Photos courtesy of the University of Bristol.

Vice Provost Cindy Fan recognized for her work as a geographer

Vice Provost Cindy Fan is a geographer — a field that took her on her first trips abroad from Hong Kong during her undergraduate studies. She was recently awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Bristol in the U.K.
“It's a wonderful feeling to be recognized for my work, and I am deeply humbled by the honorary degree."

UCLA International Institute, September 26, 2019Cindy Fan received an honorary Doctor of Laws from the University of Bristol this past summer in recognition of her work as a geographer.

Bristol is a popular university whose School of Geographical Sciences has been ranked in the top category in every U.K. national research assessment exercise ever conducted — a unique distinction among its peers. The Telegraph, for example, recently ranked its geography program fifth in the country, a reflection of its sustained excellence.

Fan is both a vice provost and professor of geography and Asian American studies at UCLA. She is internationally known for her research on migration, regional development and gender in China. Her book, China on the Move: Migration, the State and the Household (Routledge 2008), is a pioneering study of migration and split households in the country.

For Fan, the honorary degree is especially meaningful because it focuses on her work as a scholar. “The entire time I have been Vice Provost for International Studies and Global Engagement, I have not forgotten my roots, both personally and intellectually,” she says.

“It’s my academic training as a geographer that has anchored my passion for the world, and it’s my strong belief in global citizenship that has motivated me to devote my professional life to international research, education and service,” she continues. “It’s a wonderful feeling to be recognized for my work, and I am deeply humbled by the honorary degree.

“I am very grateful to the University of Bristol for this recognition, which will propel me to go even more miles toward my vision.”

Ceremony highlights mentorship

Fan, who is the first woman and the first Asian to serve in her vice provost position, received her honorary degree during the University of Bristol’s commencement ceremony on July 24, 2019. During the ceremony, former student and Bristol Senior Lecturer Winnie Wang (UCLA Ph.D. 2005) noted, “[Cindy] constantly encourages students to achieve their full potential and inspires female students to excel despite gender stereotypes.

“She has always been positive, attentive and nurturing to her students,” added Wang. “Her relationship with students is one of life-long support and partnership which many people, including myself, have greatly benefited from.”

Speaking to the Bristol graduating class, Fan paid tribute to her parents, whose move from rural China to Hong Kong made her education possible. In honor of her father, who worked on container ships and instilled a sense of the world in her, Fan encouraged the Bristol graduating class to become global citizens and to promote a global mindset in their lives.

Fan delivers a public lecture, “Migration and Householding: Asian and
Chinese Examples," at the University of Bristol.


Born and raised in Hong Kong, Fan earned a B.A. at the University of Hong Kong, an M.Phil. from the Chinese University of Hong Kong and her Ph.D. from Ohio State University. She joined the UCLA department of geography (ranked sixth in the world by QS in 2019) in 1989 and became vice provost in 2015, after first serving in the position on an interim basis.

Prior to becoming vice provost, Fan was associate dean of the UCLA Division of Social Sciences and chaired both the East Asian Studies Program of the UCLA International Institute and the department of Asian American studies.

She is a recipient of the UCLA Distinguished Teaching Award, a Distinguished Scholar Award from the Asian Geography Specialty Group of the American Association of Geographers, an American Council on Education Fellowship, an Andrew W. Mellon grant (for innovation in area and international studies) and major research grants from the Henry Luce Foundation and National Science Foundation.

As vice provost, Fan oversees the UCLA International Institute, provides strategic leadership for the university’s international programs and serves as the university’s senior international officer. She works closely with the UCLA Chancellor’s Office to strengthen the university’s relationships and partnerships with institutions all over the world. She spearheaded UCLA Global Forums as a way to address issues of global and local relevance while fostering global networks, including those of international UCLA alumni.