UC Mercd Magazine-Volume XVI, Issue 2

Animated publication


02 22 GroundBreaking

Photo by Hans Marsen

As we were preparing this edition of UC Merced magazine in September, we achieved a number of significant milestones that had even the most animated Bobcat supporters stopping to catch their breath. We unveiled the university’s new branding program. We launched our first-ever comprehensive fundraising campaign, for $200 million — Boldly Forward. For the third year in a row, UC Merced has been named a top-100 institution by US News, and top 5 for creating social mobility for our students. And for the first time, Washington Monthly rated us among the top 50 schools in the country, based on social mobility criteria. Perhaps most significantly, the White House awarded a $65.1 million grant to a group of Central Valley institutions, including UC Merced: the Fresno-Merced Future of Food (F3) Innovation Coalition. This, the largest-ever federal grant awarded to the Valley, will help launch a state-of-the-art agricultural technology hub that will serve and FRQQHFW IDUPHUV DFURVV WKH 6DQ -RDTXLQ 9DOOH\ WR LQGXVWU\bDV ZHOO DV VSDUN D PRUH DGYDQFHG HUD LQ DJULFXOWXUH EDVHG technology in an effort to boost productivity, create jobs and build capacity for regional sustainability. $V ZH ORRN IRUZDUG WR WKH FRPLQJ \HDU Ǻ ZLWK RXU ODUJHVW IUHVKPDQ FODVV LQ KLVWRU\ D JURXQGEUHDNLQJ IRU RXU medical education building and the creation of our “smart farm” tied to the F3 grant — we see nothing but bright VNLHV IRU RXU XQLYHUVLW\ 2XU FRUH PLVVLRQ RI WHDFKLQJ UHVHDUFK DQG SXEOLF VHUYLFH LV JURZLQJ LQ VFRSH DQG VFDOH more students are drawn here to chart their course to future successes, greater research activity is expanding the ERXQGV RI NQRZOHGJH DQG LQFUHDVLQJO\ 8& 0HUFHG LV ORRNHG WR DV D FRQYHQLQJ DQG FRRUGLQDWLQJ LQVWLWXWLRQ LQ improving life in the Central Valley and beyond. :H DUH IXOILOOLQJ WKH KRSHV DQG WKHQ VRPH RI WKRVH ZKR EURNH JURXQG LQ 0HUFHG \HDUV DJR WR EXLOG WKH QHZHVW campus of the nation’s premier public university system. And everyone — students, faculty, staff, supporters, our QHLJKERUV DQG RXU IULHQGV ǺbKDV KDG D KDQG LQ WKLV VXFFHVV

I am proud to lead UC Merced, and proud of everyone in the Bobcat family.

Fiat Lux,

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Contents 2

Breaking NewGround 4 University’s Firm Friends 5 State Budget Support 6 Research Highlights 8 Commencement 2022 10 New Campus Leaders 11 Building Student Success 12 The 1300 Campaign 13 Ph.D. Student of Promise 14 Alumnus Joins Regents 15 New Teams, New Leadership 16 Professor Leads Science Office

UC Merced Magazine Volume XVI, Issue 2

Photographers Veronica Adrover Steve Caballero/Stanislaus State Monique de Villa Roger Wyan Graphics / Design / Printing Chris Abrescy Liz Lippincott Colemar Design Dumont Printing, Fresno Mailing Address UC Merced External Relations 5200 Lake Road, Merced CA 95343

Chancellor Juan Sánchez Muñoz Vice Chancellor/Chief External Relations Officer E. Edw. Klotzbier

Editors Assistant Vice Chancellor Jim Chiavelli Chief Marketing and Brand Officer Shoba Spencer

Writers Lorena Anderson Donald Barclay Francesca Dinglasan Juan Flores Desiree Lopez

UCMerced.edu @ucmerced

Jody Murray Brenda Ortiz Carla Spain Sam Yniguez

Every effort has been made to contact copyright holders of any material printed in this magazine. Any omissions will be righted in subsequent issues if notice is given to the editors.


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J eopardy! contestant: “I’d like to make this a true Daily Double, Mayim.” BREAKING new ground MayimBialik: “For the category ‘Key Dates in History,’ the Jeopardy! answer is, ‘The year UCMerced was founded.’”

campus lore has it that a golf ball is embedded in the head of the mace carried by the chair of the Academic Senate at Commencement and other ceremonies.) Jump ahead to fall 2006: UC Merced has been fully operational for over a year with a student body numbering about 1,300. Founding Chancellor Carol Tomlinson-Keasey has stepped down. Rod Park is acting chancellor. A botanist with a remarkable career as a teacher, researcher, viticulturalist, and academic administrator, Park’s accomplishments at UC Merced include a central role in bringing the iconic Beginnings sculpture to campus. According to legend, Park was in his office in the west wing of the Kolligian Library Building when he got a call from a general in the Army Corps of Engineers. The general informed Park there was a bit of a problem — the people who built Merced Hills Golf Course never bothered to file an environmental impact statement or get clearance to build the course. Because of this, the general said, the university would need to remove all its buildings and restore any disturbed campus lands to their natural state. As the story goes, Park engineered a compromise over martinis with the general. Is this true? I can’t say. But should you encounter a Merced old-timer complaining about the conversion of Merced Hills Golf Course into the site of the university, you can always look them in the eye and say, “Yeah, but that golf course should have never been built in the first place.” Back to 2002. As the date of the founding ceremony approached, there was still a chance UC Merced was not going to happen. Besides environmental groups suing to prevent the university from being built, civic boosters and commercial interests from other Central Valley towns and cities still harbored hopes of pulling off a last-minute miracle play that would wrest the new UC campus from Merced. Some within the ranks of the University of California itself were strongly opposed to establishing a 10th campus, and politicians fromoutside the Valley shared this sentiment. On top of all that, gaining approval from the Corps of Engineers for construction beyond the former golf course was a slow and complicated process that offered no guarantees of a successful outcome. Despite all the uncertainties, in the days leading up to the ceremony workers erected a temporary structure just off Lake Road, approximately where Scholars Lot and Bobcat Field are located today.While described at the time as a tent, the massive structure was large enough to accommodate some 1,600 attendees, among whomwere Gov. Gray Davis, assorted local dignitaries, representatives of dozens of other colleges and universities, hundreds of community supporters, and UC Merced’s full contingent of approximately 75 employees.


