Checking In With Chancellor May: Momentum

Chancellor Gary S. May in the dunk tank
Chancellor May pops up from the dunk tank during Thank Goodness for Staff, May 11. (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

In this week’s Thursday Thoughts, Chancellor May and LeShelle recap Mother’s Day, discuss expectations of the chancellor’s job, where he will be on his birthday and more.

To the UC Davis Community:

On Monday, UC Davis’ asymptomatic COVID-19 testing program reached a new milestone — completing its 2 millionth test since the campus began offering them in September 2020. After a long and very successful run, the program will reduce operations in the coming months.

We intend to end requirements for certain COVID-19 protocols at the conclusion of spring quarter. That includes the requirements for asymptomatic testing and completion of the Daily Symptom Survey prior to accessing campus facilities. 

Our partners at Healthy Davis Together and Healthy Yolo Together are winding down their testing, too. The Research Park testing site in Davis has already closed, while three other sites — the Veterans Memorial Center (Davis), West Sacramento City Hall and Norton Hall (Woodland) — will remain open through June.

On the Davis campus, free COVID-19 testing will continue to be offered through June at the Activities and Recreation Center (ARC) for students, staff and faculty. Testing also continues on the UC Davis Health campus in Sacramento.

We will continue supporting the health of our campus community. UC Davis plans to maintain one COVID-19 testing site on campus that will offer free testing on a voluntary basis for UC Davis faculty, staff and students during Summer Sessions and fall quarter. We don’t have all the details yet, so stay tuned for more information.

Rest assured, we will remain vigilant. We will be prepared to ramp up quickly if public health requirements change and COVID-19 protocols need to be reinstated. We’re closely monitoring infection rates, as well as the context of public health outcomes. For example, recent viral mutations express higher infectiousness but not increased severity of disease. We will continue to follow guidance from Yolo County Public Health, as well as state and federal guidelines — just like we’ve been doing since the beginning of the pandemic.

Summer instruction

We will continue through Summer Sessions with in-person instruction as the default mode of teaching. Instructors, however, as in previous quarters, may request to teach remotely due to COVID-19-related circumstances. Requests are due by June 3. More information is available on the Academic Affairs website.

Graduate students seeking alternatives to in-person TA assignments should submit their requests to Graduate Studies by June 13.

‘No Time to Lose’
Wildfires in California burned about 4.3 million acres in 2020, about twice the previous record but average compared to burn rates likely experienced before Euro-American settlement, according to a UC Davis-led study. Of far greater concern is increased fire severity, the researchers said, adding “there is no time to lose” in fuel reduction efforts to lessen fire’s impact.

Students on stairway seating
Teaching and Learning Complex
The Davis campus’s first new general classroom building in 50 years is functioning as planned, facilitating interaction among students and between students and instructors. The TLC currently boasts three floors of classrooms, lecture halls and study spaces — nooks for individuals and groups — and lots of power outlets and whiteboards.



The spring commencement season is here, with the first ceremonies today and tomorrow: School of Medicine, May 13; and School of Law, May 14. Other advanced degrees will be presented as follows: School of Veterinary Medicine, May 27; School of Education, June 8; School of Nursing, June 9; Graduate Studies, June 9; and the Graduate School of Management, June 11.

Coming up June 10, 11 and 12, we’ll debut our new combined undergraduate commencement ceremonies at UC Davis Health Stadium. We’re consolidating seven indoor ceremonies into three and moving them outdoors. We’ll need many volunteers to help with undergraduate commencements. Sign up to volunteer and receive a T-shirt and gift for your efforts.

We have an excellent line-up of commencement speakers, most of them UC Davis alumni. Learn more about them here.

A variety of graduation celebrations are also taking place, providing wonderful opportunities for students to celebrate and honor their achievements with other graduates in their communities.

Taking action for sustainability

We’re about to mark a major milestone on the Big Shift, with completion of the first district. This monumental effort involved laying four miles of hot water pipes throughout the core of campus, replacing our steam-heat system. Construction on the next district will begin in 2023. The Big Shift will help us reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and move away from fossil fuel use to heat our buildings, helping us move toward carbon neutrality.

In related efforts, our Campus Advisory Committee on Sustainability is seeking your feedback on our Fossil Fuel-Free Pathway Plan at two town halls next week.

Efforts like these are why UC Davis consistently ranks No. 1 in North America for campus sustainability by the GreenMetric World University Rankings. I’m especially proud of this ranking, so thanks to everyone working to advance sustainability. 

Register to vote

June 7 is election day in California, and the deadline to register to vote is May 23 (although late registration is permissible through election day). More information about registering and voting is available on the Aggies Vote webpage. Ballots were mailed this week and can be returned by mail; deposited in the campus’s new ballot drop box at the northeast corner of Hunt Hall, from now through election day; or delivered to the Voter Assistance Center at the ARC, June 4-7.


We’ve had many opportunities to reconnect and celebrate together this past month, with a very successful return of Picnic Day and around the same time another record-breaking Give Day that raised more than $4.1 million. We also had the Whole Earth Festival and Thank Goodness For Staff, which is not over yet. You can still participate in the TGFS Drive-In Movie tonight, May 13. It’s been wonderful to see so many of you in person, showcasing our campus strengths and celebrating good work across the university. Thanks to everyone involved behind the scenes to organize and host these wonderful events.

Earlier this week we hosted the local premiere of the IMAX film Secrets of the Universe, featuring an Aggie research team led by physics professor Manuel Calderón de la Barca Sánchez, in the UC Davis Multiverse Theater at the new SMUD Museum of Science and Curiosity, or MOSAC. Monday’s guests included members of the Council of Deans and Vice Chancellors, the Board of Regents and the Department of Physics.

A public screening is in the works at the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts, and MOSAC will insert a shorter version into the Multiverse Theater’s summer playlist. Learn more about the film and watch the trailer here.

Memorial Day Ceremony

Before our thoughts turn to summer, I hope you can attend the Davis campus’s annual Memorial Day Ceremony at 5 p.m. Thursday, May 26, on the north side of the Memorial Union — a building that stands in tribute to Aggies lost in military service. Assistant Professor Rory Stuart, a UC Davis Health physician and Air Force officer, recipient of a Bronze Star for his efforts battling COVID-19 in Afghanistan, will deliver the keynote address. Army ROTC cadets will read the 136 names enshrined on the Gold Star Aggies Wall.

Just one more example of heartfelt Aggie Pride.  

Checking in elsewhere

Today we celebrated Kelly Ratliff upon her retirement as vice chancellor of Finance, Operations and Administration, after 35 years of service to our university, the UC system and our local communities. I want to acknowledge and thank Kelly for helping us manage numerous complex challenges, including our COVID-19 response, Healthy Davis Together and the most ambitious housing construction program in UC Davis history.

Speaking of campus leaders, I hope you had a chance to watch the recent episodes of Face to Face with UC Davis Fire Chief Nate Trauernicht and That May Be the Chancellor with Dean Mark Stetter at the School of Veterinary Medicine.

As you can tell, there’s good news unfolding all across UC Davis. Thank you all, and let’s keep the momentum going!


Gary S. May

Campus Ready graphic, cow on bicycle

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