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New Year Begins With New Students, Spaces and Programs

August 22, 2018
An aerial video of individuals clad in blue formed in the shape of California, with a heart in the middle.
UC Merced is building the future in the heart of California with about 7,900 undergraduates enrolled this semester.

UC Merced began its 14th academic year today, welcoming new and returning students into new buildings.

Students moving in this year are the first to experience the newest residence halls, Glacier Point and Granite Pass, which opened this month as part of the Merced 2020 Project’s Phase 1. These halls feature living space built above first-floor classrooms, creating an immersive learning environment. They hold more than 700 beds and provide a boardwalk-style perimeter around Little Lake. Also part of Phase 1: The Pavilion, an iconic 600-seat dining facility overlooking the lake that expands the campus’s food service options and capacity.

First-year students will benefit academically from a new general education program that emphasizes the university’s values and mission. The program includes the new Spark seminar series, Intellectual Experience Badges and an ePortfolio that can be used to showcase a student’s undergraduate work and prepare for life after graduation.

Spark seminars introduce students to academic and scientific research, focusing on the nature of inquiry. Students explore topics over the semester that aim to spark creativity and interdisciplinarity. Fall seminars include “Should I Donate a Kidney?” and “Crochet and Hyperbolic Geometry,” among others.

Rear view of a Bobcat mascot high-fiving college students
Every new UC Merced student receives a free shirt promoting the beginning of their college journey, thanks to our campus supporters.

In an effort to further integrate education into the daily life of students, the School of Natural Sciences is offering Living Learning Communities in Granite Pass. Literature shows arrangements such as these — where students live with others who share their interests or scholarly pursuits — improve retention rates.

Chancellor Dorothy Leland welcomed students to campus in a message urging the newest Bobcats to forge their own paths through academics, extracurricular activities, friendships and community service. The campus’s newest major, philosophy, and the new Nicotine and Cannabis Policy Center, are among the transformative opportunities now available.

“Each of you has the capacity to create your own experiences, and to leave legacies for those who follow,” she said to the campus's 7,900 undergraduate students.

In 2017, U.S. News and World Report ranked the campus No. 1 in the nation for the financial assistance it provides to first-year students. Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Charles Nies reported $68.6 million in financial aid was disbursed to students before the semester began.

Enthusiastic cheerleaders and bobcat mascot parade under a blue-and-gold balloon arch.
Crossing the Scholars Lane Bridge is an annual tradition for new students, a procession they repeat during commencement.

To support these students and the university’s continued pursuit of research excellence, about 20 new professors have been hired to expand the depth of UC Merced’s areas of expertise and create research opportunities for students, including more than 650 graduate students. 

Two examples of this are the Master of Management and the Teacher Preparation programs.

The Master of Management is the first professional graduate degree program at the University of California’s newest campus. Taking a new approach on a traditional area of study, the curriculum focuses on the “triple bottom line” of people, planet and profit to give students practical skills for succeeding in an increasingly complex professional world. There will be opportunities to learn much more about this unique new program soon.

The newly accredited Teacher Preparation Program, offered through UC Merced Extension, provides a convenient option for working professionals to earn a multiple or single subject teaching credential in one year. UC Merced students enrolled in the NSED minor have a direct pathway into the program. Courses are offered at night in downtown Merced and focus on equipping students to meet the growing needs of schools within the region. Anyone interested in learning more may attend an information session from 6 to 7 p.m. Sept. 27 at the Downtown Campus Center, at the corner of 18th and N streets.

As the campus grows and matures, so does its story — and the stories of those who are committed to fulfilling the university’s mission and vision. A new digital magazine, Inside UC Merced, takes a deeper look at those people and who they are both on and off the job.

For the latest campus news and updates, visit