Checking In With Chancellor May: Time to Picnic!

Chancellor Gary S. May smiling.
Chancellor Gary S. May takes a moment by himself while attending the grand opening of the Graduate Center at Walker Hall, April 8. (Karin Higgins/UC Davis)


In this week’s Thursday Thoughts, Chancellor May and LeShelle take questions on why the chancellor went into leadership, whether they prefer sunrises or sunsets, and what LeShelle is watching right now. The chancellor also reveals an unpopular opinion.

To the UC Davis Community:

In just over a week, we will see the biggest sign yet that our Davis campus is inching back to “normalcy” with the return after two years of in-person Picnic Day.

Held almost every year since 1909, Picnic Day is a time for our UC Davis family to join with the community and enjoy a daylong university open house. The big day is Saturday, April 23, all organized by a hard-working group of students. Thank you to them!

LeShelle and I are asking our community to do two things to ensure a safe and healthy day for all: Sign the Picnic Day Pledge and get tested for COVID-19.

Our testing requirements are still in effect: Every 14 days if you are current on vaccine status, every four days if you are not current or not vaccinated. Today we are seeing a slight uptick in the COVID-19 positivity rate on campus, so a test over the next week will be good for your own well-being, and considerate of your fellow students, faculty and staff, and our thousands of visitors.

Picnicking and giving

Once again, Picnic Day will showcase our world-class research, our experts, our animals and our unique programs. I can’t think of a better way to welcome visitors and residents who can discover or rediscover all that UC Davis offers.

I’d also like to give a shout-out to the Picnic Day Parade marshal: Dr. Nam Tran, senior director of clinical pathology at UC Davis Health, who was a key figure in the development of the health system’s COVID-19 testing strategy. And he’s a UC Davis alumnus three times over!

Click here for more information, including the schedule of events. And check out this article from Dateline UC Davis: “What to See at Picnic Day 108.”

And don’t forget, Picnic Day coincides with our annual Give Day (or Give Day Plus 5 Hours), from noon Friday, April 22, to 5 p.m. Saturday, April 23. We appreciate all the support we receive year-round, and especially like the excitement that comes with donor challenges on Give Day — that is, the donors promise to give certain amounts if other donors join in. It’s a coming together of our Aggie family for the university we love. Please consider giving.

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Spring commencements

Let the countdown begin! Commencements for our graduate and professional schools will begin May 13, and we’re just under 60 days away from our undergraduate ceremonies in UC Davis Health Stadium.

For the undergraduate commencements, we will be joined on Friday, June 10, by Francisco Rodriguez, the chancellor of the Los Angeles Community College District and a UC Davis alum. I’m looking forward to hearing him address our graduates.

U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier is also a proud Aggie alum, and she will give remarks at our commencement Saturday, June 11. She is retiring after 14 years in Congress, representing San Mateo and San Francisco counties, and will leave a powerful legacy as an advocate for women’s rights and mental health reform, along with a powerful story of resiliency as a survivor of the 1978 Jonestown massacre.

Information about the speaker for Sunday, June 12, will be coming soon.

In the meantime, students who have registered for the upcoming commencement ceremonies should look for weekly e-mail updates from our university vendor, Full Measure. Trust me, this is not spam.

I’d like to reinforce that all graduates will be personally recognized by having their names read as they take the stage. Undergraduates will be in two lines, one from each side, taking turns.

The weekly updates I mentioned will start going out next week to students who have registered for commencement, providing them with the latest information to plan for their big day. In addition to these emails, be sure to bookmark for other updates. This website includes key graduate deadlines, guest information, and other pre-event information.

Checking in elsewhere

We’re celebrating an important new addition to campus on Tuesday, April 19. A ribbon-cutting will be held for a permanent drop box for election ballots outside Hunt Hall, across from the Memorial Union bus terminal.

This drop box is the first of its kind for a UC campus in Northern California. Our students received a voter turnout award for their participation in the 2020 general election, and this drop box will further encourage them to become lifelong voters. Your ballots from outside Yolo County can also go in the box, if you find it more convenient, and Yolo County will forward them to your home counties.

Tuesday’s celebration will include a voter registration drive from noon to 3 p.m. on the Memorial Union’s South Patio. I’ll join in for the ribbon-cutting at the drop-box location from 2 to 2:30 p.m.

On a different note, on Monday, April 25, the UC Davis Forums on the Public University and the Social Good will host an important event on sexual harassment in higher education and its effects on individuals and communities. The forum will be led by Frazier Benya, senior program officer at the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine.

The forum is titled “Sexual Harassment: Where it Thrives and How to Prevent and Address It Within Higher Education.” Dr. Benya will share current research into the topic and offer recommendations of how institutions of higher education can further develop best policies and practices.

Please click here to register for this event, which will be held on Zoom.

Profound effect

We know Picnic Day is coming, but we are also seeing other signs that our campus is slowly getting back to the way things used to be. The ASUCD Entertainment Council recently held an open mic event at the Coffee House and hosted a well-attended paint night in Central Park. I thank them for the good vibes.

Over the last two years, all of us have had a profound effect on our community in the prevention of COVID-19 infection, and I acknowledge and thank everyone for their efforts. Through Healthy Davis Together and Healthy Yolo Together, the university, the city and the county produced a response to COVID-19 that is unique within the United States.

Think about it: We successfully brought 40,000 students back to the community and achieved a Yolo County COVID-19 positivity rate averaging 71 percent below California’s statewide rate.

But, as we continuously monitor our testing data, we will issue messages like this one today, to strongly encourage everyone to continue to be tested on a regular basis and to say again that, if necessary, we will not hesitate to adjust our health protocols.

Here’s hoping this is your best spring ever!


Gary S. May

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