UC Davis State of the Campus 2020

Image of UC Davis Water Tower at Sunset with birds flying on the left side

I’d like to start by expressing my appreciation to the Academic Senate for your leadership and collaboration. Your dedication to UC Davis is helping move us into the new decade with great strength and optimism. I hope that you were able to attend our 2020 Kickoff Celebration at the ARC Pavilion a couple of weeks ago. It was our way of giving thanks to all the staff, faculty and leadership who make UC Davis one of the top public universities in the nation.

So, if I were to sum up the state of UC Davis in 2020 I’d say this: We are rising to the top and confounding expectations. We are growing stronger in our innovative spirit, our confidence and our dedication to serving students. At the same time, we must remain strategic in our planning while addressing the challenges of today and those we’ll face in the years ahead. We must continue to collaborate and always drive towards excellence.  Here’s where UC Davis stands now and how we’re poised for the future.

Our story of growth certainly applies to UC Davis in terms of rankings. We enter 2020 as Money Magazine’s #4 public university in the nation - up from #8 the year before. There was more good news recently. The Wall Street Journal with Times Higher Education ranked UC Davis #3 among public schools in the west. We’re right there in the winner’s circle and I believe the only way to go is up - and that’s all the way to the top.

In some areas, UC Davis is the top. We’re still the country’s #1 school for agriculture and veterinary medicine. We’re still #1 in the nation for sustainability. We operate the #1 medical center in Sacramento. We’re among the nation’s leaders in 10 medical specialties, from cardiology to cancer. UC Davis is also ranked highly in terms of student outcomes and serving the public good. We’re showing the world how UC Davis is a top choice for students of all backgrounds to pursue an affordable education and make a difference in the world. In 2019, U.S. News & World Report ranked us ninth among the country’s public universities for social mobility. Washington Monthly also placed UC Davis second among “Affordable Elite Colleges.” Their list uses a combination of metrics – including net price and students’ future earnings – to track how well colleges promote income equality and upward social mobility.

Those rankings are a great source of pride, but meeting the basic needs of our students must always come front and center. Our students cannot excel if they’re suffering from chronic anxiety.  They can’t excel if they’re not making ends meet to live in proper housing or maintaining a proper diet. In 2018, we established three task forces consisting of students, staff, and faculty to address these issues. We received reports from the task forces in June and approved all of their recommendations. In September, I appointed a Basic Needs Advisory Committee to implement these recommendations. The advisory committee meets monthly and is separated into 4 workgroups: Food, housing, well-being and finances. Each committee has submitted proposals for projects that address challenges in their area. Some of the projects that have been green lighted are:

  • A $2 Meal Program
  • A food recovery program from the Dining Commons
  • An extension of the UC Davis Crisis Text Line
  • An expansion of our Blue to Gold Financial Wellness Program
  • And, an increase for access to paid internships for at-risk populations

In the meantime, UC Davis and the Aggie Compass Basic Needs Center are working with the city and Yolo County officials regarding strategies to reduce homelessness in Davis. In terms of housing, which we’ll cover more in a moment, we’re exploring a Rapid Rehousing partnership with a local non-profit. We’re hoping to accomplish this by Spring 2020. We also anticipate a lease-back project that follows the Rapid Rehousing model, which would come on-line in the fall. The housing committee continues to explore solutions for long-term subsidized housing on campus, along with an on-campus emergency shelter and transitional housing for students in crisis.

Now, I’d like to shine the spotlight on our faculty. They are role models for students and an inspiration to us all. They are people like Pam Ronald, distinguished professor in the Department of Plant Pathology and Genome Center. Last April, she was elected to the National Academy of Sciences for her revolutionary work in plant pathology. They are people like Professors Steve Shkoller and Mariel Vazquez. The two were named fellows by the American Mathematical Society in its most recent class. And, they are people like Distinguished Professor Suad Joseph. She was described as an “institutional cornerstone” when receiving an outstanding service award by the Middle East Studies Association of North America.

