Sunday, May 10, 2009

UC Merced comes of age

The Los Angeles Times has an interesting article on the first class to graduate from UC Merced (the University of California at Merced) in central California at the foot of the Sierra Nevada Mountains:
They were the trailblazers, this first full class about to graduate from the University of California, Merced. And like most pioneers, they had to create their own traditions amid adversity and attrition.

When they arrived as freshmen in the fall of 2005, classroom buildings weren't ready on the fledgling campus, a former golf course surrounded by cow pastures in the San Joaquin Valley. For more than a year, classes met in the library and dorm lounges; sometimes, because of construction, the only access was by fire escape.

"I think it takes a certain kind of person to go to a school where there is nothing and start something," said Kim Wilder, an English major from Brea who is among an expected 320 students -- less than half those who started as freshmen -- who will graduate on Saturday. Twenty-one others finished early, 110 are continuing and about 250 transferred or dropped out.

Wilder, 22, said the opportunity to be part of something new, along with small classes and the chance to work with faculty on research, kept her and many classmates at Merced. "Of course, we grumbled and complained now and then," she said. "But for the most part, people got behind the idea that if we stuck it out, it would feel a little more normal."

Merced, the first new UC campus in four decades, is more normal now, with 2,700 students, 120 full-time professors and three major academic buildings around a grassy quad with views of the Sierra Nevada. It is also about to be celebrated on a national platform.
That "national platform" refers to the PR coup of snagging First Lady Michelle Obama as graduation speaker. Anyway, congratulations UC Merced Class of '09. 

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