Jeopardy! contestant: “What is 2005?”

MayimBialik: “Oh, I’m sorry. The correct answer is 2002.”

By Donald Barclay

Yes, Mayim is right as usual. Though the year 2005 is shown on the UC Merced seal, that is actually when the first full class of undergraduates was admitted. The “real” founding of UCMerced took place on October 25, 2002.

How do I know? I was there. I saw it all with my own eyes.

By the final week of October 2002, I had spent almost two months as an employee of a university with no faculty, no students and no campus. During that time, I had not once ventured onto what would become the site of UC Merced. All along Lake Road the campus lands were protected by tautly strung, five-strand barbed-wire fences festooned with ominous “No Trespassing” signs. I was looking forward to the founding ceremony as my opportunity to finally set foot on what would become both the first new University of California campus since 1965 and the first (and, to date, only) newU.S. research university of the 21st century. Merced was selected as the site of the 10th UC campus in large part because the lands of the Virginia Smith Trust – 7,000-plus acres –were available for the creation of both the campus and its adjoining natural reserve. Abutting the trust lands was a 110-acre divot called the Merced Hills Golf Course. In 2001, the University of California was able to purchase the golf course acreage thanks to a generous donation of $11 million from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. (Campus lore has it that the course, though popular with local golfers, was driving to bankruptcy.) The acquisition of the golf course was critical to opening on schedule. With the option of erecting its initial buildings on the golf-course site, the university was able to sidestep delays from a series of lawsuits brought by environmental groups as well as the lengthy permitting processes required before building on the more environmentally sensitive portions of the trust lands. The golf course is why UC Merced has a Little Lake – it is a former water hazard. (More


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The founding ceremony took place on a warm autumn day with a bright sun glinting blindingly off the tent. As nearly 200 gowned academics marched in and took their seats, the Merced College Concert Band played the “Coronation March” from John Phillip Sousa’s orchestral suite Tales of a Traveler. Davis, whowould lose a recall vote a year later, told the crowd, “My administration worked with you like a laser beam to make sure this campus got underway. We all know the obstacles, the objections, the legal challenges, but we are standing here today . . . and we aremaking progress." To cheers from campus supporters, Davis then proclaimed that UCMerced would open in 2004, a year ahead of schedule. I don’t remember any of the UCMerced employees present letting out audible groans, but I ampretty sure our collective thought bubble read, “Oh, no. No. No. No.” (As it turned out, UC Merced barely managed to open in 2005, and even at that the entire contraptionwas held together with duct tape and baling wire.) The keynote address was given by Nobel Laureate Robert Laughlin, a physicist who in 1998 shared aNobel Prize for his work in explaining the “fractional quantum Hall effect.” (It involves electrons. I don’t understand it either.) Laughlin apologized for being on the Stanford faculty despite having completed his bachelor’s degree at the University of California, Berkeley. A native of Visalia, Laughlin vividly described the experience of flying West over the Sierra Nevada on the way to the Bay Area and seeing below the “harsh savannah” where he had grown up and where UC Merced would bring opportunities unavailable in the Valley of his youth. Following the keynote, UC President Richard Atkinson inaugurated Carol Tomlinson-Keasey as chancellor. Dignitaries armed with gold-painted shovels broke ground to heartfelt cheers and applause. In my memory, the highlight of the entire ceremony was a parade of local children dressed in costumes representing the diversity of the peoples who have come to call California’s Central Valley their home – Mexican, Hmong, Dutch, Philippine, Miwok, Italian, African, Portuguese, Yemeni, Punjabi, plus more I’m sure I have left out. As someone who was new to the Valley and had yet to comprehend the astounding diversity of this place, seeing all those costumed kids was a remarkable and memorable learning experience. After the ceremony, there was a “y’all come” barbecue at Lake Yosemite. I sat at a picnic table with a group of local K-12 teachers and administrators, most of them Hispanic, who talked excitedly about an upcoming Fresno State football game. Through such encounters, we UC Merced long-haulers slowly became part of a Merced community that is very different from Berkeley, Ann Arbor, Cambridge, and the other “college towns” that educated and shaped so many of us.

ChancellorTomlinson-Keasey, Gov. Davis and other dignitaries break ground.

