Checking In With Chancellor May: Student Success

Chancellor Gary S. May, in suit and tie, stands while chatting with students at a round table, in academic success centerh students
Chancellor May chats with students during a visit to the Center for Chicanx and Latinx Academic Student Success, or CCLASS. (Karin Higgins/UC Davis)

To the UC Davis Community:

You’ve heard me say it before: Commencement season is one of my favorite times of the year. Our newest graduates will soon embark on their next journeys, and, with their degrees from UC Davis, they are poised to find great success in the workforce and graduate school.

Nothing beats seeing our students go off to shape a better tomorrow.

In preparing them academically, we also make it part of our mission to support their emotional and community needs, by giving them the resources and tools to stay focused on their education, thrive on campus and prepare for life after graduation. Aggies have ample opportunity to explore careers and find mentors who guide them toward success.

Here’s an example: Darius Livingston, former UC Davis football player who helped the Aggies win their first Big Sky championship. Despite that success, he knew he wasn’t going to be a first-round draft pick in the NFL. Now he’s making an impact in commercial real estate, and, more specifically, the housing crisis, by pursuing innovative, scalable solutions.

The inspiration stemmed from a UC Davis internship that taught him fundamentals in real estate valuation and market analysis. That internship was with Project Destined, which was piloted at UC Davis and led to his job as an analyst with Catalyst Housing Group right after graduation. His goal is to get into the heart of cities to create communities where people work, live and play — knowing it all starts with affordable housing.

At UC Davis, we’re driven to care for all aspects of our students’ lives. One example is the Aggie Compass Basic Needs Center, which provides critical resources related to food security, housing, mental wellness and finances.

Academics and culture

Our efforts go further with our numerous identity-based, academic success centers where students find tutoring and advising, networking opportunities and lifelong friendships. This story from Inside Higher Ed details our approach and some of the people behind these centers, which combine cultural and academic enrichment.

Jesus Bastian, who is graduating with the Class of 2023, knows the importance of these centers well. He credits the Center for Chicanx and Latinx Academic Student Success, or CCLASS, as a critical space for him to find community and academic support.

Bastian is grateful for the resources and a caring UC Davis community, knowing his life could’ve turned out very differently. He remembers nights during his teenage years when he didn’t know when his next meal was coming, crying from sleeping outside in the cold. As a young man, he spent some stretches unhoused and running afoul of the law.

Now a reentry student, he’s set to graduate with a 3.9 GPA and on track to enter medical school following a health care internship in Oaxaca, Mexico. His goal is to serve his community as a physician, perhaps working in emergency medicine. He credits both CCLASS and the Transfer and Reentry Center for making him feel at home and supporting his academic journey. Now, his No. 1 pick for medical school is UC Davis.

Career readiness

Hands-on experience and mentorship are also crucial to student success. That’s why I started the Leadership Job Shadow Program, which supplements our many other career readiness programs available for students so they can make a positive impact on the world. 

Our robust Internship and Career Center provides a wide range of resources, such as career fairs, workshops and tips on how to navigate the interview process and negotiate salaries. Aggie Launch is a campuswide, interdisciplinary leadership initiative designed to make career exploration and preparation accessible to all students. Its key elements are delivered by the Internship and Career Center and Undergraduate Education.

This month, we are celebrating news that three UC Davis scholars were chosen to represent the UC system at the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting in Germany. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for these scholars to learn directly from Nobel Prize winners and build connections from around the world in the name of science. Join me in congratulating our UC Davis scholars who were selected in the field of physiology/medicine: Nithya Sivakumar, Regina Agulto and Raman Goyal.

Big moments everywhere

Like I said, it’s an exciting time of year, for us and for students like Karen Nguyen, who is earning a degree in neurobiology, physiology and behavior and was selected as one of the student speakers for undergraduate commencement at the Golden 1 Center next week.

It will be a big moment for this student who beams with Aggie Pride and plans to enroll in dental school. She attributes much of her personal and professional growth to UC Davis experiential and extracurricular activities, such as serving as president of the Pre-Dental Society and starting a club for prehealth students interested in dentistry, The Filling at UC Davis. She appreciates the support she received from faculty, along with forming lifelong friendships on campus, in preparing her for the next phase of her life.

These are just a handful of examples of student success that you will find across UC Davis. Join me in congratulating the Class of 2023 and let’s wish them the best in their next chapters. Have a great summer and Go Ags!


Gary S. May


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