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Surrounded by environmentally sensitive lands (including a 750-acre UC natural reserve), the UC Merced campus, still under construction, will open to students this month. (Hans Marsen photo)

UC Merced grand opening set for Sept. 5
Invitation-only morning event for pols and other dignitaries - not including an otherwise-occupied Gov. Schwarzenegger - is planned. Public access will follow

01 September 2005

The first new University of California campus since 1965 - and the first ever in California's sprawling San Joaquin Valley - will officially open its doors Sept. 5 in a ceremony featuring senior university officials, members of the UC Board of Regents, and the inaugural class of 1,000 students.

"We couldn't be more excited," said Carol Tomlinson-Keasey, who was named chancellor of UC Merced in 1999 and has spearheaded its development ever since. "Our faculty is in place, student housing is ready, essential services are rapidly coming on line, and the welcome mat is out. This is a very special moment for everyone involved in bringing this new campus to life."

Based on projections of rapid population growth throughout the state, the regents first proposed adding a tenth campus to the UC system in 1988. Merced was chosen as the site in 1995 after a screening process that included more than 80 different locations.

"This new campus will allow California to fulfill the promise of access to qualified students from all over the state, as our first class clearly illustrates," said Tomlinson-Keasey. "A thriving research university will create a new level of opportunity for UC-eligible men and women for generations to come while stimulating economic growth, creating jobs, spawning new industries, and addressing tough societal challenges."

UC Merced's first 1,000 students (including 38 graduate students) come from as far north as Del Norte County, as far south as San Diego, as far east as the Sierra Nevada, and as far west as the Pacific Coast. About half of them are the first in their families to attend college. Nearly 25 percent report annual family incomes below $30,000, and approximately one-third are from underrepresented ethnic or racial minority groups. All met UC's rigorous admission requirements.

The new campus will grow rapidly over the coming years, with total enrollment expected to reach about 5,000 by 2010 and top out at 25,000 in 2035. The campus initially will offer undergraduate degrees in nine different majors from three disciplines - engineering; natural sciences; and social sciences, humanities, and the arts. Graduate degrees in these same fields also are available. The number of degree offerings will expand rapidly as the university grows.

Opening ceremonies on Sept. 5 will begin at 10 a.m. at the permanent campus site just south of Lake Yosemite, five miles from downtown Merced. The invitation-only event will include comments from regents Chair Gerald Parsky, UC President Robert Dynes, and Chancellor Tomlinson-Keasey. (Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is planning to be elsewhere that day, his office has informed the media.) Keynote remarks will be delivered by Merced native Charles Ogletree, professor and director of Harvard Law School's Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice.

"Reaching this milestone required the commitment of multiple governors, UC presidents, and state and federal legislators," said Tomlinson-Keasey. "Celebrating this moment will be past Governors George Deukmejian and Gray Davis, past UC Presidents Richard Atkinson and David Gardner, as well as numerous elected officials who have supported us throughout the years."

The campus will open to the public as of 1 p.m. that day. For more information, visit www.ucmerced.edu.