Chancellor Gary S. May Backs ‘Equity/Excellence Imperative’

He’s a Member of the National Commission That Produced New Blueprint on Undergraduate Education

Quick Summary

  • The report addresses equity gaps and urges changes across higher education
  • The commission highlights various initiatives at UC Davis
  • The first Boyer Commission report was issued in 1998

The Boyer 2030 Commission on Wednesday (Oct. 19) issued its “Equity/Excellence Imperative” for undergraduate education at U.S. research institutions: “a belief that excellence and equity are inextricably entwined, such that excellence without equity (privilege reproducing privilege) is not true excellence, and equity (mere access) without excellence is unfulfilled promise.”

Screenshot of report cover, with text: The Equity-Excellence Imperative A 2030 Blueprint for Undergraduate Education at U.S. Research Universities The Boyer 2030 Commission The Association for Undergraduate Education at Research Universities (UERU)
Chancellor Gary S. May is a member of the Boyer 2030 Commission, the group that this week released “The Equity/Excellence Imperative.”

Gary S. May, who has equated equity with excellence at UC Davis since he was appointed chancellor in 2017, contributed his thoughts as one of 16 leaders of higher education, philanthropy and business who comprise the Boyer 2030 Commission, established in August 2021 by the Association for Undergraduate Education at Research Universities to update the original Boyer blueprint, now nearly 25 years old.

“The world has changed since the Carnegie Foundation commissioned the landmark 1998 Boyer Commission report, ‘Reinventing Undergraduate Education: A Blueprint for America’s Research Universities,’” the foreward to the Boyer 2030 Commission’s blueprint says, citing such intervening factors as climate change-turned-climate emergency; concerns over inequality, brought to the fore by Black Lives Matter; deepening social divisions and distrust; and worldwide threats to democracy. “Add to this the COVID-19 pandemic and it is clear we face a panoply of critical challenges, democratic solutions to which require educated and engaged citizenries.”

The updated report — full title “The Equity/Excellence Imperative: A 2030 Blueprint for Undergraduate Education at U.S. Research Universities” — addresses persistent equity gaps in undergraduate educational outcomes and underscores the urgency of making widespread, evidence-based changes across higher education to promote equity and excellence.

Chancellor Gary S. May poses for photo, hands in pockets, outside Mrak Hall.
Chancellor Gary S. May has championed equity during his time at UC Davis. (Karin Higgins/UC Davis)

Equity and social justice

Equity is Goal 3 of UC Davis’ strategic plan, “To Boldly Go,” developed under May’s leadership in 2017-18, and therefore integral to everything he does. Take Aggie Launch, described by the university as “a major new initiative to make career exploration and preparation accessible to all students as a matter of equity and social justice,” and highlighted in the Boyer report.


Aggie Launch aims to break down barriers to student participation, including students’ being unaware of opportunities, lacking the finances to get involved, or not having transportation to get to and from jobs and internships. For Aggie Launch to work, “we knew it was important to involve the whole campus,” May is quoted as saying in the Boyer report.

“Beyond the career center, there needs to be a campuswide fleet of partners across both academic and administrative units in students’ career preparation, an infrastructure that supports them in existing programs as well as in opportunities such as integrated classroom learning and community engagement, and work-study in partnership with innovative new startups and small businesses .

“We want undergraduate and graduate students to know they have resources on campus and people who want to help them be successful in starting their career preparations early, participating in an expanded array of experiential learning, benefiting from career mentoring and graduating with a robust career plan or path to advanced studies.”

Basic needs

Students prepare vegetables for distribution at The Pantry.
The Pantry, a unit of ASUCD, is one of the ways UC Davis fights food insecurity among students. (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

The report also highlights the Aggie Compass Basic Needs Center, which resulted from the work of the Student Food Security Task Force, one of three student-focused basic needs task forces the chancellor appointed in February 2018, the others dealing with mental health and affordable housing.

Chancellor May is also quoted on his availability to discuss basic needs or other issues: “I have never turned down a meeting with a student. Whether they email the office, make a phone call or approach me in person, they will get a response and they can ask for a meeting. It’s important that students feel they are seen, heard and represented, that they can connect with and share their concerns with campus leaders.”

The report urges the senior leadership of research universities “to place undergraduate students at the center of thinking about reform efforts: Who are our undergraduate students and how can we meet them where they are? What, in other words, do they need to thrive, graduate and make successful transitions to life after college?”

“What do they need in order to live meaningful lives, pursue work they value and participate effectively in democratic self-governance? How can research universities — with their rich complement of faculty and staff engaged in research, teaching and co- and extracurricular activities — best ensure an excellent education for all?”


The blueprint enumerates 11 provocations meant to stimulate institutional and cultural change, including world readiness, freedom of speech and expression, excellence in teaching and advising, nurturing mental health and well-being, and pathways to degrees.

Grey shirt with blue text: Be kind to yourself, illustration of hands folded in heart shape.
Aggie Public Health Ambassadors have held recent outreach events to promote Aggie Mental Health, a new initiative. (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

Each provocation comes with proposed strategies, some that are reflective of what UC Davis is already doing, say, with its Global Education for All initiative, Student Expression website, Center for Educational Effectiveness and the Aggie Mental Health initiative, and with such programs as the SEISMIC Collaboration, bringing together education researchers and practitioners to explore and improve equity and inclusion in foundational STEM courses.

The Boyer report quotes a SEISMIC scholar, Paola Pantoja, an undergraduate with a double major in mathematics and Chicana/o studies, and a minor in education: “I have learned about methods and practices that help increase a student’s science identity and perseverance in STEM. This connects to my own interests as I have become more informed about the factors that play a role in helping students get into and finish STEM careers. ”

‘Now is the time’

The Boyer 2030 Commission started out as the Boyer 2040 Commission, “but 2040 just felt too far off,” said Steve Dandaneau, executive director of the Association for Undergraduate Education at Research Universities and associate provost at Colorado State University, which hosts the association.

“The Boyer 2030 Commission believes that now is the time for research universities to invest in and strengthen undergraduate education,” the commission says in the introduction to the new blueprint. “We must make undergraduate students the priority we claim they are and know they must be.”

In its report, “The commission recognizes that defining excellence in terms of equity rather than, for example, selectivity and sorting, unsettles at least 70 years of practice. Excellence founded in equity requires us to think differently about why we do what we do, not only what we do and how we do it.



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Dateline Staff: Dave Jones, editor, 530-752-6556,; Cody Kitaura, News and Media Relations specialist, 530-752-1932,

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