Category: Education

Newsom budget includes $15 million for UC Merced, Valley medical education


JANUARY 18, 2020 06:00 AM

A building lighting ceremony was held to celebrate the completion of the first phase of the University of California, Merced 2020 Project on Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018. 

The Central Valley’s physician deficiency may get a needed boost from the proposed 2020-21 California budget.

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s suggested budget offers $15 million in ongoing funding to expand medical education at UC San Francisco School of Medicine Fresno Branch Campus in collaboration with UC Merced.

“With the unwavering leadership of Assemblymember Adam Gray and his colleagues in our legislative delegation, UC Merced and UCSF Fresno have fierce advocates working with us to improve access to health care in our region,” said Cori Lucero, UC Merced’s executive director of governmental and community relations, in an emailed statement.

As part of the state’s general fund, the investments would improve access to healthcare in California’s most underserved regions, according to the Governor’s Budget Summary.

“The Central Valley continues to have some of the lowest numbers of doctors per capita in the state, and the need will only increase as existing physicians retire,” said Assemblymember Adam Gray, D-Merced, in a news release.

The proposal kicks off months of negotiations between Newsom’s office and the Legislature. UC Merced will work with Gray and Newsom as the budget process unfolds into spring, Lucero said.

The University of California is requesting $433 million in ongoing funding and $475 million in one-time funding for the 2020-21 budget, according to a budget request approved by UC regents in November. With Newsom’s proposed budget release, Lucero said there may be modifications.

A revised state budget will be released in May. Newsom and lawmakers have until June 15 to pass it ahead of the new fiscal year’s start on July 1.

“This investment will allow more students to train to become doctors right here in the Valley, and it will directly increase access to care in our community – one of my top priorities during my time in the Legislature,” Gray said in the release.


Gray currently has two pending bills in the Legislature related to Valley health. One seeks to extend clinic hours, while the other proposes building a medical school at UC Merced.

A UC Merced medical school has been contemplated for many years. The university was approved to start plans in 2008, but stalled.

Momentum may be building again. In October Gray convened the San Joaquin Valley Coalition for Medical Education in Modesto to discuss the possibility. Executives from UC Merced and UCSF Fresno, staff members of California Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris, as well as other politicians and medical community members met to hash out what the plan would realistically take.

Interim Chancellor Nathan Brostrom said in a December interview with the Sun-Star that medical education will be the university’s highest priority within the next decade.

“The long-term hope is that UC Merced would be able to take on those foundation courses that are currently being delivered by the UCSF main campus,” Lucero said.

Expansion of UCSF Fresno and UC Merced programs would cost between $20 million to $25 million. Local residency programs would need to be expanded to keep the growing number of graduates in the Valley.

UC Merced would also have to go through an accreditation process for the medical curriculum, in addition to hiring more staff, Lucero said. All is contingent upon availability of funding resources

New Valley program lets you earn a bachelor’s degree in less than 2 years

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) — The road to a bachelor’s degree in business is hitting the fast track for some Valley students.

A partnership between Fresno Pacific University (FPU) and Reedley College will allow students at community college to earn the advanced degree without even leaving campus.

“A portion of the course is offered on site and a portion happens online and we can get students through their bachelors in about 18 months,” says Dr. Katie Fleener, the dean of FPU’s School of Business.

Bringing the degree to students’ doorstep was crucial since transportation can be an issue for folks living outside Fresno.

“I come from a rural community and I understand that students can’t always go away or stay at school or travel. Even if travel isn’t a problem, if they have a vehicle it’s time away from helping with the family or helping on the farm, taking care of your kids or trying to work and make ends meet,” says Dr. Sharon Starcher, program director of the FPU School of Business.

Students only need to have 60 units of transfer credit or an associate’s degree to qualify.

Each bachelor’s level business class is about 6 weeks.

“It’s FPU faculty, FPU curriculum, coursework just in the Reedley college classroom,” says Fleener.

