Central Valley, education, Uncategorized

UC Merced Gears Up for Year of Growth, Changes

A new chancellor, more students and additional buildings all on tap for 2011 as UC Merced heads into the second half of its sixth academic year

Merced, CA / Scott Hernandez-Jason, UC Merced

In the coming year, the University of California, Merced, will appoint new leadership, open additional buildings, increase enrollment and hire more faculty members.
“UC Merced continues to gain momentum as it heads into 2011, the middle of its sixth academic year,” Chancellor Steve Kang said. “The passing year was filled with many achievements that have positioned the campus to be a leader in the Valley in numerous ways.”

The spring semester will begin Jan. 18. Despite unprecedented budget challenges, UC Merced has continued to grow. Student enrollment is at 4,381, a 28 percent increase over last year, and economic investment has topped $1.1 billion statewide.

The biggest story for the university next year will likely be the naming of the campus’ third chancellor. With Kang stepping down at the end of June to focus on his research into integrated circuits, the UC Office of the President is in the midst of conducting a nationwide search to recruit someone to fill the top campus leadership position. A successor should be named in the spring.

Kang was appointed chancellor in 2007 and has guided campus from fewer than 1,300 students to more than 4,000. The campus’ footprint has also expanded under his leadership and continues to grow. 

The campus will also be filling another key leadership slot — the dean of the School of Natural Sciences. Founding Dean Maria Pallavicini accepted the provost position with University of the Pacific and begins there in February. A search committee is being formed to find a successor before the Fall 2011 semester begins.

Pallavicini was appointed to the post in 2002. She previously was a professor at UCSF. As a founding dean, she was instrumental in developing the academic offerings within the school. Most recently, she oversaw the construction of the campus’ stem cell foundry, which was funded by the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine

Construction on the Social Sciences and Management Building will conclude during the summer. The three-story building, scheduled to open in Fall 2011, will be the campus’ newest academic building and accommodate the growth in the number of faculty members. Later in the year, crews will begin construction on the Science and Engineering Building 2, which will contain additional lab, classroom and office space. Both buildings will meet the campus’ commitment to environmentally friendly design and construction, with a minimum goal of a gold rating from the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED program.

The campus will be adding about 50 more faculty members in the next few years to accommodate the increase in enrollment and to help in establishing the campus’ management school, which will train students to be the business leaders of tomorrow.

The tenure-track faculty members will be tasked with developing innovative interdisciplinary research programs while also teaching at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

UC Merced opened Sept. 5, 2005, as the 10th campus in the University of California system and the first American research university of the 21st century. The campus significantly expands access to the UC system for students throughout the state, with a special mission to increase college-going rates among students in the San Joaquin Valley. It also serves as a major base of advanced research and as a stimulus to economic growth and diversification throughout the region. Situated near Yosemite National Park, the university is expected to grow rapidly, topping out at about 25,000 students within 30 years.

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