A biweekly publication for faculty and staff

Campus Greets Academic Year With Expansive Changes

August 28, 2013

For some members of the UC Merced community, the beginning of the campus’s ninth academic year might feel more like an introduction instead of a welcome back. That’s because while many folks were conducting valuable research or taking much-needed breaks, the campus was in a mad dash to add people, services and space in hopes of accommodating all of the new faces joining the campus this fall.

New Buildings Open

Probably the most notable change on campus is the completion of Half Dome, the five-story residence hall overlooking Ranchers Road near the university entrance. The building sleeps 530 students and also includes office space for Dining Services and Housing and Residential Life.

At almost the opposite end of campus, the Student Services Building pavilion facing Scholars Lane will provide a new venue for lectures, classes and events. The three-story section along Ansel Adams Road is on track to open in early spring.

Construction continues on Science and Engineering Building 2, which is slated to open next fall. The Classroom and Office Building 2 project (formerly known as the Classroom Academic and Office Building) broke ground this summer with an estimated completion date of Spring 2016. Construction of the Little Lake Amphitheatre will begin late next month and finish by December.

Additional Food Options

If the new buildings are the most noticeable campus additions this fall, the most popular are the new options rolling out from Dining Services.

By Sept. 9, six new choices will be available when it comes to eating on campus. For the first time, the campus is contracting with popular local restaurants. Bella Luna Italian Bakery & Café, J&R Tacos and Sam’s Café will take turns serving patrons in Scholars Plaza from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday. Additionally, three carts branded as “A Fork in the Road” will offer convenient grab-and-go options for breakfast and lunch. The mobile carts will be conveniently located in popular areas around campus, such as near the Social Sciences and Management Building and the bus stop near the Student Activities and Athletics Center (SAAC).

Jason Souza, director of Dining Services and CatCards, said this idea benefits the campus and also builds relationships with local businesses.

“We recognize that the campus is growing faster than Dining Services can grow staff and space,” he said. “This provides us with an opportunity to meet the increasing needs of the university while testing the concept of working with third-party vendors.”

Souza added that his goal is use the experience to develop a public Request for Proposal (RFP) to gage whether other local eateries would be interested in similar partnerships with Dining Services.

All food vendors will accept student resident CatDollars and student, faculty and staff Flex plans.

Growth in the Faculty

There are 20 new faculty members joining the university this year, further expanding the base of knowledge and research interests represented on campus.

The School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts has experienced the largest growth spurt with the addition of 12 faculty hires. The School of Natural Sciences has added five professors, and the School of Engineering has three new hires coming on board this year. Among these new hires are a watershed scientist, a theoretical physicist and three health psychologists with specialties related to disparities.

Transit and Parking Changes

With the campus constantly growing and outgrowing its current land allocation, Transportation and Parking Services (TAPS) is nimbly making adjustments to keep pace.

Permit rates increased by 3 percent this year, the first increase since TAPS went to a tiered permit structure in 2010. The increase raises the monthly cost of permits by $1 to $2, depending on the tier.

Faculty and staff members who drive to campus have access to a new temporary parking lot. Little Lake Lot, located north of the recreation field, contains 148 parking spaces and is open to vehicles displaying commuter and preferred parking permits. A map of campus parking lots is available on the TAPS website.

The transit circle north of the Leo and Dottie Kolligian Library has reopened and will serve four CatTracks routes: the A-B Line, E-Line, FastCat and NiteCat. All other bus lines will continue to start and end their routes in front of the Student Activities and Athletic Center. The transit circle was relocated in May to accommodate construction related to the Classroom and Office Building 2 project.