UC Davis’ New Mantra: Outgrow the Expected

UC Davis has gone from University Farm to global education powerhouse, and it’s time to shout about the things that make us great, Chancellor Gary S. May said Monday (Jan. 27) at the 2020 Kickoff Celebration, an unveiling of plans to increase visibility and awareness of UC Davis.

“The time is now to explain what UC Davis means, especially when it means so many things to so many people,” he told a crowd of about 1,000 people in The Pavilion at the Activities and Recreation Center, and more watching via livestream on the Sacramento campus, and at the university’s Bodega Marine Laboratory and Tahoe Environmental Research Center.


“The time is now to attract the best and brightest to UC Davis. The time is now to let the world know how UC Davis is the place that anticipates and solves the problems of the future.”

The way the university will do that is with a series of messages, visual cues, graphical treatments, fonts and colors that together support a new mantra: “Outgrow the Expected.”

“It’s time for us to say it loud and proud: We’ve grown beyond all expectations and we’re ready to let the world know,” he said. “More than ever, the world needs big ideas and long-term vision. More than ever, the world needs to know about UC Davis.”

May said it was time for UC Davis to shake off its image as a humble, quiet entity — and he did so after making a surprise entrance driving one of Grounds and Landscape Services' Gators into The Pavilion. The last time we saw him in a Gator like that was when he went to work with groundskeepers (as documented in this video).

Taking to the podium, he declared: “The sleeping giant is waking up,” then added, “Next year, our T-shirts are going to say ‘Woke Giant.’”

Campus leaders clap during the 2020 Kickoff Celebration event.
Campus leaders got into the spirit, including, clockwise from right, Ralph J. Hexter, provost and executive vice chancellor; LeShelle May; Michael Lairmore, dean of the School of Veterinary Medicine; and Steve Weisler, chief data officer and senior advisor to the provost. (Karin Higgins/UC Davis)

May's speech led into the introduction of Outgrow the Expected, in a video showcasing the work UC Davis is doing at home and around the world. See it here or at the top of this page.

The 2020 Kickoff Celebration also featured performances from bands made entirely of faculty or staff members; a poem written for the occasion by Andy Jones, a lecturer in the University Writing program and poet laureate emeritus of the city of Davis; and a spoken word performance from alumna Denisha “Coco Blossom” Bland.

Chancellor Gary S. May and LeShelle May drive into The Pavilion on a Gator.
Chancellor Gary S. May and LeShelle May made their entrance to The Pavilion on a custom-wrapped Gator. (Karin Higgins/UC Davis)

Before and after the program, staff and faculty told their Aggie Stories in video booths and posed for photos — serious or silly — in photo booths around The Pavilion. People also picked up UC Davis-branded giveaways, as well as seedlings from the Student Farm, bags of seeds from the Arboretum and Public Garden, and ears of corn to make into popcorn, courtesy of the Department of Plant Sciences.

The new messages and styles introduced this week will slowly begin to appear in materials produced by UC Davis, and guidance for communications and marketing staffers is available online. The idea will be further highlighted this October, when the university publicly launches its next comprehensive fundraising campaign, May said.

Ralph J. Hexter, provost and executive vice chancellor, said increased awareness of UC Davis will make a difference in the work the university does.

“The more the world fully grasps and appreciates what we do, the greater the impact we can have, leading to even more points of pride,” he said.

Other speakers yesterday highlighted some of the ways UC Davis is succeeding and receiving accolades, all of which had a common theme: the work being done by the faculty and staff in attendance at the kickoff event.

“What helps UC Davis outshine all the rest is the dedication you put into making this place better every day,” said Christine Lovely, chief human resources officer.

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