Built with great expectations, UC Merced has experienced a significant transformation since its location was selected by the Board of Regents -- with student enrollment, faculty size and campus opportunities growing along with the school.
Although UC Merced wasn't my first choice after applying to several schools, I was excited nonetheless about moving to the Central Valley in 2009 and starting my journey through college.
After learning a lot about the background of the university, I was honestly amazed at how much the first graduating class was able to accomplish in so little time.
Even though there weren't as many clubs and organized groups as there are now, I had the opportunity to witness firsthand the amount of dedication and commitment those first students -- who were upper classmen when I started -- put into building a strong foundation.
When I was a freshman, there weren't nearly as many dorms as there are now to meet the needs of the growing student population.
UC Merced followed that recently with its new Student Activities and Athletics Center, which increased campus recreation space by 70 percent. The new building includes cardiovascular training facilities, workout studios and meeting rooms.
While the campus was still fairly new, I played for the women's basketball club during my first three years.
Last year, the women's volleyball, men's basketball, and both men's and women's cross country teams joined the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics. This year both the women's basketball and soccer teams will be joining them.
Aside from all of the exciting things happening within the athletic department, the incoming freshmen now have access to numerous clubs and organizations that have diverse areas of focus.
The common trend these clubs share is the tremendous amount of growth they have experienced over the years. The majority of the school's organizations have dozens of members and student interest continues to rise.
UC Merced's rapid growth has led to the hiring of 26 new faculty members this year. The campus now has 150 professors and a total of 1,200 staff and faculty members.
With more staff members and exceptional professors, the potential of each academic program has increased dramatically.
Although I am grateful to be a part of an institution with such great potential, I have always been impressed by the close-knit community that surrounds the campus.
The local businesses were so welcoming when I first arrived as a freshman that I realized I felt a lot more comfortable in a smaller town than I did in a big city like Los Angeles, my hometown.
Having support from the community is essential to the success of the university, and there is nothing that I cherish more than the experience I've had in Merced -- the community I now call my home.
The future of the 10th campus of the University of California is undoubtedly promising, as faculty, students and the surrounding community prepare for an exciting year.
Alexis Footman is a senior at UC Merced and is majoring in psychology.