UC Merced is proving to be the boon to the Valley it was predicted to become


DECEMBER 06, 2019 06:00 AM

UC Merced Interim Chancellor Nathan Brostrom. ELENA ZHUKOVA  SPECIAL TO THE SUN-STAR

Thirty years ago, The Fresno Bee celebrated the long overdue decision to build a University of California campus in the Central Valley. “What a prize,” read the Bee editorial that predicted “thousands of new jobs (and) a boon to the local economy.”

Another decade passed before groundbreaking, and the worst recession since the Great Depression followed. From the start, UC Merced faced challenges that, to some, seemed insurmountable.

What a difference a few years and strong leadership by my predecessor, Dorothy Leland, have made. Today, UC Merced is marking its 14th year — and living up to the Bee’s predictions.

The youngest campus in the nation’s finest public higher research institution, UC Merced — the only U.S. research university built in the 21st century — is already ranked by U.S. News & World Report as the 44th best public institution in the country and No. 1 for student outcomes, a ranking that includes creating social mobility for our students, 99.5 percent of whom hail from California.

These are significant achievements, but I am most proud of what they reflect about California, and the Valley in particular.

The Morrill Act, signed by President Abraham Lincoln to create “land grant” institutions like the University of California, had three critical goals: to educate citizens from all walks of life, not just the elite; to advance research into cutting-edge economic needs of the day; and to stay closely tied to the regions they serve.

UC Merced adheres to these principles.

We are educating California’s emerging citizenry, many more of whom hail from the Valley.

We are driving the local economy through cutting-edge research in the fields of our day. Breakthroughs in drone technology and smart watering systems will make our agricultural sector more efficient and more profitable; our new Bio Safety 3 Lab will tackle the harmful effects of Valley fever; and our Venture Lab in downtown Merced, partnering with the city and the Small Business Administration, guides aspiring entrepreneurs from idea to marketplace.

And we remain committed to the Valley, working closely with city and county governments, schools, and health and other social service organizations.

After state cuts stalled the initial phase of campus construction, UC Merced created a first-of-its-kind-in-the-nation public-private partnership — Merced 2020 — to double its footprint and provide the laboratories, classrooms, housing and other services needed to expand its education, economic and research impact. UC Merced now employs more than 1,600 full- and part-time employees, with a monthly payroll of more than $16 million. By completion next summer, Merced 2020 will have created 10,000 construction jobs in the Valley and injected $1.9 billion into the regional economy.

Governing magazine recently cited UC Merced as a major reason the Merced metro area experienced the top personal income growth of any region since 2012. And a 2018 academic study affirmed that “the opening of UC Merced has generated positive effects on employment and the wages of workers in Merced” and significantly expanded the local service industry.

The benefits will accrue over generations, as graduates reap the benefits of a UC education. Multiple studies confirm that a worker with a bachelor’s degree earns more than double over her or his lifetime than a worker with only a high school diploma, and is far less likely to experience unemployment during tough times. UC Merced’s high marks for creating social mobility are thus easily explained, given that nearly three-quarters of our undergraduates are the first in their families to go to college.

We know we aren’t doing this alone. Alongside Fresno State, Stanislaus State, CSU Bakersfield, Merced College, Modesto Junior College, Fresno City College and Clovis Community College, and many others, we have created a great economic engine in the Valley — second, perhaps, only to our mighty agricultural industry.

Valley agriculture fills the bellies of the world, and Valley higher education is shaping the minds of the next generation. Together we are truly building the future right here in the heart of California — the emerging, new California.

New Director of Medical Education Ready to Unleash Valley’s Untapped Potential

December 2, 2019
Dr. Thelma Hurd joins UC Merced as the Director of Medical Education after years working as a clinician, public health researcher and translational scientist.
Dr. Thelma Hurd joins UC Merced as the Director of Medical Education after working as a clinician, public health researcher and translational scientist.

Dr. Thelma Hurd’s journey in medicine has taken her from New Jersey to Nigeria, with stops in Texas and Buffalo. Along the way, she gathered experience as a clinician, public health researcher and translational scientist.

Her proficiency in these crucial areas has led Hurd to UC Merced, where she became the university’s director of medical education last month.

