Chancellor Dorothy Leland, her leadership team members and others kicked off the 2018-19 academic year by celebrating the campus community’s good work and looking ahead to the coming year during UC Merced’s annual staff and faculty convocations.
During Staff Convocation on Aug. 17 and Faculty Convocation on Aug. 21, speakers provided a glimpse of the projects, plans and goals that will guide the university throughout the academic year.
Leland started each event by thanking staff and faculty for their dedicated efforts that continue to move UC Merced forward.
“You have put in countless hours helping to build a world-class research university and a welcoming and supportive environment for our students,” Leland said. “Each of your contributions is vital to enhancing the mission of UC Merced and creating an environment in which students live, learn, grow and thrive.”
Campus leaders shared the past year’s highlights such as:
- The successful delivery of the Merced 2020 Project’s first phase, which includes a new, bigger dining facility, two residence halls, a parking lot, soccer field and tennis courts;
- UC Merced earned the maximum accreditation reaffirmation of 10 years from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, an accomplishment interim Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Gregg Camfield called “extraordinary;” and
- National rankings last year placed the campus at No. 1 for financial assistance to first-year students with $68.6 million dispersed; No. 15 among public universities for students with the least amount of debt; and No. 11 in outperforming graduation rate expectations.
While the overall message was celebratory, leadership also acknowledged challenges the campus faces.
“As much progress as we’ve made, important work remains to be done,” Leland said. “While some of this work involves process improvements, it also involves a renewed focus on people and how we communicate, support and interact with each other.”
Chief Financial and Administrative Officer Veronica Mendez shared work her recently reorganized Division of Finance and Administration is doing to increase productivity and limit inefficiencies.
“Even as a young division, our service approach is clear: We serve as a strategic and trusted partner, and our teams work hard to ensure quality in the delivery of our services,” Mendez said.
Finance and Administration consists of five areas — Auxiliaries and Fiscal Innovation, Business and Financial Services, Talent and Total Rewards, Financial Planning and Analysis and the Center for Institutional Effectiveness — that will take advantage of existing resources and optimize services without adding new staff.
For example, the division’s Center for Institutional Effectiveness brought all departmental analysts on to one team.
“We found that analyst functions were scattered and siloed," Mendez said. "By combining them into a shared team, we can gain synergy, work smarter and provide better support to the division and the campus."
She also discussed several initiatives that dovetail with the campus’s Vision and Change Alignment Map . The division is partnering with departments and schools across the campus on projects that focus on budget planning processes, talent development, academic restructuring and student-success reporting.
“These initiatives are designed to create efficiencies and free up resources that go back into fulfilling the campus’s mission,” Mendez said.
Both convocations included segments welcoming newcomers to UC Merced and honoring various award recipients. Faculty Convocation recognized recipients of the 2017-18 Senate Awards, continuing lecturer awards and faculty members who earned advancement, promotion or tenure. At Staff Convocation, Staff Assembly leadership announced the winners of the 2018 Staff Excellence Awards.
Leland ended each convocation by referencing the recent New York Times article with a title that asked if UC Merced is the future of the University of California.
“The answer to that question is surely, ‘Yes,’” Leland said. “We serve the diverse demographic face of the future of California — amazingly deserving and talented students from populations that historically have lacked access to elite higher education institutions.
“Take pride in your contributions in building this remarkable place called UC Merced. You have earned it.”