To say that a lot has happened in the past two decades since the groundbreaking at UC Merced on October 25, 2002, would be an understatement.
Where a few years ago there were only a few buildings on the Lake Road skyline, today there is a skyline of new, energy-efficient buildings that house thousands of students between classes.
Over the past two decades, the athletics programs have grown like luminaries Michelle Obama announced graduates, and the economic impact of the campus is felt in every corner of the county, from Snelling to Dos Palos.
When UC Merced planners first broke ground 20 years ago, its first chancellor Carol Tomlinson-Keasthey were the best champions of the school. The late Tomlinson-Keasey overlooked every step of the university’s growth, from the founding of the campus to the appearance of the first class a few years later.
UC Merced leaders celebrated key moments Wednesday while looking to the future as the campus celebrated its 20th anniversary.
UC Merced Chancellor Juan Sanchez Muñoz joined more than 40 founding faculty and staff, as well as hundreds of community members, to celebrate the event in the Dr. Vikram and Priya Lakireddy Grand Ballroom.
“Colleagues, friends, faculty, and founding staff, 20 years since we opened, and only 17 years into our teaching history at the university, I tell you with great pride, gratitude, and confidence that the state of UC Merced today is truly remarkable,” – Munoz said.
In his speech, Munoz talked about UC Merced being recognized one of the top 100 national universities by US News and World Report for the third year in a row and is included in the top 50 ranked state universities.
“Think of the thousands of public universities and in 17 years of teaching, the top 50. There is no disputing that there is a world-class education available to any student and family who wants to be a part of UC Merced,” Munoz said.
Increased funding for future growth
Munoz also announced Wednesday that the university, working with UC President Michael Drake’s office, will receive an additional $24 million in one-time funding to add new faculty and staff over the next few years.
In addition to the $24 million, Munoz said he approved the use of a $10 million loan from Drake’s office. This money will be used exclusively to hire support staff to reduce the administrative burden on faculty and academic schools, allowing them to focus more on students and research.
An additional $1 million will be allocated to the Office of Research and Economic Development for new staff to assist faculty in areas such as patent development, technology transfer and commercialization of intellectual property, according to Muñas.
The campus has been recognized for its sustainability efforts and ranked in the top 10 in several categories in the 2022 Campus Sustainability Index. The annual report is published by the Association for the Promotion of Sustainable Development of Higher Education.
According to Muñas, over the next 20 years, he expects UC Merced to experience dramatic growth in undergraduate and graduate students, as well as medical school to serve the valley.
This story was originally published January 25, 2023 4:00 p.m.