The spirit of discovery shines at our campus, evidenced by fantastic discoveries and research awards that support our innovations. Technologies developed at UC Davis enabled 14 startup companies last year. We were also issued 154 Records of Invention and 98 patents. In the previous fiscal Year, UC Davis received $845 million in research funding. That amount nearly set a record for us. Those figures include a $15 million grant to HOME. That stands for the Habitats Optimized for Missions of Exploration Space Technology Research Institute at UC Davis. This interdisciplinary and multi-institution team will develop technology for spacecraft and deep-space bases of the future.

The team is led by UC Davis Professor Stephen Robinson, who’s pictured here. He’s a former astronaut who serves as chair of the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. Think of him as an “Aggienaut.” UC Davis is also employing cutting-edge technologies to further our research missions. Last month, I cut the ribbon during the installation of an incredible research tool called the Cryo-EM. It’s an electron microscope so powerful that it can capture 3-D images at an atomic level. The implications are tremendous. It allows researchers to study diseases in powerful new ways. And that’s something we certainly need in this age of pandemics. Technologies like these move the needle for research all across UC Davis. It strengthens our research infrastructure and keeps us on the leading edge of making critical discoveries.

Before we go further, I’d like focus on our budgeted revenue. The total budget in 2019-2020 is $5.4 billion. That’s an increase of about $200 million over the previous year. The primary “core funds” available for general university operations associated with our core instruction and research mission account for about 20% of the budget. They are composed of tuition and state unrestricted funding. For 2019-2020, state appropriations and state unrestricted funds are estimated at $471 million. At this time last year, we anticipated that the level of funding in the Governor’s Budget would fall short of our needs by approximately $20 million. We hoped the legislature would narrow that gap. Ultimately, they did not.

As you may know, Governor Newsom released his proposed 2020-2021 budget last month. We’re still interpreting the numbers and other dynamics are in play, but from what we see, the increased state funding for UC is a welcome step. However, the proposal as it currently stands continues to fall short of our needs and does not address prior funding gaps. The primary incremental cost increase is for salary and benefit cost increases for faculty and staff. The Office of Budget and Institutional Analysis estimates costs of over $33 million - but our likely share of new state funds is $17 million. As a result, we have a gap of $16 million which must be added to the $19 million gap that remained after the 2019-20 process, for a total gap of $35 million. Keep this growing gap in mind. That’s because we’ve also hit the 18% cap for national and international undergraduate students.

In recent years, the increasing proportion of non-residents has added $150 million to our operating budget. This revenue source now increases only very modestly from fee increases. Going forward, our campus’s undergraduate student enrollment will level off unless we receive state funding to support additional undergraduate student enrollment growth. As a result, we need to look for ways to address this growing budget gap between our incoming state funds and tuition, and the expenses traditionally supported by them. We need to fundamentally change the way we operate to achieve and sustain a balanced budget when it comes to these core funds. Provost Hexter has established a Budget Framework Advisory Committee and is working with the deans, vice chancellors, the Academic Senate, and others on a budget framework and its principles. These will guide a multi-year effort to bring expenses in line with available sources while making progress on our strategic goals, achieving our mission and always prioritizing student success. Provost Hexter and others met with the Academic Senate Committee on Planning and Budget and the chairs of the Faculty Executive Committee on January 31st. They discussed these efforts as well as the analysis underway related to possible changes to budget allocation methodologies.

Initial analyses were shared on:

  • Options for incorporating metrics for Graduate Teaching and simplifying and increasing understanding of the graduate tuition components; and
  • Incorporating a metric related to student success outcomes into the undergraduate tuition revenue allocation model.

Over the next several months, analyses on these topics will be shared broadly with the campus community for input. We know that all parts of campus must work together to balance UC Davis core funds.

