As UCLA’s vice provost for international studies and global engagement, Cindy Fan guides how UCLA embodies its important role as a global citizen, inspiring students, faculty and the institution as a whole to embrace what it means to cross borders, both literally and figuratively.

Fan, who also leads the UCLA International Institute, is the first woman and first person of color to serve in these positions. She is responsible for UCLA’s international partnerships, working to strengthen campus’s relationships with institutions around the world.

Her philosophy centers around the notion that global cooperation and global perspectives create pathways to solutions to some of our greatest societal problems — from combatting racism, to mitigating the harms of climate change for future generations, to ending the COVID-19 pandemic.

A professor of geography, she has been teaching at UCLA for more than 30 years. When she first arrived she was one of just two women on faculty in the department.

“It was challenging to develop networks with female colleagues when there were so few of us in the department,” Fan said. “The social and cultural ambivalence about women ‘having it all’ has been a challenge throughout my career. To this day I still sometimes feel that women having a successful career can be seen by men and women alike as something only some women should pursue rather than an aspiration that every woman and girl can have.”

As we celebrate Women’s History Month, Fan said she owes a debt of gratitude to many women but especially to Judith Smith, former dean of undergraduate education, who in recent years, postponed retirement to serve as the founding dean of the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music. Smith has long been a key leader for UCLA’s women faculty, Fan said. 

“Judi was extremely encouraging to me as I considered various leadership positions at UCLA, always believing in me and writing letters to nominate me for awards and recognitions,” Fan said. “She herself set the bar high as an extraordinarily effective and visionary dean. Seeing how she has enjoyed leadership roles, how she has been so creative and transformative in these roles, and how much she loves UCLA, is profoundly inspiring to me.”

Visit the International Women’s Day 2021 website curated by Cindy Fan and her team.