Checking In With Chancellor May: A Highlight Reel of 2023

Chancellor Gary S. May poses for photo with students at Moonlight Breakfast event
Chancellor Gary S. May takes a break from serving food to students at Tuesday’s Moonlight Breakfast to pose for a photo. (JJ Noel/UC Davis)

Checking In With Chancellor May: A Highlight Reel of 2023

To the UC Davis Community:

Today marks the last day of fall quarter, and I’m looking forward to the holiday season and ringing in 2024. Our students had a busy finals week, and once again, I was happy to serve them a free meal at our annual Moonlight Breakfast. I value this chance to offer a study break and lend support and nourishment during a traditionally stressful time.

Tomorrow’s fall commencement ceremony for undergraduates is a special way to close the year. I’m ready for the wonderful scene of caps and gowns at the University Credit Union Center, shaking all those hands and feeling the excitement from the students and their loved ones.

I am grateful to the entire UC Davis community for your hard work, your compassion and your collaboration over the past year. Together, we took great strides toward the university’s mission of advancing scholarship and research. We are empowering our students to bring their curiosity to their burgeoning careers and ongoing studies.

2023 was a year of accomplishments and community building. We reached new heights of impact and prestige, all while showing resilience, passion and care for each other.

While it’s difficult to narrow the list, here are my highlights from 2023:

1. Listening to students

Our students have talent and big ideas, and interacting with them is one of my favorite parts of being chancellor.

I value interacting closely with students from all backgrounds and experiences. They keep me informed and ensure that their voices and concerns are heard and considered by myself and other campus leaders.

This is especially true of the undergraduate, graduate and professional students who serve as my advisors and on advisory boards to university leaders. They are a key link between our student body and university leadership on such important matters as the campus climate, diversity and the academic experience. I appreciate their advocacy and efforts to move student interests forward.

Conversations with students led to significant actions toward improving campus safety in 2023. We started a major lighting upgrade project to address poorly lit areas of campus and expanded foot patrols by campus police and other security personnel. We will do more with the support of an additional $20 million being invested over the next few years to improve the quality and quantity of outdoor lighting, video cameras and Aggie Access, our card-reader program.

2. Bold solutions to supporting basic needs

One of my favorite moments of the year was driving the AggieEats food truck at its launch celebration in April. This marked a first-of-its-kind program on a college campus: A food truck that offers free or low-cost meals with a confidential pay-what-you-want model.

The truck serves nearly 600 meals a day, and we’re looking at increasing this capacity. It is difficult for our students to thrive if they don’t have access to healthy and nutritious meals. We’ll continue to address campus food insecurity as a priority, and AggieEats will continue to help our students significantly. Learn more about AggieEats and other basic needs programs in the video below.

2023 saw us move forward on other issues related to basic needs. In terms of mental health, we are hiring nine additional counselors who will expand availability and continue to reduce the counselor-to-student ratio on campus. The UC Davis Fire Department also launched Health 34, which delivers free, non-emergency support for physical and mental issues, such as minor accidents, panic attacks, roommate troubles and other needs.

Looking ahead, the ASUCD Pantry is expected to move to a bigger location in the Memorial Union. This new location will provide additional space and serve students even more efficiently. Stay tuned for more updates in the coming months.

3. Aggie Square takes a major step forward

May 4 marked a major milestone for Aggie Square on our Sacramento campus. We held a topping-off ceremony to recognize the full structural completion of the development’s first phase. This large-scale project is built to make science and innovation more accessible for students, faculty and the community.

Nearly 200 guests joined the celebration, including Rep. Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento, and Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, Vice Mayor Eric Guerra, Councilmember Caity Maple, former Councilmember Jay Schenirer and more.

This first construction phase brings us closer to opening Aggie Square’s doors, which is expected to happen early in 2025.

With Aggie Square, we will build on the Sacramento region’s intellect and ingenuity and help create a brighter tomorrow with job opportunities and substantial economic benefits for future generations. This week, I announced that George Baxter will join us as chief innovation and economic development officer, a position that includes leadership for Aggie Square.

4. Staying dedicated to sustainability

UC Davis’ commitment to climate research and sustainable practices has defined who we are for decades. We remain a model campus, which is reflected in UC Davis’ recognition as No. 1 in the nation for higher education sustainability for seven years running and No. 5 in the world.

We will continue to build on this momentum and address climate change with a sense of urgency and an eye on environmental justice. We see firsthand the effects of extended drought, wildfires and heatwaves right here in Northern California. Meanwhile, our faculty and students are focused on creating sustainable solutions related to crop-growing, renewable energy and other innovations that lessen our dependence on fossil fuels. Our comprehensive plan for how we will become fossil fuel free is one of the earliest such plans in the U.S. higher education sector.

So, the work continues. It’s imperative for each of us to contribute to a sustainable and equitable future, and UC Davis is a perfect place to turn ideas into action.

5. Reaching new heights

This was another banner year for UC Davis in terms of rankings and our research enterprise. In September, we were ranked as the No. 6 public university in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. That’s a jump of four spots from the previous year.

Our School of Veterinary Medicine held its place as the top school in the nation, and second in the world. We were also ranked No. 1 nationally for agriculture and forestry.

As I like to say, we had a billion reasons to celebrate UC Davis in 2023. For the second consecutive year, our annual research awards reached $1 billion. The research awards fuel UC Davis’ mission to address the world’s greatest challenges, all while driving innovation and expanding our scholarship. From addressing climate change and food production to improving the health of all living beings, UC Davis is sought out more than ever to make critical discoveries.

We exceeded our fundraising goals and raised $253 million over the fiscal year. That amount includes 56,071 gifts and pledges from 31,078 donors, surpassing our expectations in our Expect Greater campaign.

We were also recognized for our support of underserved students and their access to higher education. Once again, UC Davis is being designated as a Hispanic Serving Institution, or HSI, by the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities. UC Davis was also named among the “Top 100 Colleges and Universities for Hispanics” by Hispanic Outlook magazine.

In closing, I want to express my gratitude again for all you bring to the UC Davis community. Keep reaching out to those who may need comfort or care, and let’s build on all that we’ve accomplished together this year.

From my family to yours, I wish you happy holidays and a healthy and peaceful new year.


Gary S. May

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