20 PET scanners in the world. Cotman is a leader in Alzheimer’s disease research.

On the administrative front, Executive Vice Chancellor Chang-Lin Tien, hired to oversee the academic development and growth of the campus, is engineering an update of the university’s academic plan. To that end, he has asked all the academic deans to outline aspirations for their departments through the year 2000.

Tien hopes to simultaneously upgrade UCI’s retention of minorities. For while the school excels in reaching out to and recruiting minority students, there has been some problem in retaining those individuals through graduation.


Earlier this month, the Academic Senate voted 15 to 0 to add two courses, one in multicultural studies and another in international and global issues. Both will be mandatory for graduates. The vote on the two new courses came in response to several racial incidents over the last 3 years. If the entire faculty approves these additions to the curriculum April 13, the classes will begin next year.

UCI is also engaged in trying to help solve an old problem with a new solution. At a series of recent meetings between representatives of the city of Irvine, a campus committee (composed of student, faculty and administration members) and the Ad Hoc Coalition for the Homeless (a volunteer group), a plan emerged that would bring the university front and center. UCI would provide land that would ultimately become the site of shelter for the homeless. Chancellor Jack W. Peltason has requested that a detailed proposal be submitted for consideration. If approved, the plan would go to Irvine Mayor Larry Agran and the City Council for a vote.

Despite its lush setting, UCI has remained a commuter campus. Only about 25% of the student body lives on campus, in residence halls, apartments, student family units or in the RV/trailer park.

South Circle View Drive, the main street on the south side of the campus, is the site of University Hills. There are 1,000 faculty members at UCI, of which more than one-third live in the 200 homes and 100 apartments in that community.

UCI, like parts of the rest of the county, is in the midst of a building boom. More than $300 million worth of construction is under way, including what is to be the 750-seat Irvine Theater. A tripartite partnership of the Irvine City Council, UCI and Irvine’s art community funded the $17.6-million theater, which will sit on a 2.3-acre site across from the Administration Building. For its part, UCI donated the land for the theater, which will act as focal point for the arts in the city.

One spectacular architectural feature of the campus that is already in place is its pedestrian bridge, a sky walk so unique that it projects one into a “Star Trek” world. Called the Gateway Arch Bridge, this walkway links the campus with the Marketplace, a commercial community of shops, restaurants and theaters across Campus Drive.

Population Total: (1980 est.) 2,998 1970-80 change: +229% Median Age: 20.6 Racial/ethnic mix: White (non-Latino), 61%; Latino, 13%; Black, 9%; Other, 17% By sex and age: MALES Median age: 20.8 years FEMALES Median age: 20.4 years Income Per capita: $2,896 Median household: $8,250 Average household: $4,248 Income Distribution: Income Distribution: Less than $25,000: 100% $25,000-49,999: *% $50,000-74,999: *% More than $75,000: *%