By Yanira Ledezma
UC Merced’s fall semester began last Wednesday, Aug. 7, and with it came the flow of new students to campus.
The university is entering its 14th year as an institution of higher education, and remains the newest campus in the University of California system.
Erik Flores, a Santa Barbara native, is entering his fourth and final year at UC Merced. Flores is majoring in Management and Business Economics with a minor in Political Science and has been actively involved in campus as president of the Associated Students of UC Merced.
“Being on a small campus influences us to have closer relationships with other students, faculty, and staff,” Flores told the Times. “I’m going to miss the close-knit community here on campus once I’m gone.”
For first-year students, entering a new environment may seem intimidating at first. According to Flores, joining clubs, becoming involved in the community, and talking to professors and staff are just a few ways one can feel more involved.
“You are good enough!” Flores encourages all incoming freshmen. He explains that maintaining a strong support system and doing everything with a purpose will make a lasting impression on a students’ educational perspective.
Matthew Michaels, an incoming freshman, made his way to the Merced campus all the way from the city of Aliso Viejo in Southern California. Michaels is majoring in Computer Science and credits the scenery and location of UC Merced for influencing his final decision to study here.
“It’s a very green school,” he said. “It’s different, but a good different. Here in Merced you can go to the snow and the beach in a day if you really wanted to.”
Michaels emphasized the importance of one-on-one meetings with professors, and having the ability to conduct research programs as an undergrad.
“UC Irvine was my other choice, but it is really impacted,” he said. “I can be involved in research programs here on a much more personal level. At other schools, I would have had to wait.”
Michaels hopes to gain a better understanding of local life and actively become more involved in the community while attending the UC Merced.
Another incoming first-year student is Merced native Rushad Ahmed, who graduated from Merced High School just this past June.
“Living really close by provides me with more resources,” Ahmed explained.
He is majoring in Biological Sciences with an emphasis in human biology. Attending a local school provided Ahmed with the opportunity to remain living at home while attending a four-year college.
“I was really involved in ASB and was a part of different clubs,” Ahmed said of high school. “I’m really excited to see what the UC has to offer. It’s going to be a great journey for the next four years.”
UC Merced continues to emphasize the importance of remaining community focused, and urges graduates to give back to the region. Additionally, the new program Bobcat Compass helps guide first-year students through the transition to a university.
“No one wants to go through their first year of college alone or without direction,” said Enrique Guzman, assistant director of Student Life and Campus Involvement Programs. “We are so excited for how the program will bring not only our students, but all of our campus together to promote student success.”
The program encourages students to step out of their comfort zones by having them build and foster relationships with the community of Merced — through events, workshops, and initiatives.
Although this specific program was created for first-year students by UC Merced’s Office of Student Life, all students are welcome to reach out on their own and participate in the local community in hopes of further developing relationships.