Our being part of the local community certainly has a dollar value, in that UC Merced employees spend their money here, but I’ll leave that to the economists. The greater, and much richer, value is found in the ways we who came here because of UC Merced and those who made this community their home for other reasons rub off on each other. We learn from each other and broaden each other’s horizons in ways that cannot, and probably should not, be measured. At the time of the founding ceremony, the local community had a lot of expectations for UC Merced. Many of those expectations had grown from understandable mixtures of altruism and economics. In a Merced Sun-Star article, several local agriculturalists expressed both their enthusiasm for the good UC Merced would bring to the area along with their desire it would not lead to the end of agriculture inMerced County the way the growth of Silicon Valley had devastated agriculture in Santa Clara County. Jim Cunningham, a farmer and member of the UC Merced Foundation Board of Trustees, said of the challenge of balancing growth with agricultural production, “I have confidence that it'll be handled fine. People will make the right decisions." Diane Crisp, who at the time was a trustee on the UC Agricultural Committee, said, "Because the university is located in prime agricultural land, I think it should have the study of agriculture in mind." Although UC Merced has no School of Agriculture, its faculty have conducted research in areas that contribute directly to agricultural profitability and sustainability, including such areas as energy production, water conservation, soil science, precision agriculture, and agroecology. The university is in the process of establishing a 40-acre experimental smart farmon campus, while theUC Merced Library has created the California Agricultural Resources Archive to preserve, organize, and provide access to records of enduring scientific and historical value. (continued on page 4)


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Longtime Friends >> The UFC

For 13 years, theUniversity Friends Circle has been raising funds and building local relationships to support the scholars of UCMerced.

The agriculture community has not been the only beneficiary of having a UC campus inMerced. Our students and faculty have raised the local profile of the arts and the humanities in ways ranging from making films about the region to hosting public lecture series to establishing the popular Shakespeare in the Park program. Our researchers seek to understand and better the lives of Valley residents by practicing community-based research focusing on crucial local issues such as public health, labor, and justice. The region stands to reap even greater benefits with UC Merced’s entrance into the realm of medical education. Toward the end of his keynote address back on that fall day in 2002, Robert Laughlin quoted from Oliver Wendell Holmes’ poem “The Chambered Nautilus,” UFC and its Endowed Scholarship began with a gift from then-Chancellor Steve Kang and his wife, Mia. Starting with that $10,000 donation, the scholarship fund has grown to more than $600,000, aiding more than 40 students along the way, according to current president Mike Cuchna. Along with its annual scholarship awards and programs to VXSSRUW VWXGHQWV GXULQJ WKHLU FDPSXV UHVLGHQF\ Ǻb VXFK DV WKH Student Emergency Fund, Food Pantry, and Guardian Scholars fund (for former foster youth) — the bustling community organization has built a network to spread the word about the university’s impact. “UFC has created meaningful relationships between the UC community and the Valley through activities that promote social and intellectual interaction,” said longtime UFC officer Ann Andersen. That includes monthly luncheons to hear from UC Merced researchers and their students. Governance chair Kathryn Hansen remembers the early days. “UC Merced was a very exciting prospect for Merced,” she recalled. “UFC has been the link to the campus that many of us in the community looked forward to.” The group “provided opportunities for the people in the community to tour campus facilities, hear about the latest research from professors, and just feel comfortable walking (continued from page 3)

UFC provides “Snacks for Scholars” on Scholars Lane.

Twenty years’ worth of swift seasons have rolled by since the founding of UC Merced, and one need only glimpse the campus to see its many stately mansions devoted to research, teaching, and student life. They tell the world we are here, we are real, we are serious about what we are doing, and we are not going anywhere. But the world will not measure UCMerced by its square footage. Anyone can build stately mansions given enoughmoney, time, and (legally permitted) land.What the local community and the world beyond will measure UC Merced by are the thoughts, ideas, and learning that comes out of its statelymansions. I am proud to have been part of the creation of UCMerced, and I believe this institution has measured up, and will continue to do so, because of the opportunities it creates and the good it brings into the world. Donald Barclay retired in 2022 as deputy university librarian after 20 years at UC Merced. He is the author of Disinformation: The Nature of Facts and Lies in the Post- Truth Era and Fake News, Propaganda and Plain Old Lies: How to Find Trustworthy Information in the Digital Age. around the beautiful campus,” Hansen said. “UFC, professors and staff have gotten involved in the community through programs and projects that range from clearing sheep dung for the first fundraiser at a sheep ranch in the countryside to hearing about the local real estate market at our monthly meetings.” ǿ7KH YLVLRQ RI WKH IRXQGHUV RIb8)&bZDV WR FUHDWH D PHFKDQLVP IRU fostering strong communication between Merced and other &HQWUDO 9DOOH\ FRPPXQLWLHV Ǻ WKH WRZQ ǺbDQG 8& 0HUFHG Ǻ WKH gown,” offered secretary/historian Gaye Riggs. “We recognized that the impact of this new research university would have a profound impact on the social, academic and political character of the community,” she said. “Merced had much to give the campus and the campus had much to give the community. What a grand opportunity to foster mutual respect of each for the other.” The group is open to everyone “with curiosity about the new knowledge being created at UC Merced and those who wish to impact students inmeaningful, personal ways,” said Riggs. Contact the Division of External Relations for membership information.

Build thee more stately mansions, Omy soul, As the swift seasons roll! Leave thy low-vaulted past! Let each new temple, nobler than the last, Shut thee from heaven with a dome more vast, Till thou at length art free. . . .


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Supports UC Merced Growth

The state budget passed by the legislature and signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom in summer 2022 promises tens of millions of dollars for UC Merced to build the next generation of world-class programs and facilities. The budget appropriates new funding for campus expansion, climate-related initiatives, the university's Community and Labor Center and a potential housing partnership. "These new allocations will help UC Merced and our community move even more boldly forward," said Chancellor Juan Sánchez Muñoz. "We owe a great deal to $VVHPEO\PHPEHU $GDP *UD\ 6HQ b $QQD &DEDOOHUR Assemblymember Jose Medina and others for their tremendous advocacy for our students, faculty and researchers during the budget process, and of course to *RY b 1HZVRP ZKR KDV EHHQ D VWHDGIDVW VXSSRUWHU RI this university." The chancellor also praised UC Merced faculty and staff, foundation trustees, alumni and students "who, working with colleagues and peers across the UC system, helped to keep the story of our mission and our successes in front of state leaders." Detailed allocations toUCMerced include: • $31.5 million this year for campus expansion projects, with the legislature promising to allocate the same amount in the 2023 and 2024 budgets, for a total of $94.5 million over three years. • $18 million in funding for climate initiatives, and access to $100 million in seed and matching grants available across the University of California system. • $3 million in ongoing funding for the Community and Labor Center, UC Merced's newest organized research unit. • $564,000, in a budget trailer bill, for a housing planning grant in coordination with Merced College. "We are tremendously appreciative of this influx of capital with which our faculty and students will tackle big research challenges, especially in the critical area of climate resilience, regenerative agriculture, and wildfire and drought modeling andmanagement," said InterimVice Chancellor for Research and Economic Development Marjorie Zatz.

