Remarkable Women of UC Merced

 UC Merced logo on white background

Celebrating 27 Faculty, Staff, and Alumnae

Teenie Matlock

Dr. Matlock is one of the Founding Faculty at UC Merced. She’s currently the McClatchy Chair in Communications and Professor of Cognitive Science, she serves at the Vice Provost for the Faculty, and she is a member of the American Indian Council of Mariposa County. She received her PhD in Cognitive Psychology from UC Santa Cruz.

Sonia Johnston

UC Merced Founding Business Officer/Director of Administrative Operations

Nancy J. Burke

Professor Nancy J. Burke leads the Health Equity Research (HER) group. She is a Professor of Anthropology and Public Health, the founding Chair of Public Health at UC Merced. She is also a faculty member of the Department of Anthropology, History and Social Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. Since 2009 Dr. Burke has conducted collaborative research on chronic disease self-management with colleagues at the Universidad de Ciencias Médicas, Facultad Girón in Havana, Cuba. This has resulted in several chronic disease workshops and the development of curriculum and an area of expertise focused on obesity and overweight, the first of its kind on the island.

Dottie Labbock

UC Merced Founding Controller

Valerie Leppert

Valerie Leppert is a Professor at UC Merced and was a founding faculty member in the School of Engineering. She was also the Founding Director for the SoE Engineering Service Learning Program. She received her PhD in Materials Science and Engineering from Northwestern.

Jane Lawrence

Jane Lawrence was the founding Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs at UC Merced. As a young and rising professional on the UC Merced campus, Jane made sure to support others and encourage their professional advancement through development opportunities, exuding a natural ability to connect and be open with people. One of Jane’s last charges before leaving campus was to do a gender equity review of staff in student affairs. She gave others positivity and hope about the change one individual can make in an organization when the focus is people.

Luanna Putney

First Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer. Luanna assumed her role at a time when all of the wide-ranging programs that fall under the CECO, from Title IX, to EEO, to the Office of the LDO, and Ethics and Compliance, lacked any developed program or staffing. When she started she literally had no programmatic support staff. She built these programs from the ground up and now oversees a staff of 13 people. While these programs are still leanly staffed compared to our sister campuses, Luanna has built alliances across campus and achieved a record of compliance that parallels any in the UC system. She has been instrumental in establishing UC Merced as a top-tier institution and has served as a champion for ethical, equitable conduct across campus.

Elisabeth Gunther

UC Merced's first dedicated Chief Campus Counsel, Elisabeth Gunther was integral to working through our early physical development issues related to campus growth and was critical to the success of our 2020 Project. Elisabeth also grew the Office of Legal Affairs to include UC Merced’s first robust records management and public records programs.

Janet Young

The first Assistant Chancellor and Chief of staff at UC Merced, Janet Young played a huge role in the early days of the UC Merced campus.

Dorothy Leland

Dr. Leland was Chancellor at UC Merced from 2011-2019. She shepherded the university through a significant growth phase, including the development of the 2020 project, and was a strong advocate for DACA students at UC Merced. Before coming to UC Merced, she was President of Georgia College & State University. She has a PhD in Philosophy from Purdue. Her creativity and leadership in developing and executing the 2020 project turned UC Merced's prospects around.

Karen Akerson

UC Merced Founding Budget Director

Peggy O’Day

The first woman to be promoted from Associate Professor to Full Professor at UC Merced (2005), Peggy O'Day is one of the thirteen founding faculty of UC Merced, as well as the School of Natural Sciences, Environmental Systems Graduate Program, Sierra Nevada Research Institute. She is also the founding lead of the Earth Systems Science undergraduate program (2004-09) and the founding chair of the Academic Senate Graduate Council, Committee on Research (2003/04), and the founding chair of the Life and Environmental Sciences Bylaw 55 Unit (2011-12), which paved the way for the creation of the LES department. She served in key leadership roles during the critical formative years of UC Merced including: Vice-chair (2005-2007) and Chair (2007-2008) of Academic Senate Undergraduate Council (2007/08); Chair, Committee on Promotion and Tenure (2008/09); Chair, Senate Committee on Rules and Elections and Secretary of the Merced Division (2008-2010); Vice-chair (2011-12) and Chair (2012-13) of the Academic Senate; Chair of Life and Environmental Sciences Department (2016-2019).

Zulema Valdez

Zulema Valdez is the Associate Vice Provost for the Faculty and Professor at UC Merced. Valdez was appointed to such a role at UC Merced in 2018. Professor Valdez holds a Ph.D. from the Department of Sociology at UCLA. She is the author of two books, three edited volumes, and dozens of research articles on immigrant and ethnic entrepreneurship, health disparities, and racial and ethnic relations. She has received fellowships from the Ford Foundation, the National Poverty Center at the University of Michigan, and the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies at UCSD, and grants from the National Institute for Health, NSF/American Sociological Association, the UC Center for New Racial Studies, and many others.

Trudis Heineke

Director, Physical Planning & Budget

Carol Tomlinson Keasey

Carol Tomlinson-Keasey was serving as vice provost for academic initiatives in the University of California Office of the President in 1998 when she was named by then-UC President Richard Atkinson to organize and direct the planning effort for a new UC campus, which had been authorized by the UC Board of Regents in 1988 and sited in Merced in 1995. In 1999, Tomlinson-Keasey was appointed as founding chancellor of UC Merced and she immediately immersed herself in the arduous process of persuading legislators, business and community leaders, educators, interest groups and others that a major, UC-caliber research university in the heart of the San Joaquin Valley would bring lasting benefits to a largely underserved region of the state. She held a Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, and was a professor at the university's School of Social Sciences, Humanities, and Arts.

Kathleen Crookham

Former County Supervisor and a long time supporter and advocate for UC Merced. She has been instrumental in the campus’s success.

Rita Spaur

Rita Spaur was the founding Chief of Police at UC Merced in 2005. We believe she is the first woman in the world to start a Police department. She built the department from the ground up, hiring one of the most diverse forces in the system. One of her proudest accomplishments is starting the Police department mentor program which matches UCM students with 5-6th graders in the community. Rita retired at 66 after 10 years as Chief, in 2015.