“It was an opportunity to be part of a new initiative that really resonates with my passion, which is to improve healthcare in rural, high-needs communities and underserved communities,” Hurd said. “The fact that UC Merced is a young university means there is tremendous opportunity to both join ongoing and create new innovative initiatives, and that was incredibly appealing to me.”

After finishing medical school at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey — now the Rutgers School of Biomedical and Health Sciences — Hurd had a desire to be an academic surgical oncologist, allowing her to combine clinical and research approaches to her methods of treatment. Hurd worked in gastrointestinal oncology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas before transitioning to breast cancer at the Breast Surgery Department at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center in Buffalo, N.Y.

She said her interest in examining health at a population perspective came from an encounter with a family at Roswell Park with whom she discussed treatment options.

Despite giving the family materials to review about the treatment in preparation for the treatment discussion, Hurd said the family told her, in unison, “whatever you say to do is just fine.” It was in that moment she realized there was a need to address community knowledge and advocacy.

If there was a need to solidify this new outlook on health, Hurd found it in Nigeria. As a member of the Center for Research on Minority Health team at MD Anderson that worked with the Nigerian government to develop a comprehensive cancer control, she began to consider how to deliver care in low- to moderate-resource environments.

“Need, disparities, inequity and rural healthcare issues and challenges don’t have geographic borders. They affect both high and low resource countries,” Hurd said. “If we can develop systems to address healthcare challenges in rural and less-resourced communities, it will be a critical step in bringing healthcare equity to the U.S.”

The experience in Nigeria also opened Hurd’s eyes to how to perceive healthcare crises in rural and high-needs communities that are often tagged as “medical deserts.”

“Nigeria taught me to stop looking at how empty the glass is and to start looking at how full the bottom portion of the glass is, and that is how I look at the San Joaquin Valley,” Hurd said. “I’m not looking at what it doesn’t have, I’m looking at everything it has that hasn’t been tapped or leveraged. You have community cohesiveness — people actually care about one another here and want to improve community health. People interact at a very different level than you see in highly urbanized areas and the Valley has resources. When you have those elements, you can pretty much do anything.”

“Need, disparities, inequity and rural healthcare issues and challenges don’t have geographic borders. They affect both high and low resource countries. If we can develop systems to address healthcare challenges in rural and less-resourced communities, it will be a critical step in bringing healthcare equity to the U.S.”

Thelma Hurd
Director of Medical Education, UC Merced

For the past four years, Hurd has served on the Cutler-Orosi Joint Unified School District’s Health Science Academy Executive Board and worked with teachers as they tailored their curricula to best serve their students’ science education needs. The Tulare County school district is home to a medical education pilot program for UC Merced, and the opportunity to work with the future leaders in medicine in the San Joaquin Valley showed Hurd that addressing the medical disadvantages of the region can be found within.

“There is a tremendous amount of untapped intellectual capital within our students and they simply need to be in an environment that will help them to develop it,” Hurd said. “Our job as medical educators is to provide the educational and experiential opportunities so that they are able to go further than they’ve ever dreamed possible and go beyond what they perceive as limits.”

She said while medical education is thought of as just preparing students for medical school, it plays a major role in producing vital medical professionals in nursing, dentistry and allied health, as well.

“Medical education at UC Merced provides the opportunity to work with people here to not only build a healthcare workforce but to build a workforce that can integrate rural and urban approaches to addressing health and disease,” Hurd said. “Those students who are now in high school or are undergraduates are the future of healthcare and of health in this country.”

UC Merced Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Gregg Camfield said bringing in Hurd — who is a nine-time recipient of the Best Doctors in America designation — is critical to continuing to build the foundation of medical education at UC Merced and in the Valley, one of the most medically underserved areas in the nation.

“She brings a wealth of experience and impressive skills to this very important position on our campus,” Camfield said. “From leading our efforts to further develop programs and initiatives in medical education to continuing her research in health disparities, Dr. Hurd will bring great value to the campus and the community. I very much look forward to working with her.”

Hurd said she is a strong believer in taking time to get to know the community and is looking forward to tapping into the potential of San Joaquin Valley students.

