UC Merced Update mastehead


Welcome to this edition of UC Merced Update, providing you with an inside look at recent campus news and developments.


August 24, 2007



Wednesday, October 17, 2007

UC Merced Foundation
Board of Trustees Meeting
at the
Gallo Center for the Arts
51030 11th St., Modesto

More information will follow in your mailing packet
and will be posted to trustees.ucmerced.edu.



Legacy Circle Dinner

Legacy Circle members enjoy dinner in the Ed and Jeanne Kashian Floor of the Kolligian Library at First Annual Legacy Circle Dinner. - Photo by Roger J. Wyan


On August 17, UC Merced held the first annual Legacy Circle dinner to honor donors who have given a cumulative total of $100,000 or more to the university over their lifetimes. The Ed and Jeanne Kashian Floor of the Kolligian Library was transformed from a student hangout with books and laptops to an elegant venue with china and linens. The event celebrated each Legacy Circle member's visionary support of UC Merced and continued commitment to educational excellence.

Chancellor Steve Kang shared a few words of appreciation and gave a brief update on campus happenings.

As a highlight of the evening, Legacy Circle members got a glimpse into what the future holds. Provost Keith Alley and deans Maria Pallavicini and Jeff Wright shared some of the dynamic research being conducted on campus that addresses many of the critical challenges facing the San Joaquin Valley, the state of California, the country and even the world.




Special thanks to all the Chancellor’s Associates members who attended receptions and special programming throughout the year. By getting involved in the group's activities, you play an integral role in shaping and advancing UC Merced.

Chancellor’s Associates is the premier group of donors recognized for annual gifts of $1,000 or more to the university. The funds raised support UC Merced’s greatest needs. Membership includes business and community leaders, educators, faculty, staff, UC alumni, parents and friends.

Please join Chancellor Steve Kang in ensuring the continued growth and success of UC Merced by becoming a Chancellor’s Associates member today. For more information, please contact Director of Annual Giving Victor Mitre at (209) 228-4297 or by e-mail vmitre@ucmerced.edu.



Here's a look at the latest news from Alumni Affairs:

UC Merced Welcomes Second Graduating Class Into Alumni Association

At this year’s commencement ceremony, the class of 2007 continued the tradition of giving back to the university by selecting a bronze statue of the golden bobcat to give to the campus. With the help of the San Joaquin Valley UC Alumni Network, the graduate committee continues to raise money from classmates, friends, families and UC alumni for the statue, which will make its debut next spring.

Student-Alumni Programs

With more than 230 collegiate members, the UC Merced Alumni Association is proud to boast the largest student membership program on campus. Collegiate members receive benefits including social and professional development activities and opportunities to network with UC alumni. Most importantly, student members give back to their university by donating $5 from their membership pledge to a UC Merced scholarship endowment.

Cat Spots, a collegiate membership benefit, provides local businesses the opportunity to connect with UC Merced students. The program features 46 Cat Spots business members so far. Business members are looking forward to the launch of the new school year.

San Joaquin Valley UC Alumni Network

The San Joaquin Valley (SJV) UC Alumni Network hosted a Summer Send-Off Barbeque for all incoming UC students from Merced County on August 3. Incoming students and their families enjoyed a delicious meal prepared by chef Jim Cunningham and friends. New students had the opportunity to hear from current UC students about their experiences at college, and mingle with UC alumni. A beautiful sunset on Lake Yosemite made it a perfect evening to welcome new students into the UC family!

SJV UC Alumni Network members plan a year full of activities for current students and UC alumni. They look forward to hosting an ice cream social for UC Merced students during Welcome Week, and continue to develop ideas for K-12 outreach in the community.

For more information on the UC Merced Alumni Association, Cat Spots or the SJV UC Alumni Network, please contact Alumni Affairs Coordinator Stefani Martinez at (209) 228-2586 or smartinez6@ucmerced.edu.



Campus Buildings Update

New Social Sciences & Management building rendering

New Social Sciences & Management building expected to be completed in 2010


The campus is preparing for more construction to start now that it has received design approval for the next academic building, a three-story, $47.5 million expansion of the School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts.

The building will also house the planned E&J Gallo School of Management.

