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Meet the Staff

FALL 2023 FIRST YEARS

See the August 18 message on your UC Merced email with information from your 2023-24 BAC academic advisor.

That message includes information about academic advising appointments and walk-in advising in Fall 2023.

 

 

BOBCAT ADVISING CENTER TEAM

Michelle Roppeau, Ph.D.

Director of First Year and Undeclared Advising

maroppeau@ucmerced.edu

(209) 382-4407

 

 

 

Maribel Rivera-Bonilla, M.S.

Administrative & Operations Coordinator

mrivera-bonilla@ucmerced.edu

(209) 291-9739 (BAC front desk)

 

 

ACADEMIC ADVISORS

 

Kenya Alas, M.S., Senior Academic Advisor and

Coordinator of Peer Advising

kalas2@ucmerced.edu, (209) 500-6301

  • Advises 2023-24 first years with last name P, S
  • Advises non-transfer second and third year undeclared with last name A-Z

Kenya's story:

I was born and raised in Los Angeles and my family is from El Salvador. In January 2018, I relocated to Merced to become part of the wonderful Bobcat Advising Center team. I completed my B.A. in child and adolescent development at Cal State Northridge and my M.S. in college counseling and student development at Azusa Pacific University. I am the first in my family to complete a graduate degree. Additionally, I am an animal lover: I have eight parakeets and two dogs named Rocky and Niro.  I am excited to work with all my assigned Bobcats!

BAC Senior Academic Advisor Intro: Kenya Alas (video)

 

 

Maria Ceja, M.S., Academic Advisor

mcejalopez@ucmerced.edu, (209) 228-0120

  • Advises 2023-24 first years with last name E, F, G, Laa-Laz, N, O, Z

Maria's story:

I was born in Michoacán, Mexico, and grew up in Orange Cove, a small citrus farming community in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains near Fresno.  A proud first-generation college graduate, I completed a B.A. with an international development studies major and double minor in education and Chicana/o studies at UCLA and earned my master's degree in counseling with an emphasis in student affairs and college counseling at Fresno State.  I have worked as a community college advisor and assistant director with the American Indian Recruitment, a student-initiated and student-run project with the UCLA Community Programs Office.  I served with AmeriCorps City Year Los Angeles and as the lead career and family navigator in Reading and Beyond, Fresno Bridge Academy.  I was also an employment readiness specialist in Regenerate California Innovation where I provided educational and career counseling to clients planning for career training and career positions.  I enjoy running, yoga, and cooking various cuisines and hope to hike through a variety of national parks in the next few years.  My advice to first year Bobcats:  embrace and learn from both your small and big accomplishments at UC Merced!  As former UCLA Coach John Wooden said, "Don't let making a living prevent you from making a life."

BAC Academic Advisor Intro:  Maria Ceja (video)

 

 

 

 

Erendira "Dida" Estrada, M.S.P.H., Academic Advisor and

Interim Coordinator of Undeclared Transfer Student Support            (preferred name:  DIda)

eestrada2@ucmerced.edu, (209) 228-0119

  • Advises 2023-24 first years with last name A, I, J, Q, R
  • Advises undeclared lower division transfers with last name A-Z

Dida's story:

A Merced local, I am a proud first-generation college graduate as well as a Bobcat alum.  I earned a B.A. in psychological sciences (former name for the current psychology major) and M.S. in public health at UC Merced.  My graduate research assistantship focused on multiple projects designed to improve health communication interventions in Merced County.  I also worked as a research lab manager in the Communication, Culture, & Health (CCH) Research Lab at UC Merced where I trained undergraduate research assistants in qualitative data collection.  Before joining the Bobcat Advising Center, I spent three years as a pre-health advisor at University of the Pacific where I developed and implemented a pre-health advising Canvas site.  In my free time, I love to play video games (primarily horror genre) and travel; I recently had the chance to explore Yellowstone National Park.  My advice to first year Bobcats:  meet with your BAC academic advisor, attend office hours with your professor and teaching assistant (TA) in each class, and be courageous and go to the first meeting of that campus club or organization that sparks your interest!  The first year at UC Merced goes by fast, so use the many free resources available, actively engage in your classes and campus activities, and establish a solid foundation for your personal, academic, and career success.

 

BAC Academic Advisor Intro:  Dida Estrada (video)

 

 

L. Maichi Lor, M.S., Academic Advisor          (preferred name:  Maichi)

l.maichi@ucmerced.edu, (209) 500-6303

  • Advises 2023-24 first years with last name C, D, H, U

Maichi's story:

I am a native of Merced who started my higher education journey at Merced College.  I then transferred to Fresno State where I earned a B.A. in psychology and an M.S. in counseling with an emphasis in student affairs and college counseling.  During my graduate program, I completed 1200 hours of internships as part of my degree!  I have competed in the Miss Hmong Central Valley, Miss Hmong California, and Miss Hmong International pageants where my platform focused on the significance of higher education for Hmong youth, the value of counseling and mentoring, and the importance of pursuing your dreams.

