Posted: May17, 2022
By Desiree López, UC Merced
A wave of blue and gold covered the recreation fields at UC Merced as more than 2,400 students walked the stage during the first in-person spring commencement in three years.
The three-day ceremony weekend started by welcoming back 1,000 alumni from the classes of 2020 and 2021 — who were previously honored with a virtual ceremony because of COVID-19.
On Saturday and Sunday, another 1,460 graduates from the School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts (SSHA) and the schools of Engineering and Natural Sciences had the opportunity to celebrate their accomplishments in front of their families and friends as they were bestowed their degrees, including doctoral, master’s and bachelor’s.
The ceremonies featured keynote speakers Fred Ruiz, chairman emeritus of the UC Board of Regents and co-founder of Ruiz Foods, and immediate past UC Regents Chair Cecilia Estolano, the CEO and founder of Estolano Advisors.
Student speakers Cathryn Flores, who majored in English and minored in writing, and Maya Morris, who majored in chemical sciences with a chemistry emphasis, both shared messages of unity and perseverance as they stood center stage congratulating their classmates on their successes after navigating life and remote learning during the pandemic.
“UC Merced students have the opportunity to create their own legacies for the next generations of college students. We’re innovators, artists, scientists, social scientists and the ambitious leaders of tomorrow,” Flores said.
“This is a place where anyone, from any background, can go and feel welcomed and accepted. The atmosphere here is one of diversity, equity and inclusion. Instead of competing, people here lift each other up,” Morris said.
A pre-recording of the spring commencement ceremonies can be seen here.
September 29, 2021 | FDR Media
As one of the most diverse universities in the country, UC Merced is devoted to continuing to provide an inclusive academic environment for all.
UC Merced was recognized with the 2021 Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) Award from INSIGHT Into Diversity Magazine, the oldest and largest diversity-focused publication in higher education.
“This award reflects and honors the principles of UC Merced,” said Chancellor Juan Sánchez Muñoz. “We are committed to ensuring that our campus community is inclusive and equitable, and that our teaching and research promotes the social mobility of our students as well as a more just world.”
This is the first year the university has been granted the prestigious HEED award. The award acknowledges U.S. colleges and universities that demonstrate an outstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion.
“At UC Merced, advancing notions of diversity, equity, and inclusion in every aspect of our being, is integral to our existing culture,” said Cecil E. Howard, interim associate chancellor and chief diversity officer at UC Merced. “Deliberate, substantive, and intentional actions geared toward inclusive excellence are not only expected but celebrated.”
This award is made possible through the diligent work of the following UC Merced programs and services:
- Graduate Division Fellowship and Summer Bridge programs
The university launched various graduate division fellowships to support students at multiple milestones of their academic development. The Competitive Edge Summer Bridge program prepares undergraduate scholars for graduate school. The Chancellor Pre-Doctoral Fellowship for Inclusive Excellence recruits high-caliber graduate applicants who will contribute to the diversity and inclusiveness of UC Merced, especially in terms of research and education of Black scholars. Graduate Division has created multiple programs such as the Adelante HSI: Prepare Future Faculty Bootcamp to expand the pathways for underrepresented scholars to enter the professoriate. This level of orchestration reflects the intentionality to serve and support.
- Services for Undocumented Students
The office for Services for Undocumented Students uses a multi-prong strategy to serve undocumented undergraduate and graduate students. Services span from the UndocuScholars Academy, the new Monarch Center for undocumented students, primary and scholarly needs, legal counsel and coaching, and curated undocumented student resources. Via multiple partnerships, including an expanding postsecondary network in the San Joaquin Valley, commitment includes outreach to families and community members to increase college-going rates and spans to staff and faculty engagement opportunities which include UndocuAlly Training, a new advisory committee and enhanced inter-office referral practices.
- Valuing Black Lives Initiative
Critical reflection on the murder of George Floyd launched the Valuing Black Lives Initiative (VBL). In 2020, the VBL Task Force was created to address the campus community’s demands to improve the campus climate, experiences, and representation of Black students, faculty and staff. This launched an institutional response strategy to increase resources and redesign practice and policies to expand Black faculty and staff representation, support Black scholarly work and expand professional development and wellness opportunities to retain a thriving Black community. With the support of Chancellor Muñoz and Provost Gregg Camfield, this initiative has blossomed into a five-year, $2.5 million commitment.
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