May 12, 2021
Re: Reflecting on the Semester
To: All campus
May 12, 2021
Dear Campus Community,
This has been a momentous academic year, for our campus, our country and our world, with major events whose effects remain with us.
For more than a year we have coped with the COVID-19 pandemic, while remaining committed to fulfilling our mission of teaching, research and public service albeit in a mostly remote environment.
Last May, the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis sparked a national movement to rethink how we conceive of public safety, policing practices, and social justice with strong opinions on all sides of these debates.
Of course, we experienced a contentious election, which has continued to leave some divided, and the Jan. 6 attempt to disrupt the functioning of our federal government, which shocked others still.
While we are not incognizant of these broader social issues, UC Merced has sought to serve as a beacon of hope during the last academic year.
Our profile as a premier teaching and research institution has grown; we are now a top-100 research institution according to US News. We honored our first Rhodes Scholar, graduate student Selina Brinkmann , and saw our first faculty member nomination to high federal office — Asmeret Asefaw Berhe , who when confirmed will serve as director of the Office of Science for the U.S. Department of Energy. And graduate student Shayna Bennett brought home UC Merced’s first systemwide Grad Slam victory.
Our athletic teams , with abbreviated seasons, nevertheless finished with great success — the first undefeated season and conference title for men’s basketball, conference titles for women’s volleyball and men’s soccer, and impressive individual showings.
We announced our Center for Climate Justice and significantly advanced our medical education program, which will start admitting students for a BS-to-MD journey in Fall 2023. And so many faculty and students earned various accolades for their research it would take volumes to list them all.
This weekend our Class of 2021 will graduate virtually , and I urge you to join in from home and celebrate this crowning achievement for so many young people and their families — indeed, a profound reminder of why we have made higher education our calling.
My family and I have been privileged to share this journey with you in our first year at UC Merced, and I look forward to this fall, when we are back on campus in person, joined in our great mission and welcoming a record number of new students. This campus community has overcome the challenges of the past year with immense poise and determination, and there is no doubt that we are positioned for an even brighter future.
Juan Sánchez Muñoz, Ph.D.
Remarks and Addresses