Having the opportunity to express my thoughts and musings on the school that I attend to a strong community such as Merced is an opportunity that I cherish and reaffirms the reasons I chose UC Merced as the place to do my undergraduate work.
While most students are seeing opportunities to make an impact in their community disappearing, UC Merced and the community as a whole is open to giving dedicated individuals a shot at making a difference.
For instance, a trio of young graduate students are studying muscle contractions of the heart with a professor in part to find the possible origins of heart problems such as cardiac arrhythmia.
Two of these graduate students had already worked extensively with the professor as undergraduates and were able to utilize that relationship so they were offered a promising research opportunity.
While students at other universities struggle to get noticed in a sea of competition, UC Merced has these types of student opportunities as the norm.
Last month, a group of students frustrated by the lack of information about careers in environmental engineering started the Environmental Engineering Student Organization.
What started as an idea by four concerned undergraduate students has ballooned into a full-fledged organization of approximately 30 members. They have even collaborated with current faculty to get advice on which graduate school to choose and available internships.
Stories such as these are happening on smaller scales all across campus. Over the past couple of years, clubs and Greek life have exploded. In starting student organizations, students see a blank slate in which to create the standards and foundations that make a successful club
There is a distinct opportunity for students to put their handprints into something that could have a lasting presence within the UCM community.
While the school is still small, opportunity remains an allure of UC Merced.
Being able to participate in studies and campus life and actually make an impact gives students a barometer of the success they can achieve in graduate school, or the workforce, once they finish their undergraduate work. It gives students the sense they are being judged on their ability and not on the statuses and titles they accumulate.
As we young men and women transition from adolescence into adulthood, there is the constant search for the "big break." The concept that one day, a person or business will see in us the aptitude and ability needed to be accepted into the career of our dreams and start us on the path to a respectable career.
For many college graduates, the "big break" is harder to find in a down economy. The constant question of anyone applying for a job is "How do I separate myself from the thousands of others with similar qualifications?"
There is a sincere feeling at UC Merced that the time spent here is less about competition and more about relationships. The bonds between faculty and students are more easily formed when hundreds of students aren't vying for attention of a beleaguered professor. There is a definite sense that opportunity will come to those who work hard and pay attention.
The stories of student success speak for themselves in proving the one-of-a-kind opportunities that UC Merced presents.
The stories about students working with professors on studies that could provide scientific breakthroughs. Or the students who are starting campus organizations that could help future students for generations to come. Or even the individuals who go into the community and volunteer at various institutions or express themselves artistically at a performance venue.
A new story of opportunity is seemingly made every day.
This is a movement that I'm proud to be a part of. I would much rather witness opportunities being offered and taken advantage of than seeing a brilliant group of students' talents go to waste because there simply isn't enough opportunity.
Overall, UC Merced is an opportunity unto itself. The opportunity to put yourself on the fast track to a rewarding career. The opportunity to start something on campus that's new and exciting. The opportunity to grow without restrictions. And most importantly of all, to enjoy your college experience to the fullest.
Antonio Sierra is a sophomore literature major, writing minor at UC Merced. He is from Los Angeles.