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2023: A Look Back

December 21, 2023
Graduating students walk pass UC Merced sign
Pausing to reflect on the year's accomplishments.

2023 was a remarkable year in which UC Merced experienced tremendous growth and acclaim. Several milestones were reached, setting up the university to continue thriving in the near future and beyond. As we embark on a new year, here's a look back at the stories that shaped 2023.

UC Merced Marks the 20th Anniversary of the University’s Groundbreaking

January 26th, 2023

Members of UC Merced’s founding faculty and staff were on-hand to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the university’s groundbreaking. The event took place at the Dr. Vikram and Priya Lakireddy Grand Ballroom which was filled with stories about the campus’s early days. During his remarks, Chancellor Juan Sánchez Muñoz highlighted how far the university had come in a short amount of time and gave a preview of what’s in store.

UC Merced Students Assist Those Affected By Floods

January 31st, 2023

In the wake of historic rains in the area and subsequent damage to personal property, an equally strong show of humanity was also on display. A prime example of this took place when a group of UC Merced students pitched in to assist those who were affected when a storage facility was flooded. Members of campus sports teams and organizations helped sort, load and discard belongings from tenants, some of whom had rented space for up to 20 years.

Community and Labor Center Releases Farmworker Health Study

February 3rd, 2023

Over a six month period, UC Merced's Community and Labor Center led a team that surveyed more than 1200 California farmworkers about the challenges they face as part of their jobs. The report that was published – which cited poor working conditions and disparity of healthcare options – was eye-opening and sent shockwaves throughout the agriculture industry.

Record Number of Students Apply at UC Merced 

February 27th, 2023

While the number of students enrolling in higher education in the nation is in decline, UC Merced continues to buck this trend. The university saw over 26,000 first-year students apply for admissions this year, a record number that was boosted by an significant increase in international interest. Overall, most of the applicants came from California.

Solar Films Developed at UC Merced Test Well in Space

April 12, 2023

Solar cells can be heavy for transport into space, but research headed up by Professor Sayantani Ghosh’s lab aims to make panel production in space a viable option. Solar films that were developed at UC Merced, in collaboration with NASA, yielded promising results during a recent test run on the International Space Station.

Campus Adds New Majors and Emphases

June 12, 2023

As the campus continues to grow, UC Merced offerings for students follow suit. The university announced five new majors that will come online in 2024, including Chemical Engineering and Data Science. Nine new emphases will be available as well, featuring the much-anticipated Aerospace Engineering. If there is enough interest, these emphases can also develop into majors.

Transformative $9 Million Gift To Boost Undergraduate Support

June 21, 2023

A $9 million gift from an anonymous donor will open the door to UC Merced for more local high school students. The generous donation to the long-standing Gateway Scholarship Program will create an endowment fund that will provide scholarships to at least 36 incoming Bobcats every year, contributing to the university’s mission of increasing access and opportunity in the region.

Professor Sora Kim Featured on Shark Week

July 17, 2023

This summer, UC Merced made a cameo in Hollywood when Professor Sora Kim was featured in Discovery Channel’s widely popular Shark Week. Kim’s shark research has fascinated the general public for years, but her work studying the megalodon is what caught the attention of the producers behind “Jaws vs The Meg” – one of the shows featured during the network's annual campaign dedicated to the ocean’s most notorious predator.

UC Merced Student Appointed UC Student Regent

July 19, 2023

In a first for a UC Merced student, Josiah Beharry was named the 2024-25 student regent by the UC Board of Regents. Beharry, a graduate student, was selected after a rigorous vetting process and will now represent over 290,000 students enrolled in the UC system. According to the UC website, the student Regent is a full voting member of the Board of Regents and serves a one-year term.

Charles Ogletree, Jr. Passes Away

August 8, 2023

Merced native and UC Merced champion Charles Ogletree, Jr. left behind a legacy of social justice and education. Ogletree’s inspirational journey takes him from humble beginnings in South Merced to Stanford and, ultimately, Harvard where he received his law degree and later returned to teach and become a mentor to many, including future President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama. Ogletree delivered the keynote address at UC Merced’s opening ceremony back in 2005.

