As the Dean of Instruction for the Merced College Los Banos Campus since March 2021, I have been part of the remarkable transformation of our campus and the unwavering commitment to providing high-quality education that is much needed for our local community.

This transformation is not just about physical enhancements to our campus, but also about ensuring that our campus can establish its own identity to support Westside students and partners in achieving their goals.

One significant recent achievement was the completion of our new Child Development Center. This milestone is the fulfillment of a two-decade-long dream, a vision that came about after our move in 2007 to our new location.

The center is more than just a facility—it represents new opportunities for our students and for our entire community. Students can complete their degrees and certificates by fulfilling the hands-on laboratory requirements on campus, while local residents can benefit from an additional childcare center in their community.

Just prior to our completion of the development center, we expanded our welding facility on G Street in the fall of 2023, positioning ourselves to offer an additional cohort of our welding program. This expansion is a direct response to industry demand and reflects our proactive approach to aligning educational offerings with market needs.

As we look to the future, we are excited about the additional programs and certifications we will be able to provide, further enhancing our students’ employability and skill sets.

We have also made significant strides in our faculty and course offerings. We are proud to have hired a full-time agriculture instructor, as well as a full-time child development instructor, reflecting our commitment to expanding our academic offerings and providing specialized expertise in these vital fields.

Our new agriculture courses are designed to equip students with practical skills and knowledge, preparing them for successful careers in the agricultural industry.

Notable additions to our biology department are new Anatomage tables, advanced virtual dissection tables adopted by many of the world’s leading medical schools and institutions. These tables provide an interactive learning experience, allowing students to explore anatomy in unprecedented detail.

This technology is a game-changer for our science programs, providing students with cutting-edge resources that enhance their learning and understanding.

Other recent projects include the completion of our outdoor gym to offer kinesiology courses; technological advancements via the installation of new digital TVs across campus to better deliver information to our students; and enhancements to our campus infrastructure, such as new exterior building signage and fresh paint.

A milestone event in spring 2023 was hosting our very own graduation ceremony in Los Banos. This inaugural event, and our second graduation held in May 2024, allowed our Westside students to celebrate their accomplishments in their own backyard with friends and loved ones.

This local graduation not only honored the hard work of our students but also strengthened our community ties and celebrated the unique identity of our Los Banos Campus.

Community reengagement has been a cornerstone of our efforts, as evidenced by our active participation in outreach events. These events have allowed us to reconnect with our community, forming stronger partnerships.

Our Blue Devil Preview Days have been particularly successful, welcoming over 300 local high school students each spring. These preview days offer prospective students a glimpse into the academic life on our campus as they prepare to start their journey with us in the fall.

Our dual enrollment bilingual presentations have become a staple for our high school partners, reflecting our commitment to accessibility and inclusivity. By offering these presentations, we ensure that all parents and guardians have the information and support they need to assist their children in pursuing higher education.

Looking ahead, I am excited about several projects in the works that will further enrich our campus and student experience. The upcoming agricultural modular and greenhouse will provide students with hands-on agricultural education, preparing them for careers in a staple industry of our community.

Additionally, the planned student café will offer a much-needed space for students to grab a bite to eat, socialize and recharge.

Our goal is that as we continue to expand and innovate we remain dedicated to providing our local students with the best possible resources and opportunities here in their hometown.

Jessica Moran