Chancellor Larry N. Vanderhoef held his final dialogue with the Chancellor on Thursday evening in the Activities and Recreation Center Ballroom.
The event, which was hosted by the Student Assistants to the Chancellor, was the last in a series of dialogues and brownbag chats Chancellor Vanderhoef has held with the university community during his 15-year tenure as chancellor of UC Davis.
“[The dialogues are] meant to connect students with the administration.… Since this was the chancellor’s final dialogue, we really wanted to give him a chance to reflect back on his time here, and talk about what message he wants to send to the students … to give some words of wisdom, in a way,” said Traci Brown, student assistant to the chancellor.
Former ASUCD Presidents Ivan Carrillo and Kareem Salem, among other current and former members of student government, were present, as well as administration officials, and a handful of alumni, community leaders and students.
Student Assistants to the Chancellor Traci Brown and Molly Sundstrom opened with introductions and a slide show dedicated to the university’s past, present and future.
Afterward, Vanderhoef delivered his prepared remarks to the small audience. In reflecting on 100 years of Aggie legacy, the chancellor emphasized his respect and admiration for the role of student initiative in UC Davis‘ history.
“What if today there was no Unitrans, and we go out to the city and said we have this great idea: We’re going to have a bus system, it’s going to serve the campus, and the city too, with around 50 of the most modern buses, and we will let it be run by students,“ Vanderhoef said. “I could just see the people in city council not buying that. But it has [worked] … and it was because of the students.”
Vanderhoef noted that Davis‘ bike paths – the first of their kind in the nation – were largely established and encouraged by students.
As for the university’s recent growth, ranging from the Aggie Stadium and ARC to the new student health center currently under construction, the outgoing chancellor again lauded students‘ efforts, stating that students like Scott Reid – a former ASUCD president who was instrumental in raising funds for the projects – “make you very proud of the campus.“
Also among a litany of students Vanderhoef mentioned was Adam Rosenthal, a former UC Davis student and previous student regent. Rosenthal persuaded the University of California Regents to divest from companies affiliated with the Sudanese government in protest of acts of genocide in the Darfur region.
“I will never forget the day when he made his final proposal,” Vanderhoef said. “The regents, without a single dissent, passed it.“
The chancellor then discussed his plans for the future, noting he plans to teach a biology course for non-science majors, continue scholarly dialogue with institutions in Iran, and at some point, write a book about his experiences as chancellor, vice chancellor and provost during a period of burgeoning growth for the Davis campus.
“I’m happy to say that to a few of you,” Vanderhoef said. “That’s what’s really come back to me over and over again. My experiences here with the students are really at the top. They are the best ones that I’ve had, and I will never ever forget them.”
Following his remarks, the chancellor took an eclectic mix of questions from the audience.
A current student asked what recommendations Vanderhoef would give for those entering a difficult job market.
“It’s scary right?” Vanderhoef said. “But the point is these [times] are short-lived. You happen to be right in the middle of a tough time, but the country has a great reputation for figuring these out.… I wouldn’t change my plans one bit from what you really want to do. Stick with that.… Don’t give up easily, really stick with it and I promise it will [work out].“
Another student asked what Vanderhoef would have done if he had not become an academic.
Noting he “just sort of followed his nose,” Vanderhoef said he could have been a professional pool player (“That’s why I almost flunked out of school – I found out you could make a lot of money playing pool“) or a farmer, thanks to a role model boss he had in his youth.
The final question was regarding what important issues the new chancellor would face during his or her tenure.
“He or she is going to have to think about our financial circumstances … about how to do what we are doing, do those things that well – without any decline in quality … with less money, and so probably fewer people,” Vanderhoef said. “[Also,] I’m worried about these high fees … [especially] graduate fees. The average debt for a professional school student will be $100,000. Too high, absolutely too high.… There are a lot of public service jobs for lawyers and medical doctors that are very satisfying and allow you to do everything you wanted, but you can’t afford it. We’ve got to figure out how to, at a minimum, stop the increases in those fees.“
Following his remarks, the student assistants presented him with two enormous ‘thank-you‘ cakes, congratulating Vanderhoef on 25 years of service to the university.
Sergio Blanco, a junior political science major and former ASUCD senator, commended Vanderhoef for his remarks.
“Being a chancellor is definitely not an easy job. If you look at the town [of Davis], it has grown because the university has grown.… He’s really been a catalyst for that change,” Blanco said.
Blanco noted that while students often took the initiatives for new projects, it was the administration’s cooperation with students that turned them into realities. Blanco also agreed with the chancellor’s assessment of the university’s current financial issues.
“Are [we] going to protect students, both in living and academic aspects?” Blanco said. “Going to university has become a privilege, and people who have the merit and have achieved enough might not be able to go. How is the new chancellor going to deal with that?”
Larry N. Vanderhoef was appointed chancellor of UC Davis in April 1994, after serving as vice chancellor and provost since 1984. During his tenure, UC Davis‘ population grew from 22,000 to more than 30,000, and the faculty increased by 44 percent.
ANDRE LEE can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.