UC Merced Update

Grant to Further Connect Campus, Community


UC Merced's research expertise and dedicated campus community have another channel through which to serve the San Joaquin Valley.

The campus recently received a grant from The California Endowment’s Building Healthy Communities initiative in Merced County. The Chancellor’s Task Force on Community Engaged Scholarship has been awarded two years of funding from the endowment to strengthen the collaboration between the campus and community. The alliance will focus on building a body of knowledge about local health issues as well as the factors that influence health equity.

“This is an important step in developing our capacity to conduct community engaged scholarship,” said Jan Wallander, task force chair and health psychology professor. “It’s a mark of distinction to be identified by The California Endowment as a potential valuable partner in Building Healthy Communities.”

The partnership is an example of channeling cutting-edge research in ways that can serve the San Joaquin Valley. UC Merced’s faculty members conduct research into pressing Valley and state issues, such as water resources, community cohesion and health disparities.

Building Healthy Communities is a 10-year, $1 billion program launched last year by The California Endowment. There are 14 communities across the state that are taking action to make where they live healthier by improving employment opportunities, education, housing, neighborhood safety, unhealthy conditions and access to healthy food. Southwest Merced and East Merced County together were designated as a Building Healthy Communities site.

The collaboration with Building Healthy Communities has two main objectives. The first is to help bring research that offers insight into local challenges to Building Healthy Communities so they can design programs to have the biggest impact. For instance, research may identify certain triggers leading to health disparities that need to be addressed, Wallander said.

The second part of the grant is to create more ways for UC Merced’s students, faculty and staff to be engaged with community agencies. The campus will create a coordination hub that allows community agencies to identify needs that the campus community, with more than 5,000 people, can volunteer to meet.