Overall Rating Gold
Overall Score 83.80
Liaison Mark Maxwell
Submission Date March 1, 2019
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.1

University of California, Merced
AC-5: Immersive Experience

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 2.00 / 2.00 Thomas Hothem
Associate Director Merritt Writing Program
Merritt Writing Program
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Does the institution offer at least one immersive, sustainability-focused educational study program that is one week or more in length?:

A brief description of the sustainability-focused immersive program(s) offered by the institution, including how each program addresses the social, economic, and environmental dimensions of sustainability:

The Spark Seminars introduce students to life at a research university. The seminar allows students to focus on the nature of inquiry by exploring a particular topic over a semester, engaging with campus and local resources, generating research questions, and presenting original ideas in writing and other forms of communication. Topics are broad enough to be viewed from multiple perspectives, but focused enough to engage with the issues of the topic in some depth. Topics are related to an area of research and/or interest to the instructor allowing students to engage with a faculty member who is sharing his or her expertise and passions. Spark courses include but are not limited to,
-Renewable Energy Facts & Applications
-Global Grand Challenges
-Food Deserts in Merced

CORE 1 was a curricular requirement all freshmen needed to take at UC Merced. The program was offered for the last time academic year 2017-2018.

The CORE 1 Course—which is subtitled “The World at Home: Planning for the Future in a Complex World”—is future-oriented to help students gain the intellectual tools, knowledge and insights they will need as informed citizens devising solutions to real-life problems. CORE 1 aimed to understand the world at large as it is reflected in California’s current issues. By examining, for example, the local evidence of global problems, students grapple with the issues that affect them personally and professionally.

CORE 1 poses a set of questions as they are framed by the various domains of human knowledge known as disciplines. In CORE 1, UC Merced faculty introduce students to how their disciplines define the challenges faced by informed citizens of this new century.

For example:
• Can advances in technology mitigate the effects of burgeoning populations and resource depletion?
• How will a changing climate affect the future migration of human populations?
• How do citizens decide among conflicting ethical choices, each with a compelling claim?

Faculty from all three Schools join together to show how such complex questions might best be probed through connecting the insights of their disciplines.

In CORE 1, students:
• work together in groups on joint projects or problems to build leadership and teamwork abilities;
• learn to think analytically and communicate effectively in the context of problems affecting their lives and futures; and
• use quantitative methods as well as ethical judgment to make decisions and defend those decisions to peers;

A hallmark of the course is a disaster scenario collaborative assignment where students complete an abbreviated drought plan for California. The prompt reads: “As researchers who consult for the California Department of Water Resources, your team must develop a targeted two-year policy for identifying and distributing currently available water while balancing the needs of humans with those of the environment. The governor has asked for a statistically-informed narrative proposal with visual displays of information (including data pertaining to contexts such as residential, agricultural, industrial, commercial, civic, and/or environmental uses) in which your team details a plan for allocating a significant amount of our current water reserves toward an overall reduction rate of at least 25%.”

The Common Read program at UC Merced was designed to enhance the campus's already strong sense of community, as well as provide an introduction to academic life. The book chosen for common read, in whole or part, is required reading in general education and writing courses (Core 1, Writing 10). The common read selected book(s), theme around sustainability. For AY 2017-2018, the book selected was "Air," by William Bryant Logan. Selected past books have included, "Living Down Stream" by Sandra Steingraber, and "Epitaph for a Peach" by Mas Masumoto. The books have been the subject of university-wide events, including film series, faculty symposiums, and guest lectures. The common read program at UC Merced was offered for the last time AY 2017-2018.

The website URL where information about the programs or initiatives is available:
Additional documentation to support the submission:

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