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


December 15, 2006



UC Merced Trustee Frederick Ruiz was recently elected to the California Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors for 2007 and will serve as second chair. Trustee Ruiz is the owner of Ruiz Foods in Dinuba, a multimillion-dollar company with nearly 2,500 employees and a place in the Small Business Administration's Hall of Fame. Ruiz and his father, Louis, started the business in 1964, and it has grown to include more than 200 different products under the signature El Monterey brand. The Mexican recipes the company uses are based on recipes Fred Ruiz’s mother used. Fred Ruiz’s children, Kim and Bryce, now carry on the family business, the leading Mexican food manufacturer in the United States.

We look forward to seeing you all at the next Board of Trustees meeting on Feb. 21 in Yosemite. Both Yosemite National Park and Delaware North have been strong advocates for and partners with UC Merced, and we are very excited and thankful for their generosity in providing such a beautiful location for the meeting. This meeting will serve as an important step in leveraging the relationships identified in the Focus Areas groups at the last trustees' meeting. We are deep in planning to ensure this will be a meeting you won’t want to miss!



UC Merced Extends Application Deadline, Offers More New Majors, Minors

Prospective students have plenty of time to explore UC Merced’s newest offerings for Fall 2007 – political science and history – because the application deadline has been extended until Jan. 31, 2007.

UC Merced joins a number of other UC campuses in allowing extra time for Fall 2007 applicants to discover some of the schools’ new educational tracks.

The two new majors add to UC Merced’s growing list of programs, joining this fall’s additions, economics and cognitive science. The university has also added two new minors, political science and anthropology, for Fall 2007, and other programs, such as literature, are in development.

Every program at UC Merced is interdisciplinary. For example, all junior and senior history majors – whether they choose American or world history emphases – will take two breadth courses that are related but outside the history curriculum.

In addition, the faculty members who’ve developed the new programs have created opportunities for students to learn more and get more experience than they would at a university with a larger student population.

History students will each have an applied research requirement in their junior years, and will each complete a senior thesis.

“That allows them to pursue their own interests in depth, explore possible careers and graduate with a major piece of original research,” said Professor Ruth Mostern.

The political science major was been developed quickly – since summer – by two new faculty members, Thomas Hansford and Stephen Nicholson.

“We’re really excited and we hope students will be, too,” Hansford said. The program, he said, will be a more modern look at political science and feature both student research and a lot of discussion about data analysis.

“We want students to understand how we know what we know about political institutions and behavior,” Hansford said. "This means understanding how theories are developed and tested. It will be a very social-scientific major.”

Like the history program's, the political science track will include two upper-division classes related, but outside the major. Hansford said UC Merced has “all these great courses,” and he and Nicholson want students to round out their major with such choices as cognitive science, political economics or maybe a course called “The Essence of Decision,” which looks at how some of history's biggest decisions have been made.

Professors in the School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts are also excited about cognitive science and economics. Cognitive science faculty emphasize that their field is in high demand these days, and economics professors say their major is a good base for a variety of careers, from public service in government to law, nonprofit work and more.

“It teaches that methodical, logical thinking that you need,” said Professor Todd Neumann.

Majors as of Fall 2007:
Computer science and engineering
Environmental engineering
Materials sciences and engineering
Mechanical engineering
Applied mathematical sciences
Biological sciences
Chemical sciences
Earth systems science
Cognitive science
Social and cognitive sciences
World cultures
Political science


Minors as of Fall 2007:
American studies
Cognitive science
Services science
Political science

South Merced’s Underserved Students to Benefit from Grant to UC Merced

UC Merced received money to further a relationship with the Boys and Girls Club of Merced County and the Community Partnership Alliance, and establish two academic enrichment programs and a parent program in summer 2007 and during the 2007-2008 academic year.

The $30,000 grant from the University of California Office of the President will support the South Merced University-Community Engagement Initiative. The summer program will offer enriched instruction in math to 60 low-income, first-generation students entering the ninth grade in fall 2007. Organizers hope to help students be better prepared for high-school-level math, increasing the odds that they will then also be prepared to attend college.

