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Chancellor Strengthens Bonds in Second Year

By Cody Kitaura/Dateline on July 30, 2019 in University

Two Great Years With Chancellor Gary S. May

If Chancellor Gary S. May spent his first year at UC Davis getting to know the community, then he spent his second year bringing it together.

Among his initiatives, he fostered collaboration, opened the doors of the university’s highest offices, advanced efforts to ensure students’ basic needs are met and honored “Aggie Heroes” — and those efforts will continue.

“We worked hard this year to ensure UC Davis continues to be a top-tier university, and much of the progress we’ve made can be attributed to the hard work of our community,” May said. “I’m looking forward to making strides this year toward even more progress.”

With May’s second anniversary this week, Dateline UC Davis took a look at some of his major priorities over the past year — and what’s in store for each in the coming year.

An eventful year

UC Davis received recognition from many corners of the world in the past year, with accolades going to both individual programs and the university as a whole. UC Davis collected a number of top-10 positions in prominent national rankings:

  • Fifth best public school in the nation according to the Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education College Rankings
  • Eighth among public schools in Money Magazine’s “Best Colleges” and “Most Transformative Colleges” annual rankings
  • Tenth (tie) among public universities in U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Colleges” ranking
  • Tenth among public and private institutions in Washington Monthly’s 2018 ranking.
  • Greenest university in the United States from the 2018 UI GreenMetric World University Rankings.

The School of Veterinary Medicine held onto its place atop the U.S. News & World Report graduate school rankings, and UC Davis was ranked No. 2 in the world in veterinary science and in agriculture and forestry by the QS World University Rankings.

The Aggie community showed strong support for the university, with this year’s Give Day bringing in a record $2 million in gifts, which contributed to the 2018-19 fundraising total of $234 million from 36,800 donors.

Chancellor Gary S. May congratulates sophomore quarterback Brock Johnson.
Chancellor May congratulates sophomore quarterback Brock Johnson in December after the Aggies’ first-ever FCS playoff game — a win. (Karin Higgins/UC Davis)

Aggie athletes gave the university a reason to cheer, with a football team that earned UC Davis’ first championship in the Big Sky and a berth in the FCS national playoffs for the first time since moving up to Division I in 2007, and a women’s basketball team that won its third consecutive Big West regular season title, a conference tournament crown, and the program's second trip to the NCAA Division I Tournament. This year also saw two new women’s sports added: equestrian and beach volleyball.

UC Davis research also continued to break new ground, with a $5.66-million grant going to research on stem-cell therapies for spina bifida, the launch of a $9 million National Institutes of Health-funded research center dedicated to developing genome editing tools, more than $30 million in funding expanding the scope of research at the UC Davis Alzheimer’s Disease Center, up to $15 million in funding from NASA to develop deep-space habitats for humans, and more.

Last fall UC Davis announced that it had just ended a record-breaking year of research funding — the university received $846.7 million in awards during the fiscal year 2017-18.

Aggie Square


Chancellor Gary S. May talks with Darrell Steinberg at a lunch.
Chancellor May talks with Sacramento mayor Darrell Steinberg at an Aggie Square event in April. (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

Aggie Square started to take shape this year with themes of life sciences, technology, engineering, lifelong learning, food and health, public scholarship and student housing. Announcements were made for a new rehab hospital, a collaboration that will bring IBM to the Sacramento site, preliminary designs for the campus and more. Initial planning began to create a “quarter at Aggie Square” program for undergraduate students.


Watch for more announcements, and the next steps won't just be about buildings — plans are in the works to connect the site to the Davis campus with a fleet of electric buses, and units like Public Scholarship and Engagement and Continuing and Professional Education will have a strong presence at Aggie Square.

Hispanic Serving Institution eligibility


Chancellor Gary S. May poses for a photo with faculty members before the Chicanx Latinx Graduation.
Chancellor May poses for a photo with faculty members before the Chicanx/Latinx Graduation Celebration. (Karin Higgins/UC Davis)

This year UC Davis applied for several funding opportunities open to institutions that serve a high proportion of Hispanic and economically disadvantaged students, and also unveiled a plan to use that funding to increase UC Davis’ ongoing efforts to help these “Rising Scholars” thrive. The plan involves attracting more Chicanx and Latinx students, faculty and staff, empowering them to succeed, and preparing UC Davis students and the University of California system to succeed in a multicultural world.


