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Photo Exhibit Highlights Student 'Transitions'

March 19, 2009

As UC Merced prepares to send its first full graduating class out into the world to make its mark, the university is making sure the Class of 2009’s legacy is never forgotten.

This year’s class of seniors, most of whom started their academic careers here as freshmen when UC Merced first opened its doors in Fall 2005, is very special.

This inaugural class goes by many names; members have been called “founders,” “pioneers,” and even architects. These are the students who recall a time before classrooms, when classes were held in the library with nothing more than sheets separating students from passers-by.

A group of seniors undertook the task of writing a book on UC Merced’s history. Thanks to grant funding, “The Fairy Shrimp Chronicles” will be gifted to each senior participating in Commencement this May.

In an effort to ensure the experiences of graduating seniors are known far and wide, the Office of Communications has been profiling members of the Class of 2009 every week since December.

Now, a local photographer has launched an exhibit showing a different side of these pioneering students. “Transitions: Portraits of UC Merced Founding Students” is the creation of lecturer Roger Wyan.

Wyan, a longtime local photographer, took photos of 200 freshmen shortly after the university opened in 2005. An exhibit of those photos, titled “Transitions” was displayed in the Merced Multicultural Arts Center and even published into a book by Wyan. Wyan returned once again to photograph those same students this year.

The newest exhibit opened on March 19 in the Leo & Dottie Kolligian Library, where it will remain on display until June 18.

Jane Lawrence, vice chancellor for student affairs, credits Wyan for his creativity and ingenuity.

“Roger Wyan’s photographic exhibit encapsulates a very special, inimitable period, both in the history of UC Merced and of these founding students,” she said.

By contrasting the freshman and senior photographs in Transitions, a clear metaphor for the nation’s first research university of the 21st century is evident, Wyan said.

“These pioneering students, having helped set the tone for the new university, have matured. UC Merced, itself once fledgling, has grown up alongside them.”

According to Wyan, the images and interviews from the Transitions project will be added to the Kolligian Library archives, where they can serve to chronicle both an influential phase in the lives of young adults and that of a new university.