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UC Merced Begins Milestone Year

August 24, 2009

Merced, Calif. — It’s a busy day for the University of California, Merced. Classes for fall 2009 officially begin tomorrow (Aug. 25). Officials expect about 3,200 students to be on campus this year, up 15 percent from last year. The growing population proves that even in difficult economic times, increasing numbers of students realize the chance to earn a college degree at the newest University of California campus is an opportunity not to be missed.

For freshman Valeria Aguirre of Woodlake, both size and cost played into her decision to enroll at UC Merced this fall.

“I wanted to attend a private school, but they were totally unaffordable,” said the 18-year old applied mathematics major. “At UC Merced, I found everything I was looking for.”

According to recent statistics compiled by the Office of Admissions, more than 20,000 people visited the campus last academic year for tours and to participate in special events such as campus open houses and Parents’ Weekend. Students at Welcome Week UC Merced officials anticipate 3,200 students on campus this year, and the largest freshman class to date.

The increased exposure has helped produce a 27-percent increase in freshmen choosing UC Merced this fall over fall 2008, and a 94 percent increase over fall 2007. Though official enrollment numbers won’t be available until late September, the university appears to be on track for its third banner year in a row.

“As we celebrate our fifth birthday, we are proud of the growing contribution UC Merced is making to the region, state and world,” Chancellor Steve Kang said. “We are a thriving research university with a future-focused, student-centered learning environment ideally suited to today’s students.”

Of the 3,200 students expected on campus this year, officials estimate about 1,000 are freshmen and about 230 are graduate students. About 1,200 of those students will live on campus in residence halls and suites.

One on-campus resident is Ronald Magpantay, 17, of Norwalk. The incoming freshman, who is still mulling over his choice of majors, is one of UC Merced’s Regents’ Scholars. Regents’ scholarships are the highest award UC students can receive. Recipients are selected on the basis of demonstrated academic excellence, leadership and exceptional promise.

New Students Walking Through the Beginnings Sculpture New students proceed through the “Beginnings” sculpture en route to an ice cream celebration.

Magpantay was valedictorian of his high school and a standout player on the varsity tennis team. He says he chose UC Merced for the chance to be part of something different.

“I liked the fact that it’s a new campus; it gives students lots of opportunities to start new programs,” he said.

Students, including undergraduates, enrolled at UC Merced have the opportunity to work with faculty members on cutting-edge research addressing societal needs in the San Joaquin Valley, the state and the world — from climate change and its effects on water supply, forest fires and plant life to infectious diseases, tissue regeneration and sleep patterns. Faculty research grants and awards have increased sharply in every year of operation, topping $22 million in the most recent academic year (39 percent more than in previous year).

“Research for the long-term benefit of society is a hallmark of the University of California and a major part of the academic experience at UC Merced. We are pleased that UC Merced continues to attract strong funding from external sources,” said Samuel Traina, vice chancellor for research and dean of graduate studies.

What’s New on Campus

Last month, construction began on an 8-acre, 1-megawatt solar photovoltaic array. The system will produce about two-thirds of the campus’ electricity on a summer afternoon and 20 percent of its annual electricity needs. The project, part of the university’s effort to build and operate the “greenest” campus in the country, received rebate funding from the California Solar Initiative.

Nine professors have joined the UC Merced staff this academic year to help fill vacancies and increase the depth of research and industry expertise on campus. The university has about 120 tenure-track faculty members on staff. New to campus as of July 1 are:

  • Michael Hoyt, health psychology, School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts;
  • Robert Innes, economics, School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts;
  • Yue Lei, mathematics, School of Natural Sciences;
  • Yanbao Ma, mechanical engineering, School of Engineering;
  • Roummel Marcia, applied mathematics, School of Natural Sciences;
  • Michael Modest, mechanical engineering, School of Engineering;
  • Nestor Oviedo, developmental biology, School of Natural Sciences;
  • Michael Scheibner, condensed matter physics, School of Natural Sciences; and
  • Jessica Trounstine, political science, School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts.

Coming Soon

The Little Lake Amphitheater, which was the Class of 2009’s gift to the campus community, is expected to be complete as early as this October. The landscaped amphitheater will feature a park-like setting with a capacity of about 500 people. Grading on the amphitheater will begin this fall, and university officials say improvements will be made to the amphitheater over time as more donations are received.

Housing III, which will contain another 300 beds for UC Merced students wishing to live on campus, is on target for completion by fall 2010. The four-story residential building will feature clusters of rooms with community bathrooms.

Work is continuing at the east side of campus, where the Social Sciences and Management Building is under construction. The building, which will house much of the School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts, will also be home to the planned Ernest & Julio Gallo School of Management and an entrepreneurship center. The building is due for completion in spring 2011.

“UC Merced is an innovative, fast-rising campus within the venerable University of California system,” Kang said. “As our academic community grows, so does the region as a whole. I eagerly anticipate what the future holds for our university community and the world.”