CHANCELL-ING: Serving the Greater Good

Woman loads box of food into the back of an SUV
Volunteering at the Yolo Food Bank: Annie Adachi, a UC Davis senior at the timer, loads a box of food into an SUV in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic. (Karin Higgins/UC Davis)

Every day I try to learn something, help someone and make our world a better place.

I’ve turned to this motto as a guiding principle throughout both my personal and professional life. I’m hopeful higher education students from around the region will embody this purposeful phrase as well, many of them through a new program in which we are participating.

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

UC Davis is leading the #CaliforniansForAll College Corps community service program for the Sacramento Valley, which was announced last month by Governor Newsom. Along with our friends at Sacramento State, Woodland Community College and Sacramento City College, the Sacramento Valley consortium will manage a program that’s considered the largest state-level investment for a college service program in California history.

The Sacramento Valley consortium is receiving up to $16.1 million over two years to recruit and train about 1,000 students, who will then be matched with internships at community organizations. Each institution is making a concerted effort to reach low-income and undocumented students, which helps broaden opportunities and affordable access to attend college.

I’m not exaggerating when I say this is a game changer for Californians. Students can earn up to $10,000 for completing their community service over an academic year. In turn, the organizations benefit from the students’ talents and good work.

I’ve seen firsthand the kind of personal impact that community service programs like these can make. One of my daughters worked as a volunteer for CityYear, a nonprofit that serves schools around the country and helps prepare students of all backgrounds for success. For young people looking to make a difference, experiences like these are deeply rewarding by instilling values of confidence, care for the community and leadership.

My parents encouraged me to be part of positive change and help uplift those around us. When I was at Georgia Tech, I tutored inner-city kids in math and served as a mentor. It was an opportunity for me to grow as a teacher and for the students to be empowered to succeed. It offered me the chance to have an impact and to know that I could contribute something of value to the community.

A better tomorrow

At UC Davis, serving the public is part of the mission of a public land-grant university. Through our research and academic enterprise, we are driven to create a better and more enlightened tomorrow. Our campus community works diligently to create a more sustainable future, to find new ways to feed a growing planet and protect the health of living beings.

In times of great need, I’m impressed with how quickly our UC Davis community jumps into action. As the pandemic emerged in 2020, we saw students and staff volunteering at the Aggie Compass Basic Needs Center, which distributes food to students in need. Other members of our UC Davis community worked with the Yolo Food Bank to deliver goods to seniors. During recent wildfires, we saw students banding together to organize donations and deliver needed goods to affected areas.

UC Davis has a solid history of contributing to public service. We’re one of the top universities that produces Peace Corps volunteers every year. Our students also participate in AmeriCorps, Teach for America and many other community-service experiences.

For those who participate in the new College Corps program, it’s a pathway to supporting and strengthening student success and equity. Students will develop leadership skills, including team-building, problem-solving and so much more that will last well beyond their college experience. They’ll be connected to communities where they can make a difference. I know we’ll have stories to share when the program gets underway in the fall.

4 years of ‘Chancell-ing’

Before I close, I wanted to note that this month marks the fourth anniversary of the “Chancell-ing” column. It started with reflections on starting my new life here in Davis and a funny mention of UC Davis in the Academy Award-nominated film Lady Bird. Since then, I’ve used this space to converse about UC Davis and the city of Davis joining together in the fight against COVID-19, the benefits of living in a college town, the “Ag-scension” of UC Davis athletics and so much more.

I’ve appreciated connecting with the Davis community in this way, and I hope you have enjoyed hearing from me, too. See you here next month.

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

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