California Secretary of Food and Agriculture Karen Ross, top, and 6HFUHWDU\ RI /DERU DQG :RUNIRUFH 'HYHORSPHQW 1DWDOLH 3DOXJ\DL ZHUH among officials coming to Merced to hear from faculty experts.

Labor Center Funding Particularly benefiting from the 2022-23 state budget is UC Merced’s newest Organized Research Unit, the Community and Labor Center (CLC). The budget included $13 million to fund research, education and public engagement on labor issues throughout the UC. The allocation, which will be ongoing in future state budgets, represents the single largest budget increase to UC labor centers since their establishment in 1964. The CLC has quickly established expertise on issues related to immigration, workplace health and safety, and high road economic development. The funding comes at a crucial time for a region facing a public health crisis and climate change. "Valley workers are on the frontlines of global economic and environmental challenges," said Ana Padilla, CLC executive director. "The expansion of labor centers and labor studies within the University of California will advance the university's public-serving mission across California's diverse regions." 5HFHQW &/& UHVHDUFK KDV IRFXVHG RQb&29,' VSUHDGbLQ counties with large and low-wage households, the need IRU XQHPSOR\PHQW EHQHILWV DPRQJb &DOLIRUQLD XQGRFXPHQWHG LPPLJUDQWVb DQG WKH UHJLRQ V ODUJHVW UHSUHVHQWDWLYH VXUYH\ RQ LVVXHV VXFK DVbFOLPDWH FKDQJH


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Research ROUNDUP

Mucus Molecules Thwart Fungal Infection


Green Power From Hydrogen A UCMerced lab is partnering with researchers in the Philippines to generate hydrogen efficiently and convert it into electricity. Professor Po-Ya Abel Chuang’s team is optimizing cell design and modeling hybrid systems to evaluate the feasibility of large-scale deployment. Chuang said the green-energy technology can be used anywhere because fuel cells are reliable, easy

Professor Clarissa Nobile and an international team of researchers have discovered which component in mucus prevents a fungus found in most humans from turning destructive. In its harmful form, the fungus Candida albicans can cause conditions such as oral thrush,

vaginal yeast infections or even a life threatening infection. The researchers identified specialized sugar molecules, or glycans, as being able to suppress the fungus’s dark side. “I am really excited about this new work because I think it has important implications for how we develop new antimicrobial therapies in the future,” Nobile said.

to implement and have long lifespans. Chuang has a long history of fuel-cell research, working for General Motors

developing fuel-cell cars and continuing that work at Purdue University before coming to UC Merced in 2014.

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Dentist, Professor Devise a Smart Retainer AMerced dentist and a UCMerced computer science and engineering professor are developing a retainer that senses occlusion -- how upper and lower teeth contact each other when chewing or speaking, or when the mouth is at rest. Bad alignment can cause a variety of problems, including teeth grinding and uneven wear, toothaches and fractures, headaches, and speech and sleep disorders. Professor Shijia Pan was inspired by a visit to Dr. Jun Ho Lee, a Merced dentist. The two are working with Professor VP Nguyen from the University of Texas, Arlington, on the retainer project.

Professor Joins Cutting-Edge Chemistry Field

What might emerge froma revolutionary field of study Professor Christine Isborn has entered? She’s not entirely sure. And that’s exciting. “We don’t really know how it works or what is possible yet,” Isborn said of the field of polariton chemistry. “It's a new area for me, but thankfully the rest of the teamare pioneers who have been working to understand this new field for a while.” Isborn is partnering

with researchers at UC San Diego, City University of New York and Pennsylvania State University. Polaritons are the optical excitations that emerge when molecular transitions interact strongly with confined electromagnetic fields.

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Report Targets Valley’s Challenges The effects of climate change on the San Joaquin Valley and actions that could reduce those impacts are the subject of a report authored by UCMerced researchers and affiliates and published by the California government. The San Joaquin Valley Summary Report for the state’s Fourth Climate Change Assessment acknowledges challenges such as access to safe drinking water, poor air quality and vulnerable agricultural water supply. The report will be used by the state of California, nonprofit

Risky Feeding Practices Linked to Formula Shortage, COVID

The national shortage of baby formula earlier this year compounded the prevalence of feeding practices during the COVID-19 pandemic that can endanger infants’ health, a UC Merced study says. The study conducted by the Lactation

Attachment Technology and Child Health (LATCH) Lab in collaboration with UC Irvine and the University of Toronto suggests the pandemic had a greater impact on infants whose families relied on formula rather than human milk. Psychological Sciences Professor Jennifer Hahn-Holbrook was senior author and graduate student Jessica Marino was first author.

organizations and the general public as a resource for science and information about climate change’s effects on the Valley.

