UC Merced is set to present a report at the White House today on its efforts to support underserved students and help them graduate.
This will be the second time UC Merced Chancellor Dorothy Leland takes part in the College Opportunity Summit. In January, she unveiled six initiatives that UC Merced would use to aid undocumented students, to create career pathways to the Silicon Valley and to help other underserved students prepare for and succeed in college.
For this month’s visit, she will again join representatives from other colleges and universities, along with first lady Michelle Obama and officials from the National Economic Policy Council and the Department of Education.
“UC Merced is proud to be a part of this prestigious and vitally important effort, and we are even prouder of the steps we have taken as a university to serve our students more effectively,” Leland said in a press release. “Every student has his or her own strengths, circumstances and challenges, and our job is to ensure they all have the tools, knowledge and support they need to succeed.”
Leland plans to touch on each of the six initiatives:
▪ Undocumented student services: The university, which added 124 undocumented students in fall 2014, began a “career boot camp” program to help students better navigate life after college. A $500,000 endowment from a local family foundation will support the campus’s efforts and provide scholarships for undocumented students.
▪ Silicon Valley pathways: Student job and internship placement with companies in the Silicon Valley and Bay Area more than doubled from last year, from 90 to 191. The number of Silicon Valley firms doing on-campus interviews and information sessions for students increased from four to 17.
▪ STEM Resource Center: Additional funding from the campus has allowed the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Resource Center to expand to include peer tutoring, faculty mentoring and research opportunities for undergraduates. About 49 percent of UC Merced students major in those fields.
▪ College and Career Readiness Conference: UC Merced held a one-day conference in April to address college preparation, affordability and career exploration for 74 high school seniors from low-income families. The students, most of them bound for community college, attended career workshops in health, education, public service and engineering.
▪ Foster youth services: The Guardian Scholars Program at UC Merced, which provides support to the roughly 80 former foster youths on campus, now offers year-round housing and emergency funds for financial hardship. The program has also built alliances with community colleges and counties, launched early outreach programs for K-12 students and supported college-readiness training programs for foster parents and social workers.
▪ Financial literacy: In partnership with local financial institutions, UC Merced offered several financial literacy workshops in 2014. The campus is also developing a financial literacy website.
For its second College Opportunity Summit, the White House is looking for new commitments from colleges and universities to help underserved students.
The UC Merced School of Engineering is planning a curriculum overhaul, with an increased focus on entrepreneurship and innovation to help improve student retention. The School of Natural Sciences will create a series of workshops to train underserved students in the fundamental skills required for scientific research in an attempt to better prepare them to step into internships.
The university is also working toward a comprehensive retention plan that will include specific short- and long-term goals for continued improvement.
UC Merced has a large percentage of students who fall into the underserved demographics, as 60 percent of its undergraduates are Pell grant recipients and 62 percent are first-generation students.