Dean Melvin L. Oliver

Dean Melvin L. Oliver

Melvin L. Oliver is the SAGE Sara Miller McCune Dean of Social Sciences, Executive Dean of the College of Letters and Sciences and Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB). An expert on racial and urban inequality and poverty, he has over 35 years of experience in both philanthropy and higher education.

Prior to coming to UCSB, Dr. Oliver was Vice-President of the Asset Building and Community Development (Assets) Program at the Ford Foundation.  Under Dr. Oliver’s direction, the program developed such pioneering grant initiatives as the $50 Million Self Help-Fannie Mae program to secure home mortgages for 35,000 low-wealth households and change the way banks evaluate applications for home mortgages; the American Dream demonstration on Individual Development Accounts; and the Leadership for a Changing World Program, which identifies and supports community leaders and others.

From 1978 to 1996, Dr. Oliver was professor of sociology at UCLA.  He has won numerous awards for teaching and in 1994 was named both the California Professor of the Year for his "extraordinary dedication to teaching and commitment to students" and the winner of the Harriet and Charles Luckman Distinguished Teaching Award from the UCLA Alumni Association.

In 1989, with Dr. James H. Johnson, Jr. he was the founding Co-Director of the UCLA Center for the Study of Urban Poverty whose mission was to promote research, teaching and service on the causes and consequences of urban poverty in the United States. The Center was a leader in the development of Undergraduate and Graduate curriculum and w world-class research on urban poverty and social welfare policy. During his leadership the Center garnered over $5M in extramural research funds from funders ranging from the Ford Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Social Science Research Foundation, and the Haynes Foundation.

Dr. Oliver is the co-author (with Thomas M. Shapiro) of Black Wealth/White Wealth: A New Perspective on Racial Inequality (Tenth Anniversary Edition, published 2006), which has received the Distinguished Scholarly Publication Award from the American Sociological Association; the C. Wright Mills Award from the Society for the Study of Social Problems; and the award for the outstanding book on the subject of human rights from the Gustavus Myers Center. Most recently, he is the co-editor of Prismatic Metropolis: Inequality in Los Angeles, which draws on a unique, custom-designed survey of over 4,000 households and 800 employers.  In addition, Dr. Oliver has co-edited three other books and special journal issues and is the author of over 50 scholarly publications.

Among his many awards are the receipt of Ford Foundation-National Research Council Post-Doctoral Fellow (1983), Rockefeller Foundation Fellow, Research Fellowship Program for Minority-Group Scholars (1984), National Science Foundation Research Initiation Planning Grant (1987), Scholar in Residence, Russell Sage Foundation (1996), Summer Residency, Bellagio Conference and Study Center, Rockefeller Foundation, Bellagio, Italy (2005) and awarded the Hayward Derrick Horton Award for Outstanding Scholarship in Critical Demography (2011).

Dr. Oliver earned his B.A. (1972) at William Penn College and his M.A. (1974) and Ph.D. (1977) at Washington University in St. Louis.  In 2002 he was awarded the Distinguished Alumni Award, Arts and Sciences, Washington University and in 2004 the Sesquicentennial Celebration Distinguished Alumni Award, Washington University.

In 2013 he received the Distinguished Alumni Award from William Penn University.  Currently, Dr. Oliver serves on the boards of the McCune Foundation, the Pacific Standard, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Center for Health Policy. He was elected to the prestigious Sociological Research Association in 2006 and as a Fellow the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in 2012. He has served on the Council of the American Sociological Association and on the boards of the Division of Behavioral and Social Science and Education at the National Research Council; PolicyLink; the Governors of Rackham Graduate School (University of Michigan); Urban Institute, and the William T. Grant Foundation.