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How Scrambling Visuals Affects Perception

Tracking Forest Regeneration The rate of forest regeneration in the face of climate change is the focus of research by Professor Emily Moran and her team, which is monitoring 11 sites in the Sierra Nevada

Facial expression may seem to be a dependable way to determine a person’s emotional state. But what if you were shown a picture of a happy face on a body exuding fear – at the scene of a funeral? Scrambling visual cues to see how it affects the perception of emotion was the thrust of a study by Psychological Sciences Professor Eric Walle and UC Merced graduate and current Brigham Young University

for tree growth and death, seed production and seedling survival. Western trees tend to produce more seed and seedlings in the northward parts of their geographic ranges, Moran said, but this doesn’t mean they will be fully able to keep pace with climate change.

Professor Peter Reschke. A total of 80 undergraduate students at UC Merced and BYU participated in the study, which was published recently in the journal Affective Science.

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Spring Commencement

Over three days, on the new athletic practice field, thousands of new bachelor’s, master’s and Ph.D. recipients joined with family, friends, faculty and fellow students to celebrate UC Merced Commencement 2022. Keynotes were delivered by Professor Teenie Matlock, former UC Regents Fred Ruiz and Celia Estolano.


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>> Class of 2022


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NEW CAMPUS LEADERS Here’s a quick look at people

Some new, some familiar – who recently have assumed leadership roles at UCMerced.

From left to right -Top: Rakesh Goel, Betsy Dumont, Delia Saenz Middle: Daniel Okoli, Christiane Spitzmüller, Hrant Hratchian, Heather French, Lela Dennis, Bottom: Hector Escalante, Jackson Muhirwe

RakeshGoel Dean, School of Engineering

Goel comes to the San Joaquin Valley from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, where he served as the College of Engineering’s executive associate dean. He managed the college’s day-to-day operations, along with a $40 million state-side budget and a $40 million gift and endowment fund. Goel has an expansive background in civil engineering research and is a national and international leader in the discipline of earthquake analysis and design structures. He joined UC Merced in October. Betsy Dumont Dean, School of Natural Sciences Dumont has been reappointed to the role she has held since joining UC Merced in August 2017. Under her direction, the school has more than doubled per capita research expenditures while decreasing the DFW rate of lower-division courses by nearly 60%. More than half the 33 faculty hired by the school since Dumont became dean identify as women. The school also established the university’s first Living Learning Communities for students. Delia Saenz Vice Chancellor and Chief Diversity Officer Saenz presides over the newly instituted Division of Equity, Justice and Inclusive Excellence. Saenz, a native Texan, came to UC Merced from Arizona State University, where she was chief diversity officer of ASU’s largest college, LiberalArts&Sciences. Saenzbrings the academic rigor of a social psychologist and the sharply honed talents of a facilitator and problem-solver to a university that has staked its reputation as a place where students from underrepresented backgrounds and cultures arewelcomed and nurtured – a place to thrive. Daniel Okoli Vice Chancellor and Chief Operating Officer Daniel Okoli brings a long resume, stretching from the Arizona’s high desert to south Wisconsin’s lakeshores and beyond, to UC Merced. Okoli came to the San Joaquin Valley

California and held academic roles at Holy Names University in Oakland, Sonoma State and UC Riverside. An active member in national higher education organizations, French has presented on topics that range from white privilege to assessment and learning outcomes to restorative justice. Lela Dennis Dennis brings more than 25 years of experience in human resources in public and nonprofit sectors to UC Merced. She comes from UC Riverside, where she was deputy chief human resources officer and human resources director of employee and organizational development. Dennis earned an M.A. in organizational management from Ashford University. Her motto: “Building big relationships equals bold results.” Hector Escalante Ombudsperson Escalante comes to UC Merced from University of the Pacific, where he served as the UOP’s first ombuds. Escalante immigrated from Baja California to the United States with his family when he was 2 years old. The long-time Californian and Marine veteran holds a doctorate in education. Escalante specializes in conflict resolution, healthy communication, and learning and development. JacksonMuhirwe Chief Information Security Officer Muhirwe has more than decades worth of experience in information technology and cybersecurity leadership and faculty roles. He comes to UC Merced from UC Davis, where he was deputy chief information security officer. Previously, he worked for the City and County of San Francisco as interim chief information security officer and director of cybersecurity services. Associate Vice Chancellor and Chief Human Resources Officer

from Flagstaff, Ariz., where since 2017 he served as Northern Arizona University’s vice president for capital planning and development. Previously, Okoli spent 12 years at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, overseeing more than $3 billion in capital projects. Okoli also held planning and development roles at The Ohio State University and Pace University in New York. Christiane Spitzmüller Vice Provost for Academic Affairs and Strategy Spitzmüeller, who will join UC Merced in September, comes to UC Merced from the University of Houston, where she serves as project director of a nine-institution research consortium dedicated to examining validity and bias in promotion and tenure decision- making. Spitzmüeller, a psychology professor, also has led efforts to increase faculty grant expenditures and representation of under- represented populations in a variety of roles. Hrant Hratchian Vice Provost and Dean for Graduate Education Leadership roles are nothing new to Hratchian, who assumes his new role after serving as chair of UC Merced’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. A member of the university’s faculty since 2013, Hratchian also served as interim co-director of cyberinfrastructure and research computing and chaired the Academic Senate’s Graduate Council. The longtime researcher has been honored with a Hellman Foundation Fellowship and an NSF Career award. Heather French Associate Vice Chancellor and Dean of Students French comes to UCMerced from Fontbonne University in St. Louis, where she was vice president for student affairs and chief diversity officer. French earned a doctorate of education from St. Mary’s College of


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Stanislaus State College President Ellen Junn and Josh Fryday, California’s chief service officer, talk to Chancellor Munoz about California College for All employment opportunities.

