Bobcats go back to school today and while most are not physically returning to campus, there are still plenty of festivities planned to kick off the semester.
This year marks 15 years since the first graduating class began at UC Merced. It was another unprecedented time in the campus’s history, with more students than the new campus’s modest classroom offerings could accommodate.
“I remember my first day of class. Philosophy! Our class was held in the library,” Brenda Peña told UC Merced in 2019 as part of a special publication honoring the first graduating class. “During that time, we didn’t have actual classroom buildings –– they were under construction. Instead, we had classes of 20 to 30 students in the library separated by office dividers. While we were listening to our lectures, we could hear the lecture next to us.”
Now, over a decade later with the recent completion of the $1.2 billion Merced 2020 Project, UC Merced is still agile in nature, this time finding creative solutions to provide students the Bobcat experience despite the coronavirus pandemic.
"I won't let continuing my studies from home stop me from pursuing my education," said Dante Salinas, a first-generation student from Delano majoring in economics.
While most students are tuning in to lectures from home, faculty and staff members have worked tirelessly this summer to prepare for a memorable start to the semester.
Typically, first-year students participate in an annual tradition –– walking up the center of campus, across Scholars Bridge and through the iconic Beginnings sculpture –– to mark the official launch of their tenure as Bobcats. The bridge crossing has been reimagined into a video to showcase the spirit of the event and welcome incoming Bobcats with key messages from the campus community. Students will still receive welcome packages and shirts to mark the occasion, made possible by a host of local donors.
The campus’s dedication and commitment to its students is also reflected in an innovative new initiative called Student Dens.
Student Dens are virtual hubs for undergraduates to develop friendships with fellow students, engage the resources of a world-class research university, and connect to the vibrant community of students, faculty and staff at the heart of the tight-knit UC Merced experience.
For all students, the Dens are a place for building community — a hallmark of the UC Merced experience. For new students the Dens also function as structured engagement with campus staff — a point of contact for students to check in and find resources, something that usually happens with a resident assistant or academic advisor. For continuing Bobcats, the program provides opportunities to continue the networks they’ve previously developed and access campus resources virtually.
This semester, new resources are also available for students to know what’s happening in the campus community. This includes UC Merced Connect, a new platform that replaces my.ucmerced.edu and offers a new events calendar. This platform will simplify access to information and resources on campus, and serve as a central digital gateway to UC Merced, offering new ways for the campus community to connect. The old campus calendar has been replaced and Happenings, the email alerts for campus events and promotions, will retire this fall.