The new Social Sciences & Management building (referred to as SS&M on campus) will stand on 1.5 acres next to the Science and Engineering Building. Groundbreaking for the 101,900-square-foot building is planned for this fall with completion planned for spring 2010. The new building will allow the School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts to nearly double in size.

The school now has about 35 professors and the majority of UC Merced’s undergrad students, studying history, the arts, economics, cognitive science, psychology, literature and cultures and political science.

Like all of UC Merced’s buildings, the SS&M facility will meet the campus’s high environmental standards, including water-efficient landscaping and recycled materials. The building will be constructed to allow natural light for art studios and easy access for visitors and students, and will contain room for laboratories where faculty can work on their research projects.

But that’s not the only construction in the works. In addition to expanding the dining commons this year, there will be a new parking lot, called Lake Lot 2, opening in October, other parking areas by the end of the year and the campus has received $10 million in extra funding for the next Science and Engineering building. The S&E 2 building, as it’s referred to on campus, will house open-class laboratories, faculty laboratories and offices, as well as shared laboratory support space. It is scheduled to open in fall 2012.

UC Merced Expanding Knowledge About Climate Change

Experts in climate change at University of California, Merced, are working on research that will help people better understand the world around them and how change affects everything from mountains to oceans, including the environs of the San Joaquin Valley.

"The work of our faculty and students is increasing our understanding of the impacts of climate change on the state of California and the world," said Samuel Traina, acting vice chancellor for research and graduate dean. "This vital knowledge will have lasting effects on our world."


Anthony Westerling

Anthony Westerling

Roger Bales

Roger Bales

Martha Conklin

Martha Conklin


With UC Merced's Sierra Nevada Research Institute (SNRI), its Wawona Field Station in Yosemite and installations throughout the southern Sierra Nevada range, researchers are examining one of California's most important ecosystems - one that provides much of the state's water.

At SNRI, Professor Anthony Westerling explores how climate affects wildfire. Wildfires in the Western United States are more frequent and more severe, and Westerling contends that climate change plays a large role, because the shift in global temperature has made snow melt faster - enough to cause drier conditions that make the land more vulnerable to frequent, severe fires.

Little has been known about how water works in the Sierra Nevada, but Professor Roger Bales says it's now critical that we understand our water supply in order to make policy decisions for the climate, water and air as the world faces the pressing challenges of climate change. Bales specializes in studying ice and snow. Professor Martha Conklin’s research since arriving at UC Merced has come to focus on water chemistry in the Sierra – using traces of elements and chemicals in groundwater to determine where it came from and how long it’s been in the mountain groundwater system, along with other projects.”


Lara Kueppers

Lara Kueppers

  Qinghua Guo

Qinghua Guo


Professor Lara Kueppers' research examines the ecological effects of climate change and how ecosystems and the land surface influence the climate. She has been studying how area ecosystems and the plants that live in them are affected by - and in turn affect - climate change. She hopes to work with landowners to study how agriculture and irrigation affect temperatures, though she works with the researchers at the Sierra Nevada Research Institute, too, to study high-elevation pine species.

"We have to figure out how to modify our approaches to conservation and restoration," Kueppers said. "We look to the present and past to designate parks or conservation easements, or to restore damaged habitats like Valley wetlands.”

Professor Qinghua Guo concentrates on geospatial techniques and applying them to monitoring and modeling environmental change. One of his current projects involves reconstructing the historical vegetation distribution and studying the impact of climate change on vegetation distribution in California.


Mónica Medina

Mónica Medina

Michael Dawson

Michael Dawson


Professor Mónica Medina, who spent seven weeks this summer doing field study in Mexico, monitors and examines coral reefs. She looks at the effects of thermal stress and disease on coral bleaching and coral death.

Professor Michael Dawson specializes in evolutionary biology, population genetics, marine science and jellyfish blooms. His research will advance the climate-change field by increasing understanding about links between global climate, local weather, and population dynamics of zooplankton.

"Understanding current patterns of diversity and how they are maintained is an important piece in solving the puzzle of how species may respond to climate change," Dawson said.


Yihsu Chen

Yihsu Chen


Professor Yihsu Chen is working on an economic model of the electricity market and environmental policies, examining the implications of emissions trading on the power sector. He looks at climate policy analysis and the implications of proposed regulatory policies, including those from the European Union, on those who sell power, as well as on regional pollution emissions.