BUILDING Student SUCCESS Everyone’s on a leadership journey,” said Brian O’Bruba. “We help them find their voice.”

And sometimes OLSC works hand-in-glove with faculty, O’Bruba pointed out. “We support a lot of faculty research that requires a career or leadership component for students, undergraduate and graduate.” OLSC is also the campus conduit for the campus’ signature Yosemite Leadership Program, and for College Corps, the California initiative that helps students pay for higher education through community service work. A hundred UC Merced students are signed up for the 2022-2023 academic year. Nuts-and-bolts activities include resume critiques, mock interviews, and work on overcoming imposter syndrome and finding professional mentors, he said. “We are training \RX KRZ WR EH FRPSHWLWLYH ǺbKRZ WR DSSO\ IRU SRVLWLRQV and then feel comfortable in those experiences.” Employers are willing to join in the process as well, he said. “Companies that I’ve been working with are not just recruiting,” said O’Bruba, “but also asking how they can be involved in professional growth and development,” through such interactions as workshops and internships.

O’Bruba, executive director of UC Merced’s Office of Leadership, Service and Career, said the office is focused on career readiness, leadership development and community service experiences. This can include workshops, conferences, seminars and other formal projects to promote self-exploration and boost confidence and resilience; along with comprehensive programs such as service trips, internships and the like. O’Bruba uses terms like “interdisciplinary” and “transformational” when discussing what employers are seeking. “Project management skills, leadership skills, communication skills,” he rattled off — “skill-oriented, to complement the world-class education they’re getting at UC Merced.” OLSC “was instrumental in helping me obtain a finance internship in New York City this summer,” said Eshaan Kajani (’23), a student in political science and management and business economics. “Their resume and interview guidance helped me throughout my journey in undergrad and will continue to help after college.”

(continued on page 12)


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“Early career opportunities for students are a vital part of their college matriculation and growth as they begin the process of determining how and where they would like to begin their career,” said Joy Jackson-Guilford, director of strategic pipeline partnerships for biopharmaceutical firm AbbVie, a UC Merced partner employer. “Through our partnership with the Hispanic Serving Institution Career Collaborative, AbbVie has the opportunity to meet outstanding talent from universities like UC Merced, and students gain exposure to future career paths and opportunities through our early career programs,” Jackson-Guilford said. UC Merced continues to pave the way to success for students of color to thrive at a four-year college. To continue to support these efforts, the campus, in collaboration with Stanislaus State, announced the H[SDQVLRQ RI WKHb &DPSDLJQ DQ LQLWLDWLYH DLPHG DW DFFHSWLQJ DQ DGGLWLRQDO \RXQJ SHRSOH RI FRORU LQWR the University of California and California State University V\VWHPV E\ 7KH &DPSDLJQ VWDUWHG LQ 6DFUDPHQWR 7KH 8& 0HUFHG initiative will focus on high school students in the Northern Central Valley — including Merced, Modesto, and San Joaquin counties. "This project requires the will and commitment of all of those who work with us, to lay the academic and social groundwork for students of color to succeed," Chancellor Juan Sánchez Muñoz said. "UC Merced, where more than SHUFHQW RI RXU XQGHUJUDGXDWHV DUH VWXGHQWV RI FRORU fully embraces this challenge to do even more." “What we are doing is igniting the fuel for our students of color to pursue higher educations,” Stanislaus State President Ellen Junn said. Campaign to Increase >> Students of Color (continued from page 11)

The initiative will target implementation efforts in high schools underperforming the state averages for graduation rates, A-G course completion rates, college-going rates, four-year college-going rates, expulsion, suspension, and free or reduced lunch. Attendees at the announcement, in UC Merced’s conference center, included Modesto City Schools Superintendent Sara Noguchi, who said it is crucial to build a pipeline between high schools and colleges for students of color to thrive. “I am committed to developing a strong relationship with our institutions to guide our students through the system,” she said. “I look forward to seeing the improvements we will see in our city and the whole state.”

A cohort of students spent a week at UC Merced over the summer to experience college life, during which campus officials joined them for a picnic at Lake Yosemite.

Chancellor Munoz engages student at 1300 campaign picnic

O’Bruba said some of OLSC’s services, such as an online job portal, remain open toUCMerced alumni, who in turn have been eager to “re-engage and help lift up current students.” “We may not have a lot of alumni compared to the other (UC) campuses, but they are continuing to open doors” for new graduates, he said.