The university is still waiting to hear back on those grant applications, but work by numerous programs and centers to ensure the success of “Rising Scholars” continues in the meantime, as it has for years. This fall, the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion will host UC Santa Barbara Associate Dean of Social Sciences Victor Rios for a screening of The Pushouts, a documentary featuring his own journey from gang member to faculty member that examines how the educational system doesn’t meet the needs of students like him. Another event, part of the UC Davis Forums on the Public University and the Social Good, will feature Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar, an associate justice on the State Supreme Court.

Student Leadership Job Shadow Program


Dozens of students attended meetings with May and members of his leadership council, getting career advice and learning about the inner workings of the university. Students’ reflections, as published on the chancellor’s website, include:

Student Teddy Cruz poses for a photo with Chancellor Gary S. May and a Superman cape.
Teddy Cruz, an economics major, posed for a photo with Chancellor May and the Superman cape hanging in his office when she shadowed him in May. (Courtesy)

“Overall my takeaway from the experience was life-changing,” said political science and interior design double-major Deja Yaasmiyn Williams, who shadowed Chief Campus Counsel Michael Sweeney. “I felt like someone actually cared about me and my future and wanted me to be better and to fulfill my dreams.”

“I really enjoyed learning about the administrative side of running a school of this size, and was able to gain such valuable insight through it,” said electrical engineering major Jaserah Hannan, who shadowed Jennifer Curtis, dean of the College of Engineering.

“I definitely recommend applying to the Davis Shadow Program — it’s an experience like no other,” said communication and Chicano studies major Alberto Saavedra, who shadowed Philip Kass, vice provost of Academic Affairs.


Even more students will get the chance to see inside the offices of May and other university leaders: The program will continue, and applications for the fall will open Sept. 23.

Basic needs


Chancellor Gary S. May at the reopening ceremony for the Pantry.
Chancellor May this March attended the grand reopening of the ASUCD Pantry in its more visible location in the Memorial Union’s East Wing. (Karin Higgins/UC Davis)

A year into their work to improve access to mental health care, food and affordable housing, the three task forces convened by May have made recommendations, many of which — like additional counselors, more housing and increased visibility for food support — are already being put into place. UC Davis also secured $1.5 million that will be used for short-term emergency housing, food programs and a coordinator position to manage the programs.


The efforts won't stop anytime soon — a new, permanent basic needs advisory board will meet for the first time on Aug. 29.

“Our focus will be on an overall basic needs strategy for the campus and then developing effective ways to get resources directly to students,” said co-chair Leslie Kemp, director of the Aggie Compass Basic Needs Center.

This fall a call will go out for student members, who will make up at least half the board.

Other efforts will support those already in process: The university is creating satellite food pantries, which will be located in student resource centers. Next month, UC Davis will take delivery of an electric cart to be used as a mobile food pantry, in cooperation with the Associated Students of UC Davis’ Pantry. And an app designed to alert students of leftover food at university-catered events will complement a similar app for all other sources of leftovers.

On the housing front, work is underway on the Green at West Village, a 3,300-bed apartment project (the first 1,000 beds are set to be ready by fall 2020).

Strategic plan


May in his second year released his 10-year strategic plan for the university, “To Boldly Go” — a document created after a nine-month, collaborative process.

“The extended university community has helped us develop the guideposts that will take us to where we want to be in 10 years,” he said in September.To Boldly Go logo

The plan outlines goals related to education, research, diversity, equity and inclusion, UC Davis’ relationship with the outside community, and entrepreneurship.


UC Davis is already making progress on some of the 10 metrics the university is using to track the improvements outlined in the plan. For example, 14 startups were founded as a result of UC Davis innovations in the 2018-19 year, an improvement over the 13 used as a benchmark in the strategic plan.

