Former University of California Los Angeles professor Melvin Oliver was chosen unanimously by UC Santa Barbara’s Campus Search Advisory Committee to be the new dean of UCSB’s Social Sciences Division.

Oliver succeeds John Woolley, a political science professor, who has been filling the position of acting dean since Edward Donnerstein, the former Social Sciences dean, left UCSB for a new job at the University of Arizona. Oliver will be responsible for the oversight of 10 academic departments – Anthropology, Asian-American Studies, Black Studies, Chicano and Chicana Studies, Communication, Economics, Military Science, Political Science, Physical Activities/Recreation and Sociology. He is expected to assume his duties by April 2004.

“[Oliver] is a leading scholar and social scientist who has done pioneering research on wealth and racial stratification, inter-ethnic conflict, urban poverty and social-welfare policy in the United States,” UCSB Chancellor Henry Yang said in a press release. “He also is a seasoned administrator with vision and determination as well as impressive leadership skills.”

A graduate of William Penn University in Oskaloosa, Iowa, Oliver studied and taught social sciences at UCLA for over two decades, until 1996. He co-taught the first course offered in ethnic studies at UCLA and continued to work as a professor of sociology and policy studies and as director for the Center for the Study of Urban Poverty. Currently, Oliver is the vice president of asset building and community development of the Ford Foundation in New York, an organization that provides grants to international philanthropic efforts. Oliver said he wanted to return to higher education because it is his first love.

“After eight years away from the university, I really feel the pull to come back,” he said.

Oliver said that he will continue his research in sociology at UCSB and hopes to continue his work at the Ford Foundation.

“I want to continue my research in how to build assets for low-income, minority people,” he said.

Oliver is the recipient of many civic recognition awards including a California Professor of the Year award from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. UCLA’s National Honor Board Honor Society presented him with a Faculty of Excellence award, and the school’s Alumni Association gave him the Charles and Harriet Luckman Distinguished Teaching Award. He is also the co-author of the book Black Wealth/White Wealth: A New Perspective on Racial Inequality, which won the 1996 C. Wright Mills Award from the Society for the Study of Social Problems.

Oliver said he is excited to begin his duties in April.

“I plan to lead a Social Sciences Division at UCSB that is already exceptional,” he said.