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Introduction and Overview

A. Introduction to the Plan

The University of California, Merced is grounded purposefully in the San Joaquin Valley and bounded only by the energy and resolve of its students, faculty, staff, and community.

The campus is situated in Merced to uplift, in the way that only a research university can, educational, health, societal, environmental, and economic outcomes, and to build civic capacity in this region, as well as in the state of California and beyond. In the process, UC Merced will shift the way higher education is conceived, seeing its most powerful role as convening coalitions of students, staff, faculty, and community to ensure that the issues they collectively investigate and the new knowledge they create are truly appropriate to and derived from the values of all constituents.

Drawing from the community and cultural wealth of its diverse, predominantly first-generation students, the University seeks to build on the strengths of higher education while profoundly changing its practices to promote excellence through equity and justice. In doing so, UC Merced honors the broad representation of backgrounds on the campus. In its attempts to transform higher education, the University acknowledges the historic indigenous people of the region, including native groups like the Yokuts and Miwuk, and shares their understanding that the earth is a shared legacy and responsibility. Enacting this understanding must be essential to the University’s work.

The value of a research university derives from its ability to promote unbounded inquiry, enabling those who work and study here to ask and pursue answers to questions great and small. The University disciplines such inquiry to deepen society’s understanding, thereby satisfying a fundamental human instinct – to comprehend the world around and within us – while generating knowledge essential to addressing challenges big and small. It is through this comprehension that UC Merced is enabled better to serve both current needs and desires and those of succeeding generations. Keeping in mind this responsibility to the future, the University seeks a just, equitable, and sustainable world.

This strategic plan is shaped as much by the University’s need to expand and sustain a community of inquiry as it is by the outcomes the work will achieve. As such, this plan focuses on the fundamental conditions of energetic and effective inquiry: that all see themselves as lifelong students and teachers, that all develop and follow best practices for disciplining these inquiries so that they can be shared and used ethically, and that all recognize that inquiry requires divergent perspectives and understanding. Inquiry drives change and is therefore to some degree disruptive; the University must therefore celebrate difference and creative tension if it is to transform human understanding and behavior.

While the conditions of inquiry are completely interdependent, the University separates them into three broad goals in order to measure progress. Those three interlocking goals are to:

  • Push the bounds of knowledge and wisdom through disciplined and well-supported creative inquiry of the highest order;
  • Build, offer, and share diverse and meaningful educational opportunities with all. This education will cultivate in our students’ curiosity, sound judgment, perspective-taking, aesthetic sensibilities, self-reflection, wellness, innovation, and a strong moral compass. UC Merced will provide intellectual leadership and support for students as they develop into impactful future scholars and civic leaders;
  • Manifest inclusive excellence and advance justice by bringing into the University’s inquiry the broadest possible range of experiences and ideas through cultivation of a culture of dignity and respect for all.

In their intersections, our goals reflect what does and will continue to make UC Merced exceptional among universities. Moreover, its ever-deepening commitment to continuous and iterative transformation toward a socially just, equitable, and sustainable campus and society will expand and enrich the nature of our educational offerings and our research portfolio. UC Merced will create new and different opportunities for transformative, empowering experiences for its students, who will in turn deepen and diversify national leadership across all fields.

UC Merced is on an exceptional trajectory of growth and development, and its goals reflect its intention to continue to expand the reach of our mission by focusing institutional energies on its core. This includes the ambition of being the youngest university ever to achieve a very high research (R1) designation in the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, building aggressively on its achievement of being the youngest ever to reach the high research university (R2) classification. This approach will not only acknowledge the University’s increasing research prowess and the scale of its impact, but also provide access to greater resources to accelerate and sustain its rise.

None of this happens without a robust institutional structure and inclusive workforce. Staff, like faculty and students, engage in creative inquiry to build flexible support structures that evolve with the research and learning enterprise. UC Merced must, too, develop the physical infrastructure it needs, while being ever cognizant that what it builds must also be sustainable.

UC Merced’s history as the tenth campus of the University of California demonstrates the creativity, nimbleness, and determination of its founding San Joaquin Valley communities that advocated for and continue to support a campus in Merced, and its colleagues in inquiry everywhere — past and present — upon whose shoulders UC Merced stands. The plan that follows embodies this founding spirit, functioning as an implementation framework — awake to opportunity, responsive to its communities, adaptive to circumstance, and eager to rise ever higher.

Drawing on the collective wisdom of faculty, staff, students, and supporters and grounded in its abiding principles, the strategic plan affirms and expands upon the unique evocation of the University of California’s core mission and UC Merced’s fierce commitment to region, people, sustainability, justice, and planet that mark it as exceptional among universities.


B. How the Plan Will Be Used: Overview of the Plan’s Components

With this campus-wide strategic plan, UC Merced moves into the next phase of the development of its institutional planning processes. Over this next decade, and particularly the first several years of the plan’s implementation, UC Merced will iteratively strengthen its capacity for campus-level planning and resource allocation in order to grow and mature campus operations sustainably into those of a very high research activity (R1), student-engaged and community-responsive university distinctive in its emphasis on serving an historically underserved student body and geographic region. The next several paragraphs describe how this unique institutional ethos and context is reflected in the components of this strategic plan, specifically Sections II, III, and IV.

In Section II, the University outlines the desired ends of its collective efforts, defining campus-level goals and associated objectives and, for each objective, measures that will allow it to track progress. As possible at this juncture, for each measure, success is defined in the form of four-, seven-, and ten-year targets taking the campus to 2030-31. Recognizing that UC Merced initiates this plan in uncertain financial times, establishing targets as its measures of success allows for the possibility that the timeline for achievement may change while its ambitions remain steadfast. In some cases, the University has yet to develop targets and, in other cases, it has committed to measures it must develop the ability to assess routinely. This is because UC Merced seeks to measure what it cares about not just what it can. In particular, its efforts to Cultivate a Culture of Dignity and Respect for All reflect this need to build capacity. In the same spirit, the University also notes that the suite of measures established below will evolve with the campus’s capacity and maturity and must do so sustainably to ensure equal or greater opportunity for current and future generations. Toward these ends, a key part of its planning will be developing data sophistication, quantitative and qualitative, to support implementation of this ambitious plan.

Consistent with the theme of ongoing growth and development, the plan, and associated planning processes, must also account for the initiatives necessary to directly move a measure and the larger institutional-level infrastructure that indirectly supports these outcomes. Correspondingly, in Section II, for each objective, broad categories of strategic initiatives are listed. Drawn from academic plans prepared by the schools, library, and divisions of undergraduate and graduate education, and stakeholder input gathered through the strategic planning stakeholder engagement process, these initiatives illustrate the kinds of efforts anticipated to support a given objective. As such, they are labeled examples. Ultimately, stakeholders will determine what is implemented through an ongoing planning and budgeting process to be undertaken by divisions and the campus over the coming decade. In Section III, nine vital, campus-level, strategic initiatives focused on administrative needs that cross-cut the campus are outlined. Also developed from the broad input of campus stakeholders, the details of these initiatives will be elaborated through ongoing planning.

Finally, Section IV of the plan outlines the framework for an annual planning and resource allocation process that, through an ongoing prioritization process led by the Chancellor, and assisted by the Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost and the Vice Chancellor for the Division of Finance and Administration, will help the campus sequence strategic financial investment in support of its goals over the next ten years.