Professor Building USDA Connections Through HSI Fellowship

Andy Aguilar

Andy Aguilar


As the University of California, Merced, pursues the federal designation of Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI), one biology professor has already gotten a taste of the benefits that come with that status. Professor Andres (Andy) Aguilar spent four weeks this summer in Washington, D.C., on an E. (Kika) de la Garza Fellowship from the United States Department of Agriculture. On this fellowship, he was introduced to various USDA grant programs and potential collaborators in USDA facilities.

"In addition to opening doors for my research, this fellowship will help me find opportunities for UC Merced students at the USDA," Aguilar said. "Students may not have been aware of the educational and career opportunities there, but with more connections I can now help them better."

Aguilar studies population genetics of fish - specifically, trout, steelhead and salmon - studying their molecular biology and genetics in his UC Merced laboratory. While on his fellowship in D.C., he had the chance to visit the USDA's National Center for Cool and Cold Water Aquaculture in Leetown, W. Va. "It was a good experience to meet the scientists there," Aguilar said. "They're using some of the same information I need regarding a particular gene that could be help rainbow trout evolve to be more disease resistant. It's a possible point of collaboration for the future."

The de la Garza Fellowships are awarded annually to promising young faculty members in HSIs recognized by the USDA, which requires an institution to demonstrate that at least 25 percent of its enrolled students are Hispanic. UC Merced meets that criterion, which allowed Aguilar to qualify for his fellowship. To receive HSI status from the U.S. Department of Education - the designation that will make a difference for a large number of grants and other programs for UC Merced - the campus still needs to receive its accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), a process that is well under way.



Transfer Student Shows her Lifelong Love for Learning

Helen Dahman

Helen Dahman


Helen Dahman is taking the summer off classes. Although, if it were up to her, the grandmother of two would live on campus year-round – including holidays.

Dahman, 66, is one of the many UC Merced transfer students studying World Cultures and History. She’s proving that it’s never too late to finish what you started, and that higher education is for everyone.

"It´s not about the grade anymore," she said. "I´m here to learn – not to get that diploma and get out of here."

As one of the more mature students on campus, Dahman said her goals and journey to UC Merced differ from other students’, but her reasons for attending college are the same – to be well educated and well rounded.

Dahman´s journey began almost 10 years ago when she decided to take a class at the Madera center of the State Center Community College District. She had completed one year of community college when she was 18 but found a job during the summer and never returned. It wasn´t until years later, when her children were well into their college careers, that she realized she felt out of place.

"My husband and two sons are well educated and our friends are well educated," she explained. "I felt a little intellectually inferior."

An avid reader, she enrolled in a health education class at the college to get things started. But then tragedy struck. Her husband, a former lawyer and judge, had a stroke and would require constant care.

"I thought ‘that is it,’" she said.

But with help from a professor friend, and with encouragement from her family – she says they are her biggest supporters – Dahman was able to take a class from home and continue her studies. Eventually her husband regained enough health to allow her to take a few nights off to attend school.

It took her nearly a decade, but Dahman earned an associate of arts degree.
She wasn´t ready to stop learning.

"When I heard we were going to have a UC, it was like a calling," she said.

Dahman is taking one class at a time, and said so far, she loves the small, intimate campus and the relationship she has with her professor. She really loves the lively discussions with classmates, too.

"I´m not afraid to show my ignorance or to ask questions," she said. "You don´t have to prove anything to anybody. I don´t have to show that I´m cool."



Prize Winnings Will Further Solar Research at UC Merced

Sarah R. Kurtz

Sarah R. Kurtz


For two decades, Sarah R. Kurtz, a scientist in the National Center for Photovoltaics at the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), has studied how to improve performance and decrease manufacturing costs of solar cells. Kurtz helped pioneer the multi-junction (GaInP/GaAs) solar cell, the same cell used by most space satellites, including NASA’s Mars rovers, Spirit and Opportunity.

In March 2007, Kurtz was honored as a prestigious Dan David Prize Laureate for her work toward the development of concentration solar power systems using multi-junction solar cells. Kurtz, together with NREL colleague Jerry Olson, shared the 2007 Dan David Prize for the Future Time Dimension in the field of Quest for Energy with NASA climate scientist James Hansen.

