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Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Channeling the chancellor

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Headline: Channeling the chancellor

Layercake: Maril Stratton to play critical role in acquainting new chancellor

By LAUREN STEUSSY

Aggie Staff Writer

The pens on Maril Revette Stratton’s desk are parallel and the pencils are sharpened. Stratton is ready for work.

She walks to her file cabinet, where folders are no doubt labeled alphabetically and chronologically and pulls out a binder with even more labels inside of it. The binder is almost bigger than she is and includes the all the briefing material for UC Davis’ new chancellor, Linda Katehi.

Stratton is the associate chancellor for UC Davis, and it is one of her duties to keep information like this organized, so that when Katehi takes over for Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef this summer, she knows the university, perhaps as well as Stratton does.

But her expertise is Vanderhoef: his agenda, his speeches, his goals. Stratton is the primary counsel for the chancellor. She participates in most of his activities, and afterward assists in various follow-up tasks. And that’s just on the side of her plate of tasks.

“Whenever we collaborate, it’s like I channel his thoughts,” she said.

Coincidentally Vanderhoef came into her office during an interview to deliver some notes he had written for his State of the Campus address – which she has been helping him with, of course.

“Larry, before you leave, I have something for you,” Stratton said. She retrieved a canvas bag from beside her desk, the contents of which included a bag of kettle corn and a jar of cat treats. “I got the cat treats for my cats, but they didn’t like them so I figured yours would. And the popcorn is because it’s just so good!”

Vanderhoef received the popcorn and cat treats with humble appreciation. Though Stratton works under him, she’s more of a sibling, or a best friend.

“It’s important to have people you can depend on,” Vanderhoef said. “I can always count on Maril.”

Before joining the chancellor and provost’s family, Stratton worked in the public communications department, working in various positions up to the assistant vice chancellor of public communications. When the position with the provost and chancellor’s office opened up, Stratton was perfect for the job.

In 2004, Vanderhoef and his office determined that they needed an associate chancellor to assist in the chancellor’s duties and provide a connection to the UC Office of the President. Again, they turned to Stratton.

“I’m so grateful for the opportunity to work with her and to call her a friend,” said Cindy Contreras, executive assistant to the president, and someone who works closely with Stratton. “The welfare of the campus is always a priority for Maril and she makes a positive difference in many ways.”

Stratton is known for her hard work with the office of the chancellor, sometimes staying on the fifth floor of Mrak Hall over holidays or weekends, Vanderhoef said.

“[Maril] is perhaps the hardest working person in Mrak Hall,” Vanderhoef said. “She almost always works weekends, she’s in here at 8 every morning, and she’s one of the last to leave at night.”

Stratton received her undergraduate and graduate degree from Michigan State University. She initially entered as an English major, but didn’t like the student teaching. She switched to human ecology, the only major she could finish in the year of college she had left.

Stratton worked as a secretary for the news bureau at Michigan State while also receiving her master’s in journalism.

“During my lunch breaks I’d go to some lecture, report on it and then write an article about it when I got home,” she said. “Then I’d bring it to my boss the next day and ask him, ‘Is this good? Am I learning?’ Eventually a spot opened up in the newsroom and they hired me.”

She worked at several newspapers before moving to California, when a public communications position at UC Davis opened up. Her husband, Patrick, was in the entertainment business at the time, so the move to California suited her family well.

For the past 13 years that Stratton has worked with Vanderhoef, their relationship has deepened in respect and value. Tears form in her eyes as she talks about the time she has spent working with him. It’s clear that she’s going to miss working down the hall from Vanderhoef.

“He’s just such a nice person,” she said. “He’s so generous and I just think so highly of him. I’m glad he’s remaining a teacher here because I really will miss having him around.”

However with a new chancellor comes a new relationship.

Stratton has begun to transition Katehi into the UC Davis family by assisting in introductory phone calls and other interactions with the staff and faculty. Katehi will officially take the role as chancellor on Aug. 17, but before she does that, she must thoroughly know the campus.

While Stratton helps Katehi become acquainted with the campus, the two must also build their own relationship, just as Stratton did with Vanderhoef. When talking about Katehi, Stratton already seems to have a grasp on the qualities that will help her succeed in her years as chancellor. The similarities between Katehi and Vanderhoef will make the transition smooth, Stratton said.

“They both understand very well the nature of public, land-grant universities and they both are listeners who understand that ultimately they need to make decisions,” Stratton said. “Also, they both are just darn nice people – that goes a long way when you’re trying to engage others in implementing a vision.”

LAUREN STEUSSY can be reached at features@theaggie.orgXXX.

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