Checking In With Chancellor May: Aggie Pride at the Holidays

Chancellor Gary S. May and a student, back to back, arms folded, for fun photo
Chancellor Gary S. May steps off the serving line to pose for a photo with a student, during Tuesday night’s Moonlight Breakfast. (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)


In this week’s Thursday Thoughts (above), Chancellor May and LeShelle discuss mental health support, with the chancellor addressing university initiatives and LeShelle offering some homegrown advice. They also discuss Dune vs. Maid and the chancellor’s Christmas Legos!

To the UC Davis Community:

As we approach the end of a year that demanded so much of us all, I can look back and feel incredibly proud of what we have accomplished together.

While I have documented many of those accomplishments in my regular letters over the past year, I want to highlight a couple here that show what our Aggie Pride makes possible.

In fact, as I write this, we are in the midst of numerous commencements — both for our current graduates and for the graduates of the Class of 2020 who did not get to celebrate their achievements in person. I want to thank the many teams of people who worked to make these milestone celebrations a reality. In all, we have an expected 2,906 undergraduate and graduate students receiving their diplomas in person between Thursday and Sunday.

We also can continue to be proud of our pandemic response, where our COVID-19 test-positivity rate remains under 1% and our vaccination rate stands at 98%. Now it is time for boosters — especially considering the emergence of the omicron variant, with at least one case now detected in Yolo County. While UC’s COVID-19 vaccination policy allows for repeat vaccinations to be mandated, we are not quite there yet. But we are strongly recommending that any employee or student who is eligible to receive a booster shot do so as soon as possible.

Students can schedule free appointments for Pfizer vaccinations and booster shots at the Student Health and Wellness Center through the Health-e-Messaging portal.

Employees and community members can find free vaccinations at multiple clinic locations in Yolo County, including those in partnership with Healthy Davis Together. More appointments can be found on California’s My Turn website.

COVID-19 testing

As Aggies spread far and wide for the holidays, we have posted our winter break asymptomatic testing guidance for students and employees. We expect high demand during the week of Jan. 3; be sure to make your appointments.

As Provost Mary Croughan spelled out in her Nov. 22 planning update, we will modify our asymptomatic testing requirement, effective Jan. 17. Fully vaccinated people will be strongly encouraged (though no longer required) to continue the current cadence of asymptomatic testing — once every 14 days. The every-four-day testing requirement for people with approved vaccine exceptions will not change. Our Campus Ready Testing page is still the best place to get updated information.

We have also posted winter break guidance for the Daily Symptom Survey — it’s required for anyone accessing campus facilities. The survey requirement will remain in effect in winter quarter. And students: Be on the lookout next week for email notifications to prize winners in fall quarter’s Daily Symptom Survey Response Sweepstakes — with five iPads and 10 Equitable Access vouchers to be given away.

Jelly ice in a gloved hand
Ice That Doesn’t Melt
After seeing the amount of ice used at fish-processing plants and the amount of cross-contamination that meltwater could spread, a UC Davis researcher had the idea to create anti-microbial “jelly ice cubes” that can be reused a dozen times and then composted.
See story and video.
Students browsing in textbook aisle.
‘Equitable Access’ Is Working
Pioneered by UC Davis Stores, this program under which students pay a flat rate for all course materials ended its first year with a surplus that translated this fall quarter into reduced fees for all and grants that covered all costs for 1,000 low-income students.
See story.

Winter instruction

Last month I told you our fall quarter plan for instruction will carry over to winter quarter: In-person instruction is the default mode, with exceptions considered due to COVID-19-related circumstances. I would also like to note that we will continue to allow instructors to temporarily teach remotely if they are required to isolate after contracting COVID-19, are required to quarantine after exposure to COVID-19 or need to care for a family member due to COVID-19 infection or exposure. Similarly, instructors will be able to allow their teaching assistants to temporarily perform teaching responsibilities remotely in such cases. See Information for Campus Instruction on our Campus Ready website.

Be an advocate for UC

With our proximity to the state capital, UC Davis affiliates are poised to be influential supporters of the University of California and its mission. Through the UC Advocacy Network, or UCAN, students, faculty, staff and community members “push for the priorities that can help our UC community thrive.” This advocacy includes encouraging federal financial aid for students and state investments to help California rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as urgent action on climate change.

Advocates who sign up for UCAN will receive email updates and alerts about how they can speak out and support the university and UC Davis. Read more about UCAN and how you can become involved.

Checking in elsewhere

This week we had the pleasure of hosting our UC president, Michael V. Drake, for a visit to campus. He met with faculty, students and staff to discuss a variety of issues, including students’ basic needs and our efforts to close the achievement/opportunity gap for first-generation and underrepresented students. President Drake also sat down with me for a special edition of Face to Face With Chancellor May, where he answered questions about his impressions of UC Davis and higher education overall, gave advice for our campus community moving into 2022, and revealed which musical legend he’d like to have dinner with. Look for that episode next Tuesday!

Also this week, we brought back our Moonlight Breakfast, a finals week tradition, where we invite students to take a break for some late-night nourishment — and my leadership team and I do the serving. We had our biggest turnout yet — around 2,600 students! That’s a lot of pancakes and breakfast burritos (and vegan boxes)! I was touched by the gratitude of our hard-working students and by their asking to take selfies with me (I think my picture count was higher than the number of pancakes I served!).

And here’s a shout-out to some other hard-working students — our student-athletes, who continue to shine in the NCAA’s Graduation Success Rate data. The latest report, out last week, showed UC Davis leading the Big West Conference (which includes most of our teams) with a 92% GSR and second in the Big Sky Conference (in which we compete in football) with an 87% GSR, one point off the lead. This success is a testament to our coaches, staff and programs who work to always emphasize the “student” in student-athlete.

Happy Holidays!

Finally, I’d like to share my holiday video with you. While I always enjoy being part of the creative process, I think this year’s video is especially charming. LeShelle and I had a lot of fun making it, and we hope you enjoy watching.

While 2021 has had its many challenges, our Aggies have exhibited tremendous strength, resilience and compassion for each other; I am grateful to be part of that journey with you all. Here’s wishing you a wonderful holiday with your loved ones and a bright new year.


Gary S. May

Campus Ready graphic, cow on bicycle

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