When it comes to preparing the leaders of tomorrow, UC Merced is making good on its mission. Whether attending graduate school or pursuing a career, the university's alumni are already making their mark.
One thing they know for sure is that their education from UC Merced has opened up a world of possibilities.
Erik Olstad, 2008, began studying at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine in September. The Merced native watched the newest UC campus be built from the ground up and was grateful to have the opportunity to complete his undergraduate education and earn his master's in environmental systems at UC Merced.
"My degree from UC Merced was instrumental in my admittance to veterinary school," Olstad said. "The professors were unbelievably open to talk to, which helped me make some tough decisions. Without the advice, support and awesome instruction of my UC Merced professors, I wouldn't be in vet school.
"The curriculum is very challenging and fast-paced, but I feel I was extremely prepared for the rigorous program at UC Davis."
Not all graduates have stayed close to home.
Brooklynn Edwards, 2009, is putting her education to good use as an art teacher at M.S. Palmer High School in Marks, Miss.
"If you want to do something that makes a difference, you have to humble yourself and go where others refuse to go," said Edwards, who received her bachelor's degree in psychology .
"For me, the Mississippi Delta isn't home, but it is a region overflowing with opportunity. Not only am I here to teach, I'm here to learn and give back."
As a first-year teacher, Edwards instructs more than 80 students. When she isn't in the classroom, she is coaching the varsity girls basketball team, attending professional development meetings or helping students fill out college applications as part of the high school's "Adopt a Senior" program.
"There is an enormous feeling of responsibility that pours over me every day when I think about how my actions and choices affect my students' futures and their mindset about education," Edwards said.
For Jason Castillo, who gradauted in 2009 with a degree in human biology , attending medical school at UC San Francisco is helping him realize his dream of becoming a doctor.
"Earning my degree at UC Merced helped me get into one of the top medical schools," he said. "I was able to be involved in tremendous levels of leadership, interact with top-notch faculty, administrators and staff, be a part of a renowned research lab and receive a stellar education."
Castillo recalls the pride he felt during his orientation at UCSF, when the dean mentioned that this was the university's first medical school class to have all nine sister campuses represented.
"Medical school is very fast-paced; however, I am doing well in all of my classes because of the science education that was cultivated as a Bobcat," he said. "My involvement in being a founder of ASUCM and various leadership roles in clubs and committees has also given me the confidence needed when interacting with patients."
During his senior year of college, Castillo served as a Donald A. Strauss Public Service Scholarship Foundation scholar and used his $10,000 award to mentor high school students from the Central Valley interested in science and health care. Castillo said this opened the door to extend this project at UCSF through the student-run group MedLink, which mentors San Francisco high school students.
Whether students decide to further their education or start working after graduation, Olstad said the key is to do what you want, and the happiness that comes from it will be extremely gratifying.