A biweekly publication for faculty and staff

Campus's Spirit Saw It Through the Beginning, Propels It Into the Future

September 25, 2015

Charles Nies is interim vice chancellor for Student Affairs at UC Merced.It is hard to believe that just 10 years ago, most of our student body could reside in our original residence halls, which hold just shy of 700 students.

I wasn’t here that first year, but understand it was a very different place to be a student. The very first Bobcat Day was held at Lake Yosemite, and future students viewed the “campus” through binoculars.

The early student experience was marked by big hopes on a campus without grass and only three buildings. Back then, students knew everyone they passed crossing the bridge.

The students viewed the blank canvas as an opportunity to create and hoped they were starting traditions that would outlive their time on our campus.

Today, more than 2,100 students live on campus. Both the recreation center and dining center have completed expansions. And the number of buildings filled with faculty offices, labs and classrooms has more than doubled.

Expanded Programs, Same High Hopes

We have grown from one graduate program and eight majors to 11 graduate programs, 22 majors and 24 minors.

With the physical development of the campus and increasing enrollment that demonstrate more than 750 percent growth since the beginning, UC Merced is a much different place than its inaugural year.

But some of the most important parts of university life have remained the same.

The students still walk the campus filled with big hopes. Recently, a group of students talked about the importance of being engaged in our growth and making sure the student voice is still significant. They don’t know everyone they pass on the Scholars Lane Bridge anymore, but they all have something in common: They have all come here because of the opportunity.

Innovative Energy and Authentic Commitment

Parents who sent one son to UC Merced in 2008 and are sending their second this fall commented on how much we’ve grown and how different the campus looks.

But the spirit they felt as they walked the campus and interacted with our students, faculty and staff members still communicated the innovative energy and authentic commitment to student success that has always characterized UC Merced.

We have strengthened our commitment to making higher education accessible, especially for youth in the Central Valley. The dedication to student success means the cultivation of an inclusive campus climate.

We strive to affirm individual significance, provide challenges and support for student growth and persistence, and create innovative and integrated student experiences to maximize the possibilities associated with a UC Merced degree.

Future Remains Bright

The university and our partners have accomplished much in the past decade, clearly reflected in our growth from 875 to 6,600-plus students and the development of highly sustainable physical spaces.

But what always remains is the spirit of innovation exhibited by the people who work, play, study, contribute and learn here, creating this community of scholars and propelling us into the future.

At the end of the day, as I drive down Lake Road and watch the lights of campus fade in my rearview mirror, the image amazes me.

Yes, there are more lights — fiat lux! But more amazing is what has been created and what is to come — a powerful and transformational educational experience.

This article by interim Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Charles Nies originally appeared in the Fall 2015 issue of UC Merced Magazine.