Vice Provost Cynthia Larive is Working to Create Greater Opportunities in Undergraduate Education

She oversees undergraduate research, the University Honors program, and summer sessions

Cynthia K. Larive, left, at work in her chemistry lab.

Cindy Larive understands first hand what students need to succeed.

She is the first in her family to attend college and is the daughter of a South Dakota gold mine worker with a third grade education. Both of her parents understood though, that school was the key to greater opportunities.

At UCR Larive is hard at work, forging opportunities and programs to help students reach the top. In May, she was named vice provost for Undergraduate Education (VPUE) and her position became effective in July. Larive took over the role from Steven Brint, distinguished professor of Sociology and Public Policy, who served as VPUE for five years. He’s back on campus teaching full-time.

“In addition to an impressive record of publications in bioanalytical chemistry, she also has published and given invited presentations on topics related to teaching, mentoring, active learning, undergraduate research, and curricular reform,” Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Paul D’Anieri said in a campus announcement. “She has led or participated as a Co-PI in education-related grants from the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the Hewlett Foundation. In 2011 Dr. Larive received UCR’s Innovative Teaching Award and she also is the recipient of the J. Calvin Giddings Award for Excellence in Education from the American Chemical Society Division of Analytical Chemistry.

Larive, a professor of chemistry who obtained her Ph.D. at UCR in 1992, oversees undergraduate research, the University Honors program, and summer sessions, among many other resources that impact undergraduates. She is keen on enhancing programs to specifically assist incoming freshmen, and from the get-go, offer them a robust support structure to help them flourish throughout their careers at UCR.

“You cannot pursue success without thoughtful assessment,” Larive said as she explained the projects her office is developing.

This summer, for example, with the Academic Resource Center (ARC) and the Department of Math, she piloted a program using ALEKS, an online adaptive learning program, to help incoming freshmen improve their math skills. The opportunity to complete an online algebra course in ALEKS was offered to more than 1,000 students over the summer. About half participated and 387 completed enough work to repeat the math placement test, with 242 freshmen placing out of algebra and into precalculus.

Another approach to guiding students to a successful journey at UCR, is by transforming courses to promote greater student engagement. This fall 28 UCR professors and instructors will participate in Course and Instructional Transformation workshops taught here and online through Purdue University. Larive hopes to expand upon these workshops in the future.

For summer 2017, Larive is also working to create a professional and leadership academy for incoming freshmen that will focus on professional development, public speaking, and community service. In addition to technical skills, employers across the board primarily look for candidates with two qualifications: strong communication and leadership skills. Through this academy she wants students to learn to speak up in class, ask questions, and gain self-confidence. Many of UCR’s first generation students tend to question whether they belong on a UC campus, she said. She wants to help them understand that they do belong here and can succeed as leaders at UCR and beyond.

“I think about it as a leadership on-ramp,” said Larive, who started teaching at UCR in 2005. “I really love UCR. Here, there is an opportunity to really change the trajectory of [students’] lives, and that’s a special mission. UCR faculty are so committed to our students, and it is great to have their support.”

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