UC Merced and College Track Partner to Democratize Potential Through Higher Education

UC Merced and College Track Partner to Democratize Potential Through Higher Education

CVV News l April 13, 2023

The University of California, Merced, and College Track are pleased to announce a new partnership focused on ensuring that college students from underserved communities who want to be the first in their families to graduate from college are provided the tools, guidance, and environment to do so.

UC Merced proudly serves the most ethnically and culturally diverse student body among all University of California campuses and has been designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution by the U.S. Department of Education. The university has the highest percentage of Pell Grant recipients in the UC system, with 60 percent of its undergraduate students benefitting from the federal financial aid program for low-income families. More than 70 percent of UC Merced students are first-generation, and over 80 percent are members of historically under-represented groups.

“UC Merced is proud to partner with College Track to provide more students, no matter their backgrounds or other circumstances, with access to a first-class education in the heart of California’s Central Valley,” said UC Merced Chancellor Juan Sánchez Muñoz, Ph.D. “We share College Track’s mission to empower students from underserved communities to graduate from college and look forward to help prepare these students for success in a world that desperately needs their ideas and problem-solving skills.”

Founded 25 years ago in East Palo Alto, CA, College Track is a comprehensive college-completion nonprofit whose mission is to equip students confronting systemic barriers to earn a bachelor’s degree in pursuit of a life of opportunity, choice, and power. College Track begins working with students in ninth grade and makes a 10-year commitment to accompanying them on their journey to, through, and beyond college. College Track scholars graduate at more than 2.5 times the rates of their first-generation peers from similar backgrounds.

“This is a powerful moment for College Track and for UC Merced, as we formalize a partnership that reflects our shared commitment to educational equity and to the vibrant communities we are honored to be a part of,” said College Track President & CEO Shirley M. Collado, Ph.D. “For 25 years, College Track has been dedicated to democratizing potential by equipping first-generation scholars to earn a bachelor’s degree and pursue a life of opportunity, choice, and power. This partnership represents the next chapter of this work, as we formalize connections that affirm an educational ecosystem that centers student success.”

UC Merced has been a top destination for College Track scholars since the campus opened in 2005: Since 2015, 52 have graduated from UC Merced, and 72 are currently enrolled. The new alliance will formalize the two organizations’ shared vision of the importance of a holistic, affirming, and asset-based approach to working with first-generation college scholars. Key elements of the partnership include:

Strength in numbers: UC Merced will admit College Track scholars through the UC admission process, with a minimum annual target of 25 eligible students. Having a network of peers from similar backgrounds has been shown to increase graduation rates. UC Merced will use the financial aid award process to cover tuition and fees for each College Track scholar who is a California resident and enrolled full time. Financial aid will also be offered to Western Undergraduate Exchange-eligible College Track scholars who are not California residents.

College Track scholars who are income-eligible may be invited to UC Merced’s Fiat Lux Scholars Program, which provides:

  • A first-year living-learning community for income-eligible, first-generation undergraduate scholars
  • Holistic support for scholars in the program throughout the duration of all four years at UC Merced, including workshops, peer advising, professional development, faculty mentors, and research opportunities
  • A financial aid package of $100,000 throughout the scholars’ four years ($25,000 each academic year) at UC Merced
  • Dedicated UC Merced professional and student staff who help guide scholars to achieve academic success

Designated co-leadership, staff, and space: To indicate the importance of the partnership to both organizations, UC Merced’s Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs will work directly with a member of College Track’s College Team to ensure the success of scholars. A position for a jointly funded, full-time, on-site staff member who will be dedicated solely to the College Track cohort will also be created, and space will be set aside for them.

Both UC Merced and College Track have received generous grants from philanthropist Mackenzie Scott for their work to bridge this nation’s racial and economic divide by improving higher education access for students who come from chronically underserved communities.

“For students to truly thrive in college, campus communities must be prepared to support the whole student-their intellectual curiosity, their academic interests, their sense of belonging, their authenticity and lived experience. This is the key to student success,” said Rosanna Ferro, Ed.D., College Track Chief of Education. “Our partnership with UC Merced puts a structure in place that creates such an environment, and enables a seamless transition for College Track scholars to move from high school onto a college campus that is built to foster their educational aspirations and big dreams for the future.”