During the 2007-08 school year, 50 low-income, first-generation 10th-graders will get more instruction in math and English language arts. This enriched teaching is designed to help them prepare for and pass the California High School Exit Exam.

“We’re committed to building effective community collaborations,” said Jorge Aguilar, Director of the UC Merced Center for Educational Partnerships. “We’re also part of a consortium of Valley colleges and universities dedicated to increasing the area’s college-going rate.”

UC Merced and the Community Partnership Alliance work together and with different groups and agencies in the Merced area to ensure the academic, cultural and economic benefits of UC Merced are shared by all.

Aguilar meets monthly with the Alliance, and they came up with this plan to help students often disregarded because of educational, economic, language and cultural barriers.

The students who will take part in the program are all from South Merced, an area of the city with the highest concentration of minorities. The 2000 Census shows that South Merced is the only area where whites do not constitute more than 50 percent of the population. In fact, 44.5 percent of Merced’s population is non-Latino white, and South Merced’s non-Latino white population is only 9.2 percent.

Because it’s based in South Merced, the Boys and Girls Club of Merced County is a natural partner, too. The Club has 1,022 youth members, ages 6-18, and offers programs that help develop self-esteem and sense of usefulness as citizens.

This timely alliance will support the Boys and Girls Club, enhance academic services lost during belt-tightening, help students succeed and increase the area’s low college-going rates, which lag behind most of the state.

SMI Launches Courses, Programs to Prepare Teachers and Future Students

Krista Venecia and Mayya Tokman

Krista Venecia and
Mayya Tokman


Two young Ph.D. scientists met last year in the prestigious American Academy for the Advancement of Science Washington, D.C., internship program. Microbiologist Krista Venecia interned for Congressman Pete Stark, working on education for minorities. Applied mathematician Mayya Tokman worked for the State Department on international initiatives to advance inquiry-based science education.

Quickly, the two realized their strengths could work together for the benefit of science and math education in California. Tokman had already accepted a faculty position at UC Merced and knew the university was looking for a coordinator for the Science and Math Initiative (SMI), a UC systemwide program aiming to train 1,000 new K-12 teachers.

Venecia landed the staff job, and Tokman agreed to be the faculty coordinator. The first SMI courses begin in January.

“We’ll prepare students who are passionate about math and science to enter credentialing programs,” Venecia explained. “They can explore teaching at different grade levels as they gain experience with the latest teaching methods.”

UC Merced’s SMI program will train students in inquiry-based learning, the teaching method Tokman worked on in her State Department job.

“Inquiry-based learning means learning science and math not through memorization – students aren’t computers, after all – but from the perspective of asking questions,” Tokman explained. “The best math and science teaching takes students through the process of asking a question, forming a hypothesis, gathering data, reasoning about that data and finally coming to a conclusion.”

This approach reinforces the value of math as well as general literacy and communication skills, she added.

Students in UC Merced’s program will begin presenting inquiry-based lessons in local fifth- and eighth-grade classrooms next semester. Eventually, the program will offer exposure to classrooms in elementary, middle and high schools.

But Tokman and Venecia’s plans don’t stop there. A summer math-and-science institute might begin as soon as summer 2007, bringing high school students to campus to work with UC Merced students as mentors to learn math and science. The program might host competitions like the Science Bowl, where students vie for supremacy in activities like hydrogen-fuel-cell car races.

In the future, they even hope to add an in-service component for teachers who are already in their careers. And in the very long term, this program should help to prepare more Valley students to walk the halls of UC Merced as college students in math, science and engineering themselves.

Freshman Seminars Help Forge Academic Paths

Jorge Castro

Jorge Castro


Freshman Jorge Castro rattles off a list of provocative questions that Professor David Noelle encourages his Freshman Seminar class to discuss. Is consciousness attached to the brain, or could it be something else? Does the brain define who a person is? Is the so-called insanity defense valid – can a person be faulted for a crime if his or her brain doesn’t function properly?

