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Special Programs

ACE Social Ecology

Take Your Professor to Lunch

Research and Learning Assistants

Social Ecology Honors Program

Social Ecology Excellence in Research Distinction

Additional Information

For information about the School of Social Ecology's other programs, please visit our website: Student Information Resource Page


ACE Social Ecology

ACE Social Ecology is an innovative retention and peer mentoring program in the School of Social Ecology at UC Irvine. Launched in Fall 2011, the program promotes academic excellence, leadership development, and community engagement to serve the school’s diverse, first-year and transfer student population. Since 2011, the program has positively impacted nearly 200 mentees and 60 peer mentors. A few former mentees in the program have become peer mentors in the program, while many have pursued on-campus leadership opportunities, while maintaining solid GPAs. Students attest their accomplishments during their first year at UCI and beyond due to their participation in the ACE Social Ecology Program.

The ACE Social Ecology Program offers many benefits to participants. To be eligible, you must be a new student (freshman or transfer) in the School of Social Ecology.


*Earn 2 units of Social Ecology 198 (P/NP) each quarter.

*Receive mentorship from a trained upper-division student during your first year.

*Develop and expand your peer network through participation in service-learning projects and community-building activities.

*Participate in special workshops on topics such as time management, leadership development, campus and community resources, diversity and social justice issues, applying for scholarships, and stress management. Meet and connect with faculty, staff, and administrators who will serve as workshop presenters and facilitators.

*Obtain access to the Excellence Lab, a 24-hour study and lounge space in Social Ecology II.

Have questions? E-mail: Alejandra Garibay, Program Director for ACE


Take your Professor to Lunch

The goal of this program is for undergraduate students in the School of Social Ecology to get to know their professors outside the classroom by taking them to lunch. Given the success of our pilot program with mentees in the School’s retention and peer mentoring program (ACE), we are expanding this student-faculty lunch program to all undergraduates in our School. Pairs of majors in our School are encouraged to approach one of their professors in Social Ecology and invite them to lunch at a campus eatery.

Once a mutually convenient date has been set, students will host the faculty member at an on-campus dining location using a meal card that they check out from Maria Spangenberg in the Office of Undergraduate Advising (102 Social Ecology I). All campus dining locations are included in this program except University Club, Anthill Pub & Grille, Café Expresso, and Express Yourself.

Costs have been pre-paid by the School as part of the Dean’s Fund for Excellence in Undergraduate Education thanks to generous funding from our donors.

How It Works

  • Identify a faculty member in Social Ecology and along with another Social Ecology student, invite the professor to lunch.  Set a date and time.
  • Once a date and time has been set, e-mail Maria Spangenberg at at least 4 business days in advance to request a meal card.  In the e-mail, include your name, the faculty, and the other student, as well as the date location of the lunch 
  • Pick your card up at SE I, Room 102.  You'll need to leave your student ID cards in exchange of the meal card
  • Each participant has up to $12 to spend on lunch
  • Once the lunch is done, return the meal card, the receipt, and pick up your ID cards
  • Send a picture of the lunch and a short reflection paper on the experience within 3 business days of the lunch to

Sample Questions Students Have Been Encouraged to Ask

  • Tell me about your current research projects and how you got interested in those topics?
  • What advice do you have for someone interested in graduate school?
  • What do you like to do when you’re not teaching? Special interests or hobbies?
  • Do you have tips to help me maximize my college experience?  

Frequently Asked Questions 

  • Can I participate in the program more than once? 
    • You can participate once per quarter to give the most students access to this unique opportunity.
  • Can I invite faculty from another school to lunch?
    • The intention is to build community and connection with the professor in Social Ecology, so only Social Ecology professors may participate
  • Can I invite someone else to lunch?
    • A minimum of 2 Social Ecology students are required for each lunch, so yes!  Find a buddy in one of your classes and invite a professor to lunch. 
  • When do I return the meal card and receipt? 
    • You'll need to return the meal card and receipt to SE Undergraduate Advising rigth after your lunch for reporting purposes - so we can keep this program running!

Find out more, download the following fliers:


Questions? Email Maria Spangenberg

Research and Learning Assistants

High-achieving students can seek opportunities as research assistants on faculty research projects and as learning assistants in Social Ecology courses.  Financial support is provided through a donor gift to the Dean's Excellence Fund to Enhance Undergraduate Education. Through engaged research and teaching, participating students gain  valuable experiences interacting with faculty around research and teaching.  If you are interested, reach out directly to your faculty about wanting to be a research assistant or learning assistant.

Social Ecology Honors Program

To learn more click here

Social Ecology Excellence in Research Distinction

To learn more click here