Alice and Clifford Spendlove Prize

CVV News-Posted: September 9, 2022

Chancellor Juan Sánchez Muñoz cordially invites you to a virtual ceremony honoring

Sunday, September 18, 2022
Virtual Program: 8:30 p.m.
Please reply by September 15

For more information, please contact signatureevents@ucmerced.edu
His Holiness The Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, is the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people and one of the most recognizable faces of Buddhism. For decades, he has worked toward a free Tibet.

He has traveled to more than 67 countries across six continents, authored or co-authored over 110 books and received more than 150 awards, honorary doctorates and prizes in recognition of his messages of peace and other concepts.

Alumna Becomes First Latina in Fresno County to Pass Immigration Law Legal Specialist Exam

By Juan Flores, UC Merced • Posted June 14, 2022

Linda Barreto says she understands the importance of perseverance and determination to prevail in life. It’s a mindset that has led her to become the youngest and first Latina in Fresno County to pass the California Legal Specialist Exam in Immigration Law.
The Legal Specialist Examination consists of eight short essay questions and 75 multiple-choice questions and tests whether an attorney has a proficient understanding of the fundamental laws, rules and procedures applicable to that area of law.

“I feel accomplished. I also feel assured that I am where I am supposed to be, doing what I am supposed to be doing,” Barreto said.
Born and raised in Fresno, Barreto received her bachelor’s degree in psychology and was part of the inaugural class of UC Merced in 2005. Barreto says her time at the campus prepared her for law school.

“UC Merced molded me by giving me the confidence to be a pioneer. As part of the first class, we had to figure a lot out, be independent, be creative, network and create our opportunities. That experience carried over into my career and has helped me get to where I am today,” she said.

Barreto’s dreams of becoming an attorney started at a young age. Still, it was not until she was pulled over and cited while in college and fought the citation and came out victorious that she realized that protecting people’s rights was her calling.

After graduating, Barreto attended San Joaquin College of Law (SJCL) and decided to go into immigration law after taking part in the school’s New American Legal Clinic (NALC) as a student. She said she found fulfillment in helping others. Her years of experience in immigration law led her to serve as the current director of the NALC.

When she is not teaching at SJCL, Barreto works of counsel, assisting with strategizing for cases at Lazaro Salazar Law Inc., a boutique immigration law firm in Fresno.

“I connect with the immigrant community. My mother immigrated to the USA as a teenager. I love being able to assist people through the complicated immigration process and make an impactful and meaningful difference in their lives. Everyone is a winner in immigration. The USA becomes more diverse and gains the skills from immigrants, and immigrants achieve their goal of the ‘American dream,’” Barreto said.
As the first Latina to pass the California Legal Specialist Exam in Immigration Law in Fresno County, Barreto hopes she can inspire others to strive for their goals.

“I hope to bring the knowledge to the classroom, mentor my students through the training and practice of immigration law and provide my clients with assurance and confidence that they are working with a competent specialist in the field,” Barreto said.

“To those students who would like to go into immigration law, do it. The Valley needs more immigration attorneys. The work is so rewarding and fulfilling. It’s an incredible feeling to be a part of someone’s ‘American dream.’”

Meza Honored for Scholarship, Contributions to Diversity

By Juan Flores, UC Merced • Posted June 13, 2022

The Center for Minorities and People with Disabilities in IT (CMD-IT) announced Professor Juan C. Meza as the 2022 recipient of the Richard A. Tapia Achievement Award for Scientific Scholarship, Civic Science and Diversifying Computing.

The award is named for mathematician and Rice University Professor Richard A. Tapia and is given to a computational scientist, computer scientist or computer engineer each year based on distinguished scholarship, leadership in civic areas and significant contributions made to increasing the participation of underrepresented communities in computing.

“Nearly two decades ago, in 2003, I served as the general co-chair for the Tapia Conference. It has been incredible to witness the continued growth of the Tapia conferences and our efforts to increase diversity in computing since then,” Meza said. “It is an honor to return to the conference as a recipient of the Richard Tapia award and take this opportunity to share my experiences fostering more inclusive scientific environments.”

