Erin Sanders O’Leary, a UCLA alumna and former UCLA faculty member, has been named UCLA’s inaugural vice provost for teaching and learning.
In the newly created role, O’Leary will lead the new UCLA Teaching and Learning Center and drive innovation and collaboration in teaching across the institution. She will begin the new position on Aug. 16.
“Given Professor O’Leary’s UCLA roots, coupled with her administrative experience and compelling vision for inclusive and innovative education, Chancellor Block and I are confident that she will be an extraordinary addition to our campus leadership team,” Darnell Hunt, UCLA’s executive vice chancellor and provost, said in an email to faculty.
Currently, O’Leary is the executive director of the Center for the Advancement of Teaching Excellence at the University of Illinois Chicago, where she is also associate professor of biological sciences in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and an associate adjunct professor in microbiology and immunology in the College of Medicine.
Prior to joining UIC, O’Leary spent 15 years at UCLA, beginning in 2005 as a lecturer and faculty advisor for training teaching assistants in the department of microbiology, immunology and molecular genetics; she later joined the department’s faculty as an associate adjunct professor. She was the founding director of UCLA’s Center for Education Innovation and Learning in the Sciences, known as CEILS, and continued to teach classes through Life Sciences Core Education. She also earned her doctorate at UCLA, in biological chemistry.
O’Leary said she is heartened that UCLA is demonstrating an expanding commitment to supporting educators and elevating the teaching enterprise.
“By establishing this new position, UCLA has signaled to the broader education community that the institution values teaching and learning. Campus leadership is fully invested in its commitment to support talented educators and elevate the teaching enterprise in service to our most important stakeholders — our students,” O’Leary said. “I am excited and honored to accept this inaugural role and ensure UCLA continues to thrive at the leading edge of inclusive and innovative education.”
In his email, Hunt wrote that O’Leary has worked throughout her career to spearhead new pedagogical training paradigms for faculty, instructors and graduate student teaching assistants.
A published author and recognized research scholar in science education, O’Leary has been awarded millions of dollars in federal and foundation grants. Her scholarly interests focus on pedagogical research related to both learner experiences in the classroom and the efficacy of professional learning programs for instructors themselves. She also is a devoted educator, with 16 years’ experience teaching undergraduate and graduate courses and a track record of leading curricular transformations aimed at closing equity gaps in college math and science courses.
O’Leary currently serves on external advisory boards for two National Science Foundation–funded projects, one in data science education and another in graduate student professional development.
Among the awards and honors she has received are a 2018 Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Award from the UCLA Academic Senate and the 2014 Excellence in Education Innovation Award from the UCLA College Division of Life Sciences; in addition, the Journal of Microbiology & Biology Education included a paper by O’Leary in its 2016 spotlight issue for outstanding science education research. She is a current member of the National Institute on Scientific Teaching and was previously a fellow (2006) and teaching mentor (2017–18) with the organization; and she was a 2018–19 scholar of the Biology Teaching Assistant Project.