BAC Academic Advisor Intro:  Maichi Lor (video)

 

 

Xiong Vang, M.S., Academic Advisor and Multimedia Coordinator

xvang8@ucmerced.edu, (209) 228-0158

  • Advises 2023-24 first years with last name B, K, T, V

Xiong's story:

A Fresno native, I earned a B.A. in social work with a psychology minor and M.S. in counseling with an emphasis in student affairs and college counseling at Fresno State.  I also completed a therapy practicum with training in crisis assessment.  Before joining UC Merced, I held positions as a counseling intern, academic coach, Admissions ambassador, and Upward Bound tutor at Fresno State.  In my free time, I enjoy playing video games, drawing, and taking photos in nature; my life goal is to travel and photograph the seven Wonders of the World.  As a proud first-generation college graduate, my advice to first year Bobcats:  meet with your BAC academic advisor to discuss your goals as well as identify the opportunities and campus resources that will set you on a path to success!

BAC Academic Advisor Intro:  Xiong Vang (video)

 

 

Chi Yang, M.S., Academic Advisor

cyang88@ucmerced.edu, (209) 228-3440

  • Advises 2023-24 first years with last name Lba-Lzz, M, W, X, Y

Chi's story:

I am originally from Saint-Germain-sur-Morin, France, but my family moved to California where I attended high school in Atwater.  I am a proud first generation college graduate.  I attended Merced College then completed both my B.A. in French and M.S. in counseling with an emphasis in student affairs and college counseling at Fresno State where I was a peer mentor in the Educational Opportunity Program and an undergraduate student recruitment ambassador.  Before joining the Bobcat Advising Center (BAC), I served as adjunct faculty at Merced College where I taught students with cognitive, psychological, and physical disabilities.  I like to travel, visit other countries, and sample new cuisines; being trilingual in French, Hmong, and English makes me passionate to learn more about my students' cultural backgrounds.  My advice to first years is to take full advantage of all the free resources offered at UC Merced including your BAC academic advisor, tutoring, and the Center for Career and Professional Advancement.  Don't hesitate or talk about what you want to do.  Just do it!

BAC Academic Advisor Intro:  Chi Yang (video)

 

 

 

2023-24 BAC PEER ADVISORS

Alex Luu

Hometown:  San Francisco, CA

Alex's story:

I am a fourth year political science and history double major from San Francisco.  On campus, I have been named to the Dean's List and Chancellor's Honor List for three consecutive years and participated in Bobcat Model United Nations, an organization dedicated to furthering students' understanding of international affairs and skills in public speaking.  I previously served as Senator-at-Large in the Associated Students of UC Merced (ASUCM), our student government, where I chaired the Academic Affairs Committee and revived the Fellowship and Undergraduate Research Symposium (FURS) program to expand opportunities for student success.  I am an appointed Court Associate Justice, where I oversee the ASUCM elections and ensure ethical and professional conduct in our elected ASUCM officials and executives.  In Summer 2023, I was selected as a student researcher on an Undergraduate Research Opportunities Center--Humanities (UROC-H) project with faculty mentor Dr. Sean Malloy, Professor of History and Critical Race and Ethnic Studies.  My research focused on analyzing the role of white supremacy in the January 6 riots in Washington D.C. by using sources that ranged from visual representations and federal court documents to historical archives including the FBI Vault.  I presented my research at the 2023 Summer Research Symposium.  In addition, I have been selected as the student representative on the faculty General Education Executive Committee.  My advice for students:  ask for help, be the best self-advocate you can be, and drop in to talk with me at the Bobcat Advising Center!

BAC Peer Advisor Intro:  Alex Luu (video)

 

Evelyn Solano

Hometown:  Fresno, CA

Evelyn's story:

I am a fourth year psychology major, Spanish minor, and Fiat Lux Scholar.  During my time at UC Merced, I have made the Dean's List, volunteered with Services for Undocumented Students, participated in the Success Mentor Program, served as a program tutor through the California Teaching Fellows Foundation, and assisted the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Center (UROC) with organizing student research presentations for the 2023 Summer Research Symposium.  I am involved with the professional service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega that is committed to the three pillars of leadership, friendship, and service.  My leadership experience has been enhanced by participating in the Hispanas Organized for Political Equality (HOPE) College Leadership Program, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization committed to empowering Latinas to ensure political and economic parity through leadership, advocacy, and education to improve the status of women and all underrepresented communities.  The advice I would give to our BAC students:  do not be afraid to take risks, challenge yourself, and surround yourself with people who foster your growth during your time at UC Merced.

BAC Peer Advisor Intro:  Evelyn Solano (video)

 

Suma Vintha

Hometown:  Fremont, CA

Suma's story:

I am a second year cognitive science B.S. major from the San Francisco Bay Area.  In my first year at UC Merced, I made the Dean's List and Chancellor's Honor List while actively engaging in academic research and contributing as a member of the Raunak Merced di Giddha dance team.  (It's never too early to get involved in research--and yes, you can do research with professors in your first year!)  As a research intern in Dr. Colin Holbrook's Evolab, I study human-robot interactions, specifically decision-making under contexts of threat in virtual reality.  In addition, I am a member of the Marghetis Lab responsible for investigating the correlation between cognitive behavior and time travel.  Passionate about amplifying the visibility and significance of cognitive science, I also serve as the Cognitive Science Student Association (CSSA) Public Relations and Outreach Director.  My advice for new first years:  be your greatest advocate, step out of your comfort zone, be proactive about opportunities that come your way, and stop in to talk with a BAC peer advisor!

BAC Peer Advisor Intro:  Suma Vintha (video)