UC Merced's leader to meet with students

yamaro@mercedsunstar.comNovember 19, 2012 

University of California at Merced Chancellor Dorothy Leland will meet with students today to hear about issues they might be concerned about or initiatives they might be interested in starting on campus.

Leland has made a commitment to hold monthly office hours with students, said Charles Nies, associate vice chancellor for Student Affairs at UC Merced. Students are able to meet with her individually or in groups for 15 minutes. The topics are up to the students' discretion.

"I'm really glad she does (this) because I know that other campuses don't have such a good relationship with their chancellor," said David Ascencio, a UC Merced sophomore from San Jose. "I'm kind of glad for the outreach to the students."

Eight students are signed up to meet with Leland individually this afternoon, Nies said. If students want to talk about the same topic, officials cluster them together.

Previous topics students have discussed with Leland have included parking on campus, concerns about academic programs and support for a student group to travel to a conference, Nies said. Students have met with Leland to talk about the possibility of creating a legal studies minor, he added.

"Sometimes they just want to meet her," Nies said. "And learn from her and her life experiences."

A big part of the office hours are for Leland to help students connect with the right resources on campus, Nies said. "Helping the students to make the connection with the right faculty members," he said. "If they don't know what the process is, we walk them through the right process."

But the overall objective is for her to spend more focused time with individual students to hear about their experience at the university, Nies said. "It's a way for the chancellor to really gain that perspective firsthand," he said.

Nies, who's worked at five institutions of higher education, said this is the first campus he has been at where the chancellor holds office hours to meet with students. He said it's been a rewarding experience for him.

Ascencio said he hasn't had any pressing issues that have prompted him to meet with Leland, but stressed that it's a good way for students to express their concerns and have their voices heard.

He's had friends who have met with the chancellor.

"I know for a bunch of students, tuition and tuition hikes" are a concern, he said. "That's always an issue, a common concern."

Reporter Yesenia Amaro can be reached at (209) 385-2482 or yamaro@mercedsunstar.com.

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