David Brantley isn't a typical UC Merced student.
He's older by a few decades. He's already built a career as a professional photographer. And he's the patriarch of three generations of the Brantley family on campus.
Brantley's son, also named David, is a fellow UC Merced student. And his 3-month-old grandson, Dylan, spends time at the university's Early Childhood Education Center while the younger David is in class.
Brantley, 59, isn't the conventional college student, but the Merced resident and married father of three is back in school for traditional reasons: to learn and build job skills. "It's my personal response to the economic downturn," he said.
Brantley is a photographer and outdoorsman. He was born in Yosemite National Park, where he launched a lifelong love affair with nature displayed in his scenic pictures.
Yet when the economy soured, Brantley decided to try another path. He took a few classes at Merced College but realized, "I can't even be a substitute teacher without a bachelor's degree."
Commuting was out of the question because of family and other responsibilities. Brantley, who holds an associate's degree, said it was critical that UC Merced was in his backyard. He collected his decades-old community college transcripts, took a few more classes at Merced College and enrolled at UC Merced last spring.
College life turned out to be a bit different than Brantley remembered — for example, while other students carried iPads and laptops, "I just had a pencil and paper," he said.
But Brantley bridged the gap, learning to submit assignments online, and mastered the challenge of writing papers. He also found acceptance with classmates he generally described as smart, serious and motivated.
He was surprised — and grateful — to have easy access to UC Merced faculty. Brantley said he's talked to various professors about climatology, ecology and other subjects, asking "all of the questions I've accumulated over 30 years."
In anthropology, Brantley hopes to combine his passions. He wants to be a naturalist — someone who understands all aspects of an area, ranging from history to ecology to geology to culture.
UC Merced Connect is a collection of news items written by the university's Office of Communications. To contact the communications team, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.