Meza, with the Department of Applied Mathematics, recently returned to his full-time academic position at UC Merced after serving as director for the Division of Mathematical Sciences with the National Science Foundation since 2018. He also served as dean of the School of Natural Sciences at UC Merced from 2011 to 2017.

He earned his Ph.D. in Computational & Applied Mathematics; his M.S. in Electrical Engineering/Computer Science; and his B.S. in electrical engineering/computer science, all at Rice University.

Meza studies nonlinear optimization with an emphasis on methods for parallel computing. He looks at the foundational math underlying real-world science problems to understand and predict how things behave. His work focuses on applied mathematics and computational research, with an emphasis on methods for parallel computing. He has also worked on a variety of scientific and engineering applications, such as scalable methods for nanoscience, power grid reliability, molecular conformation problems, optimal design of chemical vapor deposition furnaces and semiconductor device modeling.

Before joining UC Merced, Meza was department head and senior scientist of high-performance computing research at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, where he helped grow research funding levels and established collaborations with the lab’s Earth sciences, environmental energy technologies, physics and genomics divisions. In addition, he was a distinguished member of the technical staff at Sandia National Laboratories, while also serving as a senior technical advisor at the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Agency in Washington, D.C., as part of the Advanced Strategic Computing Initiative program.

In his academic life, he also served as an adjunct professor at San Diego State University and a lecturer and research associate at Rice University.

Meza has served on numerous federal advisory committees, including the NSF Mathematical and Physical Sciences Advisory Committee, the NSF Advanced Cyberi infrastructure Advisory Committee and the National Academies’ Board on Mathematical Sciences and their Applications.

He is a Fellow of the American Mathematical Society, the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Meza was named one of Hispanic Business magazine’s “Top 100 Influentials of 2009” and one of the “Top 200 Most Influential Hispanics in Technology” by Hispanic Engineer and Information Technology magazine in 2011. He won the Rice University Outstanding Engineering Alumni Award in 2013; was named an Association for Computing Machinery Distinguished Speaker in 2011; participated in the IEEE Computer Society Distinguished Visitor Program in 2010; won the Association for Computing Machinery’s Gordon Bell Prize — a special award for algorithm innovation — in 2008; was named the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science Distinguished Scientist in 2008; and won the Blackwell-Tapia Prize the same year.

“Professor Meza’s academic excellence and commitment to diversity in computing are evident from his effective leadership in the area of computational science. We recognize his long-term contributions as a mentor and leader in applied mathematics with this award,” said Dr. Valerie Taylor, the CEO and President of CMD-IT.

Meza will receive his award at this year’s CMD-IT/ACM Richard Tapia Celebration of Diversity in Computing Conference in Washington, D.C., in September.

The Tapia Conference is the premier venue to acknowledge, promote and celebrate diversity in computing. This year’s Tapia Conference theme is “A Time to Celebrate! Resilience, Adaptability and Innovation in Computing.” Last year, the conference included over 2,500 attendees, with students from more than 250 colleges and universities.

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Felicia Roberts took an idea gathered a few people to reached into a minority community to highlight the positive, using a minority newspaper the Central Valley Voice. Roberts was joined by her sisters Carolyn Williams, Alleashia Thomas, niece Hermonie Lynn Williams, nephew Ron Williams, cousin Jerald Lester, Jay Slaffey, Greg Savage, Tim Daniels and the late J Denise Fontaine. Each individual played an important role in the birth of the newspapers. Since, then many have stood strong behind the success of the newspapers and its goal to fill a void in the Central Valley community The Central Valley Voice published their 1st issue in November 1991. Its purposed was to highlight the achievements of minorities in the Central Valley. The Voice focuses on the accomplishments of African Americans and Hispanics giving young people role models while diminishing the stereotypical pictures of gangs, crime and violence that permeate the minority communities. Since 1991, the Central Valley Voice has provided an important voice for the minority community throughout the Madera, Merced. Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties.

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