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Davis, California

Sunday, April 14, 2024

UC Davis then and now


Second generation student compares, contrasts parents’ college experiences to her own

While most UC Davis alumni have a sense of Aggie pride, some students have a deeper connection to campus as a second generation member of their family to attend the university.

The CoHo, cows and bicycles are all aspects of campus that have followed members of the Tristant family through their time at UC Davis. Dominique Tristant, a fourth-year psychology major, followed in her parents’ footsteps by attending UC Davis. Her mother, Joanie Tristant, was an art studio major and her father, Steve Tristant, was a physiology major in the class of 1982.

Many of the extracurricular activities students enjoy today have been popular for generations. According to the UC Davis General Catalog from 1980-1981, there were more than 50 intramural sports available for students to participate in during the time when Steve and Joanie attended UC Davis.

“[I participated in] ultimate frisbee as a club team [called] “the Davis Dogs,” [and] all kinds of different IM teams,” Steve said.

According to Dominique, intramural sports continue to play a large role in many students’ involvement on campus.

“My first year, I did a lot of IM sports with my dorm,” Dominique said. “My second year, I joined Greek life, and ever since then that has kind of been my main thing other than school.”

According to the Tristants, many other extracurriculars that students were involved in back in the day are the same activities and clubs that are popular today.

I had to work to pay for myself, and I worked at The Aggie at the time,” Joanie said. “I worked about 20 hours a week, sometimes until 2 a.m. […] Since I was a transfer and working, I was not too involved in other campus activities.”

Joanie recalled the campus as being “not as diverse as it is now.”

I’d characterize the vibe [on campus] as preppy,” Joanie said. “Pretty much middle and upper-middle-class [demographics].”

The current student body makeup at UC Davis has changed quite a bit from when Steve and Joanie attended.

“[I] remember quite the contrast, [between the] birks-granola crowd and the prissy Greek crowd,” Steve said. “[Then there were the] hardcore studious [students] and hardcore partiers.”

Regardless of her parents’ input, Dominique reported that UC Davis has continued to be an academically-driven environment that also values time for socializing.

“Right now, it’s kind of intense because of midterms season,” Dominique said. “I’ve seen a lot of people studying [but] I still see a lot of socializing going on as well. People meet up to get food or to study and talk, but […] it’s kind of intensive right now.”

According to Steve, UC Davis was not known for its party scene when he attended school here.

“Nightlife was kind of weak,” Steve said. “There was The Grad, and some bar downtown that I can’t remember name of. The night scene was mainly frat and house parties with kegs and local bands.”

According to Dominique, downtown Davis is now a popular place for students to socialize.

“[Davis] is really low-key […] compared to other bars [in] other places,” Dominique said. “Everyone knows each other. That’s the thing, […] I feel like I can go there and run into a lot of people I haven’t seen for a while, and so it’s a really friendly vibe.”

In this way, according to Dominique, Davis nightlife has grown significantly since the time her parents attended.

“Everyone [at the bars] is having a really good time, and there’s dancing and drinking, obviously,” Dominique said. “It depends where you go. If you go to G Street [Wunderbar], you can play pool. Blondie’s [has] more dancing. Honestly at any bar you go to you can talk and get to know someone, or if you want to just have fun with your friends, it works.”

The restaurant scene has also grown in Davis as the city has expanded over the years.

“[There were] not very many restaurants then — but I didn’t have money to go out anyway,” Joanie said. “I recall Togo’s [sandwiches] being a thing then, and there was a great frozen yogurt place not far from campus.”  

Currently, Davis is full of places to grab a bite to eat, even late at night. According to Dominique, there is a lot more variety in what type of food you can find in Davis. She enjoys 3rd and U, various sushi places around Davis as well as Taco Tuesday at El Toro Bravo.

Dominique’s parents’ experience at Davis was not dominated by sports games and Aggie Pack T-shirts. According to Steve, students were not highly involved with athletics in the early 1980s.

“NCAA sports were pretty weakly supported at Davis, except football, maybe,” Steve said. “It was Division II, and they won a lot.”

In 2003, the UC Davis Athletic Department began the transition from competing in Division II to Division I. Even though sports teams’ records have improved over the years, Dominique believes that students could still be more involved with student athletics on campus.

“I don’t think there’s enough involvement,” Dominique said. “I’m not really one to talk, because I could probably be more involved, too, but I think that a lot of people hate on Davis athletics.”

The Tristants agreed that, no matter what decade, the UC Davis campus and its surrounding areas has always provided areas to unwind from class and studying.

“I loved Friday afternoons at the campus pub and music at the Coffee House in the evenings,” Joanie said. “I ran and I biked a lot and I used the rec pool for my swimming workouts. The ARC was new and went there sometimes too.

From the time when Joanie attended to now, Davis has remained a place where students like her daughter are encouraged to stay active and spend time outdoors.

“Last Spring Quarter, [my friends and I] went on a picnic on the weekend,” Dominique said. “[We want to] just go find a park and have lunch, go downtown and eat during the day or go on runs.”

Davis’ location has always given students easy access to the mountains or one of the larger neighboring cities.

“Sometimes [my friends and I] go to Sacramento, Berkeley, Napa or surrounding areas,” Dominique said. “There’s not a whole lot to do in Davis, and it’s nice to get out.”

Just like Dominique, Steve also enjoyed getting out of town for an occasional weekend trip during his time at UC Davis.  

“[We went on] weekend road trips for ultimate [frisbee], [and] weekday powder skiing in Tahoe,” Steve said. “The main reason I was at Davis was easy access to Tahoe for skiing.”
Written by: Elizabeth Marin — features@theaggie.org


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