Nothing has ever come easy to the University of California Merced and that makes this Saturday’s commencement of the first four year graduating class a profound moment for the San Joaquin Valley.
When First Lady Michelle Obama honors the class of 2009 by delivering the commencement speech, it will no doubt be time to take stock of how far this area has moved forward to educate its children. I will be there to applaud the graduates and the often ignored but always tenacious Central Valley community.
UC Merced is now a 2,700-student campus. It has breathed new life and vitality into the San Joaquin Valley and given thousands of high school students a sense of purpose. This first graduating class will showcase how the Merced campus will continue to embrace San Joaquin Valley students and others who might not otherwise attend a UC campus.
More over the flip…
For many years, the planning of the UC Merced campus has also given me a sense of purpose, because the Central Valley is my foundation and plays a significant role in the Golden State. I became a founding member and chairman of the UC Merced Foundation Board, because I knew the importance of having a campus in the Central Valley for the state. There were countless obstacles to get the campus up and running from fundraising to environmental regulations. There will other roadblocks in the future as the newest UC campus grows. But the campus will prevail, because UC Merced has gumption and drive. That is why First Lady Obama is speaking at the graduation ceremony.
I cannot overemphasize how important UC Merced is to the Central Valley. Economic and cultural lightening struck when the campus opened its doors. The resources of a world-class educational system located in Merced will help stimulate both the economic and cultural status of the region and the state.
There is nowhere but up for the UC Merced class of 2009 and the San Joaquin Valley. My hat is off to the graduates, their parents and the community.
The University of California at Merced was supposed to be hosting First Lady Michelle Obama for their commencement ceremony this weekend.
The University of California at Merced is still hundreds of thousands of dollars short in its effort to defray the cost of Saturday’s commencement ceremony.
The university has raised $130,000 toward the estimated $700,000 bill. Leaders budgeted $100,000 for the ceremony before first lady Michelle Obama accepted the invitation to speak. (Fresno Bee)
John Garamendi Jr., an official at UC-Merced, is apparently responsible for making the budget work. With Michelle’s visit bringing out all the state pols, save Arnold, the cost continues to grow.
While this isn’t really a general fund expense, as commencement ceremony costs are usually underwritten by donors, it does send a rather appropriate message for the state. We can’t even afford the First Lady’s visit.
On completely unrelated news, I’ll be speaking at the East Bay DFA meeting tomorrow night. Come by to say hi and enjoy some good times.
UPDATE: Speaking of graduates, many of them are millenials. If you’d like to learn more about the millenial generation and are in the Bay Area, you might want to check out this event with Morley Winograd and Mike Hais, authors of Millennial Makeover: MySpace, YouTube & the Future of American Politics.
(From our Lt. Governor… – promoted by Brian Leubitz)
In early January I proposed an accelerated medical education program at the University of California Merced designed to prepare high quality doctors and nurses for rewarding careers in the Central Valley. Yesterday at the UC Regents’ meeting, UC President Mark Yudof committed to establishing a first class undergraduate medical education program at UC Merced, and he promised to continue the planning process for post-graduate medical education at the campus. The President’s important commitment could be the important first step toward the accelerated medical school program I envision.
A medical program in the region will help address the serious health care problems of the San Joaquin Valley, home to the state’s highest rates of childhood asthma and premature birth. A serious shortage of medical services exists in the Valley; there are 31 percent fewer primary care doctors, 51 percent fewer specialists, and fewer nurses than California as a whole. An estimated $845 million dollars is lost annually in the region when Central Valley patients drive out of the area to receive medical care.
UC Merced’s priority should be educating and preparing new doctors and nurses to fill the needs of the Valley. Entering freshmen recruited from San Joaquin Valley high schools would be prepared in Merced’s world class undergraduate medical education program and immediately begin their medical training.
The program would run year round with no summer vacations. Lower division course work could be identical for students intending to become nurses or doctors. Upper division classes could begin to differentiate and specialize, so that students could pursue nursing or MD tracks. The program would be fully integrated with the regional community colleges.
After graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree, students on the MD track could take all the course work necessary to enter clinical rotations in the surrounding hospitals and clinics. The goal would be to put them significantly ahead of the traditional path.
Following the clinical rotations, students would be directed to the excellent hospitals and clinics in the area for their residency work. Since students in the program would still be required to pass all the same tests and licensing board requirements as a physician from a more traditional school, the program improves the value of pursuing an MD degree without sacrificing quality.
UC Merced already has many of the courses it will need for the first two years of a world class medical education program, and I believe its program could expand economically by partnering with community colleges in the region. Fine labs and other facilities are already at UC Merced, at the UC San Francisco medical complex in Fresno, and in many of the surrounding community colleges.
There is a great need in the San Joaquin Valley for specialized research on community health, public health, and diseases more often found in the Valley. This type of research is not necessarily expensive and would be a valuable and unique contribution of UC Merced. As the UCM campus grows and matures, the medical and nursing programs can follow the path of other UC medical schools and develop into world-class research institutions.
While I am proud to have helped spearhead this effort, it could not have been done without the hard work and dedication of a broad coalition of individuals interested in improving health care access for the Central Valley. Rep. Jim Costa, Rep. Dennis Cordoza, Assemblymember Cathleen Galgiani, UC Merced Chancellor Henry Kang, Bill Lyons, UC Merced Natural Sciences Dean Maria Pallavicini, Dr. Frederick Meyers, and hundreds of staff and community members have been ardent supporters of the school since its conception, forming the Valley Coalition for UC Merced Medical School to advocate on its behalf. I would also like to thank the Central Valley Health Network for their tireless support.
UC Merced is a young campus in need of expanding its reputation. A quality and cost-effective medical program will help improve the appeal of the entire campus, helping to retain and bring in new talent to the Valley from across professions.
Businesses are reluctant to move to regions with poor health services. The increased burden on business-subsidized insurance drives up costs, and the increased need for sick days decreases business efficiency and profitability. Improving health access in the Central Valley will improve the region’s overall economy and increase tax revenues for state and local government.
Let’s empower UC Merced to become a magnate school offering the most cost-effective high quality medical education in the nation, while at the same time offering homegrown solutions to the Valley’s health care crisis. It’s time for the Valley to heal itself.