We’re also keeping a close watch on a $15 billion California school bond that’s on the March ballot. If it’s passed and signed by Governor Newsom, $6 billion of this construction bond would go toward higher education in the state, including $2 billion specifically for UC. The bond would certainly help with deferred maintenance and seismic corrections at UC Davis if it passes. In the meantime, we will continue to invest heavily in addressing these needs on campus. We also envision using bond proceeds to pursue strategic renovations, creating additional and refreshed program spaces in some areas we need the most, such as teaching labs, advising space and study space. This leveraged approach to investing in multiple existing facilities is new and unique to UC Davis—aiming to bring safety and program improvements to areas that our students will directly benefit from. We are motivated to continue to advocate for our campus’ needs. We’ll be watching the March election closely and hope this bond goes our way.

In the meantime, our culture of philanthropy is certainly blossoming. Over the past fiscal year, we raised $234 million from 36,000 donors. That was the second-highest amount in UC Davis history. We’re going to spotlight philanthropy like never before. Stay tuned for a series of events on Oct. 9th and Oct. 10th, when we publicly launch our next comprehensive fundraising campaign – the largest in UC Davis history. As I mentioned, we need to stay strong in our advocacy and philanthropic efforts. Here’s one telling example of how much our donors are advancing UC Davis’s mission.

In December, UC Davis received a $37.5 million grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation to launch the Betty Irene Moore Fellowship Program for Nurse Leaders and Innovators. This program is being held at our Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing in Sacramento. This new fellowship program recognizes early-career nursing scholars and innovators with high potential. It will accelerate their leadership in nursing-science research, practice, education, policy and entrepreneurship. UC Davis and the Moore Foundation have partnered in a shared vision to transform health care since the founding of the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing in 2009. The foundation’s $100 million commitment made it all possible. Since then, the school has launched five graduate-degree programs and graduated more than 500 alumni. It’s accomplished all this while reaching the Top-50 in U.S. News & World Report’s ranking of nursing schools.

Speaking of progress … I’m sure you’ve noticed some construction activity. To me, that’s the sign of a thriving campus.We’re building new classrooms, walkways, learning centers and more, including for seismic updates. Walker Hall is one of our most historic buildings undergoing renovation. Once completed sometime this fall, it will be the new home for Graduate Studies and general use classrooms.

We also expect to open a new health clinic on campus in November. It’s an extension of the UC Davis Health Clinic on West Covell Boulevard. This one will be located on campus, near the corner of Hutchinson Drive and Dairy Road. This 4,000 square-foot clinic is designed for faculty, staff and community members who are UC Davis Health patients.

And there’s more. Another clinic with physical therapy and sports medicine services will be housed in the new Student-Athlete Performance Center. This is expected to open in 2022. The Student-Athlete Performance Center will be located near the northeast corner of UC Davis Health Stadium. I’m proud of this partnership between the Davis campus, our Sacramento campus that hosts UC Davis Health and Intercollegiate Athletics. No matter what side of the causeway we’re on, we are all one team.

On that note, I wanted to update you on the latest from Aggie Square. Our innovation ecosystem on the Sacramento campus continues to develop with region-wide support and a lot of momentum. In December, we selected the team of Wexford Science & Technology and GMH Capital Partners to manage the first phase of Aggie Square. This team will be responsible for its design, financing and construction, which we expect to begin in mid-2021. That first phase of Aggie Square is expected to include over 1 million square feet and support these basic themes:

  • Life sciences, technology and engineering
  • Lifelong learning
  • And, food and health. You’ll hear more on this is a moment.

The academic components of Aggie Square continue to take shape. On January 1st, English department chair John Marx joined the Aggie Square team in a pivotal role. He will serve as Faculty Advisor to the Provost - Academic Planning, Aggie Square. Professor Marx is tasked with building and growing the potential academic programs that would best serve Aggie Square. Think of him as the “academic curator” for the project.

