Endings are bittersweet.
At the close of every year, UC Davis seniors don a cap and gown, receive a diploma and put their years at the university behind them as they look to the future.
But with every end comes a new beginning.
The university’s 100th freshman class will arrive in the fall, following in the footsteps of a century’s worth of Aggies who came before them.
And in its centennial year, the university has an array of plans and developments to make the 2008-2009 school year memorable and set the stage for the next 100 years.
Larry Vanderhoef announced earlier this week that the 2008-2009 academic year will be his last as UC Davis’ chancellor.
“I’ve been thinking about it for some time now,” he said, adding that he felt there was always something more he needed to do, which is what kept him from resigning in the past.
“But finally, I’ve realized that there’s always going to be something yet to do,” he said. “Next year is our centennial year, and it’s also my 15th year as chancellor – those seem like two good reasons to have that as my wrap-up year.”
In his last year, Vanderhoef said he wants ensure that ongoing projects don’t go off track. These projects include the development of the West Village project, slated to break ground this summer, which will house over 3,000 students and 400 faculty and staff.
Another project Vanderhoef said he wants to oversee is what he calls “the new door to the campus” off of Highway 80.
In addition to the existing Mondavi Center, plans for a new hotel, conference center and new facilities for the Graduate School of Management are under way.
“The university has proven in several ways that it is among the top research universities in the country,” Vanderhoef said.
Vanderhoef cited UC Davis’ 1996 invite to the Association of American Universities, a group of the 62 best universities in North America, as an example of this.
The centennial celebration
UC Davis has come a long way since its inception as UC Berkeley’s farming school one century ago.
“The 100th year is a good time to do two things – look back at your origins and also look [at the things] you hope to be new and different in the future,” Vanderhoef said.
The Centennial Committee has an array of events planned for UC Davis’ 100th anniversary celebration.
The celebration will kick-off in August at the California State Fair with a 6,000 foot pavilion devoted entirely to UC Davis, which will feature the research and contributions that the university has made to the world.
In October, a granite walkway in the Quad, known as “the Centennial Walk,” will be dedicated to the university.
“Since the Quad is the place most people remember most about their years on campus, it was fitting to renovate [the walkway] during our centennial year,” said Mabel Salon, program director of the UC Davis Centennial.
The committee will also take regular events such as the homecoming game and the fall convocation and “centennialize” them,” Salon said.
“I think it’s going to be a great year,” said Fred Wood, vice chancellor of Student Affairs. “We have a wonderful class of students joining us at all levels.”
Wood said next year’s group of first-year and transfer students is a very selective group.
In fact, fall 2008 was one of the most competitive years for first-year admission to UC Davis, with 52.4 percent of students admitted, versus the 58.4 percent admitted the pervious year.
Wood said the university is not expecting a case of extreme over-enrollment like in fall 2006 and expects all first-year students who want on-campus housing to be accommodated.
The university is facing budget cuts for the upcoming school year. Vanderhoef said the greatest way students will be impacted is by a 7.4 percent collective fee increase.
“Except for fees, we are really trying as best as we are able to not impact students,” he said.
“We’re not going to be cutting faculty,” Vanderhoef said, adding that there will also not be a significant increase in enrollment, so students should not have greater difficulties signing up for classes than previous years.
“Students will start to see construction around campus,” Wood said.
One example of a new facility on campus is The Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science. The institute will have a formal opening ceremony during Homecoming Weekend, though the buildings will start to be occupied in July and August.
The institute, made possible by the late Robert Mondavi’s contributions to the university, will include three buildings and house the viticulture and enology department and the food science and technology department.
A 12-acre vineyard will be planted near the institute for teaching and research purposes, said Clare Hasler, Executive Director of the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science.
“[The institute] is going to be an incredible facility for the campus,” she said. “It’s going to train students in the wine and food industries for generations to come.”
Another change coming to campus will be the renovation of the Oxford Circle Dining Commons. Construction is scheduled to begin January 2009.
The project focuses on educating students on sustainability and will offer food items categorized as “sustainable,” such as fruit that is in season, said Kate Scott, director of design services for student affairs.
But like the other dining commons, students will still have a lot of choice, Scott said.
Also, a new Student Health and Wellness Center, replacing the existing Cowell Student Health Center, is scheduled to open in spring quarter 2010 across from the ARC.
“The center will be a lot larger [than Cowell] and have a much more welcoming design, and [it will] include a lot of glass and natural light,” Wood said.
ANNA OPALKA can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.