|All Authors / Contributors:
Jane Fiori Lawrence
From the beginning, those planning UC Merced hoped to create a different type of research university. The campus was intentionally placed in the San Joaquin Valley, a region of California with high poverty, low educational attainment, and great ethnic diversity. With the educational needs of the region in mind, one among many of the innovations planned at UC Merced would be a much closer relationship than is usual at a research university between academic and student affairs. Among the criticisms of research universities has been their almost singular focus on research and graduate education, to the detriment of undergraduates and the undergraduate experience. Over time, and at many large research institutions, silos have developed between academic and student affairs, with few interactions, little integration, and often great misunderstanding. Recent initiatives to create student-centered research universities have been an attempt to break down the silos, or at least create bridges between them to focus on support for underrepresented students, retention, and student learning in its broadest sense. The reality of educating a largely first-generation, underrepresented, and academically at-risk student population at an elite research university has forced academic and student affairs professionals to think creatively how best to support these students. This article outlines initiatives taken at UC Merced and describes the efforts of staff and faculty to create a seamless culture across academic and student affairs in order to support students' academic success.