First UC Merced Student Club Preparing for Influx of Members

In 2003, when UC Merced's opening was delayed because of the California budget crisis, a worried student had a question for Jeff Wright, the dean of the School of Engineering.

What's next for us? he asked. The young man was part of a group that was promised admission to UC Merced as transfer students at the planned 2004 opening. What would the university offer to students who had demonstrated their faith in UC Merced in the beginning, only to be bumped around on the rocky road to opening day?

Wright had a solution. Some prospective transfer students became UC Merced employees in 2004-2005 instead, developing valuable engineering experience by preparing computer infrastructure, testing programs that faculty members were preparing to give hands-on experience to engineering students, and preparing a group to enhance all facets of student life for the engineering majors who arrive on campus in September 2005. The group is called Vanguard.

It will be the first UC Merced student club, explained Vanguard president Crystal Wuebker, who was one of the students employed by UC Merced. We'll have meetings, field trips to facilities like Google or Lawrence Livermore National Labs, tutorial services, a newsletter, and social events. Overall, she said, Vanguard aims to make Merced a comfortable place to study and live for students who will surely arrive from other parts of the San Joaquin Valley and beyond. And the atmosphere should remain open and easy, making it accessible for any student interested in studying engineering.

Eventually, Vanguard will become the umbrella organization for student chapters of engineering societies such as the American Society of Civil Engineering and the Society of Women Engineers. The club will help students in all the organizations stay in contact with Dean Wright.

Dean Wright is open; he wants to hear from the students about their problems, concerns and ideas, Wuebker said.

Wuebker has recruited students from Merced College and hopes to broaden the club's outreach to high schools and additional community colleges in the region Admissions and Student Life will help Vanguard reach prospective engineering students and integrate with the student government that will form in UC Merced's first year.

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