Arts Advocates: Ivan Williams


Q&A with Ivan Williams

Ivan Williams, MBA ’96 is a former chemical engineer and oil executive who now focuses on something that first captivated his attention in high school: filmmaking. Today, he is a film, television and theater producer, and a staunch advocate of the arts at UCI. Besides being a UCI Foundation Trustee, Williams serves on multiple leadership councils and boards, and chairs the Dean’s Arts Board for the Claire Trevor School of the Arts.

Q. How did you become involved with CTSA?

IW: In 2017, I attended a graduate student success celebration at UCI, and it ignited me. I knew it was time for me to step up and get involved. I asked, where does filmmaking sit at UCI? That simple question led to a meeting with the dean of humanities and the dean of the arts. In no time, CTSA Dean Stephen Barker had captured my attention and inspired me with his vision to leverage technology to push the frontier of art in new and exciting ways. A bold vision indeed, and one that I knew I wanted to be part of. So when he asked me to chair the CTSA Dean’s Arts Board, I jumped in without hesitation!

Q.  As the chair of the CTSA Dean’s Arts Board, what do you hope to accomplish?

IW: I want to expand the CTSA Dean’s Arts board membership to add a wide array of diverse viewpoints and build stronger connections to local businesses. Ultimately, the board is about fostering community engagement with faculty, staff and students of CTSA, which allows us to generate support for key financial needs within the school. We have to remember that about half of UCI’s students are first-generation college students, and many need financial aid. That, coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic, creates an urgent need for additional financial resources to support our students.

Q. You’re also the chair of the UCI Brain Initiative Advisory Board. How do you see arts and wellbeing as interconnected?

IW: With an undergraduate degree in chemical engineering, I have a strong interest in understanding the science behind things, such as the neuroscience behind why we love the arts. So when I was told about the first-of-its-kind UCI Brain Initiative, and that one of its four key research areas would be the “artistic brain,” I knew I had to get involved. This initiative offers the opportunity to better understand why humans enjoy the art of storytelling, and to use that to develop art that enhances people’s lives and wellbeing.

Q. What are you looking forward to in CTSA’s 2020-21 year?

IW: I’m most interested in seeing how CTSA continues to demonstrate its “can do” attitude in the face of COVID-19. In particular, I’m looking forward to seeing how the school creates innovative student artwork in the virtual world. Top of my mind includes seeing what our DigiFilm students do with the Blum Center for the Alleviation of Poverty this year. With past cinematic projects in Nepal, South Africa and Paraguay, I am sure they will continue to showcase the school’s leadership in producing art that creates an impact on society.

Q. What innovations in response to COVID-19 are you seeing?

IW: Prior to COVID-19, people looked forward to gathering in the physical world. I’m co-president of the Anteaters in the Arts alumni organization and, like everyone else, we had to pivot to virtual technologies to maintain any form of human-to-human connectivity. It ended up opening doors to alumni connections that we could never have imagined, ultimately reaching a global alumni base which had been impossible with our in-person events. Another case of Anteaters turning obstacles into opportunities. 

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CONNECT - Fall 2020

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