May will host a retreat in the fall to further plan and benchmark progress on “To Boldly Go.”

Aggie Heroes


It's been less than a year since the concept of an Aggie Hero was first debuted by May at his fall welcome, and dozens have since been recognized for giving back to the UC Davis community and inspiring others. Not only were their stories told online and on stage at the fall welcome event, but the recipients gathered at the Chancellor’s Residence for a private reception last month.

Chancellor Gary S. May talks to attendees at the Aggie Heroes reception at the Chancellor's Residence this May.
Chancellor May talks to attendees at the Aggie Heroes reception at the Chancellor's Residence this May. (Karin Higgins/UC Davis)

“It’s the people who make UC Davis what it is — a dynamic, empowering place that’s driven to create a better tomorrow for all. It’s the Aggie Heroes like you who embody the strength — and the heart — of the UC Davis community,” May said at the event.


The inaugural class of Aggie Heroes was so impressive, May decided to continue the program and collect nominations for a new group this fall.

“It’s been a privilege to learn more about our Aggie Heroes and share their stories during the academic year,” the chancellor said last fall. “It’s our way of spotlighting the students, staff and faculty who bring out the best in UC Davis.

New leaders


Last fall, the university had five openings in key positions. Now those positions are all filled, including one that leads an entirely new office. Renetta Garrison Tull, who started as the vice chancellor for diversity, equity and inclusion about a month ago, said her appointment was an “honor to champion and uphold tenets that create an environment that is supportive of all students, faculty and staff.”


One of the university’s recent hires has been on campus for years, while the others arrived just weeks ago. Still, they’ll all make their mark in their first year in their positions. In addition to Garrison Tull, the new leaders are:

  • Allison Brashear, dean of the School of Medicine
  • Stephen J. Cavanagh, dean of the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing
  • JP Delplanque, vice provost and dean of Graduate Studies
  • Don Hunt, associate vice chancellor for Enrollment Management

Later this year, the university will begin the process to hire its next vice chancellor of student affairs, a position currently being filled in the interim by Emily Galindo.



Students take a class inside California Hall.
Students sit in a Nutrition 10 lecture in California Hall this spring. (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

Many students began winter quarter this year in UC Davis’ newest and largest lecture hall: California Hall, which seats 579 and includes the latest technology and features to encourage collaboration. Other recently completed projects help the UC Davis community to stay active: the Activities and Recreation Center, where May can often be found working out; the Recreation Pool, which is likely to be a popular destination this summer; improvements to the Schaal Aquatic Center, where teams like water polo compete; and the sandy courts that are home to the newly created women’s beach volleyball team. 


The next year will see major developments in key projects aimed at students: Preparations will continue this year for the Teaching and Learning Complex, a group of general assignment classrooms to be built on the current site of Surge IV. Latitude, a dining commons and retail dining complex with international flair, and Walker Hall, a long-vacant building near the Shields Library, will both open in the coming year. Other developments will further cement the partnership between UC Davis and UC Davis Health: The Student-Athlete Performance Center, on track for a 2022 completion, expands the sports medicine partnership between the two entities and includes new branding to rename the football stadium “UC Davis Health Stadium,” which will be unveiled in time for the fall football season.

Chancellor’s Colloquium


Chancellor Gary S. May and William Shatner on stage.
Chancellor May shares the stage — and a laugh — with William Shatner in May. (Karin Higgins/UC Davis)

Sharing the stage with William Shatner may have been a personal highlight for the Star Trek-loving May, but his Chancellor’s Colloquium series also tackled more weighty subjects, like a discussion with Pulitzer Prize-winning author Matthew Desmond on how housing can lead to extreme poverty or wealth, and a talk about accessible and affordable education with Michael M. Crow, president of Arizona State University.


More events are on tap for the coming year. The first to be confirmed is Robert M. Franklin Jr., a reverend and the James T. and Berta R. Laney Professor in Moral Leadership at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology. Franklin, a previous president of Morehouse College, will visit UC Davis on Feb. 20, 2020.

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Media contact(s)

Dana Topousis, News and Media Relations, 530-752-9841,