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Ph.D. Student of Promise

RhondeneWint is one of 10 exemplary graduate students WR EH IHDWXUHG LQ D UHFHQWbVSHFLDO LVVXHbRI 'LYHUVH Issues In Higher Education based on “standout scholarship thus far and their current trajectory toward a very promising future in academia and beyond.” :LQW Db4XDQWLWDWLYH DQG 6\VWHPV %LRORJ\b3K ' VWXGHQW ZKR hails from the coastal town of Ocho Rios, Jamaica, is part of WKH VHFRQG FRKRUW RI 'LYHUVH 5LVLQJ *UDGXDWH 6FKRODUV “It's a very big honor. I appreciate the recognition,” she said. “It means a lot for my family and my wider community. I'm not just the first in my family (to get a degree and go on to SXUVXH D 3K ' EXW WKH ILUVW LQ P\ QHLJKERUKRRG ,W LV unheard of where I'm from.” :LQWǽV FR DGYLVRU 3URIHVVRUb0LFKDHO &OHDU\b QRPLQDWHG KHU for the award citing her passion for science, research competences and commitment to mentoring among the numerous reasons why she deserves this honor. “Rhondene is very serious about training people that come from communities where careers in academia might seem XQREWDLQDEOH Ȁ &OHDU\ VDLG ǿ+HU SHUVRQDO MRXUQH\ VHUYHV DV an inspirational example.” From a young age, Wint said she dreamed of studying PHGLFLQH 6KH SDUWLFLSDWHG LQ D VFLHQFH IDLU LQ KLJK VFKRRO DQG said she enjoyed the process but didn't see science and research as a viable option. “I didn't know any scientists,” she said. “I only read about them in books.” 'HVSLWH RYHUFRPLQJ PDQ\ FKDOOHQJHV LQFOXGLQJ D VSHHFK impediment, Wint went on to earn her bachelor’s degree in ELRORJLFDO VFLHQFHV IURP 1RUWKHUQ &DULEEHDQ 8QLYHUVLW\ LQ Jamaica and got hooked on research. “It was the research that drew me here,” said Wint, who MRLQHG 8& 0HUFHG LQ WR VWXG\ ZLWK &OHDU\ DQG 3URIHVVRUb 'DYLG $UGHOO ǿ, ZDQWHG WR GR LQWHUGLVFLSOLQDU\ UHVHDUFK Ȁ $W 8& 0HUFHG VKH VWXGLHV KRZ ZKROH JHQHV influence brain development; her main research intersects QHXURELRORJ\ DQG WUDQVIHU 51$ W51$ ǿ:RUNLQJ ZLWK W51$V LV QRWRULRXVO\ GLIILFXOW DQG 5KRQGHQH has diligently established novel methods that have yielded H[FLWLQJ GDWD Ȁ &OHDU\ VDLG ǿ5KRQGHQH HQWHUHG RXU

4XDQWLWDWLYH DQG 6\VWHPV %LRORJ\ JUDGXDWH SURJUDP ZLWK DQ untraditional background, having worked hard to obtain a strong education despite numerous obstacles in her native -DPDLFD 6KH DUULYHG ZHOO YHUVHG LQ ELRORJ\ DQG FKHPLVWU\ and had an impressive set of computer skills, largely acquired through self-teaching.” ,Q VXPPHU :LQW ZDV VHOHFWHG IRU WKH 8 6 'HSDUWPHQW RI (QHUJ\ -RLQW *HQRPH ,QVWLWXWH -*, 8& 0HUFHG LQWHUQVKLS SURJUDP 7KH -*, LV D QDWLRQDO XVHU IDFLOLW\ DW /DZUHQFH %HUNHOH\ 1DWLRQDO /DERUDWRU\ 7KHUH VKH XVHG cutting-edge computational approaches to reveal novel SURSHUWLHV RI W51$ HYROXWLRQ LQ IXQJL %DVHG RQ WKDW UHVHDUFK VKH LV ILUVW DXWKRU RQ D UHFHQWb SXEOLFDWLRQb LQ 0ROHFXODU %LRORJ\ DQG (YROXWLRQ In addition to her research prowess, Wint has mentored several undergraduate students in the lab, all from underrepresented backgrounds, and taught several courses. ,Q :LQW ZDV DZDUGHG WKH FRPSHWLWLYHb%H\RQG WKH 0 ' b /LYLQJ /HDUQLQJ &RPPXQLW\ IHOORZVKLS $V WKH LQVWUXFWRU RQ record for the one-unit course, she designed a mentorship program for incoming undergraduate students majoring in 67(0 ILHOGV E\ UHFUXLWLQJ JXHVW VSHDNHUV IURP GLYHUVH professions to share their experiences with the students. LikeWint, most of the studentswere the first in their families to pursue a college degree. “I remember being scared when I first started at the university. It was a whole new environment, and it was overwhelming,” she said. “I shared ways to build a successful roadmap for themselves and helped them build a sense of EHORQJLQJ Ȁ $V RQH RI 'LYHUVHǽV 5LVLQJ *UDGXDWH 6FKRODUV :LQW MRLQHG VWXGHQWV IURP WKH 8QLYHUVLW\ RI 0LFKLJDQ 8QLYHUVLW\ RI .HQWXFN\ +RZDUG 8QLYHUVLW\ )ORULGD ,QWHUQDWLRQDO 8QLYHUVLW\ ,QGLDQD 8QLYHUVLW\ %ORRPLQJWRQ 8QLYHUVLW\ RI 7ROHGR 8QLYHUVLW\ RI 6RXWK &DUROLQD 1RUWKHUQ $UL]RQD 8QLYHUVLW\ DQG 'XNH 8QLYHUVLW\ “I have no doubt that Rhondene will continue to have a successful career as a researcher, educator and mentor,” &OHDU\ VDLG ǿ,ǽP YHU\ H[FLWHG WR VHH ZKDW VKH DFKLHYHV DQG consider myself lucky to have had the opportunity to work with her.”


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Campus Appoints First Representative to Serve as Alumni Regent

