CHANCELL-ING: ’Tis the Season of Gratitude

Can the holiday season really be just around the corner? It seems like yesterday that it was mid-September, when our city was filled with convoys of moving trucks as students arrived for UC Davis’ new academic year.

It’ll be a little quieter around town when many of these students head home for Thanksgiving in a few weeks. In the meantime, I’ve been reflecting as the year starts to wind down.

Logo for Chancell-ing column with photo of Chancellor Gary S. May

With images of turkey feasts and families sitting around the holiday table, I’d like to share some gratitude as Thanksgiving approaches. Here are five things I’m most thankful for right now:

1. I’m thankful that my family is thriving.

The May family is a tight unit, no matter how many miles separate us at times. I’m grateful that my daughters, Simone and Jordan, are finding their own paths in life but still make time to connect with family.

I’m thankful for my mother, Gloria, and the indispensable wisdom and love she shares continually. And of course, I’m thankful to LeShelle for being by my side through the many long days, the even longer flights on our travels, and for being the best partner anyone could wish for.

2. I’m thankful for all the productive community dialogue.

The town hall this past month with UC Davis, Yolo County and the city of Davis marked another important step in our improving partnership. It’s clear that we’re not stuck in the politics of the past, that we’re willing to work together to address issues of housing, transportation and other areas of mutual interest.

We’ve made a lot of progress, such as reaching agreements on student housing projects, but we certainly have more work to do. I’m thankful the dialogue is there, as is the willingness to keep these lines of communication open. In the end, I believe we have the possibility of strengthening our community and partnership significantly.

3. I’m thankful that LeVar Burton is coming to UC Davis.

I couldn’t be luckier that my career in higher education sometimes intersects with my Star Trek fandom. Interviewing William Shatner from the Mondavi Center stage in May was perhaps my ultimate moment as a “Trekker.”

And the fun continues on Nov. 4 as LeVar Burton — also known as Lt. Cmdr. Geordi La Forge in Star Trek: The Next Generation — comes to UC Davis for the next edition of my Chancellor’s Colloquium series. He’ll talk about “The Power of Storytelling,” and then we’ll have a Q&A session where questions will be fielded through Twitter.

Whether you’re a fan of Alex Haley’s Roots, Reading Rainbow or Star Trek, you won’t want to miss it.

4. I’m thankful that UC Davis is thriving.

The season of university rankings just wrapped up and I’m proud to see that UC Davis continues to rise to the top.

Among the highlights: Money Magazine ranked UC Davis No. 4 among public universities in the country, a nice jump from No. 8 last year. The Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education ranked us No. 5 for the second year in a row.

Social mobility remains the ultimate goal for our students. On that end, UC Davis is shining brightly, with U.S. News & World Report ranking UC Davis ninth for social mobility. Also this year, Washington Monthly placed UC Davis second among “Affordable Elite Colleges.” The list uses a combination of metrics — including net price and students’ future earnings — to track how well colleges promote income equality and upward social mobility.

Altogether, we’re showing the world how UC Davis is a top choice for students of all backgrounds to pursue an affordable education and make a difference in the world.

5. I’m thankful to call Davis home.

I got a taste of California living when I was a graduate student at UC Berkeley starting in the late-1980s. But I truly appreciate the Golden State even more after settling in Davis, with its close proximity to good food and wine, its dedication to helping others, and spirit of innovation.

As I’ve said before, Davis is a place which mixes a world-class education and cutting-edge research with small-town charm. The people here are friendly. They are smart. And they care about community. You can never go wrong in a place like that.

Wishing you all a Happy Thanksgiving and many days full of gratitude!

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

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