First Cohort of New BS/MD Pathway Start Classes

August 17, 2023

When the call initially went out, over 1200 high school seniors began the process of applying for only 12 spots in the new medical education program at UC Merced, SJV PRIME+. After the dust settled, 15 students were selected and began their journey to becoming physicians this fall via the university’s BS-to-MD pathway, a partnership with UCSF and UCSF Fresno. Chief among the criteria for the cohort was a commitment to serving the San Joaquin Valley after graduating medical school.

UC Merced Partners with Merced College to Build Transfer Housing Project

September 1, 2023

A new student housing project will soon be constructed on campus thanks to the expanding partnership between UC Merced and Merced College. Dubbed the Promise Housing Project – after the Merced Promise transfer pipeline – the development will feature almost 500 beds and address the lack of affordable housing for students in the area. Funding for the $100 million project was made possible by the California Legislature.

UC Merced Rises Nearly 40 Spots in US News College Rankings

September 17, 2023 

UC Merced had a banner ranking season (late summer) that culminated in a nearly 40 spot jump to No. 60 in the annual US News & World Report College Ranking. Among public universities, UC Merced came in at No. 28 in the country and No. 7 in the state. The university also rose to No. 4 in the nation in social mobility. UC Merced had a strong showing in the Wall Street Journal rankings as well, placing No. 15 in the nation for publics and No. 3 in California.

UC Merced Athletics Takes First Steps to Joining DII

November 14, 2023

In a joint press release, UC Merced and the California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) announced that Bobcat Athletics would be joining the CCAA, pending the NCAA’s approval of the university’s move to Division II. UC Merced has been a member of the Cal Pac Conference in the NAIA since 2011. If approved, the Bobcats’ first matches within the CCAA would take place in the 2025-26 season.

UC Regents Approve Funding for Medical Education Building at UC Merced

November 15, 2023

At their November meeting, the UC Board of Regents gave final approval for the construction of a medical education building at UC Merced. The vote approved the design and full budget of the four-story project which will feature 203,500 square feet of instructional, office, research and community space. The facility will be the home of the university’s new BS-to-MD pathway.

Check out the year's top research stories below, based on website page views.

Community and Labor Center Releases Farmworkers Health Study - A new landmark study by the UC Merced Community and Labor Center shows farmworkers across California are facing serious health challenges on a daily basis.

UC Merced Professor First to Join DOE-Funded EFRC - Through a prestigious grant from the Department of Energy (DOE), a diverse group of scientists, including a chemist from UC Merced, plan to address that problem by coupling two chemistries which are known to work independently, but don't work well together.

UC Merced Invests in Next Generation of Ag Tech Leadership - The new UC Merced Farms Food Future innovation initiative is investing in 10 graduate researchers to solve climate and community challenges. Their work is the start of a concerted focus in climate-smart agriculture for the campus.

Berhe Chosen for National Academy of Engineering - Soil biogeochemistry Professor Asmeret Asefaw Berhe — who is on leave from UC Merced while she serves as federal director of the Office of Science for the Department of Energy — has been elected a member of the National Academy of Engineering (NAE).

Research Week Preview - The annual research showcase, hosted by the Office of Research and Economic Development, kicks off with a Health Sciences Research Institute (HSRI) event titled “Climate, Environment and Health: Impacting the San Joaquin Valley and Beyond.”

UC Merced-led Project Win NSF Development Award - The CBIO Collaborative is among the more than 40 unique teams to receive one of the first NSF Engines Development Awards, which aim to help partners collaborate economic, societal and technological opportunities for their regions.

UC Awards $164 Million in Grants to Address Climate, Energy and Health - For the first time, UC Merced faculty members from each of the campus’s three schools have been chosen as principal investigators on some of the 21 exciting new projects that are being funded through UC’s Multicampus Research Programs and Initiatives (MRPI).

Professor Ryals Earns Presidential Chair in Climate Change - Professor Rebecca Ryals has made campus history by being named UC Merced’s inaugural Presidential Chair in Climate Change. The appointment was recommended by her peers and Dean Betsy Dumont from the School of Natural Sciences in recognition of Ryals’ outstanding research, teaching and service.

Grant Funds Collaborative Research Project with LLNL - Materials Science and Engineering Professor Beth Nowadnick has earned a National Science Foundation (NSF) award to study materials that may provide new ways to store or process information.

UC Merced Research Team’s Paper on Storage Needs for Renewable Energy Published - A paper published by a UC Merced research team examines how the need for storage can vary for different combinations of renewable resources. The paper compared the merits of solar-only and solar-and-wind power generation grids.