CHANCELL-ING: Cheers to 5 Years

Chancellor Gary S. May poses for selfie with students during Picnic Day.
UC Davis Chancellor Gary S. May poses with Picnic Day student organizers at the Chancellor’s Residence on April 23, 2022. Picnic Day returned as an in-person event after being held remotely the previous two years.

It seems like just yesterday that LeShelle and I were unpacking boxes and settling into life in Davis. That was in August 2017. These past five years have simply flown by. 

Blue graphic of Chancellor Gary S. May with text: Gary May Chancell-ing. A town-gown newspaper column.

When my tenure as UC Davis’ chancellor officially began, I came with my own goals, including taking UC Davis to the next level through our research and teaching excellence, strengthening our diversity and meeting students’ basic needs. 

Starting with connections

I knew I couldn’t do any of that alone. Over that first year, I devoted time to developing a decadelong strategic plan in partnership with faculty, students, staff, alumni and university friends, including our neighbors in Davis. 

One thing I knew was that it would be essential to make sure UC Davis could recommit to being a neighbor that contributed in positive ways for the town and the county.

In my early listening tour, community leaders and students frequently brought up the challenges related to vacancy rates in town. They asked the university to do more to address student housing, including more affordable options, and work on traffic improvement for bicyclists and pedestrians.

These needs were not new and had been festering for a while. I was ready to help turn the page, and area leaders were ready to do the same.

A year later, we entered into a memorandum of understanding between the university, the city and Yolo County. 

Making headway

UC Davis has made significant progress on student housing since that agreement was signed in 2018. We’ve added approximately 4,000 beds toward a total MOU target of 5,200 new beds. One-thousand-five-hundred more are under construction for occupancy in the fall of 2023.

UC Davis also agreed to contribute $2.3 million for local traffic improvement projects, including for the Richards Boulevard/Interstate 80 interchange, County Road 98, Russell Boulevard and the Russell Boulevard Corridor, and a bike path west of Highway 113. Just last month, the first phase of the “Reimagine Russell Boulevard” project was launched. The initial step will design a roundabout where Russell meets Arlington Drive.

This renewed foundation of partnership and collaboration was especially crucial when the COVID-19 pandemic arrived. We quickly joined forces and harnessed our collective strengths to prevent the spread of COVID in our community through Healthy Davis Together. 

Results and memories

Just last month, the organization Mathematica released new information that showed results of the Healthy Davis Together program. The Mathematica researchers determined that in the first 16 months, the program’s efforts helped prevent 4,144 cases of COVID-19, reducing case counts by 60%, avoiding 275 COVID-19 related hospitalizations and 35 COVID-19 related deaths. 

In addition, Mathematica’s analysis found that while Healthy Davis Together spent $34.1 million on activities in Davis through January 2022, the Davis community saved an estimated $112.7 million through wages retained from averted cases, health care costs avoided from averted hospitalizations and the value created by the years of life preserved from averted deaths.

I’m grateful to the broader community for coming together so effectively to confront our time’s worst global public health crisis. 

Along with these milestones, I have many fond memories from my first five years here. I’ve enjoyed spending time with our students either in conversations or going to the movies together; cheering for our student-athletes; interviewing William Shatner, Capt. Kirk himself from Star Trek; celebrating our faculty’s national and international accolades; and getting dunked by staff at the annual Thank Goodness for Staff event. 

No matter what challenges lie ahead, I’m confident we’ll continue to weather them together. I know we’ll continue to celebrate more milestones together, too. 

So, thanks for being such great neighbors and partners for our first five years here. We can’t wait to see what the next five years will bring.

Chancellor Gary S. May’s monthly column appears first in The Davis Enterprise and then in Dateline UC Davis.

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