“The class feels like person-to-person rather than professor-to-student,” Castro said. “The different perspectives we get help all of us understand the material.”

Noelle said that’s one of the goals of the Freshman Seminar program.

“It’s about teaching students how to think and learn at a university level,” Noelle said.

The seminar courses, available in several disciplines in addition to cognitive science, also aim to help students connect with professors, form mentoring relationships and feel comfortable asking questions.

Campus Took On the Spirit of Holiday Giving

UC Merced students decided they weren’t going to wait for gifts to come to them this year, as they started efforts to help children in the Merced area.

Student clubs and the Office of Student Life held a canned-food drive to help local food pantries and shelters for the holidays, and the Student Business Society, the Cognitive Science Student Society, the American Medical Student Association, the U.S. Marine Corps and the Office of Student Life held a toy drive to gather gifts for the Boys and Girls Club of Merced County.

The UC Merced Police Department mentoring Program held a Christmas party for its 210 elementary school “Junior Bobcats,” all of whom received gifts based on their own wish lists, all donated by students, faculty and staff.



Students pose for photo

As another semester draws to a close, volunteer student models pose in The Lantern area of the library, searching for the perfect shot for the chancellor’s holiday greeting card. View the photo montage



Professor Elected to Prestigious Institute

Teenie Matlock

Teenie Matlock


Founding faculty member Professor Teenie Matlock was recently elected a faculty member of the Institute of Cognitive and Brain Science at UC Berkeley. Membership is by invitation only and is usually limited to Berkeley faculty; however Matlock was cited for excellence in research and her efforts in building a cognitive science program at UC Merced, a sister campus. Matlock has taught and advised Berkeley students and has collaborated with Berkeley faculty, maintaining strong connections there.

As a member of ICBS, she’ll attend meetings and presentations, and take part in projects. The Institute of Cognitive and Brain Sciences was created in 1984 to promote research opportunities in the field of cognitive science and to look at the subject from a variety of perspectives, much like the interdisciplinary approach taken here at UC Merced. ICBS funds research spanning a number of disciplines, including neuroscience, linguistics, philosophy, psychology and computer science.

Roland Winston Takes Students Along to ASME Awards; Leads Energy Panel

Roland Winston

Roland Winston


Professor Roland Winston took seven students to Chicago to attend the honors assembly and reception of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), which awarded Winston the first-ever Frank Kreith Energy Award.

The award is given to honor significant contributions to a secure energy future through innovations in conservation and renewable energy technology.

Winston also recently led a panel on concentrating photovoltaic technology at Solar Power 2006 in San Jose.

“The session was so popular we had to recreate it to accommodate people who couldn’t get in the room,” Winston said.

Raymond Chiao to Appear in New Scientist

Raymond Chiao

Raymond Chiao


Professor Raymond Chiao was recently interviewed by the journal New Scientist regarding his work pursuing evidence of gravitational radiation. The article resulting from the interview will appear at a future date.

Chiao was the subject of a previous New Scientist article in 2003.


January will feature loads of thank-yous to all the people who made the new Joseph E. Gallo Recreation and Wellness Center, the expanded gymnasium and the H. Rajender Reddy Student Health Center come to life. The new building is open, students are flocking to the workout facilities and the student health center on the second floor is getting its final touches. Watch your mailbox for invitations to a gala event on Jan. 11!


Total amount of proposals this month: $8,231,789
Total amount of awards this month: $1,140,078

Total amount of proposals from July 1, 2006 to date: $99,277,795
Total amount of awards from July 1, 2006 to date: $7,735,218

Total amount of awards from July 1, 2005 to June 30, 2006: $7,567,699
Total amount of awards from July 1, 2004 to June 30, 2005: $8,610,567
Total amount of awards during July 1, 2003 – June 30, 2004: $6,333,229


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