“There are a lot of innovative thinkers here and the university is a crucible for innovative thought. It draws people who think and dwell outside of the box,” Hurd said. “The UC Merced family is one team and together with our communities as full partners, we will be able to change the face of health care and improve population health.”

Stan State a Top-10 University Nationally for Social Mobility

November 22, 2019

For a sixth consecutive year, Stan State’s ongoing commitment to enhancing the lives of its students has been recognized by CollegeNET, which has ranked the University No. 8 in the nation on its Social Mobility Index (SMI).

Stan State joins Cal Poly Pomona, Fresno State and Cal State Long Beach – all members of the California State University system – as the only colleges to be ranked in the top 20 in each of the six years the ranking has been produced. This year’s ranking represents an improvement of 11 positions for Stan State, which had been ranked No. 19 in both 2017 and 2018.

Baruch College, part of the City University of New York system, repeated as the top-ranked University in this report, but CSU campuses dominated the top tier, grabbing seven of the top 10 and 15 of the top 25 positions.

CollegeNET is a provider of web-based on-demand technologies for higher education. Colleges that emphasize and develop academic support programs to help low-income students obtain college degrees and good-paying jobs consistently rank high in the SMI.

This recognition follows a series of honors for Stan State in national publications. In the past three months, U.S. News & World Report named Stan State among the national leaders in seven different categories, and Washington Monthly named Stan State the No. 1 “Bang for the Buck” public college in the West Region, also ranking the University 13th in the nation for the quality of its master’s programs and No. 87 in the nation for the way it serves adult learners.

Earlier in August, in its hallmark “Best Colleges for the Money” category, MONEY magazine ranked Stan State No. 5 among the nation’s “Most Transformative Schools.” Also, for the 14th consecutive year, Stanislaus State was selected as one of the country’s top 385 colleges by The Princeton Review.

Kern Community College District receives $678,514 to assist local companies to train employees

  • November 20, 2019

Kern Community College District’s Board of Trustees approved a contract with the California Employment Training Panel which will provide KCCD up to $678,514 in funds to help local companies improve the skills of their workforce through training.

The contract period is two years.

The California Employment Training Panel provides funding to employers to assist in upgrading the skills of their workers through training that leads to good paying, long-term jobs. This is KCCD’s seventh ETP contract.

Kern Community College District will utilize these funds to help businesses throughout its service area including Bakersfield College, Porterville College and Cerro Coso Community College.

KCCD’s ETP contract allows for training in various areas including industrial skills, continuous improvement, computer skills, management and leadership skills, safety, and medical skills.

Companies interested in accessing these training funds may contact Bill Elliott at Kern Community College District at 661-395-4109 or at

VOLT and MJC programs get $1 million grant. It could mean higher-paying jobs for area


Almost $1 million in federal grant funds will boost occupational training at the VOLT Institute and Modesto Junior College.

The Economic Development Administration approved the $980,750 grant for Opportunity Stanislaus, whose mission is improving economic vitality in Stanislaus County.

The grant money will purchase cutting-edge equipment used in training programs at the VOLT center and MJC.

The VOLT Institute on 13th Street trains young adults to work as maintenance mechanics in local industries and has a career accelerator program. The trade school was created through a partnership between Opportunity Stanislaus and the county Office of Education.

“The feedback we keep getting from employers is that our program is solid but that having equipment in the classroom similar to the machines students will be using in the field after graduation is essential to their success,” said David White, chief executive officer of Opportunity Stanislaus, in a news release.

MJC also is adding training equipment for its career technical education programs that partner with high schools.

Assemblyman Adam Gray, D-Merced, managed to get $1 million for the local training programs in last year’s state budget, and that money served as a match that’s required for the EDA grant. The Economic Development Administration is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Rep. Josh Harder, D-Turlock, urged the EDA to approve the application for building a skilled work force in the Northern San Joaquin Valley. The agency’s competitive grant process has resulted in only one other grant award for the region: $140,000 awarded to Riverbank in 2010.

Warren Kirk, chief executive officer of Doctors Medical Center, said in the news release that the federal grant is “a great example of what our region can accomplish when we work together in support of economic development.”

