April Message to Campus


Dear UC Davis faculty and staff,

I’m adding this weekend’s weather forecast to my April list of good news for UC Davis. AccuWeather predicts zero chance of rain on our 103rd Picnic Day this Saturday.

As you think of Picnic Day, I encourage you to also think about our inaugural UC Davis Give Day, which runs from noon Friday to 5 p.m. Saturday. This fundraiser is to benefit students, programs and initiatives in all of our colleges and schools and in many other sectors of the university, including Intercollegiate Athletics, the arboretum and the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts. Donations of any size can be made through our Give Day website.

I regularly share good news about our university with donors and potential donors, and the accomplishments during this past month alone have given me plenty to talk about. Here are some of them:

Our student-athletes did a terrific job last month of educating college basketball fans around the country who knew little or nothing of UC Davis. The men’s team put us on a national stage with their first-time entry in the NCAA tournament, and the women’s team advanced to the third round of the National Invitation Tournament. In one week, more than 2.7 million people saw men’s and women’s basketball content published by UC Davis and UC Davis Athletics on social media. One of the key messages that got across in the news media is that these players are high academic achievers. Indeed, they were studying for finals during these tournaments.

Professor Andrés Reséndez became the third member of our history faculty to win a Bancroft Prize in American History and Diplomacy for his book The Other Slavery: The Uncovered Story of Indian Enslavement in America. Professor Reséndez builds a case that enslavement was more responsible than epidemics for the decimation of native populations across North America.

I was pleased to learn that our Grand Canyon website, which beautifully chronicles a group of UC Davis students and their professors on their scientific journey down the Colorado River, earned our Strategic Communications staff a Grand Gold trophy in this spring’s Council for Advancement and Support of Education District VII contest.

In fact, UC Davis took home more awards than any other educational institution in the regional competition, which honors excellence in communications, marketing and development. The awards, 32 in all, included a Grand Gold to Development and Alumni Relations for creating a centralized gift-processing system and recognized development officer Pam Pacelli as this year’s “Rising Star” for her help raising more than $7 million in gifts and pledges for the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

UC Davis does not offer a journalism major, but we have no shortage of Aggies who caught the news bug working on The California Aggie. Two of them, Matthias Gafni ’98 and Angela Ruggiero ’10, are on the team of East Bay Times journalists who won this year’s Pulitzer Prize in Breaking News Reporting for their “relentless” coverage of Oakland’s horrific “Ghost Ship” warehouse fire, and for exposing the city’s failure to take actions that might have prevented it. The team went to great lengths to profile each of the many creative young men and women who perished the night of Dec. 2, including two undergraduates and a recent alumnus of UC Berkeley.

UC Davis placed first in the world for agricultural economics and policy in the Center for World University Rankings. We also placed among the top 10 in 17 other subjects based on the number of research articles published in top-tier journals.

No one who knows Professor Dave Rizzo, chair of the Department of Plant Pathology, was surprised by his selection as this year’s winner of the UC Davis Prize for Undergraduate Teaching and Scholarly Achievement. His students say his energy and enthusiasm are boundless. He leads them on forest trips to make his subject come alive, and allows his undergraduates to gain valuable research experience by participating in his own investigations into plant diseases.

I want to make a further point about this award. We often hear the claim that the time a professor spends doing research is time taken away from instruction. At UC Davis, we know this is not true. When teachers pursue their own research, they are better able to keep their students informed of the latest advances in their field, and also to inspire them with their own passion. And when researchers teach, their own work benefits from the fresh ideas and questions of their students. Excellent teaching and excellent scholarship, we know, are mutually reinforcing.


Ralph J. Hexter
Interim Chancellor