As the year is coming to an end, so comes the time for some faculty members to say goodbye, for now, to UC Davis.
Jay Mechling, American studies
Professor Jay Mechling of the American studies department has taught at UC Davis since 1971 and is set to retire this year after 35 dedicated years.
Mechling completed his undergraduate in American studies at Stetson University in Florida, a school he describes as small and close-knit – slightly different from UCD.
He continued graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania. In reaching his decision to come to teach at UC Davis, he said that he liked the spirit of the school.
“I liked the place. I liked the UC system, and being in Northern California,” said Mechling.
UC Davis has changed a lot since Mechling’s arrival in the early 1970s.
“It’s a much larger school now than when I first got here,” he said.
Mechling timed his retirement to join with his wife’s retirement from teaching at California State University East Bay, Hayward campus. He will not be traveling, he said, but working on two writing projects.
“When professors retire, they’re usually just as busy, they just get to avoid all the meetings,” Mechling said.
Mechling is working on a book on the Boy Scouts of America as their centennial celebration will occur in 2010. This will be his second book on the boys since On my honor: The making of American youth, published in 2004 based on his field work research on Boy Scouts. His other project will be a mystery novel.
Also a professor of the integrated studies program, Mechling will return fall 2009 to teach a course in this department on war in America. His contributions to the campus however, can be seen in many areas other than his classroom.
Mechling was part of the committee task force that redid the General Education requirements program, which he called “a lot of work, but we came up with a new and better GE program.”
Mechling also taught the first ever freshman seminar, now a popular program not only for first-year students, but for upper classmen as well. He has also worked with the Davis Honors Challenge since its beginning in the 1990‘s.
“I loved the culture of the school, and my great colleagues,” he said regarding what he will miss most about UC Davis.
Mechling encouraged students to thank their professors for their hard work and that something as simple as a thank you can brighten up a bad day.
“I’m proud of every student that I’ve ever had,” Mechling said. “If there’s a teacher that meant a lot to you, write a note to say thank you, to say that they made a difference in your life.”
Jon Wagner, School of Education
Professor Jon Wagner will retire after 20 years at UCD, beginning in 1988. Wagner was an academic coordinator his first two years and a faculty member since 1990 as well as an administrator in the School of Education and currently is the director of the Teaching Resources Center.
Wagner has also seen some changes in the university since when he first began here.
“It’s less sleepy. It’s bigger. For better or worse, there’s more accountability,” Wagner said. “It’s still an interesting place, but in different ways now than it was then.”
Wagner came to UC Davis after completing his undergraduate at Stanford University and graduate school at the University of Chicago.
He came to UCD to take a position and start a program.
“I had been working on different forms of university-school collaboration for a decade or so before I came and they were starting a new program at Davis that I was really attracted to,” Wagner said.
That program became the Craft Center in the School of Education. At the time, there were a couple of various scattered programs, which Wagner helped put together into one program.
Wagner has planned to retire for a couple of years now, knowing that after taking the position at the Teaching Resources Center in 2006 that he would be able to do that for only three to four years due to the demands of the job.
“I want to have more – not so much free time – but I wanted to take some time for personal projects,” Wagner said. “I’m looking forward to reading and writing, doing some research, and perhaps teaching.“
Though he is not planning on coming back fulltime, Wagner said he is not opposed to teaching a freshman seminar, but is mainly working on his research. His primary interest is children’s material culture – how children buy, trade and play with their possessions. He will continue to work on this research through different visual studies.
Wagner said that what he will miss most about UC Davis might be something that others are glad to get rid of.
“I’m probably going to miss the adrenaline rush that comes from trying to do too much at once, which is something that I got to share with many colleagues,” Wagner said. “If I don’t miss that then I probably shouldn’t have retired.”
He said that he found UC Davis a rewarding place not only to teach, but also to learn.
“It’s a great place to teach and a great place to learn to teach. I think there are fewer research institutions that are great places to teach … it’s a great resource of rewards that I’ve gotten from here.”
ANGELA RUGGIERO can be reached at email@example.com.