Liberty High School working on new Career Technical Education facility

MADERA COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) — In the Madera Ranchos, off Avenue 12 something big is coming.

A small sign is sharing the news, “Coming Soon; the new Liberty High School Engineering, Agri-Science and Farming Academy,” known as LEAF.

It will be the first facility of its kind in the Golden Valley School District.

Seven new classrooms, four barns for livestock, three shops and greenhouses are just some of the major additions coming with the expansion. All of it benefiting the agriculture department, community and beyond.

“It is just a culmination of everything coming together and that shows that when this community is behind something, it ends up happening,” said Golden Valley School District superintendent Rodney Wallace.

Ag teacher and department head Anne Deniz said currently they are in need of more resources to meet student needs. She is a former Liberty High student and according to her, one of the biggest demands is space for livestock.

“When we have our livestock animals at students homes or they are sharing homes with each other it can be a five, six, eight hour day get to them all and weigh and see them and check up on those projects,” she said.

The new facility also means more classroom space and for Mrs.Deniz that’s a big deal. One of her classes involves making floral arrangements, her students also run a flower shop.

Currently, the school has about 560 students and only three Agricultural teachers. Ag is big in the community and Principal Felipe Piedra said the new facility will create new opportunities.

“We are pretty excited about that for our kids to be able to get some training and education here locally and preparing them for the bigger world,” he said.

The LEAF academy was funded through bond and grant dollars. Initially, it was slated to be completed in 2025, but it is all coming together much sooner in the year 2022. The district expects to break ground sometime next year.

State, local leaders tour Merced Unified’s CTE programs



By Sara Sandrik

Monday, September 16, 2019 8:27PM

ATWATER, Calif. (KFSN) — Atwater High School has the largest ag education program in the country, with everything from floral design to diesel mechanics.

Monday, students and teachers had a chance to show why they’ve been successful and what state leaders can do to support districts across California.

From welding to woodwork to horticulture and more, Atwater High had a chance to show State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond how students here are improving their academic and career skills.

“It’s really great exposure and getting all these higher officials who kind of control what we have as a school and what we do as students to really appreciate our program and what just students can do,” said high school senior Sophia Rhodes.

Thurmond was invited to the Merced Union High School District by Assemblymember Adam Gray and was joined on this tour by State Board of Education Member Ting Sun, Senator Anna Caballero, and several local leaders.

“All this equipment that you see that you would expect adults to be driving and getting paid, no these are run by students,” said Dave Gossman.

“I hope to get some ideas today as we walk around and talk to the local experts, and I’m really proud of Merced, the Central Valley, agriculture, and the Merced Union High School District, for all the great things we’re doing,” Gray said.

The district has been at the forefront of the statewide shift toward career technical education and currently offers more than 30 different CTE pathways.

Starting with the class of 2020, all MUHSD students are required to complete at least two CTE courses.

“It’s important for our college-bound students so they understand and get a little exposure to industry before they go to college so they might have a better idea of why they’re going to college,” said Superintendent Alan Peterson. “And then students who are going into the work world, we want them to leave us with those skills.”

Thurmond spoke about the recent increases in state funding for public education and CTE but says more can be done to ensure students are ready for bright futures in high demand fields.

“This is a great opportunity. Every student in our state should have this opportunity, and I’m committed to oing everything I can to make sure that happens,” he said.

CSUB ranks among top in country in science field salaries

Cal State Bakersfield is in the top tier for salaries in the physical and life sciences in the country, according to a new report by PayScale.

The 2019-20 College Salary Report ranked CSUB at 75 of 543 physical and life science programs evaluated for the report, putting the university in the top 14 percent. Statewide, CSUB placed third in this area within the CSU system.

“Our graduates earn top salaries because employers recognize the value of a CSUB education,” said Kathleen Madden, dean of the School of Natural Sciences, Mathematics and Engineering. “We are rightly proud of the role that we play in changing the future for our students while meeting the STEM workforce needs of Kern County and beyond.”

The annual PayScale report is based on the salaries of 3.5 million college graduates.

CSUB ranks among top in country in science field salaries