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Davis, California

Thursday, May 30, 2024

New dean appointed to social sciences division

George R. Mangun, professor of psychology and neurology and former founding director of the UC Davis Center for Mind and Brain, has been selected out of 65 applicants and nominations as the new dean of the UC Davis Department of Social Sciences, replacing former dean of 10 years Steven M. Sheffrin.

The social science division, which includes a diverse group of majors including philosophy, linguistics and economics among others, is responsible for the education of approximately 6,000 undergraduate students according to their website, more then any other division on campus.

“I love it,” Mangun said in an e-mail interview. “The Division of Social Sciences is composed of high quality faculty, staff and students, and getting to know them and what they do is truly a pleasure.”

Four professors in the department have recently been awarded the UC Davis prize for undergraduate teaching and scholarly achievement.

“We have very highly ranked departments based on national rankings such as those in the U.S. News and World Report,” Mangun said. “I want to help to accelerate the pace of accomplishment in the division such that the top departments move in the next level of the ranking e.g., from the top 25 to the top 15 or 10.”

Mangun plans to accomplish this by raising money from donors and winning state and federal grants to support education and research in the department. His top priorities are student fellowship and research funds along with faculty scholarships.

“Dean Mangun brings an impressive array of credentials to the deanship,” said Associate Chancellor Emerita Sally Springer. “He understands the opportunities and challenges for the division, and is an energetic leader who will work hard to advance the teaching, research and outreach missions of the division.”

Springer served as senior staff to the Recruitment Advisory Committee for Dean.

“He is a distinguished researcher and an experienced administrator, with a significant record of accomplishment as Director of the Center for Neuroscience at Duke University, and as Director of the Center for Mind and Brain here at UC Davis,” she said.

Mangun, 52, received his Ph.D. in 1987 from UC San Diego in Neurosciences. Since then he has worked with UC Davis for approximately 13 years, starting in 1992 working in the Psychology Department at UC Davis as one of the founding faculty members of the Center for Neuroscience. Then after a brief period working for Duke University in the field of cognitive neuroscience, he was recruited back to UC Davis in 2002 to found and direct the Center for Mind and Brain (CMB), where he served as director prior to his selection as dean.

“[Mangun] is a great guy,” said Jeremy Smith, senior systems developer at the CMB. “He’s very easy to work with, very generous, very funny and always great to talk to.”

Smith was the second employee hired by the CMB in 2002.

“[Mangun] is somebody who has a lot of vision,” Smith said. “He came into [the CMB project] really knowing what he wanted and we’ve been a very fast growing department even at a time when most people are getting their budget cut.”

In recent years Mangun has focused extensively on the field of cognitive neuroscience, which he defined as “the field that seeks to understand the neurobiological underpinnings of higher mental function – cognition.”

Mangun’s role in the administrative office will mark a shift away from his more research focused career at the CMB.

“There is certainly a natural transition that takes place in one’s academic career,” Mangun said. “Early on you are intensely focused on your own research goals, but in stages you are increasingly called on to serve the campus, as well as your discipline internationally.”


CHARLES HINRIKSSON can be reached at campus@theaggie.org.


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