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Engaging With Students

February 6, 2018

Hello UC Merced Bobcats,

I hope your spring semester is off to a good start! One of my favorite hobbies is photography, so I don’t mind our damp foggy mornings and the great atmosphere they create, but spring is right around the corner!

Like you, I have already had a very busy semester. Yesterday, I was in Arizona for the Higher Education Climate Leadership Summit. I am proud to be a member of the steering committee for Second Nature — the nonprofit organization leading this summit that is committed to accelerating climate action in, and through, higher education — especially because sustainability is such a huge part of everything we do here at UC Merced.

As I write this note, I am on my way to Sacramento where I, along with other UC chancellors, will meet with public officials and legislators about the need to better support higher education in California. Last month, I traveled to Washington, D.C., to advocate with lawmakers for a clean Dream Act and protection for undocumented students. This is another issue that is close to my heart. Nearly 600 students at UC Merced are undocumented, and even more have undocumented parents, grandparents, siblings and friends. The uncertainty around DACA is something they feel daily, and I want to do anything I can to help.

In a message I sent to you at the beginning of the academic year, I touched briefly on the job of a chancellor. The Second Nature summit and my trips to Sacramento and Washington are examples of the wide-ranging duties I have as chancellor, many of which are focused on external matters that are critical to the success of the university:

  • cultivating donors who provide student scholarships, emergency funds, and support for internship programs and academic programs;
  • working with local, state and national policymakers and elected officials; and
  • representing the university in organizations such as Second Nature, the California Campus Compact (which supports student community involvement and civic engagement), and the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration Reform (which advocates for policies and practices that create a welcoming environment for immigrant, undocumented and international students on college campuses).

I miss seeing students and others when I am away doing these important things, but we are fortunate to have exceptional, caring administrators and staff who are always available to provide support to our students, particularly Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Charles Nies, Dean of Students Jonathan Grady, and our entire Student Affairs team.

Some of you may have heard that the Office of the Chancellor is no longer in the Kolligian Library, but rather in a building with other administrators not far from campus. This means that my files and books and a desk and chair are off campus, along with some of the staff who support my work and the work of our external relations, legal affairs, and compliance functions. I still hold almost all of my meetings on campus, and I travel with a little rolling bag that holds my working papers, laptop and cell phone.

Moving some of these offices off campus has allowed us to devote more space in the library for student groups and student support services — including the Black Student Union, DARTS, the Margo F. Souza Leadership Center, and the Community Engagement Center. ASUCM, Services for Undocumented Students and the Basic Needs Security Team also gained space as a result of these moves.

As important as my off-campus work is, meeting with students is one of the things I enjoy and value the most about my job. I hold monthly office hours for students on campus, and I meet with various student groups on a regular basis. My next scheduled office hours are Thursday, Feb. 15, from 1-3 p.m. If you’re interested, please contact Dean Jonathan Grady. If this time conflicts with classes or your student activities, Dean Grady can help find an alternative time for me to meet with you. And you can always reach me with your comments or concerns at

I look forward to future opportunities to connect with you — perhaps at a basketball game, perhaps as your club or organization is tabling on Scholars Lane, perhaps as a guest lecturer in one of your classes, perhaps standing in line at a food cart, or perhaps during my official office hours. Meanwhile, I wish you all the best for another rewarding semester here at UC Merced.

Dorothy Leland





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