Merced County Times Newspaper
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UC Merced chancellor highlights progress


It was obvious UC Merced Chancellor Juan Sanchez Munoz was both proud of meeting the challenge of the Covid pandemic and optimistic about the future of the university, which is rated as a Top 100 institution of higher education as well a a Top 40 public university.

Before a large group of local community leaders last week, Munoz delivered his first in-person State of the University address. He spoke of things like reaching the highest enrollment in the university’s history, as well as bringing millions of dollars in grants to UC Merced.

All of this could be used while achieving such missions as greater diversity, bringing more local students to UC Merced and finding ways to keep those students in the valley once they graduate.

He talked about the university’s new Strategic Plan and how it would play a part in helping achieve these goals.

His list of people who had helped make UC Merced what it has become, was long, starting with Mr. UC Merced, Bob Carpenter. He thanked Jose Hernandez, the valley’s representative on the Board of Regents.

His praise covered the staff and faculty at UC Merced for providing a first-class education in spite of the pandemic. At the same time, he felt that UC Merced is essentially an “in-person educational institution.”

“We are now seeing the light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.

Munoz highlighted the efforts of Professor Asmeret Asefaw Berhe, a leading soil scientist who has been nominated by President Biden to direct the Office of Science for the US Department of Energy.

He honored Professors Mayya Tokman and Angelo Kyrilov who opened the Kids Discovery Station, a new children’s museum in Merced.

He praised Professor Tracey Osborne of the Gallo Management Program who was named to lead the Center for Climate Justice, and Professor Laura Hamilton who co-authored a book entitled “Broke” this year.

He added that there were many more faculty members who had distinguished themselves in the past year who needed to be mentioned.

UC Merced’s enrollment now has reached 9,100 students and is rapidly growing toward the goal of 15,000 by 2030.

He did not pass over the number of people outside of the university who have been working hard to achieve goals. They include Merced College President Chris Vitelli, who has been instrumental in launching the Merced Promise program to help students transfer in from community college. There’s also Merced Union High School District Superintendent Alan Peterson who helped to establish the Merced Automatic Admissions Program, which gives automatic UC Merced admission to MUHSD students who meet the criteria.

The list went on and on, and Munoz apologized because of the lack of time to honor all those who deserved to be mentioned.

At the climax of his speech, he asked two local community standouts to step forward for a special honor as recipients of this year’s Chancellors Medal. They were Mike Murphy, former mayor of Merced, and Dr. Hanimireddy Lakireddy.


Chancellor reveals plans for investment

During his State of the University address, Chancellor Juan Sanchez Munoz laid out initial plans for investing a historic $20 million gift to the university from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott.

Munoz 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.

In addition, Munoz explained that 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.

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