The Dan David Prize was founded in 2001 by businessman and philanthropist Dan David and is headquartered at Tel Aviv University. Three prizes of $1 million each are awarded annually for achievements having an outstanding scientific, technological, cultural or social impact on our world.

Kurtz has donated her portion of the prize, $225,000, to establish the Dan David Solar Endowment Fund at UC Merced. The gift is being set up as an endowed fellowship to provide financial support for graduate students interested in studying solar energy.

“I am very pleased that UC Merced has chosen to create a research program related to solar energy, and especially that this program focuses on concentrating technologies,” Kurtz said. “No other university in the country has an effort in this area.”

Kurtz’s generous gift will give UC Merced’s solar research program a significant boost that has the potential to help make sustainable energy a reality.

“Dr. Kurtz’s visionary donation will have a considerable impact on our ability to attract and retain high-caliber graduate students from all over the state, nation and world,” said Dean Jeff Wright of the School of Engineering “Her gift will strengthen our existing program and solidify our position as a leader in solar energy research.”

Kurtz’s gift comes because of her confidence in Professor Roland Winston’s program on concentrating photovoltaic power. Winston, a leading solar power researcher, heads the university’s renewable energy efforts.

“Sarah Kurtz’s magnificent gift to UC Merced is extraordinary and, in my experience, unprecedented,” Winston said. “It is a huge vote of confidence in our concentrating photovoltaic research program and, at the same time, a significant challenge to live up to.”



Chancellor’s Annual Report to Donors

The 2006-07 Chancellor’s Annual Report to Donors will be mailed to donors and friends the week of Aug. 27. The pages of the report give a glimpse into some of the innovative research and programs on campus, and highlight of some of the generous gifts the campus received in the last fiscal year. We hope you enjoy reading the report. If you do not receive an Annual Report and would like a copy, please call Brenda Ortiz at (209) 228-4203 or e-mail to bortiz@ucmerced.edu.



H. Rajender Reddy Health Center Dedication and Tours
Aug. 30

UC Merced will host a dedication ceremony for the H. Rajender Reddy Health Center, at 10:30 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 30 in the Joseph Edward Gallo Recreation and Wellness Center. Immediately following the dedication, attendees take a tour of the center and get a free massage.

Thursday’s event will be a chance for everyone to learn more about the many affordable services offered, including nurse advising, urgent and primary care, immunizations, optometry, nutritional counseling, stress management assistance and massage therapy. There will be a reception immediately following. Please RSVP to specialevents@ucmerced.edu.

Living Under the Trees by David Bacon

A Photodocumentary About Indigenous Mexican Farmworkers in California
Sept. 4 – Oct. 22, 2007
UC Merced, Kolligian Library, second floor

Opening Reception
with artist David Bacon, community panel, Grupo Folklorico Cultura Se’e Sav
Tuesday, Sept. 4, 6:30 p.m.
UC Merced Kolligian Library, Lantern

Workshop: ‘Experience Oaxaca’
Wednesday, Sept. 12, 4 p.m.
UC Merced California Room

Both events are free and open to the public. For more information, call (209) 228-4444.

Climate Change and Wildfire in the West
Sept. 15

Professor Anthony Westerling of the School of Engineering and the School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts will offer the next installment in the Frontiers of Science and Engineering Lecture Series at the Challenger Center for Space Science Education Auditorium in Atwater on Saturday, Sept. 15 at 10 a.m. He will speak about how climate affects wildfire. Wildfires in the Western United States are more frequent and more severe, and Westerling contends that climate change plays a large role, because the shift in global temperature has made snow melt faster - enough to cause drier conditions that make the land more vulnerable to frequent, severe fires. The lecture is free and open to the public at 3460 Challenger Way in Atwater.

Other important dates:
Aug. 27: Fall Semester Begins
Sept. 3: Labor Day (UC Merced closed)



• Total amount of proposals this month: $10,057,227
• Total amount of awards this month: $867,475

• Total amount of awards from July 1, 2006 to June 30, 2007: $12,208,232


Contact Us

We want to hear from you. Do you have a question or comment about your UC Merced Update? Is there a campus-related topic or issue you’d like us to address? Or would you like to unsubscribe? Please contact Brenda Ortiz by e-mail bortiz@ucmerced.edu or call (209) 228-4203 with your questions, feedback and requests.

UC Merced logo