Message to Faculty and Staff with Campus Updates


Dear UC Davis faculty and staff,

I did not want this busy winter quarter to pass without calling to your attention some uplifting news about your colleagues and your university community as a whole:

I know you will find our chancellor-designate, Gary May, and his wife, LeShelle, as openly friendly and engaging as I did during their recent first official visit to our Davis and Sacramento campuses. I encourage you to listen to the testimonials of his Georgia Tech colleagues and students in this brief video. A big fan of Star Trek, “Captain May” could take UC Davis where no university has gone before. He assumes the chancellorship on Aug. 1. At that time, I will return to my previous position as provost and executive vice chancellor, and our interim provost, Ken Burtis, will resume his earlier role as faculty advisor to the chancellor and provost.

College rankings aren’t everything, but it’s nice to be ranked No. 1 in the world, as UC Davis did in veterinary science this week for the third consecutive year in the QS World University Rankings. And for the fifth consecutive year, the campus placed among the world’s very top-ranked universities in agriculture and forestry, taking second place in this year’s QS rankings.

I am a big fan of our athletics programs and found myself doing a lot of cheering and fist-pumping this basketball season. Both our men’s and women’s teams are competing in the Big West tournaments this week in Anaheim. The women’s team got off to a spirited start Monday when Jennifer Gross was named the Big West Conference Coach of the Year and four of her student-athletes earned all-conference honors. If the Aggies win, they’ll go to the NCAA tournament. Go Ags!  

UC Davis is looking to expand its presence and contributions in Sacramento and many individuals are working hard to do just that. The Sacramento Metro Chamber recently singled out Ann Madden Rice, the chief executive officer of the UC Davis Medical Center, for special recognition as “Businesswoman of the Year.” The chamber president, Peter Tateishi, praised Ann as a “champion for the Sacramento business community.” Beyond that, Sacramento Bee publisher Cheryl Dell tweeted, “She’s humble, funny and impressive.” Congratulations, Ann!

Our College of Engineering is steadily rising in prominence to that of its older, better known peer institutions. A good indicator of this is the college’s accelerating rate of faculty inductions into the national academies. As many as 24 professors have attained the venerated status since the college’s inception in 1962. Nine of them were elected just in the past four years, and, just in February, the National Academy of Engineering announcedtwo more: Deb Niemeier and Ross Boulanger. Congratulations!

Wired magazine joyfully reported that “the world is in for a coffee renaissance,” thanks to the UC Davis scientists who sequenced the genome of the world’s most harvested coffee plant species — Coffea arabica — “and made the data public.” That last clause is significant because researchers for private research universities and companies would not necessarily be so open with their findings. Armed with this crucial information, coffee producers can begin to more accurately breed for “high-quality, disease-resistant varieties that can adapt to the climate changes that are expected to threaten global coffee production in the next 30 years,” said UC Davis’s Juan Medrano, whom I want to thank along with co-researchers Allen Van Deynze, Dario Cantu and Amanda Hulse-Kemp.

From its very opening on Nov. 13 the Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art has been recognized as a spectacular and much-loved addition to our campus and region. But that is my own, admittedly biased view based on the many positive responses I have received. I have been delighted to see that the architecture and arts critics also, on the whole, share my enthusiasm. Here are some excerpts:

  • “The most accessible and provocative of all arts centers in the Greater Sacramento Region.” — Chris Macias, The Sacramento Bee
  • “A sight to behold … a real example of a tight budget leading to a truly innovative design.” — Josephine Minutillo, Architectural Record
  • “A building to boost your faith in the future of American architecture … the museum offers a range of encouraging signs about the priorities of architecture’s up-and-coming generation. These include a genuine interest in shifting definitions of public space in a digital age and — most important of all — a preference for measured and layered effects over operatic ones.” — Christopher Hawthorne, Los Angeles Times

On a final note, those of you who missed my March 3 State of the Campus address before the Academic Senate may find some facts and figures from the slide presentation useful along with this UC Davis news story on some of the highlights.


Ralph J. Hexter
Interim Chancellor