Campus Featured in The College Tour

Twins laugh as they're being filmed for The College Tour
Vanessa, left, and Victoria Liera, twins studying electrical engineering at UC Davis, laugh during the filming of the The College Tour in the Diane Bryant Engineering Student Design Center. The UC Davis episode is available on the show's app and coming soon to streaming platforms. (Andrea Esquetini/UC Davis)

Most UC Davis tour guides show off the campus to a dozen or so people at a time. But this is very different.

Nine students and an alumna share their stories in a new episode of The College Tour — with the potential to reach millions on streaming platforms.

On show app and streaming platforms 

The UC Davis episode is already on The College Tour app (available from Google Play and the iOS App Store). It's  expected to be available in November through Amazon Prime Video and the show's own channel on Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire and more. 

The 30-minute episode is part of the show's second season, and UC Davis is the first California university to participate.

In the show, the Aggies perform backflips in the stadium, roll through downtown Davis on a bicycle, take viewers inside the Horse Barn and up close with baby goats, and do more as they tell their stories about UC Davis.

“We think it’s a great opportunity to open our doors and give prospective students the opportunity to see what our undergraduate experience is like,” said Jasmin Francis-Bush, director of Brand Management and Marketing for the campus. “This has the potential to be our biggest reach.”

To reach hundreds of millions

Rising sophomore Mahiri Moore Jr. talks in the video about living in Davis and is enthusiastic about The College Tour. “This is absolutely amazing — it’s definitely something I wish I’d had,” the communication major said in an interview. The pandemic and the 400-plus miles between his home in Victorville and the campus prevented him from visiting before he started his freshman year, he added.

A male student talks as he's being filmed
Rising sophomore Mahiri Moore Jr., shares his experience of Davis as a college town. (Tim McConville/UC Davis)

Series co-creator and host Alex Boylan, who won CBS’s Amazing Race in 2002 and now produces and hosts television and web shows, said the inspiration for The College Tour came after the pandemic and financial constraints prevented a niece from traveling to tour colleges. The show launched in November 2020.

When producers invited UC Davis to participate in the show, the campus had already pivoted to remote instruction and virtual admissions events and tours. Pandemic or not, UC Davis seized the opportunity to help make the campus accessible to even more prospective students.

The $68,000 the campus paid DreamJobbing included video shooting, editing and post-production services. Even more advantageous, Francis-Bush said, is the guaranteed distribution for two years through the multiple streaming platforms with a reach of 268 million households.

She said UC Davis is also able to share the video through its own communications platforms and retains rights to all the video footage for other uses.

The project was funded by Enrollment Management, which oversees Undergraduate Admissions.

Chancellor Gary S. May speaks as he is being filmed.
Chancellor Gary S. May gives his take on campus from the Shields Library. (Andrea Esquetini/UC Davis)

In the UC Davis episode, Chancellor May welcomes viewers to campus and provides an overview of the campus. “Looking back, I remember how excited I was to plan for college, but I had a lot of questions too,” he tells viewers.

As the Aggies share their personal stories, they represent the four undergraduate colleges and highlight important aspects of a UC Davis education including the breadth and rigors of academics, creating community, opportunities for hands-on learning and more.

‘For our community’

Strategic Communications staff recruited students they had already worked with and sought recommendations from the Welcome Center, which oversees tour guides, and other campus units.

Twins Vanessa and Victoria Liera of Panorama City are working to enhance the support systems for fellow students of color and women pursuing engineering. The first-generation college students are both rising seniors studying electrical engineering.

“Community is an important part of college, and one of our goals is to share our faces for our community,” Vanessa said. “Sharing our story is a big part of why we did the video.”

Featured participants, all from California, are, by college:

  • College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences — Gabrielle Ricks of Oakland, an animal science major who will be entering her sophomore year; Karina Talamantes from Willows, who graduated in 2011 with a degree in community and regional development; and Karyn Utsumi from Dublin, who graduated in June with a degree in environmental science and management.
  • College of Biological Sciences — Jeremy Brown of Redding, a rising senior studying genetics and genomics.
  • College of Engineering — Vanessa and Victoria Liera of Panorama City, majoring in electrical engineering and soon starting their senior year.
  • College of Letters and Science — Mahiri Moore Jr., of Victorville, a rising sophomore studying communication; Akshita Gandra from Fremont, who finished up a degree in cognitive science this summer; Kyla Kessler of Fremont, a senior studying psychology; and Alexander Torres of San Jose, a rising senior majoring in sociology — organizational studies and international relations.
A female students feeds a baby goat while being filmed.
Gabrielle Ricks of Oakland, a rising sophomore studying animal science, feeds a baby goat as she shows off animal care facilities. (Andrea Esquetini/UC Davis)

Students drafted their scripts, participated in production meetings and invited friends to join them in some shots. Photos and videos they provided made the UC Davis story even more personal.

As compensation, the students received a $250 gift card and additional funds to purchase UC Davis-branded clothing for the shoot. But the benefits also included the opportunity to hone their professional and communication skills as they worked with the production team — some students said they have already added the experience to their resumé.

A woman walks toward a cameraman as she is being filmed
Karina Talamantes '11 retraces her path from first-generation college student to president of the Sacramento County Board of Education and chief of staff for the city of Sacramento mayor pro tem. (Andrea Esquetini/UC Davis)

The video highlights sweeping aerial views of campus; shows Kyla Kessler, co-captain of the women’s gymnastics team, doing backflips; showcases campus icons from Egghead sculptures to Unitrans buses; and visits the Davis Farmers Market.

Face coverings worn in the video show how the pandemic also had a role. The production team and participants followed county and campus public safety protocols during the video shoot, which took place in May. The episode includes additional campus footage and photos shot at other times.

UC Davis also got a shout-out for developing a rapid saliva-based COVID-19 test and its award-winning community testing and vaccination efforts through Healthy Davis Together and Healthy Yolo Together.

Media Resources

Julia Ann Easley, News and Media Relations, 530-752-8248,

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