We’re forging incredible new partners and collaborators at Aggie Square. As you may know, IBM is already collaborating with UC Davis at Aggie Square. In October, a select group of IBM specialists joined Aggie Square staff and the UC Davis Office of Public Scholarship and Engagement in a newly-leased building on Stockton Boulevard. This Aggie Square launch headquarters will also include a flexible Innovation Center for UC Davis faculty, IBM and others to host events that demonstrate their latest innovations and collaborative projects. I believe this is just a taste of even greater things to come.

Speaking of which, I hope you heard our big Aggie Square announcement last month. We’re building a space for food education and advocacy like no other. That will happen at Aggie Square through the Alice Waters Institute for Edible Education at University of California, Davis. This will also serve as the food and health pillar for Aggie Square. The announcement brought cheers from food policy advocates, civic leaders, educators and so many others. Alice Waters is an icon who’s revolutionized the way we eat and our relationship to food. For nearly a half-century, she’s championed equal access to healthy food, sustainable farming practices and food literacy. One of the key goals of her Edible Schoolyard Project is to provide a free, sustainable lunch for all K-12 students in California. UC Davis wants to help advance this mission – and do even more. Our School of Education will lead the way in developing the institute’s curriculum and pedagogy. It’s exactly the kind of project we want at Aggie Square, where our research, teaching and outreach will unite in the most impactful possible ways. We’ll have may more details on this fantastic institute and all we plan to accomplish in the coming months.

I’m also encouraged by the growing collaboration between UC Davis and regional leaders on key issues. Thanks to a strengthened partnership with the City of Davis and Yolo County, we’re also making progress on housing and transportation. Here, I’m with Davis Mayor Brett Lee at the groundbreaking in March for The Green at West Village. The first 1,000 beds in this housing project are expected to be available for students this fall. Construction also continues at Shasta Hall, as well as preliminary planning for Orchard Park. By 2025, we expect to have added more than 6,000 beds. As part of our Long-Range Development Plan MOU, UC Davis also agreed to contribute $2.3 million for local traffic improvement projects. These include the Richards/I-80 interchange, County Road 98, Russell Boulevard bike path west of Highway 113, and the Russell Boulevard Corridor. UC Davis has already provided an initial payment of $100,000 for the County Road 98 project. The city/campus collaboration for Russell Boulevard is well underway.

Back on campus, we have some very big leadership shoes to fill at Mrak Hall. Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Ralph Hexter announced in September that he is stepping down from his campus leadership role at the end of the 2019-2020 academic year. He will certainly be missed as Provost, and I’m personally thankful for his guidance and friendship during my transition to UC Davis. The good news is he’ll remain on campus to continue his teaching and research as Distinguished Professor of Classics and Comparative Literature. We’re currently working with an external search firm to find his replacement. Michael Lairmore, Dean of the School of Veterinary Medicine, and Academic Senate chair Kristin Lagattuta are heading a large and diverse committee on campus to aid this search. We expect to interview the finalist candidates in the spring and invite those interested to attend the public forums. By June, I’m hoping to make my recommendation and complete the search.

Our recruitment also continues for Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs. On January 31st, the recruitment advisory committee met to identify the list of candidates who will be invited for first round interviews. Those are scheduled to take place February 12th and 13th. From those interviews, finalist candidates will be identified to come back to campus for one-and-a-half day interviews beginning late-February. There will be public forums and the candidates will meet with various constituency groups. Comments will be collected following those interviews. I’m hoping to make a decision for the top selection in April.

As you can see, we’re up for an exciting and busy year. I’m always impressed by the passion that people have about UC Davis. Our faculty and staff are deeply committed to the university and to the wellbeing of our students. Our students are bright and engaged with us. Our alumni are proud of how far UC Davis has come. There are always challenges to our progress. The cost for students to attend a university and for administrators to run it are high, and we need solutions. Our students are vocal about this, as they should be. But, I always remain optimistic. There’s no shortage of bold ideas and people who want to make a difference all across UC Davis. Let’s continue to collaborate, keep our dialogue going, and keep taking our university to new heights. Go Ags!

Click here for the PowerPoint presentation.