The future of UC Merced

MERCED, Calif. (KFSN) -- UC Merced is preparing for its 10th commencement ceremony this weekend.

Workers are clearing the way and setting the stage for the UC Merced students who will take part in commencement ceremonies on Saturday and Sunday.

Sr. Public information officer Brenda Ortiz said, "We have more than 1,100 graduates walking this weekend, undergraduate and graduate students from all over the state, and we have more than 9,000 guests coming to support them as well."

Those numbers are a stark contrast from the first graduating class of just three students back in 2006.

"I think this year celebrates a lot of things," said ASUCM President Ivan Flores. "It celebrates how far we've come as a university, but where we're going to go in the next 5 years."

Construction is underway right now on a new classroom and office building. The university is also moving forward with a plan to accommodate 10,000 students by the year 2020 with the help of public-private partnerships. It aims to add about a million square feet, doubling the size of the current campus.

Interim Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Charles Nies said, "Part of the 2020 build-out includes not only square footage here on campus, as we expand just south of where we're currently standing and add those spaces to deliver our educational program, but also downtown we'll be adding another building that will be the administrative campus for the university."

But UC Merced leaders say they still want to maintain the smaller lecture halls and personalized research opportunities that have appealed to so many students during the first ten years.

"A lot of students come with the mind of transferring, but they stay, and they stay because they love it," said Flores. "They love their classroom sizes, the people that they meet, and the opportunities that are presented to them."
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