ZLWK P\ IHOORZ $OXPQL 5HJHQWV WR OHYHUDJHbWKH SRZHU RI 10 to engage alumni as a UC system in addition to the HQJDJHPHQW RFFXUULQJbYLD WKH LQGLYLGXDO FDPSXV DOXPQL associations, particularly get-out-the-vote efforts and philanthropic stewardship.” ǿ)URP WKH %RDUG RI 5HJHQWV P\ FKLHIbJRDO LV WR EH D YRLFH IRU WKH DOXPQL DQG WKDWb UHTXLUHV PH WR EH DYDLODEOH DQG DFFHVVLEOHbWR WKHP 7R ZRUN RQ WKHVH JRDOV , ZLOO EH PDNLQJ some campus visits with my fellow Regents as well as participating in virtual events,” he added. Ellis has been a key player in encouraging diversity and HTXLW\ LQ KLV YDULRXV UROHV DQG D VWURQJ DGYRFDWH IRU WKH /*%74 FRPPXQLW\ WKH YLVXDOO\ LPSDLUHG DQG ILUVW JHQHUDWLRQ FROOHJH VWXGHQWV 7KH QHZO\ DSSRLQWHG alumni regent also supports student success by empowering identity exploration and self-advocacy. “All those who aspire to the best education and research in the world should feel welcome at the University of California. I want UC to live up to the principles of diversity, HTXLW\ LQFOXVLRQ DQG DFFHVVLELOLW\ /LNH DOO RI XV P\ OLYHG experiences and identity frame the lens in which I view our world, but as alumni regent, I must balance that with the views and voices of those I represent,” Ellis said. 7KH WKUHH WRS FDQGLGDWHV IRU WKH SRVLWLRQ UHSUHVHQWHG D range of diversity and experience that mirror the rich culture that exists in the campus community. UC Merced alumni and first-generation college students Josh Franco, % $ 0 $ 3K ' DQG %UHQGD

For the first time, a UC Merced alumnus is serving RQ WKHb 8& %RDUG RI Regents. Keith Ellis, who received his bachelor’s degree fromUCMerced in 2012, is serving a two-year term that began in July and continues through June 2024. In addition to his new role, Ellis is as an active officer of the Alumni Associations of UC (AAUC).

“Keith’s extensive experience advocating for UC Merced students and alumni will guide his decision-making and is helping pave the way for different opportunities that exist for all UC alumni and students,” Chancellor Juan Sánchez Muñoz said. Appointments of alumni regents rotate among the 10 campuses of theUC system. His selection is something Ellis said he appreciates. He is thankful to the selection FRPPLWWHH DQG WKHb 8& 0HUFHG $OXPQL $VVRFLDWLRQb 8&0$$ %RDUG IRU WKHLU FRQILGHQFH IDLWK DQG WUXVW LQ KLP ǿ%HLQJ VHOHFWHG WR VHUYH DV WKH ILUVW 8& $OXPQL 5HJHQW IURP 8& 0HUFHG LV DQ LPPHQVH KRQRU DQG SULYLOHJH %\ EHLQJ the first, I set a precedent and standard for all those who will succeed in this role. It means the world to me personally to be recognized in this way due to my passion, dedication and service to UC Merced,” Ellis said. Ellis's Alumni Regent position is another addition to his extended history of involvement with the university, as he served as immediate past president of UCMAA from 2020-2022 and president from 2014-2020. “We represent our campus alumni as well as all UC alumni. I need to have robust and sometimes difficult conversations with many different people to process and understand complex issues,” Ellis said. “I am working

Keith’s extensive experience advocating for UC Merced students and alumni will guide his decision-making and is helping pave the way for different opportunities that exist for all UC alumni and students.



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With veteran coaches on board to lead the Bobcats to victory, UC Merced launched four athletics teams this DFDGHPLF \HDU ǺbPHQǽV DQG ZRPHQǽV ZDWHU SROR DQG PHQǽV DQG ZRPHQǽV RXWGRRU WUDFN New teams, new energy For Bobcat Athletics

He had stints as a volunteer assistant at Santa Clara and Long Beach State prior to San Jose State. On the international level, Bega has served as the USA National Zone 11 junior girls and youth boys head coach. From 1997-2001, he coached in Japan, Hungary, Brazil, Greece and Holland. Water polo is being elevated from a club team. It will call the Aquatics Center home and compete as a member of the Collegiate Water Polo Association. Outdoor track will compete in spring under Bobcat cross country coach Vicente Velarde. Velarde has led his men’s and women’s cross country teams to runner-up finishes in the California Pacific Conference each of the last two years and has qualified 13 individuals for the NAIA National Championships. The track programaims to focus initially ondistance runningevents while competing as a member of the Cal Pac in the NAIA. The inaugural Cal Pac Track & Field Championshipwas held in April. “There is great synergy between cross country and track,” Dunham said. “We have had success in our cross country program for many years and look to build upon that solid cross country foundation while building an competitive track program.” “We couldn't be more excited or grateful for the addition of track,” Velarde said. “I was pleasantly surprised we added it for this upcoming year, but it has been something the team and I have wanted for a while now. This allows us to have more measurable goals in the spring semester, when in the past, we would typically focus on areas we could grow for cross country. “It also opens the possibility of competing for a Cal Pac championship and qualifying for the national meet,” he said. “More than anything, I'm excited to lead this program and set a foundation that we can be proud of in our first season.” For themost part, the roster will bemade up of current men’s and women’s cross country runners.


“We are excited to be able grow our programs as our campus continues to grow,” said David Dunham, longtime executive director of recreation and athletics.

Water polo, particularly, “has a rich history in the Central Valley and will be great addition to our campus,” he said.

This announcement gives UC Merced Athletics 12 sponsored varsity sports – six men’s and six women’s.

UC Merced last added varsity programs in 2013-14 with the introduction of men’s soccer andmen’s volleyball. Since then, UC Merced Athletics has gone through substantial growth, including new facilities such as Bobcat Field and the Aquatics Center. The first of the new squads to see action was men’s water polo, a fall sport. The Bobcats launched their season in early October and racked up experience in matches against seasoned club teams such as Stanford, UC Berkeley and UC Davis. The team’s head coach, Johnny Bega was an NCAA national champion while on the staff at UC Berkeley and a longtime San Jose State coach. Bega, who graduated from Atwater High, has more than 25 years of coaching experience at various levels, including as a Cal assistant and 10 years at San Jose State, which included three as the women’s water polo coach. Women compete on a spring schedule.


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