Delivering his first in-person State of the University campus address, Chancellor Juan Sánchez Muñoz outlined the progress UC Merced has achieved across many fields and laid out initial plans for investing a historic $20 million gift to the university.
“The state of UC Merced is indeed exceptional,” he pronounced in the address delivered Thursday to a group of external supporters and Friday to faculty and staff. “And because of our shared vision, our shared resources and our shared efforts, our shared future is boundless.”
Speaking both days in the Vikram and Priya Lakireddy Grand Ballroom at the university’s new conference center, Muñoz said undergraduate applications, the first-year student class, overall enrollment, fundraising and research grants and expenditures have all risen year over year, and the university’s rankings continue their upward trajectory as well.
He outlined ways the university has worked to “fulfill our founding principle of being in the Valley and for the Valley,” including research strengths in agriculture and fire science, new programs to help community college and high school students enroll at UC Merced, and community events such as the Children’s Opera and a vaccination clinic cosponsored with Merced College, Mercy Medical Center and Merced County.
“Our dedication to our region’s success is of course at the center of all that we do,” the chancellor said.
He praised state and federal legislators for supporting UC Merced’s research programs and announced a new research body — the Center for Research, Equity, Anti-Racism and Transformative Engagement (CREATEs) — an interdisciplinary group of scholars and community members committed to combatting social inequities.
New state funding will support two agricultural research partnerships, including the Fresno-Merced Future of Food Initiative, working with Fresno State, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources and the Central Valley Community Foundation, and a new experimental farm to be built adjacent to campus. A state appropriation will help found the Center for Analytic Political Engagement and support the ongoing efforts of the Community and Labor Center.
Using the $20 million gift from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott, Muñoz said the university will:
• Create three new $1 million endowed professorships, leveraging matching funds from the UC Office of the President, focusing on scholarship that advances diversity, equity and justice.
• Support the university library’s project to create an archive of the Central Valley and the Sierra Nevada.
• Match funds raised by the UC Merced Foundation to build a demonstration and engagement pavilion at the site of the now-demolished Virginia Smith Trust barn on the natural reserve adjacent to campus.
He also pledged $1 million to the deans of UC Merced’s three schools plus the director of the Gallo Management Program, and $1 million each to the Academic Senate, Staff Assembly and student organizations to create transformative programs “in keeping with the values of the university, in alignment with the new strategic plan and in the spirit of the gift to be transformative.” He pledged an additional $1 million to create public art for campus.
Praising the university’s first long-term Strategic Plan, made public on Friday, Muñoz said it centers on “our ambitious drive to be recognized as an R1 university in the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. This will require a sustained and disciplined focus on enhancing our research faculty, facilities and funding.
“We are investing in the future of the nation’s most productive agricultural industry,” he said. “We are investing in the future of work. We are investing in the future of our people. And we are investing in our students — the future leaders of our world.”