For the first time, U.S. News & World Report has ranked two of UC Merced’s graduate programs, a sure sign that the young university’s reputation is beginning to build.
“Our graduate programs offer students exceptional opportunities for disciplinary and interdisciplinary research training. It is exciting to see that these programs have already gained national recognition,” Vice Provost and Dean of Graduate Education Marjorie Zatz said. “Our programs are growing rapidly, and the quality is extremely high. UC Merced is on the move.”
School of Engineering interim Dean Erik Rolland said the ranking means his school is now on the map. A higher profile for the school and university can have benefits beyond mere recognition, he said.
“Being ranked in U.S. News can also mean more international financial support for students to join UC Merced’s graduate programs in engineering, opening our doors to wider international markets,” Rolland said.
For the consumer-oriented magazine’s rankings, programs at more than 200 schools that grant doctoral degrees were surveyed, and rankings are based on a variety of criteria. For the engineering designation, those included mean GRE quantitative scores, acceptance rate, student-to-faculty ratio and research activity. For psychology, the rankings are based on the results of peer assessment surveys sent to academics in each discipline.
Professor Jan Wallander, chair of the Psychological Sciences group, said his department’s graduate programs are only 4 years old and said he expects UC Merced to be ranked even higher in the future.
“While it is nice to begin to be ranked this early in our development, it is important to realize that the psychology ranking is entirely reputation-based and doesn’t in any way reflect the quality of our programs,” Wallander said. “Our faculty members meet the same standards as all the other UC campuses, which are ranked in the top 50 for psychology departments. But we are young, and it will take time for our reputation to build.”
The psychological sciences group comprises three areas: developmental psychology, health psychology and quantitative psychology. Health and quantitative psychology are new and growing areas of study, and UC Merced’s focus on them makes it unique among the nation’s universities. The faculty groups in health and quantitative psychology are among the largest in the country, Wallander said.
Rolland said the School of Engineering has worked diligently to build and strengthen the four graduate programs now offered — Electrical Engineering and Computer Science; Biological Engineering and Small-scale Technologies (BEST); Mechanical Engineering; and Environmental Systems — and recently proposed new graduate programs that could come online over the next few years.
In the meantime, he said, the ranking helps the school know where it needs to improve and where it is excelling.
“Our graduate programs are cross-functional in nature, and include faculty members from all three of UC Merced’s schools,” Rolland said. “This allows us to cross traditional academic boundaries and offer students an extremely well-rounded graduate school experience.”