Valley Delegation Urges Legislative Support of UC Merced, UCSystem

SACRAMENTO, CA. — Hundreds of University of California alumni, donors and friends are taking time off from work to spend today (Tuesday, March 19) roaming the state's capitol to talk with their elected officials. Prompted by their conviction that the University makes important contributions in education, research and public service, they are visiting legislators to spread the message that an investment in UC yields benefits for all their constituents.

UC Merced supporters from throughout the San Joaquin Valley are among the delegation converging in Sacramento for the annual UC Day in Sacramento, which is organized by the Alumni Associations of the University of California. Held each March, UC Day is the one time each year when all the UC alumni associations and friends of UC come together to carry the University's message to Sacramento and discuss issues of University-related concern with their elected representatives. This year's theme is "UC: Connecting with California's Communities."

"UC is well known for providing a high-quality, affordable education and for its excellent research. But what will surprise many is the impact UC is making on pressing state concerns that include energy, agriculture, high technology and bio-terrorism," UC President Richard Atkinson said in his UC Day welcoming address.

To kick off this year's UC Day activities, UC Merced joined with the other nine UC campuses in the tradition of hosting dinners for UC alumni and friends. UC Merced Chancellor Carol Tomlinson-Keasey provided an update on campus planning and presented the third annual UC Merced Citizen of the Year award to Merced's Bettylou George, trustee for the Virginia Smith Trust and longtime supporter of the UC Merced campus. Past recipients of the award are Robert Carpenter and Ken Riggs, founding members of the University Committee of Merced, which led the effort to bring the 10th UC campus to Merced.

Among the legislative dignitaries expected to attend the celebratory UC Merced dinner were state Senators Dick Monteith, Jim Costa and Chuck Poochigian; Assemblymembers Barbara Matthews, Phil Wyman and Mike Briggs; and representatives for U.S. Congressman Gary Condit and state Assemblymember Dennis Cardoza. Several members of the UC Merced Foundation Board of Trustees, the Red and Green teams appointed by Governor Gray Davis to assist with UC Merced planning, the University Committee of Merced, Friends of UC Merced and the San Joaquin Valley UC Alumni Network were among the approximately 75 guests.

"Alumni and friends of the University of California can play an important role in dispersing information about the University's many achievements, and the educational and economic benefits that will come with the new UC Merced campus," said Brian McCabe, president of the San Joaquin Valley UC Alumni Network, an all-UC alumni organization with almost 750 members. "Particularly in these economically challenging times, we must do our part to meet with our elected officials to promote the University's needs and contributions and encourage their support. After all, the University of California is one of our state's most valuable resources."

Issues of current concern to the University are state funding for existing research programs, accommodation of unprecedented enrollment growth and four California Institutes for Science and Innovation. UC Day delegates also are urging legislators to vote for a budget that provides the Community College, California State University and University of California systems with a minimum of $333 million per year for capital outlay needs.

UC Day delegates for UC Merced focused on meeting with legislators representing 10th UC campus region from Stockton in the north to Bakersfield in the south.

UC Merced currently employs more than 90 educators and professionals. With the main campus scheduled to open in fall 2004 to serve 1,000 students, UC Merced ultimately will grow to serve 25,000 students over the coming decades. UC Merced also contributes to educational access throughout the entire San Joaquin region via educational and outreach centers in Fresno and Bakersfield, and through the Tri-College Center in Merced. An additional UC Merced center is planned for Modesto.

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