Chancellor Gary S. May Chancell-ing column logo

CHANCELL-ING: A Tale of Two Years

I’ve completed two solar orbits since arriving at UC Davis in 2017 and the future couldn’t look brighter. This milestone might be referred to as “the terrible twos” in the world of parenting, but in my case it’s been more like “the terrific twos.”

Every day is a new adventure in Davis, from learning about the research that springs from campus to connecting with people all around the city.

I’ve helped new students haul their boxes on move-in weekend and chatted with William Shatner at the Mondavi Center. LeShelle and I have made a lot of new friends and definitely enjoyed the local food culture.

The past year alone is worth its own highlight reel. Here are just a few things that make me grateful to be at UC Davis and a member of the Davis community:

Moving on up

Just like the San Francisco Giants following the All-Star break, UC Davis has enjoyed its own winning streak. In 2018, UC Davis reached the top 10 in five different rankings of national universities. That included No. 5 among public universities from The Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education College Ranking — up from No. 6 the year before.

We again lead the country for veterinary medicine, and no matter what “Lady Bird” said, we’re proud to be No. 1 in the nation for agriculture.

A spirit of giving

From France to Fresno, it’s clear that Aggies are everywhere. They are movers and shakers in medicine, the sciences and humanities and so much more. I’m equally impressed by their giving spirit and dedication to UC Davis long after they’ve received their caps and gowns.

In this past fiscal year, UC Davis received $234 million from 36,800 donors. That’s the second-highest fundraising year in university history, and this spirit of philanthropy very much defines who we are as Aggies.

Supporting students

Some of the stories I’ve heard can break your heart, like the student who was basically living off $1 menus at fast food restaurants to make ends meet. We’re not OK with that. The UC Davis community has spent the past year doubling down on its commitment to supporting the basic needs of students in food security, affordable housing and mental health care.

And we’re making progress on these issues, thanks in part to $1.5 million in funding from UC’s Mortgage Origination Program and a permanent Basic Needs Advisory Board. We also credit members of the community for pitching in as well, such as the Yolo Food Bank in our food security efforts. Together, we can make a difference.

A roadmap for the future

Looking back also inspires me to look ahead. What should UC Davis be known for in 10 years, and how should we get there?


Those are the key questions I’ve asked since arriving at UC Davis. I’ve heard a lot of great ideas from around UC Davis, the city and our friends worldwide. From those ideas, we’re focusing on five key goals that include challenging the way we think about educating students, building on our diversity, growing our spirit of innovation and partnerships, and telling our story like never before.

These goals are the foundation of our 10-year strategic plan, “To Boldly Go,” that was released last fall. Seeing this come to life remains a highlight of the past two years. With this plan in place, we’re going to flourish like our research vineyards on the south side of campus.

Strengthening our town-gown relationship

As a relative newbie in Davis, I didn’t know the town-gown relationship between UC Davis and the city could have been better. At a meeting with the UC regents earlier this year, Mayor Brett Lee compared that usual relationship to a sliding door with a wheel that’s fallen off track. Yes, the door works, but just kind of.

That sliding door is now moving smoother than ever, thanks to a memorandum of understanding signed last September between UC Davis, the city of Davis and Yolo County. It paved the way for The Green at West Village, a campus apartment project, with room for up to 3,300 students.

This memorandum of understanding was a big win for students who need housing, and it also showed what can be accomplished when UC Davis, the city of Davis and Yolo County work together. I expect this new wave of partnership to set the stage for even more good things to come.

Creating a better tomorrow

Some of the innovations we’re spearheading at UC Davis are right out of a science fiction story: “Beauty technologies” that use colorful tattoos to indicate glucose levels … a whole-body PET scanner that images the body in seconds … farms of the future that rely on robotics.

Our research continues to drive new technologies that lead to a better planet. In just the past fiscal year, technologies developed at UC Davis led to the foundation of 14 start-ups related to such industries as agriculture, pharmaceuticals and software security.

Thanks to all for an incredible two years. … Go Ags!

Chancellor Gary S. May’s monthly column appears first in The Davis Enterprise.